freedom house

(photo courtesy yistergirl)

There’s nothing like a haunted house.  Have you ever seen a real ghost?

It wasn’t so scary after you’d lived there for awhile.  It was a mammoth Victorian, dingy white, with exes of tape on the windows, three stories plus a basement and an attic no one ever visited.  It sat in a line of newer, smaller houses that repeated a pattern of dereliction with cement gardens, security doors, and plastic potted plants. The street was bald save the four old-growth walnut trees flanking the Victorian, remnants of forgotten ancestors; one and a half in front and two behind.

Jo and her little brother Max didn’t live there, they just visited, usually for the weekend but sometimes longer.  Their mother Joyce had a thing with Philip, a longstanding resident whose seniority and hard work at the program earned him conjugal visits. They stayed with Philip in the first bedroom on the second floor, at the top of the curving staircase. Joyce and Philip shared the narrow bed and the kids rolled out sleeping bags on the closet floor.  

When they visited, Joyce was usually assigned to work in the hollow industrial kitchen where she’d help unload sacks and giant cans of food from the donation truck. Joyce was a whiz at inventing new ways to mix the ingredients—succotash and Velveeta on toasted wonder bread or baked potatoes piled with bacon bits and peas from a can.  The kids were free to amuse themselves as long as they didn’t bother the residents or distract them from their work.  

During breaks, chatty residents like Troy played cards in the front parlor or watched the mammoth television built into an ornate wooden cabinet. Troy always wore a tight yellow t shirt with the words “Pigs Is Beautiful” printed under a cartoon of a pig in a policeman’s uniform.  Troy kept a purple pick stuck in his afro for easy access.  He would sometimes challenge Jo and Max to a game of Go Fish; he taught them dance moves and showed them how to shake hands. 

One day that was so hot that the sidewalk outside burned their bare feet, the kids lay on a ratty sofa on the front porch, watching a cloud of flies hover and swoop like waltzing kamikazes.  Max was playing with a transistor radio one of the counselors gave him, confiscated from one of the residents; it had no batteries but Max was pretending, beating the air with imaginary drumsticks and moaning a tune, whenTroy strutted up the stairs.  He nodded at Max and held out his pale palm to Jo for the complicated handshake before he plopped down on the sofa but there was nothing relaxed about Troy with his big smile, his hard muscles and that sly look in his eyes.  

“What’s up?”  Max wanted to know.

“You want to see something crazy?”

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The rest of this story is in limbo, waiting to get published.  Let me know if you’re the one I’m waiting for.

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A couple links that informed/inspired:

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About girl in the hat

aka Anna Fonté, writer of novels, short stories, personal essays, and bits about the neighborhood crows. The things I write want you to look at them.

5 comments

  1. Troy is hot. Any man with a pick in his afro and a “Pigs is Beautiful” tee-shirt is fine by me.

    This was great fun, Anna. I haven’t seen a ghost, although an old boss of mine had a picture of one that I couldn’t explain. The ghost haunted an old farmhouse, and sometimes appeared in the fireplace, which is where he was in the photograph. Very creepy, just to see this spectral head in there.

  2. Another great story finely told.

    I don’t understand how a story this good gets just one Like and one comment yet everyday I read blog posts that are a few paragraphs of poorly-spelled hokey and yet a heap of comments after them…

    I don’t believe in ghosts. Well except for those who live lives of quiet desperation and spirit their spectral presence to their graves…

  3. Thank you for your comment, Sam, and for reading. I guess either people don’t like short stories or I have not yet figured out how to market myself well (because I”m not ready to believe people don’t like MY short stories quite yet, thanks to people like you). You seem to be pretty good at it. What’s your secret?

  4. I agree with you about the marketing aspect.

    I think with all but the most popular of blogs there is an element of toiling in the wilderness – not an encouraging observation I appreciate! I have had a number of my blog posts linked to the BBC’s website and that generates traffic – for a while. For me the worst is not the odd post that I write that disappears with but a few views (as I am quite aware that I can write about some quite obscure subjects!) but those posts that have hundreds of views but not one comment or Like – very demoralising….

    I love writing above all else but even so without readers it is a lonely affair.

    I am not the best to advise on raising your story-writing profile though as my own writing is more review/columnist type prose. I am having urges to put my toes into the water of prose and or poetry but don’t feel quite ready – or brave enough! – yet.

    In your case I am quite sure it is only because you have yet to get the readership your writing merits.

    • I wish I didn’t care, but I just can’t help it. Looking at the stats is like picking a scab. I find that I can either blog or write, but I can’t do both– like riding a bike and balancing a watermelon on my head.

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