The Shortcut - A Will Starr Short Story

The Shortcut



It’s getting close to Halloween again, and as always, the horrible memory of that long ago night will not be denied. It haunts my dreams with the first chill of autumn and I cannot shake it off. Perhaps it might help if I put pen to paper and relate that awful story for all to consider. Probably not, but it might keep some other hapless soul from making the same mistakes.

I was working out of town, and my wife and kids were hundreds of miles away, so I decided to go to a small family bar just a couple blocks away, have a few shots, and watch a game with the guys. I was living in an RV park and kids never trick or treat there anyway so there was no point in trying to hand out candy. There were no customers.

Kansas weather in October is unpredictable, but then, weather in Kansas is always unpredictable. That night, it was chilly, windy and raw, with rain and a possible thunderstorm in the forecast. Had I known what was in store for me, I would have just stayed home and read a good western. To top it off, I also had a bad cold and my voice was almost gone. But like the fool I was, I bundled up and walked out into the night.

Murphy’s is one of those small neighborhood bars where newcomers are regarded with suspicion…until they buy a round. Then they’re old friends. Most of my crew had found their way down here when the job first began, and a few were shooting pool on the worn out felt of an ancient table. Jimmy Dolan was making kissy-face back in the corner with an old barfly named Doris, and big Harold was feeding the jukebox.

A local jerk named Ralph Hicks was trying to stir up trouble again, and the bartender was eying him sourly. Hicks had a knack for starting fights, but somehow, when the fists started flying, he was never in the middle of it, but watching from the sidelines. I openly despised the creep and he knew it, so he kept his distance.

Some of the locals were sporting Halloween outfits, and after a couple of hours and lots of alcoholic lubrication, the place was starting to get a little rowdy. I, myself had taken one too many so I was thinking about heading home, when Alice Warden and her husband came in wearing their outfits. George was dressed up like a biker, and Alice wore a witch costume. Before they got the door closed, a cold gust of wind blew in, and I felt several drops of rain down the back of my neck. Then Al Handover roared that Alice “sure enough looked like an ugly old witch, and didn't even need no makeup!’ With that, the fight was on, and I staggered outside.

The route to the RV park was half a block east, one block south, and then another half a block back to the west. Or, I could just cut through the cemetery, and save myself a full block, because even through the rain, I could still make out the lights of the RV park from Murphy’s front door. I could hear myself superstitiously yelling at me not to go that way, and I chuckled hoarsely. This was reality, and not some silly Hollywood horror flick. Ignoring myself, I walked across the street and into the cemetery.

I was less than a hundred feet in when the light rain suddenly became a real downpour, and the wind started increasing. Then lightning lit up the sky, followed almost instantly by a crash of thunder. I picked up the pace.

I glanced up to get my bearings on the park, and the next thing I knew I was falling. I threw out my hands to break my fall, but I landed on my face and chest, knocking the wind out of me. I lay there for some time, stunned and almost unable to breathe. It took me a minute to realize that I had fallen into a freshly dug grave in the darkness, and that I was lying in thick, oozing mud. At last I crawled to my feet and faced my predicament.

The grave was over six feet deep, and the walls were vertical and very slippery with mud. In the flashes of lightning, I looked for some sort of handhold, or maybe a rock I could stand on, but there was nothing. I tried again and again to climb out, but the wet grass and mud offered no grip. I began to call for help, but my raspy voice was now almost completely gone. After a futile hour or so, I gave up and decided to wait for morning and help. I crawled back into a leeward corner to get out the rain as much as possible and pulled my jacket over my head.

Suddenly, perhaps two hours later, I heard a heavy thud right in front of me, and then the familiar cursing voice of Ralph Hicks. Apparently, he had the same shortcut idea and he too had had fallen in, but did not fall as hard as I did. He immediately began trying to get out, simultaneously calling for help, but no one could hear him for the wind and thunder. I just sat there back in the shadows and watched the entertainment silently.

Again and again he tried, until he was exhausted, and then a flash of lightning revealed that he was standing against the far end of the grave. He was whimpering like a child and his shoulders were shaking, so I finally began to feel sorry for him. I struggled to my feet and stepped up behind him, tapping him on the shoulder and telling him in my raspy whisper, “You’ll never get out of here.”

But he did.




Author’s note:

This is based on an old joke I heard many years ago, and never heard again:

“There was this drunk taking a short cut through a cemetery on a dark, rainy night…”

Anyway, you get the drift. It's one of those ‘best jokes I ever heard’ good memories, so I thought I’d fluff it up a little bit Will Starr style and present it for your Halloween approval…or not!

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Comments 90 comments

Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 2 years ago from Hereford, AZ

Cute, and I can understand the feeling. That would spook anyone.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 2 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

You have all the elements of a spooky situation. Even if one doesn't believe in spooks, it can still get to you. Good story.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

OMG, falling into a grave would be bad enough but having someone tap you on your shoulder would make anyone drunk sober in a flash! Good one Will.


FitnezzJim profile image

FitnezzJim 2 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

Hilarious, in a grave sort of way.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thanks, becky! It was a fun write!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thanks Don!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hope I gave you a good Chuckle, Ruby Jean! ^-^


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Very punny, Jim!


lambservant profile image

lambservant 2 years ago from Pacific Northwest

Big guffaws here Will.


SubRon7 profile image

SubRon7 2 years ago from eastern North Dakota

Outstanding, Will, and I have to wonder if that poor Ralph Hicks has even come down from that scare yet.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Happy to put a smile in your day, Lori!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi James!

Poor Ralph was never seen again.


FitnezzJim profile image

FitnezzJim 2 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

Thank you. I had to dig deep for it.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

Great Halloween story Will; I was worried that grave would fill up with water and drown you, glad that didn't happen. Liked the quick end for the sudden laugh!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

Haha what a great Halloween story Will..and the ending was hilarious. Loved it.


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 2 years ago from Rural Arizona

WillStarr - You paint a better picture with words than many artists paint with a brush. I loved this story.


lilyfly profile image

lilyfly 2 years ago from Wasilla, Alaska

As always, Will spins a yarn with a deft hand... love this Will!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

LOL, Jackie!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Glad you liked it, John!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Mike! We need to get together again and swap some lies!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Lily! Are you ready for winter?


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

It's always a pleasure to read the work of a wordsmith. Well done, sir!


Availiasvision profile image

Availiasvision 2 years ago from California

Great story--you had me hooked!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Billy...the wordsmith!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Availiasvision!


spectacled-bear profile image

spectacled-bear 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Great story! The scenario was believable. Thanks!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you,spectacled-bear! It was fun to write.


Venkatachari M profile image

Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

It is so terrific and spooky a situation to be in a grave all through the night. How could one survive after falling in it?

You left it in the middle to make it even more thrilling and shivering story. How did they come out of it?


Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

“tapping him on the shoulder and telling him in my raspy whisper, “You’ll never get out of here. But he did.” Lol. Will, this great story definitely raises the bar for “it was a dark and rainy night…” story. It.is in grand keeping with the Halloween season -- a pure delight and pleasure to read. (And a welcome reprieve from reading what’s in the news these days.) I’ll never take a shortcut again; that’s for sure. :-) Voted up and shared.


bethperry profile image

bethperry 2 years ago from Tennesee

Will, you had me really going there - it sure read like a true life adventure, and I loved the funny ending! Great job!


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

OMGosh! Poor ol' Ralph must have flown out of that grave. LOL

This is the best joke story I have heard in years and you really "fluffed it up" good in true "Will Starr style". Awesome. Gotta share this on FB and H+


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 2 years ago from Central Florida

Great story, Will. I never heard the joke you refer to, but this story is well told. And creepy.


annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England

Love it! I can just see how fast he moved! Great story telling.

Ann


resspenser profile image

resspenser 2 years ago from South Carolina

Thanks for the story, Will. It's been too long! I'm sharing on Facebook.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 2 years ago from UK and Mexico

Will...I'm getting a mite slow in my dotage, I loved the story but didn't get the joke! I'll creep back into the crypt and try again

Bob


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Venkatachari M!

It's the American sense humor, and a joke.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Genna! Glad I could give you a laugh!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Beth, and thank you! It was fun!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Wow! Thank you Phyllis!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Shauna!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Shauna!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Shauna!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you Ann!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thanks for the share, Ronnie!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Bob!

Imagine being trapped in a dark wet grave in the middle of the night all alone, and suddenly something taps you on the shoulder and whispers that you'll never get out. Do you think that might give you some sudden, adrenalin fueled energy and a desperate reason to escape? ^-*


diogenes profile image

diogenes 2 years ago from UK and Mexico

Ahhhhh. Gotcha! Bpb


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

It's our American sense of humor. I sometimes don't get British humor either. ^-^


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 2 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Happy Halloween, Will. As Genna said this raises the bar for “it was a dark and rainy night…” stories. The way I heard this story was Ralph Hicks was in a fix, found himself in a ditch, and just for fun to get his kicks, this out-of-towner who didn't mix, thought it cool to play a trick...... but oh, heck, this is your story.


maven101 profile image

maven101 2 years ago from Northern Arizona

Spooky !!!! Nice write, Will....Reminds me of the time a guy went paddy hopping and fell in a honey hole...The guy was about 6' and the hole was a little deeper and full of 'honey'...We heard his shouts (bad form at night in paddy land) and sent some guys out to bring him in...They said when they found him he was just able to hold his head up...He kept saying "Don't make a ripple"...


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 2 years ago from California

Spooky and fun write Will! Loved this!


Mandy Avery profile image

Mandy Avery 2 years ago

wow you weave words the way the Amish do blankets .. amazing like always..


W1totalk profile image

W1totalk 2 years ago

This definitely is scary. I could only imagine something happening like this. Great read.


suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 2 years ago from Asheville, NC

Great Halloween story. I always look forward to reading your work. You never disappoint - thanks.


carrie Lee Night profile image

carrie Lee Night 2 years ago from Northeast United States

Awesome story :) I like how this story flowed. Halloween is here ! :) Thank you for sharing :)


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 2 years ago from Orlando, FL

Perfect tale for Halloween time...Ralph didn't see it coming! Haha! :)


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Your version might be better, Mike!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi, Maven101! Good to see you again!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you Audrey!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you Audrey!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Welcome to HubPages, Mandy!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, W1totalk!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Suzie!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Carrie!


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

LOL, I believe I would have flown out that grave too after hearing that raspy whisper and the tap on the shoulder! Great writing and so believable. Your writing draws one right into the scene and keeps one there, until we jump out of our skin at the end. Superb hub, especially for Halloween.

Voted up ++++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

I have learned that is always best to not take short cuts!

Blessings


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Theresa!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Linda! Didn't mean to skip your comment! Poor old Ralph was never seen again and no trace was ever found, although he did leave a short trail.

^-^


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 2 years ago from New York

Happy Halloween! This is one for the books and certainly needs to be retold every Halloween. I can't even imagine the fear that hit poor old Ralph!

Voted up, useful, funny, and totally awesome.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Mary! Have a happy Halloween!


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 2 years ago

Ralph got his just desserts and it wasn't a few Mars bars! Loved this as I do everything you write. Voted up, funny and awesome!


cam8510 profile image

cam8510 2 years ago from Columbus, Georgia until the end of November 2016.

Great read, Will. Thanks for the laugh. And well written as usual.


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 2 years ago from Riga, Latvia

Good one. Just in time for Halloween. Should of seen that coming when he decided to go through the cemetery. Made me think that if the grave never got filled up they could put up a sign with flashing lights that says "the parties below". lol Passing this on. Happy Halloween!


grand old lady profile image

grand old lady 2 years ago from Philippines

This was interesting from start to finish. Your gift for description is quite compelling. The bar scene and the characters were well delineated. And the ending was hilarious!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Pop!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Cam!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Gypsy!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Mona!


LadyFiddler profile image

LadyFiddler 2 years ago from Somewhere in the West

LOL ha ha ha i am sure he got more than wings to fly out of that hole and perhaps never drank again or walked through the cemetery . I wonder how the other guy came out.

I too would have leaped out of there so fast lol.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Lady! I love your voice.


tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 2 years ago from California

Pulled a good one over on us. I can just imagine someone levitating out of a grave when a raspy voice started talking at them. Happy Halloween.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, traveler! It was a fun write!


Mel Carriere profile image

Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

Thank was a delightful tale. You managed to pump life into your characters in a few short words. Great hub!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thanks, Mel!


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 23 months ago from Upstate New York

Oh, man, Will, I didn't see that ending coming! I must've missed a few jokes along the wayside of life, but---crack me up!! I can just see the guy now. I bet he leapt ten feet into the air and had room to spare to get out of the darn hole! Being me, I wonder if he filled his britches on the way up!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 23 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

It was fun to write Paradise!


sallybea profile image

sallybea 22 months ago from Norfolk

I love the easy relaxed way that you write, just as if you really were there.

I stopped by because someone posed a question today about who the best fiction writers were on HubPages - your name came up so curiosity got me - I certainly found this one entertaining, enough for me to come back for more.

Thank you

Sally


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 22 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

I've actually been fortunate enough to have been voted best fiction writer here on Hubpages in 2011 & 2014, so thank you for the kind words!


lilyfly profile image

lilyfly 22 months ago from Wasilla, Alaska

give my heartfelt thumbs up for this tale! love yaz, lily


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 22 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Lily! Great to see you!


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 22 months ago from sunny Florida

Yes I bet he did!!! Scared the dickens right out of him.

Great story....thanks for the chuckle It is welcome today

Angels are on the way to you today ps


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 22 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Patricia!

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