The Hawthorne Project

My wife Sarah and I wrote a short story together for this anthology. It is our first full collaboration. Our story is called The Hole Truth in the Yellow House.

An excerpt from that story is at the bottom of this post.

Edited, designed, and conceived of by Tara Caribou. The Hawthorne Project is published by her press Raw Earth Ink. A wonderful press and editor that do exceptional work.

Here’s the description:

Nine houses. Eleven authors. One week.
The neighborhood of west Hawthorne Drive in quiet Greenfield Wisconsin is filled with dark stories and darker rumors. There’s the haunting by a faceless creature. They’ve all seen it. They’ve all experienced its presence. On the one hand, it seems to desire the life of mortals, on the other, it befriends a small boy. It both mocks and assists. Runs away and stands face-to-faceless face.

And not to mention the mysterious death of the street’s namesake, Jim Hawthorne. His strange and reclusive widow peers from behind her drawn curtains, rarely leaving her home, but to walk her little dog or tend her manicured gardens… yet she’s not one for giving up any of the cul-de-sac’s secrets.

But in the days leading up to Halloween, events take a more sinister turn, including strange visitations, an eerie violet haze in the sky, attempting murder, breaking-and-entering, and multiple police check-ins… until not one of the residents can deny: something or someone is here to stay.

Featuring short stories from River Dixon, Chisto Healy, Tristan Drue Rogers & Sarah Anne Rogers, Lou Rasmus, Mark Ryan, Mark Towse, Joshua Marsella, Darren Diarmuid, Robert Birkhofer, and Jeremiah Fox.

Pre-orders for The Hawthorne Project available for Amazon Kindle here.

Release date October 27, 2021 for Kindle.

Print available now from Lulu here.

Also, find Sarah’s website here.

Read an excerpt from our story below:

Choice’s eyes shot open at the sound of motorcycle engines revving in the street. It was their neighbors on the West side. They had a white house with red around their windows, red like a cool race car. They went on drives, often in the morning and he never missed a takeoff. Choice ran out of his mother’s bedroom, darting off toward the window facing Hawthorne Drive. He jumped onto the couch, lifted the blinds, and put his head under. What he saw did not disappoint.
The old lady shot away from her husband and popped a wheelie. It was glorious.
“Vroom vroom,” Choice said loudly through his bubbling lips. “Vroom vroom vroom!” He leapt off the couch, almost taking the blinds with him. He started pretending that his hands were over the handles of his own motorcycle, revving it up around the room, drifting in and out of dangerous corners.
In the midst of all this fun, Choice’s stomach growled.
June popped her head out of the door frame of her mother’s room.
She saw Choice holding his stomach, now lying on the floor, murmuring ever so faintly a remnant of tires pealing out onto the pavement. “Mom,” she said with her teeth clamped down. “The monster needs a feeding.” June walked over to the couch and sat down, phone in her hand.
“Mom!” Choice repeated his sister’s call.
Their mother popped out, her hair all pushed to one side and her eyes barely lifted from the ground. “Yes, children?”
Choice sat up and smiled. “Did you know that sharks have, like, three hundred or even four hundred teeth?”
Debbie walked into the kitchen, passing them both for the sweet imagery of the coffee pot. “I didn’t know that, baby,” she said. “Why don’t you go play outside while mommy makes breakfast, okay?”
“Can I be a shark for Halloween?”
“If we have time to go to the store, otherwise we can do that ghost costume again from a few years ago. How does that sound?”
Choice shot up, shaking his head and running to the backdoor. “No way,” he said. “I want to eat people.” Practically flying out of the door frame, leaving it opened, he drifted into the grass and dirt, screeching with each jerky movement. While the sunlight popped through the shelter of the Oak tree’s branches, Choice was pretending to drive on the old Route 66 Highway that he heard so much about in his daddy’s favorite song. The loud smack of the backdoor closing did nothing to deter the boy. “Get your kicks,” sang Choice, struggling with the exact rhythm of the melody. “On route—”
He was interrupted by a gust of wind. Only it didn’t sound the way one normally would. The way it would brush against the eardrum, whistling, showing itself only slightly and never heard again. This was different. It was a line pulling Choice to where it was coming from. The hook firmly in his skin, reeling him in farther until he found himself behind the tree in the backyard beside the tool shed.
A shadowy man as tall as his daddy stood there, holding his hand out. Choice froze as the sunlight kissed the top of his forehead and nothing more. He watched the shadowy man’s hand turn from shape to shape until becoming less of a shadow and more of this world. For a moment, Choice thought he was in a movie with magic in it. The shadowy man transformed his hand into a fishing lure with faded red and green stripes and little bells attached. Choice looked up to the shadowy man’s eyes, or where they would be, and asked a question. “Where’s the hook?”
The shadowy man made a sound of soft confusion. “Uh-uh?”
“Can’t catch a fish without a hook,” said Choice, putting his finger inside his mouth, pretending to hook his own cheek before lifting both of his hands into the air. “Like that. Don’t you know anything?”
The backdoor opened up, causing Choice to take a step back from the Oak tree and turned away from the shadowy man. At first he saw the house itself: a bright yellow house with grey trim. The yellow paint was fading in certain spots, but practically brand new in others.
Eventually, his eyes went to the opened backdoor of the house. It was his sister, tapping her feet against the concrete stairs. “Come in and eat, dude,” she said.
Choice, now realizing the oddity in his situation, turned slower than before to face the shadowy man. He took an exaggerated gulp from his throat and felt a bead of sweat fall down his armpit onto the side of his stomach. Eventually, his face was in the same direction as his body. No one was there. All that remained was the wooden fishing lure with bells and no hook.
“Dude, come on or it will be cold,” said June.
Choice grabbed the lure and bolted toward the door.
Before he could open the screen door and walk inside, he could tell by the sound of his mother’s voice that things were about to get serious. He stashed the lure inside his pajama pocket.
“Choice, June,” she said. “Could y’all listen to me for a second?”
Finally inside, June pointed to the table where Choice’s food was cooling. His mother made a plate of scrambled eggs and jelly toast with a cup of orange juice to wash it down. The green salsa from back home was next to his plate. Once he sat down, he poured the salsa atop his eggs and started to eat.
“We need to talk about what happened last night, okay?” She took a sip of her coffee. “Since y’all aren’t going to school right now, I need us to all stick together. If any strangers try to even talk to you, both of you have to tell me.”
Choice’s eyes widened. He started nodding.
“It doesn’t matter how innocent it seems, I need to know about it!” She yelled that last part, setting her coffee mug down, banging it loudly against the counter.
“Mom,” said June. “We get it. I’ll keep an eye out.” June was equal parts inside the living room and kitchen with her face in her phone. The clicks that her thumb made onto the touch screen created a musical score representing her disinterest.
“I mean it!”
Choice finished his eggs and started to eat his jelly toast. “Could I have more orange juice?” His mom opened the fridge, taking the jug out to refill his cup. She left the jug on the table and sat across from him.
“Son,” she said, tenderly and filled with concern. “Do you understand what happened last night?”
Choice spoke with the chewed toast in his mouth. “A bad man was in sissy’s room.”
“That’s right. And how do we know that he’s a bad man?”
He swallowed his toast and took a sip of his juice. “…Because he wasn’t supposed to be there?” He said his answer as a question.
“Yes. That man is still out there—” Debbie stopped herself and Choice could tell that she was going to say more, but wasn’t sure how to go about it.
Something hit the floor directly below his chair at the table and Choice’s eyes widened again.
June, being far enough away from the two to see what it was spoke first. “You want to go fishing?”
Debbie ducked her head to see what her daughter was talking about. “I don’t remember your dad giving you this. Where did you get that lure?”
Her question seemed innocent enough, without a real care or prodding, yet Choice lied anyway. “I found it in the backyard,” he said. “Thought it looked cool.” It wasn’t a full on lie, he thought. Only a little one.
Debbie shrugged her shoulders and sighed. “We really need to clean this place up.”
There was a quiet that blanketed the room before it was urgently unraveled by June. “Mom, could I have some money to buy headphones?”
“And candy,” said Choice.

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