Saturday, February 22, 2014

Just a quick story

I just finished this.  I have no idea if it's good or not, but I wrote it about my grandfather's house.  My grandma Dortha still lives there, but Grandpa Grant died in the front room.

Anyway, for your consideration:

The Haunted House


“That was a disaster.” Connor clutched his head.

“We knew that was going to be the part that would make or break it. Now we have to try someone else. We've got a couple choices. Who do you want to go with?” Alison pulled out her tablet and started to poke at it.

They sat in their apartment, surrounded by audio and video equipment. Along with a friend of theirs, they'd put all their time, energy and money into developing a paranormal, investigative show. They wanted to focus on private homes rather than hotels, historic locations or urban legends.

The market was ripe for something new. Audiences were tired of hotels and dramatic recreations. They wanted to see people's houses that were haunted.

They had found a house that was experiencing activity. The owners had contacted them after moving into a home built in the mid 1950's. They had been hearing noises coming from the basement and kitchen. The front room, which they didn't use much, was always cold and the sound of heavy breathing would be heard regularly. What sounded like slippers shuffling around were a daily occurrence. They weren't very frightened, but they did hope for some answers.

The home was old enough to be considered old by American standards. Connor and Alison hadn't done the digging into the history as they'd found a family member of the original owner. They'd gotten a smaller cable station interested and needed a complete episode to show them, the quicker the better.

Connor sighed and rubbed his face. “I think we're fucked. I'm going to go back and see if my old boss will take me back. Hello wedding videos.”

Alison kept poking at her tablet. “Stop being such a Debbie Downer, we're not fucked until we've gone through all the psychics. Want to try that guy from Huntington Beach?”

“Might as well. She's going to rip him up too.”

The issue they'd run into, was with the granddaughter of the home's original owner. She was in her early 40s and had been open to the investigation from the beginning. When Connor had contacted her the conversation had gone well.

“Hi, Mrs. Michaels Yeah, my name is Connor and I'm with the Orange Paranormal Society? I was hoping I could talk to you about your grandmother's house.” He'd been nervous, if this didn't work out they'd have to start over with a new location.

“Which grandmother?” her answer was quick.

“The house on the hill in Villa Park.” Connor hadn't thought this would be an issue.

“WHICH house on the hill in Villa Park?”

“Oh, the one on Mesa.”

“WHICH house on Mesa? The one with the water tank or the one with the long driveway with the big tree at the end?” Mrs. Michaels waited for an answer.

“Oh. Um, the one with the long driveway.”

“Grandma and Grandpa Gordon's place. Sure. What's going on?”

“Well, the new owners have been in for about a year......”

Mrs. Michaels interrupted. “Yeah, they're nice people. They've done some updating, it looks good. It's great that they kept the land together. I was worried it would get subdivided a million times. So, they've got ghoulish, ghosting and long legging beasties?”

“They've been hearing noises.”

She interrupted again, “From the basement?”

Connor was taken aback. “Yes. From the basement and some heavy breathing in the room that faces the driveway near the front door.”

“What are they hearing in the basement? Like a ratcheting? Gears working? Like that?”

Connor was again puzzled. “Yes, sort of metallic. Like Nanchang.”

“That's my grandfather. He's refilling rifle cartridges. He had a little machine down there. If we were lucky we'd get to go down with him and make sure they were open and straight so he could load them up with shot.” She waited for him to answer.

“Oh wow. So you're a believer? Because we'd like it if you would come out to California and participate in an investigation. We're going to be filming it. There will be a psychic coming in to try and communicate. Is that something be interested in?” Connor started to sweat, his stomach was in a knot waiting for her to answer.

“I'd be glad to come participate. But I'm not a big believer in psychics. On that subject I'm very skeptical. I want to let you know that I won't go along with something that's vague. When are you going to be doing this? I need to ask for some time off work. Have you talked to my mom?” She spoke fast.

The conversation after that was Connor explaining that he had spoken to her mother, in fact, that was how he'd gotten Mrs. Michaels' number. Her mother wasn't interested in being present, but had suggested her daughter would most likely be open to the idea. Alison had found the mother through Facebook, which had surprised everyone involved. It seemed too easy.

Mrs. Michaels, who said they needed to call her Gina, agreed to call them back once she had secured her time off.

Three weeks later, she met them at the single level house in the hills of Orange County. She'd started to cry when she got out of her car.

“I'm sorry. I haven't been back since my grandfather died. A lot of memories. Give me a minute.” she'd said before she wandered off into the rose garden that grew under the kitchen windows. The view was spectacular. Connor, Alison and their friend Rob kept their distance as they waited for her.

The new owners, Alex and Paige Black, came outside to see what was going on. Paige went inside and came out with a box of tissues. She went over to Gina and they had a quiet talk. Gina blew her nose, wiped her eyes and came back over to the little group.

“Okay, let's get started.”

Setting up for the interviews took some time. Everyone sat very still while they checked angles, decided what light was best and got the boom mike adjusted.

Gina sat at the kitchen table and they'd started. She'd told them that her grandfather had died in the house. He'd been suffering from heart disease for quite some time. The family had opted to take care of him at home during his final weeks instead of hospitalizing him. He'd died surrounded by family.

“My mom's side of the family does things old school. Bring them home and take care of them yourself. Grandpa's mother-in-law died in her daughter's downstairs bedroom. It's the way they would have wanted it.” Gina explained.

Connor had gone into what the family was experiencing.

“Alex and Paige have been hearing heavy breathing in the front room. Any idea what that would be?”

“Well, that's where his hospital bed was set up. He died in there. And he was having a very hard time breathing close to the end.”

“There have also been popping noises like firecrackers. Did he really like 4th of July or something?”

“Oh, no. That's him firing his .22 at rabbits. He'd plink away from the outside patio.”

And so the initial interview had gone. Gina giving more details, explaining what she thought noises were, attributing everything to her grandfather. It was wonderful, exactly what they'd been hoping for. She delivered her information very matter of factly, not having to hesitate which would make it look like she was making it up as she went along.

They broke for a meal. Then Connor, Alison and Rob had gone wandering the property looking for outside shots.

“I don't think that could've gone any better.” Alison had said, wading through the tall grass. 'Wow, this view is incredible.” From the hilltop one could see Disneyland on the left and Cal State Fullerton on the right, a distance of 12 miles as the crow flew. You could stand in the field below the house on a summer night and watch the fireworks at the amusement park. “I bet you can see Catalina on a clear day.” A breeze gusted up, stirring up the eucalyptus trees and making the tall grasses sway.

“Now we wait for Margaret and do the walk through.” Rob stood with his hands in his pockets looking out over the valley. “Let's hope that goes as well.”

It didn't.

Margaret was a self-proclaimed psychic/medium they'd worked with before. She seemed to do well enough at the locations where they'd worked together. She had been good with the families and had hit on many events. Margaret was somewhat eccentric, she preferred to wear a paisley shawl over long skirts and peasant blouses, gypsy style. More often than not, she smelled like patchouli.

When Margaret had ascended from Rob's car, Gina had raised one eyebrow. She stuck her hands in the back pockets of her jeans, the look on her face clearly saying “Are you serious?”

After fitting everyone out with lapel mikes, Margaret had started her walk through of the house. Making comments as she picked things up.

“I'm sensing a......man?” Margaret had said first.

Gina had sighed heavily. “Yeah.”

“What was his connection to the water?” Margaret had frowned a little.

“It's Orange County, everyone has connections to the water.” Gina said pointedly.

“Okay, we'll come back to that.”

“What's the A? I'm getting the letter A.”

“I have no clue. No one in this house had that initial. First, middle or last.”

“Well, maybe it's someone who lived here previous to your family. We can come back to that.”

“My grandmother and her first husband had this house built. No one lived here before them.”

“I'm guessing it was the land. Something going very far back. But there is an A that's associated with this location.” Margaret moved down the hallway.

Margaret turned to a room on her left. “I'm getting a lot of energy in this room. There was a lot of living done in here. Did he spend most of his time in here? His den? A TV room?”

“This was the guest room. It was hardly used at all when I was a kid.”

“I'm getting that he spent a lot of time in here. I may be picking it up from the next room though. Is that the master bedroom? The one next door?”

“You tell me.” Gina sounded annoyed.

Margaret looked at her “I can only pick up on the vibrations and I get glimpses from those that have passed on. I need you to help me put the pieces together.”

Gina had grunted “Uh-huh. Well, let's move on.”

“Who's the woman? There was a woman here with him towards the end.”

“Which woman? What does she look like?” Gina wouldn't give an inch.

“The woman with the dark hair. She was by his bedside most of the time. She was very dedicated, right up to the end. I'm getting an M. Who's the M?”

“I think you're getting your letters mixed up. N for nurse. Not M, like Mary. And all the women who were here had blonde or grey hair. You're just cold reading me. This is bullshit.” Gina said and left the house.

“Oh, fuck me sideways.” Alison had mumbled.

And now they were sitting around trying to not watch their dreams go down the drain. The scenario couldn't have been more perfect, but they needed the psychic to complete the episode. If they didn't have a completed episode to pitch, and soon, they'd lose the window of opportunity. There were a ton of other paranormal investigators developing shows.

Alison looked up. “I just got emails back. The guy from Huntington Beach is the only one available.”

Connor clutched his head. “Shit.”


Two days later they were back at the location. Gina was wearing a dress, flats and a sour look. Connor looked at Rob, who was unloading the audio equipment.

“Dude, it's gonna be okay. Fry's is always hiring.” Rob said, trying to lighten the mood. He fiddled with his boom mike. “Look, this'll work or it won't. Just accept what comes.” Rob had recently embraced Buddhism. His new mantra was “Just accept what comes.” It had started to get on Connor's nerves.

“Why can't she just go along with it? This is my fucking dream and this woman won't help me out.” Connor had tossed and turned the night before, becoming more and more mad at Gina. This woman was going to single handedly crush his heart's desire. All those years of school, making student films on no money, unpaid internships and an industry bloated with talented people who wanted the same thing he did. He felt like laying down and curling into a ball until he could convince himself to go back to filming weddings and working part time at Starbucks. At least Starbucks offered health insurance.

Alison rolled up in her VW Beetle. Before the car even stopped a big man was unfolding himself from the passenger seat.

Gina walked over to Connor and said “He looks like The Dude.” referring to the movie The Big Lebowski.

Marcus did look like The Dude. He wore jean shorts, a hawaiian shirt and crocs. The crocs were pink. His hair was pulled back in a long ponytail and he'd combed his long beard so it lay neatly to the third button of his brightly printed shirt. He had a Super Big Gulp in his hand. Marcus as partial to Dr. Pepper mixed with Sprite and Orange Fanta. More than once he'd gotten great enjoyment from letting someone have sip from his 2-liter sized cup and watching their face upon tasting his concoction. He would laugh, a weird little giggle that didn't match his appearance.

He approached Gina with his hand extended. “Hello, I'm Marcus. I'm very pleased to meet you. I'm looking forward to touring the house. I hear the view is remarkable.”

Gina shook his hand. “Gina. I'm sure it will be, um, memorable.”

Everyone moved indoors and prepared for the walk-through.

Marcus began to rub his chest. “Ow. Chest pains.”

Gina frowned slightly and turned her head to the right a little, the universal signal for being confused or skeptical. Then Marcus belched hugely.

“Whoa. 'Scuse me. Phew, went up my nose too.” he pounded his fist on his sternum, burped once more softly and moved to the kitchen.

Gina followed with crossed arms and leaned on the fridge. Marcus stood, sipping on his soda thoughtfully. Then he spoke.

“Why is this guy duck walking around the kitchen?”

Gina looked dumbstruck. “What?”

“He's duckwalking. He's squatting but he's walking. And the lights are off. What's that about? Weird.” Marcus took another sip of his drink.

Gina's eyes grew wide. “They had sheep. The sheep learned that when the kitchen light turned on in the morning, they'd be fed. They'd stand outside and bleat. My grandfather started making his coffee with a flashlight, but they figured that out too. Then he just did it with the lights off but if the sheep saw him they'd make a bunch of noise. So he duck walked to make his coffee.”

“He liked to watch the birds too. The eaves used to be lined with hummingbird feeders. Didn't he have a big pair of binoculars?”

“How do you know that?” Gina looked scared.

“I don’t' know, but I do.” Marcus walked to the front room. “He died in here. I can smell that. Lots of people around him. Wow, you guys loved him. What a lucky dude. Breathing heavy at the end, but really ready to go. Why are there two women with the same name?”

He looked at Gina questioningly.

“He was married twice. His first wife was Sarah Rose, but everyone one called her Rose. His second wife was Sarah. “ she told the group.

Connor, Alicia and Rob were all watching with open mouths. Alicia had almost let the camera slip off her shoulder she was in such awe. Rob's eyes threatened to fall out of his face, but he held the mike steady.

“He was going between here and there while he was dying. He was seeing his mother, friends, people from his childhood. He wasn't born here, eh? In the midwest? Something about a farm? I'm seeing mules. And a little kid in overalls.”

Gina paused a long time. “Iowa. He was born in Iowa. Yes, he wore overalls as a kid”

Then she blurted out “Why don't you go to the James Rani Institute and get the million dollars? He's offering a million for proof of psychic ability. You could collect that.”

Marcus sipped his soda thoughtfully, “Lots of people have asked me that. I don't want wires in my head. And I hate talk shows. I like my life.” He wandered off into the living room.

“Wow, this view is incredible. Is that Disneyland?” he gazed out the picture windows. “I think I can see my house from here.” he giggled his little giggle. Then he asked “Where's the basement?”

Gina nodded silently and headed out the back door. The stairs were on the right past the patio, steep and made of concrete. “When I was a kid there was a chain across here. Grandma was worried about us falling down them.”

As they descended the air got cooler. Marcus commented “It's nice down here. Cool. Must have been great in the summer heat, to come down here and cool off.”

The new owners were using the basement for storage. Nothing big like furniture since the stairs made bringing them down impossible, but small boxes and plastic tubs lined the walls.

“There's these, like, metal sounds down here. He came down here to be alone. Get away from things. Be in the quiet. What IS that noise?” Marcus wandered over to look in the plastic boxes, being nosy.

“He's refilling rifle cartridges. He had a little machine that he worked by hand.” Gina bit her lip, remembering sitting with her grandfather.

“They had a big garden too. They had a nice life.” Marcus slurped up the last of his soda for several seconds, making sure to get the last drops out. Ice wasn't in his vocabulary, he preferred to fill his cup with as much sugary, caffeinated formula as possible.

“Yeah,” he sighed contemplatively, “It's all good. Residual stuff, the house remembering. But it's good stuff. No need to worry and it'll make great conversation at dinner parties.” Marcus suddenly crumpled his big cup in his hand. “Welp. That's it. What now?”

Connor grinned hugely. They were going to be a hit.

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