The Curse of the Crying Child, Part One

“Well I think it’s creepy,” Sharon said, looking at the portrait that her husband had bought over the internet for a nominal fee.

“I thought a little bit of culture would be a nice touch for our home,” David said, puffing on his pipe. “It is a British piece you know.”

“Like that makes it cultural,” Sharon laughed, shoving David in the shoulder.

David merely regarded his wife as he stared at the portrait of the crying child. In shabby clothes with blue eyes and brown hair, the boy was sitting on the edge of a fountain, tears running down his cheeks. The eyes were remarkable, glittering like hidden jewels trapped on the canvas.

“Well, I think it looks fine over the mantle, so that’s where it’ll stay,” David said with a tone of finality. David’s broad frame was only made thicker by his heavily muscled shoulders and thick arms, his large hands rough from his work as an oil field worker.

“Whatever honey, you keep it there. I’m going to make some dinner, what do you want?” Sharon said, walking away. The blonde woman seemed cherubic compared to her bear of a husband, with long hair and green eyes, her face sporting light freckles that were only seen upon close inspection. Dressed in a loose shirt and shorts with an apron, she headed into the kitchen and opened up the fridge.

“We have the hamburger, so I could make spaghetti if you’d like?” She called out.

David, still regarding the painting, merely hummed. After Sharon called out his name again, he turned, taking the pipe from his mouth. “Yes, I’m fine with spaghetti.”

“I can always make something else…” She said, staring at him over the kitchen counter.

“No, I think your spaghetti would be perfect. I’ll just be in here reading,” he replied, moving to his recliner and easing himself into the seat. Pulling back the recliners lever until he was tilted at a comfortable level, he reached over to the side table and picked up his copy of Le Nausea, flipping to his bookmark before picking up where he left off.

The night went by without worry as David read through a good section of his book while Sharon made the spaghetti with baked potatoes. The house filled with the delicious aroma of spiced hamburger and Italian seasonings roasting in a saucepan. David jumped in his seat when Sharon let out a cry, pushing his legs down to put his recliner back into a normal position.

“What happened?” David called out, putting down his book and standing up.

“Oh, nothing… somehow I burned the potatoes, and the hamburger is overcooked.” Sharon said with dismay.

“How overcooked?” David asked, moving into the kitchen.

“Like blackened,” Sharon groused, showing him the smoldering sauce sticking to the pan. A mixture of red with black flakes sat in the pan bubbling menacingly.

“Oh, well that’s terrible! How did that happen?” David said, moving to console his wife.

She set the pan down on the oven and hugged David around the waist. “I don’t know! I set the oven to three hundred and fifty degrees, and I set the burners to medium, but when I was cutting up the vegetables for the salad I smelled something burning. The burner was turned to the highest setting and the over was set to six hundred degrees!”

“Are you sure you set everything correctly? Maybe you turned a dial too far…” He asked, looking down as he wrapped an arm around her.

“I know how to cook David; I’ve been doing it every night for us since you got home from the fields.” Sharon snapped, tears welling in her eyes.

“Hey, why are you crying? It’s just dinner, we can order out if we need to.” David assured her, patting her lower back.

“I don’t know I’m just so frustrated! I wanted to make a nice dinner and all I made was a charred mess. How can someone even mess up spaghetti?”

“Sharon, just calm down, it’ll be fine,” David said, rubbing her shoulders as he turned her around. “What do you say we just settle in and watch a movie?”

Sharon, tears streaming down her cheeks in great rivulets, merely snorted and nodded. “That sounds nice,” she said before wrapping her arms around David’s midsection, squeezing hard enough to make his bones ache.

“You go choose a movie while I order us a pizza then,” David said before kissing the top of his wife’s head.

David walked into the kitchen, the crisp scent of burnt meat hanging low in the air; he grabbed his cell phone and dialed the number to the closest pizza delivery restaurant, tapping his foot as he watched the smoke in the air swirl about. Moving to the window, he cracked it open to allow the acrid stench a chance to air out of his house. He almost jumped when he heard what sounded like sobbing coming from outside.

“Hello?” He called out to the yard, peering through the blinds. It was dusk, and all he could see were the shadows of trees stretching out over his window, the paved gravel road leading up to the house fuzzy from the haze of twilight.

David flicked the blinds closed as a man answered the phone, asking him if he would like to try any of the local specials going on at the store.

“No, I just need a mushroom and black olive pizza for delivery,” David replied, still staring out the window through the blinds. “Yes, that’s my address. Thirty minutes? That’ll be perfect; I’ll pay with cash when the driver gets here.”

David closed his phone before setting it on the counter next to the stove. Straining his ears, he listened for any sign of crying coming from the front yard but heard nothing. The stench of burnt meat was still heavy in the air, with smoke billowing around the ceiling. Moving to the microwave set on the stove, he turned on the machines fans, churning the smoke around it instantly; soon enough the house would be free of the foul smell.


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