Monday, September 27, 2010
Ghost story and video
Yesterday, while Dr. Mom took the kids to an apparently awesome indoor playground, I used my alone time to write a short story and submit it to NPR's Three Minute Fiction contest. The rules were that you had to start and finish the story with lines provided by the contest's judge, the critically acclaimed and widely admired Michael Cunningham (whose work I've never read), and the story could be no longer than 600 words (which is a great exercise in self-discipline for me). I've never tried to write a spooky story, but based on my wife's reaction ("Mmm-hmm, it's pretty good") I'm pretty sure I'm destined to be the next M. Knight Shammalammadingdong.
“Some people swore that the house was haunted,” Rodney said, “but I didn’t give a rat’s ass.”
Rodney interrupted him. “I don’t know.”
The two men were old, with barky faces and rough hands. Rodney had iron-colored hair and a mustache the same yellow-brown as his fingers. His eyes were wet and baggy, and his eyebrows looked like thunderclouds.
His friend wore a stiff baseball hat with a picture of a crane on it. I hadn’t heard Rodney talk to anyone in years.
“I don’t know.” Rodney got quieter now. “There was something about that place. I just couldn’t do anything with it. Nobody could.” He swirled the whiskey in its short, heavy glass and then swallowed it like that was his job.
“I know,” his friend said. “I heard the stories.” He drank his whiskey. “Seems like every sub you had on that job lost his ass. Nice-lookin’ house too.”
“Should have been a money-maker. Now it’s settin’ there rottin’.” Rodney filled his beer glass. “Like me.”
“So, what’s…I mean…what’s the ‘real story’ you were talking about on the phone?”
“Aw, hell” Rodney said. “You know about…” He pulled his sleeve up to show a ragged white scar across the inside of his wrist.
“Yeah, you told me…” He grabbed Rodney’s hand and whistled softly. “Your saw kicked back on you, right?”
“Well yeah, that’s what I say. But it didn’t…it wasn’t just a freak accident, like I told everybody.” He took a drink of beer. “Sure wish I could smoke in here.”
“So…what was it then?”
“Well, I was working nights by myself ‘cause I was losing my ass on that house.” His friend nodded. “I’d drink some beers…do other stuff too…just to keep goin’. And I saw some things. A couple times. But I just thought, you know, stress or whatever.
“So I’m in this little nook upstairs. All cluttered. No room to work. It’s like a kid’s…like a playroom or something. Wasted space. And I’m cuttin’ a two-by-eight--a twelve-footer--for a header. I’m gonna make it into a closet.
“And I see somethin' out of the corner of my eye, on this old trunk. Just like I have before. Except this time, it don’t disappear when I look over there. This time it stays.
“And it’s a little kid, man. A little girl with curly blonde hair, settin’ on that trunk, swingin’ her legs and thumpin’ her feet on it.”
His friend swore quietly.
“I’m freaked out, you know? Panicking. But I’m halfway through the cut and my saw’s bindin' up. I can’t let off the trigger ‘cause then it’ll kick back for sure, you know what I mean?” His friend nodded.
“And I’m lookin' at this little girl, and she just stares right at me.
I could tell that the other man thought Rodney was crazy or drunk by now. He was caught up in the story, but I could tell, just like everyone else, he thought it was all Rodney’s fault.
“And then I swear…I swear it, man. She reaches out and grabs the other end of the board and bounces it up and down.”
Sometimes I feel sad for Rodney, even though it really was his fault for being greedy.
“And that’s when the saw kicks out.” He raised his right hand up high and brought it down on his left wrist.
I had tried to warn him.
“And the saw damn near cut my hand off…”
He should have stayed out of my room.
“...and nothing was ever the same again after that.”
If that wasn't scary enough for you, check out this video of Butterbean and Cobra haunting our bedroom while playing with enchanted breastpump parts. The spectral (if somewhat mechanical) music in the background is Dad playing "Capricho Arabe."
Posted by Beta Dad at 11:22 AM