The Pink Tricycle

Andrew did not see the pink tricycle the first or the second or even the third time on his way to the north side of the city. Indeed, he had been going to see his new therapist for well over a month before he noticed it, though he must have passed it many times.

What he had noticed were the apartment complexes: two of them, on either side of the road, abandoned. He had been living on the east side of the city for about a year and it was common knowledge by then that past a certain parallel and meridian the northeastern quadrant of the city fell over to perpetually hard times, more convenience stores than grocery stores, neighborhoods likely to shred your automobile tires with the scattered glass and rusted nails left in the roads where children played with (to Andrew’s thinking, at least) preternatural enthusiasm. So it was until one reached the north side which, due to the presence of the university and a shrewd and silent demographic agglomeration, remained one of the more vibrant sectors of the city, even after the factories left the rest quiet and searching decades ago.

Still, it was one thing to know the northeast side was rough. It was another to drive, for about thirty seconds, down a major artery of the city with the silent husks of abandoned apartment complexes hemming you in on either side. Andrew had noticed them because he basically had no other choice: the long, unkempt grass poked curiously through the iron bars of the enclaves’ fences, brushing the curb of the road like blind fingers; the buildings’ off-white walls were spotted, here and there, with large and generally unreadable names in audacious bubble-letter graffiti; on the first and second floors the windows and doors had all been sealed with plywood. Meanwhile the third stories — the complexes reached only that high, in each of their five or six buildings, and this still was a strange sight to Andrew, who came from a place where developments were often higher than they were wide — the third stories remained unbarricaded, dark and curtainless windows exposed to the world. Presumably the thought was whoever — squatters, looters, bored teens and general trespassers? — had the dexterity to climb to the second floor would not manage to make it to the third.

But it was on the third floor of one of the buildings to the right of the road that Andrew saw the pink tricycle. Each apartment in this complex had been furnished with a small patio area, a cement block on the ground floor and a wooden balcony about five or six feet long on the second and third floors. And on one of these wooden balconies, near the sliding screen door that led into the apartment, sat a pink tricycle of chunky plastic. A child’s toy, left behind.

That was as much thought as Andrew gave it, to begin with.

*

Andrew came to the city to work as a representative for a pharmaceutical company, and while the city itself was not in any sense an attraction, his job required him to travel across the country frequently, meaning the misfortune of living there was offset by the opportunity to leave it for weeks at a time. His therapist had remarked on the ease with which he’d transplanted himself during one of their early sessions, angling, Andrew suspected, for some sort of comment on his distance from his family.

There was not much to say. Andrew had an older brother who remained in close contact with his father, working alongside him at the contracting company that bore their name. His mother was dead, cancer in late middle age. He had never really known any grandparents or aunts and uncles, since his father’s volatility and general priggishness meant estrangements and fallings-out were common.

The therapist, a slight man with thin glasses, long black hair, and a seemingly endless supply of different argyle sweaters, took this all in and made notes on his clipboard. “I point this out,” he said, “because of what you told me during our first session.”

Andrew nodded. He had come to therapy because of what his ex had said. It was not his first relationship, but it was the one that had progressed the furthest, the first time since leaving home he had lived with someone other than incidental roommates. It had lasted fourteen months. “You never talk about the future,” was something the ex had often told Andrew, which seemed like a bizarre thing to notice, let alone complain about. “You never talk about the future, what sort of life we’re going to have.  I want to have a home with you.”  The ex, who had been taking psychology classes for a graduate degree while Andrew did an internship, was prone to pointing things out and rattling off symptoms of depression or anxiety. “You need therapy,” the ex had often said, which, in Andrew’s opinion, was a bit like a barber telling him he needed a haircut.

Still, when things ended after Andrew accepted the job with the pharmaceutical company out west, the ex had tearfully repeated the observation. “You need therapy.” Along with that: “You’re an asshole.”

And as he had settled into life in the new city, despite himself, Andrew began to wonder if perhaps his ex was not onto something. He sat in his new apartment downtown — paid for by his healthy new salary — and in its sleek, not-too-modern cleanliness it felt no different from the hotel rooms he stayed in every few weeks. His life, he began to feel, was for the foreseeable future nothing but traveling through a multitude of rooms with only minor variations, living from one to the next, living in between each room, and each fundamentally empty apart from himself. He spent several long evenings reading about depression symptoms on the internet and eventually made an appointment with the therapist in the north of the city.

He wasn’t sure if he was making progress, but it at least felt like something to do. Of course he went out to bars and met people, schmoozed with clients and rivals while on his trips, but when he was home he felt listless, and therapy provided a kind of ritualistic element to his life, something to mark the passage of time. In the first few meetings he talked about the ex, and what the ex had said, which led him to talking about his father, his brother, his mother. College, prior exes, the first big falling-out with his parents just before graduation. Half-remembered childhood anomalies, like the time he was certain he saw his father leave the house late at night — far past midnight — and, standing in the yard, click a flashlight on and off in sequence, pointing it into the moonless sky. His brother had insisted he was merely misremembering a scene from a spy film they had watched together as kids. It was almost overwhelming, Andrew thought, how much he could say about himself and yet how little he felt actually happened. “I suppose I don’t think about the future very much,” he said once. “I’m not sure I’m looking forward to it. I’m not sure I ever have.”

His therapist remained placid, and marked something on his clipboard.

*

He was on his way to therapy when he noticed the pink tricycle had moved. At first he thought he was merely misremembering. After all, as he zipped by the abandoned building, how certain could he be that he knew where the tricycle had been on the wooden balcony? But as he considered the situation he became less certain.

Andrew’s initial vision of the pink tricycle, pushed into the corner of the balcony, had been initially burned into his mind in a peculiar way. On and off again he’d found himself returning to it, thinking of the child it had once belonged to and imagining their feelings upon it being left behind. He wondered at odd times — usually when making dinner, or just on the edge of falling asleep — about the family who had lived in the apartment, taking everything but the tricycle.

And now the tricycle had moved across the balcony, pressed up against the screen door of the apartment as if it were an animal begging to be let in. After his therapy appointment, on his way home, Andrew made sure to keep an eye out for the tricycle. He was on the opposite side of the road now, making it difficult, and the sun was setting, but he managed to spot it: a flash of color against the dingy walls and gray shingles. It was exactly where he’d seen it earlier.

The apartment complexes did not have names. Unlike most places of the sort, which had signs out front welcoming you to Green Brook Place or Heritage Estates or Brookstone Commons or The Meadows at Green River or something, the chained-off entryways of either complex had no such signage, presumably taken down whenever the properties closed. When, back home, he searched online for apartments along that particular segment of the street, he found no listings, not even legacy postings regarding the complexes.

When he pulled up a street view he could see them, looming on either side of the road. The complex to the left was obviously closed at this point, its windows boarded up, but its grass was shorter, its buildings less etched over with graffiti. On the right side of the street, however, the buildings of the other complex had not yet been sealed. Andrew clicked forward, searching for the balcony that he knew hosted — or would come to host — the pink tricycle.

The balcony was bare, but the sliding door was open, allowing just the barest glimpse into the apartment, a sliver of a kitchen and a refrigerator. He clicked forward again, finding the entrance to the complex and its sign: Homes at Roselawn. He checked the date on the street view images and found they were nearly three years old.

A search for “Homes at Roselawn” turned up nothing interesting, only what would be expected of an apartment complex in that area of the city: occasional mentions of domestic disputes, a methamphetamine arrest, one fatal shooting and one non-fatal. There was no mention of when or why it closed. It was if the complex had just, one day, shut down, without any reason, announcement, or fanfare. Andrew imagined the family leaving the third floor apartment in a hurry, evicted without notice, and imagined the wailing of a child whose favorite tricycle was left behind.

*

The pink tricycle moved twice more over the next few months, from the screen door back to the far corner, and then from that corner to the opposite end of the balcony.  The weather, by this point, was beginning to change, the grass browning and wilting and the sky shifting to a perpetually dreary gray that threatened snow but only spat chilly rain.

It was probably squatters, Andrew told himself.  Someone had broken in and was living in the closed apartments illegally.  Certainly someone was living there: incidental vandals or addicts would probably do more than move a child’s toy across a balcony every handful of weeks.  Did they have a child with them?

He left a little early before therapy once to stop by the apartment and find out.  When he asked himself what he was doing — which he felt was a question posed more and more frequently these days — Andrew decided that he would, if the squatters were willing, help the occupants of the apartment find legal housing.  His job certainly paid him more than enough to meet his own needs.  Maybe he could do something with himself by helping someone else.

Andrew parked his car alongside the driveway of the abandoned complex.  The chain across the driveway meant he couldn’t go further than what was basically the shoulder of the road, but it was enough space that he didn’t fear any passing motorist would clip him.  It was only after he ducked under the chain and started walking toward the building with the pink tricycle that it occurred to him there wasn’t a no trespassing sign posted.

Suddenly he wasn’t sure if the complex was out of commission.  What if he was totally wrong?  What if families were living here, legally, behind these plywood boards?  The idea seemed absurd but not impossible.

And yet the doors were also boarded over.  He saw that now, very clearly: as he continued to walk across the overgrown, dying lawn Andrew passed the shuttered windows and doorways that showed barely any evidence of human attention.  Indeed, the doorway to his goal — the building with the pink tricycle — was likewise boarded up, with no sign of tampering.  He took a walk around the building, finding a fire exit on the far side away from the road, which was also sealed.

In reality, Andrew thought, there was surprisingly little to indicate that anyone — even the homeless or vandals — had visited this place since it closed, whenever it did close.  Because it was assuredly closed, lack of a trespassing sign or not.  He strolled back around the building, listening to cars zoom by on the road, and stopped by the corner of the building directly below the balcony with the pink tricycle.  He looked up at it, noticing for the first time how bleached its plastic was by the elements.  Had it even been pink originally?

He stared up at the balcony for a few more moments, his eyes drifting toward the sliding doors — the third floor hadn’t been boarded up, he thought.  So what if someone did climb up there?

Andrew gritted his teeth, suddenly unnerved by the fact that he couldn’t see into the dark apartment.  He remembered the image from the old street view: the screen pushed aside, a dim light within, kitchen linoleum, the glare of a refrigerator door.  Now there was nothing.  Just shadow.  Someone could be watching him and he wouldn’t even know it.

He turned and quickly walked back to his car.

*

“May I ask you something?” his therapist said, looking at him thoughtfully.  “Just to clarify my notes.”

Andrew shrugged.  “Sure?”

His therapist glanced at his clipboard.  “When did your mother switch jobs?”

“What?” Andrew frowned, not understanding the question.

“Your mother switched jobs,” said his therapist, looking at his clipboard.  “During one of our early sessions you mentioned she was a nurse.  You said both she and your father worked days.  But some things you’ve told me indicate she started working nights — and hiring babysitters, correct?  Where was your father during this?”

Andrew blinked.  His mother was a nurse? That… seemed right.  And his father… very little came to mind when he thought about his father.

“I’m sorry, I’m not sure what you’re getting at,” said Andrew.

His therapist made an oddly defensively gesture with his shoulders.  “Nothing, nothing, I’m just trying to straighten out the order of events.  Your family is where you learn many of your coping strategies that manifest — sometimes problematically — later in life.  And based on what you’ve told me your family had a bit of a crisis when you were around eight years old.  You even moved out of the house.”

“Excuse me?”

“The apartment,” said his therapist, again looking at the clipboard.  “Your mother switched jobs and you lived, for a while at least, in an apartment.  Unless I got something wrong?”

“That…”  Never happened, is what Andrew wanted to say, but suddenly he wasn’t so sure.

His therapist waited a moment.  “Dissociation,” he said, finally, “often begins as a defense mechanism…”

Andrew didn’t hear the rest.

*

Andrew was due to fly to Dallas the next week for a presentation, but he called into work with the flu and said he wouldn’t be able to make the flight.  He took the week off.

He wanted to talk to his brother but when he called it went to voicemail.  “Hey,” he said, “it’s Andrew.  Do you remember when Mom started working nights?  When was that?  Anyway, give me a call.”

A new prescription sat on his kitchen counter, unfilled.  On a whim he skipped his next appointment with the therapist and received an irritated text message about a fifty-dollar fee, but by then he had been parked outside the former Homes at Roselawn for nearly an hour.  There wasn’t a no trespassing sign, so it wasn’t like anyone would have any reason to tell him to leave.

Still, though, he had to be careful.

Finally, as the sun dipped down and the corona of the city’s streetlights grew up in the sky, Andrew got out of his car and walked across the overgrown lawn of the apartment complex, the crowbar swinging easily, even naturally by his side.

It turned out to be unnecessary.  The plywood that had covered the door to the building he approached was gone, a small halogen light glowing over the concrete stoop.  Looking from side to side, thinking at any moment now someone might step out of the dark to stop him, Andrew met no resistance and finally pushed forward and opened the door.

The center of the building was a wood-paneled column containing a zig-zagging stairway.  The air had a dusty, stale quality and at least a few sheets of the paneling had fallen away, revealing the flattened streaks of glue on the wall beneath like keloid scars.  Somewhere he could hear the low thrumming of machinery, like a laundry dryer.  Somewhere else was the sound of laughter, clearly filtered through a television speaker.

The stairway was covered by a ratty carpet that did little to muffle the sound of Andrew’s crowbar when he dropped it and it skittered down to the nearest landing.  He reached the third floor and paused, looking from the left to the right to orient himself.  Each floor had four apartments, set up in quadrants around the central staircase.  Ahead and to his right, a door stood open, waiting.

He walked inside the apartment, not bothering to close the door behind him.  the only source of light was a dim, bare bulb overhead.  He was in a living room, furnished only by a couch with a severe dip in the middle situated before a TV with a dead, dark screen, and a card table with folding chairs arranged around it.  To his left was a hallway leading, he thought, to a bedroom and bathroom.  To his right an arch opened onto the small kitchen, and just beyond that, the sliding door to the balcony.

“You’re late,” said a voice.

Startled, Andrew turned from the kitchen — he’d been walking toward the balcony, he realized — and saw a woman standing at the mouth of the hallway, hurriedly putting on silver earrings.  She was a black woman, and older than him, but not by too much.  Maybe she just looked older than she was.  She wore a knee-length dress of medicinal green with a white apron folded over the front and a wide, white collar, and he recognized it as a curiously antiquated waitress uniform.

“I’m already running late,” she said, “but you should know what to do.”

“Excuse me?” he asked.

“You’re the new babysitter, yes?” she said, eyeing him severely.

He had no idea what to say to that.

“It’s self-explanatory,” she said.  “Food in the fridge, TV is mostly busted but gets a few channels.  You’ll be fine.  The child is out now, but will be back soon.  Babysitting, not rocket science.”  The woman had finished with her earrings and, after adjusting her hair, began to stride quickly toward the door.

“Wait,” Andrew said, more loudly than he meant to, and the woman stopped to look at him again, tiredly.  “Where is your…”  He struggled to articulate the idea, because she herself had phrased it so oddly.  The child.  “Where’s your kid?”

The woman cocked an eyebrow at him.  “Out playing,” she said.  “Always out playing.  And it’s not my child.  I’m just the last babysitter.”

And with that she left the apartment, closing the door behind her, and Andrew was alone in the room.

He stood for a moment in the light of the bare bulb, surveying again his surroundings.  He pulled his phone out of his pocket to see if his brother had called him and, somehow, it was dead.  He hadn’t brought a charger.

The kitchen light still worked, and when he flipped it on the glare rendered the balcony door nothing but a dark mirror.  He stepped forward, pulling it away, and felt the unusually warm, almost summery air come flooding into the apartment through the screen.  Across the street, in the other complex, he could see someone mowing the lawn in the fading twilight.  He recalled hearing that twilight was the best time to mow in the summer.

The pink tricycle was barely visible in the dark corner of the balcony, but visible nonetheless.  After regarding it for a moment Andrew grabbed one of the folding chairs from the living room and placed it in the kitchen, where he could sit and keep an eye on the balcony.

And the tricycle.  Especially the tricycle.  He settled in to wait and see what, if anything, would cause it to move.

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HeyRyde

 

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Most positive

Andy McBarr – October 12, 2014
5star

 

When I first heard our local governments had cut a deal with the Usher company for this app idea I admit I was pretty skeptical.  I’ve heard a lot of stuff about the company and its founder and I thought it would just be no good, I used to think ridesharing services only made sense with big cities.  But on the other hand, ever since the problems in Haymeadow and then Whitbridge, our communities haven’t really been themselves.  The difficulty of finding quality hayrides as more and more people moved away was becoming apparent and I was starting to think I’d have to move too.  But then the Usher company came to the rescue with HeyRyde!! The app is still in the testing stages right now and our little towns are the testing grounds.  Need a hayride? Then download HeyRyde (lol!!) and request a ride from one of the local independent providers!  Just about everyone still in the business is working with the app, which makes it super convenient.  My first driver was from Whitbridge, which as a lifelong Haymeadow resident I was skeptical of, but he turned out to be really nice.  I think this app will bring our communities closer together, which is important given all the struggles we’ve had.  Also, they don’t tell you this in the app description, occasionally you’ll put out a call for a hayride and get one of their experimental self-driving wagons!

Erica Nicholson – October 16, 2014
5star

 

Our kids were upset because our dog and cat ran away, so the hubby and I decided to cheer them up with a little hayride!  I’d recently downloaded this app and thought it was a perfect opportunity to try it out.   What a great idea!  Our driver was a local man who was giving out hayrides to make some extra cash.  He was very friendly and even had a cooler of apple cider in the back.  Kids loved it!

Gregory Chunch – October 20, 2014
5star

 

It’s been depressing in the greater Whitbridge-Haymeadow area lately, after the riots and the fires over the past few years, but with the Usher company setting up shop in town I feel like things are finally turning around!  It’s so charitable of a big Silicon Valley company to come all the way out here to help us make ends meet.  I haven’t actually used this app but I think it’s a great idea, and I’m going to help keep the market competitive by starting my own hayride app.  Keep an eye out for Wagyn, coming soon to an app store near you!!

Amir Brooks – October 23, 2014
5star

 

Extremely impressed by the self-driving wagon that picked us up for our ride.  There weren’t even any horses! Whatever mechanical wizardry is keeping the wagons going is perfectly hidden, it otherwise looks exactly like an old farm’s hay wagon.  We took a nice ride up around north Whitbridge and everything was lovely, my date loved the colors of the leaves and it was nice not having a driver there to intrude on the moment.  When I called the Usher offices to tell them what a great innovation the self-driving wagons are I ended up talking to a woman (Charlotte) who played dumb and said the company doesn’t have self-driving wagons but I know how the tech world is, they’ve got to keep this under wraps unless a competitor steals the idea.

Alain Hardy – October 30, 2014
5star

 

the ride has been going on so long so long it’s wonderful so wonderful i never want it to end hay so itchy

Tanya Greer – October 31, 2014
5star

 

What a great experience!  Taking a leisurely hayride through Haymeadow during trick-or-treating was a perfect way to spend the holiday.  The driver even surprised us by taking us across the river into Whitbridge — at no extra charge!  It was great to see how they celebrate Halloween, even if normally I’d not want to expose my children to the snobbery of people who live there.  When I told the driver he didn’t have to bother, he said he felt like he didn’t have a choice.  How nice of him!

Nancy Whittiker – November 5, 2014
5star

 

Here’s a little thing that I guess you could call a “lifehack” — gas has been so expensive lately that driving to and from work (I work in Whitbridge but live in Haymeadow) has gotten too expensive, but for the past month I’ve been ordering hayrides to get me where I need to go and it’s been wonderful! I’m on a first-name basis with a few of the drivers now.  It takes longer, sure, but if I plan ahead I can get to work and home without ever having to use my own car.  I wonder if the service will go past the normal hayride season or if I’ll have to go back to driving myself?  Here’s hoping!! :-)

Xander Harris – November 13, 2014
5star

 

I’ve heard the Usher company is in negotiations with both the Haymeadow AND Whitbridge town boards to take over operation of public transit for the entire county.  As a libertarian, I can think of nothing better for the economy of this region — even if I wish we didn’t have to deal with those scrubs over in Haymeadow constantly crowding our wagons.  Anyway, that’s actually the beauty of the free market: if enough of us demand separate services we’ll eventually get them.   I’ve loved the hayrides I’ve been taking and can’t wait to see how a stronger Usher influence in local government turns our little corner of southern Indiana into a center of 21st century industry!

Alessa Donovan – December 5, 2014
5star

 

I have no idea why this app is still offering rides in December but I love it!  It was so nice taking a hayride through the first snowfall of the year.  It tells you something that the drivers love their job so much that they’re keeping this going year round!

Travis Wexler – January 2, 2015
4star

 

With the new year we’ve seen the launch of a second hayride app in the Haymeadow-Whitbridge area, but the original is still the best!  My driver was pleasant and talkative and even offered some warm cider.  It could have been warmer, but that’s the only criticism I can come up with about this great service.

Casey Starr – February 9, 2015
4star

 

My car broke down a few weeks ago which means I couldn’t get to work, but this app has been a lifesaver!  It’s also such a pleasant way to get around.  One of my drivers even said that you don’t even have to have your own horse and wagon anymore, Usher will lease them to you.  Maybe I’ll take up a little side job!!

Least positive

Karin Hedley – January 7, 2015
1star

 

Who wants a hayride in January?  Well I was curious so I called one up.  I recognized the woman who gave me the ride as one of the ladies who works the checkout at Wal*mart and I asked her how she liked the job and she said she hated it shed never worked with horses before and I asked her why she was doing it and said she didnt have a choice she needed the money.  I said maybe you could get another job and she just started crying.  Extremely unpleasant.

Melvin Lowe – February 28, 2015
1star

 

Unreliable drivers.  Will often take weird routes and detours that make the commute too long and you end up late to wherever you’re going.  Wagyn (locally owned) is a much better alternative.

Norbert Pflum – March 5, 2015
1star

 

My driver was obviously drunk and drove our wagon straight into the Juggascrow War Memorial in downtown Haymeadow.  Driver incoherent.  Awful.  Talked with Charlotte Raith in Usher Customer Service who arranged a refund for the ride, one bright spot.

Darcy Metcalfe – April 11, 2015
1star

 

Had a weird issue where the GPS stopped working and the driver got lost.  We ended up out on some country road and we could see the mansion the Usher guy built at the old quarry and these big black dogs came out and followed the wagon really close.  Didn’t growl or bark or anything, just followed.  My son was crying and it was definitely getting to the driver but he was so scared of the dogs!  Where did they even come from?  I thought all the dogs in town ran away months ago.

Tater Breyer – May 18, 2015
1star

 

I’ve used Wagyn from Chunch Technologies before and loved it, but since they sold out to HeyRyde after the founder passed away I don’t have another option and I HATE this!!  The drivers are always surly and won’t talk to you and if they do usually it’s weird stuff you don’t want to hear and don’t even get me STARTED on the self-driving wagons which the offices say they don’t have but then why do they keep showing up??? Usher is a bad company.  Instead of taking me where I want to go the self-driving wagons will just go out onto country roads for hours on end and i can’t stop them whenever i call up a hay ride and one of the self-driving wagons shows up i don’t get on anymore even though they sit outside my house for like an hour.  Would like an update where you can choose to not get a self-driving wagon

Carol Jordan – June 20, 2015
1star

 

For over 35 years my father worked as a chemistry teacher at Haymeadow High School (Go Ravens!) and just retired at the end of this last schoolyear.  He felt bored with the new downtime and figured that driving for HeyRyde would be a low-stress hobby that he could also get paid for.  I didn’t like the idea of him working a job in his retirement but he was insistent!  Well he started driving for them a two weeks ago and the shifts just kept getting longer.  Last time he was out for almost an entire day and came back at three in the morning (he moved in with us after he retired).  When he’s home he just goes into our spare bedroom and sleeps.  I’ve told him he doesn’t have to keep doing this but he won’t listen.  I hate this app!!

Angela Legg – July 5, 2015
1star

 

i took a “fourth of july” hayride which was an awful idea. it was hot and itchy and the driver wouldn’t stop so i could get a drink, he just kept saying “we have to follow the route.”  i was so thirsty i came close to having a heatstroke i was hallucinating that the road was glowing like bright red and the horses had too many legs. i don’t recommend using this app but if you do at least bring your own drinks that’s what i’m doing when me and my friends do our bastille day hayride next week.

Dusty Moller – July 8, 2015
1star

 

My daughter sank into a pile of hay in the corner of the wagon and we couldn’t find her for almost five minutes.  Eventually we managed to dig her out but now she has a really bad case of lice.  The driver didn’t even care.

Louis Caulfield – July 16, 2015
1star

 

I wanted to have a pleasant Bastille Day hayride, but there were a bunch of Haymeadow bumpkins on my wagon who wouldn’t stop asking me what Bastille Day is so I had to sit very uncomfortably while they read the explanation on the back of my Happy Bastille Day t-shirt.  Very annoying.

Joe Samson – September 8, 2015
1star

 

Got stuck on a group ride with a bunch of uppity Whitbridge folks and some annoying teens (also probably from Whitbridge, they were vaping).  They spent the entire part of the ride that took us through Haymeadow talking about how our sidewalks were dirty and that our street signs were hard to read.  When the ride finally turned around and took a country road into Whitbridge (I didn’t want to go but the driver couldn’t stop) I started talking really loudly about how their giant street signs make it look like a town where only old people live, but I was the only person there doing it and everyone just stared at me.  I hate Whitbridge folks.

Patricia Azikiwe – October 11, 2015
1star

 

I wish the town boards had better negotiated that public transit deal with Usher because after a year of nonstop hayrides they just don’t seem that special, even when they’re seasonally appropriate.

Tara McIntyre  – October 31, 2015
1star

 

self-driving wagon would not let me or my son off to trick or treat, just drove back and forth for three hours i had to buy candy for him from the store later. also i think the hay gave us both lice

Jackson Liu – November 7, 2015
1star

 

People love to say ridiculous stuff about services like this, like my friend who swears his sister took a HeyRyde and never came home, but that’s such bull**** when there are so many real things to complain about.  Moldy hay, ridiculous pricing even though it’s after Halloween, and the wheels of the wagon were making this weird squeaking sound that the longer I listened to the more it sounded like someone screaming.  Oh also the ride lasted way too long and I started having weird f***ed up thoughts in case that wasn’t obvious!

Maria Kendal – November 21, 2015
1star

 

I live on the Haymeadow-Whitbridge border and it’s hard to sleep with the wagons running by my house all night.  Who’s even riding them so late?  They just keep coming and going from that weirdo’s mansion at the old quarry.

Gene Kim – January 23, 2016
1star

 

I was in the area on a business trip, doing some negotiations with Usher, and decided to check out this service.  I will say, I immediately called my home office and told them we should scuttle any partnerships — everyone knows the founder of Usher has some idiosyncrasies but this whole HeyRyde thing is something else! Even though everyone talks about these wagons being self-driving these days I had a deeply unpleasant driver, an old man in a large straw hat and ragged overalls, smelled like he hadn’t washed in weeks  He never looked at me or acknowledged me, but  he just stared ahead and kept moving his hands like he was leading horses.  But there weren’t any horses!!

Xander Harris2 – February 16, 2016
1star

 

I know I’ve reviewed this app before and positively, but I just want to say that I take it back totally.  The founder of Usher, despite his admirable libertarian principles, has proven to be all talk, interfering with the free market by buying out his competitor Wagyn and letting the monopoly of his brand result in subpar service.  I’ve tried calling the Better Business Bureau (much to my shame) but ever since Usher bought all the cell towers in the county the calls just redirect to their help line.  And the local government is backing them every step of the way!! This isn’t capitalism, it’s corporatism!!!! BOYCOTT

Brynne Landau – April 6, 2016
1star

 

I don’t even know what the point is anymore. Why leave a review? The service sucks. Wagons don’t go where you need them to.  Have to deal with hicks from Haymeadow sharing your rides, and the nightmares, dear god, the nightmares

Most recent

Charlotte Raith – October 28, 2016
nostar

 

I must admit I was skeptical when I was told we would be setting up a Midwestern office, and in rural Indiana of all places.  Why?  My supervisor at the time, who was in direct communication with someone who was in turn in direct communication with the CEO, told me many things about untapped markets, civic duty to under-served areas and populations, all what one might expect.

I was disappointed when I was told that I would be moving here to oversee operations in a new division of my old department.  It was hard to say goodbye to California, even harder to adjust to these small, indolent towns and their insolent people.  There are strange rivalries here that an outsider would not and cannot understand, long-simmering resentments, and the trauma of recent tragedies.  This is to say nothing of the absolute obsession these people have with Halloween.

Over the past two years the situation has progressed… strangely.  Our CEO, a recluse at the best of times, has become almost a total non-entity.  The media speculates as to his activities and his mansion, which he had built on a small limestone cliff between these two small towns, sees no visitors, though the windows of the upper floors still glow orange at night.  Meanwhile, reviews of our services have degenerated.  And even then — people continue to use our app.  Revenues are on a steady increase.

I admit I’ve been letting my work for the company slide as I’ve watched this situation develop.  I’ve been spending a lot of time in the libraries in both towns.  I drive myself, of course, I do not take the wagons.  Most of them are self-driven these days.  I do not recall a company memo about when we made the switch, but surely there must have been one.

Anyway.

I’ve been looking at old maps, studying divisions platted by this region’s settlers nearly three hundred years ago.  I’ve been reading books.  Very strange books.  I’ve learned what ley lines are.  And I suspect there was a reason the founders divided this land the way they did.  But I’ve also been tracking the wagons.

There is a pattern forming.  The paths crossed once and over again by our company’s vehicles are knitting together two towns that, for centuries, have been held apart.  I am not a superstitious woman, but I have heard the rumors about our CEO and his interests — who could forget the sensational quote about drinking human blood — and I am beginning to wonder what his plan is for this operation.  I have my suspicions, but they are suspicions only.  I write this in the hopes that someone, anyone, especially someone outside these towns might read it.  I fear the worst.

I’ve made the decision to close my office for the day.  I’ve called my ride.  His gate only opens for the automated wagons these days.  The assortment of objects in my briefcase boggles my mind, even though I chose them — placing the of vial holy water next to the stun-gun, the box of purified salt next to the unregistered Glock — but time is short and I must have options.

The end is coming, first here, and then perhaps everywhere.  And we were its Ushers.  Forgive us.  The road to Hell is subject to surge pricing, and we’ve made a tidy profit.

The previous entries in the Haymeadow saga are here and here. This post was funded by readers like you through Patreon.  If you like what you read, want to see me write more, and want to get a chance to choose what I write about, please consider pledging.

the bones picked clean and the clean bones gone

Happy holidays!  In the finest English Yuletide tradition, here’s a Twine ghost story for you, “the bones picked clean and the clean bones gone.”

It should take 20-30 minutes to read through, has two endings, and uses sound on the first page, as well as a few others.  It was sent a few days early to folks who played The Uncle Who Works for Nintendo and either paid what they wanted over itch.io, purchased the game’s Horse Armor DLC, or participated in the Amazon Horse Armor Extravaganza Cross-Promotional Event, and their names are listed in the credits.  They are very cool folks.

It has been a weird and pretty incredible year and I am thankful so many people experienced and enjoyed my art!!!

 

the uncle who works for nintendo

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My new Twine game, the uncle who works for nintendo, is now available for all to play.  It will take some time to get through one game, maybe 15 to 20 minutes at its shortest.  It has five possible endings.

The original commissioned artwork (some glimpsed in the above thumbnail) was made by the talented Kimberly Parker, who was absolutely amazing to work with.

The abstract artwork was made in the program Icosa by Andi McClure.

My inspirations are listed in the credits game itself, but I think it is appropriate to repeat them here:

Lights Out, Please by Porpentine, Vicky He, John R., Meghan, Jericho Bull, Ashley, Carli Velocci, Kitty Horroshow, Stephen Wilds, Aisley, Cathleen Macdonald, Sarah, and Kira, and the original story by Kaitlin Tremblay that preceded the collated anthology

Her Pound of Flesh by Liz England

You Were Made for Loneliness by Tsukareta

The Yahwg by Emily Carroll and Damian Sommer

History Lesson by withoutpillow

“Glitches: A Kind of History” in Arcade Review #3 by Alex Pieschel

My game uses a horror framework to think about misogyny and emotional abuse and manipulation, as it was (is) fostered particularly among children in the broader culture of videogames.  If you follow games culture at all, there are some resonances with current events here, and given that, I think it would be remiss not also to point you toward Liz Ryerson’s blog, which hosts not only excellent games writing, but some of the most incisive commentary on our recent troubles.

Special thanks goes, as always, to my beta-testers: Spam, Matt, Jeremy, Dan, Ivy, Alex, Harrison, and Victor.

Empty Houses

This story was originally written around 2007,  when I was 19, and was published in the summer of 2010.  It was the first short story I ever sold, originally available on the website for the horror zine Dark Recesses, which appears to have gone under and then resurfaced with new management. The story is no longer there (the site was totally redesigned), so I’m reposting it here for posterity.  I’ve turned to writing scholarship and criticism more generally, but my fictive impulses still find their outlet on this blog and, obviously, my Twine games.

Empty Houses
by Michael Lutz

The house high on the hill was new, state-of-the-art it was once called, a behemoth of glass walls and cool white stone, and it was in immaculate condition. Every morning Argus stepped out of his closet and offered a cheerful greeting to the Housemind, which did not have the capacity to respond, but Argus said hello anyway.

On Mondays he mowed the lawn.

On Tuesdays he inspected the basement and cleaned the walls.

On Wednesdays he washed windows.

On Thursdays he went to town, for though he’d been told not to bother buying or preparing food he hadn’t been ordered to stop his weekly sojourns. He now walked a mile and a half down the hill to Sweetgum Street, stood for a few moments as if admiring the minivan that had been smashed into the light pole there since June, and returned home.

Friday mornings were spent in the attic running diagnostics on the Housemind while Friday afternoons were occupied with making unanswered telephone calls to neighbors who hadn’t visited recently.

Weekends were for inspection of the house’s interior: changing bedclothes, dusting the places the Housemind’s tiny drones could not reach, making sure the canned foodstuffs left in the pantry were not souring.

Every day after making a final once-over of the house and its grounds, Argus bid the Housemind goodnight and stepped into his closest at ten o’clock, leaving the empty house to bask beneath the blackened and pock-marked moon.

*

One day in September three men, a woman, and a small girl came down the dusty yellow road, heading toward town. They were each dressed in rags and coats. Two of the men pushed shopping carts piled high with cans, boxes, plastic bottles, and a half-dozen or so coloring books. A large bearded fellow led the way, cradling a shotgun in his arms expectantly. One of the men pushing the carts also had a shotgun hanging at his side, but the other man and the woman carried only pistols. It happened that this day in the lonesome September was a Monday. Argus was mowing the lawn as the party appeared over the hill. The leader, when he first saw the glitter of sunlight on Argus’s head, shouted something and swung his shotgun to the ready. The young woman cringed, pulled the child to her. The small girl jingled like a set of keys due to a band of bells looped around her neck on pink string.

The other two men readied their firearms. Argus recognized the signs of danger and did what was appropriate: his hands came off the handle of the mower and reached out, empty, alongside his head.

“Christ, Burt,” said the second man with a shotgun, stepping around the leader to get a better look. “He’s just a tinman.”

Burt grunted, the haggard growth of beard on his face rippling like the pelt of a snarling cat.

“He’s mowing the goddamn lawn, Burt. I’m near blind and even I can see that,” the other man said, fingering the rim of a pair of cracked spectacles resting across his nose. “And you know as well as I do that it doesn’t affect mechs, the only thing they got to worry about is being smashed up by the caravans. And besides, what’s buckshot gonna do at this distance?”

The bespectacled man dropped his shotgun and stepped forward to stand between Burt’s barrel and Argus. “We don’t mean to hurt you,” he called, squinting through the cracks in his glasses.

“Thank you, sir,” Argus replied.

“That means you can put your arms down.”

“Of course.”

“Keep on doing your work. We’ll talk more when we get down there, yeah?”

“If you wish so, sir.”

*

“Hello,” Argus said to the group as they drew abreast of him. He stopped the mower and bowed his head. “My name is Argus of the Allendale family. I am sorry to say Mr. Allendale is not in right now. In accordance with the Mandate, the family has vacated the premises until further notice. If you should like to leave a message, I will be more than happy to relay it to Mr. Allendale upon his return.”

The bespectacled man wiped a dirty hand across his brow. “We don’t know your Allendale. We’re travelers, you might say, all from out east. My name’s Jack, from Ohio. This is Burt from Illinois, then Ray from Vermont.” The men nodded.

“And then,” Jack continued, “the pretty young lady is Judy and her cousin Terry, who we picked up on our way through Kansas.”

“If you will pardon me,” Argus interrupted, “while I am most pleased to meet all of you, if you have no business with Mr. Allendale, I will have to say goodbye and get back to my chores. If you are solicitors I should have you know that even if you choose to leave a message Mr. Allendale will not respond.”

Jack returned his attention to the tinman. “Look, I’m sorry, we’re not salesmen. Or anything much, really. We’re just trying to make our way out to Seattle. They say there’s still people there. Not like the caravans… and sure as hell not like the walkers.”

Argus cocked his head to show puzzlement. “I am sorry. I do not understand.”

Jack’s eyes widened as he and his fellow travelers exchanged looks. “You don’t know?”

“I do not know what? I am sorry. I do not understand. If you wish to leave a message for the Allendales I will be happy to relay it to them.”

“Of course he doesn’t know,” sighed Burt. “He’s a goddamn tinman, Jack. He’s not gonna be any use.”

“When did… when did the Allendales leave, Argus?” Jack asked.

“The eighteenth of April, in accordance with the Government Mandate. The sabbatical is indefinite.”

Terry, who until now had been studying the tinman with a mixture of deep interest and deeper unease, turned to Judy. “He’s been alone all this time?”

“It’s all right,” Judy said, hugging the girl. “I’m sure Argus’s been okay with being alone, haven’t you, Argus?”

“I am performing optimally.”

“Argus,” Jack said, “you have to listen and understand something. You know about what happened, right? In New York? And DC?”

“Of course,” Argus chirruped. “What would you like to know? I am sorry I cannot provide live news feeds, those servers appear to be down.”

“Argus, those places are gone. There’s nothing there, it’s all burnt up. Hell, even… haven’t you looked up at the moon? You don’t know anything about that, Argus?”

“I am sorry,” said the tinman. “I do not understand. Would you like to leave a message for Mr. Allendale?”

Jack sighed. “Listen, Argus, if you can help us in any way–”

“I would be happy to aid you in any manner that does not infringe on my present orders.”

“Right, of course. Now, Argus, if we left could you come with us?”

“It is my duty to tend to the house while the family is away.”

“Could you give us any weapons or supplies or–”

“If you would like Mr. Allendale’s business card I may fetch one presently.”

“No, Argus, what I mean is, if you have any weapons, any guns or bullets — or any food…”

“Food will not be served until the Allendales return. If you wish to make a dinner date, please tell me which day of the week you prefer, as well as any favorite dishes or allerg–”

“Goddammit, Jack,” said Burt, “if we need the food we can just go into the house and take it. He can’t hurt us. They programmed that into them.”

Argus swiveled his head, his crystal eyes shining, to look at Burt. “You are threatening force, sir. I will warn you once more, after which if you do not vacate the premises I shall summon the authorities.”

Burt laughed. “Authorities? What authority you know of that’s left?”

“I am afraid I don’t understand. If you continue to threaten–”

“Shut the hell up!” Burt snarled.

Terry jumped, her necklace of bells jingling as she wrapped her arm around Judy’s waist. Her cousin bent down, embracing the child and whispering to her while Ray looked on with empathy.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Jack asked Burt, Argus forgotten for the moment.

“I’m trying to make sure we live long enough to make it over the damn mountains, Jack. It seems one of us is gonna have to–”

“You’re making sure we live, Burt? Cause last I remember, it was us who made sure you lived. Remember St. Louis?” Though he was the smaller man, Jack spoke sternly. He held Burt’s eyes with his own for a long moment, waiting, and then–

Burt looked away, chuffing.

“Argus,” Jack said, “we understand if you can’t help us. You do what you have to do.”

“Of course, sir.”

“But listen… there’s something behind us. Things behind us. We managed to outrun them because they’re not very fast, but they can track you, they just smell something and have to follow. They — they used to be people, but not anymore. I don’t mean like the caravans… Jesus, I don’t know if this makes any sense to you.” He cleared his throat.

“They’ll look like people, Argus, and I don’t think they’ll hurt you because of what you are, but they’re still dangerous for normal folks like us. So if you can somehow tell the difference between us and… whatever they are… you could…”

“I could what, sir?”

The man’s mouth tightened. “Destroy them.”

Argus paused. “I see, sir. Would you like to leave a message for the Allendales?”

Jack let out a long stream of breath. “Sorry, Argus. We’ll be leaving now,” he said.

“Goodbye sirs, miss, and little miss. Please return when the Allendales are here to receive you.”

Jack had only taken two steps when he stopped, his attention caught by something in the distance. “Argus?”

“Sir?”

“Who lives across the road there, in that old house by the pond?”

“The Clemms, sir.”

“You mean they’re… inside?”

“I imagine not, sir, due to the Mandate. But to be honest they have no Housemind for me to communicate with so I am uncertain. They haven’t answered any calls lately.”

“I see. Goodbye, Argus.”

“Have a pleasant walk.”

*

At seven o’clock, just as the sun was beginning to set and the western horizon to glow over the mountains, there was a rapid knock at the door. Argus, who had been cleaning the dust from the crystal, placed a wineglass delicately on the kitchen counter, dried his hands, and went to answer. “Hello,” he began while opening the door, “my name is Argus. I am sorry to say Mr. Allendale is not–”

“Argus,” said Jack, “we need your help.”

Beside him was Ray, hand clutched to his chest and the sleeve of his ragged jacket stained a deep crimson. Behind him stood Burt, looking as dour as always, and further away Judy attempted to soothe a wailing Terry.

“What is the injury?” said Argus.

“A bite, a possum bite.”

“I am qualified to give first aid and dress wounds. Please, come in.” Argus stepped aside, holding one hand out to welcome them.

*

“If I start to go, promise you’ll shoot me.”

“You’re not gonna start doing anything.”

“There was something wrong with that possum, Jack.”

“It was starving, that’s all.”

Ray hissed through clenched teeth as Argus poured disinfectant over the shallow but bleeding gash on the back of his hand, the liquid sizzling as it dribbled down the sink. Jack leaned in the doorway to the spacious bathroom. “Is it gonna be okay, Argus?”

“It appears superficial. I would still recommend seeing a doctor as soon as possible, however. There is a clinic in town. The Medicmind there tells me there is a free appointment slot as early as tomorrow morning. If you like I can make a res–”

“That’s unnecessary, Argus, but thanks. We’ll get to a doctor… at our next stop.”

“Of course. And the next time you and your friends go out hunting, please be sure to remember that opossums often ‘play dead,’ when they appear to be dead when in fact–”

“I think I learned my lesson, Argus, really,” Ray insisted.

“The bleeding has slowed. Excellent. Please, just a few moments more.” Argus patted Ray’s wound dry and wrapped it in clean white bandages. “Change the dressing daily and be sure to apply disinfectant,” he said, releasing the young man’s hand.

“All right, yeah, no problem,” said Burt, who had been watching silently from behind Jack. “Let’s just get out of here.”

The four of them walked to the front room, where Judy and Terry were looking at pictures hanging on the wall. Every few seconds the pictures changed or switched places in their frames. Some were loops, like the one of Mr. Allendale and his son standing together on the beach, laughing and holding a fat catfish between them. “Do you think they’re still together?” asked Terry.

Judy chewed her lip and was saved from answering as Argus, Ray, Jack, and Burt entered. “Oh, hey,” she said, “what’s the diagnosis?”

“He’ll live,” Burt said, and Ray gave an uncertain frown.

“Well,” sighed Jack, “we’ve been a bother for far too long. Even though it’s late, we’d best be on our way.”

“It was a pleasure having you here.” Argus escorted them to the front door and waved goodbye as the travelers walked out into the night, the sound of Terry’s bells growing fainter as they disappeared into the dark.

*

The following night the alarm went off. Wake up, the Housemind shouted in Argus’s closet, wake up wake up in the pantry wake up wake up.

Soon he was in the pantry holding the intruder by the neck. “Hello again, sir. You are on private property,” Argus said. “The Housemind informs me you have broken the lock on the back door. The local Crimemind has been contacted and the authorities are on their way. Until then I shall restrain you, but please remember that I will not injure you.”

“Go to hell,” Burt growled, the mane of his beard bushed up around his face by Argus’s silver hand. “Go to hell, you mindless piece of–”

“This conversation is being recorded. It may be used as evide–”

Burt swung one leg out, hooking it around the back of Argus’s knee, but the tinman did not even waver. “There are no police coming! Not anymore!” Burt shouted.

“I will detain you while we wait,” Argus told the man, his fingers looped about the man’s neck like a steel collar.

Two hours later, Burt was sobbing, his neck chafing and his fingers sore from clawing at Argus’s hand. “Please, I just — I wasn’t gonna do anything, honestly, I just wanna get back to the others… let me go, please…” His beard, puffed up in a mane around his head, was becoming damp with sweat and tears.

“I was ordered not to tolerate trespassers. If the authorities do not arrive I have the option of presenting you myself.” So Argus wrenched Burt’s arms behind his back and they walked out of the house and all the way down the hill to Sweetgum Street, past the minivan smashed into the light post, past the old grocery store and its sickening stench of rotted vegetables, right up to the municipal building and into the sheriff’s office. They passed through a side office where, in an ergonomic chair, was perched a uniformed skeleton, its head thrown back and a revolver still clutched in one withered hand. A dark brown butterfly was unfurled across the wall behind it.

Burt tried his best to vomit at the scene but Argus was unaffected. He saw only that the station was deserted for the time being, so he fished the keys out of the desk with his free hand and unlocked one of the two cells in the back. Again Burt begged to be let go: “Please, the others don’t know where I went. In the morning they’ll be worried about me.”

“They may come to the Allendale residence searching for you, at which time I will gladly redirect them here, explaining that you broke the law and therefore are obligated to meet with the police.”

“But the police aren’t here! You saw that thing in the office…”

“I do not understand. You will remain here until the police arrive. I will return daily to meet with you. If the authorities are not here, I will act as your caretaker until they arrive, at which point you will be transferred officially into their custody. If your friends have any objections I will advise them to wait as well.”

“There’s no one coming, Argus!”

“The authorities have been contacted and are on their way. I will return home now and visit you again tomorrow.”

Argus was good to his word. The next day he came to the station again, saw that Burt was asleep in his cell, and prepared lunch from the stocks at the empty house on the hill. When the man finally awoke he did not speak, but only accepted the food and ate in morose silence. No one came for him, and for the next two weeks Argus’s routine was expanded. He walked to the station and fixed Burt’s meals in between sets of chores at the house.

Once Burt asked if he could watch television to alleviate his boredom, and Argus complied. There was a small portable set on a rolling cart in a cabinet down the hall, but after Argus went through the trouble of wheeling it down and plugging it in Burt was dismayed to see that no channels were broadcasting save one, a skewed view of an empty news desk. The scene, though live according to the logo in the corner of the screen, was completely still and silent. “Shall you watch this?” asked Argus.

“No,” Burt whispered. “No. Turn it off. Take it away.”

“As you wish.”

*

At the beginning of the third week they came, an unsmiling throng that rushed down the hill toward the town. They shuffled and stumbled over the lawn of the empty house, each one moving with mysterious purpose, drawn by a force beyond an outsider’s perception. They staggered past Argus without even seeming to notice him. One might bump into his polished metal chest every so often, to which he offered a polite “Pardon me,” but they never replied. He couldn’t quite understand why no one responded to his medical advice when he commented on a gash across the forehead or the obvious fracture of an arm or leg.

Many of them had swarmed the municipal building, he discovered later. It was a hassle pressing through to get inside, but soon he made his way to the solitary cell. He found an entire silent horde pressed up to the bars, their arms flailing madly within the bars’ confines. “Please, ladies and gentlemen, move,” he said, pushing them out of the way.

Burt was gone. Something had been splattered across the floor and the walkers at the bars were scooping up handfuls and shoving it into their mouths. Argus returned with a mop to clean up the mess but when he unlocked the cell door the strangers poured past him, swarming the mess, and no matter how much Argus complained they refused to move. When the throng finally fell back there was very little left for him to clean up.

*

The walking throng thinned over the months but did not stop. The weather grew colder; there came a hard snow. Drifts were up to fifteen or twenty feet, and though the house on the hill stood far above the worst of it Argus could not go to town even if he were ordered. In dips between the drifts, pallid green fingers poked out of the snow, frozen in curls. The Clemms’ old home across the road collapsed with a shriek near the end of December. A family of mice took refuge against the cold in the basement of the house on the hill, which kept Argus busy for some time.

Spring came, and with spring came the thaw. The ice on the small pond by the Clemm house thinned and cracked. The curled fingers reaching out of the snow drifts blackened and dripped away, leaving only white bones; there was a rancid stink that, though it did not bother Argus, triggered a latent process in the Housemind across the way, and soon the house on the hill was puffed full of an artificial floral scent.

Then the snow melted in earnest and flooded down into the Clemms’ pond. There was so much runoff the pond grew higher until it was more akin to a lake. It enveloped the ruins of the Clemm home and carried them down the hill, whisking away the skeletal corpse of an opossum that had lain on the kitchen floor since the prior September.

Argus came out when the ground was clear and began his chores, raking away dead leaves and branches and whatever bones hadn’t slipped away in the thaw. He bleached the stone walls, cleared the gutters, and polished the windows. The house had been empty for a year.

*

The third group of travelers came in early August, heading east. Through the house’s expansive back windows Argus saw them as they entered town: a wagon piled high with bags and pulled by a team of horses, followed by smaller but similar wagons carrying weary-looking women and men. Many held their arms protectively around young children, at least one of whom jingled when she moved — though perhaps that was only the sound of the chains binding the legs of these riders to their wagons.

The entire procession was surrounded by two-dozen or more men on horseback, all carrying guns. From his vantage point Argus watched as the menagerie stopped at the old grocery store. Several men smashed the windows before ducking inside and emerging with plastic sacks fattened by cans. The bags were piled onto the wagons before the procession began to move again and the men on horseback spoke to one another, pointing up the hill. Argus saw the gestures, and even though the distance was enough to make him indiscernible to the people below, he thought they were greeting him.

He waved in return as the caravan shifted direction, moving up the hill.

Patrick

New twine piece, playable here.

This is a very short game about having an uncomfortable conversation with a vaguely sinister white guy.

One ending. Or is there? Ask a friend to play and then compare notes.

On related business, Zolani Stewart and Lana Polansky recently posted a podcast in which they discuss the avant-garde in videogames, which is filled with many smart thoughts on these things, and points you to a lot of cool little games to play.  But it also (quite surprisingly!) contains a discussion of my last Twine game, My Father’s Long, Long Legs! I am really excited by the response that game got, which quite frankly has been larger and more supportive than anything I ever expected.

I’ll take this moment to say thank you for reading my posts here, for playing my games, and for generally being a cool person.

unWindr

unWindr

PLEASE remember to stay on-topic and respectful in your reviews.  Our automated system will flag anything that does not discuss the maze or seems inappropriate!

Ian K.

Whitbridge, IN

11/02/2013

unwindr5

 

[Note: This post  is under moderator review for the following reasons: Does Not Discuss Mazes]

Incredibly sad to see this place go, we had some great times here!  I guess from now on for all my cider needs I’ll have to head down to Kellerman’s Cidería, the home of the best spiced apple cider in southern Indiana!

That’s Kellerman’s Cidería, just off Bockhoffer Road on the west side of Whitbridge!

Janice D.

Chicago, IL

11/01/2013

unwindr1

 

Apparently everyone down here is insane, since I remember something about riots in this same area around Halloween last year.  Anyway, I saw the crazy woman myself, standing in the flames with her gas can in hand and barking like a dog (????) as the corn maze burned down around her.  At one point I saw her pick up this screaming toddler and chuck him right into the flames!  That might have been a hallucination though, I’ll have to talk with my therapist.  Plus I’d been breathing in a lot of smoke.

And of course, it being Halloween last night, the place was packed — screaming everywhere, people trampled underfoot.  THAT wasn’t all a hallucination.  Jesus.  They still don’t have a count of casualties beyond an estimate, and several people are still missing.  Even the town’s mayor was there, and no one can find him now.

All in all, not a very fun experience.  If it’s representative of trips to this venue, I would NOT recommend going.  The apple cider was good, though, and made for a quick and delicious way to put out my shirt when it caught fire.

George L.

 

10/30/2013

unwindr5

 

[Note: This post  is under moderator review for the following reasons: Does Not Discuss Mazes]

almost ripe

almost harvest

Corey A.

Indianapolis, IN

10/25/2013

unwindr5

 

Well, it’s that time of year again! We all know once autumn hits corn mazes pop up left and right here in Indiana, and those of us on unWindr take a break from searching out the best meditational labyrinths and hedge installations to experience these quaint seasonal projects — there’s something special about a maze that’ll be gone soon, lost to the elements, and built anew next year. Of course, with so many of these all over the state, the question becomes which ones are worth your time?

I have to tell you, the Harvest Maze out on the old Frumhel land (forget the stories you’ve heard) outside of Whitbridge is DEFINITELY one of the must-visits this season! After a rough start a few years back things are finally taking off for this amazing maze of maize!

The mayor himself is apparently in charge here, which tells you this place is of vital importance to the town.  A sort of farmer’s market has grown up around it, so there are plenty of pumpkins, squashes, and other fall produce to buy, freshly made cider, candy apples, etc. Hay rides are given in the evening and every Fri/Sat/Sun the maze’s “Spooky Hour” is accented with a creepy soundtrack and locals in goofy costumes jumping out and saying boo. (Note: younger kids may not find this so great! Our daughter is prone to nightmares so we left her to play with the son of the woman running the front stand, but she must have heard us talking about some of the “spooky” stuff, and she’s not sleeping well!)

The maze itself is of a surprisingly high quality and complex design for what is normally an amateur job. The paths are looping and intricate, and confounded even an experienced unWindr such as myself. You bet we’ll be back next year!

Tracey P.
Cincinnati, OH
10/15/2013

unwindr4

 

We were in town visiting some friends, and lemme say, in Ohio we tend to look down on corn mazes (my family comes from a long line of die-hard hedgers). Hate to admit it, but this competes with the best! Tons of fun for all ages, by turns goofy and creepy and charming. Everything an autumn activity should be!

The hot cider is exellent, some of the best I’ve ever had, and an absolute must if you visit. The cider, according to the man who served was, was his own family recipe, so it was really great to see that this place had so much history already!

Still, it’s not the perfect corn maze experience — at one point during the journey I smelled something rotten, as if there was some bad corn or something just behind the path.  It can happen this time of year, especially if harvest is being put off, but still.

Erica D.
Haymeadow, IN
10/10/2013

unwindr4

 

My boyfriend and I love the caramel apples at this place and also the cider! We wish there was an orchard so you could pick your own apples too but still you can get a discount for produce and the hayride together so it’s a good deal.

The people who run the maze have a little shack out front where they sell the cider and local farmers sell produce, and the lady behind the counter has the cutest little kid! The poor thing sits in a little car seat most of the time and he’s just so small and cute!!!

Also don’t go into the maze without the guides because it is VERY easy to get lost!!!!!

Anna N.
Indianapolis, IN
10/09/2013

unwindr1

 

The doctors let me out on good behavior.  I told them everything they needed to hear, which is to say I lied.

Can you lie, when you don’t really understand what you’re lying about?

I don’t know what’s happening with this maze, not really.  And I’m beyond wanting to know.  But I think I know how to stop it.

~—~

Kelly R.
Whitbridge, IN
10/31/2012

unwindr5

 

Amazing point of pride for Whitbridge, definitely one of the best seasonal mazes out there.  Plenty of challenge without any of the hassle. Really took our minds off all the stuff that happened over in Haymeadow.  Mayor Louis made a speech here last night about how much work it took to harvest a field in the olden days, and how we can kind of think of ourselves like that now: we’re all part of something greater.  I like that idea, because it’s times like these our community needs to stick together.

George L.

 

10/30/2012

unwindr5

 

[Note: This post has been removed for the following reasons: Does Not Discuss Mazes]

Shuxin J.
Columbus, OH
10/24/2012

unwindr4

 

On my way back from seeing the labyrinth in New Harmony I had to detour because of an accident (heard later there were riots or something nearby — wow!) so I ended up driving by this place and decided to check it out. An excellent maze all around, with plenty to see and do. If you can believe it, I actually got lost a couple times! (Check my review history to see how uncommon this is.)

A little displeased with how there were obviously folks in costume stalking behind the rows at five in the afternoon despite the signs outside clearly stating that the “Spooky Hour” didn’t begin until 8. I imagine most of the people employed for the job are bored teenagers or elementary school volunteers, but at least give them something to do other than pretend to try and grab folks just out for a leisurely maze crawl.

PS. Even though it’s not related to the maze specifically, the cider is excellent!

Luke B.
Indianapolis, IN
10/22/2012

unwindr2

 

This place is awful. My girlfriend Liz came here last year (before we started dating) and when fall came she wouldn’t STOP talking about going back. We get here, and what does she do? Breaks up with me right on the spot and then turns and walks straight into the maze without saying goodbye! I didn’t see her again that night and she’s not answering my calls.

Sorry I guess this isn’t the maze’s fault. Just a lot of bad memories.

If you go try the cider, despite everything I’ve said it’s excellent.

Whitney R.
Chicago, IL
10/20/2012

unwindr3

 

Me and my sorority sisters came down from Bloomington to check this out. It’s supposed to be super creepy. Like years and years ago this old crazy dude and his family had a farm there, and they were like serial killers or whatever.  All Texas Chainsaw Massacre or whatever. It’s probably bullsh*t but that’s the story I heard.

Anyway we came during Spooky Hour and the spookiest part was was Elena realized her Uggs were completely caked with mud.  The maze itself had little to no challenge (back in high school the cheer squad did better designs out of gym mats for our Homecoming Labyrinths) and any scares the dudes hiding behind the corn might have tried to pull off were all undercut by this place apparently only employing six-year-olds wearing what looked like plastic bags over their heads, which is probably against some law or whatever.  I’ll have to ask my social policy professor.

Cider and hayride was fun, though.

Ian K.

Whitbridge, IN

10/19/2012

unwindr1

 

[Note: This post has been removed for the following reasons: Does Not Discuss Mazes]

~—~

Liz O.
Indianapolis, IN
11/02/2011

unwindr4

 

After reading all the lukewarm reviews, we were a little wary. But we needed something to do, and because some other plans fell through, we came down for Spooky Hour! What a surprise!

The maze itself is probably the single creepiest experience I’ve ever had. At one point I got turned around and realized my friends had gone on without me, but I couldn’t figure out which direction they had gone. I thought I had a better memory than that, but the paths all seemed to blend together, and even though I could hear sounds from other people in the maze or from the cider stand and hayrides, there’s something about the valley where the field sits that makes it seem like sounds are always coming from different places.

What’s amazing about all this is that most corn mazes have a bunch of dudes jumping out to scare you, and creepy music playing, this was totally not like that. It almost felt like the field was completely empty except for me, and I would simply wander the twisted paths of the corn for the rest of my life, alone, until I lay down on the brittle earth and my body withered like the corn husks and my insides crumbled into the earth to feed the corn, to grow, to build, to burst forth with new teeming and more deserving life, the beautiful children of a new era.

Haha wow!  What a great time!

There was a little distraction where the police showed up and arrested some woman who was making a scene in the parking lot, shouting at people and crying about her dog or something. But you can’t blame the venue for a crazy person showing up, right?

Also, the cider was incredible.  Last time I drank cider at Kellerman’s, I thought I’d never stop throwing up, but after a single glass of this stuff I couldn’t stop!

George L.

 

10/30/2011

unwindr5

 

each season we reinaugurate the old rites

we cast our offerings to the thirsty earth and wait

do not fear being lost to the new veins we have scratched into the dry dust of this planet

only by being lost in the maze will you find yourself

Evan C.
Whitbridge, IN
10/28/2011

unwindr2

 

Snore-fest, and confusing to boot. One of the old stories is that when Old Man Frumhel was making his corn mazes back in olden times or whatever he always did it by looking at the stars? I don’t know, that’s supposed to be creepy I guess, but the murder parts of the old stories were always creepier.

Anyway I think the people running this place now are still using constellations or whatever to make the mazes because it took us over an hour to find our way through and it was boring as sh*t.

Most exciting point? My little brother almost fell in this huge hole that was right there in the middle of the path. Smelled awful, like a septic tank. Safety hazard much????

Anna N.
Indianapolis, IN
10/25/2011

unwindr1

 

This year I’ve been parking across the road and keep track of how many people go into this maze, and not all of them are coming out.

I can’t get the police to believe me, but if you’re reading this review, please, DO NOT GO TO THIS PLACE.

Ian K.

Whitbridge, IN

10/24/2011

unwindr1

 

[Note: This post has been removed for the following reasons: Does Not Discuss Mazes]

Dalia T.
Boulder, CO
10/21/2011

unwindr2

 

Good cider. Maybe you should drink a few before going into the maze, because you certainly won’t get any fun out of that. The design is unininspired, if not insipid, and the workmanship is shoddy — the edges of the paths are uneven, there are various weeds growing amongst the corn to begin with, and the costumes the kids are wearing here are not scary at all.  The “skin sloughing from my face like dead leaves” look is so cliche for an autumn maze like this.  Plus, who’s scared of kids?

~—~

Anna N.
Indianapolis, IN
11/15/2010

unwindr1

 

The police won’t help me. Apparently the woman was telling the truth, somehow — the cops are also telling me her kids were “with their father.” So then who took Champ?  And I thought she only had one kid?

I came by after the maze closed. I could hear barking in the cornfield, out there in the maze.  I know I heard it.

Thomas N.
Bloomington, IN
11/01/2010

unwindr3

 

I have seen a road sign for this place every fall when I drive to or from Indianapolis, and one day I finally checked it out. It’s off the beaten path, and down a windy road off of 37. When you don’t know where you’re going, sometimes distances feel a lot longer than they really are – don’t be discouraged by the drive – it’s really only a couple of minutes.

We got there at the very end of the day. There is a small house-like structure with the maze out back. We didn’t have time to go through the maze, which is okay because I’m more a hobbyist in that area than anything. We had some of their fresh apple cider (pressed the day we were there) and it was pretty good.

The best part was the view off of their side balcony overlooking the maze at sunset.  The woman who was minding the store had her kid with her (some poor little boy who talked very well but he’s still not old enough to be out of a car seat, bless his soul) but he was very well behaved.

It’s worth a stop if you’re a big cider fan like me (do NOT go to Kellerman’s Cideria!  Yuck!!), and enjoy a break in the really boring drive from Haymeadow to Indy.

George L.

 

10/30/2010

unwindr5

 

[Note: This post has been removed for the following reasons: Does Not Discuss Mazes]

Josh W.
Ann Arbor, MI
10/23/2010

unwindr3

 

Pretty ok place. People working in the farmer’s market can be a bit touchy, but I guess that’s just how the region is.

I asked the woman behind the main counter what was wrong with her kid and she got really offended.  Jesus lady, I just wanted to know!  Anyway I got lost in the maze for two hours but I’d brought my unWindr gear so I had plenty of granola bars.  As I said an ok place, I’ve been lost in better mazes.

Anna N.
Indianapolis, IN
10/19/2010

unwindr1

 

So I tried again to do the maze with Champ this year. I waited until the awful woman behind the counter wasn’t looking and then dashed for the entrance to the maze, but her creepy little sh*thead kid came out of nowhere and said he’d watch my dog for me while I went through the maze.

Well what was I supposed to do? I mean sure the kid couldn’t have been more than four (or a really small six, and Jesus that skin thing he has) but I didn’t want to look like I had been trying to break the rules, so I handed Champ over and went through the maze (time: 45 minutes. difficulty: medium-low).

I came back out and asked for Champ — but the woman at the counter said she had no idea what I was talking about. I told her that her kid took my dog while I went through the corn maze, and she told me her son was “staying with his father” this week.

You better believe I’m calling the cops.

Ian K.

Whitbridge, IN

10/18/2010

unwindr1

 

[Note: This post has been removed for the following reasons: Does Not Discuss Mazes]

Jessica R.
Whitbridge, IN
10/17/2010

unwindr2

 

The Frumhel land has been sitting derelict for I don’t know how long, but finally the town seems to want to do something with it. Mayor Louis owns the land, apparently, since he’s related to the Frumhels some way back. Can you imagine that, someone related to that family is now the mayor of this town?

Anyway, his generosity is appreciated, but unfortunately, just about every corn maze a bit further out of town is better in every way. As a lifelong Whitbridgean I hate to say this, but even the Haymeadow Muncipal Fall Fair has more to offer.

It’s just tepid cider, a walking path, and kids in terrible masks.  Mayor Louis gave an interview with the Whitbridge Gazette recently where he promised “great things were coming,” but I honestly think his son running away from home last year is starting to get to him.

~—~

Alberto H.
Chicago, IL
11/02/2009

unwindr3

 

Staff woefully insolent and inattentive, available conveniences and souvenirs subpar. Not an auspicious beginning to this maze, which apparently was only recently established.

For an experienced unWindr such as myself, however, this is all secondary.

Design and layout of the maze, while rough, show that someone here has a lot of potential. Not necessarily professionally trained, but I swear one of the paths looped into a Gordian Hexaknot, a formation I haven’t seen outside of certain Incan ruins. If the maze designer from Podunk, Indiana came up with that independently, I eagerly await to see what they will do once they have a few years of practice under their belt.

Nick J.
Haymeadow, IN
11/01/2009

unwindr1

 

You might think I’m biased because I’m from Haymeadow, but seriously this place sucks hard. It’s one thing if you have a sad little shack at the front of a sad maze. But the people here are kind of awful. My wife overheard the woman running the place yelling “Stop!” and a bunch of other stuff at someone in the back of the little shack (Probably one of her kids, the little *ssholes were running all over the place) and she didn’t come out to wait on us for like 15 whole minutes after we got there. The cider is not that good, but you can at least sample its mediocre glory for $1 for a small cup. Don’t try paying at the back where they actually pour the cider though and, for god’s sakes, don’t try paying with a credit card because they’ll act like they’ve never seen one.

This is typical Whitbridge for me though: something that should be charming and endearing is ruined by the people running it.

Shanna D.
Mooresville, IN
10/31/2009

unwindr2

 

Even though the woman working here says it’s not supposed to be a scary corn maze, the piles of empty clothes scattered around the paths are pretty d*mn creepy.

George L.

 

10/30/2009

unwindr5

 

[Note: This post  has been removed for the following reasons: Does Not Discuss Mazes]

George L.

 

10/30/2009

unwindr1

 

I found it.  The exit to the maze.  A hole in the center. The only way out is to go deeper

George L.

 

10/30/2009

unwindr1

 

Please please help jesus christ what is wrong with this maze where is everyone Trish wouldn’t stop crying and then Brandon went off the path I told him not to because I heard it moving out there but he didn’t listen I don’t know where Trish went either or Sam or Ashley and its too dark but I can hear them and I can hear something else something following me there’s someone out there beyond the path I can’t leave the path I can’t I won’t help me help me help me

George L.

 

10/30/2009

unwindr1

 

[Note: This post has been removed for the following reasons: Does Not Discuss Mazes]

George L.

 

10/30/2009

unwindr1

 

[Note: This post has been removed for the following reasons: Profanity]

George L.

 

10/30/2009

unwindr1

 

IF SOMEONE DOESN’T SEE THIS SOON AND HELP US WE’RE GOING TO JUST BREAK DOWN THE F*CKING CORN AND STOMP OUR WAY OUT OF THIS MAZE

George L.

 

10/30/2009

unwindr1

 

First, thank god I got this iPhone and 3g.

Second, so I think we’re fucking lost. We’ve been in this dumb*ss corn maze for like an hour and a half now and for some reason my calls out won’t go out but I can still log into this maze fetishist site, so FYI this is NOT A REVIEW, we actually need help. The maze closes in a few hours and no matter how much we shout it seems like the idiots out at the front can’t hear us! I’ll have my dad fire all of them when I’m out.

George L.

Whitbridge, IN

10/30/2009

unwindr2

 

Everyone at school was sort of excited when my dad said they he was going to put up a corn maze here. Our family has owned the land for years (since-you-know-when) and it’s seriously one of the creepiest spots in town — we all grew up telling each other stories about the terrible things Old Man Frumhel did, even if almost all of it’s probably made up.

Anyway Brandon thought it would be fun if we came out today to check it out, and even though it’s a grand opening, you wouldn’t know it. It’s this rinky-dink little place with crappy cider (that I think they just bought at Wal-mart? I think even Kellerman’s could do better) and we’re going through the maze right now and there’s not even anything creepy about it. Of course dad said it wouldn’t be good publicity to have a “haunted” corn maze since this area has such a reputation already.

Anna N.
Indianapolis, IN
10/27/2009

unwindr1

 

They say dogs are allowed but when we showed up with our terrier the woman behind the counter was all “I’m sorry no dogs in the maze.” APPARENTLY they just mean it’s okay to have dogs walking around the crappy little farmer’s market they have?

Well listen, I know we’re all diehard unWindrs here, but we need to remember that not all unWindrs walk on two legs, you get what I mean? Champ has sniffed his way through bigger and better mazes than this podunk piece of crap. While we were vacationing in Europe he slipped his leash in Le Grande Labyrinthe and when we finally came out the other side TWO DAYS LATER he was already there waiting for us.

But Champ and I, we take this as a challenge. We’ll unwind this dumb corn maze, just you wait and see.

Ian K.

Whitbridge, IN

10/21/2009

unwindr1

 

[Note: This post has been removed for the following reasons: Does Not Discuss Mazes]

The Tower of the Blood Lord

I mentioned a while ago that I was going to make a twine game (ie, a hypertext game) about a haunted house, which is a thing I still have in the works.  But in the meanwhile, I’ve made a twine game called The Tower of the Blood Lord, which is based on the time I played the first twenty minutes of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.  Obviously 20 minutes isn’t a lot, so you’ll have to forgive me for some of the liberties I take with the game’s overall narrative arc.

Play it online here.

I figured it’s probably appropriate to lay out some of my thanks and acknowledgements for this project in this space.  I’ve been playing a lot of twine games lately, and they’ve all taught me something about the form (though there’s much more yet to learn, I know).  The first one I played several months ago, for the record, was Mastaba Snoopy by gods17, and I instantly fell in love both with that story and with this platform.

Porpentine‘s work in twine is basically some of the best there is.  Of particular influence on Blood Lord was the rightly famous Howling Dogs, though she does amazing work all the time.  Some I want to point out: All I Want Is for All My Friends to Become Insanely Powerful is beautiful and weird and makes me super stupidly happy every time I play through it.  There’s also (very NWS, and also triggers for some sexual violence, regular violence) Cyberqueen, which is terrifying and darkly hilarious and disgusting and the best System Shock sequel we never got.  J Chastain’s Rat Chaos also moved me in the weird surreal seriocomic way all of Chastain’s work does.

Leon Arnott does a lot of Twine-specific coding, and I’ve used plenty of it in my game.  I explained to a friend that while I was writing and testing it often felt like I was walking into Arnott’s office and digging through his desk while he was too busy doing a sudoku or something to notice me.  Anyway, he has his own usual and striking games.

Very, very good examples of twine games with less of a direct influence on Blood Lord include Anna Anthropy’s Aegis Wing and Conversations with My Mother by Merritt Kopas.  Just in case you were wondering.

Other influences on Blood Lord: Metal Gear Solid, because of videogame military magic realism, John Milton for describing how angels have sex in Paradise Lost, John Crowley’s 600-page fairy tale Little, Big, which I am about two-thirds through and it is rattling in my head a lot, and lastly, the newest album by the Handsome Family, Wilderness.

Also thanks to my friends Spam and Victor for the reading and debugging they did with Blood Lord!!!!

‘scrow

Forums  >  Regional  >  Indiana  >  Haymeadow  >  Community Chat  >  WARNING: ‘scrow VANDALS in town
Feathertop31

Hey everyone this is just a WARNING that some YOUNG PUNKS keep MOVING the ‘scrow in my front garden when I’m not lookin!  Just the basic burlap-head model with the straw/hay mixed stuffing I posted in the WIP thread a few days ago.  Gets moved around the house, sometimes right up to my window!

Happened 2 or 3 times yesterday.  Watch your ‘scrows, people.

10/22/2012 10:02 am
JohnCrane

…What is the point of mixing straw AND hay?

10/22/2012 10:05 am

stickupmya

wow great feathertop handy tip its not like we need to know where in town we might expect these vandals or anything

10/22/2012 10:06 am

Cucurbitaphile

Feathertop, that’s terrible news indeed.  I suppose one should expect such shenanigans, what with the holiday drawing on and all, but still – I was first charmed by Haymeadow because I thought this town had, on the whole, better character than that.  Completely unlike Whitbridge, where the hooligans from the local middle school would savage our poor ‘scrows every chance they got, stamping on those delicate pumpkin heads…

Oh, but I digress.  Feathertop, has the vandalism only been in regards to the positioning of the ‘scrow, or was there physical damage beyond that?

EDIT: And while I am loath to agree with the ill mannered and poorly named fellow above, it might be helpful to know in which section of town the punks are operating.

JohnCrane, the straw/hay mixture is well known to provide a pleasant fragrance for the ‘scrow.  This is elementary and I’m surprised to see you asking.

10/22/2012 10:08 am [edited 10/22/2012 10:09 am]

JohnCrane

Why use straw and hay for “a pleasant fragrance” when there are so many affordable prescented artificial stuffings on the market?  Just a thought…

10/22/2012 10:11 am

‘ScroWiccan

some people, perhaps feathertop included, enjoy all-natural ‘scrows, as they feel it honors the earthworking tradition. just a thought, johncrane, but for now keep your peddling to your own thread…

10/22/2012 10:12 pm

Feathertop31

Sorry all heat of the moment and everything.  These VANDALS if I had to guess are operating on the SOUTHEAST CORNER of town, I’m between COVENANTER DR and MOORES PIKE, just beside the OLD CEMETERY.  If anyone in the area can report SIMILAR INCIDENTS we’ll have a better idea.  I’ve already asked my neighbor and gotten a negative but anyone else should pipe up.

Also thanks for your concern Cucurbitaphile but the ‘scrow is mostly unharmed.  As I said the punks are just MOVIN my ‘scrow so when I look out my kitchen window I see him where he should be but later I’ll realize he’s been moved to one of the ‘scrow poles in my sideyard or backyard.  TOTALLY out of season and TACKY!!!  But no lasting harm done.

10/22/2012 10:15 am

Mannikin

Feathertop I’m on the north side, as you know, but do you think there’s a chance these vandals might work up my way?  I’m really worried that my Hall of ‘Scrows might be in jeopardy.  The kids in my neighborhood love it during trick-or-treating and I’d hate to have it get all mucked up this year?

Manny McNamara, Straw, Baling & More
Creator of the Famous Hall of ‘Scrows in the Sandybrook Subdivision!
10/22/2012 10:17 am

stickupmya

shut the f*** up manny you and your 1% can lock the gates against any onslaught of working class teens don’t worry the iphones and ugg boots you used to dress up your d*** scarecrows will be alright

10/22/2012 10:19 am

Strawoman

Just a friendly reminder from your forum moderator that a civil tone should be maintained throughout your discussions here on ‘Scrow!  Also, note that we’re called ‘Scrow for a reason — we’re enthusiasts and experts, not laypersons, and we speak accordingly.

10/22/2012 10:22 am

stickupmya

if you abbreviate scarecrow it would be s’crow not ‘scrow and its the dumbest bullsh** that you expect us all to talk like halfwits

USER WAS BANNED FOR THIS POST
10/22/2012 10:23 am

RaggedyAndy87

Hey Feather Top my home’s over on Pickwick Lane so I’m just on the other side of the cemetery from you and I noticed the ‘scrows we have on our frontyard moving too!  I heard our dog barking and when I went out front both ‘scrows moving almost like they were going to stand up but I remembered last year (*sigh*) and figured there were rats nesting in the straw again.  So my wife stayed inside and I got the broom and knocked the ‘scrows over a couple times and I’m sorry to say they fell apart but it looks like the hay was infested with some kind of centipedes?  A whole nest of them I think but they scattered into the grass.  Anyway this is just another warning for folks in the area its been a damp fall so I guess we got centipedes to watch out for.

edit: I think my dog got bit by one of the centipedes is this bad?  Should I take him to the vet?

10/22/2012 10:26 am [edited 10/22/2012 10:29 am]

Strawoman

Please keep all pet-related talk confined to the appropriate subforum!  Thanks!

10/22/2012 10:30 am

Cucurbitaphile

It wouldn’t surprise me at all, come to think of it, if these vandals weren’t locals at all, or even youths, but some of the more bitter Whitbridge ‘scrow enthusiasts who are simply jealous of the Haymeadow contingent’s work in the county 4-H fairs.  Feathertop, I know it is horribly rude to ask, but are you by chance the lady who nabbed the blue ribbon in the middle division this past August?  I sent you the same question over Private Message but you have yet to respond.

10/22/2012 10:42 am

JuGgAsCrOw420

HAHA yeah that’s prbbly it!!!  Those witbridge boys have been total ‘SCROWNIES since b4 ‘scrownies were even around!!!!! Hey who wants 2 lead a War of Retliation maybe go over to witbridge and cause some wIcKeD mAyHeM?????

-JuGgAsCrOw OUT

10/22/2012 10:51 am

Bodach-rocais

Haymeadow’s ‘scrow rivalry with Whitbridge is both longstanding and intensely honorable.  I doubt they would resort to such tactics, especially so close to the holiday, and I absolutely assure you, very few citizens of Whitbridge would qualify as ‘scrownies.  If you wanted to see such dilettante manchildren in action, salivating over the prospect of their next Star Wars or anime-theme ‘scrow (I shudder to even use that word in relation to such abominations) then you’d be much better off to check out the ‘scrow subreddit.

10/22/2012 11:00

JuGgAsCrOw420

Hey now that’s uncalled for what r u soem sorta witbridge pansy i noticed you have your location pvt r u really from Haymeadow??? lol sCrOwNeD

-JuGgAsCrOw OUT

10/22/2012 11:03

Bodach-rocais

I only had to Google your username, Juggascrow, and was quickly able to discern that you’ve been a frequent poster on r/scrows for sometime.  How typical.

10/22/2012 11:05

Feathertop31

Ok finally ENOUGH is ENOUGH.  Ever since makin this thread the trouble with my ‘scrow has only got WORSE.  Just now as I was steppin out for lunch I found my ‘scrow layin RIGHT OUTSIDE MY FRONT DOOR.  If these are KIDS then they’re playin hooky.  I’m also startin to feel paranoid that MAYBE its someone in this thread but I expect better of this community.

10/22/2012 11:06

Strawoman

Please keep discussion civil and refrain from meta-discourse about the operations of ‘scrow discussion venues other than ‘Scrow itself.

Edit: Feathertop, I feel obligated to ask, have you considered contacting the authorities?

10/22/2012 11:06 [edited 10/22/2012 11:07 am]

Mannikin

Heads-up folks even though I’m on the other side of town I think we got similar or related vandals operating up here in Sandybrook.  Just noticed a few of the exhibits in my Hall of ‘Scrows are outright missing.

Manny McNamara, Straw, Baling & More
Creator of the Famous Hall of ‘Scrows in the Sandybrook Subdivision!
10/22/2012 11:10  am

RaggedyAndy87

I know I’ve been warned about this by Strawoman but just fyi folks as a GENERAL WARNING if you notice some sort of centipede infestation in your ‘scrows keep your pets away from them, I’m taking my dog to the vet now he’s really sick.  I found some of the centipedes in the grass still this what they look like just for reference

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10/22/2012 11:13 am

WhitbridgeScrowMaster

That’s not what centipedes look like at all, you halfwit Hayseed.

USER WAS BANNED FOR THIS POST
10/22/2012 11:16 am

Strawoman

Andy, that post might be better suited to the Garden Pests Megathread.  Just a thought…

10/22/2012 11:19 am

Cucurbitaphile

Feathertop, I second the concern voiced by Strawoman.  Have you contacted the authorities yet?  It might be advisable at this point.  (Additionally, but off topic: in case you didn’t see my earlier post, please check your Private Messages.)

10/22/2012 11:20 am

TATDAD

SORRY IF THIS IS THE WRONG THREAD BUT I AM NEW TO THE SCROW THING AND WAS WONDERING IF I COULD GET BULK DISCOUNT FLANNEL SHIRTS AND OVERALLS ANYWHERE OUTSIDE OF INDIANAPOLIS THANKS

10/22/2012 11:31 am

Strawoman

TATDAD, you’ll find the appropriate thread for your questions is the sticky at the top of the Haymeadow General ‘Scrow subforum, ‘Scrows for Scrubs.  Good luck!

10/22/2012 11:33 am

Frankelbom

I noticed the possible vandalism in the thread title and just dropped into this thread to see if it was at all related to the sirens I’m hearing right now?  Did they catch the ‘scrow vandals?

edit: No never mind, reading the thread I’m not anywhere near Covenanter and Moore’s Pike

edit: THE SIRENS WERE IN THE DIRECTION OF SANDYSTONE THOUGH????

10/22/2012 11:41 am [edited 10/22/2012 11:42 am] [edited 10/22/2012 11:44 am]

HotMama2

The sirens are probably going to Northside Highschool my daughter is in the ‘scrow club there and she said during their drills some of the kids had an allergic reaction to the straw being used.

10/22/2012 11:50 am

JohnCrane

Heh! This is precisely why people should switch to reusable plastic or nylon stuffing.  Serves those kids right.

10/22/2012 11:52 am

HotMama2

Excuse me but my daughter and her friends in the ‘scrow club allergic or not do not deserve a remark that is frankly rude.

10/22/2012 11:54 am

JohnCrane

Frankly, “HotMama2,” I’m merely observing the fact that your brood wouldn’t have to worry about things like bad straw if artificial stuffings were more widely used in the ‘scrow community.  It’s the wave of the future and you’re a bumpkin if you’re not embracing it.

10/22/2012 11:56 am

Cucurbitaphile

The last thing I want to see in this thread is you ascending to the ever lofty heights of your soapbox, JohnCrane.  Some of us prefer our ‘scrows to be one-hundred percent biodegradable, for the obvious environmental benefit.  Like the plants they protect, ‘scrows should be made entirely of and ready to return to Mother Nature.

10/22/2012 12:00 pm

‘ScroWiccan

cucurbitaphile, i know we don’t see eye-to-eye very often, but i find myself sympathetic to your desire for a holistic approach to the ‘scrow lifestyle.  still, i don’t appreciate your normative gendering of nature as feminine, for while i personally and readily accept the idea of the goddess i fear that by marking the stance as given we’re isolating valuable minority voices in the ‘scrow community.

10/22/2012 12:03 pm

scrowtum

your all a bunch of f***faces and i cant believe the s*** spewed from the gaping a****** that is the psot above this one

10/22/2012 12:05 pm

scrowtum

wt* is this stupid wordfilter

10/22/2012 12:06 pm

scrowtum

omg

10/22/2012 12:07 pm

‘ScroWiccan

well i certainly hope strawoman reappears soon to deal with this new troll…

10/22/2012 12:09 pm

scrowtum

fock you

10/22/2012 12:11 pm

Cucurbitaphile

‘ScroWiccan, I’m sorry to have offended you.  Perhaps we could talk over our issues more at length if you were to answer one of my Private Messages?

10/22/2012 12:14 pm

Bodach-rocais

I would hate to help the spread of a rumor, but it’s been a while since Mannikin reported in this thread.  And it happens I just heard from an acquaintance that the sirens mentioned by Frankelbom were indeed heading to Sandystone — it seems Mannikin was in an accident.  Take this with a grain of salt until we get confirmation, of course, but it may be related to the vandalism.

10/22/2012 12:18 pm

HotMama2

My friend who works for county dispatch just told me the sirens were for Sandystone and Northside High and she said yes that Manny McNamara was hurt he jumped off his roof?

10/22/2012 12:20 pm

scrowtum

haha fock yes chaos rains

10/22/2012 12:21 pm

Whitbridge4Ever

MANNY MCNAMARA COMMITTED SUICIDE

10/22/2012 12:22 pm

Bodach-rocais

How incredibly crass.  I imagine this is what passes for “free speech” over on r/scrows?  Come now, I know you Whitbridge types are in love with reddit.

10/22/2012 12:23 pm

Whitbridge4Ever

IF FREE SPEECH IS THE TRUTH THEN YES THE GUILT WAS FINALLY TOO MUCH AND ALL THOSE BLACKMARKET STRAW DEALS WERE CATCHING UP WITH HIM EVERYONE IN WHITBRIDGE KNEW HE WOULD GET IT SOMEDAY

10/22/2012 12:24 pm

JohnCrane

I’ll say it again: plastic and nylon.

10/22/2012 11:25 am

Cucurbitaphile

And you see, ladies and gentlemen, why I moved to Haymeadow.

10/22/2012 12:26 pm

scrowtum

bc most ppl here, like u, suck?

10/22/2012 12:27 pm

JuGgAsCrOw420

Hye hey hey STEP OFF RIGHT NOW OR ILL DRIVE OVER THERE N KICK ALL YOUR WHITEBREAD A**ES

you don’t seemt o motherf****** this is a TRAGEDY and you don’t mess w/ people who are in tragedys

youll be  sorry if you do

-JuGgAsCrOw OUT

10/22/2012 12:30 pm

Cucurbitaphile

Strawoman, where are you to save us from this madness?  We call for aid!

Speaking of calling, it’s been a while since Feathertop posted.  Should we be worried about her?  Does someone on the board know her personally so we may establish contact?

10/22/2012 12:31 pm

‘ScroWiccan

i am rather troubled by the way you assume feathertop to be a woman, or to identify as a woman, despite their lack of such information in their profile, and furthermore i do not appreciate your continuous efforts to pry into the lives of certain members of this forum far more than is your warrant, cucurbitaphile.

10/22/2012 12:34 pm

Cucurbitaphile

With all due respect, I’m only being a gentleman.

10/22/2012 12:37 pm

‘ScroWiccan

with all due respect, we don’t need you to be.

10/22/2012 12:38 pm

scrowtum

f*** sake get a room

10/22/2012 12:39 pm

Cucurbitaphile

It’s a terrible state of affairs when so many people are completely incapable of being civil, in so many ways.

10/22/2012 12:40 pm

HotMom2

I just checked again with my friend at dispatch and she said Manny did jump from his roof!  Also my daughter said she’s going to the hospital now to because she’s not feeling good I guess she’s allergic?

10/22/2012 12:43 pm

Bodach-rocais

Perhaps we should keep the talk in this thread limited to the issue of possible ‘scrow vandalism?  It seems to be an eventful day for Haymeadow but there’s no reason to keep bumping this thread unless we have good information on Feathertop’s hooligans.

10/22/2012 12:46 pm

JuGgAsCrOw420

Hey yeah yeall come post in my thread HEYMEADOW TRAGEDY so we can get our commiseratin on

-JuGgAsCrOw OUT

10/22/2012 12:49 pm

Bodach-rocais

I’ve made a thread, Haymeadow Current Events, to continue this discussion.

10/22/2012 12:50 pm

Whitbridge4Ever

COME TO MY THREAD MANNY MCNAMARA BOUGHT AND SOLD ILLEGAL NON-REGULATION STRAW TO TALK ABOUT HOW HAYMEADOW IS FINALLY GETTING WHAT’S COMING TO IT

USER WAS BANNED FOR THIS POST
10/22/2012 12:52 pm

scrowtum

come to my thread we are useless pieces of sh** that literally spend all our time making giant dolls to talk about how your lifes a waste

USER WAS BANNED FOR THIS POST
10/22/2012 12:54 pm

Strawoman

Some friendly reminders from your moderator: Keep your tone civil and avoid discussing personal matters or off-topic material outside of Private Messages or appropriately marked threads.

Also: During my lunchbreak I was saddened to learn that valued forum member Mannikin, known to many in Haymeadow as Manny McNamara, died after a fall from the roof of his home in the Sandystone neighborhood.  Manny was the head of McNamara Straw, Baling & More, one of the most widely known ‘scrow stuffing providers in the Midwest, and certainly the greatest provider to southern Indiana.  Condolences and remembrances are best direction to the memorial thread I just made.

As police have reported that Manny’s famous “Hall of ‘Scrows” was completely demolished — with many exhibits outright missing — it is suspected that foul play may be involved, perhaps with the very ‘scrow vandals that seem to be operating in Haymeadow.  If you suspect someone is vandalizing your ‘scrows, please use caution, and notify authorities before taking action yourself.

I’ll be leaving this thread open for the rest of the day in case Feathertop wants to check in.  Out of concern, given recent events, has anyone had any personal contact with Feathertop since their last post was made?

10/22/2012 1:02 pm

TurnipHead

Hi all, mostly a lurker here but feathertop’s my neighbor irl and he taught me basically everything I know about ‘scrows, he even tipped me off to the forum.  To be honest I noticed the sort of stuff he said up in the OP with his garden ‘scrow moving but I thought he was doing it to test things out.  I got home a while ago and saw this thread though and actually the ‘scrow isn’t out right now which is a bit suspicious I’d say.  I called a few times and feathertop didn’t answer but his truck’s home so he may just be napping.  (Don’t let him know I told you but he’s getting on in years. ;))

I’ll keep you guys updated if he don’t first.

10/22/2012 1:18 pm

Cucurbitaphile

Glad to hear some headway on this matter.  Feathertop, if you check this thread again, I’d advise you to ignore my latest Private Message.

10/22/2012 1:21 pm

JuGgAsCrOw420

I am putting the call out now to the forum at large.  The time has come to put childish things away.

We must make our final stand against Whitbridge.  Already through their plots Haymeadow is in chaos — sirens echo all over town, and people are reporting being attacked in the street.  My own ‘scrows disappeared from my front yard barely half an hour ago.

If you wish to stand with me, my forces will be organizing in the parking lot of Northside High School at 3:00 sharp before making the trek to Whitbridge.  Lasting and final glory in this centuries old conflict is ours for the taking, if you dare.  We will burn their ‘scrows to the ground, until there is nothing left but charred flannel and smoking ash.

Come on everyone.  Let’s cause some mayhem.

– General Juggascrow

10/22/2012 1:25 pm

Strawoman

Juggascrow, as I said in the war-planning thread, refrain from wedging this topic into other conversations throughout the forum.  Thanks!

10/22/2012 1:27 pm

RaggedyAndy87

WARNING IF YOU NOVICE CENTIPEDES LIKE THE ONE IN MY PICTURE NEAR YOUR SCORES STAY FAR AWAY THE VET PUT OUR SOD DOWN BECAUSE HE WAS SICK AND MOVING FUNNY THE VET SAID HE HAD WORMS AND IT WAS TOO LATE AND I TOLD WIN WHAT HAPPENED AND HE SAID I WAS WROUGHT BUT I KNOW SHADOW DISNEY HAVE WORMS HE WAS A HEATH DOG I PRIED TO PET SHADOW BUT HE ALMOST BIT ME AND THE CENTIPEDES FEEL OUT OF HIS MOUTH NON MY HAND OF THEM STUNG ME HITS HURTS PRETTY BAD MIGHT BE ALLERGIC AT EMERGENCY ROOM VERY CROWDED I ITCHING MORE CENTIPEDES TYPED ON MY PHONE SORRY AUTOCORRECT

10/22/2012 1:45 pm

Strawoman

Please don’t bump this thread for reasons unrelated to the issue of ‘scrow vandalism.  I am sorry for the loss of your dog, but there are two currently very active threads about mourning and sudden onset allergies, if you think talking with some of those folks might help.

Again, Andy, I am truly sorry for your loss.  Hope you make it through this.

10/22/2012 1:47 pm

Feathertop31

Hello everyone Thank you for your concern this afternoon There is no further vandalism to report In fact i suspect there was no vandalism to begin with and only my overactive human imagination

10/22/2012 2:12 pm

‘ScroWiccan

feathertop! so good to hear from you.  glad you’re okay.  it’s nice to have some good news during such a crazy day.

10/22/2012 2:14 pm

Cucurbitaphile

Appreciate the update, Feathertop!  But what do you mean you only imagined the vandalism?  Certainly something happened to our dearly departed Manny’s Hall of ‘Scrows….

10/22/2012 2:17 pm

Bodach-rocais

The immature ‘scrownies from Whitbridge probably did it as a corollary to their foul play.  I’ve already seen several people in r/scrows copping to it, and while some of them are probably lying, all it takes is one of them to be telling the truth.

10/22/2012 2:21 pm

Feathertop31

Yes that is a good and reasonable explanation for the question that was posed

10/22/2012 2:25 pm

Strawoman

Good to hear from you Feathertop!  If you’re convinced there’s nothing more to discuss I can go ahead and lock this thread.

And Bodach: I know you’ve been around long enough to be familiar with the rules.  Watch yourself!

10/22/2012 2:31 pm

TurnipHead

You guys have to listen thats not feathertop I don’t know what it is but its not him i went over to see if he was ok and i saw him all laid out on the kitchen floor maybe he fell and i thought he was hurt so i ran inside and suddenly i realize dhe was all wrong and then he started to move and he was flat, that’s the only way i can describe it he was flat and then he wasn’t like he filled up with something and he stood up and looked at me andghe didnt have eyes anymore

10/22/2012 2:41 pm

Bodach-rocais

Oh, lord.  We never did verify if this character actually knew Feathertop, did we?

10/22/2012 2:45 pm

TurnipHead

please that thing’s just walking around my house trying to find a way in i’m trying to call the police but no one’s picking up

10/22/2012 2:47 pm

TurnipHead

oh god it saw me through the window it looked tin the window at me and it just left i think it went home but it knows i[m talking to you i need to go

10/22/2012 2:50 pm

Feathertop31

Hello i would like to

go ahead and lock this thread As was promised there is nothing more to discuss

10/22/2012 2:55 pm

Cucurbitaphile

Sorry to intrude at the last second, but Feathertop, have you checked your Private Messages?

10/22/2012 2:58 pm

Feathertop31

Yes a personal meeting would be ideal As I am definitely a member of the opposite sex and desire such encounters And I will bring a pumpkin of the dimensions specified

See you this evening

10/22/2012 3:00 pm

Bodach-rocais

Keep it in the Private Messages, please.

10/22/2012 3:02 pm

Feathertop31

Apologies for the breach of social protocol recently committed And also any distress caused by my baseless allegations of hooliganism and totally imaginary sense of enclosing danger

Please everyone return to a state of unsuspecting quotidian ease

Continue also to make effigies to frighten away the crows and their very sharp very hungry beaks Please keep them far away

That would be ideal

10/22/2012 3:04 pm

THIS THREAD WAS LOCKED BY STRAWOMAN 10/22/2012 3:06 PM