Mildred’s Makeover

A fictional short story by Robert M. Roberts

Ivan Borisheski and his young bride, Mildred, immigrated to America from Poland in 1955. After living in the slums of Brooklyn for a few years, they finally scraped up enough savings to move to Wisconsin. They purchased a small hog farm on the outskirts of Sheboygan.

Ivan worked tirelessly over the years and farm life had taken a toll on him. His long, jet black hair became short white stubble, and his hands were cracked and calloused. He rarely left the farm except for needed supplies, which always included a quart of cheap bourbon. Mildred referred to it as “Satan in a bottle.” On the other hand, Mildred had never been to town, and in fact, had never left the house since they moved there. A definite recluse, I guess you would call her.

Ivan came through the door after another hard day of work, and breathed in a whiff of beans and salt pork he had put in the slow cooker that morning. Mildred sat at the kitchen table where she always sat. Ivan dished up the beans, placed a bowl in front of her, and then took his place at the other end of the table and began digging in.

After a few bites, he looked up and told Mildred that Rosey, his prize sow, had gotten her head caught in the fence trying to fetch a stray cob. “She’s a feisty ol’ gal,” he said, as he began to laugh. “Reminds me of you, back in the day.”

Mildred didn’t respond.

“You know, I’ve been thinking,” he paused to take another bite of beans. “I think you need one of those makeovers that all the women are getting now days, and maybe a new dress too.” He shoveled in another spoonful of beans. “Now don’t try to thank me. It’s the least I can do,” he added, and lifted up his hand. He retrieved a newspaper from the kitchen counter and placed it in front of her.

“What ya think? Ain’t she a beauty?” he asked. The paper was opened to the obituary section and displayed the picture of a lovely young female with flowing hair around her shoulders. The young woman had recently died and was buried in Clossen Cemetery, just down the road from the farm.

Mildred said nothing. As a matter of fact, she hadn’t uttered a word for decades. On occasion, a shrill high-pitched voice could be heard throughout the house, but it was just Ivan mimicking her after he’d had too much whiskey, and was in the mood for an argument. Of course, that was what led to her demise years ago, but it had been so long that he didn’t even remember what they had argued about.

Mildred just sat and said nothing, her hollowed eye sockets seemed fixated on Ivan’s every word. His calloused bear-like hands had choked the very life out of her years ago. Now, she just sat at the table, day in and day out. The small amount of remaining flesh on her face and hands had dried like leather across her skeleton.

Ivan assured her that removing the young woman’s face that was buried down the road would be no trouble whatsoever. After all, he had butchered so many hogs in his time that he had the skills of a surgeon.

As he reached across the table to finish off her supper, he whispered, “You’ll look stunning, my dear…absolutely stunning!”

If I Only Had A Rock

Being afraid of the dark is a common fear of most young children, and ten year old Billy Sampson was no exception. When the dreaded 9:00 p.m. bedtime arrived, he slipped into his bed, while leaving the overhead light on and the door shut. No sooner than he had closed his eyes, the door creaked open. He opened his eyes to see the figure of his father looming in the doorway.

“Damn it, Billy! How many times do I have to tell you to turn the light off? Electricity isn’t free you know.”

“I forgot,” the sleepy eyed Billy replied, not about to confess to his dad that he was afraid of the dark.

His dad quickly flipped off the switch. “Goodnight,” he said as he shut the door.

Now it would begin…another night of terror as Billy’s young imagination began to visualize the monster in his closet. It made no difference if the closet door was opened or closed, it would be there. Its glowing red eyes with black vertical slits pierced the darkness. The monster had drooling razor-sharp teeth that were yellowed with stain. Horrified, Billy clenched his eyelids shut until they hurt, because he was certain the creature would be there if he dared to open his eyes. He remained very still and thought to himself. If I only had a rock, I would smash his face in. The one time he did bring a rock into the room, his mom had found it and scolded him for bringing the dirty thing into the house. The nightmares of the closet creature raged on in his mind. Billy hid his face under the pillow and finally drifted off to sleep.

Fifteen years later, Billy now went by Bill. He had matured into a nice looking man of twenty-five. He was a college graduate and the same good-natured person he had always been. The one thing that remained constant was his secret fear of the dark, and the constant nightmares of the closet creature still pursued him. The fear was as strong as it had ever been, and he had put off getting therapy way too long. He had just married his fiancée, Deborah, and so far, had managed to keep his phobia a secret from her. It was a short, but romantic, engagement of the two, and I guess you could call it love at first sight. The two had met at work, a large insurance firm based in Boston. Unfortunately, due to the heavy workload at the office, their honeymoon to Jamaica had been postponed for a week.

The couple leased a new apartment and looked forward to their life together. The first night in their new surroundings flashed by as they unpacked boxes and nibbled on a delivery pizza. They discussed the upcoming honeymoon details until almost midnight, when the exhausted couple went to bed. Bill tossed and turned throughout the night with horrible dreams of the closet creature. When the alarm sounded at 6:00 a.m., he opened his eyes and reached to turn off the blaring alarm clock. There was something in his hand.

Bill stared at the bloody stone clasped in his hand. “What the hell?” he yelled. He let out a deafening scream as he looked at Deborah. Her face was a bloody mass of bone and flesh that was hardly recognizable as a human being.

Months later at Bill’s murder trial, his defense argued a plea of insanity. It was denied and the jury found him guilty of murder in the first degree. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

Billy arrived at the Massachusetts State Prison to serve his lifelong sentence. An important question loomed in the back of his mind as the prison guard led him to his cell. “Do you keep the lights on at night?” he asked.