I delivered an afternoon paper. I had to get a light for my bike so that, in the fall and winter, when it got dark early, I could steer clear of fallen branches on the way to Mrs. Hachette’s place.
I never met Mrs. Hachette, although I caught a glimpse of her once. She was putting something in her cellar and closing the big, wooden doors behind her. She was moving fast. I think she’d seen me coming. The sun was setting, and I could just make out her silhouette. She was tall and thin. It was windy, and her long, stringy hair swirled around her head. It reminded me of Medusa from history class.
Mrs. Hachette lived alone. Nobody knew anything about Mr. Hachette, including why he wasn’t there anymore, although there were rumors.
Mrs. Hachette paid for her paper at the end of each month. She left money in an unmarked envelope on a small table on her front porch. There was always a big, black rock on it.
One October, I went up on her porch to collect. It was windy, and the branches of a weeping willow brushed against one side of the old house. Somewhere a crow cawed. It was dusk. There was a light on in the front room, but I didn’t see or hear any movement inside. I grabbed the envelope and stuffed it in my jacket pocket. Before I left, though, I decided to take a peek through the front window.
I was stunned. Scattered all around the room were body parts: arms, legs, hands, feet, torsos, even heads. A naked body lay on the sofa. Another lay on the floor. A lamp in the corner cast a pale, eerie light over the whole, macabre scene.
I felt like screaming but, in case Mrs. Hachette was inside, didn’t want to give myself away. Who knows what she might do to me. I spun around and lept off the porch, jumped on my bike and raced home.
I thought about telling my parents or calling the police, but I didn’t say a thing to anyone. I felt rather guilty, but I knew saying something would only draw me in, and I wanted nothing more to do with Mrs. Hachette.
After that, I stopped delivering her paper. I was relieved when she never inquired or complained. A year later, when I handed off my paper route to a friend, I didn’t even mention her.
Years later, I asked my mom if she knew whatever happened to Mrs. Hachette.
“I think she moved away when Sears closed,” she said.
“Yeah. Mrs. Hachette took care of the mannequins.”