Names on a Quilt
The Southeast Missouri (SEMO) Anti-Heroin group maintains a memorial quilt that has the names of those who have died due to heroin and other opiates. It is my job to keep the spreadsheet that lists the names on the quilt. There are over 950 names on the quilt. The youngest victim is 13. Every time I get a new list of names from Darla Carey, the founder of the group, I cringe. For each name, there is a person with a story. There is a mourning family who can no longer enjoy that person’s companionship.
Here are pictures of the quilt taken at a school assembly the SEMO Anti-Heroin group presented a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, names have been added to the quilt since then.
Some of these stories inspired my short story, “Riding the Black Horse” for Coffin Hop. We’re sharing Part 2 in this post. If you haven’t read Part 1, you can read it here.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Coffin Hop without a devilish contest. This year we’re giving away a signed copy of Seeds of Love and Anguish and a signed copy of our first book, Bones of the Woods. You can enter the contest three ways:
- Subscribe to our newsletter
- Comment on one of our Coffin Hop posts
- Like our Facebook page
Each thing you do will add your name once to the devil’s derby. Yes, that’s John E. Miller appearing as the devil and he will be the one to draw the winner’s name.
And now it’s time to take a ride with me….
Riding the Black Horse
by Rachelle Reese
Joanne looked at the wall clock. It was six o’clock. Frank would be back any minute with Colby and Aimee hadn’t arrived.
“Sarah! Britt! You have your costumes on?”
The girls came out of the bedroom, dressed as two of the Ninja Turtles. Sarah carried little Ashley, who had not yet figured out how to walk.
“Is Aimee here?” Sarah asked.
“Not yet. I expect she’ll be here any minute. She must have had to work late.”
“She could have called,” Britt said. “It was her idea for us to wear these dumb costumes.”
“She probably had something better to do.” The sarcastic edge in Sarah’s voice slapped Joanne in the face.
“Now cut your sister some slack. She’s worked hard to beat this thing.”
“Yeah, Sarah. It’s not like you were ever there for her,” Britt said. “It’s Mom and me who always take care of Colby.”
“Stop your arguing. I want this to be a fun night for Colby and I won’t have the two of you dragging it down.”
“Mom’s right. The Barney cake will drag him down enough.”
“There’s a Barney cake?” Sarah carried Ashley to the table where the Barney cake was laid out with four unlit candles. “Look Ashley. What does Barney say?”
“I love you.” The little girl said, as clearly as any 18-month old.
“Let’s count the candles.” Sarah pointed to the candles one at a time. “One. Two. Three. Four.” Ashley’s finger followed along, even though she couldn’t say the words.
The door opened.
“She’s here,” Joanne said as she turned around and saw Frank, holding Colby’s hand.
“Turtles!” he shrieked and ran to the costumed girls. He threw his arms around one and then the other.
“Happy Birthday!” everyone called out.
“What’s happening, Leonardo? Glad you could make it, Donatello. Where’s Michelangelo? He’s my favorite.”
“Running late,” Joanne said. “Now wash your hands and let’s eat supper. After that there’s cake and presents.”
The truck turned off the highway onto a windy road, jolting Aimee out of her reverie. “Hey, this isn’t my road. Don’t you remember where my parents live, Tyler?”
“Sure I remember. I have to make a stop first. Won’t take but a minute. Besides, I know a shortcut from there.”
“I hope so. I’m already late.”
“Don’t stress out so much, Snugglepuss,” Justin put his hand on her knee and started to caress it. “Isn’t it nice just us being together again?”
“Sure, Justin. It’s just that we planned this whole Ninja Turtle surprise for Colby and I don’t want to ruin it by being late.”
“We’re here anyway,” Tyler said. “Just hold tight and I’ll be back.” The truck pulled into a long driveway, full of so many ruts Aimee’s back hurt from being jostled. It stopped in front of a trailer that had long since been considered sound. Tyler hopped out of the truck, leaving it running. True to his word, he was out and back in less than a minute. He backed the truck out. About midway down the long driveway he pulled off into a turnaround that was mostly hidden in the trees. He stopped the truck’s engine.
“What are we doing now?” she asked.
“I don’t know about you, but I need a ride on the black horse. I bet Justin does too.”
“You know I do, man. It’s been four long years without so much as a sniff.” Tyler put two hypodermics in his hand.
Tyler unzipped his pants. Aimee turned her head.
“What’s the matter, Snugglepuss? You’ve seen Tyler with his pants down before.”
“Just take me home, Justin. I’m clean. I don’t want any part of this.”
“You can’t tell me you don’t miss it.” He ran his finger in circles on her thigh. “I miss it more than sex and you know how much I miss that.”
“I do miss it. Every day. But there are more important things for me now. Colby.”
“Just one last time together,” Justin said. He put one needle in his arm and pushed the plunger. Aimee watched the liquid ease into his veins. She remembered what it felt like. That burn and then the calm. She remembered how all the sickness and fear and worry just dissolved.
“No,” she said. “Take me home.”
“One last time for me, Snugglepuss. You’ll like it. I promise.” Justin grabbed her arm. She struggled to get away, but he was stronger now than she remembered him. He pressed the needle beneath her skin and pushed the plunger. She felt the burn, but there was no calm this time. She saw Tyler slumped across the steering wheel.
“He’s not breathing,” she said.
“Sure he is. That’s just Tyler. He likes to nod off right after. Don’t you remember? That’s why we call him Nods.” He pulled her to him and started to kiss her.
She tried to pull away, but had no energy. Everything was moving so slowly. She was moving slowly and then she didn’t move at all. Is this what it was like before? she wondered. It had been a long time since she’d ridden the black horse.
Joanne couldn’t help glancing at the clock as they ate the meal she’d spent all day preparing, with such joy and optimism. The turtles did their best to eat through the masks. Colby happily ate his hot dog, some mashed potatoes, and piece of fried chicken. He glanced at the door now and then, looking for Michelangelo. When they had finished eating, he announced, “I guess Michelangelo’s on an important mission.”
The other turtles took the cue. “You’re right, Colby,” Britt said in her best Donatello voice. “And he needs our help.”
“Thanks for inviting us to your birthday feast,” Sarah mimicked Leonardo.
They left together through the front door. Not long after, Sarah and Brit came in.
“Hey, guess what you missed!” Colby chimed.
“What?” Britt asked.
“Did Ashley walk?” Sarah asked.
“No, nothing like that,” Colby said. “Better. You missed the turtles. Leonardo and Donatello showed up just for my birthday.”
“Wow!” Sarah gave him a kiss. “I hope we’re at least in time for cake.”
“Just in time,” Joanne put on her happy voice to disguise the worry and anger she was starting to feel.
Britt leaned over and whispered in Colby’s ear, “You aren’t too mad about the Barney cake?”
“Nah. Grandma doesn’t know I’m a grown up boy. She still thinks I’m a baby, but that’s okay. Sometimes I like to be a baby.”
Colby blew out all four candles.
“What did you wish for?” Sarah asked.
“I wished that Mommy was here, but I know she probably had to work so that’s okay.”
“Grandpa’s going to cut the cake,” Joanne held back tears. “I’m going to bring out the presents.” She went to the bedroom and dialed Aimee’s cell phone number. It rang and rang. It’s just like Aimee to screw this up, the voice from the past rose up in her head. She tried to push it away. It’s like the old Aimee, the addict. It’s not how Aimee is now. She splashed some water on her face and picked up the box of presents. At least Aimee had had the courtesy to bring his present by while he was a Head Start the day before.
She put on her cheerful face and carried the presents into the kitchen, where everyone was just finishing their purple cake.
That’s all for now. But there are 60 other writers on the coffin hop. Make sure to visit all of for scares and tricks and treats and good fun.
4 thoughts on “Coffin Hop – Riding the Black Horse, Part 2”
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Happy happy Hop! Love the story! 🙂
A story that puts your heart in your throat – powerful and sadly too true.
Thanks and happy Coffin Hop
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