When She Thought of Him

There were days on end when she didn’t have to think of him at all.  Long summer days when she hid away in the shade where stillness invited the white tail and the fiery red fox.  The twilight evenings when she heard the greeting of her father as the hired hands drove off toward their supper. 

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After the shove or taunt, she imagined herself with the older man who came at night.  He was the one who would cause envy in all those who sneered at her during the day.  He was the one who spoke to her gently, read poetry and didn’t like to dance.   She remembered events that made her happy but never happened.

There were days on end when she didn’t have to think of him at all.  Long summer days when she hid away in the shade where stillness invited the white tail and the fiery red fox.  The twilight evenings when she heard the greeting of her father as the hired hands drove off toward their supper.  When the cool started to settle in she dreaded the call to be sociable outside the need for church.

The whispered jeers and snarling looks of disdain from her peers would not have been so painful if they had not, in turn, been so hypocritically kind to her father.  Their kindness lightened his face with hope when invitations were sent but she refused to go.

“Mrs. Harper will think you rude; you didn’t accept her last invitation.”  She would go and in the prettiest dress but feel awkward and uncomfortable none the less.  She would sit as still as possible allowing her tea to cool or lemonade to grow warm.  She wouldn’t eat a thing for fear of looking more uncouth and gangly then feel the tears burn into her eyes knowing her father was disappointed.  So she thought of the older man who came at night.  He would walk by Mrs. Harper’s window and she would think that he was so handsome and some day she would be the envy of all the lovely girls when she walked by his side.

After such times away from home and books, and bubbling brooks, away from tracks in the snow and blankets of fallen leaves she would think of him.  She saw him in the fields right after harvest, standing alone among the stubbled stalks of corn.  She saw him late at night while the new moon hid in angles; he stood between the broad, tall barn and her lofty old farm house.  He stood and gazed up at her window and when she crept up to the glass to see if indeed he was there, he would not flinch or change expression but continue to stare.

When William only tipped his hat at her not seeing her, she would think of him, tall, angular and looking off into the distance.  When Tom’s smile turned into a laugh as she walked by she thought of him, standing just below her window.

Then one day her father sent her away to Chicago.  The move was sudden and unexpected.  He one day fired all of his hired hands and sent her to Chicago to learn.  Her grief was an agony and only once did she try to plead.  In the city, there was no time to think of him.  She had only time to learn how to set the table, order her meals in French and dance in shoes that pinched.

She had no time to remember and then one spring a gentle touch caused her amnesia regarding the white tail, the fiery red fox, the tracks in the snow and the blanket of multi-colored leaves at her feet.  She may have remained if not for a night at home again.  Smiling at her father, speaking to him in excited tones of what goes on in Chicago.  Asleep in an instant so glad to be home and suddenly awake, the old sadness about her.

He sat on the edge of her bed, broad-shouldered, angular and silent.  If she closed her eyes and willed herself asleep, she would return to the world of whirling seasons, high towers and smiling people.  Or she could open her arms up to him.

He had stayed with her when she was alone, so opening her arms to him she felt the alarm of bitter cold for only a moment and the soft contentment of returning home again.

Photo by m wrona on Unsplash

 

She Rattles, She Doesn’t Knock

After my wife left me I felt a terrible loss because she took the dog and the cat with her.  She left angry.

Don’t blame me.  We both agreed we didn’t want children.  A friend of mine told me that would change.  He told me so sitting slumped over on a barstool with a begging look at the bartender who kept telling us the place was closed.  He wasn’t drunk, well not stupid, pie-eyed drunk, he just didn’t want to go home to the wife and kiddos – all four of them.  No, five total, if you counted the wife.  He has a sweet wife, really, just a little, well a little…she’s a little dumb.  She’s a great mother, though, but they had agreed that they would not bring any children into this awful, dying world.  Like I said they had four.

I held my ground on the whole pregnancy thing.  Now my wife is someone else to someone, with a little girl that “means the world,” to her.  I know my wife, she’s sorry she let her biological clock get the best of her.  I know she misses the long weekends listening to Lake Michigan pound the coastline and reading by the fire.  Yeah, I kept the cabin because there was no way she could afford it, not with a kid.   Sure, we sold the two-story house but I’m fine with a small apartment downtown.  Little has changed for me – except for the damned door knobs.

She showed up when I was moving in, my wife that is.  She showed up about three months pregnant to make sure I was “okay.”  I told her in no uncertain terms not to show her face at my apartment again and that this was not some “adult,” type of divorce where we were going to be friends and concerned about each other.

Actually, I said no such thing, I just told her I was fine and got back to rearranging my apartment.  She had no business being there.  The friend who didn’t want to leave his bar stool spoke loud and fast at her for about fifteen minutes.  I didn’t see her leave.

That night while I was on the toilet reading Jaws, the door knob rattled.  I shouted at Ralf, my big dumb golden lab to knock it off and go to bed.  Then I remembered that Ralf, the big dumb lab went with mommy.  I sat there, book in hand and stared at the door knob.  Why had I shut the door to go to the toilet?  I was the only one living in the apartment.  I didn’t have to worry about offending anyone.

The door knob softly rattled.

“Who’s there?”

The door knob shook and turned as if someone was going to wrench it out of the door and then suddenly went silent.  I felt cold to the bone.  I sat there until I felt my feet go numb.  When I stood up my knees were wobbly.  I made lots of noise, flushed the toilet twice and open the door suddenly with a wide sweep.  The apartment was completely quiet and gray-dark.  I heard the noise of after hours downtown, a comforting sound and noticed the dim glow of street lights.  I walked about turning on all the apartment lights and the TV.  I slept on the couch and was to work early.

Yeah, that’s nice by the way.  I can walk to work and do.  I’ve lost five pounds already and some envious people are looking at me and saying I need to take it easy.

So, when my wife had this guy’s daughter she plastered her ugly little face all over Facebook.  Friends who didn’t know what to do with either one of us put their little thumbs up under the kid’s picture so I closed my account and I started reading The Count of Monte Cristo.  I even bought the audio book and have it playing while I cook.  It’ s a little galley kitchen in the apartment.  I miss the big old kitchen in the two-story house we sold but I don’t cook like I used to; I can still cut a great salad.

One night I woke up to a door slamming and thought that one of my neighbors was having a loud fight.  My bedroom was dark and I was aware, in a groggy sort of way, that the room was too dark.  Where was the night light that I kept in the hallway?  I didn’t become fully awake until I heard the rattle of a doorknob.  My bedroom door was closed.  I had lived in the apartment almost 10 months and I made it a point not to shut any of the doors leading into rooms (the closet door knobs never protested up to that point).

I have no idea what made me brave, I simply got out of bed while the door knob jiggled in the door.  I grabbed the thing and felt an electric shock go through me.  The only thing I remember is my teeth chattering and trying not to urinate and feeling…I don’t know…terrified.  Absolutely terrified.

“Janet, I think my apartment is haunted.”

“Janet, are you still there?”

“Yes.  What makes you think it is haunted?”

“The doorknobs rattle in the door and last night I tried to open the door while the doorknob was moving and something…something happened.”

“I know a good priest.”

“I’m not joking.”

“Neither am I.”

“You never went to church a day in your life.”

“I know I started after I left you.  Jeffery goes.”

“Yeah, well never mind.  I wouldn’t want you to miscarry.”

“I’ve already had the baby.”

“Yeah, right never mind.”

I hung up before she could say another word, disgusted with myself that I had called her but I couldn’t shake that feeling of apprehension.  I spent the weekend up at the cabin.  I left instructions with the apartment’s handyman to change every damned doorknob in the place.  When I came back every doorknob on every door, including the closets, were changed.  I deliberately closed the bathroom door Monday night and continued reading The Count of Monte Cristo.  When I had finished, hands washed and reaching for the doorknob the damned thing began to rattle.  I stood in the bathroom for an hour.  When I opened the door – nothing.

At Wednesday’s board meeting I lost track of the conversation, thinking about what my apartment would look like with no doors.  I could use beads or heavy damask material for doors.  My boss pulled me aside later and asked if I was okay.  The job had actually been great, sales were up and my department was top of the line, so I was a little impatient that he pulled me aside.

“Listen, you’ve lost weight and you are here early and you leave late.  I know things have been tough but I want you to take a few days off.”  The boss walked away before I could protest.  I wanted to shout after him to come on over and use my toilet but I didn’t.

I can survive my wife leaving and becoming instantaneously pregnant with a younger guy named Jeffery instead of Jeff (who actually goes to church) but it’s the doorknobs that will unhinge me.  Is there a pun in that?

I take the week off and spend it at the cabin.  It’s on the Wisconsin coastline, due north of Chicago and a place of refuge.  I thought I’d miss her but oddly enough I miss the dog.  Ralf and I would walk the coast while my wife and the cat would read by the fire.  For the first few days I looked at any door knob before I turn it or pull it but by Wednesday morning I forget all about doorknobs and thought about grilling steaks, putting together quiches with sweet potato crusts and mixing together egg custards.  Salads didn’t cross my mind and I finished The Count of Monte Cristo.

I returned mid-afternoon on Saturday thanking my boss mentally for the good advice.  The apartment seemed small and cramped to me so I opened a few windows and thought about maybe buying some plants to help freshen the air.  I stood in the middle of the living room and said, “I like it here, it’s close to work and I don’t have to park on the street.  This will work.”

For the first time, the door knob on the closet rattled.  It rattled violently.  I stood and looked at it for a moment.  It rattled again and then settled down into a tapping and then stopped.  I strode with determination toward the closet door and swung it open wide.

I stayed in a hotel that night and had movers take my stuff to a really cool loft apartment in an old Victorian.  It’s a little further to work if I drive but I don’t mind the walk to the L even on cold days; it clears my mind.  I started going to Mass and I talk to the priest every Saturday now, he’s a good guy.

The good news was that I was able to keep my deposit and I was reimbursed for all the new doorknobs.  They put the old ones back.  The handyman figures that she showed herself because of the new door handles.  He told me she was usually pretty quiet with women tenants and she hadn’t shown herself in several decades.  No one knows why she hung herself in the closet.

“One lady told me she thinks she did it for love.  Of course, the manager and owner think everyone’s crazy but hey, they gave you your deposit back.”  The handyman was a nice guy but I wish he would have told me she had hanged herself in there, I’m pretty sure I would have known we wouldn’t have been compatible.

Clever Girl

Here’s the trick, don’t even think about it. Don’t think about the sound of old floor boards when the pressure of a foot presses down from who knows who or what. Don’t think about the dimming of lights and especially don’t even think about what the room looks like behind you. Just keep working and focus on that.

Here’s the trick, don’t even think about it. Don’t think about the sound of old floor boards when the pressure of a foot presses down from who knows who or what. Don’t think about the dimming of lights and especially don’t even think about what the room looks like behind you.

Here’s the trick, don’t even think about it.  Don’t think about the sound of old floor boards when the pressure of a foot presses down from who knows who or what.  Don’t think about the dimming of lights and especially don’t even think about what the room looks like behind you.  Just keep working and focus on that.

That’s what I wanted to tell her but I didn’t.  I told her that she was welcome to the coffee in the pot (just brewed), and I showed her the location of the bathroom.  I then left her to become acclimated to working with me and working within my haunted rooms.  When she shivered, I looked up from my manuscript.

“You okay?”

“Yes, felt like someone just walked over my grave.”

“Excuse me?”

“Oh, that’s something my grandmother used to say.  When she felt a cold shiver run down her back or shoulders, she always said that.”

I nodded and smiled while letting my eyes drop back to my manuscript.  It was rude but these Indiana girls had to keep their back-water statements to themselves.  She got right back to work without any sniffs or huffs.  The girls from outside the city were usually very conscientious and she was no exception.  When we broke for lunch I asked her how long she had been living in Chicago.

“About 12 weeks.  I was ready to give it up, I felt so overwhelmed.”

“Well, I’m glad you didn’t.” I was sincere as I passed her the salt.  I needed her help and, well, I needed someone around.  The cold spots were getting worse, the sounds of footsteps and God help me I thought I had heard a few sighs.  I needed someone who would come every morning, work hard and make human noises, human movement, human scents, and human residue.

“So this used to be an old warehouse, huh?  It makes a beautiful apartment.”

“It is nice,” I said  “I like the view all around.  I think the realtor thought I should be here because she found out I was a writer.”

She laughed slightly and nodded as if she understood that as a writer I must also be a Bohemian by nature.  I wasn’t, I was just a writer.  The apartment suited me for other reasons, one it was isolated for Chicago and two, the noise of the city didn’t crowd in upon my work.

We worked together for 13 glorious weeks and the manuscript began to take shape.  We even managed one night to make a timeline of the plot and conclusion.  She stayed until 11 P.M. we became so consumed with the work she lost track of the time.  Her hair began to fall out of its pins and curl down around her neck.  Her freckles began to glow through her smudged makeup.  She almost looked 12.  She definitely looked beautiful.  But this was business, all business and I couldn’t mix business with pleasure.

One Wednesday morning she was standing, looking out toward Lake Michigan.  The city was clear and gleamed before her, like some promising city.  I admired her body as she studied the scene before her.  Her straight, sky-blue, skirt was too large but still looked enticing around her rather bony hips and her soft, buff colored sweater cascaded around her narrow shoulders and folded softly around her thin waist.  Her clothes always seemed a size too large but she wore it well, oddly enough.

“You know,” she said, “I know this apartment is haunted.  I heard her crying in the bathroom.”

I stopped what I was doing.  My pen was in mid stride as she said those words.  She turned at my silence looking a little perplexed.  “What do you think happened?  Do you think she died in an accident while this place was still a factory?”

“No,” I said, slightly relieved she was forming conclusions that didn’t include me.

She looked slightly pouty and my heart beat hard.  “Are you sure?  How do you know?” she asked.

“Because the sounds and the cold spots started after I started living here.  I’ve never heard her cry before though.”

The dear girl actually frowned and sat down next to me as if to try and comfort me or dissuade me from my idea.  “You don’t know that.  The former owners probably wanted you to buy the place so they could leave.”  She looked so sincere and concerned.  I grasped her tiny hips and pulled her under me, wanting that one kiss, that wouldn’t be tainted with fear.  The kiss was sweet, and moist and lingering.  I would regret this one, I remembered thinking.

“I know you killed her actually,” she whispered softly in my ear.  “I know you did.”

I felt her pull the trigger, felt the bullet rip through my shirt, my skin, my heart my back.  My weight muffled the sound; just what she needed to leave me here to sigh, chill the air and press down upon the old floor boards.  No one stays for long.

She was a clever girl, whoever she was, a very clever girl.

 

Attic Dance

Wooden beams. Books. Chests and wardrobes. Wardrobes for the love of God. Real ones, I could tell, all lined up. The floor was bare wood with tattered chairs all about and in the center of the room was a long looking glass. The looking glass had no dust upon it and it reflected the different angles of the house. I was enchanted. Truly enchanted with the attic.

You just never know.

I’ll tell you what it was like; it was like placing your hand upon a window pane thick with frost. As you place your hand closer to that cold, fridge, flat, piece of glass you feel your own heat emanate out from your skin and you touch what is you, outside of yourself. The heat from your body sort of battles the cold that is there, swirling ridged and beautiful in white opaque designs no artist has mastered. You know for a moment, though only for a moment, you know for a moment you will win against the glacial cold.

And you do.

For your hand layers into the cold and burns a sort of ecstatic agony that is questionable memory the moment it happens. Your hand tingles and then you feel the slide and the wet upon your skin — you are beating the cold. Then your skin makes contact with the window at last and the inanimate and the animate make contact and become lifeless and alive at the same time. You, remember that same window in August, not January, and you feel sort of triumphant.

And God above help us there is always something – like when you look at your best friend smoking together on the playground and her expression moves from smug to “oh shit,” and you know you’ve been busted. But that’s something else altogether and maybe the same thing – it all starts with something stupid and silly like a few lifted cigarettes from your mom’s purse.

But – back to that, yes.

So there you are sort of happy for a second because now the window pane is even dry in spots but then you feel a sort of shiver move up your left side and under your arm. Then you feel this sort of ache in your elbow. You concentrate on your hand and sure enough, it’s warm and the window is drier even though the blizzard outside is blocking out all reality. You’re sure you are seeing knights in white armor battling screaming alabaster dragons outside or upon the window pane. You’re sure that what you are seeing is not tundra blown snow and pinhole lights but ghosts from at least 100 years ago walking about lost and alone within the white upon white. Then the shiver moves from your side and up to your neck and the dragons and the ghosts pause in what they are doing and look in at you. They peer and ponder all of a sudden the dark smudge of you through a frozen veneer of ice.

Who could that be?

You of course, and that shiver becomes a shudder and you drop your hand. And where your hand just was is a blank spot in the thick, thick frost, but only for a second – only for a second because to your shock and amazement a white hand – a solid white hand from the other side, bloodless, without life, frozen to the core covers the warm spot you just made.

It was like that, just like that when I saw her face, looking at me. But it wasn’t a window, no it was a mirror and I had turned to see myself in the dusty old frock I had just put on. I was smiling and carefree then I saw her face at the other side of the room, peering at me.

You see it was in an attic that we weren’t supposed to be in – we had snuck into the house, Louise and me. We weren’t 12, hell, we were 21 and 22 respectively and we had had a little too much wine and the guys we were with were boring really, all they wanted to do was wade into the river with no clothes on and wade back out, their bodies shivering in the cold looking more buff. But Louise and I were bored with that sort of thing and they kept trying more outrageous antics and failing. Louise and I were down to our skivvies but she grabbed her dress –she always wore something that was “easy in and easy out,” and called for me to follow.

Well, I had taken my tongue lashing and quit smoking with her at the age of 11 so I had no problem following her through the woods to her aunt’s house when she called me to follow.

Yes, I know if it was her aunt’s house why then was it off limits? Well, it wasn’t exactly and it was. Louise’s family was odd just like Louise but I loved her, I very much loved her. I often think what my life would have been like without her – normal, but I don’t regret missing out on normal. Even now, I don’t regret it. So we moved through the woods while the guys had their backs turned and we heard their cries as we moved as quickly as we could, our clothes bundled beneath our arms and the hot air of August thick and sticky beneath the dark green leaves of aging summer. I kept slipping off my sandals and giggling as my feet smarted from the wild and prickly raspberry branches that crept along the ground while the smell of marijuana clung to my hair. I felt sort of taut inside and my skin, along with my arms and breasts, tingled tightly from thoughts of touch that I would not allow because Louise was bored with the game and I knew she was right – once things got started the fun left and we were just on the ground putting up with men.

“Hurry up,” Louise hissed from just above me, the land sloped sharply up from the river bank. But it was hard to see her because the foliage was so thick.

“I am but my feet hurt.”

“Quit whining, Auntie’s house is just up ahead.”

“I thought you weren’t allowed in there.”

“That depends on who is there.”

We plunged out of the woods and onto the green lawn that was her aunts. I had been there a few times. Louise’s older sister was married there last summer and Louise is always there for Christmas. But Louise’s mom is sort of an outsider and the aunt, I was told, had peculiar ideas about Louise and her family. I read between the lines, she didn’t trust them. I didn’t say much but I thought to myself maybe the aunt just doesn’t want marijuana smoked in her kitchen or beer cans stashed everywhere.

Louise backed up against the woods and pushed her long black hair out of her face and started to put on her dress. I followed suit and pulled on my cotton pants and an oversized shirt. Standing beside Louise with my bobbed off blonde hair and droopy clothes I looked the perfect sidekick. No matter what Louise did, she always looked like some movie star, who knew just how to move and just how much cleavage to show.

“Look, no one is there, let’s go.”

I didn’t want to and I didn’t step from the spot from where I had put on my clothes but Louise just kept walking away from me. Now here is what it feels like when you think you’re going to win over the cold. When she was walking away and she didn’t even turn to see if I was there – just walking away, sure that I would follow and all I would have to do is plunge back into the woods and have my way with two oversexed guys at the river. Even as I contemplated it, watching her black hair swing across her back I knew I would follow but I gave myself another second to feel that edge of rebellion, then I shrugged and trailed after her.

The house was huge, and new, and not creepy at all. Really. I saw to the side of the house a small building, a wing if you will, with an indoor pool and hot tub. The shrubs were boring but of course, would need little maintenance — just right for an aging aunt who liked to entertain her other wealthy friends and who had to put up with the black sheep side of the family once in a while.

The door was locked of course so she knocked. Then she peered into what I could only guess was a living room and then she threw pebbles at the windows that showed off the indoor pool. I just stood there and watched. Finally, Louise put a rock through one small pane of the back garage door, reached in, scraped her arm on the broken glass and unlocked the door.

I said nothing – frankly, I was shocked. She walked into the garage and punched a few numbers into a control panel and the beeping caused by opening the door stopped. We both stood there for a good three minutes and said nothing.

Finally, she turned to me and said “C’mon, I want to show you something.”

We didn’t go anywhere in that house but to the attic. I thought she would glance through the refrigerator or skinny dip in the pool and we would be out of there – but no, we went straight to the back and up the stairs, we went.

“What the hell is this?” I asked Louise “Is this where the servants live?” The staircase was narrow and it actually wound around like it had only one purpose – to reach the third floor. There were no doors to the second floor, and there was no odd smell or echo sound as we moved up and I felt my heart pound and I found myself struggling to breathe.

“Shut up. Do you think she’d give up any of her money to hire help?” Louise’s voice was a little high pitched as if she too were finding it hard to breathe. We came to a shut door. It was plain, even cheap looking and as Louise reached to open it, I wanted to say stop and it was on the tip of my tongue but the door seemed to open without her help, the door seemed to know that Louise was there and it opened of its own accord.

To this day, I think it did, I think that the door did open on its own because for the first time in her life she hesitated. She didn’t toss her hair around, push her shoulders together and then square them like she was walking into a room full of her adoring fans; she sort of leaned in and looked first, like I did in kindergarten. I was five and I was afraid and my mom was making me go, so I leaned in while my mom and my teacher talked over my head. I saw several children but one in particular with coal black hair that shown down her back, she was building a wall with cardboard bricks and when she saw me she gently pushed it down and smiled at me, her teeth shiny white and the glow of the autumn sun shining in all around her as the meticulous cardboard wall teetered and then tumbled down.

She was still standing in the stairwell when she turned to me and said “C’mon.” But I couldn’t go forward with her standing there and for one wild moment I thought we were going to turn around – but we didn’t she stepped into the attic and I followed.

Wooden beams. Books. Chests and wardrobes. Wardrobes for the love of God. Real ones, I could tell, all lined up. The floor was bare wood with tattered chairs all about and in the center of the room was a long looking glass. The looking glass had no dust upon it and it reflected the different angles of the house. I was enchanted. Truly enchanted with the attic.

“Looks like the old bat keeps the place up – not an ounce of dust anywhere.” Louise’s voice was flat with contempt but I ignored her. I knew by the flake and crease in the leather that some of the books that lined the walls upon the thick, dark, wooden shelves were first editions. The chests were leather and wood and looked like they had just come off some steamship. I could almost hear the clang of a dockyard and the clatter of people moving about with their luggage, home from a long trip abroad. I turned around and saw Louise open up a wardrobe. At first, I couldn’t believe my eyes – it was ice inside the wardrobe but then I realized that I was looking at clear plastic that only reflected the sunlight angling in at odd directions from the octagonal shaped windows. Louise unzipped the plastic and started taking out dresses.

The dresses were early 20th century; the material dark mauves and blacks. Louise held one against her and she was transformed from sultry beauty to a sort of royalty. She laughed at me. “I knew you’d love it up here. These all belonged to my great grandmother, my aunt’s mother.” Louise danced about, small, little whirls with the dress clasped to her middle and the material floating about. “My aunt hated her mother. She was beautiful and didn’t pass any of her beauty along, you see – so my aunt resented her. Some say that she even killed her in the end.”

Louise said the last with a little lilt to her voice – as if she were a child again and trying to shock me.

“How’d she do it?” I asked moving toward the wardrobe and picking out a dress of my own. A light rose colored dress with ecru color lace and a low neckline. This I could believe would belong to one of Louise’s relation.

“Poison. That’s what my mother always said. Auntie’s mother was very old when she died but I wasn’t around yet. I was born one year after – Mom swears I’m her, I’m back to torment my aunt, that’s why she has nothing to do with me,” said Louise.

I was smaller than Louise by far – and without thought, I pulled the dress over my head, traipsed over to the mirror and looked in. What I saw was me — a small girl in an oversized dress and just over my shoulder a figure fully clothed in dark mauve and black, her hair piled high in glorious waves and curls, fit for an evening at the opera or somewhere less cultured. The figure in the dress was smooth and vibrant within the form fitting satin. What shocked me wasn’t the transformation, the image of the ghost looking out at me from the mirror but the look of pale rage upon her face. Her beautiful face was full of hate and loathing. I felt a shudder of cold deep within me, the white hand that I often imagined during those winter nights making hand prints in the window of my bedroom now clasping my very heart and squeezing it, infusing me with the horror of my situation. No matter what the mirror was reflecting I was actually seeing Louise and she was looking at me as she always did – with a hatred beyond reason – when my back was turned.

I whirled around and I saw Louise again, the dress simply in front of her, her hair down but her face pale. “Please take that off,” she said.

I didn’t say anything but I slid off the dress keeping my eyes upon her and wondering really if I was going to get out of that attic. I handed it to her and she glided up to me and gently took the dress out of my hand without a word. She replaced both dresses but left the wardrobe open.

“C’mon. The old lady will be back soon – we’ll leave the place as is. She comes up here all the time to poke through her mother’s stuff – this will unnerve her.” I said nothing, I felt nothing but fear, raw throat fear for myself. I felt no pity for the old lady that would tremble at the fact that someone had broken into her house and danced around in her attic.

Louise floated down the steps and out into the garage. She closed the door quietly and started walking back toward the woods. She stopped and looked back at me. I had made it half way my feet were still on the well-manicured lawn and I watched as she swayed with all poise and grace toward the small woods that lead to the river. She smiled at me, ducked her head down and disappeared into the foliage. I walked the long drive to the road and took the long way home.

 

I See In All

The angry are better off. The weak and frightened cling to me. To see the soft weeping, the gratitude for my listening and understanding ear does move me. They don’t see it coming, the price they pay for believing without faith but rather naiveté. It is just the right type of absorption I need that keeps me craving but not without pity for the terror that at the end I see in all.

The angry are better off. The weak and frightened cling to me. To see the soft weeping, the gratitude for my listening and understanding ear does move me. They don’t see it coming, the price they pay for believing without faith but rather naiveté. It is just the right type of absorption I need that keeps me craving but not without pity for the terror that at the end I see in all.

I regret none of my interactions with those of whom I have shared the gloom of tombs, dark empty spaces, sounds of voices from beyond the grave and the sudden awareness of being two in the room. Ghosts are subtle, and after years of exposing their secret places, I must conclude they are nothing to encourage, nothing to hope for and nothing for the living to live pursuing.

I see the young writers making heroes of those that exist beyond the grave. The more modern and exalted flimflam showmen flutter to the call that the dead have some vague romantic goal to reunite with the ones they love. The dead are just that, and if there is any ambition, it is to have more join them in the aching spiritual icebox they inhabit.

So, there we have the dead but it is the living that is the greatest heartache of all. They become involved in seeking their fairytale within the realms of the supernatural; especially those who crave touch and forgetfulness most of all.

I met a young man once, his eyes a deep, dark, blue who became angry with me at the end of his story. He was the hero, the gallant who would save his beloved from the shadowlands of death. Too there was the young girl with deep black eyes who thinks to this day that I bewitched her in some way. These escape my attempt at the soft sound of reason and comfort I try to convey.

It’s obvious to me that those who crave the unknown to quash the loneliness of existence live shallow little lives and those who have seen something they cannot explain wish for memories of the urbane but one-dimensional type in an attempt to reclaim their lonely little lives. Such quests never end well.

Corner of the eye movements. Reversals. Pictures that fly not drop from the walls. Anger. Fear. Sleeplessness. Tears. Some will escape, others will confide in me, especially after an alcoholic drink.
I draw large crowds, you know, of all sorts. I am not bragging, just well known. I am surrounded by actors and directors and glamorous dancers of every type. Inevitably someone will ask me if I believe in ghosts because, they will say, I certainly write as if I do. What is interesting or perhaps comforting is that the beautiful crowd reacts the same as those within the supermarket or the brown shoe beauties I meet in some obscure bookstore signing that I adore. Their eyes become large and luminous but after the hubbub of my first ‘yes,’ I follow those who walk away upset.

These I know are the failures who overstepped a living person’s boundary and challenged the notion of making good evil and a fatal habit of thinking evil good. These struggle less when my eyes turn red and explain that justice has nothing to do with me and getting away with my appetite falls at the feet of their determination to see the best in me.

 

Soulless

The woman’s face wrinkled in confusion, and I walked down the narrow and shadowed hallway that lead to the rather spacious bath and three tiny bedrooms. Each bed made without a wrinkle, each closet open to show it’s well cared for linen, clothes and seasonal bric-a-brac.

Do you ever wonder about the life of the inside of…anything? I do not believe in soulless objects…people perhaps.

Think about it, the empty inside of a pristine-upon-the surface oil tanker. Think of the viscosity pour or pump of that liquid gunk rising within that tanker. The very weight and wetness pushing up and off the flakes of rust and paint so that it floated upon the surface of refined and refined and refined again flammable liquid that had stayed hidden in the earth for so long.

Now hidden in ribs of rusting buoyance.

For my part, I wonder about the inside of houses. Any house, the bright, well lit, well-manicured house and the tumble down, slowly overgrown lumber rot of a house are equally compelling. The most interesting are the estate sale homes. Small, demure little signs with bold black letters “estate sale,” that denotes its lost occupant.

I wander in, and there are usually two types of people within; the embarrassed or the angry. The angry follow me around and complain about those who have bullied in before me “thinking that I’m here to barter with them.” I nod and frown and keep on wandering. The embarrassed hardly say a thing and are usually related to the ghosts that expose themselves in the used books, used utensils, used furniture and used clothing.

Flakes of paint and rust that float to the surface of pumped or poured in money that seems embarrassed to be exchanged for moments of history.

It was a little ranch style, slab house with a picture window looking out upon a postage stamp front yard. There was a small, stone walkway that started midpoint of the single lane driveway which tried to wend its way to the front door but only managed to curve slightly and stop. The evergreen bushes, trimmed into square, squat, little sentries and stood in decorative service to the bright white front door.

I made my way along the small street gutter and up the driveway and over the stone pavers to the front door. An embarrassed person met me and smiled down upon the floor. Though the smell of eucalyptus and spearmint was prevalent, I could sense the smell of old, forgotten and wonder. Wonder, from the walls, the dustless furniture, and the minimalist counter tops, if God had forgotten her.

Her, this I knew because the embarrassed person who met me was female and sad and either a daughter or granddaughter of now an estate sale house.

“The antique clock that was over the fireplace was that sold?”
“Yesterday.”

“You didn’t want it?”

The embarrassed woman eyes widened, she opened her lips to ask me a question, hesitated and then simply shook her head. I turned away and looked around the small living room with the small fireplace which opened into a kitchen-dining room, that in its turn lead to the outside and a small fenced yard.

“What happened to the dog?”

“On a waiting list for adoption.”

“Yes, but where is he?”

“With a small animal rescue family.”

“Funny, she didn’t have his future provided for – she loved that dog.”

“Did you know my grandmother?” The answer was angry, so I understood that she was to have taken the dog.

“No.”

The woman’s face wrinkled in confusion, and I walked down the narrow and shadowed hallway that lead to the rather spacious bath and three tiny bedrooms. Each bed made without a wrinkle, each closet open to show it’s well cared for linen, clothes and seasonal bric-a-brac.

“Hello?” I heard the woman’s footsteps hesitantly walk down the hall. I heard her hesitant step at each door and then her rapid retreat. I heard the front door open, and I thought of meeting her there but suddenly felt too tired to do so.

“Someone’s here. I told you I didn’t want to be here alone.” Her voice whined into her phone. Silence. “She knows about the dog.” More silence. “No, she walked into this house and down the hall and disappeared. I’m telling you, she disappeared, there was no way she could have gotten by me.

 

He Waits For Me There

I walk the stone steps alone. The pillars attend me,

the stars my veil,

I walk the stone steps alone.  The pillars attend me,

the stars my veil,

the blackened night sky domes the ancient stone cathedral.

He waits for me there, I feel his presence upon the dais of the altar.

The dress I made myself, feels as if it will lift from my body.

He said, make the dress white with gold cuffs and hem a jewel of red at the neck.

I stand upon the old cathedral patio,

stones tumbled down ages ago

but no matter,

the opening is vast and the stone pews though all askew still leaves a path.

I feel him before me.

The debris of leaves and growing weeds between the flagstones,

the moon shines my direction pointing to the alter

a single candle there and the presence of another.

I pause and spread my hands against my midriff

feeling myself breathe; ragged, frightened, unready.

I step across the threshold and hear the murmur of a crowd long dead

a hushed whisper of those who see me and wonder at the centuries it takes to fulfill a promise.

A step further in and the stars seem to lower and the darkness heightens outside upon freedom.

The silver light fills the windows with the night’s own silver and opaque mullioned windows.

The ruin illuminates the long ago history and my escape and recapture.

One step up to the alter,

I lift the hem of my dress, heavy now in my weakened hands

I place my foot on the altar step,

his hand, his hand alone, from the darkness, appears.

My throat constricts.

to take the hand from the darkness just emerged; fills me with dread.

The audience long dead and long waiting pauses in a useless breath,

they wait for me to reach my hand to him.

My skin upon his gray pallor.

His dark visage emerges from the gloom,

a smile triumphant and the light from the one candle fills the cathedral room.

And I am there his triumph, my life.

And gone from the world of freedom.

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