Excerpt from “Open House” in The Horrors Hiding in Plain Sight by Rebecca Rowland




Bill tore six slices of the precooked bacon from its plastic package and slapped them onto a paper towel. He placed the towel on a plate, put the plate in the microwave, and set the timer for two minutes. He liked his bacon crispy. "I like my bacon the way I like my women," he often told people with a wink. "Lean and salty... and a little overdone, if you know what I mean."


No one knew what he meant. But, people nodded and smiled accordingly. That's what people did around Bill: he had that kind of charisma. He could look you in the eye while he reached into your abdomen and took out an organ or two, and more than likely, you'd simply thank him for leaving you a kidney. Melinda suspected that about her husband when she first met Bill, she knew it when they married in a city park three years ago (no family in attendance—it was better that way: more intimate), and she blindly trusted it every time they walked into a new school auditorium amid the stale percolator coffee, over-baked PTO cookies, and sad brochures pleading with parents of potential students to apply.


Melinda, or Linda, as Bill called her, sat in a chair at the wooden kitchen table, the skin on the back of her thighs catching on one of the rips in the plastic-upholstered seat cushion. If she kept shifting, her skin would look like a road map, crooked interstates crisscrossing with blue rivers from the back of her knee to the curved ridge of her ass, and Bill would not like that at all: no sir-ee. So, she kept the lower half of her body very still as she stirred her coffee over and over, breathing in the sugary scent of the hazelnut creamer she had drowned it in.


Bill brought the plate of towel-wrapped bacon to the table, his last few steps quicker than the first, as the plate had gotten hotter than he had anticipated and holding it began to singe his fingertips. He snapped his hand back toward his body and rubbed his fingers quickly back and forth across his chest like a mad third-base coach instructing his pitcher not to throw the curve.


"Are you okay, baby?" asked Linda. "Do you want me to get some ice?"


Bill stopped the maniacal rubbing. "Nah, it's fine." He flipped open the paper towel, shoved a slice in his mouth like a cigarette, and began to roll it about with his tongue. Bill did the oddest things with food, Linda noticed. She was always afraid people were staring at them in restaurants, so they rarely ate out. "Hey, see what else is on," he said, pointing to the TV with his first and middle fingers welded together into a gun barrel shape. "We've seen this Law & Order, like, fifteen times."


The couple had two television sets in the house. One was in the kitchen, kitty-cornering the countertop next to the coffeemaker. The other was in the bedroom. "The living room is for sitting and visiting," Bill had said when he moved in a few months before their trip to the park, and Linda, of course, agreed. It was nice spending evenings in the parlor with Bill. Some nights, they'd each read books and bask in the silent hum that blanketed the house, but most nights, they spent hours just talking. Linda could listen to Bill talk all night. She thought that was pretty impressive: three years married and not once tired of his company.


Linda held the remote even with the set and clicked the channel button a few times. "Wait—stop: hold up. What's that?" Bill said, holding his hand in the air, palm facing his wife like a traffic cop. Linda watched the screen. It was a commercial for an open house at one of the local Catholic elementary schools.


Give your child the best educational opportunities available!

Choose Saint Benedict Joseph Labre Elementary.

Open House this Friday, October 30 at 6 pm.

See what the gift of a Catholic education can do for your child!


Bill pulled the rest of the bacon slice into his mouth and chewed. Linda could hear the crunching of the driest pieces echo in his mouth. "Shall we go? It might be a good opportunity for Baby Jessica." When he smiled after he said this, Linda could see a piece of dark red bacon stuck in one of his teeth.


Bill and Linda did not have any children. They hadn't even tried for them. Sure: there was that one time that Linda thought she might be pregnant. Her breasts ached and her period was a full week tardy, so she drove to Walgreens while Bill was at work, bought a test, and smuggled it home, being careful not to let the neighbors see the bright blue and pink box practically glowing through the thin plastic pharmacy bag. She unwrapped the collection stick, placed it gently on the bathroom sink, and prepared to collect a cup of her urine for screening, but when she pulled down her pants to go, she found her panties stained with deep red blood. Her period had come after all—it had been playing a game of chicken with Linda and finally gave in. Of course, she had seen women on a number of daytime talk shows who claimed to have never known they were pregnant for months and months—they had even gotten regular periods—so she tested her urine just in case. Negative, but a close call just the same. If they had children, they'd never be able to play Baby Jessica.

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The Horrors Hiding in Plain Sight by Rebecca Rowland (dark fiction anthology)

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