“Here’s something you might enjoy. It’s thick (I mean real thick) with coal region accent and jargon…..” Thomas M. Malafarina
By: Thomas M. Malafarina
© 2020 Thomas M. Malafarina
“So waddya tink butt?” The older man with the asked the newcomer as he leaned against the polished wooden bar at Blackie’s Tavern, a glass of Yuengling in his hand.
The other man had just entered the place on that mid-December evening. He was still shaking the snow flurries off his long wool pea coat and knit cap. He usually only stopped in at Blackie’s perhaps once a week whereas the other man practically lived in the place. He hadn’t even had a chance to sit down at the bar yet.
“Watt’a I tink ‘bout wat, Mikey?” Stephen asked, “I ain’t da amazin’ friggin’ Kreskin, am I? Fer Crissakes, I jus’ come in outta da damn’ cold meself. I ain’t been tinkin about much ‘a nuttin, ‘cept about gettin’ warm. An speakin’ ‘a wich, rite now, alls I’m tinkin’ ‘bout is pourin’ some’a Blackie’s rot-gut whiskey down ‘me troat ta warm ‘me belly. Dat’s wat I’m tinkin.”
The air was filled with the familiar scent of the place, the result of decades of spilled beer, much of which had soaked into the warped wooden plank floor. That smell was alone served to comfort Stephen from the cold evening air.
It may have been December of 1962, but anyone walking into the corner landmark of Ashton, Pennsylvania from back in the early 1930’s would be hard-pressed to notice the slightest change since that time. Maybe some of the pictures on the wall looked a little bit yellower and perhaps there were some grooves worn in the floorboards from too many drunks traipsing in and out of the place over the years. But all-in-all it looked the same as it always did, which suited Stephen and the regulars at Blackie’s just fine as well.
“Ain’t nobody kin blame ya fer dat Stevie; ‘specially on a cold-arse day like taday.” Mikey replied. Mikey was in his early seventies but thanks to a life of hard drinking and hard living he could have easily passed for being in his late eighties.
He was rail thin with greasy grey hair thinning on top and slicked back in no particular style save his own. He was a veteran of World War II and although he had managed to come out of that particular encounter with no physical injuries, the damage to his mental state was somewhat more severe. The locals called his condition “shell shock”. Today it would likely fall under the umbrella of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. Back then, such things were simply accepted as something that sometimes happened to a veteran after he returned home from a war.
Like many in his situation, Mikey mostly dropped out of society, living on welfare or as locals called it “on the dole”. He might take an odd cash job from time to time, but not all that often. When he wasn’t eating breakfast at Maggie’s Restaurant, he usually could be found spending most of his time hanging out at Blackie McHale’s bar.
“Dat’s fer dam shur, Mikey.” Stephen O’Neil replied. Stephen was a well-built man in his late forties who worked on occasion as laborer for a local carpenter and handy man. He wasn’t gifted with any particular skill but was well built and did have a strong back. He also wasn’t afraid of doing a hard day’s work on occasion whenever work came his way.
Usually he would hire on with someone as a laborer during the summer months into late fall then he would get laid off and collect unemployment checks until the spring. That suited him just fine because in his opinion, “Only a man wit a paper arsehole would wanna work outside in da winter.”
“Rot-gut ya say?” Blackie McHale interjected from his side of the bar, “Ya got yerself a lot of nerve comin’ in here an insultin’ my fine grade’a genuine Irish wiskey Stevie, me boy. Der’s plenty ’a udder bars in Ashton dat’d be happy to get yer business. Meybe ya should be patronizing Tony da Wop’s place or maybe even old Sid da Jew can find a spot fer ya at his dive instead.”
Stephen laughed jovially, “Now don’t be getting’ yer gotchies all up ina bunch Blackie. You no dis here is da best damn bar in da whole town.”
Blackie smiled back knowingly, appreciating the banter and said, “Well den maybe ya should start spendin’ some of yer money already, ya know, ta help appease ‘me injured feelins.”
Blackie McHale was the son of Irish immigrant parents. He was in his late fifties and was a widower for the past five years. His late wife, Jenifer, a beautiful girl of Polish decent had passed away a year earlier from cancer, what locals tended to call “the waste of life”. Since her passing, the bar had become his entire life. The couple had several grown children but they had moved out of the area and he only saw them occasionally on holidays. The rest of the time, he relied on his friends and customers to help him pass the time until that blessed day when the Good Lord decided he could join his late wife in the hereafter.
Blackie had also been married for a few years before meeting his beloved Jen to a woman he referred to as “dat frigging’ witch of Walnut Street”. That marriage had ended in a bitter divorce. Sadly, that woman was still alive and still living in town, a fact that drove Blackie crazy sometimes.
“Be happy as a clam ta do jes dat an rite here an now,” Stephen replied with a sly smile, “How’s ‘bout ya gimmie a highball usin’ somea dat top-shelf paint tinner yer tryin to pass off fer wiskie.”
“Be happy ta,” Blackie replied, “Nuttin but da best fer Stephen O’-friggin-Neal hisself.”
Mikey interjected, “Why don’t ya give him somma dat dere special esspensive Irish whiskey yer savin’ ta someday pour over yer ex-wife, Suzie’s grave.”
Stephen feigned surprised, “You don’t really plan on wastin’ dat fine Irsh whiskey by pourin’ on yer ex-wife’s grave, do ya now Blackie?” In reality Stephen was following Mikey’s lead and setting up a joke they had all heard and participated in more times than any of them could count.
“A’course I do,” Blackie said knowingly, “But I’m gunna be filterin’ it tru me kidneys first.” They all broke up laughing as they did every one of the hundred times they told the stupid joke.
Mikey turned to Stephen and said, “Ok now Stevie me boy. Now dat yer all settled in an’ all comferbal like, tell me wadda tink ‘bout wat ya been hearin’?”
Stephen was still not certain what Mikey was talking about. “Like I tolt ya befer Mikey, I ain’t got no idea wat yer talkin’ ‘bout. I ain’t heard nuttin’new; at least I don’t tink I did. Wat’s all dis about?”
Mikey said, “Well, frum wat I heered, da cops jest arrested Charlie Damasky’s young lad Jim.”
“Wat the Hell fer?” Stephen asked, “I always taut dat Jimmy Damasky was a good lad. I don’t tink I never known ‘a him gettin inta any trouble before.”
“Dats wat I said. But from wat I heered, he and some’a his buddies was foolin’ around up at dat old abandoned coal mine and one of dem got kilt.” Mikey explained.
Stephen was shocked, “Kilt ya say? Who was kilt? Wich young lad was kilt?”
Mickey said, “From wat I been heerin’ it was dat Joe da Polock’s young lad, Joey, Jr.”
“Joey Balinski? Holy Hell. Ya don’t say. How’d he get kilt? Wat da Hell were dem kids doin up at dat damn mine in dis weather? And why arrest Jimmy? Da cops don’t tink Jimmy did it, do dey? Jimmy couldn’t never do nothin’ like dat. He’s a good lad an if I remember rite, I tink he was Joey’s best friend.”
“No, wat happened ta Joey weren’t done by no human. He had his guts ripped out an frum wat I hear, much worse. Dey only arrested Jimmy an two ‘a his friends fer trespassin on private property. I tink dey mostly arrested dem so’s dey could ask a buncha questions an find out more about wat happened ta Joey.”
Stephen asked, “Do you tink it was a animal attack, like a wild bear or somethin’ like dat?”
A voice spoke up from a dark corner of the bar. It was the raspy voice of an old man. “You bote no wat it was wat kilt dat kid. All’a us knows wat it was. It’s just dat nobody wants ta say it.”
Stephen looked in the direction of the voice and saw a familiar yet unwelcome face, “Ah fer da love ‘a Mike, is dat you skunlkin’ in da shadows like sum kinda secret agent, Harry Johns?”
“A’course it’s me Stevie. An so wat if it is me? Dat don’t change da facts now does it?” Stephen heard the sound of a chair scraping along the floor as the old man slowly stood and shuffle out into the light. He was frail and appeared ancient with his practically bald head speckled with liver spots and his unshaven three-day growth of white whiskers. He had a few wispy tufts of hair fringing his head like a partial wreath and appeared to have more hair growing from his ears and nostrils than his sparce head could produce.
“Ya mite as well save yer bret, Harry.” Blackie said from behind the bar, “Da Good Lord knows, ya ain’t got too manya dem left. Besides, der ain’t no one in dis here bar dat wants ta hear ya flappin’ yer gums ’bout no old wives tales ’bout a ‘maginary monster livin’ out in da scrub tree woods near the coal fields.”
Harry shouted as best as his raspy frail voice would permit, “It ain’t no ‘maginary creature an it ain’t no old wives’ tale needer.”
“Dat’s true, Blackie.” Stephen said, “It ain’t no tale or no legend. Dem sorts ‘a stories gets passed down from one generation ta anudder. But dat ain’t da case here, ‘cause crazy old Harry is da only lad who ever seen dis monster. Wat da Hell do ya call it Harry? Blackfoot, ain’t dat right?”
Blackie said with a chuckle, “Yep dat’s wat he calls da ting, Blackfoot. I figured he named it after me since he spends so much time in here sloppin’ down me brew.”
The old man’s face flushed with a combination of anger, embarrassment and frustration. He grumbled, “Youse lads kin laugh all ya want, but I know da troot. I seen da ting wit me own eyes, so I know it’s as real as youse or me. An I call it Blackfoot ’cause dats da best way ta describe da ting. Sorry ta bust yer bubble Blackie, but it ain’t got nuttin’ ta do wit yer name. It’s big an hairy, like dat Big Foot ting I seen on the TV, but it’s hair is black as coal from livin’ out in da coal dirt. So’s it’s big feet. But no matter wat ya call da ting, it ain’t no human an I’ll try bet dollars ta donuts dat’s wat kilt dat kid.”
Stephen said, “If dats true, Harry den tell me dis. Why didn’t yer monster kill all da kids? Why just one? Da way ya describe da ting, it shoulda been able to kill dem all easily.”
Harry was caught off guard by the observation. He hadn’t even considered asking why the other boys weren’t killed or at least what they hadn’t been injured. “I… I don’t no Stephen. Ya may have somethin’ dere. I might hafta pester Chief Seiler ta find out wat is wat.”
“Well good luck wit dat. Seiler is as tight-lipped as dey come.” Blackie input. He ain’t gonna tell ya squat.”
Mickey chimed in, “I always heerd if ya was out in da woods wit friends and ya get attacked by a bear, ya don’t hafta outrun da bear, just yet slowest friend.” Then he chuckled.
“Well ain’t you da funny one. Tree million comedians outta work and now we got us anudder one.” Blackie said.
Harry said, “Youse lads all tink yet so funny. But it ain’t gonna be so funny when Blackfoot comes fer ya someday. We been building lotsa roads dese days and puttin’ in dem shoppin’ centers and stuff. All dats taken space away from nature. Old Blackfoot can’t be likin’ dat too much. No damn wonder he’s goin’ around killin’ folks.”
Blackie chided, “Ya know wat? I’m tinkin’ maybe you had enough ta drink taday, Harry. I’m guessin’ it’s time fer you ta be headin’ home.”
“Yeah? Well her probly right, Blackie. Ain’t nobody listenin’ ta me anyhow. Time fer me ta get on down da road. I’ll be seein’ all youse lads tomorra. Dat is ta say if old Blackfoot don’t get ya first.” Harry said chuckling as he put on his coat, what and gloves then pulled up his hood. A minute later, he was gone out the front door and heading to his truck.
He didn’t see the massive black thing lurking in the shadow at the corner. Nor did he hear the monster’s deep breathing, because of the night’s cold, howling wind. He didn’t see the creature walking up onto the front porch of Blackie’s Tavern and pushing open the door. Just before Harry got into his truck, he thought he heard something, somewhere in the distance, but then the sound was gone. He climbed behind the driver’s seat and drove away.
Several minutes later, the front door to Blackie’s burst opened and the dark hairy creature lumbered out onto the porch then made its way back to the darkness of the forest and the coalfields. As it walked, large bloody footprints followed in its wake.