The Lord of Lil’ Grover’s Mill, West Virginia, short story by Craig E Harms at

The Lord of Lil’ Grover’s Mill, West Virginia

The Lord of Lil’ Grover’s Mill, West Virginia

written by: Craig E Harms


…The LORD brings death and gives life; He brings down to Sheol and raises up.” – 1st Samuel 2:6 Berean Standard Bible


Lester Greenwald had an electric train set at 5; then again at 55–he had to find a hobby or be slowly driven mad by boredom and a nagging wife when the money-making was slow. Because the business took up the first floor of the faux manse they lived in, there was no escape; no “honey, I’ll see ya a 5;” no eight-and-a-half hours free of Lucille’s shrill ear torture.

He couldn’t just slump around all day in the upstairs apartment getting his brain potato-mashed by cable news she had droning all day, or be demanded to play Mr. Carson to her Mrs. Crowley all day, either, so Les Misérables decided to reconstruct a miniature tableau of Grover’s Mill, West Virginia in the basement–at least he had a ceiling and a floor between her now–servant’s quarters. He bought trains, tracks and trestles, and spaghetti-wired them all underneath; used wood and styrofoam and model paints for buildings; chicken wire and strips of the Weekly Tribune, flour, and water for the Alleghenies that terraced through his miniature home town.

After the mountains dried and were spray-painted, he set up the coal trains that carried real flakes of planet-killing fossil fuel; ‘paved the five streets’ with gray construction paper; ‘manicured trees’ of conically-trimmed green bottle brushes; ‘reconstructed, in scale, their own building using popsicle sticks; for its columns, dowels; ‘remade downtown,’ and populated the little faux village with hand-carved wax figurines. The project he obsessed over, and its model trains running through it all, kept the mortician’s mind moving, away from his work at hand. He took the same pride in his attention to detail in his creation he dubbed Lil’ Grover’s Mill as he did preparing his customers for an open casket.

One late twilight under an old man’s toenail clipping of an autumn moon, Lester was one-way chatting with his freshest, Myron Jacobson, while he was swapping out the town crank’s hemoglobin for moonshine. “Probably happy, you’re finally off this dumpy ball of mud, aren’t you, ya grumpy old bastard?” he asked, thankful a reply wasn’t returned, then, yawning and tired of waiting for the siphon tube to run dry, decided to wheel the gurney closer over to tiny town. “Might as well paint a model citizen while he’s bleeding out.”

Excited about this bright idea to mix business with pleasure—in Lester’s case, corpses with crafts—he pushed the gurney over too hard, too far, too fast, hitting the edge of town like a 7.1–shaking it violently enough to derail a lil’ coal train that was just passing near, which caromed off the dead man’s flung limp arm, yanking out the tube, spurting blood on the tracks and on the figurine he had been dolling up. Sparks flew. Smoke proofed. The little wax model came to life, crabbing like normal, but only an inch-and-a-half tall and three octaves higher.

The embalmer wondered what the hell was going on: was this proof of life eternal that the uber-fervent evangelical and snake-handling nuts babbled about around these parts? A real-life Twilight Zone episode shot right here in the basement of Greenwald’s Funeral Home? Regardless of the cause-and-effect of this bloody lil’ trainwreck of a preparation for burial, the mayor had his first semi-living resident walking the cardboard sidewalks of Lil’ Grover’s Mill.

Dub Crowley, one of the town’s drunks, was the next—he got smashed, then re-smashed by a highway overpass pillar driving home on his Harley. The prep was quick and easy—most definitely a closed casket—yet long enough to set Lester’s mind wandering about his newly-discovered power of soul-reaping, so he recreated the previous Frankenstienish chain of events with his guinea pig stretched out and feeling no pain, anyway, and got the same miraculous results.

Lester set ‘lil Dub Crowley, a gossipped wife-beater, on a scaled-down plastic cycle, dropped him down on Main Street, and laughed when he heard high-pitched Jacobson, bitch: “so do I have to hear him roaring through town forever? God, I hate this place.”

Another town drunk was the next to die–of cirrhosis of the liver. The rumor went that Bonnie Sue Asperger was locking her three young ‘uns in a closet so she could go out a husband-huntin’ on Saturday nights, and since rumors are hailed as facts in small towns, Lester, now the judge as well as the mayor of dinkyville, decided her fate. Lil’ Bonnie Sue was now locked inside the ‘lil’ ladies’ room at Big Whomp’s Tavern, after going there looking for a single lil’ man while her yellow-tinged body lay in wait for visitation.

Two months later, 11-year old DeeDee Marie Kemp was delivered through the rear double-doors after succumbing to leukemia. Lester decided to let her innocent soul rest in peace, or to be shot up to heaven, or return to this planet reincarnated in another life form, or whatever the promise of eternity held for her. She did nothing to earn a sentence in his cardboard, styrofoam, paper-mache, and popsicle-stick prison, so he let the girl’s soul be buried with her body. Greenwald’s viewing room was crushing; this is when he earned his pay.

Ancient Mrs. Samuelson, the town librarian, died next. Because the kind and gentle soul encouraged learning through books, she was also spared from Lester’s growing fascination with playing god–one reigning from a subterranean heaven reeking of mildew and formaldehyde.

The month’s passed. Lil’ Grover’s Mill began to hustle and bustle with its town namesake’s dead immoral citizens: married soprano at King Mountain Baptist Church, Denise Stout, for her alleged affair after practice with married tenor, Glenn Holman, now hitting high notes she thought impossible; Franklin Suggs, soul-shrunk and sent here for dealing oxy to high school kids, so the scuttlebutt went; Donnie Dean Walters, for hanging around the city park–he sure looked like a child molester, so he was miniaturized–like a computer chip–and corralled safely in the little town’s mini-park covered in plastic grass and absent of children, who were yet uncorrupted.

Lester’s lil’ slice of paradise–bedrocked on sheets of ¾” plywood–was jangled one afternoon when Lucille came down from her ivory tower—a rare ‘treat’ since the lower level gave her the creeps, and since she had zero interest in either her husband’s “little train set that he should have outgrown at ten” or in his macabre job of “making stiffs look like they’re just napping” when he should have become a dentist.

She hot-stepped down the steps gingerly, yet in another pique of rage because Mr. Carson was blowing off her text messages that she needed this done, that done, this cleaned, that put away. She hurried past the prep room, eyes and nostrils closed; stopped cold at Lil’ Grover’s Mill, eyes wide open, and froze at the sight of the lil’ dead townsfolk living as if alive—microscopic nearly, and chittering like crickets speaking mountain. “What in the fuck has that fucking idiot done!” were her last words, ever.

Lester, just coming out of the supply room, could not have his secret out, nor keep his rage in, and since Lucille had a tendency to flap her big fat gums, and loudly, he snuck up behind and beat her to death with a quarter turn arterial tube, then laid her remains in a cooler after transferring her toxic spirit to a lil’ wax wife with a lil’ nick at its throat.

He reveled in placing her in the top floor of their popsicle sticks home and gloated God, it’s fun playing god, as he watched ‘the lil’ woman’ banging on a lil’ plastic window, in her lil’ hell, trying to scream obscenities, put-downs, and threats of violence against him without a lil’ larynx.

His work went on: Elizabeth Cornwall, rumors were she was embezzling money as a teller at First Federal. The lil’ crook was at her lil” window with her lil’ pockets stuffed with lil’ $1000 bills; Bart Taylor, for being a loud-mouth bigot preserved in a lil’ black body; old Father Ralph because they said he was getting a little too friendly with a couple of Sacred Heart altar boys after Mass.

I was next.

My name is Clyde Smith, the editor of the Grover’s Mill Weekly Tribune. I am writing this from my lil’ desk in my lil’ newspaper office in Lil’ Grover’s Mill, West Virginia. I wanted to bang out this story in hopes that someday a big person with a magnifying glass will find it when they find Lester’s lil’ town he should have named Lil’ Sheol—hopefully while the maniac is still alive—and free our lil’ souls somehow.

How’d I end up here? The cops and I were investigating Lucille Greewald’s sudden disappearance because nobody in town really believed the undertaker’s story that the belil’ing henpecker went to visit her step-sister in Illinois. I snuck down to the basement during Martha Henshaw’s viewing (now walking the construction paper streets like they say she walked the real ones), saw the horrors of what Lord Lester had created, and was strangled from behind. Though my corpse is stuffed in the same icebox with his wife’s, we live on, as normal as can be with skin of mortician’s putty.

Latest posts by Craig E Harms (see all)