Tell Them Daddy’s Gone To Bed

howlin wolf

Promotional image for the track “Moanin’ At Midnight” by “Howlin’ Wolf” (Chester Arthur Burnett)

“Yes sir, this is the Parks residence. No sir, he can’t come to the phone right now.”

“Betty, who are you talking to on the telephone?” Lillie Parks was home alone with her two little daughters and especially when her husband Arthur was out, he was very protective of the children.

“Says it’s the police, Mama.”

“Let me have the phone, Baby.”

Eight-year-old Betty handed the black, plastic receiver to her Mama.

“This is Mrs. Lillie Parks. May I help you?”

“Yes, Ma’am. This is Officer Bill Tucker. Is Arthur Parks your husband?”

Lillie gripped the phone tighter and she began to tremble. No, if he were dead, the police would have come to the door, not called. “Yes he is, Officer.” She tried to be as polite as she could, not only because that was part of her natural tendency but because of how the police treated “uppity” Negros.

“May I speak with him, please.”

“I’m sorry, Officer Tucker. He’s not available right now.”

“You mean he’s not home, Mrs. Parks?”

“No sir. He’s home, but he’s not feeling well, so he went to bed early.”

“I see. So he hasn’t been out all evening?”

“No sir. As I said, he took sick so he went to bed, must be about two or three hours ago.”

Betty was looking at her Mama and then she turned her head to see her ten-year-old sister Barbara looking up from the book she was reading. They both knew Mama was lying and they both knew why.

“Can you wake him for a moment, Ma’am? It’s important.”

“I’m sorry, Officer. My husband is really very ill and I’d prefer not to wake him. Can you tell me what this is all about?”

“Yes, “Ma’am. His wallet was found by one of our Officers walking a beat near Wabash and Balbo. We thought he’d lost it earlier in this evening and might want to come down to the Station House and reclaim it.”

“Oh, I see, Officer. My husband must have lost it when he left work last night. He’s a musician.”

“I understand, Mrs. Parks. We’ll keep it in our property locker and he can come down and claim it whenever he’s feeling up to it.”

“That’s very kind, Officer. I’ll let him know that. Thank you.”

“It’s my pleasure, Mrs…”

Officer Tucker broke off his comment and Lillie could hear a commotion in the back ground for a moment. Then he got back on the line. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Parks. Something’s come up and I’ve got to go. Nice talking to you.”

“Thank you, Officer Tucker. Nice talking to you.” She could hear the tension in his voice and hoped he couldn’t hear her’s. “Good night.”

“Night, Ma’am.”

Lillie heard the click as he broke the connection. She held the receiver to her ear for a moment longer and then put it back in its cradle. Even if anyone were listening on their party line, they wouldn’t suspect anything close to the truth.

“Mama?” Betty was still standing next to her. “When will Papa be coming home?”

“Hopefully by morning, little one.”

“I’m scared.”

Lillie knelt down and hugged her littlest child. “I know, Baby. It’ll be alright. You’ll see. Papa will come home just like on those other nights.

She looked up and saw Barbara was looking out the window at the full moon. “You best go back to your reading, Babs.”

“Yes, Mama.” The ten-year-old looked at her Mama. There was a tear running down her cheek.

“Oh Babs, come here.” She held out her arm and Barbara ran to her. She held both of her daughters to her tight. Lillie looked at the window and the bright, full moon shining in a dark and sinister sky beyond.

Outside was the wild streets of Chicago. She remembered meeting Arthur at the Legends Blues Club. She’d been raised to be refined and didn’t take to no account musicians, but there was something about Arthur. He was kind, frugal with his money, only had a few beers on nights when he worked, and didn’t smoke none of that reefer or do worse like some of those other Blues men.

They’d gotten married last year and he was a wonderful Step-Father to her two little girls. She married Arthur even knowing his secret. He worked nights which is what musicians did, but there were a few nights each month when he didn’t come home until morning, and then his clothes were torn and ragged and he was exhausted.

The bed they shared together was empty right now. Arthur Parks wasn’t sick, not the way she’d implied to that police officer. He was cursed. Tonight under the light of the full moon a wolf ran the streets of Chicago. Lillie was afraid that Officer Tucker was called away because of that, because of him.

“Let’s pray to Jesus, Babies. Pray that Lord Jesus will watch over your Papa again tonight and that nothing but a couple of stray dogs go missing. Pray that your Papa comes home to us safe and sound.

Lillie looked up at the ceiling and imagined seeing Heaven, praying that Jesus would take care of not only her husband and the animal he becomes, but any people out in the night. “Please, he’s such a good man. He’d never hurt anyone. Please don’t let him hurt anyone.”

I wrote this for the Song Lyric Sunday Theme for 2/11/18 hosted by Helen Vahdati. The idea is to use this week’s posted word or phrase to find a related song, and then put the lyrics and a video of it on your blog. This week the phrase is phone calls/calling.

I have a vague memory of the song I wanted to use, but I couldn’t remember enough about it to “Google” it. However, I did find Moanin’ at Midnight recorded by blues musician Howlin’ Wolf (Chester Arthur Burnett – June 10, 1910 to January 10, 1976) in 1959. Here are the lyrics:

Well, somebody knocking on my door
Well, somebody knocking on my door
Well, I’m so worried, don’t know where to go

Well, somebody calling me, calling on my telephone
Well, somebody calling me, over my telephone
Well, keep on calling, tell them I’m not at home

Well, don’t not worry, Daddy has gone to bed

Here’s a video posted on YouTube.

Burnett was a fascinating person. He was born into poverty in White Station near West Point, Mississippi and had, unlike many of his peers in that era, always been successful, possibly in part because he was frugal with his money. In spite of a poor home life as a child, he remained a productive and positive person.

He met his future wife Lillie in one of the clubs he played and even though she was an educated and refined person who didn’t associate with blues musicians, he won her over and she agreed to marry him. He raised her two daughters from a previous marriage.

I used variations on Lillie’s and her daughters’ first names but something about Burnett’s stage name and the lyrics cried “Werewolf”.

As of 2017, there are Wolf-Coyote hybrids running the streets of Chicago and they are responsible for a number of attacks on dogs. Since I wanted my Werewolf to be tragic and not vicious, I limited his victims also to canines.

The intersection of Wabash and Balbo in Chicago is real and near the modern blues club Buddy Guy’s Legends. Legends wasn’t founded until 1989, so I admit to playing fast and loose with history. My story is set in or around 1959 (if you notice, I described an old-fashioned landline and a “party line”).

It’s hard to create dynamic tension in a horror tale without showing the monster, so I hope I was successful in doing so by describing things from his family’s point of view.

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