Forgive me for bringing up ghosts in the wrong month, but I was battling some seriously scary deadlines in late October. Now that it’s mid-November, I have a lull from work and more time to dwell on the dark side.
My house is a very small, middle-aged cottage that turned 60 this year. It has a view of Chestnut Mountain and Frady Mountain from the back hill and a curious flyspeck of a kitchen with no windows. I make food for my family in this kitchen, but I’m not quite sure how it really happens.
Last week, I brought home a smoked ham-hock to make a pot of split-pea soup. That thing looked enormous, sitting on my countertop. Aggrieved, obscene. When the butcher shrink wrapped it and handed it to me in the grocery store, it had no vibe at all. Somehow it grew to own the space.
And ever since last winter, whenever I stand at the sink, I sense a presence behind me, watching: a thick, hovering something that clears off in the nanosecond it takes to turn around. I grew up in much older, much creepier houses: houses with outhouses still on the property; houses that had rooms my friends refused to enter — houses well within their rights to be haunted.
So I’m a little annoyed that some half-baked phantom has decided to show up in a home that still has a mortgage and its original wiring.
I think most of the characters in my short stories live haunted lives. Siobhan in “Ballad of Cherrystoke” is haunted by memories of her vibrant, pre-accident self. Yuri in “Abdiel’s Revenge” moves in with a woman twice his age and finds he’s also taken on her family’s legacy: a two-century-old murder and its seemingly immortal aftermath. One of the four Brandons in “Bad Tooth Brandon” is haunted by the death of his lover, a soldier; meanwhile, the story’s narrator moves away to escape the specter of her gentrifying hometown.
We’re all haunted by something. Sometimes by more than one thing. So I guess I can handle an occasional unexplainable kitchen presence. Maybe I’m just inside these walls way too much — but for me, getting to work from home is a privilege that’s worth any poltergeist.