“The Barnes Family Reunion”
Year written: 2009
Year first published: 2010
Where You Can Find It
Masters of Horror: the Anthology e-book and paperback, by Triskaideka Books, 2010.
- Order the e-book online.
- Order the paperback online.
- Podcast with Jason Warden reading it at ShadowCast Audio.
This story has many roots in my own past. No, my family is nothing like Jacob’s (thank God), but I did drop bits and pieces of my own memories into it. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, as that’s what writers do. I loaned the memories of Jacob’s house and of the trip to the 4-H fair to him. I also instilled Wolf with some of my own love of French literature.
Truth is, many years ago, I knew a young man very much like Jacob. His ghost has haunted me over the years. Perhaps that’s why I write horror.
Jacob’s family is special, and not in a good way. Death stalks them, and so their family reunions take place under a pall of doom. Jacob attends these events only under duress. His father rules the family with an iron hand.
When the story begins, Jacob is a kid. As time passes, we see that he is more active in his family’s troubles than we at first realized. In the end, Jacob and his best friend/cousin Wolf form an alliance, but only one of them will have the happy ending he wanted all along.
The summer following my fourteenth birthday, Wolf and I went to the county fair. We took a pass through the 4-H barn. We strolled between the grunting, stinking pigs in pens. Hay and mud clung to our sneakers, and Wolf, pinching his nose against the stench, said, nasal and squeaky, “I read in a book that pigs will eat anything you put in front of them, even people.”
The pigs watched us with their beady eyes. They stuck their filthy snouts through the bars at us, sniffing and grunting. Their ears pricked up as we approached, and they lifted their matted heads.
Wolf commented, “I suppose, if a guy didn’t have any starving dogs around, he could throw himself in a pen with starving pigs, and they’d eat him to death.” He swatted at a biting fly.
Outside the barn, we stood looking at the rides. “What do you wanna do now?” Wolf asked, but before I could answer, he said, “Let’s ride the Ferris wheel,” and so we did. Sitting in the swinging, metal car, high over the fair grounds, we watched the people get smaller and smaller, then bigger and bigger, smaller, bigger, smaller, and when the ride stopped with us at the very top, Wolf said, “We’re 48 meters up. That’s 144 feet. That’s like… 15 stories or something. You’d think that a guy who jumped from here would sure as hell be dead, but it ain’t always so. I read in a book where this one guy jumped off a Ferris wheel and walked away ‘cause he landed on sand.” Wolf leaned out over the lap-bar to look down, and the steel basket pitched forward.