MTO Philip Tanmay

I opened my lunch sack and smiled at the note Mom wrote on the plastic sandwich bag: I love you, Philip – Mom xoxo. She put smiley faces in the o’s. And…hooray! Roast beef. There’d be horseradish and butter slathered on those thick, soft slices of Italian bread. My class was last to eat lunch, so I starved through math class and didn’t learn hardly anything. But it was going to be okay now, because: roast beef.

I tugged the plastic bag down just enough to expose the first bite, and a shadow passed over me, too small and quick to be a cloud. Black wings drummed air; two craggy talons scratched at my face, made me blink and wince. A tugging on the sandwich. And…the most minuscule, horrifying sound, the cruel slip from the plastic bag.


My swipe was in vain. The buzzard was gone. The kids laughed at me holding Mom’s deflated baggie.

Vultures, they decided yum about a thing, watched from their spot way above where no one could get them, and swooped down in a silent, deadly fall. In a heartbeat, the near-to-last heartbeat, their talons grabbed at whatever they craved. This time, they craved a sandwich. My sandwich rode through the air, jostled by turbulence and the rush of wind, bumped by the beat of wings.

I ran to the playground aid, showed her my empty baggie, and told her what had happened. She made me sit under the Think-About-It Tree for lying, even though I wasn’t lying. I had to watch everyone else eat their lunches, their peanut butter and jelly and grapes and granola bars and string cheese. Their cookies and juice boxes and hard-boiled eggs with pepper.

Buzzards circled overhead.

Somewhere, one perched on a branch and ate my roast beef sandwich.

The full-bellied kids, they played on the swings and ran the merry-go-round so fast they got flung away in fits of laughter. I called out to Mrs. Frack, the playground aid, but she put up a finger, like one minute, even though it was lots of minutes and I didn’t even deserve to be under the Think-About-It Tree. I’d done nothing wrong. I curled my fists and thought bad thoughts, not the ones we were supposed to think. I thought about the buzzard. The Think-About-It Tree was special. It was supposed to change you. But I didn’t need to be changed. Mrs. Frack needed to be changed. I imagined the buzzard enjoying Mom’s sandwich, imagined myself a buzzard just so I could have my sandwich back.

I was ripped from my daydreaming by a bone-chilling scream, not a kid’s, but a low, throaty, desperate adult scream.

Mrs. Frack.

A buzzard gripped her curly black hair and was trying to take off with her, whole. She was robustly marbled, so more buzzards came and helped. They took her shirt on the shoulders, her skirt. The skirt pulled up like a curtain and hid her from view. All I could see were her legs, her blue underwear and her sandals. One fell off and plummeted to the basketball court.

Full-bellied kids pointed and cupped hands over their mouths.

A terrible thought gripped me. I was under the Think-About-It Tree. I’d thought some bad thoughts about Mrs. Frack. And here she was, suffering the same fate as my sandwich. If the buzzards dropped her from that height, it would be Frack pudding all over the playground. I thought about that.

The buzzards started to struggle like they might drop her. Mrs. Frack screamed.

Noooo. I imagined the buzzards taking Mrs. Frack to their tree. Just as I was about to imagine Mrs. Frack miraculously climbing down to safety, someone grabbed my hand and pulled me out from under the Think-About-It Tree.

“Wait,” I shook my arm loose. “I need to finish.” But when I ran back under the tree, the vision was gone. No matter how hard I tried to see Mrs. Frack, all I got were black wings, black beaks, and black and bloody talons.

Credit: Rekindle Photo and Video

True: Philip Tanmay had his sandwich stolen right out of his hands while on the school playground. I don’t know how old he was or what kind of sandwich, but…yikes. That would be horrible. I also took many poetic liberties by telling this MTO from inside Philip’s head. The truth is, I had a teacher named Mrs. Frack when I was in the fifth grade. She was entirely unfair to me, and I have a touch of bitterness toward her. Do you see how lovely it is, this writing thing? I just performed hundreds of dollars of therapy on myself with one, little story. Thank you, Philip.

Also True: Philip’s poetry is exquisite. Find it here.

Want your own MTO Horror? A new horror every Wednesday. It only takes a minute. Go HERE if you dare.

12 thoughts on “MTO Philip Tanmay

  1. Gina T.

    Love this and where it went! At first I thought the roast beef wasn’t roast beef, he was going to get home after school and not find his father and ask, “Where’s dad?” A little too much Lamb to the Slaughter, I guess! LOL

  2. This is brilliant, and there were many Mrs. Fracks that I would have wanted to take revenge on back in elementary school. I was a vengeful kid. Thanks, Kelly. It feels so nice to be the protagonist in your story.

  3. Reblogged this on Blog inVERSE and commented:
    C’est moi, c’est moi, ’tis I, here to astound and astonish you today. Behold below, a link to a fantabulous and spectacular series of short stories called ‘Made to Order Horror, ‘ written by Kelly. This week’s story features a protagonist some of you may know, and explains his present day phobia for buzzards. Please read it and post your thoughts.

  4. Dark and brilliant. I knew Tanmay had powers when he sits under Think About It Trees, but I didn’t think he had anything to do with Mrs Frack’s *coughs* demise. Now we know! I loved the voice of the narrator too. I want a roast beef sandwich now lol.

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