As all grandfathers of Benson’s Corners do when their oldest grandson turns ten, Elmer Ebsen is going into the woods. The whole town turns out for a day of picnicking near the edge of Devil’s Woods. At the end of the day, Elmer, carrying an ax and a gunny sack full of leftover from the picnic, leaves. No one expects to see him again. The adults quickly put him out of their minds.
His grandson Eddie, though, will miss him. He sees Elmer as a hero. He is afraid there are monsters in the woods and doesn’t want his grandfather to die.
“There are monsters in the woods, Eddie, but it’s the job of the Grandfathers of Benson’s Corners to make sure they stay in the woods. Us Grandfathers aren’t crazy; we just want to keep the town safe.”
Besides, his friends Fred and Davey are already there. They’ll take care of each other.
“And you’ll be a Grandfather, too, someday, Eddie.”
My first thought was, “Geez, virgins usually get the job of being sacrificed to the dragon/fill-in-the-blank monster to keep the people safe. Interesting switch that it’s up to the grandfathers now.”
This monster is playing a long game, though. If your kill off the young people, how do you ensure there will be more people?
I can’t help wonder if this story was inspired, at least in part, by the comments* made last March 23 by Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick that he would be willing to risk dying for the sake of his grandchildren. This was said in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic. He further said that he—and probably many of his fellow grandparents—would be willing to make the same choice because they didn’t want to see the whole country sacrificed by being shut down economically. But I could be wrong. Dorman may have written the story a year ago.
The set-up in the story was more convincing than the delivery. The casual callousness of the adults toward the grandfather whose fate was apparently sealed for the sake of their survival was pitch-perfect. The idea of kids daring each other to come just a little closer to the Devil’s Woods is delightful in its credibility.
For me, the story lost steam after Elmer entered the woods. The “secret” of Benson’s Corners is layered, which is nice, but I couldn’t buy it.
According to his blurb, author Roy Dorman retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and has been a voracious reader for over 65 years. His work has appeared in Black Petals, Yellow Mama, Dark Dossier, Near To the Knuckle, Bewildering Stories, Shotgun Honey, and other online and print journals.
The story can be read here.
Title: “The Grandfathers of Benson’s Corners”
Author: Roy Dorman
First published: Theme of Absence, May 1, 2020