I Know Now What It Is To Shudder
By: Malleus St. Antonius

[Recently, a collection of works from the Brothers Grimm was released containing the story “The Tale of a Youth Who Set Out to Learn What Fear Was”. In this tale, a young boy sets out to learn what it was ‘to shudder’ and in the process meets with indifference corpses, ghosts, flying skulls, zombies, etc.
He is later married and one night his wife throws cold water and fish on him
and he ‘shudders’.]

David was the younger of two brothers who, while quite smaller and more frail than his brother, was nevertheless quite undisturbed by anything.

His brother saw a skunk one morning in the field of their farm and quickly ran away. David however picked the skunk up by the tail. He was consequently asked to complete the school year sitting at a desk outside the school’s downwind window.

He would often step on tacks, walk through sliding glass doors, eat strange looking mushrooms, take naps in intersections, and play “Whack-A-Mole” with rattlesnakes using his face instead of a mallet.

“Boy, ain’t you got a lick a sense to even be scared just a peck?” His father (an oafish old curmudgeon) asked one day. “Nope. Not a lick or a peck.” David answered.

“This boy durn’t know how ta shudder a’tall!” His dad announced to the family gathered at the dinner table, exasperated.

“Gosh.” Thought David. “What’s it mean to shudder, I suppose?”

So he headed off one night with his packsack to find out what it was to shudder.

He met a fancy dressed man who introduced himself as “Major Kalm of Easy Company” who asked if David wanted to join him.

David liked the sound of ‘ease’ and ‘calm’ so he was conscripted on the spot and sent to the frontlines of a battle.

David met many grumbling men in the trenches. But David had a great time lying low when his Sergeant told him to during mortar attacks because he would make sand castles.

“We need someone to go get up this Hamburger Hill and roust out that machine gun nest!” said Sarge.

“Hamburgers? Nests?” thought David. He loved both burgers and birds and was fascinated by the possibility of combining the two. “Sign me up!” he yelped.

Three days later, David came back with the enemy machine gun in hand.

“All they had was this noisy broomstick, unfortunately, Sarge.” He said.

“This boy don’t know how to shudder, I think.” Said Sarge and David felt a pang of sadness.

Soon David’s sand castle making days were over with the ending of the war and so he continued on to the City where he got a job making candles. The candle making shop was between a deli and a bakery and David would know that he had got to work in the morning when he had just passed the smell of meats, headcheese, and BBQed bear claws and just begun to smell sweetmeats, cheesecake, and bearclaws.

One day while making a candle, he completely became encased in wax. The butcher from next door came in and found him thinking ‘I’ll just take this candle and pay David back tomorrow.” The butcher then used him to light up his shop as he made bratwurst throughout the night.

The next day, the baker came into the deli and found David all burnt to a crisp and said “I’ll just borrow this slab of salt pork from the butcher to make mincemeat pie and pay him back tomorrow.

The next day at a wedding feast when those gathered had thought that there was no more mincemeat pie, someone said, “Sure, there’s a big one right over there. They’ve left the best mincemeat for the end!” When they tried to dish up a slice, however, David said “Don’t take and eat. This is my body.”

The bride and groom looked at each other and said “This boy sure don’t know how to shudder!” and David felt disappointed in himself again.

David, having seen the fun people were having at the wedding got the idea that he should enjoy the rite of marriage. His friends at the bar all tried to talk him out of it, but he could not be dissuaded. After all, he had heard from all the ‘loose women’ in the bar that they would sleep with any man who was “well groomed” and he thought, “Well, I’ll be Groomed!”

So he was promptly married to a caring, intelligent, funny, creative, and heavenly beautiful woman. They were very happy and had two successful children who were each respected intellectuals and movie stars.

One night, David came in through the garage and as he slipped off his shoes on the mat, he noticed that he didn’t hear his wife Madrigal busying herself as usual making dinner. “Maddie? You home?” He said at the base of the stairs. He went up to find her sitting in the dark with a folded magazine in her lap. “Maddie, what are you doing sitting in the dark?” She shot him a glancing look.

There was a half bottle of Syrah on the living room table. “Are you drinking already?” Usually they would finish a bottle together over the dinner she’d prepared. It being Tuesday, David had expected to smell the usual Tilapia, but it was absent.

“Dave, are you happy?” She asked.

“Yes, I’m happy.”

She sighed loudly.

“What? What’s going on? What kind of question is that?”

She stood, throwing the magazine aside. “I mean, are you happy?

“Sure.” He left her there and rattled dishes in the kitchen, not so much as to start dinner himself, but to encourage her to.

“Dave.” She said from the other room, “Shit. I mean…I’m not happy.”

Madrigal heard the broiling pan drop in the sink. A silent moment later, David came into the living room holding a bottle of olive oil. “What do you mean?”

She sighed again and took the wine glass and bottle with her into their bedroom.

He sat at the dinner table and stared. Tilapia thawing on the counter and asparagus awaiting their steaming alongside, he only stared blankly until the light from the Krupps coffee maker glowed in the dark.

David lifted himself from the table and found Madrigal crying and curled on the bed. He took off his watch and absently placed it on the nightstand. He wrapped his body behind her and felt a cry rattle her when he played with her hair like she liked it.

As David and Madrigal slipped off to uneasy sleep, he thought,

“Now I know what it is to shudder.”

Editor’s Note:

When Malleolus brought this story to me, I saw that some of my genius must have been passed on in my venerable seed. Of course, I was saddened that my talents had made the decline from the mythical Golden Age to a type of Silver Age as my son had apparently forsaken my dream of his becoming an editor of my own stripe. I should say that while I don’t understand a single line of this ‘story’, I have included it here in hopes that my son will consequently face the embarrassment of the reviewers and perhaps make the only wise decision and become my assistant editor in the future.

–Auguste St. Antonius

Author’s Note:

My father is our City’s most well-known lout, and his dalliances with women have become fodder for whispers and teahouse rumors and the source of my great shame. His affair with a ventriloquist became legend when they were caught in compromising circumstances in the antiquities wing of the museum and yet he still clings to the fantasy that it is a secret of his own. O! how our behavior is never a private matter! Why my mother has still clung to the hope of him changing his lecherous ways, I will never know. In my own giving up of the expectation of my father ever shuddering, I wonder if my resignation toward my father is itself a shudder or the abnegation of shuddering.
–Malleus St. Antonius

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