Behind The Wainscoting

Submitted into Contest #62 in response to: Write about a character putting something into a time capsule.... view prompt

64 comments

Drama Suspense

When I’m gone, finally gone, our children will find this. Behind the wainscoting. 

I remember you’d insisted on this—this tacky beaded white wall paneling, always insisting on what you thought you knew was best. Did it matter if I wanted the interior of our home decorated in rough sawn oak or weathered pine to create a distinctively rustic look?

No. Of course not. 

See how easily I can tear off a tacky beaded white wall panel with this crowbar? This little brown steamer trunk will fit nicely into the crawl space. Behind the wainscoting.

Oh, they’ll find it. 

You and your classic sensibilities. As if the fight we had over decorative wood paneling wasn’t as worthless as a glass hammer. Unlike that titanium hammer you had to have for what should have been a simple home improvement project.

I’m putting your exorbitant titanium hammer inside this little brown steamer trunk for them to find when I’m gone, finally gone. 

What made you think you could complete a manly job like this? We had to hire contractors to fix your bungled botch of things. The hallway looked crooked for months. You said you knew what you were doing.

But you didn’t. You never knew what to do. 

Like deciding to become an accountant instead of going to law school. As boring as you were, you could have been just as boring as an attorney as you were as an accountant. At least you would have made more money. 

Ugh! An accountant! And not just any accountant—a tax accountant. 

Oh, how I hated admitting that out loud. My husband is a tax accountant. Might as well announce to the world that you also have erectile dysfunction and an unchecked hedgerow of back hair. The memory of your pasty-white bony body covered in black coarse hair makes my gorge rise. Nauseating! 

I’m putting your diploma for your Masters of Accountancy inside this little brown steamer trunk as well. For posterity. It’s getting full, but I’m almost done. The trunk will fit once I shove it back into its place. Behind the wainscoting.

We grew to hate each other in this house.

But the children adored you so, didn’t they? I was so jealous watching them rush to you when you finally came home after work—after I had watched them all afternoon. 

Daddy’s home. Big hugs for daddy. None for me.

It’s as if they didn’t love me. Me. Their very own mother. 

Someone had to be hard on them. Their rooms were seldom tidy when you were in charge. 

With me? Spit spot. All the time.

You were too soft. Always too soft. 

Of course they had to eat every last bite of food on their plate. I ate squash and cabbage, too, at a young age. And my mother kept me in line with wooden spoons and hair brushes and whatever else she could get her hands on. 

“Spare the rod—” she’d say. And I didn’t either.

I taught them independence. 

You could see it in our children’s eyes when they simply took care of things in high school. They got up on their own. They made their own lunches. They organized rides to wherever they were going—whatever sporting event or school play or other fool thing they were involved in. 

Sure, you’d always show up for them. I wondered how you kept your job—your poorly paying job—since you were always running to school or some field or some event with the children. 

I never had the time. Too much to do in keeping this house in order.

It’s amazing they turned out as well as they did. You know how you coddled them. Wasting time playing chess and checkers. Shooting hoops in the driveway. Showing them how to shave and how to make pancakes, leaving the kitchen a mess. Teaching them how to drive the car and taking them to get their driver’s licenses on their 16th birthdays. 

I’m throwing your driver’s license in the little brown steamer trunk for them to find as well. You won’t need it.

Remember how you used to wonder what I did all day? I did plenty. 

Let’s not forget I had to let the housekeeper in three days a week. And who was going to buy throw pillows for the new couch? You never noticed that the spices were alphabetized. Not that I needed to cook. Who was ever home for dinner? 

I had to go to the gym to keep my health and my figure, which seemed to lose all its allure for you. What I can’t remember is when you stopped touching me. You never did that quite right either. And those knots in my neck that I complained about? I’m so glad I finally found a proper massage therapist who knew exactly how to relax me. Good thing, too, as the stress would have eventually killed me.

Especially when I found out that you had ordered a commercial grade grill with eight burners for the backyard patio. I simply cried when it was delivered, the big hulking silver monstrosity in the backyard. An ugly thing, but it proved useful after all.

Oh, the children loved when you cooked up hot dogs and hamburgers for all of their sticky-handed, grimey friends. There are still stains on the patio from their high school pool parties, but you don’t care. 

And now there are new stains on the patio. 

You were right about the titanium hammer, so lightweight. So much better than steel. It did reduce the recoil shock vibration when I used it over and over again.  

I’m not sure what you were expecting when you told me it was over. It? You cannot have meant my life in this house with all of these things. It? You cannot have meant our marriage which ensured me that you would simply work, and I would simply keep this house in the manner I have been accustomed to. It? Just because our children were grown and only called you on your cell phone, we were still a family. My parents utterly despised each other, too, but they believed until death did they part.

And so do I. 

But you were right about one thing. The eight burners on the commercial grade grill can really cook huge slabs of meat. If they are cut properly. I guess the band saw you bought for the wainscoting home improvement project really did come in handy after all. 

So when I’m gone, finally gone, they can sort things out. They can let the housekeeper in to clean up this mess.

Spit spot.

Our children will find these, these ashy chunks. Fat that didn’t fully render. Bone that didn’t char. All tucked neatly into this little brown steamer trunk.

Behind the wainscoting. 


October 03, 2020 23:45

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64 comments

Zilla Babbitt
01:16 Oct 04, 2020

The repetition of the title phrase exposes an insane mind. I got chills reading this, like when I read "The Tell Tale Heart." What's sad is it sounds like the husband did a good job; taught the kids how to drive and how to cook and how to love him. Meanwhile the mom was alphebetizing the spices and hiring the housekeeper. I loved your hints: "when I used it over and over" and "can really cook huge hunks of meat." That escalated quickly. Writing horror so early tells me you might be the kind of person setting up skills in their yard in mi...

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Deidra Lovegren
01:28 Oct 04, 2020

It’s been that kind of week 💀🕷🦹🏻‍♀️

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Rayhan Hidayat
13:07 Oct 05, 2020

Alright so I’m here on Laura’s orders and wow, she was right when she said I’d be in for a treat. This is so completely different from your winning story but I think you can pull off thriller/horror as well as comedy. I aboslutely adore how you never explicitly mention a murder but readers have no problem understanding the events that transpired regardless. And what a chilling, bitter narrator’s voice. Love it, keep it up! 😙

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Deidra Lovegren
14:06 Oct 05, 2020

Thanks, Manta Ray :)

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Deidra Lovegren
14:07 Oct 05, 2020

I always do what Laura Clark tells me to do, too. She's a demigoddess.

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Laura Clark
17:48 Oct 05, 2020

💁‍♀️

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Rayhan Hidayat
15:13 Oct 05, 2020

Yeah when she told me to write a story glorifying crumpets, I was only too happy to oblige! 😂

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Deidra Lovegren
15:47 Oct 05, 2020

Is that a euphemism? Because she made me write a 1000-word story on "willies" so I demeaned myself with as many phallic references as possible to please the woman.

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Laura Clark
17:51 Oct 05, 2020

As it should be.

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Rayhan Hidayat
16:11 Oct 05, 2020

No it was literally a story featuring British baked goods! Omg, I don't think I've reached that level with her yet-- though I am curious about that willy story now

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Rayhan Hidayat
15:06 Oct 05, 2020

Haha no problem 😉

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Bianka Nova
22:34 Oct 08, 2020

I don't know what it says about me, but I was hoping there was a murder from the start, and when I finally read "grill" I was sure of it (even if it was just a few lines before the actual reveal). 😁 The story was spotless, or should I say spit spot. 😉👍

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Deidra Lovegren
22:51 Oct 08, 2020

Always fun to let the crazy 😜 run riot on the page... The MC is a nutty von crackup for sure.

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Katina Foster
15:33 Oct 07, 2020

What a great story! You do a wonderful job of revealing the narrator's personality slowly so by the time we find out what is going on, we really despise her. Really liked this line: "as worthless as a glass hammer." Very creepy take on the prompt, loved it!

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Deidra Lovegren
15:39 Oct 07, 2020

Thanks, Katina :) I appreciate your comments on the various crazy people who all live in my skull. Laura Clark shortlisted and didn't tell anyone, so I'm toasting her for the rest of the day. When one of us wins, we all win. I'll take de facto glory any day of the week. YAY

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Katina Foster
17:10 Oct 07, 2020

What! That's wonderful! YAY!! I read your comment as "toasting" instead of "roasting" the first time around. I thoughts your students were in for a treat. 🤣🥂

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Deidra Lovegren
17:17 Oct 07, 2020

Whoops. I fixed the typo. That BBQ of human flesh left over from my last story... Yikes.

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Katina Foster
00:45 Oct 08, 2020

Oh it was a typo! I just read it the way you intended then. Although, roasting would have been good too. I was thinking more comedy central roasting as opposed to BBQ! Going dark this week, Deidra!

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Jonathan Blaauw
14:59 Oct 07, 2020

Did you know Laura's most recent story was shortlisted and she didn't say anything to us? I know! I only found out by accident. I have warned her that it can't happen again, so don't worry, we shouldn't see a reoccurrence of a catastrophe of this magnitude. One hopes...

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Deidra Lovegren
15:15 Oct 07, 2020

Those British! Always invading or evading. I'm hurt. Hurt, I tell you. You would think with my American Exceptionalism that she would have contacted me first... We should go on her story and downvote everyone.

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L.A. Nolan
03:18 Oct 05, 2020

The way you've recounted the MC's perceptions of a miserable life is so earthy, I found myself relating her words to people I actually know. I've heard these complaints. Singularly, each of her aggravations is common enough. But as they compound, or are perceived by her as compounding, her final actions seem almost logical, inevitable. Chilling. I very much enjoyed the read Deidra, thank you. Oh, and as an aside....I'm removing the wainscotting from my studio...

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Princemark Okibe
16:28 Oct 04, 2020

When I got to the end and realized she killed her husband and grilled him and stuff him in with his stuff I was shocked. I couldn't believe I will be shocked reading reedsy short stories but you surprised me alright. Nice work. [but they believed until death did they part.] This phrase really did it for me. Amazing creativity.

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Deidra Lovegren
17:18 Oct 04, 2020

Watch your back. Women are sneaky and resourceful :)

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Princemark Okibe
17:28 Oct 04, 2020

Lol. Don't let the Feminazis catch you painting women in such light as you did your character or they gonna grill you. Winks

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Laura Clark
10:47 Oct 04, 2020

I am always so excited when a new story from you appears and I am never disappointed when I’ve finished it. Love the repetition to build tension and reveal the crime. Love the way she addresses the story to him so that we hear every bit of bile and vitriol drip from her mouth. Love the mini twists (bbq came in handy... for pool parties! ... also for disposing of your body) that keep the reader on their toes. I can absolutely picture your protag and her skinny, hairy husband. Her poor kids though. Fab as always!

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Deidra Lovegren
13:11 Oct 04, 2020

The kids know she's a malignant narcissist. They probably encouraged the father to leave. Just curious -- who'd you cast for the roles?

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Laura Clark
13:45 Oct 04, 2020

The woman I envisioned as an old neighbour I used to have - she was very bitter. The guy I originally imagined as the newspaper editor from Spider-Man until you said he was thin and hairy. I had a brief moment of imagining him as a human porcupine and then settled on Eddie Redmayne, if he aged badly.

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Deidra Lovegren
14:32 Oct 04, 2020

There's no way Eddie Redmayne ages well. The man is a human porpoise like Benedict Cumberbatch. Small window for their allure.

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Laura Clark
15:09 Oct 04, 2020

Benadryl Cumbersnatch ever had appeal?

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Deidra Lovegren
15:27 Oct 04, 2020

Genuine laughter on this end.

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Aisa M
09:30 Oct 04, 2020

Just wow! Beautifully written.

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Deidra Lovegren
09:55 Oct 04, 2020

My homage to Edgar Allan Poe 🥀

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Phil Manders
07:40 Oct 04, 2020

Oh Deidra. . . Wanna talk about it?

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Deidra Lovegren
08:03 Oct 04, 2020

Not yet. Still 🧼 🧽 🧹

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Deidra Lovegren
08:08 Oct 04, 2020

Might need some more bleach...

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Zilla Babbitt
15:26 Oct 10, 2020

Oh dear. Just don't get arrested, okay? They won't let you write for Reedsy in prison.

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Deidra Lovegren
15:32 Oct 10, 2020

Haven't been arrested yet. So no worries.

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Jonathan Blaauw
06:41 Oct 04, 2020

One of my most joyful experiences is seeing a new story from you! It really gets me excited and I have yet to be disappointed. This is excellent! Amazing that Zilla mentioned The Tell-Tale Heart because I also thought of it as the story went on. Love him or hate him, you can't deny Poe's brilliance, and the fact that your style here puts the reader in mind of him speaks to your talent! You've done such a cool thing with the prompt, and the way it unfolds is excellent. I find darker stuff like this often works best when hinted at, rather t...

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Zilla Babbitt
15:27 Oct 10, 2020

"Love him or hate him"-- I have no idea what to think about him. He's a brilliant writer, but off his head completely. Did you know he married his thirteen-year-old cousin? Good God, Edgar, that stuff should stay in the stories!

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Deidra Lovegren
07:57 Oct 04, 2020

Thank you, Dear Reader. My husband suggested the band saw — less messy (How did he know that? What is he planning? 🤔) Saturday night is my date night with me. My husband watches 🏈 and delights in the real-time commission of future brain injuries. I take my multiple personalities back to the den with a bottle of Pellegrino and see who wants to tell a story. Last night, it was 🦹🏻‍♀️ who showed up. So I just crawl into that persona and let her talk 💻 If the character(s) don’t talk easily to me, I leave them alone. They aren’t ready. And...

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Princemark Okibe
16:32 Oct 04, 2020

The same with me. The ones I feel good about just seem to pour out without effort. I don't know why it works like that, defying the principle of 'more time spent on a piece of art, the better it turn out'.

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Deidra Lovegren
17:36 Oct 04, 2020

You make a good point, Princemark, about "the artist's struggle" versus what spontaneously generates. Well said.

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13:39 Jun 03, 2021

... *looks behind me* this is so amazing, i can't even, i- this sums it all up. deidra lovegren + horror stories = mind blown.

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Deidra Lovegren
13:45 Jun 03, 2021

Crazy mommies are the creepiest :)

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Tom .
14:06 Oct 27, 2020

Wow, this was brutal. Brutally good aswell. I loved the fact she overplayed her role then broke down that in fact she had a house keeper, got massages and was not metaphorically scrubbing floors from dawn to dusk. It is such a chilling account. Fantastic.

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Deidra Lovegren
14:08 Oct 27, 2020

Just so you know, not all my stories are completely unhinged. Just the fun ones.

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Tom .
14:11 Oct 27, 2020

Oh the more unhinged the better. Far better than mud monsters eating toffee apples.

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Chelsea S D
16:49 Oct 16, 2020

Jesus. That's it. Just, Holy S**t. This one is going to stay with me for a while. Well done.

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Deidra Lovegren
18:14 Oct 16, 2020

So, I'm guessing that is a good thing?

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Chelsea S D
19:27 Oct 16, 2020

Indeed. Spooky and thrilling. Detailed, and so real. I love when a good story just stays with you, long after its been read. You've done that here.

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Deidra Lovegren
19:36 Oct 16, 2020

Definitely some crazy people out there. My first time writing horror. I always liked how Stephen King and Edgar Allen Poe and even Nathaniel Hawthorne made crazy seem so normal. Like anyone could cross the line.

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Echo Sundar
22:29 Oct 14, 2020

WOW! This is AMAZING! I love this, really great short story it tells so much in just a simple letter its truly extraordinary! Keep up the good work!

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Deidra Lovegren
22:37 Oct 14, 2020

Thanks 🙏🏻 Rachel - I appreciate your kind words

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Black Rose
13:24 Feb 13, 2021

Love you're story

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Black Rose
13:23 Feb 13, 2021

Love you're story!

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