Short Story: The Tale of Leroy of the Backwoods of Vermont by Amanda McNeil
Note: This short story, which is humorous horror, was originally published in 2011 in the online horror magazine 69 Flavors of Paranoia (volume 3, menu 13). I recently discovered that 69 Flavors of Paranoia is now defunct. Their website and Facebook page are completely gone. An investigation of their twitter finds that they did not delete their twitter but they have not tweeted since evidently announcing on January 13, 2015, that they are now out of commission (view the tweet here). They did not give advance notice to any of the authors who had been published so that we could archive our stories from their zine, nor did they create an archive themselves. They, in fact, completely deleted their entire website; they did not even move it to a free host. It appears that the Internet Archive primarily archived their issue table of contents and not the stories themselves. You can view the table of contents for the issue that contained my story here. Since I never gave up my copyright nor can the story be read in their publication anymore, I have decided to re-publish it here myself. I don’t feel the need to resubmit it to other magazines right now, as I have other projects I am working on. I do hope you all enjoy it. You can view links to the rest of my publications on my Publications page.
“The Tale of Leroy of the Backwoods of Vermont”
Leroy never saw no need to leave these here backwoods of Vermont, kinda like m’self. His mama birthed him here when she was only fifteen years old in the family log cabin right up on this here hill. Her mama done whupped her good when she found out she had a bun in the oven, but her daddy put a stop to it. Every babe is a gift from God. Ayuh. That’s what he’d said. So he was birthed, and his mama done named him Leroy.
Leroy’s folks; they didn’t trust the gubmint none. No sir. The gubmint’s the one that’s been slowly takin Vermont from the good, rignal born, old-timers and handin it over hook line and sinkah to them dammed librals. Leroy’s pappy–he alwuz insisted he married Leroy’s mama on purpose, but Leroy alwuz suspected that it was more of a shot gun affair–anyhow. He alwuz tole Leroy, “Boy! Don’t you take nothin from nobody. We’s bettah than that. We’s take care of ourselves n our own. Don’t you be like them dammed useless welfare folk.”
So his mama done taught him right there at home while his pappy went to work in the mill down the road n Gram cooked n kep house. Sometimes, Grandpappy’d take him out n teach him all’s’bout huntin and fishin and survivin without the food you kin get in a grocery store. Ayuh. Course, ventually, the gubmint done made him go to school, but it was only down at the gubmint school close by, and well Leroy, he warn’t never near the top of his class, if you know what I’m sayin.
I was friends with good ole Leroy back in the day. Ayuh. You might say that. I’d scaped from that gubmint school soon’s they let you. Been out a few years. Leroy, he was gettin close to it. Anyway, Leroy’s folks n mine, they was all on us to do our share fer the families. I’d done took to collectin fiddleheads n beer cans an sech on the side of the road when I warn’t workin in the mill with the rest of the fellers. That sorta thing’s alwuz more fun with a buddy along, so I done asked Leroy to join me on one sech excursion on a…..well durn. It musta been a Sat’day afternoon, cuz I don’t recollect havin gone to church in the mornin.
So, we was out on one of them thar back roads. Y’know, the ones that alwuz have big ole ruts in em n sometimes a farmer or a backwoodsman’ll come puttin along in his ole truck with the sharp edges, nothin like them new trucks with them pussy-ass rounded edges. An the forest, well it just come right on up near the side of the road with just them thar drainage ditches betwixt the two. Makes fer more interestin collectin that way. Sometimes you see a critter or some sech. Well, it was late spring-like. I recollect that, cuz I was collectin me some fiddleheads. They make a durn good supper if you cook em up right good with a big ole dollop of butter, y’know.
Anyway, so I was toolin my way along in one of them drainage ditches that run along the side of them old-fashioned dirt roads. It was real muddy-like. Course I didn’t care cuz you gotta wursh the fiddleheads anyway, an I had me some real good boots. Leroy, he was pokin his way along on the other side of the road. He done got a bit further down than me when he call out to me. “Hey, Bobby!” He done shout it just like that. “Hey, Bobby!”
“Yeah, what?” I done called back to him.
“Lookee here. Lookit what I found.”
I sighed n looked up expectin a whole bunch of nothin. Leroy, he warn’t exactly strong in the head department, if you know what I’m sayin. Well, thar stood Leroy. He was a scrawny kid, Leroy was. Ayuh. Scrawny n tall topped off with a shock of red hair, but not the tempmint to match. Anyhow, thar stood Leroy holdin up a squirrel by the tail. This squirrel, he wuz the deadest durn thing you ever done saw. I mean his middle was squirshed flat. His head and hind end looked like two hills with a valley in-between, an little bits of guts all full of road dirt was stuck to the poor thing’s middle. I done shook my head, cuz, y’know, guts ain’t never a fun thing to see, an I said, “Leroy! Whatchoo doin pickin up the road kill?”
“Road kill?” He let out a he-haw kinda laugh an bent forward. “This ain’t no road kill. This here’s supper!”
“Leroy, you damn fool!” I went back to my bizness, searchin fer the good fiddleheads. “T’ain’t right to eat roadkill. Them critters done suffered enough gettin squirshed to death without you hackin em up and makin one of yer god-awful stews out of em. Sides. Poor critter’s covered in dirt!”
“Bobby, you know better than to waste perfectly good food that you don’t got to pay good money fer.”
I done fixed my gaze back up at him. He was standin there with his feet planted a good couple feet apart lookin the most stubborn I ever done seen him. “I don’t believe you will. Even you ain’t that stupid.”
“It ain’t stupid to eat food God done left in the middle of the road fer ya,” his forehead had got all wrinkled and sech.
I dropped the fiddlehead I’d done plucked into my paper bag. “Aw, now you’re just joshin me. You know better than to eat it now. I can see you thinkin about it.”
Leroy done stomped over from down the road so’s he was leanin down an lookin in my face real close-like. “I’ll go eat it right now, an you kin watch me.”
Well, it ain’t easy to get good entertainment up in these here hills, so I said I’d come watch. Leroy figured he’d just tell his mama he done got hungry and et early. My place was the closest to whar we were, y’see. Ayuh. This place rightchere. He done cooked it up right thar on that same stove. My mama was out in the garden, an my pappy was over visitin his pappy. I called out to my mama that we was hungry and was gonna fix us up some of the food we done found on the road. She just sorta grunted at me. Mama warn’t never much on words. I got myself around and warshed and done cooked my fiddleheads up in that butter like I done tole you before right good while Leroy, he went out back to skin and prep that durn squirrel. He come back in, an he started fricasseein it with some gravy mah mama had left over in the fridge whilst I set myself down and ate me some of them nice buttery fiddleheads.
You warnt to learn how to cook it? I can teach you later. Right, right, first Leroy.
So Leroy he done make himself this fricassee. I was gettin all ready to be mad at him for wastin my mama’s gravy when he done set himself down with a bowl and a spoon, and he just started spoonin that squirrel into his mouth like it was the best dish at the church potluck. The whole time he was starin at me with this…..weird grin. Like he was some coyote who knew the farmer left the chicken coop open, n he was about to get himself an easy all you can eat buffet. I got all froze like watchin that smile in that gaunt face of his. Watchin him eat that thar fricassee.
His spoon, it clanked at the bottom of the bowl, an he done lifted the bowl up and licked it clean. He put that bowl down, n he said, he said, “See? I done tole you. Ain’t nothin wrong with eatin a critter, no sir no way.”
I shook my head. “I still say. T’ain’t right,” an I got up and started to warsh the dishes when Leroy, he made this funny sound. Kinda like he got himself stuck in a zipper. I turned around, n thar’s Leroy, standin next to the table, holdin his bowl with a funny look on his face. I mean, his face was all twisted up. One eyebrow up here, another down there, his mouth in a weird twisty line, his nose wrinkled up.
“Leroy!” I snapped. “What’s wrong with you? If you gonna puke up that damn fricassee, you better get out the back door and out of my mama’s kitchen!”
An that. That’s when he sorta half-pointed at his stomach. It was wigglin. All on its own. Kinda like how a lady with a bun in the oven, her tummy will wiggle when the babe moves around? Well that’s what his was doin, only his belly was flat.
Then Leroy, he done scream and double over. He started screamin out, “Help me! Help me, Bobby! Oh it hurts; it hurts!”
I dropped the dishrag, right there on the floor, right next to the sink. I done grabbed him an tried to help him stand up. “I gotcher,” I told him. “I gotcher.”
His eyes, they got all wide like a little kid’s do when he done first see a scary movie. I dunno why, but I looked down. Inside his stomach, thar was a shape of a squirrel. I mean you could see the outline of his head all’s the way down to his fluffy little tail. Seein that, well, I done lost my grip on Leroy, and he fell down on the floor, writhin in pain. He looked just like a snake. Ayuh. He let out the biggest durn yell I ever heard. I think the only time I ever heard one close was that time Frank down the road done got his foot stuck in a bear trap. My mama, she must’ve started to yell an come runnin then, but I didn’t notice. No way, no how. Cuz right then a squirrel covered with blood an mucous an bile an whatever all else was in Leroy’s stomach done come bustin out of his gut. Bits o’ Leroy hung from his teeth, an his beady black eyes done give me the once-over. I ain’t never seen nothin so frightenin in all my born days then nor since. No way. That squirrel, well then that squirrel, it shot me a look. That look said, it said, “Tit for tat. Tit for tat.” Then it skedaddled on out the door.
Leroy, he was writhin on the floor, graspin at that hole in his stomach with one hand an reachin out to me with the other. Well, I didn’t know what to do. Just then, my mama, she come runnin in an see the blood an guts all over her nice, clean floor. Then she sees Leroy with his guts pourin out of him, n she starts screamin. “What done this? What happened, Bobby? Tell me what happened!”
“It was a squirrel, mama. A squirrel et its way out of him!”
Leroy, he was slowin down with the movin an the writhin, n he let out a gasp n collapsed back on the floor. His eyes hangin open.
My mama. She believed me that a squirrel done it, but we knew them thar cops from down the hill wouldn’t, so we just tole them that Leroy done gutted himself like them Japanese soldier fellers do sometimes. I dunno if they believed us or not. Truth be tole, no one from down off the hill missed Leroy that much.
But us? Us good ole-fashioned Vermont folk up on the hill? Oh we remember Leroy. Ayuh. And that, that’s why not even the mangiest, strangest lady or feller up on this hill, no matter how hungry, no matter how skeered of the gubmint, they won’t never eat no roadkill.
© Amanda McNeil 2011