Little Ed

By Robert Starr

Learned men has tried n’ tried at teachin’ me somethin’ different, but I knows what I knows. They come and argue wit me day n’ night, using big educated words, tellin’ me I be sick and needin’ help. But I knows what I knows. And what I knows is just this: Little Ed is as real as them doctors who tell me he ain’t and I knows he breathes n’ sleeps, just like me- Sure ‘nuff or my name ain’t Desira Cathorn.

Sometime, when the moon come inside my room n’ make the walls blue, I imagine Little Ed hearin a noise n’ tensin all up, watin for a nuther fool’s foot to bust through the wood n’ fall into his home.

I guess if I’m gonna tell ya what happened, I should start at the beginnin’ and the very first thing I want known is this: I didn’t always live here, locked away in this room like a rat. No sir. There was a time- not that long ago either-when I could walk around and do what I pleased, just like youse readin’ this can. I like to say it was just a chance meetin’ wit Little Ed that drove me to this here commitment at the good taxpayer’s expense.

If you ask me, I’ll tell ya, fall’s the best time of year. If I close my eyes, I can see the yellow leaves and I can smell the pine on the porch out front. My grannie was, n’ probably still is, a grand woman. I remember wakin' in the morning to her slippers creakin' on the wood floor below. I could hear crickets when I opened the door to leave for my job in town; I fancied they only started their cricket song when they saw me. I worked at McCully’s Hardware store ‘n cut cross neighbourin’ fields on the way in. It was a day like any other, but a nice crisp fall day, that I first stumbled on Little Ed.

The earth crunches unnafoot in the fall, so if it hadn’t been for the terrible fright when my foot fell though the wood n’ I lost my balance, I might never have known I’d found Little Ed’s home. I pulled ma foot out an’ looked down inta the well. The wood was layin’ crisscross over the openin’ and I pulled away the loose planks to git a better look. Seein’ nuthin’, I decided it was used up n’ turned to start my way to work.

An’ that’s when Little Ed first spoke to me.

"At a quarter ta one today, the first sign’ll appear," he said.

He had a raspy kinda voice that undid my nerves some, kinda like a fiddle not tuned right. I looked ‘round at first, thinkin’ some escaped circus midget was makin’ fun of me. Then, I looked down inta the well and there he was-lookin’ back at me. He was all white, a kinda glowy white that made ‘im shine in the dark well and ‘bout as high off the ground as a cat. What ascared me the most was Little Ed’s eyes- he had big black eyes like a dead catfish.

"The signs’ll come one a day until ya break the cycle," he said all calm like we’d been talking on this deal for a spell.

( Up till now, anyone can see why I didn’t stick around there to find out what he meant with words like ‘cycle’ and ‘signs’. Shit, the only ‘cycle’ I ever seen was my cousin’s- it’s blue and he put a bell on the handlebars.





By the time I reached McCully’s Hardware Store, I’d reckoned whatever it was I’d seen and heard in that well was best left forgotten back there in the ground. I believed in what people called f-I-g-m-e-n-t-s of I-m-a-g-I-n-a-t-I-o-n back then, and I wished I could now. Least with that, what happened to me kinda makes sense.

Anyways, Eugene McCully was just too old to look after the store hisself-He needed me and I needed the job, but Ol’ Eugene would never let that truth be told. I walked up the wood porch and opened the screen door; Eugene looked up from behind the cash register then quickly down.

"Your late,"he said. (I wasn’t, but didn’t fix on defendin’ myself.)

McCullly’s Hardware Store was as old as Adam hisself; it sat at the corner of a country highway and a sideline road. It wasn’t one of those fancy modern places either- all the nuts,bolts ,nails, screws and other fixin’s were left on wooden crates and tables. If ya needed somethin’, ya had to know where to look or ask Eugene or me. Now he followed me to the back of the store, to the peg I hung my coat on.

"I won’t stand for lateness," he said, "If your fixin’ to make it a habit…well..I might just have to find someones else."

I knew he wouldn’t: anyone who’d‘ve taken my job was long since moved away; Eugene knew as much too, but he liked his little game of cat and mouse, so I left ‘im to it. When he finished with me, I heard the screen door slam behind ‘im: then I was alone and I closed my eyes and thought on that mornin’, eventhough I knew better than to do it.

What I’d seen was probably just some kinda animal, but that still didn’t ‘splain one thing-that was why Little Ed spoke at me.

I opened my eyes ‘n looked at my watch. It was 12:45 on the nose. I looked outa the front window and there was Eugene, standin’ on the porch, facin’ the store ‘n thinkin’ on sumpthin’. Little Ed was right there beside ‘im, gest the top of his head stickin’ up above the window ledge. And next he did the damndest thing: he reached up and pulled ol’ Eugene’s arm off right at the socket, and vamoosed.

If I close my eyes I still hear ol’ Eugene McCully screamin’ to beat the band inside my head and I still see the blood splatterin’ on the window like someone flickin’ red paint offa brush.

The official version was Eugene slipped clean offa the porch, tryin’ to figure a place for a shipment of snow shovels, an’ fell inta a passin’ truck. I kept my mouth shut tight ‘bout what I seen, an’ I walked home fast, hopin’ the whole thing might go away. I didn’t notice at first, but I was on the same route I’d takin’ that mornin’ on my way in. Shit, I was at the well before I realized what I wuz doin’ an’ I looked inside and there was Little Ed, starin’ right back at me as if he’d been awaitin’.

"Hey boy!" he said. "Interested in learning to break the cycle yet?" (Sittin’ here now wit nuthin’ to do but look at things gone by, I realize I could’ve saved myself a mess of trouble wit a simple ‘yes’, but I was feelin’ sorry for myself ‘bout the whole thing, so I turned to leave.)

"They’ll be another one a’cummin tonight," he said, his voice muffled down by the well.


I’m thinkin’ now anyone readin’ this could understand I just wanted things as they was, so I talked like nuthin’ happened when I got home.

"Hullo, Gran," I said and as soon as the words left my mouth, I was sure I’d lost any sense the Good Lord had given me. She put the dish down in the sink she was awashin, and turned to face me; the sun had near gone down and she was just black when she faced me with the light over her from the winda by the sink.

"Mr McCully…." she said. Her voice trembled like and I knew that’s all she could say.

Eugene’s son came to pick Grannie up and take ‘er to see ‘im that night. The sun had gone all the way down when he called; it was dark and I stood on the porch and waved at the headlights as they backed onta the road. His car had just disappeared when the second sign came.

I heard the other car before I seen its headlights bounce up over a hill n’ down the other side. It was goin like a jackrabbit- I could tell by the engine whinin’ and the jerky beams of light. Right square in fronta the house, there was a second of silence when the car jumped inta the air-then it hit one of the trees in the yard n’ exploded. If I close my eyes, I can still hear shatterin’ glass and a low boom like the time ol’ Gus Henderson blowed up his still by accident.

Now here’s the part of the story that gits me in all the trouble there is when I tell it.


That car was on fire- inside the driver was already crispy black, but sumpth’ moved in the passenger side. It squealed high like the dolphin I seen on one of them nature shows on T.V. ‘an it jumped from the passenger side window- it was sure enough Little Ed ; I could tell cuz he was so short . Little Ed was on fire too n’ runnin right straight for the house. If I close my eyes, I still recollect his little black arms swingin around as he ran and hid under the porch.

Right then n’ there I understood enuf; not about ‘signs’ n’ ‘cycles’, but about Little Ed.

I runned inside, mashed some newspapers inta a ball, and picked up a pack a matches. I turned around , ready to burn Little Ed ‘n end whatever the cycle was, and I saw him from the corner of my eye: he was at the side of the house, tiny little bits of fire fallin offa him as he ran back to his well. (Once, I seen an old movie bout a crazy doctor who makes a whole person from dead parts. Then, the people in town find out bout it, ‘n the chase the doctor with burin sticks- a real ol fashioned mob.) Anyways, that’s what I got to thinkin I looked like- one of those pissed villagers in an ol movie, what with the matches and newspaper ‘n all.

I reached his well, but he was gone down the other side of the hill toward town; I heard the bush rustlin’ bout as he ran and I turned ‘round ‘n what I saw dropped my insides down to my shoes.

There was flames in the sky like Hellfire itself-the porch and Grannie’s house was burnin’ good. I heard the police sirens comin’ for the car or the house or both. Right there, I knew one thing clear as a bell: I had to find Little Ed ‘n kill ‘im. The wind was blowin’ stronger and I knew I needed somethin’ to make the newspaper burn better-I knew exactly where to go.

It was quiet ‘cept for the crickets ‘n black outside McCully’s Hardware Store. I put one foot down easy on the porch ‘n I heard Little Ed diggin’ underneath; I looked down between the slats ‘n saw he’d pulled up Eugene’s arm from where he’d buried it. It was white and sickly lookin’. I got a good whiff of Ed’s burnt-up flesh- it reminded me of the time our dog Jiggers crawled under the porch ‘n died ‘n we only found ‘im by the smell. . I pulled ma sleeve down wit my wrist ‘n busted the window wit ma elbow.

It was dark as spades inside, but I knew where it was I’d find the kerosene. Seein what was to be done clear before me,I wet a newspaper‘n lit a match.

Couple a minutes later the whole store was on fire , but I took ta sittin’ on the road wit ma hands in ma lap, waitin’ on the high dolphin scream ‘fore I relaxed. I was feelin’ like a real herra, a real champion for the peoples. After all , only the Good Lord knows what damage Little Ed coulda caused.

I was feelin’ like I should be congratulated for the problems I helped to avoid when Eugene’s son drove up wit the police ‘n Grannie. There was a dead man in the car fronta Grannie’s house, which was almost burned down itself, and the kerosene was finishin’ off Little Ed ‘n the store.

When they all got close enuf so I could see their faces, I was sure they’d missed the whole point.

" I think I busted up the cycle real good," I said smilin’ and sure that was all the 'splainin' necessary.

To this here day if close my eyes, I can still see the ‘spression on Grannie’s face by the firelight of McCully’s Hardware Store.

The End

Copyright © 2002 by Robert Starr




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