While in NH recently, I stopped by my old ocean stomping grounds and took some photos. There’s a story in this series somewhere, though I haven’t quite found it yet. The sound of the waves and the reeds creaking in the sea breeze overlays them, and they, too, are part of the story…
Rattlesack Road cuts through a marsh in northeastern Massachusetts, not far from the coast. Folks who live near it will tell you to stay out of the marsh and to avoid the road that cuts across it between sunset and sunrise. Most won’t say much more than that it’s a bad road, and leave it at that, but if pressed, there are some who will tell you it’s because of old Rattlesack Jack, who the road is named for.
Some say Jack’s a ghost, the spirit of some farmer who died badly out in the marsh. Some say his is a stolen story, reskinned over an older Indigenous tale, or historical recollection twisted out of recognition (not uncommon in New England, sadly). Others say he’s an urban legend told to scare off tourists, since the road serves as a shortcut to a local beach and year-round residents aren’t keen on having every possible road blocked up with traffic. Others still say that he’s something someone brought with them from the Old Country that made itself at home. Personally, I’m inclined toward the last, myself, given how similar the stories are to old Irish or Scottish tales of boggarts and bogles.
Conflicting origins aside, the tales are always the same, and have been for as long as anyone can remember. Local historians have found references to him in journals that date back as far as the old Colonies. Tales of traveling through the marsh after dark and having a horse throw a shoe, or a car breaking down, and hearing sounds like bones being rattled and laughter, or seeing a short, heavy-built man with long, spindly arms and legs watching them from the trees while they changed a flat tire, grinning and shaking a leather bag whose contents made a disturbing rattling sound at them until they hurried away. Even in the days of cellphones and cell towers everywhere, signal’s notoriously hard to come by in the marsh, making it all but impossible to reliably call for assistance if one finds oneself broken down, despite strong connection at either end of the road.
There are also darker tales and a centuries-long record of abandoned horses, wagons, and cars whose owners are rarely found again that’s higher than it should be for a road as out of the way as Rattlesack Road.
The thing with boggarts is that they aren’t always dangerous, generally speaking. Capricious and something to be careful of, sure, but not that much of a threat. However, giving them names? They don’t like that, and that’s when they turn malicious and become dangerous, and that sounds an awful lot like Rattlesack Jack.
(If you liked what you just read, please toss a few coins at your mostly friendly resident word-witch to help keep her little monsters fed!)
I’d originally planned to write a post about the new year and plans (or rather, vague guidelines, really), and all that, but instead I’m sitting in the waiting room of yet another emergency vet’s office, waiting to find out why Oisín vomited blood earlier this afternoon.
Burn incense to Bast or whatever works for you that my babies will stop getting sick. Not only do I really, really want my babies to be okay, I’m running out of money to pay for it all.
Well, the last week has been fun. Or no, not really. The massive winter storm that went across the continent on Friday knocked out our power for a few hours, but when it came back on, the internet did not. In theory, a tech will finally be coming out tomorrow to fix it, but we’ll see how that actually goes.
Of course this also happened just after I spent the better part of a week up at the Albatross House and am getting regular text notifications about showings, and generally having data burned like flash paper. Went over my limit a few days ago, which is awesome (she said, tone dripping with sarcasm).
Been needing to upgrade my data plan and phone for the last year, anyway, so now I have a new phone (Samsung S22 Ultra, because rebates and 100x zoom are an excellent pairing), and 5g with almost unlimited data, so I can get some things done now. Slowly, because typing on a phone, but better than nothing.
In celebration, here’s a photo of Púca being ridiculous the yesterday.
The berries on the holly and the last of the summer’s wild cherries are glittering like candied fruit in the pale, thin sunlight this morning. It’s so cold that the frost is still covering everything, like the world has been dusted with powdered sugar, even though sunrise was hours ago. It is a beautiful Solstice morning, and while the afternoon will bring yet another vet appointment (Púca’s eye isn’t healing as well as it should be, even after a second round of treatment), in and around it, there will be soup and fresh bread for dinner, candles lit against the darkness, and stories enjoyed against the longest night.
Bodach is informing me that there will also be endless hours of throwing his favorite bone to chase, starting right now, so I guess I should go obey my furry overlord.
I swear, I’m cursed. Or my dad was. Or that piece of shit house is. Either way, I think I need to find a good curse-breaker or exorcist or something. This has gone past the point of bullshit and into wondering whether or not there’s some sort of curse on my family line.
After spending several days and several more thousand dollars on junk removal services, at long last, the Albatross House went up for sale this morning. It was on the market for 5 whole hours before something else went catastrophically wrong. The very first potential buyer’s agent showed up to find part of the first floor ceiling had collapsed and water everywhere. They turned the breaker off and called my agent, who hauled ass over. I won’t have an idea what the fuck happened until tomorrow, when she can get someone over there to take a look at it. Thankfully the place is being sold as a teardown, because it’s been falling in on itself for years (seriously, the walls are cracked and none of the upstairs walls have attached to the ceiling in well over a decade), but come on. The last thing I needed to deal with tonight was a collapsing house in another state that couldn’t be arsed to just wait until it was someone else’s problem to deal with. Trying to explain to the electric company that no, really, please send someone over asap to shut the entire service off at the damned meter, while cooking dinner (because I was in the middle of cooking dinner when the agent called to tell me about the disaster), and get them to understand that yes, the house is up for sale, and no, after this no one is being allowed in because THE CEILING COLLAPSED AND THE PLACE IS UNSAFE, so we’re sure as hell not going to be turning the electricity on again, please just send someone to kill the power was not how I intended to spend my evening.
So yeah, the writing I’d started working on before this started, that I was planning to work on while making dinner, because I’d gone out and gotten a photo of the road I wanted to go with the story of Rattlesack Jack, finally? Didn’t get done, and now I don’t know when I’ll be able to get back to it, because that fucking house just will not stop doing everything in its power to prevent me from getting rid of it. It’s officially reached “malevolent entity” status.
I just want my life back, and to be free of that place. I’m so tired of constantly having my life eaten by my dad’s failure to take care of his shit.
I’ve been mostly offline all week because what was expected to take maybe a day and a half, at most, ended up taking almost the entire week. This is the first time I’ve been at a real computer and not just on my phone since Saturday.
On the upside, Albatross House is 100% emptied out (seriously, the 1-800-got junk folks are awesome, or at least the ones on the NH Seacoast). It cost a bit more than I was expecting, but then, no one expected it was going to take as many dumpster loads as it did, so here we are*. I spent two days sitting in my truck while they dragged every scrap out of the place, trying (and failing) to work from the driver’s seat, but it was just the wrong angle and it was too damned cold. I had to keep turning the truck off and on to try and not freeze while also not wasting too much gas. Do not recommend. Today I met up with the real estate agent there to get her a key and go over a few things, and tomorrow will be filling out the couple pages of paperwork to get it listed and hopefully sold as quickly as possible.
While hunched over, trying to draw a straight line without a flat, rigid surface to put the sketchbook on, my resolve to one day be able to afford an RV van to use as a mobile studio was strengthened further. Also, having a bathroom and kitchen to use whenever I need them would be amazing. Major goal, there.
Tomorrow, aside from real estate forms, is dedicated to getting back to work. I have new metallic watercolors that should work the way I want, that the Coliro was not able to manage, and I want to play with them. If they do what the test page suggests, I’ll be able to do some really cool effects again, and I’m crossing all my fingers and toes.
Now, though, I go fall over so I can catch up on sleep before anything else. The last week has been a lot of Very Long Days, and I’m more than a little crispy right now.
*So tempting to get rid of all of my worldly possessions and become an ascetic after dealing with that catastrophe.
No, not that kind. We’re not giving away one of the Goblin Boys. We were, however, cleared to release Bodach back into GenPop (aka, the rest of the house) with no restrictions. He had his follow-up x-rays yesterday morning to see if his pneumonia had resolved, and since his lungs looked nice and clear, his Dr. said he was free to come out of isolation.
Oisín and Púca were beside themselves with glee, and everyone is happy to get back to normal again. Y’all, I got to sleep on a REAL BED again! It was glorious, though I kept getting woken up by the rotating cast of cats needing reassurance that Mom was still where she was supposed to be and everything was okay now, but that’s fine. My neck is never going to recover from the last couple of weeks, but I’d rather extra back and neck pain than the alternative if Pinkie (Bodach’s primary nickname) got worse.
Now we just have a week of eye meds for Púca, who injured his eyelid while playing too rough the other day (because of course he did), and at least a month of lysine gel for all three of them to help deal with the cold that poor Oisín couldn’t shake off, but those are reasonably easy and don’t require further isolation. (We’re basically assuming that it’s endemic to the clowder at this point, and just treating all of them.)
Today’s rough outline is to reclaim the house and studio from the disaster everything turned into over the last few weeks of chaos, get the groceries done, and start working on getting the process for selling the Albatross House back on track. If I have enough brain cells left afterward, I’ve got a few sheets of paper prepped and some sketches that have been waiting to get started that I’d like to get to work on.
Somewhere in all of this, I have a story to finish, ffs, and some thoughts on the AI art kerfuffle, the increasing devaluing of artists in society, and some problems with the way that the phrase “Support your local artists” has been twisted over the years. First, though, I need to go pick up the groceries.
Bodach’s feeling a bit better, and since we moved him to the antechamber from the office, I get to not only sleep on a slightly more comfortable couch, but have easy access to the studio. (The antechamber was originally a bedroom, but when a previous owner of the house converted the carport into additional rooms, the room became a weird almost walk-through closet/office to get to the new master bedroom, which is what I use for my studio. The room we use for Himself’s computer room is one of the other bedrooms.) It’s nice to give him more room to move around in, and it lets me work while I’m keeping an eye on him.
Writing is still slow going, but it’s least happening, and so I’m finally getting to claw my way through Rattlesack Jack’s story.
A taste of what’s to come…
* * * * * * * * *
“Up along the New England coast, there is a marsh. Folks who live near it will tell you to stay out of the marsh and to avoid the road that cuts across it like a scar between sunset and sunrise. Most won’t say much more than that it’s dangerous, and leave it at that, but if pressed, there are some who will tell you it’s because of old Rattlesack Jack.
Some say Jack’s a ghost, the spirit of some farmer who died badly out in the marsh. Some say his is a stolen story, reskinned over an older Indigenous tale, or historical recollection twisted out of recognition (not uncommon in New England, sadly). Others say he’s an urban legend told to scare off tourists. Others still say that he’s something someone brought with them from the Old Country that stayed behind when they fled English transportation and hid in the marsh before making their way back home to Ireland.” ~excerpt from the tale of Rattlesack Jack