In an old house in the Ozarks there lived an old woman and her dead son. Every night the old woman would make dinner and the two would dine. And every night the old woman asked her dead son, “How was your day?”
And her dead son would tell her whatever she wanted to hear. “Good. I watched the birds outside my window.”
And the old woman would smile and remark, “You always loved birds.” And the two were happy. Mostly. For at the very back of the old woman’s old mind there was always this crafty little doubt. Like a demon it would whisper to her, you’re crazy.
Or worse—your son is dead.
And at the worst of times it would say even darker things. Things no old woman should hear.
Until one night as they sat eating, the old woman no longer wanted to hear that her son had a good day. For the little doubt told her that real sons have bad days sometimes. That living sons need friends. And so this night her dead son said, “I am bored here. I want a wife.”
To which the old woman replied, “No. Absolutely not.” And she hurried into the kitchen, angry.
From the dining room her dead son called to her, “We’ll live here with you.”
“You’ll leave me again.”
“No, I won’t. Mom… please. Don’t you want grandkids?”
The old woman did want grandkids. Even though her dead son lived with her, she still sometimes felt alone. “You still love me, Simon?” the old woman asked.
“Yes,” her dead son laughed. “Of course.”
The old woman walked back into the dining room and kissed her dead son. “I’ll go into town tomorrow. See what I can do.”
The next day the old woman sat on the side of a busy highway. She had a flat tire and looked very sad and helpless. Soon a truck pulled up and the driver asked the old woman, “Can I help you?” But the driver was a man and that would not do.
“No,” said the old woman. And off he drove.
Soon after a car pulled up and the driver asked the old woman, “Can I help you?” The driver was a woman. But she had dark skin and tattoos and that would not do.
“No,” said the old woman. And off she drove.
Finally, a van pulled up and the driver asked the old woman, “Can we help you?” And although the driver was a man there were five youngsters in the back—two males, three attractive females. Simon can have his pick, thought the old woman.
“Yes,” she said.
As the youngsters changed the old woman’s tires, the driver introduced himself as Tommy. Proudly he told the old woman, “I’m the youth pastor at Red Oaks Christian Church. This is our youth group—Kirsten, Monica, Andrea, Chris and Aaron. They’re great kids.”
“Sure are,” agreed the old woman. Kirsten’s the prettiest. “Thank you so much.”
“Happy to help,” said Tommy.
“Come back to my place. Let me make y’all dinner.”
“You don’t need to do that.”
“No, please. I’d love to.”
“Actually, we probably ought to keep going. We’re doing what we call a Destination Unknown trip. We draw a distance and a direction out of a hat, go there and see how the Lord can use us in that community.”
Well, ain’t that something, thought the old woman. She had not made it to church in a long time, but she knew about God and heaven and how when you die you go there to sing praise songs unto God forever and ever.
“Just trying to share His love” said Tommy.
“Bless your heart. I don’t suppose– ? No…”
“My yard’s a mess. My son just doesn’t help out around the house anymore.”
“Yeah, we can help you with your yard work.”
This made the old woman smile.
Soon the youngsters and Tommy were hard at work in the old woman’s yard, mowing and weeding, weeding and mowing. The old woman busied herself making poisoned lemonade. Her dead son sat in his room, watching the volunteers through his window. I’m sure he’ll choose Kirsten, thought the old woman. He certainly should.
“Everyone,” she called, carrying a tray of cups and lemonade outside. The youngsters hurried over to get a drink. Except for Tommy, who continued to pull weeds. “You too, Tommy.”
“Can’t. I’m actually diabetic.”
The old woman frowned. This wasn’t good. This wasn’t good at all. She would have to act quickly. She hurried back inside to get a knife. But Tommy would be stronger than her. “Simon,” the old woman called. But her dead son did not emerge from his room.
The old woman hurried back outside. Several of the youngsters had already collapsed to the ground. Kirsten was coughing. Luckily, Tommy had his back turned, still weeding. The old woman walked as quickly as she could over to him. Kirsten tried to call out to warn him, but she couldn’t stop coughing. She grabbed the lemonade tray and slammed it against the old woman’s old house. It made a loud clang. Tommy turned.
He looked at the old woman, standing before him with the knife.
Fear filled Tommy’s face. The old woman swung at him. The knife hit Tommy’s shoulder, cutting deep. He got to his feet, running away from the old woman, running toward his youth group.
“Simon!” the old woman yelled.
Tommy looked at his kids, all collapsed on the ground, and hurried into the house.
Tommy pulled out his cell phone. It had no signal. He ran to the other end of the house then stopped, seeing the old woman’s dead son standing at his bedroom window. “Please, you have to help us,” Tommy pleaded with the dead son.
He was losing blood. The old woman had hit an artery. Tommy stumbled toward the dead son. “Please, Simon.” He touched the dead son’s arm. No reaction. He touched the dead son’s head. Still nothing. He turned the dead son around to face him. The dead son was expressionless. His unblinking eyes stared at Tommy. And then Tommy collapsed, all out of blood.
The old woman walked in. “Thank you, Simon,” she said.
One by one, the five youngsters awoke. They were lying in a row in the basement, their hands and feet tied behind their backs. The old woman and her dead son stood looking at them. “Which one do you want?” she asked.
“That one,” her dead son replied, pointing at Kirsten.
“I knew it. She’s the prettiest.”
The other youngsters turned to look at Kirsten, who began to weep. “Don’t worry, dear,” said the old woman. “You’ll love Simon.”
But Kirsten did not stop weeping until the old woman sliced open her throat.
Soon Kirsten lay naked on the old woman’s work bench. Now, the other youngsters were weeping. They wept as the old woman removed Kirsten’s guts. They wept as the old woman attached fake clay muscle to Kirsten’s bones. They wept as the old woman reconnected Kirsten’s bones with metal wires. They wept as the old woman reattached Kirsten’s flesh. And they wept as the old woman gave Kirsten new, shiny glass eyes.
“We will be very happy together,” the dead son told the old woman.
This made the old woman smile.
Every night the old woman would enter the basement to bring the four youngsters a plate of noodles and a dish of water. Then she would make dinner and dine with her dead son and his dead wife. And every night the old woman asked them, “How was your day?”
And they would tell her whatever she wanted to hear. “Good. You can expect grandkids soon.”
And the three were happy. Mostly. For at the very back of the old woman’s old mind there was always this crafty little doubt. Like a demon it would whisper to her, he’ll leave you.
It would whipser—real couples don’t want to live with their mother-in-law. Living couples need space.
And now, more frequently than before, it whispered even darker things.
This has happened before.
Until one night, the old woman’s dead son said, “Mom. We need to talk.” And the old woman was very afraid.
This has happened before.
“Kirsten and I feel our children would be happier in a more urban setting. Where there’d be other kids around.”
He’ll leave you. He’ll leave you again.
“What are you saying?” asked the old woman, trying to stay calm.
He’s got a new bitch and he doesn’t love you and he’ll leave you again.
“We’re moving out,” said her dead son.
And you’ll be alone.
“No,” said the old woman. “You said you’d live here with me.”
This has happened before. You are alone.
“You can come visit us whenever you want,” said the dead son.
Lies. He lies.
“You lied to me!” yelled the old woman.
You know what you have to do.
The old woman hurried into the kitchen and grabbed her knife.
You’ve done this before.
“Mom,” said the dead son, scared.
You killed him.
“What are you doing?” asked Kirsten, scared.
You killed your own son.
“You can’t leave me!” yelled the old woman. She plunged her knife into her dead son. But he did not react. It was as if he was—
Your son is dead.
She stabbed him again. His body fell over stiffly.
Your son is dead and you killed him.
The old woman stabbed her dead daughter-in-law and her body fell over too. She then got on the floor, stabbing her dead son again and again—
Your son is dead and you killed him and now you’re alone.
The old woman stumbled into the basement, weeping, carrying her knife. She grabbed onto one of the youngsters and wept on his shoulder. The youngsters were confused. They could not understand.
“I’m alone,” said the old woman. “I’m alone.”
“If you let us go, we’ll keep you company,” replied one of the youngsters.
The old woman stopped weeping for a moment. And she thought to herself, they’ll be my grandkids. And this made her happy. But the crafty little doubt whispered—
They’ll leave you. Just like Simon did.
“Would you leave me?” asked the old woman.
“No,” agreed the youngsters.
Lies. They lie.
“Yes you will,” said the old woman. She put her knife to the first youngster’s throat and fear filled his face.
“Don’t,” pleaded the youngster.
The old woman hesitated. The youngster shut his eyes. Trying to calm himself, he began to sing a praise song unto God, “What can wash away my sin?”
And slowly the other youngsters joined in– “Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
The old woman sliced the first youngster’s throat. But the others kept singing.
“What can make me whole again?”
The old woman sliced the second youngster’s throat. But the others kept singing.
“Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
The old woman sliced the third youngster’s throat. But the others kept singing.
“Oh precious is the flow…”
The old woman sliced the last youngster’s throat.
In an old house in the Ozarks there lives an old woman and her dead grandchildren. Every night after dinner, they sing praise songs unto God.
“Now by this I’ll overcome. Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
Forever and ever.
“Now by this I’ll reach my home. Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
And the old woman is very happy.