Frank Lamb was an intellectually disabled man from New Concord, Kentucky. At 52 years old, he’d never seen the inside of classroom. He couldn’t read or write, but had above-average communication skills. He had been placed in the care of the state when a welfare check at his parent’s farm revealed that the elder Lambs had been dead for some time. Frank’s parents had seemingly been mauled by an animal and left on the front porch.
Frank was a good-natured guy. In the three months I had been working at the Pleasant View Adult Care Center, Frank was what you’d consider a model resident. He acclimated quite well to the routine and even made friends with the other residents. He was a bit mischievous, but never violent or cruel. His pranks usually revolved telling a staff member he had to go to the restroom only to pass gas and say “False Alarm.” He spend most of his time drawing with the crayons we provided him. He was actually pretty talented. If he looked at something and paid attention for long enough, he could usually produce a reasonable facsimile of the object or person.
Frank’s father owned a sizable portion of land. With his death, Frank inherited the better part of 10,000 acres of forest and farmland. The county opted to buy out the land and in turn, it voted to pay Frank the modest sum of $500 an acre. As his case-worker, I was tasked with helping understand the terms of the county’s offer. Kentucky had recently been approved for legalized hemp cultivation and the Lamb farm was a perfect location for the city to set up a growing operation.
A representative from the County Board showed up around 10 AM on a Monday. The representative was a middle-aged woman who wore a black business suit. She carried an attaché case. Her salt-and-pepper hair was kept in a tight bun and she spoke with a slight Southern drawl. She introduced herself as Cathy Rhodes. Cathy and I met with Frank in the cafeteria and began to go over the city’s proposal. Frank was in an especially playful mood and opened the negotiations by turning to Cathy.
“Pull my finger,” he said.
To her credit, Cathy pulled Frank’s finger and he made a fart noise with his mouth before giggling. Clearing her throat, she opened the presentation.
“Frank, the Calloway County Board of Industrial Development would like to offer you five million dollars for your family’s land. This would be placed in a trust to ensure your care for the rest of your life.”
Cathy sat quietly as I turned to Frank.
“Frank, this lady wants to buy your old house and the land that surrounds it. What do you think about that?” I asked.
Frank didn’t even look up from the table when he answered.
“No. Can’t sell. Not safe.”
Puzzled, I asked him to clarify.
“Frank, why isn’t it safe at your old house?”
Frank looked down towards the floor.
“Not safe. Mister Fluffy is there. Can’t sell.”
Cathy spoke up this time.
“Frank, who is Mister Fluffy?”
Frank looked Cathy directly in the eyes and said in a deadpan voice I’d never heard from him before.
“Mister Fluffy is the monster that killed Mom and Dad.”
I couldn’t see the expression on Frank’s face, but all the blood drained from Cathy’s. She straightened her papers and slid them back into attache case.
“I’m going to come back later. Try to reason with him. I need to go for now.”
A few hours later, I entered Frank’s room to find him at his dress drawing a picture of a cat. As usual it was a decent picture. I leaned against the wall.
“Frank, right now, the State of Kentucky is paying for your care. If you sold that farm, I could petition to get you moved to a much better facility. Possibly even one with a pool.”
Frank looked up from his drawing.
“I can’t sell, Mr. Ives. Mister Fluffy is there.”
Feeling inspired, I looked down and Frank.
“Could you draw me a picture of Mister Fluffy?” I asked.
Frank nodded and grabbed a fresh sheet of paper. I stood in silence as he grabbed a black crayon and ran it lightly across the paper. He drew some lines and did some shading before switching to gray crayon and sometimes a brown one. After about 10 minutes of watching Frank draw this grotesque figure, he handed me the sheet of paper.
“This is Mister Fluffy. If you see him, run fast,” he said.
“Thank you very much Frank. Can I keep this?” I asked.
He nodded and went back to his cat drawing. I took the sheet of paper and went back to my office.
Mister Fluffy looked almost like an angel, but also greatly resembled a demon of some sort. The figure in the drawing had a pair of gray feathered wings coming off of his back. His facial features were more feline than human and his hands seemed more like talons. His thin black legs ended in hooves. Frank had made sure to draw red eyes and a smile that seemed disproportionate to the face it was drawn on.
As Frank was in state’s custody, the interview was more of a formality than anything. As his case-worker, I was tasked with signing the appropriate documentation. A trust was set up and I made phone calls to long-term facilities that could give him a significantly increased quality of life. A few days later, I poked my head into Frank’s room to give him the news. He wasn’t happy.
Frank started rocking back and forth in his chair.
“Mister Fluffy killed Mom and Dad. He said he’d kill anyone who came there,” he cried.
I put a hand on Frank’s shoulder.
“Frank, Mister Fluffy didn’t kill the sheriff’s deputy who found you. Maybe he went away,” I said.
Frank jerked away from me.
“That man came in the day. Mister Fluffy comes at night.”
I tried another line of questioning, hoping to get him to calm down.
“If Mister Fluffy is so dangerous, then why are you still alive Frank?” I asked.
Frank looked up with tears in his eyes.
“Because I’m a good guy. Mister Fluffy said I was good and he couldn’t touch me. Not everyone is good like me.”
Frank was shaking at this point and tears were streaming down his face. I patted him on the back.
“That’s right Frank, not many people are as good as you are. You wanna head to the cafeteria and get some ice cream?”
“I like ice cream,” Frank whimpered.
We walked to the cafeteria and after grabbing some ice cream cups from the line, we sat at a table. Frank ate his ice cream as I told him about the trust fund and a facility I found near Louisville that could offer him full-time care and had regular field trips and outdoor activities. He seemed excited about the move, but quickly reverted to a scared expression when he realized it meant that the county had bought the family farm. Ultimately, I made a promise that was a bit outside of what I could accomplish.
“Frank, am I a good person?” I asked with a grin.
Frank nodded his head. He took another bite from the ice cream.
“Mr. Ives you’re the best person,” he said.
“If I’m a good person, then that means Mister Fluffy can’t hurt me, right?” I asked.
Frank shivered a little bit.
“No. I don’t think so.”
“Then there’s nothing to worry about. I’ll go talk to Mister Fluffy and convince him to leave everyone alone.”
“You can do that?” Frank asked, smiling.
“Of course Frank, for you, I can do anything.”
Frank reached into his pocket and pulled out a strange trinket and handed it to me.
“Mom made this. She said it would keep me safe. You take it.”
I gave the talisman a cursory glance and slid it into my pocket. We finished our ice cream and I took Frank back to his room. A few days later, he was shipped to a new facility. I haven’t seen him since, but last I checked up on him, he was doing quite well.
A month or so had passed when I found myself driving down 121 towards Paris Landing when I hit some debris in the road and blew out a tire. I pulled over to the side of the road and got out to change it, only to notice my spare tire was underinflated. It was late in the afternoon. I pulled out my phone and saw that I had no service. About a hundred feet in front of me was a mailbox next to a red gravel road. Adjacent to the mailbox was a sign that read, “Home of the Calloway County Hemp Cultivation Farm.”
It was Frank’s old farmhouse.
I walked up the gravel road hoping to find a city worker or a phone. I felt a general feeling of uneasiness, but continued up the road. About a half-a-mile up the red gravel road, I found myself standing in front of a old weathered farmhouse. There were no vehicles in the driveway. I walked up to the front door and found it unlocked. I turned the knob and upon entering, I flicked the light switch and was relieved to find that the house had power.
The living room was converted to an office and the furniture was cleared from the rest of the rooms. I made my way to the kitchen and found a phone on the wall. I picked it up, but there was no dial tone. I poked around the house for a minute before deciding to walk back to my car and hope I could flag someone down and get a hold of AAA.
I slowly opened the front door, only to reveal a ghastly figure. It stood nearly eight feet tall and had a set of gray feathered wings. Its face was hairy and almost looked like a lion. Its scrawny black arms formed into talons that held onto the door frame and its legs rested on thick black hooves. A sulfurous smoke came from its nostrils. It took a step back and roared at me.
I stood frozen in fear as a cacophony of voices screamed from its mouth.
“Why do you trespass in my domain, human?”
I fumbled through my pocket looking for my keys. I’d put the trinket Frank had given me on my keychain and I was desperately hoping the thing worked for something. Stalling for time, I said whatever came to my mind.
“I had a flat tire,” I said. “I came here looking for a phone.”
The creature laughed, expelling yellow smoke from its mouth and nose. It leaned down to sniff me.
“You smell good enough to eat. It’s been awhile since I’ve had something so delicious.”
I found my keychain and pulled it out to examine the trinket. When the creature saw it, it recoiled in horror.
“How did you get that?” it screamed.
Feeling more confident I held the trinket out in front of me.
“Frank told me this would keep me safe,” I shouted.
The creature let out a wail.
“The retard? How?”
“That’s intellectually disabled person to you, bub,” I corrected the monster.
With the trinket in my hand I took a step forward.
“I’m leaving now. You should too,” I said. “If I find out you are messing with anyone else around here, I’ll come back and make sure you eat this thing.”
The monster turned and ran towards the open field. I didn’t wait. I ran back to my car and drove with a flat tire until I had cell reception and called a tow truck. Twenty minutes later, I was riding back to town and staring at the sky the whole way home.
I called Frank the next day to tell him I’d inadvertently kept my promise. You could hear the smile in his voice as he said, “I knew you would Mr. Ives.”
To this day, I wear that trinket around my neck.