| Family Secrets
By Rose Titus
We weren’t ever supposed to talk about it, not ever. That’s why it’s been so many years, I almost feel like I could
forget it even happened. Well, no, not really. Something like that, you never forget. But I look out where the
pigpen used to be, and it’s like it was so long ago, it almost doesn’t matter anymore.
It was well over fifty years ago, maybe. We were just kids, then. Back then, things were different. Way different.
You didn’t talk about some things then, the way they talk about things today. When things happened, nobody
talked. Nobody. Things were kept quiet. It was as if there was more shame in talking about something, than there
was in actually doing the horrible thing that you were talking about.
I guess it’s okay to talk now. Mama has been dead for years, and we were just kids. So probably no one will
care. It all happened about a year after Mama let Uncle Roger stay with us. We weren’t sure about Uncle Roger,
well because there was just something about him we weren’t sure about. But Mama said he was family, and families
look out for each other. Uncle Roger had been in some kind of trouble, she said, but she would never say what
kind of trouble he had been in. We always wondered about that, but being kids, we didn’t dare ask.
We weren’t supposed to tell our friends that Uncle Roger was staying with us. We didn’t know why that was,
either. But again, we were just kids, so we did what we were told, and didn’t ask questions that we weren’t
supposed to ask. Kids did what they were told then, mostly.
But then I saw something happen to my brother Marvin behind the barn. Uncle Roger turned and saw me
standing there, so he took off back to the house. Marvin was about eight, I believe. I was fourteen. I asked Marvin
after Uncle Roger disappeared into the house and Marvin said that Uncle Roger had been doing things like that
since he had arrived, and that he had been told to keep quiet, and that Mama wouldn’t believe him if he told her. I
told Marvin that it was weird and that I didn’t like it, but I was just a kid, too, and I really didn’t know what it was all
about. Kids didn’t know much back then. I mean we knew some things about girls and boys but we didn’t know
about strange things like that. No one ever told us about things like that. Things like that, I know now that things
happened, but since people didn’t talk, it was pretty much unheard of back then.
It’s a small town now. It was an even smaller town then. We were out in the country, and any authorities you
could go to were far away. We didn’t even have a phone back then. We just had the farm, the animals, and the old
car that usually ran okay. Our father had been dead for years, and Mama was glad for Uncle Roger to come and
maybe help out. Working a farm is a lot for one woman and two kids. We needed an extra hand. But Uncle Roger
didn’t help much. He mostly just drank and hung around. It quickly dawned on me that he wasn’t much use.
I came into the house and Marvin followed me, telling me not to say anything. And I wasn’t going to say
anything. I was really going to try to keep quiet. But when I got into the house and saw Uncle Roger sitting at the
table with his whisky and Mama trying to get dinner ready after working all day around the farm herself, I guess I
kind of lost it. I still to this day do not know if I did the right thing. But I guess I kind of lost it when I saw Uncle Roger
sitting there, doing nothing much but downing his whisky and pouring himself another one. So I did what most
people back then would never do.
That’s when Mama just flipped a switch, I guess. For all her life she was a quiet woman who just did her work and
didn’t say much. She always just got up before dawn and had us do our chores before getting us off to school, and
on Sunday she got us off to church. I never heard her raise her voice, or ever saw her raise her hand.
But I told.
Mama had been making a pie, and she had her big heavy wooden rolling pin in her hand when I told. She just
looked up, opened her eyes, looked at me, and then looked at Uncle Roger.
Uncle Roger didn’t have a chance to say anything. He was down on the floor with one blow. She was a strong
woman. She wasn’t a big woman, but she was strong from constantly doing the heavy work. She was a widow and
had to do a lot of the work herself. I heard a crack when the rolling pin landed on his head. It must have cracked
his skull. He was flat on the floor and didn’t move, and so we all thought he was dead right then and there.
“Damn it,” she said, and she almost never swore, “I knew he was no damn good. If he wasn’t family, I’d never
have taken him in. I guess those folks who were out looking for him when he came here had a reason to. Now he’s
gone and made the same kind of trouble here.”
“What are we gonna do?” I said.
“Boys,” she said, “Take him outside. I’ll have to mop this floor.”
Mama always took pride in her clean kitchen, and now there was blood all over the floor.
Me and Marvin, we dragged him out into the backyard. He was heavy, but we managed. Marvin said that he was
surprised Mama believed him, because Uncle Roger always said that Mama would never believe. I said, “Well,
Mama knows Uncle Roger better than we do, I guess.”
It was late fall and already getting dark out, and we would have to figure out something soon. We dragged him
out into the backyard, and he started to whimper and moan.
“Boys!” Mama called out from the back door, “Go get the shovel out of the tool shed.”
“He’s alive, Mama,” said Marvin. “He’s alive, and I’m scared.”
“Don’t be scared,” I said, “He ain’t gonna hurt yah no more.”
“Well, boys, you gotta finish the job. Don’t I always tell yah that yah gotta always finish things?”
“Yes, Mama,” Marvin said, “But what are we gonna do?”
Uncle Roger was flat on the cold ground, and he was moaning and mumbling. Suddenly his eyes opened up
wide, “Gonna kill you!” But he didn’t get up. He just lay there like an old empty sack of nothing.
“Boys, supper is almost ready. You gotta do something quick. I don’t want dinner to be ruined. Just toss Uncle
Roger into the pigpen. Those pigs will eat anything.”
“Okay, Mama,” I said.
And that’s what we did. We dragged him over to the pigpen and gave him to the pigs, and then we went back
into the house and heard Uncle Roger yell out this awful scream. We just went in and sat at the table. Mama had
made chicken pot pie, and a nice blueberry pie too. We ate and didn’t talk much. We could still hear him
screaming out there. By the time we were ready to eat the blueberry pie the screaming stopped. Mama did the
dishes and we did our homework and went to bed.
The next morning I got up to milk the cows and there was nothing left in the pigpen. Mama sent us off to school
and said not to worry, and that no one will miss him much. If a deputy came around, we weren’t supposed to say
much, except that Uncle Roger had stayed awhile and then left. We just didn’t know where he had gone off to. And
that was that.
No one ever came around looking for Uncle Roger. We grew up like normal boys and didn’t talk ever about it.
Marvin didn’t do so well, though. When I got back from Vietnam he had gotten into drugs. He overdosed one day.
It was the end of him. Some say it was suicide. Maybe it was. Maybe the nightmares he always had drove him to
it. Then Mama found out she had cancer and it wasn’t long for her. I got married and had a few kids. I hoped they
would stay and keep the farm but they went away to the city. My wife and I hired some people to help out around
here. Not many of them stayed very long. I don’t know why. Maybe they just don’t like the hard work. I don’t raise
pigs anymore. I’ve had everything else. Cows, sheep, chickens, turkeys, and goats. No more pigs. I haven’t
raised pigs in a long time. My kids grew up, I never told them. I never told my wife. She died of a heart attack one
day. It was sudden. I’m not sure if I should have told her before she died, so she would know why I wouldn’t let her
plant her flower garden over there.
I never told anyone.
The doctor says I have cancer now. It won’t be long for me. Maybe it runs in the family. Maybe I have to tell
someone before I die. That’s another thing that runs in the family. We all kept quiet about it, all these years.
Sometimes I sit on the back porch and look over to the patch of grass where the pigpen was and just look at it.
When she was alive, my wife would ask why I always look over there, like I was looking at nothing. I like to think I
forgot about it, but I can’t, really. And sometimes, on a cold night, when I sit in the house alone, I can hear a man
scream. Then it goes away. Or I think it goes away, like a distant memory. But it never really does. It’s awful to be
in the house alone, on a cold night, and hear that scream. I don’t hear it every night. Just in the fall, around dusk,
or on a cold dark night, like the night it happened. Maybe it’s my imagination playing tricks on me. Maybe I’m just
getting old. Or maybe there’s still something out there, something left in that ground where it happened.
Things like that, you can never really forget, no matter how hard you try.
|About Rose Titus
Rose Titus works two jobs
to support her writing
habit. She exists
somewhere in cold, dreary
New England, with two
manipulative cats and a
very out of date Macintosh
with which she creates
horror and fantasy fiction.
She also has a restored
classic car to ride around
while in search of
For travel she has stayed
for the night in an
allegedly haunted castle,
has taken a boat ride on
Loch Ness, and has visited
the fabled Bermuda
Triangle without getting
Her work has previously
appeared in Lost Worlds,
Lynx Eye, Bog Gob,
Times, Blood Moon Rising
Magazine, The Bugle,
Weird Terrain, Descend,
Wicked Wheels, The Dead
River Review, and other
literary magazines. Her
novella Night Home has
been published with
Bathory Gate Press and is
available with Amazon,
Barnes and Noble .com
When she’s not writing or
working or messing
around with her old Buick,
she waits by her mailbox
for the next issue of
Fortean Times to arrive.
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