Friday, May 21, 2010

Aunt Agnes

Inspired by a true story.

Every family should have an Aunt Agnes. What I mean is that every family should have an Aunt Agnes issued to it, if they don’t have one already. Otherwise, there’s no justice in the world.

This morning I’m settled in my office in front of the computer working on a Powerpoint presentation when I get the call.

“They’re taking out the black bags again.”

“The black bags?”

“The bags filled with the chopped up body parts. They’re taking them out and leaving them in my yard.”

I massage my forehead. “Agnes, we’ve already talked about this. Your next door neighbors are a nice couple from Vermont. They’re not serial killers.”

“The two of them are stacking the bags up against the fence. I told them to keep the bags away from my gate. At least twice, I told them.”

“Aunt Agnes, I…”

A protracted silence is followed by the repeated clicks of a cigarette lighter and a long drawn in breath. I can visualize the smoke curling across Aunt Agnes’ face the texture of fast food fried chicken. “And they disturbed my nap with their jackhammers.”

I thread my fingers through my hair to rub against my throbbing scalp. “There are jackhammers?”

“Destroying my driveway. That’s probably where they plan to bury the bags.”

As usual, my next call will be to Aunt Agnes’ neighbor Polly who lives across the street from her and who will confirm that there is no jackhammering in Agnes’ driveway just as she verified the previous week that the FBI was not scouring the neighborhood arresting people for using DVDS in violation of the video warning nor that Jehovah’s Witnesses were going door –to–door threatening people if they use the Internet. “Call Uncle Jack at the police department. He’ll check on the situation.” Again, I think to myself.

“Can’t you come over? I don’t know how much longer I can hold them off.”

“I’m busy, Aunt Agnes. I have a report and a presentation to finish.”

“When I was a bookkeeper for Huffmeyer Ford they let you work your own hours.”

I let out a sigh. “I’m not a bookkeeper. I’m a Financial Analyst for a bank.” Not that she would know the difference.

A muffled disapproving grumble crackles through the headset. “Well, when they find me in the bottom of a dumpster at the Stein Mart think of me when you divide up the booty.” While Aunt Agnes lives in what from the outside appears to be a lovely little cottage on a tree-lined street, she stuffs it with every garage sale find within a 20 mile radius. Every item in the house smells of a combination of sickly-sweet talcum powder and fried liver and onions. Whichever of her twelve nieces or nephews she willed the house to will be cursed to deal with all the stuff inside, for which the remainder will be elated to be relieved of any responsibility. Happy day; I’m her favorite.

My boss sticks his head in the door. “Beverly? You about ready?”

I want to shout, no, no, no, but instead lower the phone from my mouth and smile. “Almost. Another ten minutes?”

“Ten minutes in the conference room.” He is slightly annoyed rather than raging mad. Thankfully, my headache does not intensify. Time to end the call. “Agnes, I have to get back to work. Call Eddie and I’m sure he’ll be happy to come over and help you hold vigil.” Eddie is Agnes’ sometimes boyfriend.

More muffled crackling grumbles. “Eddie is so last week. You’ll come after work then. You get off at 3?”

“I’ll be there around 5.” I hang up without saying any more, knowing that she’ll talk for the next 30 minutes without noticing that I’m gone.

At 5pm and after ignoring three voice mails from her, I get in my car and set off for Aunt Agnes’ house. Once I turn onto her street, I notice police cars in the vicinity of where she lives. I wonder why six officers are leaning up against one of the cars just outside the neighbors’—the serial killers’—house. The police appear to be stalling before they take action, whatever that may be. The thought suddenly crosses my mind: she got it right.

Mr. Burnsides, the insurance adjuster originally from Vermont, peers out through his barely open front door as Aunt Agnes on his porch chatters away. She wears a robe held open by her hand on one hip just over the bottom half of the cotton underwear ensemble she has on underneath it. She is wearing hot pink high heels and dark red lipstick. A cigarette is wedged between the fingers curled against her hip and a long rope of ashes dangles out of it. From her head emerges a shock of hair recently died a color that can only be called maroon.

In her free hand, she holds a black plastic bag. And a copy of the Watchtower.


  1. Funnily enough, I'm fairly sure we were issued with an Aunt Agnes and I agree, everyone should have one - why should we be the ones to suffer alone! Great story BTW.

  2. I am in full agreement with you, an Aunt Agness should be assigned to every family!

  3. This cracked me up. Love it, and some of the lines in here are priceless. I was hooked right from the get-go with "What I mean is that every family should have an Aunt Agnes issued to it, if they don’t have one already. Otherwise, there’s no justice in the world." The hot pink high heels take the cake. Amazing work. I couldn't stop grinning the whole way through.

  4. The opening is really strong and I love Aunt Agnes's character. I really feel for Beverly as well. The ending confused me because I wasn't sure if Agnes killed anyone since she had the trash bag. Did she sic the police force on this guy or are they after her or did Mr. Burnsides call and be like "there's a crazy woman on my lawn!" Either way I love that last image of her half-clothed with the bright hair and the stuff in her fists. It stays with you because it's so bizarre. :) Well done!

  5. Joanie, Here's what I think happens--Agnes is making good use of her own delusions to matters into her own hands. But really, can she really? Especially in that get-up? Thanks for the input and all the great comments.

    What Beverly does is still a mystery...

  6. GREAT story. I liked the sensory imagery of the fried chicken skin and the different smells. And the thing about the Jehova's Witnesses was great.
    Nicely done.

  7. I don't have any aunts, though I am one myself. Er...not an Agnes one, though!

    I know Beverly doesn't think it's funny at all, but I laughed at her aunt's antics.

    Everyone should have an Agnes. Makes life funnier!

  8. Great story! I'm not so sure I'd want an Aunt Agnes in my family though... heh :P

  9. Anybody that wears hot pink high heels with a bathrobe is my kind of gal! Maybe she'd like to get together with my Martian guy. This was a hoot!

  10. Thanks for all the great comments. Marisa, I'm an aunt, too. I suspect that if you ask my nieces and nephew they'll tell you that I will probably end up like this aunt!

  11. I'm reminded of the line from that show Designing Women: "We Southerners don't lock our crazy folks away-- we roll 'em out on the front lawn for everyone to see." Or something close to that.

    Yes, we should all be assigned an Aunt Agnes if we don't have one already.

    Delightful story, well written. Your characters just pop off the page. And Agnes is something else. :)

  12. You mean some families are lucky enough not to have an Aunt Agnes? Wow, I envy them. Good story!

  13. I wanna be Aunt Agnes when I grow up.
    Great story! Thanks!

  14. OMG, she certainly would be a story boon for any author, judging by this one. I say this so often, but its true- I loved the final line. Classic.

  15. Wonderfully drawn portrait. "Eddie is so last week" - loved that. The scene on the porch was fantastic - what a getup!

  16. I was going to say I want to be Aunt Agnes when I grow up, but as I scrolled through the commens, Cathy already said it!

    What crazy, batty, endearing character. Ten percent of crazy talk is true, ya know.