Saturday, October 22, 2011

At the drop of a spoon. Alzheimer's or ghosts? A Halloween Folktale.

At the drop of a spoon
A Halloween tale (folktale)
By Bernie Paquette

Vt folktale, best read by candlelight-but keep a flashlight handy! 

A late fall day found me sitting with an elderly Vermont man at his kerosene lit rustic home while watching trees lose their leaves. As he placed small pieces of wood into the woodstove careful not to place his hand beyond the dark iron entrance, he told me a tale so scary, I hoped I would never forget.

 It seems forgetting runs in his family. His great grandfather down to his grandfather and onto his dad- if not early on, then later in life, lost memories as well as things in that soupy swamp of tangled spider web of neurons. Today such effect might be diagnosed as dementia due to the attack on the hippocampus and surrounding areas of the brain.

Here is the elderly Vermonter's story told in a mixture of past tense and present tense as he recalls what happened. At times he speaks as though he has drifted back and the events are happening here and now:

Therefore it was no surprise he began, when my wife kindly noted how often I misplaced items like tools, watches, eyeglasses, and especially for some reason, our everyday silverware.

Fortunately, most of the items would turn up right where I left them-albeit in strange places. Except for the silverware, which once lost, stayed lost. This was but a mere annoyance until  SILVER silverware

once belonging to my wife’s grandmother, which we used only on special occasions, began turning up missing one piece at a time.

Upon awakening with a shiver one very cold winter night as I shook the cobwebs from my head I wondered what I had lost (in my head) overnight. An hour later, sitting on a chair staring at the china cabinet and the remaining silverware, as though waiting for a piece to jump up and run away, I fell back asleep.

I should have known then - real life seldom mimics sci-fi horror movies. There is less drama, more rational explanations. Unlike horror movies, the fear in real life is by far, diminished by pain, sometimes excruciating pain, that lasts well beyond the initial shock birthed by its unexpected and gruesome delivery. The mind is capable of creating demons that do not disolve after the movie ends.   

Hours later I slowly awoke fumbling with my senses as in a fog. A thunderstorm was raging, rain-hitting windows so hard it sounded like hail pounding against the glass. Electricity was out. In a drowsy half-dreaming stupor I made a cup of tea on the gas stove. The spark of the match in the coal black night nearly matched the hair raising outdoor flashes of lightning.

The tiny kitchen became ominously dark after a brief multitude of lightning flashes ended. The sugar spoon dropped from my suddenly un-obedient hand.  I dredged blindly through the kitchen cupboard drawers for a flashlight. Potholders can opener, lid opener, gravy ladles, hammer, nails, screwdriver, finally a flashlight.
I pushed the switch on-nothing.  Flicking the switch on/off, on/off to no avail.
A slight scratching sound broke my awkward silence as I tried to figure out what to do next. One of the dogs scratching a flea I assumed. I pounded the flashlight against my leg as the scratching continued, sounding like something trying to get in. The dogs are yipping now apparently sensing an intruder. The flashlight comes on dimly, flickers a couple of times but barely provides enough light to see the dogs at my feet. They are now adding to the scratching sound as they paw away at the floor next to me. It dawns on me, my wife’s remedial consternation about batteries. “You can’t expect them to be, ‘good to the last drop’, like Maxwell House, dear!”

I'm despondent, staring at a crack in the floor remembering there is a crawl space beneath, an area accessible only through a small opening outside. My small frame has previously allowed me to enter inoto the dark damp dusty cavity, fighting off cobwebs, dust, and crawling over mouse and chipmunk remains in order to insulate the cavity.

I shined the intermittent low beam flash-light into the crack through the floor. Shiny reflections give hint to a pyramid of silverware with a dropped SILVER spoon at the pinnacle.

The scratching had stopped. The dogs, unquestionably still interested, had nonetheless backed away. They quietly watched, moving their eyes up towards me than back to the proximity where the scratching sound originated. If they had been bird dogs, I would have expected their tails to be standing upright and their noses solid on the trail pointing to the prey. Now timidly our dogs only lay prone, shuddering with their heads down, their eyes looking up to me.

I felt compelled to retrieve that SILVER spoon. The mystery of the cache of silverware was as powerful a draw to me as that of a Capatin's chest of gold in a cave, would be to a pirate. Who placed the long lost silverware there?. What was causing the retched stench? Are there bodies buried or worse yet unearthed beneath our kitchen? What caused the scratching sound and why was something scratching the floorboards? All became secondary to the overpowering need to retrieve that spoon. 

I look toward the corner where the tiny crack is-or was. Now there is a larger hole seemingly carved or whittled open,

wood shavings surrounding the now fist size hole. The flashlight has now died entirely. Lighting a candle

 offers little help. The faint light gives no sign of the shimmering utensil but instead cast an eerie glow only exasperating the shadows.
I placed my fingers along the edges of the hole 
 gingerly poking one finger into the abyss, as if that would give me some clue as to what was beneath me. Sensing a warm damp breath I instinctively poke aimlessly about. The candle light flickered wildly close to the carved opening giving only a faint hint of what was about to hit me. The stench of rotted and rotting carcasses, somehow unnoticed by me while standing, now hit me at full force as I peered into the gullet of the kitchen floor. 

I immediately yanked my hand back not because of the stench which in and of itself nearly drove me back in repulsion, but because of a splinter lodging itself into my finger. The bite of the thorn becomes a black swarm of stinging bees 
 coming out of the abyss. A thick black smokescreen rises up from the whole in the floor. Bees, hundreds and hundreds of buzzing swarming, angry bees looking for someone or something to take out their revenge upon, bees on a solitary kamikaze pilot mission; sting and die, kill and be killed.

A Jurassic park era *centipede

follows, with multiple legs beyond count of which the first two pairs are poisoned fangs the size of Dracula’s.  Fangs are only the opening ante. To back up the threat, under a rippling lip, lay rows and rows of shark like, v shaped teeth. This nocturnal predaceous creature, crawling up into my kitchen looking for a snack, stared up at me and I swear smiled at me like the Cheshire cat.

There is a time loss gap for which I cannot account for. Then I find myself sitting again. I tried to move from my chair but my arms and feet felt like they were made of sand as though some viper had struck and not killed but merely paralyzed me. I could only watch, envisioning my entrails  pulled from my body like a spool of thread unwinding into a sewing machine.  Even before the last of the centipede’s feet reached the surface of the floor, I pulled and pulled trying to lift myself from the chair. It was as if I had stepped through a loose floorboard, worn, and ample enough to let my foot through but upon reverse course bound and held tight neither releasing my foot nor showing any of its prior forgiveness. The harder I pulled the tighter the noose held me.

 I began to imagine my rotting flesh giving way to dusty bones joining the ancient remains of the rodent skeletons in the crawl space. Will my wife think I lost myself entirely, wandered off somewhere never to be discovered? Suspecting my wife slid the silverware down through the crack in the floor depositing them into the crawl space, I become angry. She hid them. She hid them. She hid them, I bellowed out.
The elderly Vermonter pauses to re-kindle the stove.

As the old Vermonter pauses to feed the fire more wood, I recall that the memory loss, the hallucinations, the confusion, the aggression, the repetition, and sundowning (more confused and agitated in late afternoon and early evening) are all common behaviors of people with Alzheimer’s disease. These behaviors can be addressed through compassion and non-judgmental attitudes.

The elderly Vermonter continues with his story. My other self – not my wife, had slid the silverware down through the crack in the floor dropping them into the crawl space. My hallucinations caused me no bodily harm. However the shiny silverware in the crawlspace had become a glistening coveted stash of treasure for a demonized-rabies infected raccoon.

Now, as you can see I am very careful about placing my hand into dark caverns of any sort and I use only chopsticks as eating utensils. Moreover, I focus on remembering every day how blessed I am to have such a caring, patient, and giving wife."
All rights reserved 2011

Vermont Halloween story in Memory of Beatrice Martin and in honor of her caring grand daughter, Barbara.

When you grab a spoon for breakfast, pinch yourself to be sure you are awake. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Authors note:
For those of us that do not have a disease like Alzheimer's there is no excuse for dropping littered trash where it does not belong. Put trash in its place and be thankful you know where it belongs!

Happy Halloween. See Halloween menu at:

Visit Nightmare Vermont for tickets to their interactive theatrical event.

For "Interactive haunted house with cinema-level visual effects, engaging characters and wild Halloween fun", visit

*Read about a glowing millipedes at Alcatraz island.

Other personal stories and folktale postings:
       Ø  Letters from home:

Ø  Thanksgiving Intensive Care(3 mos. Preemie):