Clean Loreen

Clean Loreen

A Story by Carol Cashes

A local Shillers Pond eccentric dies with her secrets




The county will bury her today.  No one could locate any living relatives, although it was commonly known that she had numerous nieces and nephews.  Nor could anyone figure out how she had lived all these years �" there was five dollars in her bank account, and no evidence of a trust or other means of support.   Now, after two weeks, the county decided to bear the costs of putting her in a simple pine box.  Holman’s Funeral Home donated a plot in the southwest corner, where there are no trees and really no more space.  She will  be buried, squeezed between Abner Rost and Julia Menge.  I wonder if she knew them--I hope so--it saddens me to think that she will be among strangers for eternity.


Everyone in this town knew her.  She was Clean Loreen.  She earned this name because she took several baths and showers daily.  She was also mad.  Mad as a March hare.  Polite conversations would use the word “eccentric”, but we all knew that just meant crazy.  My mother told me once that she had been institutionalized for a short time by some well-meaning cousins, but she was no real danger, to herself or others, just strange...and clean.  It’s defined as obsessive disorder now, but in the forties, any behavior that deviated from the norm, was a small town and the rules of behavior were fairly rigid--they still are.  Guess it’s a good thing they can’t see behind closed doors.  I could tell tales...but I digress.


There were many stories and theories regarding the origin of her madness.  She was old when I was a child, and, while no one is quite sure how old she was when she died, the consensus is that she was between eighty and eighty-five.  That’s not really a long time for a small town to work up a good legend and turn it into fact as small towns do, but we managed.


The most told and generally accepted version is that it was finding her father, drowned in mud, that sparked her madness.  He was knocked unconscious by a kicking mule, and fell face forward into a puddle of thick mud.  Loreen was the one who found him when sent to fetch him for supper.  They say that after the funeral, she began each day with a bath, took another around noon, and a third before retiring to bed.  Many years later, a grown nephew who was visiting on his way to some college back east, arranged for the installation of a shower, and this practice was added to her daily routine. 


But it wasn’t just the cleanliness, which is, after all, next to godliness, that branded Loreen as crazy.  Even this small town would not shun the overly fastidious, and even as far back as the forties, that alone would not have been sufficient to have her committed to the institution.  No, it was when mules on surrounding farms and local stables began to die.  While no one ever produced any hard evidence, all eyes naturally turned to Loreen.  Poison was determined to be the cause of death and, all in all, before she was committed by the concerned cousins, six mules met their Maker with sparkling clean hooves. 


It wasn’t until the third mule, owned by Jack Waller, kicked his last bucket, so to speak, that someone noticed there was no mud or dirt on the hooves.  Even underneath, which meant that whoever was fortifying the feedbags with that extra fiber, waited for them to go down. 


Well, that only could mean one person, as anyone in the town would, and still will, tell you.  There was never any poison found on or around her property, and she, of course, denied leaving her home after dark.  But failure to produce evidence for a public trial did not mean she wasn’t tried and convicted.  Small towns have this curious justice system of their own, and every mule, thereafter, found with four up, you could say, was another Exhibit for this alternate court system.  Half-heartedly, the sheriff warned the loudest accusers that he would have to take action against any who took the matter into their hands.  And, to give him credit, he even tried to explain that a commonly held belief and nothing else was just not enough to arrest, arraign and go to trial.


Well, a neighborhood mule-watch was formed and every night for a week, four or five of the indignant righteous staked out Loreen’s house, front and back, so that the heinous mule murderess could be caught slipping out to carry out her kill-and-clean agenda.  On the seventh morning, Bill Temple reported his mule’s demise and shine and the watch could only report that they never saw anything untoward.  They reluctantly disbanded, although they all swore to each other that she had given them the slip somehow, everybody knows crazy people are sly. 


Unlike today, when children seldom call their parents, in the forties even twice and three times removed relatives would visit known kinfolk in the area when passing through.  It happened that when the cousins came through town on their way to a wedding, someone at the dry-goods store took it upon themselves to inform them of their kinswoman’s antics.  Within a week, Loreen was in Halstone Institution.  The cousins, having clearly done their duty to their kinswoman, moved on.  But within six months, Loreen was seen getting off the train with a small suitcase, looking fit and tanned.  Within three blocks of her home, there was no one in  town that didn’t know she was back.


Everyone waited anxiously for Loreen to pick up where she left off, after all, you can’t cure killers, certainly not in six months, but nothing ever happened.  After the first year, and all mules in the area continued to make roll call, folks relaxed a little, although they never let go of their suspicions, and for years mule owners locked up and even hid their mules, horses and donkeys (why take chances?).


Clean Loreen lived out the rest of her life alone, in a town where everyone knew her.  Her groceries were ordered by phone and delivered, and she ordered clothing and other essentials by catalog.   She walked the five miles to Shillers Pond every other day, but never attempted conversation with her neighbors, and they responded in kind.   In fact, it was at Shillers Pond that her body was found.  I shudder to think of how much time might have elapsed before discovery had she died in her home.


I will most likely be her only mourner.  You see, I delivered her groceries for twenty years, and I kept our friendship a secret, for reasons you can imagine.  I am the only person she ever told about the trap door, hidden by a barrel of silver polish, in the shed out back of her house  And I’m the only one who knows...well, the truth.  But as I said before, I could tell tales...I’m the Grocer.

© 2017 Carol Cashes

Author's Note

Carol Cashes
The Grocer is the name of the anthology consisting of stories about the residents of a fictional small town called Shillers Pond. Randa and Marnie Stone are two other residents I've written about.

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Thank you. I enjoyed that. I enjoy tales of rural settings, Flannery O'Conner, Shirley Jackson, James Dickey, that sort of thing. I like smart aleck narrators and characters. They add zest.

Posted 11 Months Ago

Carol Cashes

11 Months Ago

I''m glad you liked it. I would like to have known Clean Loreen longer than just reporting her deat.. read more
Delmar Cooper

11 Months Ago

Since You are the God of the Keyboard resurrection is not impossible at all.
This was very nice dear really did tell a lovely story..very interesting ,and yes expected some tricks and sudden turns..still it was great as it's somewhat sad..I always sympathize with people like this..should never be left alone..some incident could put people disable like this for if she was taken care of from the start a long precious life could be straightened and not got waisted like this sad
Lovely amaze me..ha ha

Posted 12 Months Ago

Carol Cashes

12 Months Ago

Thank you so much for reading. Touching on your point about her being alone - she's not alone in de.. read more

12 Months Ago

You are welcome..I really wish to read some fiction stories..I would love to see how you could manag.. read more
Carol Cashes

12 Months Ago

All of my posts, with the exception of 2 poems and an essay, are short stories. Untitled is a novel.. read more
...and the mysteries continue. Your character development in these stories is detailed with all the wonderful idiosyncratic behavior humorously described. Clean Loreen the mule-poisoner- not easily forgettable! Your writing style is reminiscent of Harper Lee's. Love it.

Posted 12 Months Ago

Carol Cashes

12 Months Ago

This was my first Shillers Pond story and it all evolved from this one piece. I'm glad you liked it.. read more
Oh, I thought a meaty surprise would be revealed in those last words, but... I dangle. (Well, Sam, yer just gonna have to read more grocer tales!)
Killing the mules to clean their hooves--that's very creative and novel. An enjoyable tale, well written.

Posted 12 Months Ago

Carol Cashes

12 Months Ago

Thanks. Don't have any idea where this came from. Just came out of my head one night and Shillers .. read more
You have a voice, my friend. And, I love your lilt. This was just like reading an old novel you haven't read in a while. Comfort.

Posted 1 Year Ago

Carol Cashes

1 Year Ago

Thanks for reading this and thanks for "Comfort". That is gratifying to The Grocer and he appreciat.. read more

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5 Reviews
Added on June 23, 2017
Last Updated on June 23, 2017
Tags: fiction


Carol Cashes
Carol Cashes

Biloxi, MS

I'm very cynical, jaded, just this side of bitter and the only reason I haven't crossed that line is a good man loves me. I am extremely empathetic, but seldom sympathetic. I can be a ferociously lo.. more..


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