La Feria News

Miss Bitsy: Chapter 6

Miss Bitsy’s face began to look sad and dark. She shook her head. “To think I loved him so much and he could steal from me and then lie about it. I was utterly heartbroken. I cried for two days over the fact that he would do that to me. Well, I knew I couldn’t let him get away with it. Those were just piddly little things, but he had no right to hide them somewhere.”
The cop came back to life in Jeremy’s head as he sat at the table sucking up tears. “Miss Bitsy, do you realize what you’re saying?”
“I’d gone to the basement on a hunting expedition for my things when I remembered that the second step from the top bowed in the middle. Eli used to tell me to be careful and not step on it. ‘Walk lightly, for heaven’s sake, Woman,’ he would say. You know, I don’t know why he never fixed it. Oh well, water under the bridge. The day I was hunting for my stuff, I stepped on it again. It sank a little deeper than I remembered and made a creaking noise. I knew in that moment what I had to do to keep Anton from stealing anymore of my things.”
Jeremy tried to think of the thousands of moments he’d spent in this chair in this kitchen telling his dear friend about his day at school and how the teacher had marked up his paper just to be mean. He had gone to Miss Bitsy’s after the Carson boys beat him up and stole his baseball cards. He had run to her house the night his parents had the fight that ended their marriage. And she always had a hug, a glass of milk, and a caramel brownie for him. But now that she wanted to tell him about a terrible day in her life, all he could think of was that he should be arresting her.
“I went back up the stairs and put my frozen meatloaf in the oven for supper, and then went back down the stairs. I got Eli’s old saw from his workbench and went to work on that bad step. Just about an inch of sawing in the middle and my trick was set.”
Jeremy tried to say something else. He felt as if a whip were lashing at his back. He opened his mouth to beg her to stop talking, stop leading him down this road to hell, but he also had a sudden fascination, as if a train were exploding in front of him.
“Anton came in from his class just as the food came out of the oven and we sat down to a nice meal of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, and sugared green beans with applesauce cake for dessert. After we ate, he kissed me on the cheek and handed me his rent money. I folded it up and put it in the pocket of my orange apron, the one I wear when all the others are in the wash.”
“Miss Bitsy!” Jeremy finally croaked. “Please…. I’m a policeman…. a detective. Please don’t tell me anymore. I’ll have to take you downtown.”
She didn’t seem to hear a word. In fact she looked up into empty space as if Anton had just kissed her cheek. She reached one hand out and took a piece of air, which the detective assumed was Anton’s rent money. “I asked him, ‘Anton, would you be a sweetie and run down in the basement to see if you can find Eli’s old hammer so I can crush up some hard candies? Old Man Arthur has been creeping around in my spine lately and I’m afraid to try the stairs right now.’” She was speaking to the space between her and the squirming detective. “Oh, he scampered off like a schoolboy.” She actually smiled as if watching him scamper all over again. “He opened the basement door and clicked on the light, and I heard his heavy foot plop down on the first little step. The second step gave way with a loud crack and he yelled as he fell to the concrete floor.” She looked at the basement door and called, “Oh, Anton, I forgot to warn you about that step. Stay still, Dear. I’ll be right there.”
While Miss Bitsy was looking away, Jeremy took the moment to wipe his eyes, using considerable effort to keep from sobbing out loud.
“Well, I went to the pantry and picked up Eli’s hammer where I had hidden it earlier and went to the top of the stairs. ‘Are you still there?’” She cocked her head with her hand behind her ear as if listening for something, acting out her deeds. “‘Anton, are you okay?’ There was no sound so I went down to the shape on the floor.” She looked at the kitchen floor. “He wasn’t conscious, but I didn’t see any blood so he wasn’t hurt too badly. I patted his cheek.”
She patted the air near the floor.
Jeremy shuddered.
“‘Anton?’ He opened one bloodshot eye and a little pink tinge of spit came out of his mouth. ‘Where’s my Pyrex, my apron, my rolling pin, and my sifter?’ His eyes opened wide and he moved his head back and forth. ‘I know you did something with them and I want them back.’ He still didn’t say anything, but he raised his hands as if a fly were buzzing around him. ‘Last time, Anton. Where are they?’ He tried to push himself away with his legs, but one was bent kind of strange. I raised the hammer and…. well….” She raised her fist in the air and her lips curled, contorting her sweet face to resemble that of a monster. Her hand, closed around the imaginary hammer, swooshed down in an arc, bludgeoning Anton again and again. “I put! poor! Anton! out of his misery!”
A sob blurted from Jeremy’s mouth. He cried miserably, “Miss Bitsy! No! No, no, no, no!” He raised his head, gaining a slight bit of control. “Is Anton in your basement, Miss Bitsy?”
“No. He’s not there anymore.” Her face had changed again. She looked tired and sad. She looked down at her lap, then over to the chest freezer.
“Is he in your freezer?” Jeremy shook his head from side to side, denying a horrible truth but wondering how much more horror this day had in store.
“More or less.”
He walked to the freezer, lifted the lid and looked in. About a hundred white packages lay in piles neatly inside the arctic chamber. He looked at Miss Bitsy, searching for the courage to ask the question he had to ask.
“I knew he would stink down there, but he was too big for me to drag him back up, especially after the step was broken. So I took my electric carving knife and cut him into pieces that I could wrap up and carry to the freezer. Then I scrubbed the floor down there with bleach to clean up the…. well, you know.”
“You said, ‘more or less.’ Dear God, please tell me you’re not eating him.” The sweets he had eaten wanted freedom and he gagged at the thought of her committing cannibalism.
“Oh, heavens no!” She chuckled. “Every day I take out a package and thaw it. Then I take a bit of Anton, slice him up and let the dogs and cats from the neighborhood have him. He always loved all those animals. I know he would have liked that.”
Reaching into his pocket he pulled out the small two-way radio and rubbed the button. Miss Bitsy, the champion of his childhood, his confidante and friend—how could he turn her in? He lowered the radio, then brought it back up. He had taken an oath to uphold the laws of the community. She might kill again. Once again he lowered the radio. She was an old woman and probably didn’t realize what she had done. But her final question to Anton continued to buzz in his brain, freezing everything he had ever believed about her: Last time, Anton. Where are they? He raised the radio and pushed the button.
“Go ahead,” the dispatcher said.
He sucked in a breath of air along with the teary snot threatening to run to his mouth. “Please send a squad car to 924 Ginger Street.” He looked back at Miss Bitsy, who appeared to shimmer through his hot tears.
She was at the kitchen counter, bustling around the kitchen, preparing to create another culinary masterpiece. She reached into the cabinet by her head and pulled out a rose-colored Pyrex dish and a green apron. Then she turned around and one hand went to her mouth. “Oh, Jerry! I’m so glad you’ve come to see me! What will it be today? Oatmeal date cake or caramel brownies?”
The End.

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