Some people see things that others cannot. Tales of Mystery and Imagination. “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” (H.P. Lovecraft).

Richard Matheson: 'Tis the Season to Be Jelly

Richard Matheson

Pa's nose fell off at breakfast. It fell right into Ma's coffee and displaced it. Prunella's wheeze blew out the gut lamp.

'Land o' goshen, Dad,' Ma said, in the gloom, 'If ya know'd it was ready t'plop, whyn't ya tap it off y'self?'

'Didn't know,' said Pa.

'That's what ya said the last time, Paw,' said Luke, choking on his bark bread. Uncle Rock snapped his fingers beside the lamp. Prunella's wheezing shot the flicker out.

'Shet off ya laughin', gal,' scolded Ma. Prunella toppled off her rock in a flurry of stumps, spilling liverwort mush.

Tarnation take it!' said Uncle Eyes.

'Well, combust the wick, combust the wick!' demanded Grampa, who was reading when the light went out. Prunella wheezed, thrashing on the dirt.

Uncle Rock got sparks again and lit the lamp.

'Where was I now?' said Grampa.

'Git back up here,' Ma said. Prunella scrabbled back onto her rock, eye streaming tears of laughter. 'Giddy chile,' said Ma. She slung another scoop of mush on Prunella's board. 'Go to,' she said. She picked Pa's nose out of her corn coffee and pitched it at him.

'Ma, I'm fixin' t'ask 'er t'day,' said Luke.

'Be ya, son?' said Ma, 'Thet's nice.'

'Ain't no pu'pose to it!' Grampa said, 'The dang force o' life is spent!'

'Now, Pa,' said Pa, 'Don't fuss the young 'uns' mind-to.'

'Says right hyeh!' said. Grampa, tapping at the journal with his wrist, 'We done let in the wavelenths of anti-life, that's what we done!'

'Manure,' said Uncle Eyes, 'Ain't we livin'?'

'I'm talkin' 'bout the coming generations, ya dang fool!' Grampa said. He turned to Luke. 'Ain't no pu'pose to it, boy!' he said, 'You can't have no young 'uns no how!'

Thet's what they tole Pa 'n' me too,' soothed Ma, 'An' we got two lovely chillun. Don't ya pay no mind t'Grampa, son.'

'We's comin' apart!' said Grampa, 'Our cells is unlockin'! Man says right hyeh! We's like jelly, breakin'-down jelly!'

'Not me,' said Uncle Rock.

'When you fixin' t'ask 'er, son?' asked Ma.

'We done bollixed the pritecktive canopee!' said Grampa.

'Can o' what?' said Uncle Eyes.

'This mawnin',' said Luke.

'We done pregnayted the clouds!' said Grampa.

'She'll be mighty glad,' said Ma. She rapped Prunella on the skull with a mallet. 'Eat with ya mouth, chile,' she said.

'We'll get us hitched up come May,' said Luke.

'We done low-pressured the weather sistem!' Grampa said.

'We'll get ya corner ready,' said Ma.

Uncle Rock, cheeks flaking, chewed mush.

'We done screwed up the dang master plan!' said Grampa.

'Aw, shet yer ravin' craw!' said Uncle Eyes.

'Shet yer own!' said Grampa.

'Let's have a little ear-blessin' harminy round hyeh,' said Pa, scratching his nose. He spat once and downed a flying spider. Prunella won the race.

'Dang leg,' said Luke, hobbling back to the table. He punched the thigh bone back into play. Prunella ate wheezingly.

'Leg aloosenin' agin, son?' asked Ma.

'She'll hold, I reckon,' said Luke.

'Says right hyeh!' said Grampa, 'we'uns clompin' round under a killin' umbrella. A umbrella o' death!'

'Bull,' said Uncle Eyes. He lifted his middle arm and winked at Ma with the blue one. 'Go 'long,' said Ma, grumming off a chuckle. The east wall fell in.

'Thar she goes,' observed Pa.

Prunella tumbled off her rock and rolled out, wheezing, through the opening. 'High-speerited gal,' said Ma, brushing cheek flakes off the table.

'What about my corner now?' asked Luke.

'Says right hyeh!' said Grampa, 'lectric charges is afummadiddled! 'Tomic structure's unseamin'!!'

'We'll prop 'er up again,' said Ma. 'Don't ya fret none, Luke.'

'Have us a wing-ding,' said Uncle Eyes, 'Jute beer 'n' all'

'Ain't no pu'pose to it!' said Grampa, 'We done smithereened the whole kiboodle!'

'Now, Pa,' said Ma, 'Ain't no pu'pose in apreachin' doom nuther. Ain't they been apreachin' it since I was a tyke? Ain't no reason in the wuld why Luke hyeh shouldn't hitch hisself up with Annie Lou. Ain't he got him two strong arms and four strong legs? Ain't no sense in settin' out the dance o' life.'

'We'uns ain't got naught t'fear but fear its own self,' observed Pa.

Uncle Rock nodded and raked a sulphur match across his jaw to light his punk.

'Ya gotta have faith,' said Ma. 'Ain't no sense in Godless gloomin' like them signtist fellers.'

'Stick 'em in the army, I say,' said Uncle Eyes, 'Poke a Z-bomb down their britches an' send 'em jiggin' at the enemy!'

'Spray 'em with fire acids,' said Pa.

'Stick 'em in a jug o' germ juice,' said Uncle Eyes, 'Whiff a fog o' vacuum viriss up their snoots. Give 'em hell Columbia.'

'That'll teach 'em,' Pa observed.

' We wawked t'gether through the yallar rain.

Our luv was stronger than the blisterin' pain The sky was boggy and yer skin was new My hearts was beatin'

–Annie, I luv you.

Luke raced across the mounds, phantom like in the purple light of his gutbucket. His voice swirled in the soup as he sang the poem he'd made up in the well one day. He turned left at Fallout Ridge, followed Missile Gouge to Shockwave Slope, posted to Radiation Cut and galloped all the way to Mushroom Valley. He wished there were horses. He had to stop three times to reinsert his leg.

Annie Lou's folks were hunkering down to dinner when Luke arrived. Uncle Slow was still eating breakfast.

'Howdy, Mister Mooncalf,' said Luke to Annie Lou's pa.

'Howdy, Hoss,' said Mr. Mooncalf.

'Pass,' said Uncle Slow.

'Draw up sod,' said Mr. Mooncalf, 'Plenty chow fer all'

'Jest et,' said Luke, 'Whar's Annie Lou?'

'Out the well fetchin' whater,' Mr. Mooncalf said, ladling bitter vetch with his flat hand.

'The,' said Uncle Slow.

'Reckon I'll help 'er lug the bucket then,' said Luke.

'How's ya folks?' asked Mrs. Mooncalf, salting pulse seeds.

'Jest fine,' said Luke, 'Top o' the heap.'

'Mush,' said Uncle Slow.

'Glad t'hear it, Hoss,' said Mr. Mooncalf.

'Give 'em our crawlin' best,' said Mrs. Mooncalf.

'Sure will,' said Luke.

'Dammit,' said Uncle Slow.

Luke surfaced through the air hole and cantered toward the well, kicking aside three littles and one big that squished irritably.

'How is yo folks?' asked the middle little.

'None o' yo dang business,' said Luke.

Annie Lou was drawing up the water bucket and holding on to the side of the well. She had an armful of loose bosk blossoms.

Luke said, 'Howdy.'

'Howdy, Hoss,' she wheezed, flashing her tooth in a smile of love.

'What happened t'yer other ear?' asked Luke.

'Aw, Hoss,' she giggled. Her April hair fell down the well. 'Aw, pshaw,' said Annie Lou.

'Tell ya,' said Luke, 'Somep'n on my cerebeelum. Got that wud from Grampa,' he said, proudly, 'Means I got me a mindful.'

'That right?' said Annie Lou, pitching bosk blossoms in his face to hide her rising colour.

'Yep,' said Luke, grinning shyly. He punched at his thigh bone. 'Dang leg,' he said.

'Givin' ya trouble agin, Hoss?' asked Annie Lou.

'Don't matter none,' said Luke. He picked a swimming spider from the bucket and plucked at its legs. 'Sh'luvs me,' he said, blushing, 'Sh'luvs me not. Ow!' The spider flipped away, teeth clicking angrily.

Luke gazed at Annie Lou, looking from eye to eye.

'Well,' he said, 'Will ya?'

'Oh, Hoss!' She embraced him at the shoulders and waist. 'I thought you'd never ask!'

'Ya will?'


'Creeps!' cried Luke, 'I'm the happiest Hoss wot ever lived!'

At which he kissed her hard on the lip and went off racing across the flats, curly mane streaming behind, yelling and whooping.

'Ya-hoo! I'm so happy! I'm so happy, happy, happy!'

His leg fell off. He left it behind, dancing.

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Tales of Mystery and Imagination

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