From the Malafarina Files, ‘Leave It to Beaver’ a short story by the master of horror Thomas M. Malafarina

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By Thomas M. Malafarina
© 2019 Thomas M. Malafarina

The house wasn’t what you would call a mansion, nor was it what you would think of
in modern terms as a McMansion. Nevertheless, in Joe Dawson’s opinion, it was just the
sort of place, which fit his needs perfectly. In his forty-plus years of experience, homes so
well cared for, such as the 1960s split-level he was currently considering, were what he
regarded as secret gold mines. On the outside, they all appeared upscale yet unassuming
and in no way ostentatious. However, inside, well, that was usually an entirely different
story. That was where the real treasures lay hidden.

Joe stood behind the trunk of a large sycamore tree across the street from the place.
He wasn’t concerned about anyone seeing him. It was almost sunset in the suburban
subdivision, and the yard behind the tree where he was lurking had a for sale sign
prominently displayed on the front lawn. It was one of those with a bin full of
photocopies containing sales information about the house. The yellowed handouts were
sun-bleached, telling Joe the house had been on the market for quite some time. That
meant the house was likely empty, which meant there was no one home to see him casing
the place across the street.

Besides, this wasn’t early 1960s “Leave It To Beaver.” America where women were
housewives who stayed home, raised the kids, cleaned, and then cooked dinner, waiting
dutifully for their husbands to come home from the office. To live in an upscale
community such as this one required two incomes for sure, unless, of course, you had
been fortunate enough to build fifty years earlier, which is what he assumed was the case
for this house.

That passing “Leave It To Beaver” thought caused Joe to recall the old TV show
from his childhood. What was that family’s name? Cleaver, wasn’t it? Yeah, that was it;
June and Ward Cleaver were the parents; Mr. and Mrs. Suburban America. If Joe
remembered correctly, the oldest son on the show was Wally, and the star of the show
was a little kid nicknamed Beaver. Joe thought, Beaver Cleaver; what a name! He
chuckled to himself. That name Beaver Cleaver would never fly today, not in the
perverse version of life in the twenty-first century where virtually everything anyone said
was in danger of someone perceiving it as obscene or offensive. Some women’s group
somewhere would most certainly find offense in that name. It would have a completely
different meaning nowadays. What innocent times those were back then.

He tried to remember if the Cleaver family had lived in a split-level style house but
couldn’t recall. Maybe that was the “Dick Van Dyke” show or perhaps “My Three Sons.”

Joe was pretty confident one of those families had to have lived in a split-level like he
was presently watching. He realized all those wonderful shows had been off the air for
like fifty years. Joe lamented that he was getting older and not for the first time thought
about how it might be time for him to start thinking about hanging it up. Retirement
might be his only option soon. Every day Joe knew the world was rapidly moving
forward and leaving him behind.

In Joe’s opinion, the world had changed, and not for the better. His boyhood had
been a great one with him growing up in one of the last decades of innocence. However,
this wasn’t 1962, and this wasn’t a 1960s sort of neighborhood. Joe doubted that sort of
neighborhood even existed anymore. It was a place where everyone knew each other and
got together for cocktail parties and backyard barbecues; a place where kids played
pickup baseball in the street using a wiffleball and plastic bag with a variety of found
objects representing the bases. No, that world was long gone, and these thoughts were
just Joe waxing nostalgic and pining for a time never to return.

This was twenty-first-century suburban America. This was life in a modern subdivision bedroom community where husband and wife rose early, and both headed out to work, only to return at sunset. It was a place where people moved into a home they could barely afford and two years later sold it to move into a bigger house they had no idea how they would afford. People rarely knew the names of those who lived next door to them, let alone anyone down the street. People locked up their houses tight.
Sophisticated alarm systems and remote video surveillance guarded them. Kids stayed
inside playing video games, texting on smartphones, or posting on social media. It’s not
that Joe thought these things were terrible; they were just different.
There would be no kids playing in the street, no neighbors chattering on their lawns.
There would be no little kids with lemonade stands peddling their refreshments from a
card table on a street corner.  Card table Joe thought. Did they still sell card tables? Did
they still call them card tables? Did anyone even play card games anymore, build card
houses, or put puzzles together on card tables? Joe doubted it. He chastised himself yet
again for dwelling on the past.

The eventual death of those innocent times only served to make his profession all the
more difficult. If he considered it, people like him were primarily responsible for many of
the same changes in the world about which he was now lamenting. Joe was a criminal, a
bottom feeder. He was someone who preyed on the innocent. He and his ilk were the
reason for terms like “stranger danger.” They were the reason for alarm systems and
video surveillance. They were why kids didn’t play in the streets and why there were such
bizarre ideas as “play dates” and why beaver-cleaver meant something nasty in the
modern, much less innocent America.

But enough worthless pontificating; he had a job to do. And that lovely split-level
home with the two-car garage and lush landscaped lawn was his target for the day. Now
that he thought about it, Joe wondered when the last time was when he saw a large
sprawling split-level home under construction. That model of the house was also a
remnant from the 1960s. Now everyone seemed to want large two and three-story
monstrosities with small, easy-to-maintain yards.

He hadn’t realized it, but the place he was casing was the sort of place you would
only find in a neighborhood like this one. All around him were homes that at one time,
perhaps fifty or more years ago, had all been newly constructed and close to identical;
suburban sprawl at its best. But now, all these years later, things had changed. The
residents throughout the years had added rooms, changed the style of siding, and introduced
personal modifications. Some changes had been well done, obviously by professionals,
while others appeared haphazard, done by wannabe do-it-yourselfers who did it
themselves very poorly.

However, that was not the case for this house. No sir, that place looked unscathed by
the ravages of time, Mother Nature, and man. Perhaps that’s what made it stand out to Joe
and what had attracted his attention. The owners maintained the home exceptionally well,
leaving all the original character it likely had when they built it. He wouldn’t have been in
the least surprised to discover that the people living inside were the original owners of the
house, perhaps the ones who had watched the place during its construction. Maybe they
had stood across the street observing from the very spot where he now stood. If so, that
would put them in their eighties by now. Easy pickings for sure, Joe thought, because he
knew from decades of experience, as he had done this so many times before.
He had formulated a plan. He would simply walk up to the front door and ring the
bell. If the person or couple inside were old, they would likely be trusting and open the
door without taking any precautions. This was why he loved these types of
neighborhoods. Even if most of the houses had young couples who came and went,
trusting no one, there would always be those one or two homes with old, original owners
who still thought things were the same as when they first moved in. He counted on that.
Joe noticed again how well-manicured the front lawn and landscaping were. If the
owners were old, they wouldn’t be able to maintain their property so immaculately unless
they could afford to pay someone to do it for them. He knew a professional job when he
saw one. This home was one such home, which meant they had the money to pay for
what they couldn’t do themselves. He knew he was right in picking this place. He would
be in and out in less than ten minutes: easy peasy. If for some reason they chose to resist,
well, he had killed before and had gotten away with it. What was one more time? In for a
penny, in for a pound as they say.

It was time to put his plan into action, time to put up or shut up. Joe strolled across
the street as if he had as much right to be in the neighborhood as any of the other
residents, his right hand in his jacket pocket, gripping the revolver he kept there just in
case. His gloves were surgical quality latex. He never worried about dexterity when he
wore them either, as they had served him well so many times previously. He walked up to
the front door and was about to press the doorbell when he had a sudden, overpowering
feeling that if he tried the doorknob, he would find the front door unlocked. Things never
went that smoothly, even on the best of jobs, yet the sensation was too powerful to
ignore, so he reached down his left hand and slowly turned the doorknob. He was
surprised to find it unlocked.

Ever so gently, Joe eased the door open, stepped inside, and just as carefully, he
closed the door, turning the switch to lock. If there had been a deadbolt, he would have
secured it, but there was none. Joe found it all so odd that these people not only wouldn't
have an alarm system but no deadbolt either. Then again, he supposed if someone were
sufficiently trusting to leave their front door unlocked, they’d have little need for other
security precautions.

Joe pulled the revolver from his jacket pocket and slowly advanced down the short
hallway toward a door he assumed opened into a living room. As he cautiously walked,
he paid close attention to not only the expensive furnishings and adornments, but he
noticed some surprisingly original artwork on the walls by some major heavy-hitters in
the world of art. Dealing in stolen merchandise for a living had its upside, making him
quite knowledgeable about such collectibles. The place was a gold mine, just as he had
predicted. When he got to the end of the hall, Joe rounded the corner with his gun up; the
business end pointed straight forward.

He shouted, “Nobody move if you want to live.”

Joe wasn’t exactly sure what he had been expecting to see, perhaps an old man and
old woman sleeping in recliners, or maybe they would be watching Jeopardy or
mindlessly gawking at some reality show. He had figured the place to be easy pickings
from the start, but not in his wildest imaginings, had he imagined what he found in that
room. It was her, June Cleaver from the TV show, in the living room real as life, with her
1960s mom-style haircut and wearing that same dress; she wore almost every episode of
the show. She was standing next to an ironing board, which had several men’s white
shirts waiting for pressing. They probably were Ward Cleaver’s work shirts.
Speaking of Ward, there he was, stretched out on the recliner reading the newspaper.
He wore a cardigan sweater over a white shirt and tie. He had probably just gotten home
from the office. Joe could smell beef cooking and realized dinner must be baking in the
oven. He heard the back door open, and their oldest son, Wally, came in with a friend Joe
thought he recognized.

“Good afternoon, Mrs. Cleaver, Mr. Cleaver,” The polite tall thin friend said. “My,
but your home certainly does smell wonderful today.”
“Why thank you, Eddie, it was so kind of you to say. Would you like to stay and join
us for dinner?”

“I would love to, ma’am, but I have to leave shortly to visit my grandmother. She’s not feeling well, and I thought I’d stop by and cheer her up.”

“Why Eddie, that’s such a nice thing to do. I’m sure you’re a wonderful grandson.”

As June said this, she glanced at her husband, who rolled his eyes sarcastically. They
both knew as Joe did; the character was Eddie Haskell and was notorious for being
obnoxiously sweet and polite to his friend’s parents, and then as soon as he was alone
with Wally, he transformed into a plain old obnoxious jerk. It was a running gag
throughout almost every episode.

Joe suddenly realized two things; he had been standing and watching these people as
if he was a kid again watching a TV show, and everyone had completely ignored the
threat he had made earlier. Hadn’t they heard him? Were they just ignoring him? Joe
couldn’t let this stand. He shouted again, this time louder and angrier.”Hey people, I’m
talking to you!”

No one responded or seemed even to hear a word he had said. He was beyond
perplexed by their actions, or perhaps more accurately, by their lack of which. Just then, a
young boy wearing a baseball hat and carrying a worn leather glove came in through a
side door.

“Hi, Mom! Hi Dad! Hi, Wally! oh… Hi Eddie,” he said that last name with a lot less
enthusiasm. Eddie Haskell was always extra obnoxious to the boy nicknamed Beaver, so
much so that Beaver’s brother Wally often had to tell Eddie to, “Knock it off Eddie, or I’ll
have to thump ya one.”

Joe decided enough was enough. He had a job to do and whatever game these people
were playing had to end now, and as far as he was concerned, it wasn’t going to end
pretty. He stepped into the room and was suddenly overwhelmed with physical
sensations.

The air around him felt frigid and seemed to cling to his skin, which was now
rippling with goosebumps. The metal on his revolver became incredibly cold. It seemed
to drop to subzero. The icy chill shot up through the handle, into his wrist, and up along
his arm. Expelling a gasp of pain, which came out silently as a cloud of steam from his
chilling lips, Joe let go of the gun as it dropped to the floor with a thud. He had no idea
what was happening, but he knew somehow he had to get beyond the strange icy barrier.
He tried to step back but couldn’t.

Using all the strength he could find, Joe took two more steps forward, and to his
pleasure, he passed through the invisible wall of cold and was inside the room. However,
everything had changed about the place. The light in the room had become faded, giving
the room a dark and gloomy appearance. The formerly festive wallpaper no longer held
its luster. It appeared worn, yellowed, and in places, it hung from the walls in torn strips
revealing aged and cracked plaster. There were even places where the wall had broken
away, revealing the lathe boards underneath. He saw paintings hanging askew on the
walls, but not only were they now just cheap discount store prints, but they were as
chipped and peeling as everything else in the room.

The carpet was threadbare and filthy, worn in spots so severely he could see the
flooring below. Likewise, all of the furniture was tattered and covered with layers of dust
and crud. Perhaps the worst assault to his senses was the stench of the place. There was a
reek about the room as vile as any smell Joe had ever encountered. It was a pall
reminiscent of mold, dust, and rotting meat.

Joe looked to the recliner, where he had seen Ward Cleaver sitting reading the
newspaper. A withered old man appearing to be ancient sat slumped, either asleep or
dead, his gray flesh coated with layers of dust and spider webs. The insects crawled
freely about the body, one perched precariously on the man’s bottom lip, another walking
over his closed eyelids.

Looking to the place where he had believed he had seen June Cleaver, Joe saw a
shriveled old woman, not standing next to the broken ironing board, but lying on the
floor, as still as a corpse, covered with the same kind of dust and webbing as her husband.
The rusted iron lay on the floor next to the body. Over by one doorway, he saw Wally
Cleaver and Eddie Haskell piled atop each other on the floor, dead as dead could be.
Their clothing was in tatters, and the exposed flesh had apparent signs of animal
consumption.

“Rats!” Joe thought with disgust. Over in the corner, he saw a baseball cap resting
upon another still figure. The small figure looked like nothing more than a pile of filthy
rags. The musty, putrid pall of the room was enough to turn his stomach.

“What the Hell is going on around here?” Joe found himself asking aloud to no one
but the decaying remnants of a long-dead television show family. “Who are these people,
and where am I?” His questions met with silence. He realized, of course, none of these
stinking, rotting carcasses were capable of answering him. Joe decided the best thing to
do was to go back out the way he had come in, steal whatever he could still find of value,
and leave this morgue far behind him.

He began to head back toward the hall, uncertain if he could stand passing through
that barrier of cold again. Then he heard a deep release of air coming from behind him,
sounding like, “Haaaaaaaaahhhh!”

He quickly turned to see where the noise had come from, but the corpses remained
unmoving in the same places he had originally found them. Or were they in the same
areas? Looking more closely at June Cleaver, he thought he noticed some of the dust near
her feet had been disturbed. He could see part of the carpet was slightly darker, almost
dust-free as if her foot had moved ever so slightly from its former position.

“Look!” he shouted. “I don’t know who’s behind this or what sort of gag you’re trying
to pull here, but I’m telling you to knock it off.”

Then June Cleaver’s foot twitched as a puff of dust rose from the floor. Ward Cleaver
opened his eyes to reveal gray, filmed over orbs. Seconds later, the bodies of Wally
Cleaver and Eddie Haskell began slowly and clumsily to arise to a kneeling position.

“Waaa!” was all Joe managed to squeak out as one by one, most of the Cleaver
family, along with Eddie Haskell, stood before him, forming an army of the undead.

June Cleaver spoke in a raspy unearthly monotone, saying, “You’re… not a… nice
man… you came… to rob us.” As she spoke, her shriveled lips barely moved as dozens of
long-legged insects crawled about her rotting flesh.

“Not nice… at all,” Ward Cleaver moaned. His graying hair hung in a chaotic, filthy
mess. Joe noticed a spot on Ward’s face where the skin had sloughed off, with hundreds
of crawling maggots. His pipe dangled from aged lips, not having seen a match in
decades.

“I should… thump him one… and junk,” Wally said as he stood in his threadbare
varsity letter sweater. As Joe watched, a rat scurried from the sweater with a slice of flesh
in its mouth. It ran down the Wally creature’s leg to the floor below.

Eddie Haskell looked up through gray-white orbs, his lips somehow still curled up in
a sarcastic half-grin, and moaned, “I think… we should let… the Beaver… deal with him.”

“Yeah,” Wally agreed as he tried to smile, revealing gaps in his decayed tombstone
teeth, “Let the squirt… handle it, let’s leave it… to Beaver.”

“Leave it to … Beaver …” June said as one of her dead eyeballs dropped from its
socket and dangled on her cheek by its filaments.

“Leave … it to … Beav …,” Ward said, his words cut off as his pipe fell to the floor
while his lower jaw dropped open, unhinged at an awkward angle.

Then like a chorus of the damned, the army of the undead began chanting together in
a low unearthly moan, “Leave it to Beaver… leave it to Beaver.”

Over in the far corner of the room, what Joe thought looked like a pile of old
clothing began to move. He noticed the baseball cap rising from the heap and hanging
askew. The low chanting of “Leave it to Beaver!” all around him droned on. As the
undead corpse raised its head, Joe was able to find plenty of reasons why they called their
son Beaver.

The boy’s face came into full view, revealing an abnormally large mouth teeming
with an arsenal of razor-sharp teeth. There were no beaver-like bucked teeth in this kid’s
kisser. No sir, this face looked like a piranha on crack, especially when accompanied by
the hungry, wide-eyed filmed-over gaze the Beaver thing now wore. It seemed unable to
walk, only raising slightly on its arms and staring intently at Joe. Then it clumsily put one
arm forward, then another. It was dragging itself toward the intruder. Joe could see that
the Beaver creature’s back legs were useless, dragging behind like two heavy logs. They
appeared eaten away, leaving only scraps of clothing, mangled flesh, and exposed bone.
But those teeth. They were far from useless.

Joe backed up, trying to put as much space between himself and the oncoming
horrifying shark-toothed monster child. He felt something hard and cold pressing against
his back. Joe realized with horror that he was pressing against the strange barrier he had
passed through earlier, but it now felt solid and impenetrable. He wanted to turn around
to try to find a way out, to escape from this hellish living nightmare, but he discovered he
was stuck fast to the icy wall. He could feel the freezing chill spreading throughout his
body.

He managed to move his head enough to look downward and see the Beaver monster
now at his ankles. Seconds later, he felt searing pain as those piranha teeth sunk into the
flesh of his thighs. The beast was going to eat him alive. Then just as quickly, the pain
was gone. Joe realized all the feeling had left his body. It was the numbing cold from the
wall.

Joe knew he was a dead man standing. He only hoped he would die from the cold or
blood loss soon before the Beaver got much further. Closing his eyes, Joe prayed for
death to take him. After a few moments, he opened them to see the last thing he would
ever witness in life, that impossibly wide salivating mouth glistening with razor-sharp
teeth just inches from his face, coming for him.

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