Castle in the Gloom
By Paul Ruffin
A literary thriller in which terror and captivity salvage a disintegrating marriage
In the depths of a forest in Texas a married couple takes a wrong turn. Soon they are lost. Tommy and Annie, long at odds and nearing divorce, can barely stand each other's company. Now, faced with the setting sun and no civilization in sight, they approach a solitary house in a desperate search for a phone.
What they find is a paranoid old woman, her .44 pistol, her German shepherd, and a harrowing night of captivity.
Convinced the couple has come to take her "castle," the old woman locks them in her home and keeps watch over them with her gun and her dog. Alternately threatening and entreating, she waffles between captor and lonely stranger longing for companionship. Annie and Tommy, who could not sit peacefully in a car, must share a mattress in a gloomy, concrete storage room.
Fearing for their lives and trapped together in the dark, they bare all the deep-seated grudges and wounds that have festered for years. In confinement, Tommy and Annie discover something they needed all along. When the ordeal comes to an end, as strangely and abruptly as it began, captor and captives are forever transformed.
Paul Ruffin is a professor of English at Sam Houston State University and director of Texas Review Press. He has published numerous books of his own fiction and poetry, including The Book of Boys and Girls, Pompeii Man, and Islands, Women, and God.
Photo credit: Paul Ruffin-courtesy of the author256 pp.