Pages Navigation Menu

The Nice Lady (1990)

The Nice Lady (1990)

©1990, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1990). The nice lady. Unpublished short short story.






One of the first things I did after moving to Atlanta in 1989 was enroll in an evening course called Writing Speculative Fiction. I hoped to learn whether I had any chops as a writer. Apparently I did. The instructor (wish I could remember her name!) bought this story for her magazine. Unfortunately, the magazine died just as “The Nice Lady” was to be published. It’s not the only time that has happened. I seem to have a talent for killing periodicals just by submitting material.


The Nice Lady
By Dallas Denny


Daddy was a bad man. Ilana knew the things he did to her every night were not things nice Daddies did to their little girls. Nice Daddies didn’t push and poke at their daughters and make bloodstains on their panties and make it hurt when they had to go pee. Nice Daddies did not kiss their little girls on the mouth the way Daddy kissed her, all wet and sloppy and beard-bristle hurt. Something was not right with her daddy. Ilana knew it must have something to do with her mother and big sister going away; Daddy hadn’t bothered her until he and Ilana were alone in the house. Before, he had come into her room with Mommy and it was good. Now it wasn’t. It wasn’t good because it didn’t feel good. That’s what the nice lady had told Ilana.

Daddy had just left the room, and the nice lady came out of the closet where she had been hiding. Her face was pale and drawn. She sat down on the bed, looking bewildered, and reached out a gentle hand to stroke Ilana’s hair.

Ilana stopped pretending to be asleep. She sat up in the bed and threw herself at the nice lady, sobbing.

The nice lady held Ilana close for long minutes, and then inspected her at arm’s length, wiping away tears with a tissue. “There, there,” she said. She sounded just like Mommy. “Don’t you worry. He won’t bother you ever again.”

Ilana tried a smile on for size. “Promise?”

The nice lady had a strange expression on her face. “Forgive me,” she said. “I had planned to stop it tonight. I meant to. But I had forgotten how awful it was. I just couldn’t—”

The nice lady was talking nonsense. “What’s your name?” Ilana asked, to get the conversation back on a reasonable track.

“My name is Ilana, too,” said the nice lady.

“For real?”

“For real.”

“Ilana is a pretty name.”

“Yes, Ilana is a pretty name.”

“I like it.”

“I like it, too. I’ve liked it ever since—” the nice lady made a funny sound in her throat. “Ever since I was a little girl.” She took something out of her purse and walked swiftly to the door.

“I remember it didn’t take her—” She made a sound like a laugh. “I’ll just be half a minute,” she said.

She closed the door. Ilana sat on the bed, hugging her knees.

After a moment she heard a scream, a hoarse, hollow, horrible male scream, and then there was a falling noise, and then only the sound of the nice lady’s heels as she clicked up the hall.

“I’ll wear shoes just like yours one day,” Ilana told the nice lady, when she came back in the room.

The nice lady stared at her black pumps. “Yes,” she said. “Yes, I am sure you will.” She was looking lost again.

“Your hair is brown, just like mine,” Ilana said.

The nice lady was crying. “Yes,” she said. “Yes it is.”

“Will you come back tomorrow and hold me after Daddy goes away?”

That made the nice lady cry even harder. “I don’t think you’ll have to worry about Daddy any longer,” she said. She suddenly grabbed Ilana and held her tight. “You’re a special little girl,” she said. “You remember that. You’re a special little girl. One of these days you’ll find that you can do something that no one else can do.”

“No one else in the whole world?”

“No one else in the whole world.”

Ilana nodded sagely.

The nice lady picked up the Mickey Mouse phone and dialed a number and said, “Please send a patrol car to 1411 Wendover Street, Apartment 4-C. Thank you.” She hung up the phone.

“I have to go now,” she told Ilana. And then, just like she had appeared, she was gone.

Ilana told herself that when she grew up, she would be just like the nice lady.