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The Shortcut - A Will Starr Short Story

Updated on October 31, 2014

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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    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Patricia!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 2 years 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
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      WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Lily! Great to see you!

    • lilyfly profile image

      Lillian K. Staats 2 years ago from Wasilla, Alaska

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

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      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!

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years 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
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      WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      It was fun to write Paradise!

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 2 years 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
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thanks, Mel!

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 3 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
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, traveler! It was a fun write!

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 3 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
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Lady! I love your voice.

    • LadyFiddler profile image

      Joanna Chandler 3 years ago from On planet Earth

      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
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Mona!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Gypsy!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Cam!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Pop!

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 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!

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 3 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!

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 3 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

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

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 3 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!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Mary! Have a happy Halloween!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 3 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
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      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.

      ^-^

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Theresa!

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 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
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Carrie!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Suzie!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, W1totalk!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Welcome to HubPages, Mandy!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you Audrey!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you Audrey!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, Maven101! Good to see you again!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Your version might be better, Mike!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

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

    • carrie Lee Night profile image

      Kept private 3 years ago from Northeast United States

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

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 3 years ago from Asheville, NC

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

    • W1totalk profile image

      W1totalk 3 years ago

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

    • Mandy Avery profile image

      Mandy Avery 3 years ago

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

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 3 years ago from California

      Spooky and fun write Will! Loved this!

    • maven101 profile image

      maven101 3 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"...

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 3 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.

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

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

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Ahhhhh. Gotcha! Bpb

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      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? ^-*

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thanks for the share, Ronnie!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you Ann!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Shauna!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Shauna!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Shauna!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Wow! Thank you Phyllis!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi Beth, and thank you! It was fun!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi Genna! Glad I could give you a laugh!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi Venkatachari M!

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

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 3 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

    • resspenser profile image

      Ronnie Sowell 3 years ago from South Carolina

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

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

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

      Ann

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 3 years ago from Central Florida

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

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 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+

    • bethperry profile image

      Beth Perry 3 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!

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 3 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.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 3 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?

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

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

    • spectacled-bear profile image

      Bob Barber 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Great story! The scenario was believable. Thanks!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Availiasvision!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Billy...the wordsmith!

    • Availiasvision profile image

      Jennifer Arnett 3 years ago from California

      Great story--you had me hooked!

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

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

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Lily! Are you ready for winter?

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

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

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Glad you liked it, John!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      LOL, Jackie!

    • lilyfly profile image

      Lillian K. Staats 3 years ago from Wasilla, Alaska

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

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      Old Poolman 3 years ago

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

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      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

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

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 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!

    • FitnezzJim profile image

      FitnezzJim 3 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      Thank you. I had to dig deep for it.

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi James!

      Poor Ralph was never seen again.

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Happy to put a smile in your day, Lori!

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      James W. Nelson 3 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.

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      Lori Colbo 3 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Big guffaws here Will.

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Very punny, Jim!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

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

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thanks Don!

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thanks, becky! It was a fun write!

    • FitnezzJim profile image

      FitnezzJim 3 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      Hilarious, in a grave sort of way.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 3 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.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 3 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.

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 3 years ago from Hereford, AZ

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