Know this – I love you brother. I’m not sure what you will find waiting for you on the kitchen counter besides this notebook. Hopefully nothing. But it wouldn’t hurt to check the floor to make sure a finger or two hasn’t rolled under the counter.
You and I have just hung up the phone and you’re on your way here. This gives me enough time to write this letter and finish what I started. I want you to understand that I only threatened to burn this place down with me inside it to force you to come. It was the only way I could get you to leave the city and drive to the farmhouse. You would have thought I was mad if I told you over the phone that I solved the mystery as to why no one has ever found mom’s body.
The answer lies within the kitchen drawer.
Of course, I’ll be gone too by the time you get here. I’d say goodbye in person, but for me, I accept my current physical state as a steady process of my own doing over the past twenty four hours. For you, seeing me, or should I say what’s left of me, would be a frightful shock.
As you know, Carol and the kids moved in with her new boyfriend last year. What you don’t know is that my life has spiraled downward ever since. Or maybe it started long before her affair did? She says I drove her and the kids away. Probably true. The ones we’re closest to always see us crashing long before we even realize we’re in a tailspin. Not long after they left, I lost my job. Stopped paying my bills. Stopped socializing, regrettably, even with you. I stopped everything. Well, not everything. The bottle has become my companion.
I guess I’m more like dad than I ever wanted to be.
So of course I was drinking when Carol showed up at my apartment and demanded that I sign the divorce papers. That didn’t go well at all. The bottle made sure of that. So I fled and came here. As far as I can tell, no one has been inside since we were removed and placed in the boys home. Sad to think that this house never got a second chance at having a happy family.
As bleak as our childhood was, I still pictured our home in the fair condition mom kept it during our youth. So when I arrived here two days ago, I was dismayed to see how decrepit it had become. Weather damage and the corrosion of time have plagued the roof and wooden frame, making it look sickly. In fact, the surrounding neighborhood looks bad, as if the atrocity spread from our house and infected the whole town.
And as you can see, the inside is worse. No electricity. No water. Filth, mold and the stench of abandonment pollutes the air. The wooden floors are rotted. The painted walls are chipped and the wallpapered ones are peeling. I didn’t look around much since there isn’t a lot I want to reminisce about. No, drunk as I was, my purpose was unclouded. I entered the kitchen, littered with rat turds and cobwebs and was almost disappointed to find the outside of the kitchen drawer decayed with its steel handle rusted. However, I did get the shock I was expecting when I opened the drawer.
Empty. Clean. Unchanged with time.
Look for yourself, Thomas, but I warn you – Do not put anything in the drawer! Not yet.
With great curiosity, I examined the drawer. First I tried to take it out by sliding it along its tracks, but the drawer does not want to come out. Then I felt along the inside of the cabinet and every inch of it was sturdy and smooth. I looked closely at the metal wheels and slides and found them shiny and unscathed. So it makes no sense that the drawer is irremovable and even more illogical that it should be in such great condition after two decades of neglect. Then again, as you might recall, this drawer does have a history.
Mom would always complain that the cabinet was too darn big to keep important papers in. Nevertheless, it became the one place in the house where she and dad put all kinds of stuff. And it was mom who used to say that the drawer ate the stuffing.
Bills. Letters. Pens and pencils.
Whenever dad was furious about a bill or anything with pertinent information getting lost, mom would swear that she put it in the drawer and now it’s gone. Dad would beat her. Later on, she would tell us that the drawer ate whatever she got punished for losing. We’d agree, but how awful it must have been for mom to feel patronized by her own children while nursing black eyes and swollen lips.
Harden your heart, dear brother, for you must read the words you have never permitted me to speak in person. In respecting your wishes, I have kept a dark secret that not even Carol nor the police who interrogated us that night are privy to. For on the night that dad killed mom, I saw the drawer eat something.
Dad and the bottle were hanging out all day when someone came to the farmhouse and gave him an envelope. You and mom were upstairs. The man drove away and dad opened the envelope right in front of me. Since we were always poor, my eyes must have opened as wide as dad’s at the sight of all that cash. It was the first time I saw two things: one hundred dollar bills and dad’s smile. He was jubilant as he counted five thousand dollars out loud.
Keep in mind, this wasn’t a shared moment between us. I was a witness. He was too drunk to see me sitting at the corner of the table, doing my homework. I watched him tuck the cash back inside the envelope and go over to the kitchen cabinet. He opened the drawer, put it inside and closed it. Then he went back in the living room to share the news with the bottle and call someone on the house phone.
Mom came downstairs and started doing dishes. I swear to you brother, she did not open that drawer! But when dad hung up the phone and returned to the kitchen, the first thing he did was open it. His face said it all. The rage was like a switch that had been flipped on. Dad threw everything out of the drawer until there was nothing left. He accused her of stealing his money. She didn’t have a clue as to what he was talking about.
That didn’t stop him from hurting her.
Eventually, dad noticed me. I suffered a few blows as I was also forced to deny stealing his money. He sent me up to my room and there I stayed like a coward as mom fought to her last breath. I’ve always admired you for sneaking out of your bedroom window, going to the neighbors and calling the police. I’m glad dad got caught, literally, red handed. Blood all over himself, on the saw he used to presumably dismember her and blood all over the kitchen. Everywhere except inside the drawer. The cops said it was as if dad had a plastic bag in that drawer that he kept putting body parts in. But they never could determine where the body parts went from there. Mom was gone. Every single part of her. Only the stain of the crime remained which is sadly ironic because she hated a messy kitchen.
Mom would have cringed at the notion of one day being reduced to a blood stain.
Dad was drunk during his confession but it was still admissible in court when he told the officers on scene that he killed his wife in a fit of rage. He never admitted to dismembering her, despite all of the blood evidence. Her bloody clothes were found on the kitchen floor. When asked how he disposed of her body, from his original confession to his dying words in a prison hospital, he always gave the same response.
You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.
Yesterday, I woke up on the rotted kitchen floor, having passed out drunk on my first night back in twenty six years. I immediately went out and got another bottle. Just like dad. I came back here to the scene of the crime and the bottle and I opened up our souls. Why didn’t I try to save mom? Did dad do what I think he did with her body? Does the drawer really eat stuffing?
Bills. Letters. Pens and pencils. Flesh. Bones. Organs and hair.
After going mad with questions, the bottle and I conducted an experiment. I took a pair of scissors I found, a rock from outside and my vehicle registration from the car and I put all three items in the drawer. I closed it for a mere second before yanking the drawer back open.
Paper. Scissors. No rock.
Dumbfounded, I examined the drawer. Then I closed the cabinet and opened it again.
Scissors. No paper.
I closed and opened it a third time.
Not to sound insensitive, given the subject matter, but I was excited because I proved mom right. The drawer does eat stuffing. It eats when it chews by being opened and closed. If you have more than one thing in there when you open and close that drawer, something’s going to get chewed up. If there is only one item inside, then that item will be eaten. That’s why the police never found mom’s body. Because dad cut her up into pieces and helped the drawer chew her up. Sorry to be so crude. I bet it started as cruel revenge, him sticking a part of her in the drawer. He must have been shocked when that part disappeared. Then maybe he put a second piece of her inside out of stubborn disbelief. When it happened again, I gather he saw it as a means to hide the evidence of his crime. So mom became stuffing.
The drawer eats whatever you feed it, even if it’s something dead.
Call it supernatural. Call it divine. Call the drawer whatever you want, but it is a living thing. The magnitude of this extraordinary realization gave me a strange rush. I actually smiled for a moment like dad did when he saw that cash. And just like dad, my mood quickly soured when I heard banging at the front door and the sound of Carol yelling.
As I confess, bear in mind brother that I had been drinking all day and Carol has become the person I hate most in the world, post dad’s death to liver cancer. So when she tracked me down to our childhood home and barged inside, I felt like a trapped animal under attack. She stormed in the kitchen and demanded that I sign the divorce papers she had in hand. Well, it is here that I wholeheartedly admit to feeling a surge of alcohol fueled rage course through my veins as I wanted to stuff those divorce papers in the drawer, close it and make room for more stuffing. Filled with anger, I moved toward her. And then it caught the corner of my eye from across the room. I turned to look and saw it clearly from the sunlight piercing through the dirty window.
A blood stain on the counter. A mom stain. Mom.
I hugged Carol, signed the divorce papers and asked her to tell the kids that I loved them. She left confused but gratified. I have never succumbed to violence and I never will.
I guess I’m not like dad after all.
It made me realize that I probably didn’t need to drink like dad did either. Invigorated, I grabbed the bottle and headed for the drawer. I slammed the bottle inside and shut it. I was drunk, mind you, as my four fingers were inside the drawer when I closed it. I felt a tap.
Nothing more. I opened it.
The drawer ate one of my fingers.
The bottle was there. I still had three of my four digits, but my middle finger was gone. There was no pain. The skin over the nub was smooth, as if my finger had been removed surgically and healed over. The reason I didn’t freak out was because I was pissed off about it. I wanted my finger back and I was drunk, so I did something stupid. I removed the bottle and stuck my whole hand inside. I shut the drawer on my hand with the desire to open it and have my finger reattached. The slight tap near the base of my thumb was subtle, but proved significant as the drawer considered my palm, thumb and three remaining fingers as one stuffing.
My hand was gone at the wrist.
I stared in disbelief at the nub on the end of my arm. There wasn’t any pain, but I’m pretty sure I was in shock as I shoved my arm inside the drawer and yelled for it to replace my hand, right now. I drunkenly slammed the drawer closed on my arm. And then I stood up.
Yes, the drawer ate my arm.
I used my other hand to feel the nub at my shoulder blade where my arm used to be connected. I remember laughing and feeling dizzy. And then for the second time since I arrived, I passed out on the kitchen floor.
When I awoke, there was a strange sensation with my missing limb. I could feel all of my fingers attached to my hand which felt reattached to my arm. I’m not talking about phantom limbs. I’m saying that wherever my arm was, it was whole again. I could touch my missing fingers together. I could snap with my thumb and middle finger – which was the first part of me to go – and now it’s back in place. I felt my missing hand crawl around a strange floor. Then I bent my arm at the elbow and felt the nub above my armpit where my arm ends.
The drawer eats whatever you feed it, even if it’s something alive.
My revelation inclines me to believe that the drawer doesn’t care whether you’re dead or alive or in pieces. The end result is that it puts you together again whole on the other side, wherever that is. It begs further questions – Did mom get reconnected, piece by piece? And if so, maybe she got put back together alive?
Well dear brother, that is what I intend to find out. First, I retrieved this notebook and a pen from my car and sat down on the kitchen counter. Then I called you on my cell and turned my phone off as I wrote all this. You should be here shortly as I have no reason to think you’re not coming to try and save me from torching this place with me inside it. You always were the heroic one.
And now it’s time for me to go. One piece at a time. After all, some of me is already there – wherever there is. The rest of me is catching up, that’s all. While seated on the counter, I stuck one foot inside the drawer and closed it. I felt a mere tap and nothing more. I lifted my leg up and stared at the ankle nub where my foot used to be. I wiggled my missing toes and could feel them moving around somewhere, waiting for me.
To say it’s been challenging would be an understatement, but I’ve managed to maneuver around well enough to help the drawer eat me. After I fed it my other foot, I stuffed my legs in the drawer, one at a time until my legs were gone from the knees down. Then I kind of slid down into the drawer, up to my belly button. I used my only remaining hand to pull myself and the drawer closed. I felt a pat on my lower body and then suddenly I was falling. Thankfully, my hand caught the edge of the sink and I was able to pull myself back up onto the counter.
I am half a man. From stomach to head with but one arm to finish this letter and lower myself down into the drawer. Then I will stuff myself inside and pull the cabinet closed, reuniting with the rest of me. Again, may I remind you to check the floor for fingers in case I lose one closing the drawer. And if so, be a sport and toss ‘em in, one at a time. I’d hate to be incomplete wherever I’m going.
If I’m right and mom is there, I will tell her you love her. Who knows, you might even decide to come join us.
Thank you for writing this letter. I’m sorry that your final attempt didn’t go as successfully as you certainly hoped.
Your hand was crawling around the floor when I entered the kitchen.
I screamed and stomped on your hand several times. Sorry about that. I hope it didn’t hurt you too bad, wherever you are. I wonder if you were consciously controlling your hand when it grabbed hold of my shoe or was it instinctually grasping at me in survival mode?
Either way, I threw your creepy hand in the drawer. Of all places!
It’s as if the drawer wants us to feed it, no? Maybe it does have influence over this place and us. I closed the drawer and found this notebook lying on the counter. After reading it, I summoned the courage to open the drawer again.
I hope your hand found you well, my brother, and that you are whole.
Since you confided in me, allow me to share with you a secret I too have kept all these years. Of the heroics you mentioned, when I ran to the neighbors – I didn’t go out my window. I snuck out the back door. But first, I crept to the kitchen doorway and saw dad stuffing mom inside the drawer. Piece by piece. That’s why I’ve never been able to discuss that day. Regrettably, not even with you.
And for the rest of my life, I have suffered nightmares of seeing mom in some strange place where she has been put back together again, piece by piece. Except her reattached head and limbs are bloody and crooked. She is whole, but not alive as she reaches for me.
I’d wake up screaming in my bed. I still do. And I pray that if you did find mom whole, she is the version you hoped for and not the one that haunts me.
Last night, I had another nightmare. Mom was in that strange place. But for the first time, you were standing beside her on crooked legs. Both of you whole, but in pieces. Not alive, but still reaching for me.
My apologies for sharing such a morbid vision, but I hope it explains why I dare not attempt to join you. After I feed this notebook to the drawer, I’m going to burn this place to the ground. Call it mystical. Call it magical. I don’t care what you call this living abomination because this letter is the last thing that it’s ever going to eat.
I hope the drawer chokes on it.
Goodbye brother and know this – I love you too.
Credit: Jon Douglas Rainey
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