THINGS THAT WENT BUMP IN OUR NIGHT

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-legged beasties
And things that go bump in the night
Good Lord, deliver us!
– Traditional Scottish Prayer

I’ve never met a ghoul, and I have questions about long-legged beasties, but I can speak from personal experience about things that go bump in the night. Long ago in a house far away, we had our own ghosts, or at least “night bumpers.”

Brick House HadleyI cannot claim to have seen a ghost, but I lived in a house where we could hear them. It was 1965 when we bought our tidy little brick house. It had been built in 1932. Most of the house was on the ground floor — kitchen, dining room, living room, two bedrooms and the bath. The upper floor had an unfinished attic and a big bedroom. It was a small house. Solid, a short walking distance from the college where my husband worked and where I was finishing my B.A.

The ambiance of the house from the moment we walked into it was cozy. Friendly. It welcomed everyone, made them feel at home. The house had been built by a couple who had lived there for more than 30 years. They had raised children their children and eventually died in that house.

They were not murdered or anything sordid. They merely grew old and passed on in the house they loved. We loved it too.

The house was a bit neglected. Not falling down, but in need of paint and some modernization. Cosmetic fixes. Paint. Floors needed refinishing. The boiler needed updating.

For the first few months, we lived on the ground floor, but we planned to move to the big upstairs bedroom. It was spacious and had windows full of light. We decided to fix it up, give it a coat of paint and redo the floors before settling upstairs.

Shortly after we moved in, our ghosts began to walk. It was startling the first time we heard it. Loud. Clear. Heavy footsteps, like the soles of hard leather shoes or boots. Plus the sharper noise of heels. It turned out everyone — anyone — could hear it. The noise started every night around eight and continued off and on until midnight.

We called the walkers “The Old Man” and “The Old Woman.” They wore different shoes. Her shoes had that sharp sound — high heels on hardwood. His shoes were clunkier, maybe work boots. Both of them had died in the house, so they were prime candidates for ghosthood, especially since no one else had lived in the house until us.

Initially, we heard them upstairs and on the stairway. After we painted the stairs, the footsteps retreated to the upper floor. Once we began painting the bedroom, we heard them for a while longer, but only in the attic. Then, one day, our ghosts were gone. They never came back.

Were they watching to see if we cared for their home? Were we all hallucinating? Maybe the couple who had lived there were watching. Making sure we did right by their house.

I suppose we passed muster and they felt it was okay to leave.

Life is full of stuff that can’t be explained rationally and we didn’t try. But I’ll bet anyone who was in our house during the months our ghosts walked never doubted what they heard.

DARK AND STORMY NIGHT

Trio No. 3 – Today you can write about anything, in whatever genre or form, but your post must mention a dark night, your fridge, and tears (of joy or sadness; your call).


It was a dark and stormy night when the power went out. I knew the first windstorm would knock down the line. Why can’t Mass Electric take care of business before it becomes an emergency.

Stormy Skies - By Marilyn Armstrong

I stood with my head leaning on the refrigerator. The big, metal box was silent. Not a hum or a vibration came from his hulking presence. No little happy tune this night. The only sounds I could hear were the howls of the first winter storm of the year.

storm coming

There was nothing I could do but continue to stand there. Lurking, occasionally emitting a soft, gurgling moan. Poor refrigerator. There he stands, messy — covered with magnets, the messages and events of a household on his metal hull while he waits. As do we all for the power to return. Waiting and worrying. How long would this outage last? If I call the power company, they would lie to me or tell me they “were working one it” and they would “let me know” when it was fixed.

Don’t they think I’d notice when the power comes back on? Like when all the lights come back? Not to mention the computers, the heat, and the well pump?

I, with tears of sadness and frustration trailing down my cheeks, knowing all my food is in that fridge … and the electric company is holding it for ransom.

Was my silent fridge crying too? Only the shadow knows and he’s not talking.

february snow 05

HOME IS WHERE THOSE OTHER PEOPLE LIVE

I got married in 1965, between my sophomore and junior year of college. Our first home was an apartment near the university, one of two identical brick structures. We lived in 2-Q, located at the far end of the second floor hallway. It was a corner apartment. Nice because we had cross ventilation and good light.

I didn’t drive yet. Not a problem. The bus stopped in front of the building. The university was an easy 5-minute walk. When I wanted to go into town, I hopped a bus. No parking problems.

One sunny day, I felt like going shopping, so I did. Ate lunch at A&S, bought a few things, then took the bus home. Emerging with my packages, I took the elevator to the second floor. Balancing bags and boxes, I walked down the long carpeted hallway to apartment 2Q.

I tried to put my key in the lock, and it didn’t fit. Odd. Hmm. That was when I noticed the nameplate:

2 Q

KINCAID

My name was not Kincaid. I didn’t know anyone named Kincaid. But it was Apartment 2 Q — except it wasn’t mine. Or maybe it was, but what was with the nameplate? Hmm.

Feeling a  bit dazed, I made a u-turn and walked back to the elevator. Pressed the button and rode back down to the lobby. I stood there for a few minutes, breathing slowly and deeply. Then got back into the elevator and rode up to the second floor. Maybe I should I have taken the stairs.

Ding! Still clutching my packages, I slowly advanced down the hall. The pattern in the paint on the wall paint seemed cleaner and brighter, but since I was feeling a bit light-headed, I figured that was why. When I got to the end of the hall and stood in front of my door, that pesky nameplate still said “Kincaid.”

There was no question in my mind what had happened. I’d expected it all along. It was bound to happen someday.

I had slipped through an invisible wormhole. I was in a parallel universe, another dimension. Everything was identical in this dimension to the world I knew except that in this place — I didn’t exist. Where I had been, someone named Kincaid was living. Maybe Kincaid was my husband. Perhaps I did exist and Jeffrey had gone missing.

I stood there. Breathing. Staring at the nameplate. Pacing a little down the hall and coming back.  Until finally, I looked out the window. And realized I was in the wrong building.

I have forever since harbored a sense of disappointment. However weird, I wanted the magic to be real. I wanted an adventure in The Twilight Zone.


Doppelgänger Alert

You step into an acquaintance’s house for the first time, and discover that everything — from the furniture, to the books, to the art on the wall — is identical to your home. What happens next?

FIXING TYPOS IN MY LIFE STORY

IMAGINARY FRIEND – Weekly Writing Challenge


When I was little, I had imaginary playmates. I talked to them. They followed me around. I was never lonely because I had friends who understood me. After I started school, my shadow friends left, never to return. More accurately, they consolidated and acquired a more sophisticated persona.

“They” became a “she.” My narrator. And she as been with me my entire life. A companion for sure, but also a “shadow me.” She sits on my shoulder and almost never shuts up. Whatever has gone wrong in my life, I can blame it on the narrator. It’s all her fault.

My narrator remembers everything. She fills in my back story. Technically, I’m in charge of my life, but sometimes, I wonder. My narrator seems to know what will happen before I do. She never stops telling my story.

She is my third person perspective on life — as I live it in real time. I’m so accustomed to her running commentary, that during her brief silences, I become alarmed by her absence. She is so much a part of how I make sense of life (the universe and everything, thank you Douglas Adams), I’m unsure whether or not I could understand anything much without the accompanying narration.

72-MarilynBW-1a

As long as I can remember, my narrator — who is me but not me — has had no name except maybe a form of mine. She is writer-Marilyn. She has a job. To fill the gaps in my story. To add “he said” and “she said.” To describe the things people do. Sometimes supply a little mood music, suggest changes to the script, and scenery. She “fictionalizes” reality.

My unreal pal distracts me and has no respect for “the moment.” No respecter of persons either, she will make me laugh precisely when I shouldn’t. Over the years, she has gotten me into trouble with bosses, teachers, spouses, and complete strangers. I can hardly explain it’s not me laughing at them … it’s that damned narrator.

Despite the perils of the relationship, I’ve learned a lot from my nameless friend. She has taught me to view life as an endless story with chapters, back stories, hilarity, weird characters, strange coincidences, tragedy, romance, hope, and despair. Because she weaves the story lines together into the epic of my life, I have a better world view, a more cohesive vision of how I fit into the fabric of others’ existences — and how other people fit into mine.

She complicates my life and at the same time, simplifies it.

My only job is to follow the script, even when it makes no sense, and to fix the typos when I spot them. My narrator takes care of the rest.

EVERYTHING MEANS SOMETHING. MAYBE.

Early Friday morning, I was dreaming. In the dream, I was talking to a particularly annoying telemarketer and couldn’t get her off the phone. I was wondering — in my dream — why I persist in answering these calls, I woke up because the telephone rang. And wouldn’t you know it? It was the very same especially aggravating telephone solicitor.

Coincidence? Not a chance. It was a sign.

But there was more to come.

72-On-The-Road_063

We were having quiche for dinner. We buy it at the supermarket and I heat it in the little convection oven. As dinnertime approached, I decided to change into something without elastic — my nightgown. I have tee-shirt nightgowns from Land’s End. They are the cat’s meow in comfort.

I went to the kitchen. Set the oven on pre-heat. I went to the bedroom, slid out of my clothing, into my nightgown. Turned off the lights, went back to the kitchen. Unwrapped the quiche. Carried it to the oven. At that exact moment, the oven beeped to tell me it was up to temperature.

Coincidence? Of course not. It was another sign!

I could no longer keep it to myself. Omens and portents were gathering. I had to share, to tell Garry. When I finished, he looked blank.

“Really, it means something. Because everything means something.” I gave him my most sincere ‘look.’

“O. K.” said Garry, very slowly. “I give up. What does it mean?”

“I have no idea.”

Garry’s eyebrows went a little higher … and even higher until his forehead could wrinkle no further.

“I’ve decided,” I said, “To become more New Age in my outlook. Everything means something. Everything. I just have to figure out what.”

Garry’s eyes were glazing over, so I figured he’d had enough. It’s was also the first day of 5775. That had to mean something too, right? It’s all about the number six. You see, if you add 5 + 7 + 7 + 5 = 24 = 2 + 4 = 6

And that means (trumpets):

NUMBER 6

ATTRIBUTES AND ENERGIES OF THE NUMBER 6

Connects above and below, reconciliation, intellectual creativity, discrimination, imagination, union, love, perfection, ability to use the imagination and the intellect combined, relatedness, taking responsibility for choices.

Positive:

Domestic, responsible, care, teacher, conventional, provider, protector, healer, idealistic, selfless, honest, charitable, faithful, nurturer, truth, order, economy, emotional depth, curiosity, deep love of home and family, humanitarian, service, unselfishness, balance, good provider, peaceful, self-sacrifice, empathy, sympathy, unconditional love, circulation, agriculture, balance, grace, simplicity, ability to compromise, reliable.

Relates to:

The planets:  Venus and Uranus

The Lovers Tarot Card

Friday

Colours:  Indigo/Purple and Green

From NUMEROLOGY – The Vibration and Meaning of NUMBERS

And that’s about as New Age as I can get. Isn’t that fantastic news? It’s all good. And I know this because of the auguries — dreams and numbers and everything.

I hope it also means we’ll get some rain.  Soon.

NO GREAT DIVIDE

The Great Divide – The Daily Prompt for Monday, September 29, 2014

When reading for fun, do you usually choose fiction or non-fiction? Do you have an idea why you prefer one over the other?


There is no great divide. You must have made that up. Or maybe you don’t read much because if you did, you would know that literature is a continuity, a world without walls.

All my friends read. Friends and acquaintances, we read everything. Anything. Non-fiction and fiction, fantasy, mystery, and science fiction. The back of cereal boxes and magazines. Newspapers. Science and biography. Auto-biography and historical fiction.

I’m not sure there’s a whole lot of difference between historical fiction and regular old history anyhow. There’s a lot of fiction, made-up nonsense, wishful thinking and mythology in traditional history … and a lot of truth in fiction. Sometimes, the freedom an author gets under the cloak of fiction gives him or her the opportunity to write truer and reach more people than he or she could accomplish in an academic setting.

books and the duke

Those who love books don’t worry much about such distinctions. We pick books based on whether or not they will engage us. Teach us something we want to know. Make us laugh, cry, grow, change.

Most importantly, books take us out of ourselves. They transport us into a bigger world and give us food for thought and tools for understanding.

May a day never come when I confine my reading to a single genre, rejecting all others.

May the world never force such an awful choice upon me or anyone.

LIVING IN THE WORLD OF THE MARCHING MORONS

Curve Balls – When was the last time you were completely stumped by a question, a request, or a situation you found yourself in? How did you handle it?


At my age, I am baffled much of the time. Life is a giant curve ball, full of unanswerable questions. Young people assume it’s because I’m old and getting senile, but it’s exactly the opposite. Old, yes. Senile, no.

marchingn moronsYou see, time has made me cagey, wily, more cunning. But at the same time, it has hardened me. Made me more cynical, skeptical, and ultimately, puzzled by human behavior.

“How can anyone be that stupid?” Garry and I ask each other as we watch a movie, the news, or sports. “Why would anybody do that? What do they think is going to happen?”

From the manager who lets the star pitcher stay in the game until his minor injury accelerates to a major one that will keep him out all next season. To teenagers who think not learning in school is somehow beating the system. To people texting while driving. And seniors buying expensive luxury cars they can’t afford to run much less pay-off on their fixed incomes — all to impress other seniors who don’t care one way or the other — it’s a world of marching morons.

After the irreversible deed is done, someone will inevitably ask us: “So. What do you think about … (fill in the blank) … ” and we are left speechless. What do we think? Why are you asking us now? Wouldn’t the time to ask have been before you did it?  Is it okay for me to say “I think you’re a moron?”

Can I answer honestly? “You are screwing yourself and you will regret it for the rest of your life.” Would that be cruel or worse, politically incorrect? Can I ask, “And how’s that working out for you?”

Probably we should just keep doing what we always do. Smile. Say something bland and hope they leave before we find ourselves saying something we actually mean. Something memorable and likely unforgivable.

It’s a baffling world out there. I used to worry about the march of evil in our midst, how the bad guys keep winning. These days, I don’t so much worry about the bad guys. They have always been with us and always will be. I worry about the morons who follow them. Marching to the beat of a drum they don’t even hear … but marching, ever marching.


The Marching Morons is a science fiction short story by C.M. Kornbluth originally published in Galaxy in April 1951. This dark and prescient story of a future devolved to idiocy remains one of the most frightening visions to have emerged from the science fiction of that decade.

Proposing a future United States overwhelmed by a population of low IQ citizens — a consequence of over-breeding amongst the stupid — Kornbluth was writing of his observed present. The steady, inexorable descent of human intelligence obsessed Kornbluth. It was one of his major themes and reached its truest statement in this novelette.

And sometimes, sixty years later, as I look around me, I get a shiver of recognition down my spine and wonder where the line can be drawn between science fiction and the world in which I live.