The House and the Baboon by Bill Ectric
A haunted house would make a good article, I thought. I called in sick on Tuesday, drank some coffee, and sat down to write. My wife went to work. Now it was 10:30 AM, which is like a magic hour when you call in sick because it’s not too late, plenty of possibility left in the day, and usually some good TV shows come on about this time. Old reruns, sensational talk shows, and Judge’s Court. But I’m not watching the judge today. I’ve got a story to write about the haunted house across the street.
It is not a traditional haunted house; it’s a Florida haunted house, meaning there is a window on the second floor shaped like a porthole that seems to scream shrilly at you when you walk past it at night. Then there’s the old dead coconut tree and the rusted anchor someone put in the yard years ago for decoration. The scarred up door that’s been broken into and patched up twice. Nobody has lived there for seven years, which is strange. There has never been a For Sale sign in the front yard. People say it’s haunted because of inexplicable incidents, like when some kids snuck in for kicks and came out all freaked about a “hairy legged” apparition they saw. I don’t know what the hell they saw.
To write, I took a pill to wake me up along with the coffee.
I was also waiting on the Sears Plumber to fix my clogged sewer pipe. I was getting very pissed off because the plumber was late. They are always late.
I got out there in the yard and dug up part of the pipe but the glaring, hot sun sent me scurrying for air-conditioned cover. The only thing I hate about Florida is the sun.
Now I’m waiting for the plumber and I’m on edge. I needed something to take the edge off.
My wife’s gay cousin Mark was living next door with my biker neighbors, Big’un and Fran. Mark had been kicked out of his last house over a misunderstanding involving dope. He had pawned his roommate’s TV while the roommate was away doing a construction job.
Mark was always moving for one reason or other. He was a big hulk of a man who had played football in high school and liked to refer to himself as a “red-neck queer.” His parents had made him move out of their house when they failed to turn him straight by threats and preaching.
I had been pissed off at Mark for trying to tell me how to run my life and being stingy with his dope, but now, in the spirit of Christian forgiveness, I called him on the phone and said, “Hey, how’s it going, does Big’un have any more of that scotch?”
“The good scotch in the Harley Davidson decanter?” Mark asked in horror. “Helll, nahhh, I can’t touch that! Big’un would kill me! I got some special diet pills if you need a pick-me-up…”
“Well, we can’t do one without the other!” I barked. “Listen, man, this is no time to quibble over situational ethics! Pour the scotch in a cup and put some ice tea in the decanter to replace the scotch. You’ll be moved or kicked out before they discover it’s gone!”
Big’un and Fran were away at Bike Week in Daytona.
The next thing you know, my wife’s cousin Mark and I are over at Big’un and Fran’s house sharing a big Burger King cup full of good scotch. I thought I was ready to write, but Mark had other ideas.
“Oh, I see how it is,” Mark started in on me. “Take my dope and then leave to go write that bogus crap you always write. Pushing your friends away! Chasing a dream!”
“But, the Sears plumber is supposed to show up at my house,” I said.
Mark snorted in disgust, “Are you a dumb-ass or what?” (more…)
Miss Glenly’s Dreadful Room by Bill Ectric
Wistful evenings sometimes begin with sunny afternoons and there is a certain part of me that likes being wistful. Miss Glenly understood that feeling more than anyone when I was fourteen years old, walking home from school, stopping at her sunny house for a glass of iced tea and conversation during the prelude to sunset. She was cool for a 67 year old woman, I thought. In the small town where we lived, Miss Glenly had knowledge of a wider world. Some of that knowledge turned out to be terrifying.
She lived alone in a modest but nice, well-kept wooden house with a screened-in sun porch amid plants and books, some comfortable wicker chairs and a porch swing. Miss Glenly was a retired English teacher. Her husband, who died before I met her, had been the head of the psychology department at a nearby college.
We sat in the wicker chairs and she brought out two glasses of delicious iced tea with orange slices instead of lemon wedges.
“What are you reading now?” she always asked. “Still into Double-O-Seven?”
I had been reading all the James Bond books when I first went to her house to ask if she needed her lawn mowed, trying to earn some money during the summer. She did let me mow her lawn and we became friends and she invited me to stop by anytime on the way home from school as summer ended and Autumn began.
“No, I finished all the James Bond books,” I said. “I’m reading Dracula.”
“Ah, yes,” she said. “The red, gleaming eyes of Dracula, when he is looking at Mina through the fog, standing over the helpless Lucy. That’s the scene I remember.”
“I don’t think I’ve read that far yet,” I said.
“Well, I don’t want to give it away. You know, my late husband and I saw Bela Lugosi when he reprised his Dracula role on stage in the 1950′s.”
“Wow,” I said. “Was he good?”
“Lugosi was a consummate performer, despite his later reputation for strange behavior. But you know, I rather like the newer Dracula movie, with Anthony Hopkins and Gary Oldman.”
“Oh, yeah,” I said. “With Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves.”
“Yes,” said Miss Glenly. “And that Tom Waits as Renfield. Such a performance! So scary and pathetic at the same time!”
That is how the conversations went until about six o’clock. Then I walked the rest of the way to my house. My parents got home from work around 6:30 and we ate dinner.
There was no hint that anything ever troubled Miss Glenly until we started talking about a literary idea called deconstruction. I never dreamed of the shocking event this would lead to. (more…)