The Lady’s Story

It’s been a while since I’ve had the opporunity to write something for that fantastic writer’s community known as The Lightening and The Lightening Bug. Surely, you’ve visited and read the varied and talented contributions of the writers who link up each Sunday, right?

The prompt this week suggested that we write about “Objects in the Mirror”  – you were supposed to write about something seen in a mirror. It could have been yourself, someone else, a ghost, a car, your evil twin from another universe – the looking glass, as Alice might have said, was wide open. Oddly enough, I was recently experimenting with a fiction piece about the ghost in my childhood farmhouse and used the very words, “looking glass” in my character’s inner dialogue.

Since we’ve entered that month devoted to pagan holidays, I decided to link up my tale about the Lady, my nearly constant childhood companion. If you recall, my stories were all true…this one is not. It is merely my imagination at work, attempting to explain who the Lady was and why she stayed with me for so many years. I removed drafts of my true ghost stories from Narragansett No. 7 because I’m working on the in my graduate program…I suppose that if anyone wants to see them again, I could post in honor of Halloween.

This story is nothing more than an experiment.

THE LADY’S STORY

How long have I been waiting in this silent house? I have no way of knowing. I wander from room to room searching for my daughter, worrying that she’ll never come home. Time seems to stand still, as if years have passed while I was sleeping but, I never recall going to sleep. Forever waiting and searching, my thoughts drift, returning me to the hours I spent pacing the length of the hall, waiting for my girl’s fever to break.  Throughout those nights, I crept into her room to check her, to make sure she was still breathing. There were times when I couldn’t help but lean over her tiny bed and nearly place my ear against her frail chest, listening for her wheezing exhalations.  How many times during those long nights had I hovered over her as she slept? Filled with helplessness and worry, I waited for her father to return with the doctor.

Now neither of them is here and I didn’t remember them leaving. So I wait, sure that he has taken her away for treatment. But how long ago had they departed and left me with no word of their whereabouts? I’ve become frightened that the influenza has infected my body; it’s the only explanation for this strange mixture confusion and isolation. Certainly, high fever is known to cause odd visions and perhaps the sense of timelessness I have been experiencing. Fever would explain the sense that I’ve slept for days when I come to in a room, one of my own, that suddenly appears foreign.

More than once, I have been sure that I heard voices and hurried to peer from the windows, hoping to see them below in the dooryard. I have scanned the windows of each barn, hoping to see the light of a lantern. So far, I haven’t seen any sign of life and the landscape looks peculiar – askew, as if something has changed and I can’t bear to look for too long. When I do, it seems as though the world has been reversed. An image sent back through a looking glass. Everything is off, as if the trees themselves are different.

Once, I stood before the window in my daughter’s room and forced myself study the world outside. I quickly backed away when the feverish hallucinations began to set in. I was studying the yard in the front of the house and the lane beyond when the very air seemed to quiver, much like the wavering air above a roaring fire. Most disturbing to me was what I saw in that quivering vision. For the briefest moment, I saw a great and brightly colored metal machine moving into the dooryard. The lane in front had transformed to a flat grey stretch as far as the eye could see. It was then that I began to grow dizzy and my body became weightless but, it wasn’t until my eyes moved to my new beautiful marble walk and the young maple tree that I nearly fainted with terror. Somehow, the great heavy lengths of white marble had been lifted and warped by the roots of a tree that could only have lived for years beyond my own existence.

To the right of the giant maple, the row of new lilacs had grown so large as to obscure the lower fields. I stepped away from window, feeling too light and afraid of becoming faint. I turned to fall into the chair at my daughter’s bedside and instead saw a room coated in dust. The plaster was crumbling and the furniture that remained was not our own.

I expected that weightless feeling to consume me and drag me to the floor but I did not faint. Instead I remained quite still and listened. Strange voices traveled up to my ears. Someone was speaking on the floor below. When had I last gone down the stairs to the first floor? I could not remember. When had I last gone outside and walked in my gardens? I grew alarmed and felt as though I was moving through a thick fog that wiped away recent memory.

In my state of distress, I nearly ran from the room that should have been my daughter’s and hurried toward the staircase of the center hall. I was sure that fever was affecting my thoughts and causing these disturbing visions. I was suddenly quite sure that the voices were those of my dear husband and daughter. With an air of determination, I stood at the top of the stairs and willed myself steady enough to descend. Certainly the familiar faces of my family would break this spell and make my world right again.

It was then, with my foot poised above the step, that I was startled by the little girl coming out of the parlor. On first sight, I saw my own girl and I began to open my mouth to call to her, but then she turned. This girl was not mine at all. She was dressed strangely, with her bare legs showing and odd shoes on her feet. Her hair was long and loose, obscuring her face while she stood at the bottom of the stairs inspecting a toy boat. Startled, I moved back and watched her climb the stairs and sit in the alcove. Shocked and unable to speak, I quietly moved toward her and the floor creaked under my foot. The girl jumped, startled by my noise and I began to speak…

I Remember the Dancing Dust – A Writing Prompt

This week’s memoir prompt asked you to dig deep to find what, from your childhood, you still know from heart.

I still remember all those rhymes you did while slapping hands with a friend, like Miss Mary Mack Mack Mack all dressed in black black black.

What do YOU remember? 600 word limit

The parking lot’s gravel crunched beneath my feet as I followed my father toward the door. The mid-day sun threw a glare off the rear windows of the handful of cars parked outside the quiet building. I wondered why this place was always our secret. He’d slapped my knee in the car and given it a light, tickling squeeze. “Remember…don’t tell mommy that we came here, K-Belle.” he instructed. Why wasn’t I supposed to tell Mommy? Through the screen of trees I could hear the cars on Route 6, but we were hidden from view in the parking lot of this dead end road, cloaked by the trees that seemed eager to help keep our secret. I would do anything for him, anything to stay with him forever even if it meant lying to my mother.

He pulled the door open onto a darkened room. From the outside, I could vaguely make out the tables and empty red vinyl chairs. The familiar smell of stale cigarette smoke and beer wafting into the daylight reminded me that this was a tavern. My sneakered foot crossed over the threshold and entered the cool, darkened cave of a room. To the right I saw the long bar with its rows of bottles lining the wall. A yellow-haired woman stood behind the bar, tending to a handful of men, each sitting alone and hunched over a glass. I knew who they were. They were the nice old men who suddenly talked to me in the voice of Donald Duck after they’d gone to the bathroom two or three times. Their faces bore silvering whiskers and deeply lined creases. Their good humor seemed forced and unreal. There was nearly always one who would speak to me through reddened eyes full of water. He’d lean in too close, too eager to ask me questions that didn’t make sense and I would wonder why his eyes were so filled with tears that never fell. Was it my fault? Was it my presence that reminded him that he was lonely? Was he sad because his little girl wasn’t sitting at the bar next to him?

Those men bothered me with the way that they waited until my father left for the bathroom to approach me. I’m sure that their intent was to care for the little girl sitting at the bar alone under the temporary care of the barmaid, but they left me unsettled. When I spotted a man who had the potential to become too interested in me, I always chose the barstool on the other side of my father, creating a barrier against men with rheumy eyes. Why was it that I was always the only one who noticed them? Everyone else seemed to look through the watery ghost men.

I knew one of them would keep me rich with maraschino cherries and orange wedges while I sat with my daddy. Sometimes, they’d buy me a Shirley Temple and tip their hats in my direction. I learned to hold my drink up and say thank you, like all the ladies in the bars did. I didn’t want to stand out.

When I was a little girl, I spent a considerable amount of time in bars learning to play pinball and read the words in the jukebox. This piece is an excerpt from the memoir I am working on in my MFA program. It is only a portion of what I so vividly remember.

Bursts of Light

This is a piece written in response to prompt #1 at The Lightening and The Lightening Bug. (click on the button on my side-bar to read the fantastic posts written in response to our first official prompt.)Write a blog post that focuses on either lightning or a lightning-bug. This post can be fiction, memory, or poem. Let these words and images carry your post to its destination.
 

 

I quickly reached over to the bedside table and turned off the lights.

I’d spent nearly an hour lying in bed reading a magazine, attempting to induce sleep, but it wasn’t working. Without the luxury of extreme exhaustion, falling asleep without the comfort of voices can be a challenge. My need for the sound of television is a hold-over from childhood where I lived in a house filled with the presence of a woman long gone. Voices kept her at bay or, at least, that’s what I thought. My sleep habit has endured for too many years to count. I’ve argued with parents, roommates and even an ex-husband about the television as a sleeping partner.

I lay in the bed at my mother’s new house thinking of these things while longing for the muffled sounds and flickering light of a television. Finally, exhaustion won and I slowly began to drift despite the energy that was rising. By that time I knew enough about myself to know I’m a beacon. It’s not the buildings, it’s me. I’ve come to know the feeling and I’m able to recognize when someone or something wants to make its presence known. Most are just memories being played again and again, but some are angry, some are confused and some are lost. Some were never even human to begin with. Sometimes I can ignore them. I pretend I can’t hear them or see them and they silently move on to wherever it is that they go. It’s the ones who refuse to be ignored that make me long for a television – a distraction that buffers whatever it is that causes my mind to tune in.

My mother’s new house – the one she was so proud of, the one they’d just built on the top of a hill in what was once a farmer’s field, was haunted. I didn’t tell her. My “ability” had become running joke in the family. You think every house you go into is haunted… David and I drove to upstate New York from Boston and, from the first time we stayed, I knew they were there. Three of them – a man and two women. He was very angry. His emotion was palpable. On that first visit I curled myself into a ball and buried my face in David’s back in the guest room bed. I tried to ignore them.

The burst of bright light happened just as David’s breathing told me he was falling into sleep. The room was washed with the blue-white light of a lightening flash. I told myself that it was storm but knew it wasn’t. It was late fall. There were no accompanying rumbles of thunder and the big windows confirmed the stars were shining. The yard was illuminated by a bright harvest moon. The flash came again, filling the air with a series of popping sounds and carrying their image into the corner of the room. The women hovered behind him silently, almost sorrowfully, looking down to where their feet should have been. He looked straight at my face and, wearing an expression of rage, he pointed angrily at the ground. His mouth moved in a noiseless tirade. I closed my eyes and pressed against David’s back, trying to shake him awake, but he wasn’t sleeping.

Did you see that? That flash?

Yes, that burst of light.

Yeah. Did you hear that sound…like bubbles popping?

This house is haunted.

It’s new.

Just don’t say anything…they’ll all make fun of me if you do.

A year later, I was nearing the end of my first pregnancy. I was alone for the visit and my mother offered the pretty guest room. My big belly and I slept on the couch. I pretended I’d fallen asleep while watching television. I had tried the bedroom, but he came with his women in tow, riding those lightning flashes, emitting a noise best described as impossibly large bubbles popping. He was full of rage. He pointed to the ground, angrily jabbing his finger at something unseen and mouthing something I couldn’t hear. On the second night, I finally asked my mother if she’d seen any bursts of light.

Yes, what is that?

Have you seen anyone? Anything?

Why?

Despite myself and the fear I’d be belittled, I told her what I had experienced.

It wasn’t until a later visit when she led me to a broken gravestone they found after the foundation was dug. She laughed sheepishly, explaining that my sister had forbidden her from telling me about the broken headstone because, of course, I’d immediately claim there was a ghost in residence. Instead of becoming defensive, I suddenly understood his anger and his jabbing points to the ground. I knew why he was angry.

Each time I went, he became stronger. He began appearing in daylight. One afternoon his form moved through the living room, easily identified by his broad shoulders and dark button-down shirt. Despite feeling foolish, I talked to the air, hoping to explain that the farmer who sold the field had knocked down their cemetery, plowed their headstones and scattered their bones long ago. My mother had asked around a bit and uncovered that sad revelation. One of the last times I visited before my mother sold the house, my friend Tiffany came with me for a weekend. I generously offered her the pretty guest room and its lovely view…because she doesn’t see dead people.

The Hill Field - Arthur Wesley Dow 1908-1910 courtesy National Museum of American Art