“Dollhouse” – a short story by Craig Wallwork

spades-4-1I read this story for week 39 of the 2015 Deal Me In Challenge. I drew the four of spades, which I had assigned to this story from the excellent ‘Neo-Noir’ anthology “The New Black.” Deal Me In is an annual short story reading challenge (explained here). My list of stories I’m reading this year, with links to those I’ve posted about thus far, may be found here.

Holy crap; this was a scary and disturbing story!

“Fear never exploited Darcy’s mind, for as her father contested on many occasions, all things can be explained. The low thundering rumble that tore a hole in the night was not that of a monster pushing its way from one world to the next, but the nightly groans from the heifers keeping warm in the farmer’s bard across the field. The unexpected squeak of a floorboard was not the heels of a ghost, but instead the yawning of wood as it waned under the heat of water pipes. The illusory evil that supposedly cowered in shadows, or became the cold breath of night that followed her from room to room, was only a mischievous current of air that fussed its way around the dank old cottage.  All could be explained. Everything that is, except the dollhouse.”


As kids grow up, they begin to learn the falsity of the boogey-man and his sundry companions.  Parents, as Darcy’s do in this story, vanquish these fears one by one with rational explanations until, one day, they are finally overcome and can no longer manifest themselves.  Of course, this holds true only if the fears really are imaginary

One night, Darcy, just a young girl of eight – almost nine, is awakened by a “large bang.”  Her investigations lead her to the attic of her family’s cottage.  Within the attic she sees that a large object is covered under a dust sheet in the corner of the room.  Knowing that, when it comes to secreting away Christmas or birthday presents, the attic is a favorite hiding place for her parents, and remembering that her birthday is just weeks away, Darcy can’t resist taking a peek. What she finds is a dollhouse that is a perfect miniature of her own family’s cottage.  Every detail is replicated.  She is enthralled and revisits the attic every night as her birthday approaches, since the dollhouse seems to also be a work in progress.  New developments in her actual cottage are reflected in the dollhouse. Tiny wooden figures of her parents and herself also appear, accurate to the smallest detail. Then the figures appear to begin reflecting the actual location of their real-life counterparts at the time she views them, and she sees her own figurine in the attic of the dollhouse, kneeling in front of a miniature dollhouse, which we can only imagine, were her eyes capable of seeing into the microscopic range, would contain smaller and smaller figures in an infinite regression.

Surely all this “could be explained” though?  Even when she, one night, finds the figurines of her parents in peril…

I really liked this story, even if it did give me goosebumps.  It was my first time reading this author, who hails from West Yorkshire, England.  He is the author of a short story collection “Quintessence of Dust” which I may now just have to find and buy to provide me with fodder for the 2016 edition of the Deal Me In Challenge.

What’s the scariest story YOU have read lately?

Below: from goodreads.com – author Craig Wallwork


Deal Me In 2015 – Week 38 Wrap Up

New posts from the Deal Me In crew are linked below. Happy reading!

“o” at Behold the Stars treats us to Emile Zola’s story, “The Girl Who Loves Mehttp://beholdthestars.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/the-girl-who-loves-me-by-emile-zola.html

Dale at Mirror With Clouds posted about Sarah Orne Jewett’s “The White Heronhttps://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/09/16/sarah-orne-jewett-a-white-heron/

I wrote about Paula Cappa’s “The Magic of the Loonshttps://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2015/09/22/the-magic-of-the-loons-by-paula-cappa/
See you next week!

“The Magic of the Loons” by Paula Cappa

 (above: I found an image of playing cards featuring a loon!)

For week 38 of the 2015 Deal Me In challenge, I drew the five of hearts. Hearts are my suit dedicated to female authors and I had assigned this card to Paula Cappa’s story, The Magic of the Loons. I’ve been following Paula’s excellent blog for more than a couple years now, and it’s one I recommend, especially for those who like their stories a little on the dark side. (I featured another story of hers for this year’s Deal Me In challenge, “Beyond Castle Frankenstein.”) I own this particular story via an e-copy of Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine ( http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Gothic-Resurrected-Magazine-Fall/dp/1502460343 ). This story is also available as a Kindle Single for just 99 cents.

Deal Me In is an annual short story reading challenge (explained here). My list of stories I’m reading this year, with links to those I’ve posted about thus far, may be found here.

“Web-footed, Red-crested Lake Loons*?” Uh, not exactly…

Jackson and Kai are involved in an adulterous affair. Kai claims to love being married but – at least in her case – “cleary monogamy begat monotony” and here she is on the floor of a vacation cabin with Jackson. In the particular tryst this story relates, Kai has donned some kind of ‘nature girl’ garb to role-play her part as “his Loon Woman.” Jackson doesn’t care about all these ’trimmings’ but will go along with anything that leads him to, well, you know.

Jackson is a pilot, and this at least partly explains Kai’s attraction to him. She murmurs, between his kisses, “I love that you fly jet planes every day.” In spite of the somewhat creepy presence of half a dozen loon skulls circling the bed, and a carpet embroidered with the poem, “When Women Were Birds” and ringed with images of sirens, sea-nymphs, and harpies (I think many would call it a day when faced with this level of oddness from a lover, but not our hero!), things are going quite well for Jackson. Until the sound of tires grinding on gravel outside the cabin makes the lovers realize that Kai’s husband (assumed to be in Cleveland), Blix, is approaching…

This was a great story of infidelity gone wrong and the confrontation between Blix and Jackson – and its supernatural aftermath – had me on the edge of my seat…

I’m an amateur birdwatcher, and I do occasionally see loons in these parts. They seem to like the waters in Eagle Creek Park, for example. The kind I see are the “Common Loon” (pictured below), which are indeed a beautiful species worthy of admiration, just maybe not to the extreme that Kai revered them.

*And – to this day – whenever I hear the word “loon” I am reminded of a favorite episode of The Andy Griffith Show where, when Barney and Gomer get lost on a camping trip for Opie and his friends, Andy –  in one of his countless schemes over the seasons to help Barney save face or avoid ridicule – invents the call of the “Lake Loon” to lead Barney & Gomer back to their “misplaced” lakeside campsite, whereupon his deputy is praised for his frontiersman skills. Suddenly, he pretends to have known what he was doing all along and the invented lake loon becomes a “web-footed red-crested lake loon.” (sniff)

(below: “Frontiersman” Barney basking in the adulation)


Progress Report: Five “R.I.P. X” stories that I’ve Read

Well, I’ve been chugging right along and reading some of my R.I.P. stories whenever I have a window of opportunity.

First I read Edgar Allan Poe’s “Scheherazade’s Thousand-and-Second Night,” a great satire where Scheherezade pushes her luck to tell one more tale, a tale featuring the marvels of Poe’s nineteenth century world. Her husband, having listened to and believed many incredible tales over the past 1001 nights, finds this one just too “out there” even for his credulity.

Next, from the Haunted Legends anthology, I read the enticingly titled story “Spring Heel” by Steven Pirie. (Do you know the legend of Spring-Heeled Jack? My brothers and I were quite taken with it way back in the day. Wikipedia has a robust entry about it.) The story I read tells the tale of a prostitute’s meeting this legendary figure. I liked it.

Then, from Coffin Hop’s “Tall Tales of the Weird West” anthology, I read Grady Cole’s “You Are The Blood.” What do you do when your alternative history’s Wild West is infested with vampires? Send in a gunfighter of course. A special gunfighter. There’s a lot more to this story than that, though. A fun read.

Sunday, somehow during my binge-watching ALL the NFL games (aaaahhh) I squeezed in the Washington Irving story “The Engulphed Convent,” featuring the legend of a convent that, during The Moorish conquest of Spain and facing eminent capture, was swallowed into the ground whole, with nothing remaining save an occasional spectral appearance. Very nice.

Finally, just this morning I read a re-worked Grimm fairy tale, “The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs.” Though I think I’d heard most of the story before (boy born is prophesied to marry the King’s Daughter, King does everything imaginable to thwart the prophecy, King Fails) it was still an enjoyable read, and included a visit to the Devil and the Devil’s mother(!), who actually helps out our hero. I should revisit more fairy tales.

Illustration found at https://chaztales.wordpress.com/tag/devil-with-the-three-golden-hairs/

That’s what I’ve done so far. What have YOU included in your R.I.P. X reading?

Deal Me In 2015 – Week 37 Update

Greetings all! Below are links to new Deal Me In posts since the last update.

Dale at Mirror With Clouds wrote about the J.F. Powers story “Death of a Favoritehttps://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/09/09/j-f-powers-death-of-a-favorite/

Katherine at The Writerly Reader posted about “Knock, Knock, Knock” by Ivan Turgenev https://katenread.wordpress.com/2015/09/12/deal-me-in-week-37-knock-knock-knock/

“o” at Behold the Stars read Franz Kafka’s famous story, “Metamorphosis” but once again went on and “read the other stories in the book” too see http://beholdthestars.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/metamorphosis-and-other-stories-by.html to take a look.

Jay at abibliophilopolis (me!) read Alice Munro’s story “Amundsen” see https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2015/09/13/amundsen-by-alice-munro/ or just scroll down to read.

Also – not technically a Deal Me In entry, but Dale’s “Bradbury of the Month” has rolled again and he shares his thoughts on the Ray Bradbury story “I See You Neverhttps://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/09/14/bradbury-of-the-month-september-i-see-you-never/

See you next week!

“Amundsen” by Alice Munro

For week 37 of the Deal Me In challenge, I drew the Jack of clubs, which I had assigned to this short story by Alice Munro, published in The New Yorker Magazine August 27, 2012. Deal Me In is an annual short story reading challenge (explained here). My list of stories I’m reading this year, with links to those I’ve posted about thus far, may be found here.

Nothing changes, apparently, about love.”

This story, which details an episode in the life of our narrator, a teacher named Vivien Hyde, where she travels north from Toronto to take on a teaching position at a sanatorium for tubercular children. Rest assured, though, this was no Fräulein Maria showing up for her first day of work as the Von Trapp governess. The timing is similar though, with this story taking place near the end of World War II, instead of near the beginning.

The sanatorium is run by Dr. Alister Fox, who is well read and gives miss Hyde a rather difficult interview upon her arrival. (As she relates, “He was evidently the sort of person who posed questions that were traps for you to fall into.”) He is somewhat impressed with her, however, as he learns she has read Russian novels and Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain. Has he found a kindred intellectual spirit in the new teacher, who is perhaps fifteen years his junior? Will a romance develop between them? It seems unlikely at first but before you know it… Well, I’ll leave the details of this story for you to explore yourself if you’re interested. It may be found on line at http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/08/27/amundsen (I believe The New Yorker allows non-subscribers to read a limited number of articles for free)

I liked how the author deftly handled a key turning point in the plot of the story by “not even telling us it had happened.” All of a sudden, the narrator is speaking as though something has changed and I was thinking, “Wait, did I miss something,” quickly retracing my steps through the last few paragraphs, but no. Something important had transpired that she didn’t tell us about. Somehow this didn’t really bother me, though.

I’ve also really come to appreciate Munro’s writing. Some brief examples:

On waiting in the coat room for Dr. Fox: “It was like being punished at school. Sent to the cloakroom. Yes. The same smell of winter clothing that never really dried out, of boots soaked through to dirty socks, unwashed feet.”

On the sanatorium’s Matron: “Whatever you asked for seemed to astonish her and cause difficulties, but eventually it was seen to or provided.”

On the nurses aides: “It was just that whatever happened in places they didn’t know had to be discounted; it got in their way and under their skin. Every time the news came on the radio, they switched it to music.”

Of Dr. Fox’s house: “There was a bleak but orderly look to the place, a suggestion of the minimal but precise comfort that a lone man—a regulated lone man—might contrive.”

On the doctor’s book collection, they were: “Books suggesting someone anxious to know, to possess great scattered lumps of knowledge. Perhaps not someone whose tastes were firm and exacting.”

Oh, and what does the title mean? When I see Amundsen, the first thing that comes to mind is polar exploration. It turns out it’s the name of the town that is close by the sanatorium.

Deal Me In 2015 – Week 36 Wrap Up

Below are links to the latest post by those doing the Deal Me In challenge this year.

“o” at Behold the Stars posted about Samuel Johnson’s poem “The Vanity of Human Wisheshttp://beholdthestars.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/the-vanity-of-human-wishes-by-samuel.html

Dale at Mirror With Clouds read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Wives of the Deadhttps://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/09/02/nathaniel-hawthorne-the-wives-of-the-dead/

Katherine at The Writerly Reader shares Michael Chabon’s “The Martian Agenthttps://katenread.wordpress.com/2015/09/05/deal-me-in-week-36-the-martian-agent/

Lastly, Jay at Bibliophilopolis (that’s me!) posted about Josh Green’s “Axis of Symmetryhttps://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2015/09/05/axis-of-symmetry-by-josh-green/

See you next. Week!

R.I.P. X Challenge

Each year for the past 10 years, in the months of September and October, bloggers all over the world have participated in “R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril” challenge, reading – and blogging about – works of a darker nature. This year, the challenge is hosted by The Estella Society http://www.estellasociety.com/?p=1484

There are several participation levels and, as you might guess, one option from the challenge I’m choosing is “Peril of the Short Story.” I plan to read thirteen selected stories during this period. I also plan to complete the “Peril the Third” option, wherein participants just need to read one qualifying book. I have in mind Stephen Kings “The Dark Half,” which I’ve owned for quite awhile and just haven’t gotten to.

Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman!” er, I mean “R.I.P. meets Deal Me In!” (Almost as epic 🙂 ) R.I.P. Banner created by Abigail at http://www.abigaillarson.com

I’m a few days late, but I’ve finally gotten my R.I.P. act together and come up with a short story reading list for this year. As usual, I’m randomizing my reading order by assigning the stories to cards then drawing one card at a time to determine what I’ll read next.

♠A♠ “The Very Strange House Next Door” by Shirley Jackson (from the “Just an Ordinary Day” collection” – read; 4 stars

♠2♠ “The Thousand-and-second Tale of Scheherezade” by Edgar Allan Poe (from “The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe”)   – Read; 3.5 stars.

♠3♠ “Do You Want That in Blonde, Brunette, or Auburn” by Glenn Lewis Gillette (from the Dark Futures anthology) – Read; 3 stars

♠4♠ “Legend of the Engulphed Convent” by Washington Irving – read; 3.5 stars

♠5♠ “The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs” from Grimm’s Fairy Tales (Philip Pullman’s New English Version edition) – read 3 stars

♠6♠ “Mr. Dark’s Carnival” by Glenn Hirshberg (from The Two Sams story collection)

♠7♠ “The Open Window” by Saki (from link at Paula Cappa’s blog) – read; 5 stars

♠8♠ “The Grave of the Famous Poet” by Margaret Atwood (from “Dancing Girls and Other Stories) – read; 4.5 stars

♠9♠ “The Spring Heel” by Steven Pirie (from the Haunted Legends anthology) read; 3.5 stars

♠10♠ “You Are the Blood” by Grady Cole (from the “Tall Tales of the Weird West” anthology) read; 3 stars

♠J♠ “Act of Contrition” by Craig Clevenger (from The New Black anthology) read; 3.5 stars

♠Q♠ “Darling Adolf” by Ray Bradbury (from Bradbury Stories)

♠K♠ “The Hell Screen” by Ryunosuke Akutagawa (from “The Weird” anthology) read; 3 stars

Well, what do you think of my choices this year? Do you see any familiar stories among my thirteen? Are you participating in R.I.P. this year? Last year, I read these for R.I.P.: https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/09/19/the-r-i-p-challenge/

“Axis of Symmetry”* by Josh Green

*Axis of Symmetry: the idea that a line passes through something and makes the figures on both sides a mirror image of each other.

“There’s that famous scene in Scarface, the bathtub dismemberment scene, which always scared the bejesus out of my sister and me, having shown us the true underbelly of humanity. Suddenly I was living it…”

For week 36 of the 2015 Deal Me In challenge, I drew the eight of spades, leading me to Josh Green’s story “Axis of Symmetry” from his collection “Dirtyville Rhapsodies.” I’ve covered one other story from this book back in May on Bibliophilopolis – “The Delusional Mr. Necessary,” which I really enjoyed. This story was much darker and shorter. Now in its fifth year, Deal Me In is an annual short story reading challenge (explained here). My list of stories I’m reading this year, with links to those I’ve posted about thus far, may be found here.

The basic plot of this story is not a new one. It’s the details that are unique. Two recovering addicts, our narrator Peter and a math teacher named Melinda (who’s chosen poorly in terms of her husband – a quintessential jealous brute named Tony), are sharing their recovery journey together when romantic sparks fly, leading to trouble.

“Tony wasn’t exactly irrational at first, just pissed like any dejected asshole deserves to be. The last five years with Melinda, he’d had the caveman complex that evokes jealously whenever his woman strolls the sidewalk, shops the fancy mall, grabs a coffee before teaching math—any exposure to the outside world that couldn’t be moderated by his imposing watchfulness.”

Probably after seeing the story’s title and reading the quotation I started with you’re fearing the worst In regards to how the story ends. It’s not as bad as you might think, though. At least I didn’t think so. It IS bad though, just not in the way I was expecting. Be forewarned. For my part, I enjoy the writer’s style and plan on reading the remaining stories in this collection, either as part of Deal Me In 2016, or just “recreationally.”
The book may be found at Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Dirtyville-Rhapsodies-Josh-Green/dp/1937056635

Eight of spades image found at http://designtaxi.com/news/361382/A-Beautiful-Deck-Of-Poker-Cards-Created-By-54-Top-Artist/

Deal Me In 2015 – Week 35 Wrap Up

Hello! Below are links to new posts by the Deal Me In crew since the last update.

Katherine at The Writerly Reader posts about the Nathaniel Hawthorne classic, “Rappaccini’s Daughterhttps://katenread.wordpress.com/2015/08/31/deal-me-in-week-35-rappaccinis-daighter/

Dale at Mirror With Clouds read Steven Millhauser’s story from the Best American Short Stories of 2013, “A Voice in the Nighthttps://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/08/26/steven-millhauser-a-voice-in-the-night/
Katherine also wrote about her lunar option story, Daphne DuMaurier’s short story, “The Birds” (perhaps you’ve seen the movie?) https://katenread.wordpress.com/2015/08/30/deal-me-in-lunar-extra-the-birds/

“o” at Behold the Stars read Francis Bacon’s essay “Of Revenge” and liked it so much she read the whole book! Check out http://beholdthestars.blogspot.com/2015/08/essays-by-francis-bacon.html

I wrote about the Alice McDermott story “These Dark, Cold Days” https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2015/08/29/alice-mcdermotts-short-story-these-short-dark-days/
Thats’s it for this time. See you next week!