Tag Archives: bathrooms

Only the creepers

We have a running joke in my family: Our women can attract any man they want…as long as he’s a weasel or creeper. In my mom’s case, he doesn’t even have to be alive.

When I told my mom I was posting ghost stories all month, she was interested. Why wouldn’t she be? She is a witch, after all, and she has seen a spirit or two (well, ok, a lot) in her day. I told her that I was short a scary tale so she gave me one I’d never heard before. It goes like this:

The yellow brick ranch-style house where my grandfather saw the ghost of a miner was quite haunted, it would seem. ZZ knew it, my aunt knew it, and my mother knew it. They all ran into spirits of one type or another during their years there. It was an evil spirit, though, that haunted my mom.

Mom is certainly not afraid of ghosts but she is aware of them and they do follow her around, bugging her, giving her icky feelings, creeping her out because that’s the type of energy she attracts. Similarly, questionable men have always been interested in her; same principle, just one set of jerks is alive and the other, dead. (I just called my dad, Jim, icky. Sorry about that! You’re totally not! Well, not anymore, at least)

My grandparents left the yellow rancher for something smaller and more manageable, handing the house over to my growing family. Noelle had just been born and our little cabin on Yampa Street was  too small to accommodate everyone. I was thrilled to move into ZZ & Poppop’s house; I loved that place. My mom, though, not so much. The malevolent spirit she’d felt when we’d lived there earlier was still there, still mad, still giving off bad vibes. And you know what really got it riled up? Noelle. After Noelle came along, my mom experienced more harassment from that malicious entity than ever before. I’m going to call it The Menace. You know, like The Phantom Menace, only far scarier.

When Noelle was brand new to this world,  ZZ & Poppop came to stay, to help out with the new baby, I assume. One afternoon, Mom was in her room folding laundry while tiny Noelle napped in her bassinet. Dad and Poppop were in the living room, watching a game, Chris and I were probably outside, and ZZ was downstairs in the guest room. Mom felt someone watching her and assumed it was a family member come to check on her but when she looked at the doorway, it was empty. She went back to folding but she knew someone was there, someone who was angry, someone who started breathing heavily. Her discomfort grew and became sharp, panicky, and then she heard a voice, a deep, growling voice, a voice completely unfamiliar and terrifying. She didn’t understand what it was saying nor did she wait to find out; instead, she ran from the room, horror-stricken, through the living room and down the stairs to her own mother. ZZ knew something was wrong immediately and when Mom told her what had happened, ZZ yelled, “YOU LEFT THE BABY ALONE WITH IT?” Both women raced back upstairs, full-tilt, expecting the worst. When they ran into the room, Noelle was sleeping soundly and The Menace, hovering in the room, winked out.

Dead

Perhaps this is what The Menace had planned?

It didn’t go away, though.

There was no shower in the upstairs bathroom, only a tub. There was, however,  a 3/4 bathroom in the basement so when someone wanted to shower, they went down there. Unfortunately, that bathroom was made of concrete, mold, and spiders. It was dark, dank, and creepy; even I hated it and I am rarely afraid of a room (unless it’s poorly decorated).

Bathroom

This bathroom is far less terrifying than the one in the basement.

So Mom went to the basement bathroom to have a quick shower one evening. Spiders skittered across the cement floor and a draft wafted through the already-cold room. She felt…something. Someone. Someone was in the bathroom with her, rustling around, making noise. She figured it was Dad though when she called out, no one answered. But someone was there. She showered faster, wanting to get back upstairs, back up to the light and warmth, back to her family. The room slowly filled with condensation, water slid down the walls, the smell of mildew rose from behind warped wood paneling, and something was standing just beyond the shower curtain, getting more and more angry. Mom was rinsing her hair when the shower curtain came rushing in at her face, as if it had been violently punched. She jumped, scared, and flung aside the curtain.

The bathroom was empty.

She turned off the water, grabbed her towel and ran upstairs. When she found my dad on the couch, she yelled at him, “Why did you DO that?” and he looked from the TV to her. “DO what?” He wasn’t winded like someone who had just dashed up the stairs would have been. He’d obviously been sitting there for awhile. And all the kids were already in bed. There was no one else in the house. No one but The Menace.

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Filed under For my short story collection, My Dearly Beloveds

‘Tis the season to be scary

The spiced cider is burbling away in the kitchen, candles are flickering, and there’s a strong wind rattling the windows. Have a seat in my little cabin and let me tell you a story, a mild tale intended more for wonder than fright.

Years ago, I worked with a delightful woman. Her name was Karen (I say “was” because she is no longer with us, though maybe she is with us right now, listening to this tale) She was awesome. And crazy. And hilarious. We worked late together, alone in our office, long past the time when streetlights came on. We would sit at our desks, cackling and carrying on, sometimes to the point that people from other departments had to walk over and tell us to shush.

Karen was one of those good souls, the type of person everybody should be blessed with as a friend. She would call me when I was home sick to give me the day’s work-related news; she always remembered my birthday; she did recon on one of my ex-boyfriends and we said horrid things about him and his post-me lifestyle; she gave me her unwise shoe purchases (she couldn’t wear heels above 2 inches but bought them anyhow. Then she’d try to wear them but would fail and end up giving them to me because they were “just too cute to go to waste”) When I was looking for a new place to live, she just happened to be looking for a tenant for her parents’ house, a place that had been rented-out since her parents had died years before.

It was a wonderful house – split level on a corner with a landscaped yard. My friend and I, we moved in right away and later, Noelle and Little B joined us later. I loved living there, some of my favorite memories come from our time in that little home we’d made for ourselves. Except for the downstairs bathroom. I didn’t love it so much. It was an eyesore – small and rectangular, covered in a ghastly wallpaper that made a person dizzy. It wasn’t much different from this, actually, just smaller print in a much smaller space:

The color scheme was the same – red on cream – and the busy-ness was there. Our wallpaper, though, was made of a bunch of small, red diamonds that were actually made of four dots. It really did make a person dizzy to be locked in such a tiny room with such dotty/diamondy wallpaper.

So one day, I asked Karen if I could re-do the bathroom. She told me to have at it and I did. Only, here’s the thing: The wallpaper, the monstrous, eye-hurting wallpaper, had been glued directly to the drywall. That meant that even with steaming, removing the wallpaper brought giant chunks of plasterboard with it. It was horrible. I had friends come over and help and every single one left crying. My roomie and I spent two weeks denuding the walls and every single day, I cursed the moron who stuck wallpaper glue directly to drywall and didn’t think of future house-dwellers who might need to remove said wallpaper.

Around that same time, Karen started looking worn down. She said she wasn’t sleeping well at night. She felt jittery all day. One evening, quite a way into my renovation project, she said, “I’ve been having terrible dreams.” She looked awful, bags under the eyes, bruisey skin.

I asked, “Dreams about what?”

She said, “About my mother. In my dreams, my mother is terribly upset because she’s misplaced her purse and I’m trying to help her find it but I don’t know where it is and she’s so angry.”

She mentioned a similar dream a couple of days later. A little bell chimed in the back of my brain. I said, “Hey, Karen, the bathroom downstairs, who put up the wallpaper?”

She said, “My mom. She’d been so proud of it. She hung it all by herself, decorated that room all by herself.” I nodded, put my head down, and got back to work.

The minute I got home that night, I ran downstairs, stood in the bathroom with its pockmarked, crumbling walls from whence wallpaper had been ripped violently away, and yelled,

I AM SORRY! I DIDN’T KNOW! I AM SURE IT WAS BEAUTIFUL AT THE TIME. I NOW UNDERSTAND THAT YOU LOVED THIS ROOM BECAUSE YOU MADE IT YOURSELF! I DIDN’T KNOW AND I SHOULD HAVE ASKED BEFORE CHANGING IT. PLEASE LEAVE YOUR DAUGHTER ALONE! I AM SO SORRY FOR EVERYTHING I SAID!

Then I sat down and explained my vision – grayblue wainscotting with sky blue wall and ceiling, clouds dotted up top. I’d paint a tranquil sea along the trim and my roommate would decorate the room with seashells and lighthouses. I mentioned that it would be a peaceful place in an otherwise dark corner of the basement, just as she’d originally intended. Then I got to work. The rest of the wallpaper came off like I was peeling skin from a sunburn.

I was sitting at my desk the next day when Karen walked in. She looked great! No more dark circles or saggy skin. I asked how she’d slept and she said, “I haven’t slept that well in I don’t know how long.”

“So, no dreams about your mother?”

She thought about it and said, “No. She’s fine now.”

I apologized to Karen for causing her such trouble and when she asked what I was talking about, I told her, “Your mother knows.”

For Karen: I hope the afterlife is everything you wished it to be. I miss laughing with you.

And for Dana since you got to share this adventure with me. We had some good times there, didn’t we?

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Filed under Adventures, For my short story collection, In my backyard, My journey to writerhood