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The House With the Grave of the Girl Out Front


by Con Chapman


There was, in the town where I grew up,
A house with a tombstone laid out front.
It was flat, not upright, and on it was sprawled
A forlorn girl, sculpted from stone.

We used to wonder as we passed
Whether underneath there lay a corpse.
We'd joke in nervous tones about
The stuff that the worms were eating below.

One day on the way to the town swimming pool
A boy named Marty thought of a jest
He lay down upon the cold granite child
And curled his arm ‘round the girl's stony breast.

We laughed at his antics, the guy was a nut.
We walked on but he continued his joke
When out from the door overlooking the street
Came the girl's angry mother and her sister too.

“How dare you disturb the sleep of the dead!”
The mother said shaking, her grey face contorted.
“Hey lady,” said Marty, “Don't get mad at me—
you were the one put her out on the street.”

The mother, enraged, flew back in the house,
The rest of us scattered, fearing the worst,
But Marty just laughed, and taunted the girl
‘till finally she spoke, in a mesmerized voice.

“My sister was no one that you ever knew,
She did you no harm—not poor Tara Lee.
You're evil—there's no other word to describe
The hurt that you've brought to my mother and me.”

Marty got up, and brushed off his pants,
And started to walk with the rest of the gang,
But before out of view he fired one last shot
“I'll bet,” he yelled loudly, “your mom kills you too!”

The girl stiffened sharply and drew herself up—
“You horrible boy, you're awful!” she cried.
Marty just laughed and hollered back “Skag!”
While we ran ahead, and he lagged behind.

· · · · ·

We grew up together, then drifted apart,
We each wandered off on our separate paths.
Marty stayed local, and worked for his dad,
He never aimed higher, and didn't much change.

He dated around, but didn't get serious
Until it began to be noticed a bit.
“That Marty, how come he can't find him a girl?”
The townsfolk would ask, and he heard the talk.

And so in the span of couple of months
He wooed then he won a girl none of us knew.
She lived south of town in a house they would share
Once they'd slipped on the rings and had said their “I do's”.

She was borderline tacky—to give you a flavor
Her bangs flipped up à la Farrah Fawcett-Major.
Her bridal flowers were baby's breath.
And she went by the name of Liza Beth.

They walked down the aisle to Mendellsohn's music.
And then slipped away, for their honeymoon.
They kept to themselves, we never saw Marty—
We figured they had what they needed themselves.

And then just as quickly as it had begun
The marriage was over, said Marty “It's done.”
He moved back with his parents and stayed home at first
But then we would see him in bars by himself.

“Come join us,” we'd say, but he would refuse,
He'd stare in his glass as if oceans it held
And we wondered why—what was wrong with him?
Where was the quick laugh of boyhood days?

I happened to join him one cold New Year's Eve
There was only one seat at the town hotel bar.
He looked straight ahead at the foam on his beer
but couldn't avoid my inquisitive tongue.

“So tell me,” I asked him, intending no harm,
“Whatever happened to your Liza Beth?”
He turned and he looked at me, cold to the eye,
And recited these words with a chilling regret:

“We met and we sparked but we never made love,
She said we'd save that for our wedding night.
When under the covers I embraced her body
It turned into cold stone and spoke these words,”

“'The woman you married is the one who was buried
Beneath the stone marker in front of the house,
Where my sister and mother endured your crude joking
And you walked away with a cynical laugh.

“'And so the worm turns, as always it does,
If one has the patience to wait long enough.
Now I am the one who gives you an embrace
That unmans you now and forever my spouse.'”

“She grasped me,” he said, “her hand hard as stone,
And said these fell words, in a harsh, loveless tone:
‘Just as I am, so shall you be,
as lifeless and cold as death only can be,”

Thus spake the wraith named Tara Lee,
Then paused and spoke again, did she.
“'You will never have a son or daughter—
You will never hear their laughter
Because impotent you shall be,
From now through all eternity.'”

I gazed in his eyes, but saw nothing there,
They offered a view like a bottomless well.
“I'm sorry to hear that,” I said with alarm
And tried to escape from his gaze and his grip.

“You got off lucky,” he said, “but not me,
“I'll be paying forever the price of my jokes.”
“Too bad,” I said standing, leaving him with this unction,
“There's all kinds of pills for erectile dysfunction.”

“You don't understand,” he said and started to cry,
“I haven't said yet what she then did to me.”
I trembled as manically he gripped my arm,
Made no sudden moves, lest he do me harm.

“'You'll get an erection,' she said, “hard as a bone,
And once that has happened, ‘twill turn into stone.'”
His tale ended there, he hung down his head
Finally crushed by what he'd just said.

I reached to console him, I patted his back,
I said “You'll be fine, pal, I know you'll be back.
In fact,” I joked mildly, “If you want my view,
There's plenty of guys who'd trade organs with you.”

“Granted,” he said, “I had turned hard as stone.
You're kind and really, I don't mean to cavil—
But she reached in her nightstand, removed her hot comb
And whacking my granite, she smashed it to gravel.”

Moral: A smart remark can come back to haunt you.

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