Matthew of Normal Happenings has challenged me to participate in today’s Daily Inkling:
Write a blog post inspired by today’s Daily Inkling:
“THE MONSTER IN THE DELL”
Take your favorite nursery rhyme and turn it into a nightmare.
I love the Daily Inklings ideas posted on Normal Happenings and I really should participate more!
And now, without further ado…
Here’s my disturbing take on the nursery rhyme “There Was a Crooked Man”
There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile;
He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.
He wasn’t literally crooked, at least in the beginning (though his sour face often twisted in disgust) but he saw everything and everyone else to be crooked, never supposing that his was the truly twisted view.
Nobody knew what turned him so bitter against the world- he just showed up in the town one day with the rage already inside him- but for as long as anyone could recall he was known to be an angry recluse with a grudge against humanity at large.
His condition worsened steadily as he aged. His damaged worldview was paranoid, fearful, and angry. What started as bitter verbal vitriol eventually began to manifest in his physical mannerisms. His posture was affected, too- his back began to hunch and his shoulders bunched up tightly. He would sometimes be seen peeking out of his crumbling house, shrouded in shadow, craning his neck to look out at passersby and twisting his body as though to see them proper. His startling eyes would bulge and his mouth would hang open, revealing useless brown stubs of teeth on a face tight with silent fury and judgement. His face wasn’t seen often, but when it was, it was never forgotten.
His home became more and more dilapidated with time and his shoddy slap-dash repairs. Sometimes newcomers and visitors to the town would inquire sympathetically about the aging recluse in the patchy old house on the corner, but the town residents would dredge up abominable memories that swiftly dashed any potential for pitying him.
The only companion he had was a mouser with a sharp kink in her tail – the clever shorthair was fast and wily, and loved nothing more than catching mice to bring, still wriggling, to her master.
One fine and fateful day a young girl was selling cookies in her neighborhood without much luck. Her friends, who lived nearby, had already hit these familiar streets and taken the pocket change of her willing neighbors. These cookies are famously delicious, but nobody’s biting, she thought.
So she took her cookie wagon, and her business, elsewhere.
The new neighborhood was a ways away, and much more receptive to her Minty Crunchies. The little girl was feeling pretty good about her smart business choice. She moved briskly from home to home, feeling a lightness in her step, and in the red wagon she pulled behind her as the cookie boxes dwindled.
She was left with just six boxes when she noticed the sun was nearly done dawdling- it would soon be dark. She was about to turn around and head home when she saw a slender cat on the sidewalk a couple of houses down. The stripey cat looked curious, and very approachable. The girl couldn’t resist. She sidled up alongside the cat and gently stroked its fur. She noticed a bend in its tail and thought aw, poor kitty, did you get your tail caught in something? Did something fall on you?
The cat seemed to smile as it rubbed its face against the hem of the girl’s corduroys. It turned and padded languorously down a weedy, broken path towards the house on the corner, as if beckoning. The girl figured that this decrepit place was where the cat lived, and she felt a bit guilty for thinking I doubt they will have any money for cookies… at least I can make sure the cat gets home, and who knows, maybe they’ll buy a box.
She grabbed a box of Minty Crunchies and skipped after the cat, who kept looking back at her invitingly as they approached the neglected old house.
The girl’s parents had begun to worry- didn’t we tell her to be home before the sun was down? She knows better than this.
As the minutes turned to an hour, and then another, they knew something was terribly wrong.
They called the houses of all of her friends. The mother circled their neighborhood in the car. The father’s frantic calls, echoing from the garden, grew more desperate every minute. The police were called. Two officers visited the house. They wrote down some things. Said they would drive around the neighborhood. They were calm, they obviously didn’t realize, this isn’t like her, this isn’t normal.
A neighbor offered to watch the house so the parents could search for themselves in the car. The mother insisted on a thorough search expanding outward from their neighborhood- maybe their daughter wandered somewhere new and got lost?
Their circle widened and widened as the father called out the passenger window into the darkness. The mother drove slowly but purposefully with a grim determination.
Isn’t this too far? the Father asked, why would she come all the way out here? We should turn back and go around our neighborhood again, then we-
Then they saw it. The red wagon, there on the sidewalk beside an old weedy path. Abandoned, along with 5 boxes of cookies. The little girl was nowhere in sight.
Jesus! the father cried. The mother screeched to a halt and flung open the car door, racing toward the wagon. The father joined her, shouting and sobbing his daughter’s name. They grabbed at eachother and followed their feet the only direction that made sense- down the overgrown path that was long forgotten before today.
The path led them to the steps of the dilapidated house. They raced to the top, hammering on the door. Nothing.
The father noticed a solitary box of cookies near his feet, and he made an inhuman sound. They beat on the door again. Still nothing.
Then the mother’s eyes met the eyes of another, peeking through the broken front window. Bulging, watery eyes, staring intensely. A crinkled nose and rotten mouth, open in a wide grimace.
The thing dangling in his arms couldn’t be their daughter. How could it be? Human bodies don’t bend that way.
CROOKED! the man screamed. ALL OF YOU!