Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Mark Of The Devil

It’s funny how things sometimes come together to stir a person to consider alternatives. Solstice Publishing recently released the only true story I’ve ever written, Ordinary People; Extraordinary Lives. The book chronicles the lives of Harold and Otto Whittington, WW II heroes.

There is a connection between Ordinary People; Extraordinary Lives and other books I’ve published that most people are not aware of. Harold’s wife, Nil, was my mentor. Many years ago Nil encouraged me to begin writing (she was also an author). She edited every book I wrote before she died, and continued to push me to write more. Then, one day, she stated that I should now write a real story, not fiction. She directed that I write the story of Harold and Harold’s brother, Otto. I was not enthusiastic at first because, although truth might be stranger than fiction, fiction is far easier to write. That was not relevant. Nil wanted the book written, so I took it on. Nil did not live long enough to see the book published; however, Harold did. It was gratifying, at the end, that even though Harold no longer knew who I was, he still slept with the book. Otto passed away many years ago; Harold passed away last month.

Harold and Nil left a beautiful bedroom suite to my wife, and Harold gave his small pickup truck to me. Those were sweet and generous gifts, and it is ironic that Harold’s gift might now point me back to Miss Havana and the comical paranormal fiction I wrote in the past. When the title for the truck was transferred to me, the county tax office issued an new plate. I laughed aloud when I saw what the numbers were: 666 – the mark of the devil! Could Miss Havana have had a hand in this? We have all had a good laugh over the plate. Wherever he is, I hope Harold is snickering too.

Below is an excerpt, some of the devil’s first impressions of Miss Havana. These ruminations, of course, occur before her untimely death – at a time when Old Nick didn’t have to deal with her directly. After her death, the devil comes to regret that she ever caught his attention.

            Miss Havana demanded her students learn, and she would humble anyone who failed to provide answers to her questions. Being embarrassed by Mr. Molkey could be tolerated. He presented ancient history in terms as dry as the sand to which most of the artifacts he discussed had returned a thousand years ago. Being put on the spot by Miss Havana, however, could be mortifying and dangerous. Although she seemed too pretty and inherently too sexy to disappoint, the disciplinarian part of her character made her downright freighting. Unafraid to mete out corporal punishment, should the situation demand it, she had the moxie to back up any form it might take.
            An average student with raging sexual fantasies, Jeremy Withrow frequently had difficulty answering her questions when called upon because his throat turned dry. Face-to-face with Miss Havana and under the glare of her beautiful but piercing blue eyes, Jeremy swallowed hard while reaching into the deep recesses of his mind. He couldn’t fake the answer. Miss Havana wanted a specific numerical value, a number. “I…uh…”

            Miss Havana tapped her chalkboard pointer on the floor, and the corner of her mouth twitched slightly. “Yes, Mr. Withrow? Can you illuminate this class, or can you not?”

            A deep pink flush of embarrassment exploded across Jeremy’s face. “Yes, I…I believe, six.”

            Miss Havana stood rigidly erect looking down at her charge. Her eyebrows dipped toward her nose. “You believe? Does that mean six, or does that mean something other than six? What you believe is not relevant, Mr. Withrow. I asked how many queen consorts married Henry VIII of England between 1509 and 1547, not what you believe.”

            Jeremy’s eyes fixed on Miss Havana’s protruding breasts. Not out of disrespect, mind you, but because his short stature offered that gift when he looked straight ahead. He swallowed hard once again, but for an entirely different reason. “Then six. Yes, six.” As he uttered the answer, Miss Havana seemed to move her shoulders almost imperceptibly, causing her breasts to flex in a way that only one standing directly in front of her might notice. He did an equally subtle double-take, as if he had received a visual reward for a correct answer. His dry throat returned.

            Miss Havana smiled thinly. “Then you may be seated, Mr. Withrow.”

            Jeremy did not give a flip about religion, but he silently thanked the other side that Miss Havana allowed him to sit before his body automatically reacted to her presence. He breathed a deep sigh as she swiveled and moved silently to the front of the room. Unlike most of the female teachers and students at Redmond High, her nylons did not swish together as she walked.  No, in fact, her legs didn’t come together at all, a fact not lost on a single boy in any of her classes.

            Upon reaching the front of the room, the unfortunate Doug Halstead became Miss Havana’s next victim. Lax in completing his reading assignment the prior evening, Mr. Halstead could not reveal the name of the third wife of Henry VIII, apparently believing Jane Seymour to be a former movie celebrity who appeared briefly on Dancing with the Stars. As a result, the stern Miss Havana commanded Mr. Halstead remain after class. Nervous giggles rippled among the students. They all knew the consequences of such a command.

            Miss Havana always carried a large fraternity-like initiation paddle in her oversized bag, and all understood the implications of that. Everything except capital punishment seemed acceptable to the Redmond School Board, and the principal of the no-nonsense education facility where she taught encouraged her proclivity for using it. Although no one knew where Miss Havana developed her skill in wielding a paddle so large, most speculated she attended a nearby parochial school that shared the same mores as the conservative Buck Township in which Redmond was located.

            It is undoubtedly true Miss Havana knew students gathered outside the door to her classroom prior to punishment being administered. That made sense. That Miss Havana enjoyed swinging the paddle in her own secret way, however, did not. In fact, just thinking about using it made her wet in forbidden places. Because of her unusual enthusiasm, no one in his or her right mind wanted to be alone with her during such an event, just as everyone wanted to be alone with her for almost anything else.

            It’s also true she used the fear of punishment as effectively for controlling the teenage population as the punishment itself. She did nothing to disperse the audience gathered outside her room to aurally witness the events unfolding within. In my humble opinion, she enjoyed engendering fear in those gathered outside almost as much as her domination over her victim.

            On the day of Mr. Halstead’s judgment, students silently gathered in the hallway leading to Miss Havana’s history classroom. A hushed whisper descended over the crowd as all anxiously awaited to hear the rush of air whistling through the holes in her large paddle, the unmistakable sound of wood striking stretched denim, and the low moans of an individual in deep pain. Inside that same room, knowing half the school listened on the opposite side of the opaque glass door, Mr. Halstead dared not reveal the full extent of his pain, but performed “the dance of silence” while holding his butt as if it were on fire.

            After all, many considered revealing pain, especially deserved pain, un-manly or un-womanly as the case might be. As many from that small student body would attest, Miss Havana dispensed judgment on an equal opportunity basis. She didn’t tolerate screw-ups regardless of gender. Furthermore, she believed it right and proper that she should periodically offer the “gift of fear” to any student stout enough to remain crouched outside her classroom door during her punishment ritual.

            True to form, Doug Halstead took it like a man. After completing his cooling-off jig around the front of the empty classroom, he walked out with head held high, passing through the gauntlet of nonchalant students who continued to pretend they hadn’t heard anything, as if nothing out of the ordinary had transpired. Only the fact he rode the bus standing up that afternoon revealed his true condition.

            Fear of being called “pussy” by fellow students doomed Doug Halstead to silence at school. He would also not find sympathy at home for the circular welt pattern left by the holes in Miss Havana’s paddle. Fathers in the community loved Miss Havana, or at least lusted after her, and no man in his right mind would dare confront her. Most revered her as the ideal teacher who kept children in their place with focus on studies. Not to mention most secretly wished to be alone with her themselves, fantasizing only of the potential pleasure of such an encounter, and thinking nothing of the potential pain.
Thanks for reading,

 James L. Hatch


Tina Donahue said...

I definitely think you should continue this series, James. These are great books. Very inventive. :)

James L. Hatch said...

Thank you, Tina. I'm a little overwhelmed with Meredith at this time, and I know it will get worse. For now, I'm just making notes. It is almost impossible to get time to write now that "shadowing" has set in. Don't get me wrong. I love her to death and don't want her to want for a thing. I know she is frightened as her mind slips away--I would be too. I just need to stay close as she goes through this. The aducanumab has slowed the pace of decline, but the decline is still there. It sucks to get old.