marble house

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Winner of Second Place in Gooseberry Pie’s First Writing Contest April 2024

by Kathryn Kulpa

Ma was in a sanitarium out west with lung trouble—we heard Mrs. Stankowski next door snort more like rum trouble—but Auntie Lou said Mrs. Stankowski’s husband was the one with rum trouble; he shot her in the knee with a BB gun and that was why she was so mean, and when she wasn’t washing her driveway she was stoning the field cats, and Aunt Lou gave her H-E-double hockey sticks for that, told her better field cats running through the yard than field mice or God forbid field rats. We took in one of the cats, called him Stank because he walked with a limp, like Mrs. Stankowski with her BB knee; she could never catch us when my cousin Missy and I sneaked through her backyard to get to the cemetery where we weren’t supposed to go, where gooseberry bushes grew wild and no one cared if we picked them; swallowed green they’d pucker your whole mouth, but when they pinked up they got sweeter. Once we saw some purple-ripe gooseberries on a hill and climbed it and saw this house, white marble with a statue of Jesus by the door, Jesus with his hands around two kids, not quite a hug, more grabbing them by the back of the neck like He Meant Business. SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN TO COME UNTO ME, the carving said, and Missy dared me to go inside the house. All the sun vanished inside; it felt cold, and smelled like oranges gone black, and then Missy grabbed my neck, like Jesus in the statue, and pointed at a bench in the corner with a man lying on it, face down, one shoe off, his jacket open in back like he’d put it on backwards and I got closer to see if he was dead and the man’s bruise-swollen mouth opened and he roared like a lion, and we screamed and ran, bouncing off each other, almost tripping, out the door, down the hill, looking to see if he was following but the man, or ghost, or whatever he was, didn’t catch us. We were safe, we were saved, but we’d lie awake at night, waiting for a shadow in a misbuttoned coat to scratch at our window, for a cold hand to fall upon our necks, suffering us to come unto him.

Kathryn Kulpa’s first ambition in life was to be a witch, and then a writer. It’s possible she is at least one of these things.


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