Three Babes in the Woods
by Yawatta Hosby
Three Babes in the Woods
If I shut my eyes, maybe Mommy will forget about me. I only need her to forget about me for about ten seconds. Well, I’m not very good with math, maybe it’s an hour. I squeeze my eyes tighter and tighter. And, I hug my red fuzzy Elmo tighter and tighter.
Elmo. Yikes! I throw him away from me in the back seat. He hits the side of the door with a thud. Oh no, the thud may get Mommy’s attention. I can’t open my eyes, so I can’t tell if she sees me or not.
“Honey, what are you doing?”
“You can see me?”
“Of course, honey, are you playing a game?”
I wish it was a game, but I’m scared to dea—Wait I don’t want to say death. Oh no, I said it by mistake. I don’t want to die. Maybe if I don’t answer Mommy she’ll forget about me.
I open a eyeball. Mommy’s looking at me through the rearview mirror. I can’t hide anymore. I may die.
“…I throwed Elmo.”
“Why? He’s your favorite toy.”
Mommy laughs. She stops when she sees I’m not laughing too. “Why is he scary?”
I hide under my coat by pulling it up over my head. Then I point out the window, afraid to see the scary sign. We go on this road every day to get home, and I didn’t know it was scary until yesterday. Bennie, my older cousin, warned me about Elmo leaving his three daughters in the woods to die. That the scary blue and yellow–I mean gold, is it gold or is it yellow? I haven’t learned all my colors yet in school–sign near the road is proof that it happened. Bennie says if I become a burden on Mommy and Daddy, then they may leave me in the woods to die too.
“What are you pointing at? The woods? You love the woods, sweetheart. Tell me what’s going on.”
“Did we passed the sign?”
“The sign? You know what the sign means?”
I stop hiding under my coat. Mommy needs to see me shake my head yes.
“Oh, Samantha, you’re too young to understand. How in the world did you hear about what that sign means?”
“I know-I know that Elmo killed his three daughters because they were a burden. Mommy, how does Elmo have daughters? Did he get married?” I reach out for Elmo. The seat belt cuts into my chest, but I manage to get him. Mommy needs to see who I’m talking about. No more lies, Mommy.
“You don’t have to be afraid of Elmo. He’s just a toy.” Mommy frowns. Oh no, is she lying? “I wish I could’ve explained things when you’re older, but let me try to now. I don’t want you afraid. Nothing bad will happen to you, honey.”
“But-but something bad happened to those girls. They died in the woods. Can I die in the woods too?”
“I’ll do everything in my power to protect you. Me and your daddy.”
“If Elmo’s just a toy, then who killed those girls?”
“Elmo Noakes was a man from California. He took a road trip with his three daughters and girlfriend. They ended up here in Pennsylvania.”
“Why did he kill them, Mommy?”
“In 1934, I want to say it was the Great Depression, but I’m not sure. I was never good in History class. I think… Mr. Noakes was a desperate man. He couldn’t afford to support his family…it was a tragedy, but you have to know me and your daddy love you very much. You never have to worry about us abandoning you.”
“Even if I’m a burden?”
“You’ll never be a burden to us, honey. Never.”
Did Elmo ever tell his daughters that? What if Mommy changes her mind? Bennie said it could happen at anytime. I never want to go camping again. I never want to drive on this road again. I never want any fur coats either.
And, I hate the color green. Green used to be my favorite color, but not anymore. Those three girls were found by a green blanket. Why couldn’t it have been a blue blanket? The awful scary color blue. Scary blue and scary yellow or scary gold. I really need to learn my colors.
My best friend in pre-school is scared of frogs. My cousin is scared of dogs. My little sister is scared of the boogeyman. I’m scared of Mommy and Daddy, thanks to my cousin Bennie. I’m scared to die. What if I become a burden and they decide to leave me in the woods to die? What if Mommy is lying about Elmo? I look at my red fuzzy toy. Is he going to kill me? Is he going to leave me in the woods to die if I become a burden?
What does burden even mean? I’m scared to ask Mommy. She may lie. Shutting my eyes tight doesn’t help me disappear. I’ll have to come up with something else. Only when we take this scary road that passes that scary blue and yellow—or is it gold?—sign. The sign that says On This Spot Were Found Three Babes in the Woods. Nov.-24-1934. The only reason I remember is because last night my cousin Bennie made me say it out loud a billion times until it stuck in my head.
How can I disappear? And what does burden mean? I’ll ask Bennie the next time I see him.