The Quirk House
We heard about it from the tough kids who loved to terrorize us with horror stories. Back in the 1930‘s they had a baby every year or so but no one ever saw any baby after it was brought home because Mrs. Quirk strangled and buried them in the basement. Mr. Quirk died or left years ago. Mrs. Quirk lived there alone. A shut-in who hadn’t been outside for over fifteen years.
She lived in a tiny white cape with a green front door in the midle of a weedy square lot surrounded by a low chain-link fence. A row of small frosted windows were at the top of that door. The last window on the right had a crack that almost looked like an old lady’s head peering out. We’d argue about the crack while hanging on her fence.
“She’s looking at us! In the last window!”
“No you dummy, that’s a crack!”
“Shut up! She’s right there!”
She had the lawn mowed every two weeks and the gutters cleaned each fall. Storm windows went on after Halloween and came off at Easter. Mrs. Quirk’s metal garbage can was brought to the curb once a month! That little insight to her life fascinated us almost as much as the unseen woman. We, who had three overflowing plastic barrels every single week decided she must live on rotten garbage.
Beeno Karastogianis did all the the handy work. Beeno couldn’t keep a regular job. He had to live with his parents. The tough kids said he was kicked in the head by a mule when he was little. While none of us would ever dare speak to Beeno alone, we teased him as a group to get him to shake his rake and swear at us.
“Hey Beeno! What’s Mrs. Quirk pay you with, dead babies teeth?”
“Get the hell outta here you shits before I beat your asses!”
We stopped debating about the crack in the window after Barney Seymour got hit by a car. He threw a dead skunk on her front steps on Doorbell Night. We heard that after he threw the dead skunk, he rode his bike home, swerved into the street and got hit by a car. He swore on the Holy Bible he swerved because an old lady that suddenly appeared out of nowhere right in front of him. We stopped hanging on the fence at end of her walk to debate about the crack in the door window. After Barney got hit, we wouldn’t dare look at it, not even during the daytime.
Then came the Women’s Group crusade lead by the insufferable do-gooder Mrs. Young. She started a campaign to reach out to the less fortunate. Her group made a festive holiday food basket for Mrs. Quirk at and delivered it to the front steps on Christmas Eve. That basket sat on those steps until Beeno brought it to the curb in the garbage can after New Years. This so outraged Mrs. Young that she marched up to the Quirk house and banged on the green door for half an hour until her husband was called to fetch her off.
“I’d never bang on that door!”
“I won’t even look at it anymore!”
“Not after Barney Seymour…Mrs. Young is insane!”
Mrs. Young was found dead from a stroke the morning after she beat on the Quirk door. We stayed off the sidewalk in front of her house after that. We crossed the street if we had to go by or, more often, took the next street over to avoid walking in front of the Quirk house altogether.
The Quirk house burned down in the late summer. Neighbors heard her screams and called the police. When they ran outside, they saw the house engulfed in smoke and flames. The heat was unbearable, even from across the street. The best the fire department could do was try to soak the houses around the Quirk house to prevent then from catching. Mrs. Quirk’s remains were found in the area of the living room. Nothing else was identifiable, let alone salvageable. We waited for a report of buried baby skeletons in the basement but it never came. The tough kids said it was a cover-up because the fire marshall was petrified when he went through the ruins. The fire investigation pointed to arson.
While no one was ever accused of the crime, we knew who set the Quirk house ablaze. The Young family moved away after the police finished investigating them. No one knew where they went. No one wanted to talk about why they went. No one ever talked about the Quirk house either. We still cross the street to pass by the empty weed lot today.