Ghosts: On the Square…And Elsewhere….
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ON THE SQUARE:
THE CARNEGIE LIBRARY
HARRISON COUNTY JAIL
GOVERNOR HENDRICKS HOUSE
PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (WRIGHT CENTER)
~Love Song for Pythias
~The Valiant Taste of Death
~The Haunted House
~Grady Gets His
~Out of Respect
~Jack & Diane
~The Constitution Elm
|The Pink Mystery
by Joanna ForemanIn the Reference Department I found a spot for the book. Its official title was Unsolved Mysteries of the Ohio River Floods. I located the catalog number and tucked it firmly into the shelf, right where it belonged.
After shuffling the few blocks back to my house, I kicked off my sneakers, started another load of laundry and lit a fire in the fireplace. I nuked a mug of hot cocoa and curled up on my sofa with Grandma’s afghan.
I’d made my way through the first three chapters of The Accidental Tourist when I got up to stoke the fire.
Unsolved Mysteries of the Ohio River Floods lay on my coffee table!
They buried Poppa a year ago. After the funeral, the doctor and Faith, our housekeeper, helped Mother up the stairs to her bedroom. She hasn’t been down since.
The only time I see Mother is in the morning. Faith has told me she isn’t good to be around in the afternoon or evening. “Her temper isn’t pleasant, and she cries so much. I’m worried about her. Even the doctor doesn’t know what to do.”
I have dreaded the visits, not about seeing Mother, but what’s happening to her room. Just a few weeks after she started staying upstairs, I noticed tears running down the deep blue wallpaper in her bedroom. Water was pooling on the floor. Seeing Poppa’s ghost near the doorway helped–he would smile at me.
“All right mister, get outa there or I’ll shoot ya!,” the farmer said.
The being stepped out of the shadows.
The farmer shuffled back a few steps again. The ghastly stranger’s wiry gray hair hung below his shoulders. Egg yolk, blood, straw and feathers clung to his long, bristly beard. His eyes were deep-set and yellowish-green. He wore raggedy clothes, his hands were calloused, his feet bare and black with filth. Thick, sallow finger and toenails jutted out to form animal-like, claw-shaped points.
In a guttural voice the stranger said, “Hungry.”
The Lady With the Mona Lisa Smile
I started down the hall and caught a glimpse of someone or something moving very fast toward the stairs. So I hurried to the steps as fast as I could with my “billy club” in my hand….
When I got to the stairs, there she was: Callahan’s wife. She looked very pretty with her long black hair and laughing blue eyes. Then I saw the blood stain on the gorgeous blue dress. I asked, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, what do you want? How did you get in and do you need help?”
She didn’t say a word, Just gave me a Mona Lisa smile and disappeared.
Music of the Soul
By the time she woke up, it was dusk. Corydon wasn’t exactly the crime capitol of the country. Still, Megan didn’t really want to walk home in the dark. She hurried to the closet to get her purse. She was walking down the hall on the second floor when she heard the low, mournful sound of a harmonica coming from the big room downstairs. Quietly, she made her way to the room, but by the time she got to the doorway, the music had stopped. Obviously, the stress of life and the lack of supper were playing tricks on her mind. She took a deep breath and turned to leave.
She had only taken a few steps before she heard the music again. This time, she followed the sound to the foot of the stairs. There was no one there. She listened as the tune faded and began again. Now it was in the hallway above her head. There was no way she was following some invisible troubadour upstairs. She ran down the hall, opened the door and didn’t look back. She’d gone three blocks before the pounding of her heart and the pain in her side grabbed her attention, and she slowed her pace.
The Prince Albert Coat
“You’re not going to believe this,” Matt called as I started to the kitchen.
“Believe what?” I asked.
“That coat. I took it back to Star Cleaners and they said they had never seen it before. They wouldn’t take it back….”
After washing up, I took the mysterious garment and hung it in the guestroom closet. As I was closing the door, I noticed the back of the coat for the first time. Quickly, I tore away the plastic bag for a better look. A slit, about three inches long, ran horizontally on the left side of the coat. I pulled it out and examined the tear. No. It was a cut. And there was a stain around it. I touched it and my finger came away red.
He knew he’d been hit, and dragged away, and ended up inside, on the floor of a church. Corydon Presbyterian, they told him. Presbyterian women wiping at him, offering him water, blankets, assurances– How many days had he been here, anyway–two? three? forever?
His eyelids were weighted with light, and his mind rushed to summon courage for what he knew was coming. He strained toward a pan that wasn’t there. A wood floor, yes. A clean, waxed floor. He lay back, confused. Where was the pain?
Love Song for Pythias
I emerged from the darkroom and lit a cigarette, thinking about turning in.
“Tom!” It was a woman’s voice, distant. Downstairs? No. Couldn’t be. Besides, a voice sounds different sandwiched between the walls of a building than it does out in the open. “Tom…! Take my picture, Tom.” The voice was light, tentatively hopeful. One of the high-schoolers, out after curfew? I’m as vain as the next guy, but not vain enough to think a teen girl might have a crush on me. More than one had gotten a crush on having her picture taken, though, so I went to the window and raised the sash and leaned out. There weren’t any screens; I was able to see below right up to the doorway as well as across the street and for blocks on either side. Nobody in sight. Hiding between the buildings? I put out my cigarette, got my camera and snapped some pictures of the empty street.
Now I wasn’t sleepy any more.
The Valiant Taste of Death
Huey Scanlon couldn’t believe his luck. He kept glancing in the rearview mirror of the rollback truck to reassure himself that the 1968 Plymouth Valiant was still there. It was. Every time. He settled back in the well-worn driver’s seat and beamed into the snowflakes melting on the windshield….
He frowned into the late winter flurry. It was strange, though. He got the impression the guy just wanted the Valiant gone. Couldn’t figure why. She was a real beauty. Oh, sure she was a little rough in places and the upholstery was a wreck, but that was all part of restoring vintage cars. By spring, he’d have her in cherry condition and turn her around for a good profit. The reflective sign for his street caught his headlights through the snowy dusk. He turned onto the side road and bumped up his driveway. After that, the thought was forgotten in the busyness of getting the Valiant off the rollback and into the barn he’d converted into a workshop.
The rollback’s motor sounded hollow amid the the snow-covered trees lining the drive and flakes swirled through the big garage door as he gazed on his prize. Under the glare of the florescents, she looked angry.
The Haunted House
My middle child, Tom, started yelling, “Mom, Dad, Grandma, somebody come here, there’s a man sitting on the foot of my bed! Mom, please.”
“You know there isn’t anyone in the house except us. You don’t want to go to sleep,” my husband, Dan, answered.
“Please, Mom come here. He’s grinning.”
Grady Gets His
Have you ever seen something that’s not there? Have you ever not seen something that was there? An invisible ghost is a little harder to see than your usual garden variety spirit. And some “spirits” definitely aren’t of the “once-human” variety.
Out of Respect
They are all dead now, I thought, when I read the obituary. Every one of the Demon Dozen is dead. Marshall was the last. I folded the paper and laid it on the table beside my plate, and wondered what I should do. Pop would expect me to go to the funeral, but I wouldn’t know anyone there, and they wouldn’t know me. Still — Pop would expect it of me. I wasn’t sure why the expectations of a man who had been dead for fifteen years mattered, but they did. And it wasn’t like the funeral was a long distance away. Marshall’s family lived in the county and the body was at Beanblossom’s. I could walk there. Not that I would. There would be a graveside service, too.
I drank my now-cold coffee and went upstairs for my shower. I dressed in my navy suit. Respectful. No flashy jewelry, I told myself. It was only ten, and the funeral wasn’t until one. I decided to have lunch at Joy’z, but it was still too early, even for that, so I grabbed the book I was reading and headed for the porch swing.
As I expected, Pop was already there….
Jack & Diane
Another night. Home alone… in this big rambling house on Corydon’s Wall Street. Seems like forever I’ve been alone. Ever since my “Angel” realized the culmination of her labors. …yeah. She really put her heart and soul into it– thought it out, down to the tiniest detail.
First, she told everyone at my high-school reunion I was losing my memory. My reaction? I chuckled. Doesn’t everyone have their senior moments? After we returned home, and I mentioned it to her, told her it kind of hurt me, and she apologized. Then, as a kind of peace offering, she brought me a cup of that new nut tea she’d found at the “Tea Cottage”. Good tea. I’d had three cups a day, like clock-work, for the past month. Morning, noon and right before bed….
Then, there were the cigarettes. Cancer sticks. One after another. No, not me– her. Some nights, you’d’a thought she was a house on fire. When I told her– sweetly– I was worried for her health, she sneered: “You’ll go way ‘fore me, Sweetcheeks”. My Angel…always the concerned one. Didn’t want me to grieve. Then– perhaps seeing the question in my eyes in response to her possibly smart-aleck statement– to lighten the mood, she blew smoke in my face…I choked and coughed…she laughed…we both laughed. Diane…what a kidder.
Hollis Lanthorn died at Christmas — got tanked up on spiked cider and took his school bus out on the back roads for a late-night spin. Everybody said it was God’s mercy he didn’t hit anyone, what with all the people out for Midnight Mass, but it happened that Holly went over the bluff and up in flames all by himself. He had been the crabbiest driver in the system, he was divorced and childless, and all his family had “preceded him in death”, as the paper put it, so the school bus was generally considered more of a loss than Holly.
Kids said he was damned for driving drunk on Christmas Eve and that, on frosty winter nights, he drove a bus with red headlights along his old route. It was Kevin Ferdusi, age eleven, who concocted that story. Nobody could have been more surprised than he was ten years later, when he saw the ghost bus, himself.
The headlights on the Indiana patrol car bounced off the white blanket of air. Clyde hated nights like this–the fog so thick you could probably spoon it and taste the damp curls–a typical early spring night on the stretch between Corydon and Georgetown….
He got out of the car and walked to the edge, listening to his breath and the sound of his boots crunching through the gravel, mud and grass. Clyde shined the flashlight along the ground–the tracks disappeared where the land sloped. He tried to remember how steep it was, and then stepped into the thick silence. At the bottom of the small hill, the flashlight caught glimmering bits, which looked like metal.
As he walked toward the glitter, Clyde felt he was being watched. He glanced around, but didn’t see anything except fog. Occasionally a soft snort whispered through the white. Probably deer….
Moving slowly to the left of the car and away from the road, Clyde glided the light through the heavily trampled tall grasses. Cows? He almost stepped on the dark mass just below his foot. God, the stench and the mess! Holding his nose, he played the light over the pieces of a body–everything was crushed. He had seen something similar when someone decided suicide was the solution on the railroad track.
He looked at the trampled grasses again and noticed the prints–so many of them–that gouged out the clay soil.
The louder snorting caught his attention. Clyde warily glanced around, listening hard. The feeling of being watched was so strong, he felt all the hairs on his neck and back come to attention. He ran as fast as he could up the slope to the car, pulled open the door, got in quickly, and slammed and locked the door. What the hell happened here?
The Constitution Elm
Perhaps, on some day of gentle winds and sunny skies, we have met before. I am the spirit of the Consitution Elm….