Thursday, January 18, 2024

Garlic and Crosses and Silver Backed Mirrors (Part 1 of 3 Parts) blog post #637

 Image Courtesy of Dreamstime:


Here we go with another short story this week, also a two-parter. Hope you get a kick out of it.




The thing—whatever it was—first made its presence felt when I was out hunting in the woods. We lived so close to Indian Territory, it was hard to tell if we were trespassing on tribal lands or not. But the Indian troubles were mostly behind us, so Pa said it was of no concern to us, so long as we didn’t go hostile on them. Me, I worried about the other way… them going hostile on us.

I said I first noticed the thing when I was hunting. And I don’t know what to call it other than the thing. I’d never even seen what was creeping me out. I wasn’t normally a scaredy-cat, but when a man can’t understand his surroundings, it tends to worry on the mind.

The other day as I worked the fields close to the wood line, I felt it, as well. Didn’t see it this time either, just sensed something there, and heard noises like a twig on the forest floor cracking or a swish of leaves. And some shadowy movement through the trees and underbrush. That was enough to tell me I wasn’t spooking out over nothing.

Pa didn’t make anything of it when I told him about it at the supper table that evening, just said to keep my eyes open. Ma, who’s got some Middle Eastern European blood looked at it differently.

“You be careful you don’t tangle with a vampire.”

“No vampires over here in the American territories,” Pa came back at her.

“How you know this?” When my ma got excited, sometimes her English slipped. “They no law against it.”

That was her measure for everything. “No law against it.” She sure had more faith in the law than I did.

“Maybe it’s a werewolf,” my little sister Sara put in.

“Don’t start that nonsense,” Pa said with a slap on the table. “Now Suzie B.”—that’s what my pa called Ma—“you know full well such creatures don’t roam around in the daylight hours, if they even exist.”

“They exist all right. My uncle Vanya fell victim to one. Found him dead in his workshop with every drop of blood drained. Besides, the woods are dark. No sunlight gets through that tangled mess.”

“That’s true,” Pa acknowledged.

Ma pointed a dinner fork at me. “Jamey, you don’t set foot outside this house without some protection.”

“What kinda protection.”

“Garlic. That’s the best.”

“That stinky stuff?” I asked. “I’ll smell to high heaven.”

Put up with the smell and the heart keeps beating. Without blood, heart doesn’t beat. I make a necklace tonight. You wear it when you go to work in the fields tomorrow.”


“Don’t you aw me, James Herrickson. Somewhere I’ve got some mirror buttons with silver backing. I’ll weave them into the necklace. Wish I had a crucifix.

“We’ve got a wooden cross,” Sara said.

“Have to make do with that.”

My mood plunged. Wish I hadn’t mentioned the thing. “Hope I don’t see anyone I know.”

Sara giggled. “Especially that Nixton girl. She’ll hold her nose and run the other way.”

“Hush up,” Ma said.

That gave me something else to worry about. Did garlic and that other stuff repel girls too? Seemed like it was hard enough to sidle up to one of them without stinky and glittery stuff chasing them off. And Nettie Nixton was morphing into quite a juicy plum.

Sara intruded on my introspection. “What if it’s not a vampire? What if it’s a werewolf? They wouldn’t have any trouble running around in the daytime.”

“That’s okay,” Ma said. “The Germans, they don’t believe it, but my people, they know the garlic works on werewolves too. On vampires and werewolves and devils.”

I took a hard look at Ma. She was as educated as a woman got in the 1850s, yet here she was carrying on over creatures that didn’t even exist. I hid a grin. She was a pleasing woman to look at. I took some pride in the fact people said I looked like her… but in a manly way, they always added in a hurry. I did have her red-gold hair and eyes that weren’t quite green or weren’t quite brown. And her mouth, everyone said. Full and pouty. Pouty? Why was that supposed to be good. I snickered to myself. For pouting, I guess.


I made a good stab at it, but I didn’t escape the house without a necklace of garlic cloves and shiny buttons firmly around my neck, accompanied by a little cross carved out of oak and stained brown hung on a string.

By the time Cloppy—that’s our plow horse—and I reached the edge of our property line near the timber, I kinda liked the smell of the garlic and got a kick out of the way the mirrored buttons caught the sun and sent sparks of reflected light dancing over the mare’s rump. Didn’t get a blessed thing out of the cross, not even inspiration.

I stopped to swipe my face with the red bandana that hung out of my overall’s rear pocket. Normally, I wore it around my neck, but it would cover up the paraphernalia Ma had hung there. That gave me a pause, I can tell you. Did that mean I believed her rant about vampires and werewolves? Nah.

Then I went still as our old setter when she was pointing at quail. There was something there. Something in the underbrush near the fence. Dunno how I knew, I just did. That thing was back. Goose bumps raced up my spine, and I went cold all over.

“Hey!” I yelled, mostly to make noise. “Show yourself. I know you’re there.”

Nothing. Then I heard a twig crack.

“Hey you! Whatever you are, you don’t walk out where I can see you, I’m gonna come looking for you.”

Crap! Did I really say that out loud. I wasn’t about to enter those woods. Not by myself. Not without my rifle. Oh, hell. Why hadn’t I brought my rifle?

I squared my shoulders. Why not? Why not go see what was there. I had all the protection Ma could give me hanging right there around my neck. So, fighting another wave of chill bumps and a certain weakness in my knees, I dropped the reins, picked up one of the rocks I was always throwing out of the field, and marched toward the wire fence.

The bush swayed again.

“All right, you bastard, I’m coming, and I’m armed with a rock I’m gonna use to smash your fangs right outta your head.”

Nothing as I reached the fence.

Nothing as I slipped through the wire.

Nothing as I entered the woods… except the pounding of my heart.



Sure hope Jamey’s not biting off more than he can chew… or perhaps the bite will be on the other teeth… or fangs… or whatever.

 Did you ever have Old World aunts and uncles or grandparents tell you spooky stories from the old country when you were growing up? Did you believe them... maybe just a little bit?

Until we meet next week, stay safe and stay strong.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say... so say it!

Please check out my BJ Vinson murder series published by Dreamspinner Press. The Zozobra Incident is the first, but Bisti Business is my favorite.

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See you next Thursday.


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