Thursday, January 20, 2011
So, my first post is lazy. John thinks I should post some writing, so here's a short story I wrote for an NPR contest. They supplied the first and last lines and the story had to be under 600 words. To read other entries go to: http://www.npr.org/series/105660765/three-minute-fiction
Some people swore that the house was haunted. Most still do. They’re right. I should know. I'm the one who haunts it. Although I know the whole rattling around the house by oneself thing sounds lonely, I really don't mind. Most of my life was spent alone, so why should my afterlife be any different?
Actually, all the time alone is probably the reason I'm still here. So much time spent in this house. I think I became bonded to it somehow. After the fall down the stairs, I expected to go somewhere. I don't know where. Maybe someplace with bright lights and harp music. But instead, I'm just here. The same place I've been since I moved in 37 years ago.
Don't get me wrong. It's not that I was agoraphobic or anything. I did leave the house. Just not very often and usually not for long periods of time. I went to the grocery store to pick up the food I had ordered. To the library to check out the books I had reserved. To the local diner to get the meal I had ordered to go.
So this house became my life. And now my afterlife is this house. I am bound to it. Couldn't leave if I wanted to. Don't ask me why. The expected magical answers never appeared. I wasn’t given a Handbook for the Recently Departed.
I hadn't been dead long when the house went on the market. I knew it wouldn’t stay there for long. A real estate agent showed the house to numerous people who seemed unimpressed. Then to a nice older gentleman who was quite interested. What if he moved in? Could I handle living with someone after all this time alone?
The next week, my fears were realized. The realtor’s sign that was stuck in the yard disappeared one day and a moving van showed up the next. I appraised every piece of furniture as it came through the door. At least this guy has good taste, I thought. Antiques and solid furniture. None of that flimsy IKEA stuff.
Despite my apprehension, over the next few months I adjusted to having a roommate. To my total amazement, the companionship was kind of nice. If you could call it that. It's not like we talked or anything. However, I could tell sometimes he thought he wasn’t completely alone. He would occasionally get a chill when I passed by and he’d look around or call out to the empty room, "Is someone there?"
We lived together, mostly unbeknownst to him, for three years. As it turned out, he was a homebody also. He didn't watch much television. But, he had a huge collection of blues records which I grew to love. He spent hours reading. Sometimes I peeked over his shoulder but it seemed to make him uneasy.
Halfway through that third-year, the man returned from a doctor's visit. He dragged through the door. Apparently, he hadn't received good news. Over the next few months, the man grew feeble. He took pills for a while but they only seemed to make him sicker.
One night as I watched him, he began to gasp. I moved closer. He looked at me. "Are you an angel?"
"No. I don't think so. You can see me? And hear me?“
"Yes," he replied. "What happened?"
"I think you're dead. I guess I should welcome you."
I explained what I could, which wasn't much. He took the news surprisingly well. Almost as if he had been waiting for it.
Nothing was ever the same again after that.
Until next time, farewell, and welcome back.