Grand Pockets’s Blog

Genealogy, Family, Poetry and Peeves

The Bedley Snatcher: Children’s Poetry


Were you ever frightened of anything as a child? Imaginary things that went bump in the night from in your closet or under the bed?

Boy, I was. I was scared of two things really – the dreaded Bedley-Snatcher and the Chutney Monster that lived in the basement. I have to explain that our house was on top a hill in “old” Loveland and was built by my great grandfather in 1902 when he emigrated from the backhills of eastern West Virginia. It had a stone cellar and was built shotgun style, 3 floors high.

By 1960, around the time of my narrative it was antiquated and sorely needing remodeling. It creaked and groaned from cellar to attic in the slightest breeze and it was dimly lit with tall but narrow windows.

Any wonder that a particularly imaginative little boy would find creatures in every corner? The Chutney Monster was my mom’s name for it – I thought of him more as a dragon that inhabited the darkest heart of the basement. Specifically he lived in the old coal furnace, where it was dark anytime of day and the black, sooty floor was cobbled with coal clinkers ground into the dirt, perfect habile for a scary fire dragon. Spiderwebs festooned every surface like lace on old tables and their hairy spinners hung suspended like bobbers on a fishnet.

Nothing much could be kept down there. It was dank and mouldy but bowed wooden planks were nailed along one wall and were stacked with soldierly rows of jarred produce from the garden. Steam kettles and stock pots were kept going from late July to the end of September putting by a large stash of winter food. That, and gunny sacks of onions, potatoes, bagas, and turnips were the only things stored under the big hewn beams that supported the floors of our house. Anything metal oxidized into a rusty pile of junk nearly overnight down there, and anything cloth was infested with mealy bugs and worms in no time. There was also the coal dust which coated everything and the occasional snake or rat, altogether making it a nightmarish sort of place.

Just looking down the rickety wood steps leading into that dungeon was enough to set me shivering. It was dark down there, with awful noises every time the furnace fired up. The open grate on its old coal burner, the mouth of the beast, belched flames that threw spooky, flickering shadows across everything in the basement. Oh, yes, I well remember the monster lurking in wait for me to be sent into the cellar for a jar of home canned beans, or apple rings, or chutney.  Here is my memory of the dreaded….

11

Chutney Monster!

“Is no light down there, mother?”

Already I protested my mission

Fetching up chutney, red relish,

From the stone-cool cellar.

No ordinary journey this,

For a boy of five with oversized

Spectacles but undersized courage-bones.

“Light’s on the landing, hon,”

Mother crooned,

“Shoo, now, fetch that jar for me.”

Oh, but it was tremboling dark

As I mounted gloaming stairbonators,

Held the pipe-rail and quickety-split,

Down dragon jawbone I wooshed!

No grab-ankle ghoulies reached from

Tween the dark teeth to snatch at me!

Tipping toe, I arrived at the jar shelves.

Sun-smiles through dusty pane high, high up,

Emboldened me and chutney in hand

I began my jaunty swagger back.

CLANK! CLANK! Rrrrrroaarrr! Terror!

What monster mythies these eyes see –

The Ogre-sulferous chasing me!

Chutney clutched in halfback grip,

Feet fly, bounding up, bounding up,

Slam! The door and “ollie-ollie in free!”

“That ol’ furnace acting up again?”

Mother snorts, bends and kisses me.

“That wasn’t so bad was it?”

Now my mother, well, I loved her dear

But the thought occurred to me

She’d forget to shut that door some night

And set the Chutney Monster free!

1999, Charles Elledge ~Grandpockets~

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December 20, 2008 - Posted by | family, humor, Poetry & Art | , , , ,

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