Ronald Kelly

The September Special Guest Writer is Ronald Kelly

Feel free to visit Ronald HERE


by Ronald Kelly

Tanglewood / n. (from the Irish Gaelic aimhreidh adhmad)

An impenetrable stand of vegetation
A secretive lair
A place of entrapment

I took the shortcut occasionally, when I was hard-pressed for time.

It was a lonely thoroughfare off the lefthand side of the highway; a rambling dirt stretch called Tanglewood Road. It cut through a particularly desolate stand of woods, but conveniently so; bypassing the bothersome curves of State Route 443 and reconnecting on its eastern side, slicing a good fifteen minutes off your traveling time.

I was running late that afternoon. I’d carried my black lab, Midnight, to the vet for his annual shots, but it had taken longer than I had expected. The clock on the dash of my jeep read 3:47, where it should have read 3:00, if things had gone according to plan. Seeing the dirt turnoff up ahead, I steered off the highway into the shady stretch of Tanglewood Road, hoping that it would buy me some much-needed time.

I could imagine Karla at home; waiting, fuming. We were supposed to be at her boss’s house at Center Hill Lake at four o’clock, for some sort of company outing. Burgers and hot dogs, lewd jokes and too much drinking… at least for my taste. Maybe a late-night excursion on Phil Jenson’s pontoon boat; more laughter, more alcohol, and, before it was over with, a few
uninhibited souls skinny-dipping in the dark waters of the lake.

And, more than likely, Karla would have a little too much to drink and be right in the middle of it all. At least until I hauled her drunken ass out of the water and took her home in the early hours of the morning.

I was in a hurry to get there, but that didn’t mean that I was looking forward to it. I would have just as soon sat this party out, but that would have been unacceptable in Karla’s eyes. Our absence would have made her look bad in front of her co-workers… and her precious boss.

Onward, I drove. The stretch of dense forest along Tanglewood Road was about as abandoned and forlorn as you could possibly get. Tall stands of pine and cedar stretched on either side, their upper branches interlacing, forming an almost impenetrable canopy over the straight avenue of rutted dirt road. Shadow hung heavily across the bordering thickets of honeysuckle and kudzu that lined the roadway and, every now and then, a little sunshine would peek through overhead, dappling the wooded darkness with speckles of pale light.

I looked over to where Midnight occupied the jeep’s passenger seat. He seemed to have gotten over the trauma of his visit to the veterinarian. The lab’s head hung out the open window, luxuriously enjoying the rush of the wind, his ears arched back and his tongue lolling from his mouth. The picture of canine contentment.

When I turned my eyes back to the road, I cursed and slammed on my brakes. But it was too late. My front left tire hit a jagged tree limb lying in the middle of the road. I heard a loud thwump and knew at once that my intended shortcut had just gone straight to hell in a handbasket, as my grandmother used to say. I cut the wheel sharply to the right, avoiding running over the limb with my rear tires. But the damage had already been done. I drove a few more yards and felt that tell-tale limp of a fatally wounded tire.

“Damn!” I said and braked to a halt. I sat there for a long moment, hands clenching the steering wheel tightly, my eyes closed in disgust. Just what I needed… something else for my wife to bitch about when I finally made it home. Whenever that would be.

I opened my eyes and looked over at Midnight. He looked back at me with that asinine doggy grin of his. What happened? he seemed to ask. Why did you stop? You know how much I enjoy that whole head-hanging-out-the-car-window thing. And you pull a stupid stunt like this.

“Yeah, yeah,” I said aloud. “Stand in line, buddy. Karla’s got first dibs at making me feel like dirt, okay?”

Midnight simply wagged his tail as if in total agreement.

I sighed and climbed out of the jeep. It was hot that July afternoon; muggy and swelteringly uncomfortable. It hadn’t seemed so bad, driving fifty miles per hour with the wind rushing through the windows. But now the oppressive humidity could be felt, full force. My t-shirt began to cling damply to my chest and back. It would only get worse when I set to the task of changing the tire.

I could picture Karla in the living room, dressed and ready. Pacing the floor, calling me every nasty name in the book.

Midnight hopped out of the open door and joined me on the deserted road. “Well, let’s get to it, boy,” I said. Together, we walked around to the back of the jeep.

I was lucky that I had taken the jeep to the vet that day, instead of the Lexus. It sported a full-sized spare tire on a swing bracket on the back hatch, instead of one of those silly little donut tires that didn’t look like it would hold up a Radio Flyer wagon. I unfastened the tire, then opened the hatch and rummaged around for the jack and lug wrench.
I found myself thinking about Karla and the love-making session we had shared early that morning. Sleepy two-spoons coupling had turned into amorous caresses and, eventually, intercourse. Even in the gloom of the bedroom, I could tell that Karla wasn’t completely with the program. Her body responded, but her mind was somewhere else. Or with someone else.

Pushing the uneasiness from my mind, I tossed the tools that I needed in the dirt next to the flattened tire and went to work loosening the lug nuts. Midnight sat on his haunches and watched me curiously as I got four of the bolts loose and, of course, struggled frustratingly with the fifth and last.

Then, suddenly, the lab’s ears perked, and his head turned. He stood up on all fours and stared off into the forest.

“What is it, boy?” I asked absently.

Midnight took several steps toward the edge of the road, his gaze intense as he continued to survey the dark shadows of the deep woods to the left of the vehicle. Then he began to bark.

I finally got the last lug nut loose and pulled the wheel off. I stood and looked off in the direction that seemed to hold his attention. Frankly, I could see nothing that would get him so riled up. Maybe he had caught a glimpse of a jackrabbit or a tree squirrel. Living in the up-scale subdivision that Karla and I occupied, Midnight didn’t come across such woodland creatures very often. A raccoon had gotten into the trash cans late last summer, but he had taken his leave when our garbage hadn’t suited his dietary needs.

“Don’t let those critters spook you, Midnight,” I told him.

But the lab continued to bark. I reached out to run a comforting hand across the back of his head, but abruptly he was out of reach. He took off                                                                                                                         
like a black torpedo, leaping into the thicket and heading into the patches of shadowy darkness amid the pines.

“Come back here, Midnight!” I called to him. But he would hear none of it. He bounded through the deep kudzu and, soon, was completely out of sight.

I stood there for a moment and listened. I recognized the type of bark he was unleashing now; the high-pitched, frantic barking he emitted when he came across a bitch in heat. I couldn’t help but chuckle. “Go on and get you some, you horny bastard,” I said beneath my breath, then turned back to the job at hand.

I rolled the spare into line and struggled to position the wheel on the front rotor. When I finally got the right bolts in the right holes, I reached for the lug nuts. My hand stopped short of the first nut when Midnight let out a shrill yelp.

I stood up and turned around. “Midnight?” 

Another yelp… this time full of confusion and pain.

“Boy? Are you okay?”

I was answered only by silence. I peered into the forest but could see no sign of the black lab that had been my bosom buddy since college.

What have you gotten into? I thought to myself. Disgusted, I left the jeep and, stepping into the thicket, began to carefully make my way toward the woods.

It took me several minutes, but I finally found where Midnight had gone to. I picked my way through a dense clump of blackberry bramble and found him in a small, grassy clearing. The lab was lying on his side. His breathing was shallow, and his paws twitched spasmodically.

“What’s wrong, old fella?” I said softly as I knelt next to him. There was a strange cast to his normally bright eyes. They seemed glazed and out of focus.

What happened? I wondered fearfully. Did a snake bite him? I looked around but saw no sign of a copperhead or rattlesnake. That didn’t mean he hadn’t been bitten by one though.

I tugged gently at his collar. “Come on, boy. Let’s get you back to the jeep.”

Midnight simply lay there, though, whimpering like a whipped puppy.

I was wondering exactly how I was going to get him back to the road,
when I heard a faint sound behind me. The tiny noise of a footstep snapping
a twig in half.

Startled, I jumped up and turned around.

For one long moment, I couldn’t comprehend what I was looking at.

It was a boy, perhaps nine years of age. He was lanky, with spiky red hair, blue eyes, and freckles on his face and arms. He wore an orange Tennessee Vols t-shirt and denim shorts, and a pair of ragged sneakers on his feet.

I couldn’t help but take a step backward, nearly tripping over Midnight in the process.

It was a boy I had known a very long time ago. A boy from my childhood.

A boy who had been dead twenty-two years come this August.

His name was Joey Messner and he had been my best friend. I painfully recalled the accident that had taken his life. We had been climbing a big oak tree that was in his father’s cow pasture. Joey and I were racing to the top recklessly, laughing all the way, when Joey’s footing gave away and he fell. I still remember that sickening crack as the back of his head struck a lower limb, snapping his neck. I had hurried down as fast as I could and found him, crumpled and dying, on the ground below, his eyes wide with confusion and his mouth working silently, like a fish gasping for sustenance. I ran to fetch his father, but by the time we got back, Joey was dead.

And now here he was, after all these years, standing in front of me.

“Hiya, Robbie,” he said. He lifted his hand from his side and gave me that secret salute we came up with that summer; a thumbs-up, followed by an immediate thumbs-down.

I felt disoriented. What’s happening? I thought to myself. This isn’t real.

Hurriedly, I tugged at Midnight’s collar, bringing him shakily to his feet with some effort. Slowly, I retreated and steered the black lab back through the blackberry bramble, toward the road. Joey simply stood there and grinned that lopsided, mischievous grin that was his trademark. The grin that no amount of mortician’s cosmetology could duplicate.

We were back through the tangle of underbrush and nearly to the road, when Midnight shuddered and collapsed. The dog was big – well over a hundred pounds – but I managed to carry him the rest of the way. I dumped him into the passenger seat of the jeep, then turned around. Joey stood next to a mossy deadfall, giving me the live-or-die salute again.

“Hey, Robbie,” he called to me.

I knelt beside the front wheel and quickly began to fumble for the lug
nuts. Despite the heat of the summer afternoon, I felt chilled to the bone. I shuddered as I worked, wanting to tighten those lug nuts back into place and get the hell out of that place.

I was down to the last two, when Joey’s voice came again, this time only inches from my right ear. “Remember me?”

It startled me so, that the lug wrench slipped, skinning my knuckles and bringing blood. I cussed and glanced over my shoulder, expecting to see him there, only a few feet away. But he was still where he had been before, standing beside the deadfall. This time, however, his head was lolled unnaturally backward, so far that I could only see the tip of his chin above his shoulders. He waved at me.

“Come on, come on!” I hissed beneath my breath. Finally, I got the last nut on. I released the jack, tossed the tools and flat in the back of the jeep, and hopped inside.

“Robbie,” called Joey from the edge of the woods. “Where ya going, buddy?”

I started up the jeep and took off. I didn’t want to, but I glanced in the sideview mirror when I’d gotten a few yards down the lonesome stretch of Tanglewood Road. Joey Messner still stood there, his head back in its proper place now. A peculiar expression had replaced that silly grin of his. An expression that I could only describe as disappointment.

The party at the lake had been the social disaster that I had expected it to be.

We had arrived an hour and fifteen minutes late, a fact that Karla reminded me of constantly during our drive to the lakehouse. Once there, my time had been divided between putting up with Karla’s annoying co-workers and trying to keep my wife in line. Karla was bound and determined to be the life of the party, however. Too little food and too much to drink had turned her into a loud, obnoxious tease, and she made the rounds
with the men in the crowd; joking and flirting.

I would have been terribly embarrassed by her behavior, if my thoughts hadn’t been preoccupied with what had happened earlier on the old backroad. I mostly stuck to a neutral corner that night, nursing a club soda with lime and trying to rationalize it all.

The thing with Midnight was pretty much clear cut; either he had reacted negatively to his shots or he had been bitten by a poisonous snake. I had insisted that we rush him back to the veterinarian, but Karla had shot that
idea down quickly. “I swear, Rob, sometimes I think you love that damn dog more than you love me,” she had snapped.

Sometimes I wondered that myself.

The incident with the boy who looked like Joey Messner was what troubled me the most. Leaning against the railing of the boat, with music blaring and people enjoying each other’s company, I began to wonder if I had simply imagined the entire episode. Perhaps I had been so distraught over Midnight’s condition that I had imagined the entire thing. But why? I hadn’t thought of Joey in years. Why would he suddenly resurface at such a strange time and place, in the way he had?

Am I going nuts? I couldn’t help but wonder. Has Karla finally pushed me over the edge?

A burst of loud, lustful laughter from my wife jolted me from my thoughts. My suspicions had been correct. She had already shed her clothes and was in the lake, along with several others. Among them was the bossman himself. He and Karla swam away from the others, suspiciously and inappropriately close, as I watched.

We got home around two-thirty the following morning. As I suspected, I had to fight to get her to leave. Karla had cussed and belittled me in front of her friends as I escorted her down the dock to where our car was parked. Phil Jenson had watched us, with an amused smile on his tanned face.

When we got home, Karla was totally out of it. I left her to sleep it off in the Lexus.

I found poor Midnight lying on the garage floor, dead. He was curled up in a fetal position.

His pitch-black coat had turned snow white in color.


A couple of months passed.

It was a Friday evening and I was returning home from work. I was particularly stressed that day. After weeks of preparation, the marketing presentation I had made earlier that morning hadn’t gone as well as I had expected. And Karla was on my mind. She was out of town on business. Attending a sales conference in Memphis… with Phil.

I wasn’t in any particular hurry. I could have taken the normal route home. But I chose to take the shortcut instead.

It was late September and the leaves were just beginning to turn. The sun was setting, and narrow streaks of the day’s last light beamed through the treetops along the rural lane of Tanglewood Road. I knew my reason for wanting to go there. I wanted to try to locate the spot where I’d had the flat tire. The place where Midnight had suffered his downfall. The place where a long-dead pal from my childhood had come back to haunt me.

At first, I had difficulty finding the place I was looking for. Then I spotted the mossy deadfall sixty feet or so off the roadway. I parked the jeep and got out. The evening was cool, and I pulled my jacket closer around me. Then I started through the heavy carpet of kudzu toward the deadfall.

I was halfway there, when I spotted movement in the shadows just beyond the fallen tree.

“Hello?” I called out. “Who’s there?”

They didn’t answer. Just moved further into the woods.

I hesitated for a moment. Just get back in the jeep and go home, I told myself. Fire yourself up a frozen dinner and brood over Karla all you want. Just get the hell out of here.

But I wouldn’t listen to myself. I ducked past the deadfall and continued into the thicket. I caught a glimpse of the person ahead, moving into the dense tangle of the blackberry bramble. They turned and looked at me, then disappeared from sight.

My heart began to pound in my chest. No, it couldn’t be. It simply couldn’t be who I thought it was. It was impossible. More than impossible.

My pace quickened. I plunged into the blackberry patch, ignoring the pull and tug of the thorns as I fought my way through. Then I reached the edge of the bramble, stepped through, and everything changed.

I found myself standing on a sandy beach in the height of summer. The waves of the Atlantic crashed a few yards away, the surf rolling in, washing upon the sand with salty foam. Seagulls flew lazily overhead. I turned to the right and saw what I expected to see. The tall, white column of a lighthouse stood atop a rocky cliff.

I had been there before as a child. My family and I had taken a vacation to South Carolina one year, to Myrtle Beach and then down the coast toward Georgia. The lighthouse was located somewhere between Charleston and Savannah. My sister and I had been bored to tears, but my mother had loved it. Wouldn’t it be great to live in a place like this? she had said, her eyes closed, smiling as she breathed in the ocean air.

My mother.

I stared at the base of the lighthouse. She stood there on the rocky ledge, waving at me.

“Robbie!” she called out.

Oh, dear God, I told myself. It’s happening again.

I found myself walking, then running toward the lighthouse. Soon, I was scrambling up the rocky embankment to the front stoop of the tall structure. My mother had gone inside. As I entered the column of the lighthouse, I could hear her footsteps on the risers of the iron staircase that spiraled upward. I hesitated at the bottom, then carefully made my way to the top.

When I finally got there, I discovered that the beacon apparatus of the lighthouse had been removed and the circular room had been glassed in and converted into a breezy Florida room, complete with potted palms and white wicker furniture. An easel sat to one side, boasting a canvas with a half-finished seascape. I recognized the style of the brushstrokes immediately.


“I’m here, Robbie.” Her voice came from a door that opened onto the outside railing.

I saw her standing there, healthy and vibrant, not sunken and drained of life by the horrible battle she had waged with cancer. Her face was rosy, and her auburn locks were long and luxuriant; a far cry from the loss of hair and dignity she had endured during those long, fruitless sessions of chemotherapy. She was dressed in the outfit she had worn during that distant vacation. Sandals, white Capri pants, a white and navy stripped top, and that garish sunhat with the colorful flowers and plastic lemons and pineapples around the brim. It was a hat that had been a running joke among my father, my sister, and I during that entire trip along the Carolina coast. I remember saying that, if the car broke down, we could live off Mom’s fruit salad hat. Mom had simply laughed along with us, unaware that she would be diagnosed with ovarian cancer a month after our return home.

Slowly, in a daze, I went to her. She stood on the circular platform of the lighthouse, waiting for me.

“Isn’t it beautiful here, sweetheart?” she asked with that infectious smile of hers.

I looked over the railing at the vast blue expanse of the ocean. The waves crashed upon the gray rocks below and the gulls circled and soared overhead. I didn’t know what to make of it, being here at this place, when I should have been in a dark thicket in a stretch of Tennessee backwoods.

“Is this heaven?” I asked her, not knowing what else to say.

She smiled. “It can be if you want.” She opened her arms to me. “I’ve missed you so much, Robbie.”

Tears bloomed in my eyes and I felt a joy unlike any I’d ever known. “Oh, Mom… I’ve missed you, too.”

I went to her then and embraced the woman I had lost when I was twelve. She wrapped her loving arms around me… and that was when I realized what a horrible mistake I had made.

At first, I felt warmth and acceptance, exactly what I should have felt in the grasp of the woman who had given birth to me. But then that warmth swiftly gave way to a chilling sensation of displacement, as though something cold and alive had infected my life’s blood and was coursing throughout my veins. A feeling of being drained of strength and consciousness rushed in, threatening to overtake me.

I don’t know how, but I tore myself from my mother’s grasp. Or the grasp of the thing that had presented itself as my long-dead mother.

“Where are you going, Robbie?” she said forlornly. As I backed away, toward the head of the spiral staircase, I watched as her face began to wither into a parchment-covered skull, her hair falling away in dry, dead strands. “I’ve waited so long, my dear. So very long.”

With a cry on my lips, I stumbled down the iron stairway. I felt as weak as water and nearly tumbled, head over heels, down the metal risers several times. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, I reached the entranceway of the lighthouse and plunged --

-- into the darkening woods once again. Sluggishly, I tore my way through the blackberry bramble and past the deadfall. I reached the jeep and, refusing to look back, started the engine and took off down the shadowy stretch of Tanglewood Road.

What’s happening to me? I wondered as I drove, scarcely able to keep my eyes open. It was as though every ounce of strength had been leeched from my body. I felt as though I were on the verge of dying.

A minute later, I had reached the highway. I was so intent on getting away from that wooded backroad, that I failed to see the dump truck barreling toward me as I pulled out.

I must have slipped from consciousness before the collision, because I can’t, for the life of me, remember the crushing impact that followed.


I survived the crash with only a broken arm and a concussion. But what mostly ailed me were the aftereffects of my experience beyond the deadfall alongside the deserted stretch of Tanglewood Road.

My doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I was terribly anemic, and my white blood count was way off the scale. Tests for leukemia and a dozen other possible causes came up negative. In time, my immune system strengthened and rebuilt itself.

I remember waking up in my bed at the hospital and seeing Karla sitting next to my bed. She smiled at me, but there was something in her eyes that shouldn’t have been there. An underlying expression of disappointment, instead of relief. But why?

Then I looked toward the doorway of the hospital room and saw Phil Jenson standing at a comfortable distance… and I knew.

“You had us scared to death,” she said. She played the faithful wife and took my hand in hers. “As soon as I got the call, Phil drove me back. What happened?”

I shrugged, feeling as though a freight train had given me a full-body massage. “I can’t remember much about it. I was coming home from work and I had a wreck. I don’t even remember how it happened,” I lied.

“Well, you ought to see the jeep,” she said, with a hint of disapproval. “The thing is totaled.” She absently brushed a strand of brown hair from her eyes. “But, hey, you’re the one that matters, not that silly old jeep.”

Am I? I wondered. I looked over at Phil. He avoided looking me in the eyes.

It wasn’t long before he departed, leaving Karla there with me. We sat there in silence for a long time, not talking, watching some stupid show on the TV suspended on the opposite wall.

Later, she dozed off in the chair, leaving me alone with my thoughts.

I laid there and stared at her, feeling sad and lost. What happened to us, Karla? I thought. What turned it all around? I remembered the day of our wedding. She had been so beautiful standing before me. Our love for one another had been so complete then, so very evident. And it had lasted… for a while.

Then she had applied for the administrative assistant job and began working for Phil.

My despair gave way to anger. What am I going to do with you, Karla? I wondered.

Soon, the nurse came in and gave me something for pain and, before long, I too was asleep.


Things got steadily worse for me and Karla following my release from the hospital.

The emotional chasm between us seemed to widen and grow deeper and darker with each passing day. She spent more of her time at work or on business trips… with Phil.

Also, her attitude grew more vindictive and loveless. I couldn’t count the amount of arguments we got into over one stupid thing or another. I tried my best to keep our marriage on course, but it seemed destined to go careening off a cliff, to crash and burn on the jagged rocks below.


Then, one night in mid-October, the culmination of resentment and harsh feelings finally came to a head.

We had decided to go out to eat and take in a movie. Secretly, I had hoped our date would help rekindle some of the feelings we had shared before. But Karla wouldn’t allow that to happen. She seemed snappy and preoccupied during our meal, as if she derived no enjoyment from us being together at all. Once, her cell phone had rang and she had hissed “I’ll call you back later,” before returning it to her purse and finishing her dessert.

The movie had proven to be even more disheartening. We sat, side by side, but there was no closeness, no handholding. It was a romantic comedy, the type we once loved so very much, but that night neither of us laughed. We might as well have been sitting across the theatre from one another the entire time.

The silence inside the car as we drove home was oppressive. Something was about to happen that night… to both of us. Something bad. I could feel it. Karla was about to spring something devastating on me… although it was something I had expected for a very long time.

Halfway home, I saw a dirt turnoff at the lefthand of the road. Without warning, I steered off the highway and onto the dark stretch of Tanglewood Road.

“Where are you going?” Karla snapped irritably.

“It’s a short cut,” I replied.

We drove for a couple of minutes in pitch darkness. There were no streetlights and very little moonlight filtered from the treetops above.

I slowed the Lexus down and made a sharp turn in the road. The headlights illuminated the mossy mass of the deadfall.

“What the hell are you up to?” she demanded to know.

I cut the engine and sat behind the steering wheel, leaving the headlights burning. “Let’s talk.”

Karla stared at me for a long moment, then unleashed a harsh laugh. “Talk? You want to talk? Okay… let’s talk then.”

I sat there, gripping the wheel firmly. Staring past the windshield into the woods beyond.

“I don’t love you anymore,” she said with a cruel edge to her voice.

“Really?” I continued to stare straight ahead. Watching.

“I’m in love with Phil,” she told me. “I want a divorce.”

“Uh-huh.”  Watching. Searching.

“Our marriage has been dead for a long time, Rob,” she continued. “I deserve to be happy, don’t I?”

A little smile crossed my face. “Karla?”

“What?” she snapped.


She turned her attention from me and stared through the windshield, toward the dense forest awash in halogen light.

“What the -- ?” she muttered.

There was a little girl standing near the deadfall. A girl wearing a white dress with tiny pink flowers embroidered across the neckline. Her hair was long and chestnut brown… the same hue as that of my wife.

It was Karla’s twin sister, Kerrie.

The one who had drowned in the family swimming pool at the age of five.

Karla turned her eyes toward me. They were full of confusion… and fear.

“Go ahead, Karla,” I told her. “It’s all right.”

She placed her hand on the door handle. Hesitated.

“She’s waiting for you,” I urged softly. “Go.”

As if in a daze, Karla left the car. I watched as she made her way through the ankle-deep kudzu, toward the child who stood next to the deadfall.

I rolled my window down a crack and listened.

“Hi, Sissy,” said the little girl. She extended a pale hand.

“Hi,” returned Karla. She stared at her sibling for a long moment, then their fingers entwined.

In the pale glow of the headlights, I watched as the two turned and started toward the forest. I could tell that the girl was already doing a number on her. Karla’s movements were jerky and unnatural. She turned once and smiled back at me. In the light, her face leered like that of a skull.

I shifted into reverse and then started down the road for home. I glanced back only once, but the darkness of the forest had already swallowed them completely.


I don’t know why I ever went back. Out of curiosity maybe… or guilt.

I received some flack over Karla’s disappearance. Her parents were sure that I had something to do with it, and the police had suspected me of foul play. I submitted to a polygraph to satisfy them. They asked me if I had killed my wife and, truthfully, I had said no. I passed the test and, eventually, their suspicions lagged, and the case grew cold.    

A few days ago, I happened across Phil Jenson in a restaurant. He openly confronted me, accusing me of doing Karla in. I defused the situation before it could escalate into something violent. “She left us, Phil,” I told him. “Both of us.” And I hadn’t lied.

Then, one afternoon in February, I was out running some errands in town. On the way back, I spotted the turnoff up ahead. I didn’t hesitate. I took the shortcut home.

It was cold that day; in the mid-30’s. The greenery of the surrounding forest had withered and faded with winter, leaving mostly dead vegetation, but the pines and cedars still held their evergreen luster. The road was speckled with clumps of old snow, where sunlight had been unable to reach them.

I slowed the Lexus as I approached the deadfall. I put the car in park and rolled down the window.

Karla stood there, halfway between the deadfall and the road. She was tanned and trim, wearing that slinky sharkskin bikini she had worn during our honeymoon in the Fiji Islands. She even sported that diamond stud in her belly button, the one I’d bought for her birthday the month before we were engaged.

She smiled at me brilliantly, teeth so perfectly white, eyes so clear and full of hope.

My thoughts returned to that private bungalow where we had spent that glorious week in Fiji. The evening walk we had made, hand in hand, along the white sand beach and the wondrous love we had made beside the gentle surf. I remember peeling the bikini away, revealing her underlying beauty, reveling in the way she felt against me. I remember the hardness of the diamond stud on my tongue as I made that teasing journey downward.
Then, as the brilliant pink and gold hues of the sunset had spilled across us, our passion built and spiraled to a pinnacle unlike any either of us had ever reached before. A pinnacle of mutual ecstasy that almost seemed to transcend both life and death.

Now, standing before me, Karla’s eyes told me that it could be that way again.

At least the death part.

“I love you, Rob,” she said with more sincerity than I had heard in years.

I didn’t return the sentiment. Instead, I floored the gas and sped far
away from that terrible thing that existed on the lonesome stretch of Tanglewood Road.

I kept on driving.


And, in some awful way, I am running still.

Ronald Kelly was born and raised in the hills and hollows of Middle Tennessee. He became interested in horror as a child, watching the local “Creature Feature” on Saturday nights and “The Big Show”—a Nashville-based TV show that presented every old monster movie ever made —in the afternoons after school. In high school, his interest turned to horror literature and he read such writers as Poe, Lovecraft, Matheson, and King. He originally had dreams of becoming a comic book artist and created many of his own super heroes. But during his junior year, the writing bug bit him and he focused his attention on penning short stories and full-length novels.

Following high school, he entered the workforce and found employment as a welder. During a twelve year period, he wrote in his spare time, polishing his writing skills and seeking publication. He wrote mystery, science fiction, and western fiction, but found no success in those genres. Then, upon a whim, he returned to the horror and suspense genre that he had loved so during his earlier years. In 1988 he sold his first short story to Terror Time Again for $20. Afterward, his short fiction appeared regularly in small press horror magazines and Kelly became known as one of the few Southern horror writers of that period, setting his dark rural tales in Tennessee and other southern locations. His work was published in legendary publications such as Cemetery DanceDeathrealmGrueNoctulpa, and New Blood. In 1989, he sold his first novel, Hindsight, to Zebra Books. It was published in 1990, and during the next six years, seven other novels were published by Zebra: PitfallSomething Out ThereMoon of the WerewolfFather’s Little HelperThe PossessionFear, and Blood Kin. Also during that time, Kelly put out an audio story collection, Dark Dixie, which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best non-musical recording. He also had numerous short stories in major anthologies, such as Cold BloodShock RockHot BloodBorderlandsThe Earth Strikes Back, and Dark At Heart.

Then, in autumn of 1996, the bottom fell out of the horror market and Zebra Books closed down their horror line. Kelly was left without a publisher and, since many mass market publishers had also abandoned the horror genre, he found little prospect of finding one. He grew disillusioned and discouraged, and decided to retire from writing. During the next ten years he returned to the workforce, building a life with his wife and raising two daughters. He also embraced his Christian upbringing and became involved in his local church. For years he believed that his career as a horror writer was a thing of the past and that he would never return to it.

In 2006, concerned fans began to ask about Kelly over the internet, wondering what had become of him. Before long, a renewed interest in his brand of Southern Horror fiction emerged and new readers began to search for his old novels on eBay and other internet outlets. Close friends and fans urged him to return to the horror genre and give a career at writing another shot. In the summer of 2006, Kelly gave in and, while apprehensive, decided to try his hand at writing once again.

Kelly’s second career as a writer of Southern Horror is gaining momentum. In 2008, his first novel in twelve years—Hell Hollow—will be published, as well as his first short story collection, Midnight Grinding & Other Twilight Terrors. He also has numerous short stories scheduled for publication and some limited edition releases of his previous novels—such as Undertaker’s Moon(Moon of the Werewolf)—are now in the works.
He currently lives in Brush Creek, Tennessee with his wife, Joyce, and his two daughters, Reilly and Makenna (Chigger),

You can visit his website HERE



undertakers moon