Runs In The Family

a horror story

When I was seven years old
I watched three grown men try to
restrain my skinny little Aunt
June and take her away to the
Bryce Mental Hospital. June had
first been institutionalized as a
teenager, but I didn’t know that.
She is the mother of my cousins,
Bucky and Rita.

June lived alone with her
two children in the rural
community of Lovick,
Alabama, just up the hill
from the train trestle, in an
old building that used to
have been a part time auto
garage. Uncle Bill, June’s
brother, boarded up some
walls and put in a pot belly
stove so they could live
there. Bucky would get up
first in the wintertime to start
a fire in that stove, then he
would go back to bed until
the room was warm enough
to be bearable. Buck was six
years old. Their in-door
plumbing was across the

My most frightening memory of
that day is from the episode that
seemed to set off the violence. Aunt
June proclaimed that someone was
trying to poison her because she
smelled Clorox in the water. They
couldn’t calm her down and her
hysteria built up all afternoon to the
point that I saw her slinging around
three grown men in the front yard. But
that was not the most frightening part.

I knew that I myself had smelled Clorox in the water coming from
the faucet in my parent’s Birmingham apartment. The explanations I
had overheard the grownups make to Aunt June about city water
treatment didn’t convince me either. I was a child of endless questions
and needs for answers and it was only by chance that I had never
puzzled an adult regarding the odor of chlorinated water. I clammed
up, my greatest fear that someone would find out,


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