I used to hate going over to my grandmother's house. For one thing, it always smelled really bad; stale dirt, and mothballs, and cat shit. For another, I was kind of scared of my grandmother. She was always telling me these weird stories about when she was a little girl, growing up on a farm in South Dakota. Stories about cows that were born all messed up, and her older sister that had some weird deformity and died when she was sixteen. She would point at me with her bony old finger and tell me how good I had it, not having to get up at dawn to milk cows. I had no real chores to do, no real problems. She was right of course, but when you're five years old, that stuff sinks into your head. I lay awake at night thinking about the cow that was born with a beak, and how I was going to grow up to be a bum like grandma said I was. I could see myself in tattered clothes with a long beard, walking down the road looking for something to eat.
Those stories were bad but the worst was when I would sleep over and she would tell me a story that her mother had told her, and her mother before that, all the way back to some very distant past. It was the story of Mr. Pinch, and it gave me nightmares up till I hit puberty....
Kids do bad things either because they don't know any better, or because of some desire, some thing that they want more than anything. Sometimes adults forget that to a kid even small things seem very very important. Generally, however, good parents don't like when kid's do bad things. It makes them feel like they haven't been doing their job right. So when little Billy gets into the jam jar for the fifth time after being told not to, even after being beaten severly, and actually dropping the jar and breaking it the last time, Billy's parents are at the end of their ropes. That's when they would call Mr. Pinch.
Mr. Pinch was a wrinkley brown troll about the size of a large cat. Instead of hands, he had two fingers like lobster claws, whith long sharp nails on the end of each one. When you were really bad your parents would say the secret magic words and, while you were sleeping, Mr. Pinch would steal you away in a burlap sack and take you to his secret lair, far far underground. You'd be strung up by your feet from the roof and Mr. Pinch would take his long nails and pinch you until you screamed that you promised to be a good little boy or girl from then on. And then, maybe, he'd let you go home. Otherwise you'd stay in his lair and eat nothing but worms for the rest of your life. He had a pit full of very bad children that would never grow up and could never leave.
It sounds silly, but like I said, when you're little, everything seems like a big deal. Everything seems like it could be real.
I saw Mr. Pinch many times in my nightmares. I would getting a can of peaches from the basement and he'd be there, his tiny red eyes staring at me from the under the stairs. I'd scream that I was good boy but he'd still come, snapping his fingers at me. Then I'd wake up crying. He showed up a lot in my early drawings; a perfect representation of my worst childhood fears: abandonment, hunger, pain, and never being able to go home ever again.
But you know what? All of those fears become realized when you grow up and have to live on your own, so Mr. Pinch is in a way, very very real.
And I still hate the fucker.