Northwest of the Keys

**This is an old story with a knowing native American mother who follows the ghost of a story.**

I told my kids at the very start, when they were planning the addition, but what do I know? Anger can get centered in a place. Hell’s gate must be lined with resentments left over from lingering vengeful acts. The ground west of the bar was sour.

Course, Henry made fun of me behind my back.

George tried to reason like he does. Maybe the dumpster sat there too long. Something could leak out to make the ground rank. He looked me right in the eyes then and I let him see the horror. “Maybe not,” he said. “Have we tested for sink holes?”

Later, a bulldozer pulled a boulder the size of a car right out of the ground for the addition. I got sick, when they were pulling it out. Felt they were yanking on a toothache in my gut.

They only got half the rock above ground before it cracked open and bones fell out. The next morning the university came over to claim the whole thing. Never did hear what they found. I remember one paper saying they were baffled. They didn’t ask me. I could tell them the bones were a child’s. How they got in the rock I can’t say.

My boys, Henry and George, try not to listen to women. Strange. The door bringing them into life they tried to slam shut as soon as they could. They hug me, and we still eat together. CoryAnn, George’s wife, listens to me. She’s got the best smiling eyes a girl has a right to own. Her heart is right on the bridge of her nose. Sure calms my kid down when he’s been drinking. He’s a lucky man.

They kept the low ceiling bar, but the new entrance led most people into the dining room built over the spot where the rock was dug out. The dining room sported a ten-foot ceiling with a giant rainbow painted on it. Each corner and column tried to resemble palm trees with cardboard leaves. They added new bracing column each time the building inspector came by. Wouldn’t listen to me then either.

Henry’s got his Daddy’s temper. Good looking though—that curly hair does it. His wife Jayneen’s the same as him. They know everything better than anyone else. Pick a subject: trees, shoes, milk, flamingos—they’re the experts.

Every slip of a new moon threw a knife of hate in the haunted dining room. I was watching grandparents, once, with kids and grandkids all lined up. Didn’t stop the bad vibes one hoot.

Grandpa slammed his new Florida cap on his head and strolled out. “See you in the funny papers. It’s her own damn fault.” Grandma just laid her head on the table. The rest of them sat there for about half an hour. One of the kids coughed up a credit card and they marched out. One face grimmer than the next. Wonder what happened to the old duffer.

The next month, CoryAnn and I noticed a fat broad waltz in. On one hip she held a kid about three maybe four. He kept squirming, wanting to go back out, crying too. CoryAnn called the police. I told you she was good at sensing evil. I kept the old girl humored with pie till they got there.

Sweet little kid wiped his mommy’s eyes when the police brought her in, all shaking. The old dame was without a family and was trying to create one–kind of late in life. I suspect they found a nice secure place for her, don’t you?

All the land northwest of the Keys was cursed by whatever sent those bones into solid rock. Our old bar’s east of the rock. Finally Henry and Jayneen moved way up the coast. They’ll be okay. CoryAnn’s got a kid coming. George teases her now. She hardly fits behind the bar. No sense telling them it’s a boy.