Wm says: the Bedlamites contest is over, but the fun continues as we reveal more of the submissions we received — starting with this gem from Laura.
The Ballad of the Bedlamites
by Laura Hilton Craner
The story’s told at family nite near e’ry twenty-fourth of July.
The Miller clan remembers them with ice cream and dried apple pie.
Not impressive like the seagulls or cherished like the lilies,
The Bedlamites are stranger things. Yep, give some folks the willies.
Once everyone is seated, pie and forks in hand,
Grampa LeRoy clears his throat then slowly comes to stand.
Cousins, kids and uncles, aunts and Granny too,
All can the chatter; they know what matters, what LeRoy has got to do.
“It wasn’t all that long ago our ancestors crossed those plains.
They scrimped and saved, they gave their lives, Zion to proclaim.
They loaded up their wagons, leaving cherished things behind.
Our freedoms and our God they trekked out west to find.
“Our pioneer kin was strong of heart; “˜twas with spiritual muscles rippling
They filled their cart with dried apples and Aunt Franny (who was crippling).
Now it ain’t no secret it was hard to walk and walk and walk
But Great-great-granny Bess sure was blessed when Trouble came to knock.
“It’d been more than one week since Great-great-grandpa Gene
Had kicked the bucket, sold the farm–you know what I mean.
They buried him right quick in dusty desert sand.
But all his seven kids were fussin’ yet, fit to beat the band.
“Bess, she shed just two tears then started to drive the wagon
Shoutin’ back to all her kids to quit their lollygaggin’.
The littlest one, Vidalia, just couldn’t stop her wailing.
So Aunt Franny , unbeknownst to Granny, left dried apples trailing.
“What the old bird was thinking no one’s sure at all.
Inspiration or insanity? You can make the call.
She dumped those chunks of has-been fruit completely overboard,
Piece by spongy piece Franny emptied all their hoard.
“Poor, hungry, tired Vidalia stuffed her face but couldn’t eat them all.
Her jaw got sore, her stomach hurt, and she “˜ventually took a fall.
When she woke back up “˜twas nearing dark, her family was nowhere.
She was lost, her cookies tossed, plus she thought she’d heard a bear.
“It was about this time that Bess had noticed her little sweet Vidalia
Was missing ; Oh! you should have heard her gasp and gulp and holla,
“˜Vidalia! Vidalia! Come to me! We can’t lose another!’
She fell to her knees and whispered, “˜It would kill your mother.’
“Again our Bess shed just two tears then got that shoulder to the wheel.
Right then and there she grabbed her kids and forced them all to kneel.
The biggest boy (Bess’ other Gene) was pegged to say the prayer.
He stumbled and he mumbled, then he shouted to the air,
“˜Vidalia is our baby and we do love her tight.
If you give her back to us we’ll always do what’s right!’
His words echoed strangely against the nighttime sky,
And in that moment Dear Aunt Franny knew just what to try.
” “˜The Bedlamites,’ she whispered in her crackling voice.
“˜You Bedlamites! You Bedlamites! We have made our choice!’
Triumphant now, she raised her arms straight above her head.
Then she howled and she growled fit to wake the dead.
“Lil’ Vidalia, all alone, was getting downright worried,
Imagining some crazy beast who’d eat her in a hurry.
And indeed, there was some rustling “˜neath the bits of scrub and sage
But no beady eyes were beaming, no jaws frothing in rage.
“What appeared right then was cute, except for its pig-like nose,
And more of them kept popping up, rows and rows and rows.
Little beasts like monkeys but also like pixies too,
They smiled and beguiled saying, “˜We know what to do!’
” “˜We’re Bedlamites’ they snickered. “˜We’re here to help you out.
We’ve been summoned by a yell; someone gave The Primal Shout.’
Vidalia scrutinized those Bedlamites and was no longer tearful.
She gave them all dried apples (although their teeth she found quite fearful).
“The Bedlamites fingered the apples slowly, sniffing them with piggy noses.
“˜What is this new thing?’ they muttered and squished them with their toeses.
“˜You eat it,’ Vidalia prompted. The creatures took small bites.
Then sloshed and mashed , and noshed and gnashed, their eyes becoming bright.
“Aunt Franny, miles away, said, “˜Bedlamites, you Bedlamites, I know that you are greedy.
“˜Bring Vidalia back to us. We’ll make sure your stomachs’re never needy.’
At once the Bedlamites stood up and smooshed themselves together
Making a bigger creature that lifted Vidalia like a feather.
The Bedlamites chanted as they carried her through the night,
Their spindly legs and hairy chests hurtling with otherworldly might,
“˜The Bedlamites are running, running up to the old wagon floor.
“˜The Bedlamites are running, running , hung’ring for some more!’
“Before an hour was past Vidalia was with her mother.
The whole family rejoiced, each sister and each brother.
They covered her with kisses, not noticing the creatures
Who’d brought her back or their clever, cunning features.
“The Bedlamites scrambled up to Franny and prodded her ungently,
Rummaging through her bedding disturbingly intently.
“˜More,’ they murmured. “˜More and more. We do want some more.
“˜It’s time’ they twittered and they skittered “˜ to even up the score.’
“Aunt Franny, herself now scared, began to turn the barrels over,
And when they came up empty she got real sober.
“˜Bedlamites, um, Bedlamites, “˜ she stammered as they sneered
“˜Unfortunately, it would seem, um, your payment isn’t here.’
“They turned on her with teeth like daggers in the night
They jumped. She screamed. They covered her, completely out sight.
Now Bess and all her kids, each and every one,
Hurried to the wagon, their tender spirits flaggin’, to see what Fran had done.
“Instead of Franny’s funny face they saw instead a melee,
A million beasts and their crippled aunt were going at it freely.
This time it was Vidalia who shed just two tears.
She told them all to stop it and grabbed “˜em by the ears.
” “˜What do you think you’re doing to my dear Aunt Franny?’
The Bedlamites were still, their faces strange–uncanny–
As Bess stood up and with arms straight above her head,
She growled and she howled, fit to wake the dead.
“The Bedlamites shimmered and began to disappear.
Looking quite surprised, Franny let out a cheer.
The Bedlamites said one last thing before they snuffed right out,
“˜You haven’t gotten rid of us, even with that Primal Shout.’
“Bess did sigh and looked at Franny. “˜They’ll be back, you know.
I guess we’ll just have to reap whatever you did sow.'”
But Bess and Franny never saw another Bedlamite.
Not hide nor hair showed anywhere; it never seemed quite right.”
At this LeRoy sips some water and looks around the room,
The glinting in his eye a sure harbinger of doom.
“Those Bedlamites have not forgotten that we owe them one.
They don’t care how long it’s been. Their story isn’t done.
“Sometimes on Family Nights, when you moms and dads get lazy
Those Bedlamites, they infiltrate making little ones act crazy.
They climb all over furniture and refuse to say the prayer.
They kick with glee, they sing off-key–oh! it’s hard to bear.
“It isn’t until treat time that they sit themselves right down.
Their piggy noses sniffing, rooting all around,
For something sweet and puffy like Vidalia gave them,
Something that is yummy will stop their misbehavin’.
“How long those Bedlamites will keep returning no one can right say.
They’ll make mischief when they can, all along our way.
Yes, those Bedlamites are running, running for our door.
Those Bedlamites are coming, always hung’ring for some more.”
At this the family all stands up with arms above their heads–
The pie is gone, the story’s done, and they’re ready for their beds–
But before they go and say goodnight there’s one last thing to do
It starts like a howl, then grows to a growl, and ends in a great “Wahoo!”
The family gives the Primal Shout and dissolves into great laughter.
Looking just like Bedlamites, it’s what LeRoy was after.
Hugs and kisses all around and then it is, “Sleep tight.
Love you all and don’t forget to always choose what’s right.”