Ken Goldman, Sinkhole
Publisher: Bloodshot Books
Date: August 28, 2017
Length: 418 pp.
ISBN: 1947522000; 978-1947522008
Sinkhole is a horror tale with elements of science fiction. There are two parallel plot lines, one that occurs during 2015, the other that occurs during the American Western expansion period during the 1860’s. The two plots dovetail towards the end of the novel and are interwoven piecemeal in the novel.
Spring 2015: Bed Bugs and Slugs
“You bite them right back.”
New Glenn Echoes construction, Diamond Loop cul-de-sac 3 bedroom/2 full bath, 1410 sq ft 2 floor unit with sunroom view of large landscape area in front and generous rear garden area. Fully carpeted in spacious living room and large master bedroom. — Real Estate Advertisement for Diamond Loop homes
The young realtor’s business card read ‘Susan Donnelly’ with a photo that belonged on a box of Ivory Snow. Accompanying the attractive couple through every room of the new home, Donnelly displayed her professional (and well rehearsed) demeanor for the Colsons, Greg and Eden. For the full thirty minutes during her sales presentation, her smile never left her face.
“It’s a new listing, the last available unit of twenty in this cul-de-sac, so this home won’t stay on the market long. You’ve got all the amenities here — great neighborhood, convenience to shopping and theaters, and the schools are among the best in the state. Glenn Echoes Middle School’s baseball team was the 2014 Jersey state champion. Does your son play?”
Susan touched all the bases. Of course, also during the middle school’s championship year of 2014, a thirty-seven year old English teacher had molested his student of fourteen (making the unwise decision to rip off the girl’s bikini panties in the school’s empty parking lot after sundown, unaware of the night janitor’s smoking habit). Even more unsavory, a few years earlier — and about six minutes from where the Colsons stood — some gun crazed husband had followed his dinner by polishing off his wife and three kids. The guy had just finished his cheese cake, then put a bullet into their heads without leaving the table. His idiot lawyer blamed the man’s sudden outburst on his type 2 diabetes and the cheese cake’s high sugar level, but the man put a bullet into his own head shortly after. Susan Donnelley knew of these incidents and many more, but pedophile educators and lunatic fathers don’t encourage sales. Knowing her power-points, she kept her presentation on task in fluid happy-talk, and it clearly was working One look at Eden Colson told that tale.
“Our son is more into computers and writing, that kind of thing. Reads all the sci-fi and horror he can get his hands on, devours King, Asimov, and the classics like crazy, not to mention every sci-fi, horror movie, or t.v show ever made. And he’s into Rocky — that’s his cat. She follows Zack everywhere. Did it from the day we brought her home. He’s a good kid. Best in his class, his teachers say. And--” The young mother was babbling. Her husband gave her the look, and she shut up.
Susan didn’t miss a beat. “Well, there’s also a great tech program at the school. A computer club too. And there’s a decent veterinarian over in Wellington. Cats, dogs, birds, even snakes — you name it. I’m sure Zack and Rocky will love it here. And so will you.” The pricey cul-de-sac’s well manicured lawns (and equally well manicured housewives) meant Gregory Colson probably had been doing a little mental arithmetic. For the high asking price, Susan had to convince him that Diamond Loop was worth investing his savings in a thirty year commitment. Unfortunately, she couldn’t close the deal by saying what she felt like adding, but if Mr. Colson were anything like her former husband, and most other men...
(...and maybe you’ve noticed the women here in the Loop, Mr. Colson? Some married, some divorced, many willing and able. Nice to look at during a warm summer night’s barbecue, eh? Maybe you could even do more than just look?)
Greg exchanged another quick glance with his wife, but their mutual attempt at remaining cool and expressionless didn’t work. Susan recognized an interested buyer’s pokerfaced ruse; it practically screamed “This is the place!” People didn’t do cartwheels when they discovered a good match, not when an affordable mortgage depended on more subdued reactions. Usually they waited a day or two just to whittle away at the asking price. But Susan Donnelly knew how to play her hand too. Remaining cucumber cool, she felt certain Eden and Gregory Colson would high five each other the moment they were out the door.
That didn’t happen. The couple waited until they were in the car. Greg stopped the Camry near the fancy Diamond Loop street sign that displayed red playing card diamonds on either end.
Like the realtor, Eden also had read her husband’s muted reactions. “You think so too, don’t you?”
Greg kissed her cheek. “Be it ever so humble...”
* * *
It’s difficult to say when a house crosses the barrier to become a home. This takes time, and there is a breaking in period required for both the walls and the people leaving within them to reach that special moment. Experiences fit into the equation too, whether births or deaths, or simply the measurement of a child’s growth as recorded in the dated markings scratched into the woodwork. After the moving van has left and a family settles into their new digs for the first time, there is a special feeling about those events waiting in the future. Before life takes its natural course, those first few nights feel odd in this new and unfamiliar place. Perhaps that title of ‘home’ is premature and undeserved during those early days, but there is not a species alive that doesn’t desire a place it can call by that name.
By early summer the mailbox at 613 Diamond Loop read COLSON. Before the couple fully unpacked cartons, Eden started her garden, and Greg busied himself turning the two-car garage into a one-car port, clearing space for his new work shop. Zack and his computer were never far apart, while Rocky seemed content basking in the nearest sun beam. The roof didn’t leak, and the toilets didn’t overflow. The house proved comfortably spacious and inviting, the neighbors friendly. Although the water pressure in the bathrooms seemed a little weak and the cold water sometimes dripped in varying shades of brown, that inconvenience appeared the worst of the anticipated flaws any new home might reveal.
Eden made the call to Glenn Echoes Department of Streets who forwarded her call to Reefe Water & Sewer Contractors. Supervisor, Fred Reefe, informed her that weak water pressure with chocolate sprinkles was apparently shared among the Loop’s other residents, a problem not unusual for new housing units. The county had hired the private contractor, whose workers planned to dig through the asphalt entranceway, a job requiring several days to get at the water mains threading beneath Glenn Echoes.
“...and it could get noisy. Sorry if there’s an inconvenience, Mrs. Colson, but something serious could come of a leaking water main if we don’t nip it quick. I’m sure you don’t want to be treading water in your garden. Anyway, the racket shouldn’t last long.”
Eden told Reefe she grew up in Manhattan, where car horns during the mornings seemed like birdsong. The man had a good laugh, and Eden hung up, humming as she returned to her flower garden. Today she would do a bit of digging herself. Gloves on, spade in hand, she broke ground for a new flower bed.
The damp soil churned a bit, turning over on itself. Something seemed to be in it. Eden’s stomach also churned when she saw the slugs.
* * *
Zachary Colson prepared for bed, Rocky nestled closely alongside him. In his new home sleep came with difficulty, and once accomplished, he knew the nightmares would begin. Rocky helped keep the fear from completely overpowering the boy, but Zachary’s night terrors continued to haunt him, and the furry warmth of a pet could do only so much. Watching The Walking Dead on his lap top may not have been the best idea.
His mother peeked into his room.
“’Night, honey. If those bed bugs bite, then you bite them right back” Since the family’s arrival at Diamond Loop, Eden Colson repeated some new variation of the bug theme practically every night at bedtime, punctuating the remark with a kiss on Zachary’s forehead. She stroked the black cat’s underbelly. “’Night Rocky. You watch out for those bed bugs too, okay? See you guys in the morning.”
Maybe he occasionally squirmed when she planted one on him, but Zachary didn’t mind his mother’s nightly kisses. He might even have admitted that he liked them.
But the thought of hungry bed bugs scared the shit out of him.
Copyright © 2017 by Ken Goldman