‘FEAR OF THE DARK’ STORY EXCERPT: “A DISTINCTIVE CURIOSITY” BY DAVID INGALLS
Willard was there, having a cigarette and a beer, on the afternoon they wheeled it in. He swiveled on his barstool and turned to watch the commotion as his grandson Dennis tugged on the thing’s hitch and Dennis’s friend Paul pushed from the rear. The lumbering carriage’s huge spoked wheels clacked and rattled as they cleared the threshold of the tavern’s double-wide doorway. It was all wood and chipped black paint, dust, iron and leaded glass. Its four gigantic wheels were suspended by creaking leaf springs and squealing axles, upon which sat a long coach body and a high, uncomfortable-looking coachman’s seat. The rectangular, box-like rear had long plate glass windows on either side, was topped with ornate railings of iron trim and was crowned with a tarnished silver mourning lantern. Within the glass windows of the compartment — which was roughly the length of a man — ebony tassels and curtains of moth- eaten black velvet bobbed and shifted as the vehicle was pushed and pulled along. It was a horse-drawn hearse, and one that, by all appearances, had seen its last cadaver nearly a century before. “Where in hell are you going with that thing?” Willard asked, but he wasn’t really surprised by Dennis’s bringing another piece of junk into the tavern. The kid was a collector. “Oh,” Dennis replied, “about another ten feet.” And another ten feet it was, and then Dennis and the old hearse came to a stop. “Hold right there, Paul,” he told his friend, whose freckled face appeared from behind the tail end of the coach. “Right there?” Willard asked. “In the middle of the goddamn floor?” By then all the other folks in the bar — the usual scant mid-afternoon crowd of Daphne Ederson, 67-year-old drinking matron, Patsy Reed, bartender, and Roy, the tavern’s burly cook — were paying rapt attention to the situation unraveling before them. “Yeah, right here,” Dennis said, his voice sounding distant and dreamlike in the shadowy tavern. “Fits kinda nice with the decor, don’t you think?” He motioned around himself, indicating the antique clocks and sleds and saws and telephones and mirrors and snowshoes and paintings and tonic advertisements that adorned the tavern walls. Dennis’s fondness for things outdated was evident upon taking a drink in his tavern, and he took pride in each and every one of his acquisitions. “You’d never even believe the price,” he added, as if it would persuade his grandfather to share in his enthusiasm. “The guy’s barn burned down and he didn’t have anywhere else to keep it, so he let it go for 800 bucks.” Willard rolled his eyes and placed his hand over his heart in mock attack. “Fool and his money...” he muttered. He looked at Paul. “And you just let him write the check? Couldn’t stop him, no matter how hard you tried, I s’pose?” Paul shrugged sheepishly, his face flushed red. "Aw, c’mon. It’s got character,” Dennis said. “It’s quite the distinctive curiosity, if you ask me. Plus it’ll be good for business — people around town’ll talk and come here just to see it, and maybe stick around for eggs or a burger or a beer afterwards.” Read the rest of David Ingall’s “A Distinctive Curiosity” along with 19 other eerie tales in the ebook Fear of the Dark: An Anthology of Dark Fiction.
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You can find David Ingall’s full short story “A Distinctive Curiosity” in our anthology, Fear of the Dark - now available as an ebook!
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