A Ghost Story

His phone pinged with a text. It was his problem tenant. She was living in the garage apartment that he had shared with his parents when he was a baby. Until age eight or so. His dad and grandfather, both long ago memories, had built it.

“Have an odd question”, the text said. “Do you know if your dad had a sibling that died around the age of 6-9?”

What? After reading it again, he texted, “My dad was an only child.”

“Hmmm…Odd…” came the reply. “What about your mom or grandma, did they lose a sibling young? I know it’s an odd question but I’ll explain here in a second.”

Christ, he thought, don’t answer. He put on his glasses and clicked the lamp brighter. She wasn’t his tenant, really. His mother had rented to her husband with the express instruction to keep his wife under control. It worked for a little while, then all hell broke loose. In the last six months, she had sworn out a PFA against the husband-so he was gone-and she was squatting there with her ten-year-old. Then his mother had finally died, so he had inherited it all. The good with the bad. And he wished there was more of the former.

After a few minutes he texted, “Nope.”

The bubbles appeared on the screen and hung there pulsing. He waited. Then, “Right around when your mom passed, I was awakened by a child in Olga’s room. She was still sleeping right beside me. Heard a dresser drawer slam and this kid had blonde hair with a blanket wrapped around the shoulders so I couldn’t tell if it was a boy or a girl and I watched it dissipate slowly from its head then down to the feet and it always bugged me that whoever was trying to tell me to go to your mom…to help her.”

He read it again. He hated it when she talked about his mother. She did it often-no doubt thinking it would put her in his good graces, but his mother couldn’t stand her and had spent the last two months of her life complaining that she never should have rented to them.

His phone pinged again, “No, I’m not a witch…little hexes here and there LOL but I do get visions and this one is killing me.”

He remembered a story his mother had told him from when they had lived in that apartment. She was in bed, probably in the same room as this one slept in, and she heard a cat screeching outside in the alley. The windows back there are high, so she had to stand on the bed to look out. The cat was easy enough to find; it was on a cracked fence post just outside the yellow glow of the street lamp. The cat called and howled until she saw others coming in from the darkness to join it. They all sat or lay on the alley in front of the main cat who began to meow and chirp as if speaking to them. They were attentive for a moment, no stretching, no grooming, no ass sniffing. Then, when the lecture was over, or the instructions given, the cats all scattered back into the darkness whence they’d come.

His mother told this story often. Especially when someone suggested she get a cat.

He put the phone on airplane mode and switched off the lamp.

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Drinking Alone

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I decided to stay in and drink alone today.

Not as dire as it might seem.

We shoveled snow for two hours this morning-

Before she could get the truck out to visit her family.

Then I needed some eggs and a pain pill before

Hooking up the new hot water tank.

Course I needed another pill after an hour on the concrete floor.

Feel free to go out and grab a meal, she said on her way out.

I’ll be late.

My back has begun to loosen;

And my knee to straighten.

Both hands can now open flat on the table.

You got anything to say old man? I ask the empty room;

Startled by the growl of my own voice.

He was quiet for now, but I’m sure he’ll be around later.

My head feels light on my neck-airy;

Like a beach ball in a breeze.

I decided to stay in and drink alone today.

Nightwinds

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He held his ear close to the window. The blasting this spring up the top of the hollow had knocked everything in the house cattywampus and it was near to impossible to open the windows easily in normal times. Now, what with all the rain, everything was swolled so that he’d have to break it to open it.

“I can’t hear you,” he whispered, a tone of desperation creeping into his voice. “Louder! Please louder.”

He squinted through the wavy glass but even with no lights in his room he could see naught but shadows outside where the winds whipped the chestnut tree that towered over their little house. Even from the second floor bedroom-which was really a loft, no more’n a half floor- Jimmer felt he could step right down into the yard. If he could open the window-which he coont. He was feeling that pull down below that allus came with the visitations. First time he thought he had to pee-then found out not. Not that at all.

“Hey! You still there?” he croak-whispered, his breath fogging the chilled glass as he pressed his eye against it.

“Jimmer? That you? Who you talkin’ to?”

“Nobody Maw.”

“You stay off that telephone with the storm comin’. We don’t want to get struck.”

Jesus, he thought. As if I had a phone in here. Then he noticed the strip of yellow light leakin’ in under the door. Quick as that, he tore the cover sheet off’n his bed and jammed it down there and scampered back to the window. Still nothing-except maybe a sharp “tic-tic-tic” on the glass which could just as well have been branches as fingernails.

GODDAMIT! He thought, immediately sorry for thinking the Almighty’s name in vain. He’d been doin’ that a lot and it coont be good. He kicked the sheet away and opened the door at the top of the steep steps up to his room. He felt proud of havin’ thunk to keep the hinges oiled so they made no sound opening.

For only about the hundredth time that day he wished Pap could have hung on awhile longer to help with Maw, but he knew near the end there he coonta helped hisself with his wheelchair and oxygen tank. Better this way, but Hell’s Bells this was a hard pill!

He tiptoed past the front room where she sat in the recliner that wouldn’t recline, her swole feet propped up on her walker. The TV was on to nothing but rolling snow and she listened to an old-timey gospel show on the radio. It was no challenge to sneak past and outside-lifting hard on the door because it too was off cause of the blastin’.

On the porch he whipped his head left and right looking for her. Ignoring the tilted steps, he hopped right down the ground. Was that a light over by the shed? Even in the pitch dark thrown by the blanket of storm clouds he could easily navigate out to the woodshed and around to the other side of it. Nothin!

Wait, though-not nothin’-cause he could see, if he looked off center, his shadow tossed weakly onto the rough plank wall of the shed. Prolly from the house he thought as he turned to look. But no, there she was, balanced on the eave right outside his window. “Goldarnit” he said trying not to cuss at a time like this. “I knowed you was out there.”

His voice became more urgent as did the pull down below. He bent his leg against the discomfort of his broomstick-hard erection pushing against the teeth of his zipper. “On man!” he sputtered as he yanked at his jeans. It was only his intent to let hisself out to breathe but he was so skinny-assed that once his pants were unsnapped they fell to the ground. He didn’t note the chill as he grabbed what was his fearfully engorged cock and commenced to work it while watching her above him. If he could only git that window open.

“Come down here” he hissed through gritted teeth. “Just the oncet!” But she didn’t move from her perch on the eave. Jimmer worked himself in silence, staring hard to get every glimpse he could of what he took to be the shimmering clean lines of her nakedness.

“You could do something here you know!” He was losing the whisper but kept his voice down just below the level of the winds. “I wisht you would!”

He thought she was watching-she was moving though. She was there-she was all there, turning for him, bending for him-right up till the moment when she wasn’t. When that moment came she just disappeared-melted upwards like smoke from a pissed-on fire and was gone into the starless black.

He made no more sounds but a finishing grunt as he spattered over the dry leaves, bending forward, vainly trying to keep the final spurts and spasms offn’ the pile of pants at his feet. Eyes screwed shut he drooled one single string to splash off his fist where his part-twitching-disappeared like a turtle into its shell.

He made no show of bein’ quiet when he yanked the stuck door open to reenter the house. He trudged past the front room where Maw, without looking up, told him “You shount go outside on a night like this Jimmer. I can hear the Nightwinds moving about. They take aholt of you and you’re a goner.”

A goner, thought Jimmer. That sounded fair. He’d buy that if she was sellin’.

“…A Failure to Communicate”

She turned away from the window to light the cigarette she’d kept in a plastic bag hidden in an old purse with a wooden match from the candle drawer. In the utter darkness of the house the yellow flame burst brightly until she sucked deeply and shook it out.

“Fuck!” she whispered when she saw the red glowing dot of the tip reflecting back from the glass. Could he see it? She palmed the butt next to her thigh and squinted trying to regain her night vision. There was nothing. More correctly, she could see nothing. But he was out there.

Beyond the lawn and the rhododendrons, across the property line and beyond the subtle rises that she knew to be remains of Civil War trenches that existed undisturbed in these woods for 150 years. “If you didn’t know they were there, you might not know they were there”, said the locals. Over the old stone foundation of a house gone before she was born was an oak tree. It was probably there when the old house was built and stood powerfully if charred by a lightning strike on V-E Day-or so said nosy old always-in-your-business Millicent Fenwick at the library.

“It’s a four by eight sheet of three quarter inch exterior plywood”, he had intoned when she asked him if it would hold him. Those numbers meant nothing to her, she wasn’t a builder but neither was he. Still, he said “It’s a four by eight sheet of three quarter inch exterior plywood” in such a way that she guessed she should be impressed. He had taken this sheet of plywood and somehow wedged it between the three large main branches of that old oak about ten feet off the ground and “stabilized it with three two by four struts screwed right into the trunk.” She stared at him and he repeated it; more than a few times. Could just have well been speaking Mandarin-she didn’t know or care what a fucking strut was.

“Hear your husband’s building a tree stand back off the old Warner place”, Mrs. Fenwick had said, taking the cards out of the back pockets of the books she was checking out. “My husband Elmo, God rest him, used to hunt those woods. Got more than deer back there, you ask me.”

Her eyes adjusted and she could see beyond the yard into the black of the woods. She even imagined that she could see the top branches of the oak drawn against the silvery starlit night. She hadn’t minded when he moved from their bedroom to the spare room. That was a lie-it bothered her-but it had happened gradually. One night a week, then two, always a perfectly acceptable reason: he had to get up early, his back was a little off, he “felt a good snore coming on…” Then it had become semi-permanent.

Getting used to that wasn’t easy but at least she could still hear him breathing and rolling around and, at three a.m. precisely, getting up and walking to the bathroom. Sometimes he would veer into what he had begun to call “her” room and slip into “her” bed so that they could get into some of their nighttime business but that wasn’t happening anymore.

Because now he had taken to sleeping in a fucking tree.

Left Behind

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It doesn’t matter, he said sounding a tad strained. I just wish I could straighten up a little, that’s all. He tried for the millionth time to pick up one of the scattered cards or a stack of loose papers. They passed right through his hand.

See? Said the other. Why bother?

If I had some new file folders I’m sure I could make some sense of this. He continued to try to keep the desperation out of his voice.

It just doesn’t matter.

Listen, he said hearing footsteps on the gravel outside. Here they come again.

He turned to face the broken window and smiled a wide gap-toothed grimace.

What the hell are you doing?

Smiling for their picture.

You know they can’t see you, right? You won’t show up. Look at the floor. You don’t even leave tracks.

I wish Miss Baxter was here-she could put this mess to right.

She’s long gone. Forget it-

Why are we still here again?

The other sniffed and slowly diffused into a limp, spreading cloud of glimmering tendrils that rose toward the rafters.

What? But…

Sighing but afraid to be alone, he allowed himself slip likewise apart and followed, trying to remember why he wouldn’t show up on film. He’d make him tell next time.

“There’s someone here…”

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(Continued from Back to the Hollow)

“Looks like you found me”, she said.

“I think you knew where I was the moment I stepped off my porch.”

“You think I followed you?”

“No-I think you led me here…”

Bent and exposed over the log as he was, he was talking to the leaves and dirt between his hands. Lifting his head high enough to see over his shoulder wasn’t in the cards. He looked for her feet and found them behind him.

“Led you here?” she laughed a young girl’s laugh. “I’ve done everything I could to chase you away. To caution you away…” the log moved as she sat on it facing away from him…”but here you keep winding up.” She slapped him lightly on this upturned rump for emphasis. “What are we going to do with you?”

He felt a presence larger that the girl beside him but he scoured the upside down woods behind himself and could see nothing. But he registered that he usually didn’t see her either.

“What’s your name”, he asked on impulse.

“Tabitha”, she answered easily as if waiting for the query.

“Take me back with you.”

“Back? Where?”

“Where you live. Into the other woods. Through the keyhole.”

“Hah! There is no keyhole anymore.”

“Of course there is, you just moved it is all-or hid it. There’s always a way in.”

She went silent for a moment and he felt her fingers drumming on his butt as she mulled. She shifted into him slightly-he could feel a warmth against his hip.

“Daniel, Daniel….After we whipped you I was sure you wouldn’t be back. I branded you-left my mark” he felt her fingertip touch the tiny handprint on his cheek, “You came back. We came to your house, to whip you and actually do more…” She poked this time at his tight anus which twitched “and you came back….Makes us wonder if you’re coming back for more…”

“It’s not that I’m looking for more of that…”

“Mr. No again.” She slapped him harder on his ass. He yelped in surprise more than pain.  “You’re denying what you want even while chasing it.”

“No. I want something different. This life out here is shot for me. I’ve lived out here for close to thirty years and it’s been no bargain, let me tell you.”

“I bet. You’ve already lived in the dark almost a decade longer than I did…”

“I’ve had enough of it.”

“Everything you’ve gotten before you’ll get more of back there-you realize that.” As if for emphasis she dragged her finger across his asshole again and down between his legs. “That won’t be all, you understand, but there will be that…”

“What do I have to do?” he asked, undeterred.

“Accept it. Accept yourself. Back here you have to say what you mean. What you want, you say. Get it? Back here you have to be who you are.”

They sat in silence her hand resting on the small of his back where he folded over.

“Are you going to whip me now?” he asked.

“I never whipped you…well maybe a few strokes. You wiggled so sweetly…”

“Are you going to fuck me? “

“What would I fuck you with Mr. No? Huh? You doubt that I’m a girl through and through.”

“No.”

“You can get up you know.”

“What?”

“Nothing’s holding you. They’ve all gone off.”

He pushed off the ground and sure enough lifted himself off of the log. Hearing for the first time birds and a soft breeze whispering through the branches he pushed off the log and stood to stretch.

“Now look at this,” Tabitha said from her seat before him. He didn’t need to look; his hard-on stood straight out as if seeking the girl’s face. She took it in hand and pulled him close.

“There is a lot I can give you back here Daniel…as long as you ask for it.”

He asked for nothing right now, just let his head loll back as she gently touched her tongue to the head of his cock…

“You won’t be over quick this time, I hope…”

It had been almost four years since a woman had taken him like this. Even had he remembered it clearly it wouldn’t matter. This was different. Her mouth was beyond warm. Beyond soft. It was melting marshmallow falling off a campfire stick and wrapping itself around him.

He held her head gently and pulled her into him pushing himself deeper into her mouth. Moaning quietly he felt a growing weakness in his legs.

Veronica Palmer had run ahead of her boyfriend. He was a gym athlete-great on the treadmill but the contours of running, or even walking, trails left him in the dust. He had stopped in the clearing below where she had taken off up the hill. He was about to follow when he heard-then saw-her running back down.

“Let’s go!” she said grabbing him by the arm as she passed.

“What? Why?”

“There’s someone here.”

“So?”

“A guy. He’s…masturbating.”

“You sure?”

“Am I….?” She pulled at his arm again. “He’s standing bare-ass, pants at his ankles pulling on his dick. Is that masturbating?”

“Shit. You want me to go say something to him?”

He had finally begun to yield to her pulling when a sound of clicking filled the air. Quietly at first but louder as it seemed to get closer. “Keep moving”, she said. It sounded like sticks or switches clattering together but there was no breeze-nothing was moving.

“Come on”, she hissed as he slowed to listen-to try to get a handle on the noise. Cicadas? As the sound seemed to blanket over them she felt something tingle deep inside of her. As if a seam was rubbing her down there. “Come oooon”, she pulled him by the arm and was just breaking into a jog when-

“Ouch!” She jumped and grabbed the left cheek of her ass.

“What?”

“I got stung…or something. Come on!”

He watched her run in panic for a moment then felt a searing burn across his own ass. He yelped and jumped grabbing his behind.

“Bees!” he yelled, for what else could it have been? “Bees!”

She was faster than he but he did his best to catch up. He hated the fucking woods.

 

Back to the Hollow

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(Continued from “Venus and Mars Are Alright Tonight…”)

He had been a decent tracker as a boy. Could follow a wounded deer across both hollows and up all the creeks if need be. Wouldn’t even need to be wounded. The old men counted on him for this service as their eyesight went and they got more generally decrepit. It wasn’t hard for someone who knew the signs-who could tell when a leaf was standing on edge because something had trod along its stem and lifted it, rather than just spun that way onto the earth. Or when an old acorn had been kicked on top of a newly fallen leaf. That kind of tracking he could manage.

This kind, following someone that seemed to have no weight that seemed to float along on a cushion of air was something different. Any sign that he saw on the ground was wishful thinking. He let his eyes wander up into the scarlet red branches of the pin oaks for all the good then were doing on the ground. He started to get the feeling that the trail wouldn’t lead him anywhere. Which didn’t matter. He wasn’t following at all. He was being directed. Pulled.

Truth though, for what he was doing, he didn’t need tracking or trails. He knew where he was heading. He cut off the main trail early and crossed a patch that would have been impassable two months before. The winnowing of fall had begun in earnest and new paths appeared where there had been thick brush.

Not far along he noticed the silence that roared in and flooded the valley pushing in on his eardrums like water at the bottom of a deep pool. His breathing slowed and nothing moved but for a single tiny leaf at the top of a stripped maple twitching singularly in a disquieting way. He was about to step over a fallen tree when he felt…something in front of him blocking his way. He had a sense of her-but couldn’t feel anything until his lips pressed against his teeth. He opened his mouth and accepted the unseen kiss.

“I knew you would taste sweet”, she said spectrally coming together slowly before him.

“You could have tried it last night”.

“It wasn’t my place or time…”

Maybe this wasn’t either, because she slipped in and out of focus and substance. She seemed there, then she dissipated and he could see the woods through her, then she was gone-having shifted out of the way. He felt a push between his shoulder blades, gentle at first, then stronger-a pressure that pushed him down toward the log as his belt was loosened. He put his hands out to stop himself or grab at his pants but they were useless-pulled away from him as he was lowered firmly over the fallen tree.

He lay over the log breathing deeply and relaxing as best he could focusing on the blanket of leaves between his hands on the ground. He was conscious of the cool sunshine bathing his exposed ass and dripping between his cheeks and flowing over his balls. He wasn’t going to fight. He would be whipped, he might be fucked, but he wasn’t going to fight it.

“Where are you headed Daniel?”

“How do you know my name?”

She didn’t even acknowledge his question. “Where are you going back here?”

“I was looking for you…”

“Looks like you found me.”