Sunday, 10 November 2013

An Old Fashioned Ghost Story (Part I)

A terracotta cottage some two miles west of town. Walls about two-feet-thick. Old beams.

The new occupant thought that it was just the place to meet a ghost.

It was.

He did.

But not the kind he expected.

A whole load of garbage had been left behind. A blue car rotted on the drive. Moulds creeping along its blue body. The steering wheel had a greenish tinge too. As if a corpse had been driving it.

The upstairs bedroom was painted a peculiar purple with a gold door. The carpet was thin. A dark shape where the double bed had been. There were wasps scattered all along the window sill. There were wasps scattered all over the carpet.

Dead wasps.

Husks of black and gold that, it being impossible to step around them, crunched under your feet.

A tree grew too close too the walls. Tentacular roots grabbing at the foundations as if nature knew something that the man didn't and desperately desired to pull the place down.

A washing machine lay in the path that led to the front door.

The door was painted in a faded plum colour. The paint was peeling and blistering to reveal patches of black and orange underneath.

It was as if the door had caught some terrible disease.

Around the back of the cottage there was a tool shed. It had an old-fashioned latch handle. Inside, once your eyes had adjusted to the gloom – there was no window and the place wasn't fitted up for electric, there was a workbench made from rough timber. A vice had been left behind. The whole place smelled of logs. There was something black compacted onto the stone floor. Tools were still on the workbench. Old wooden handled screwdrivers, a stub of carpenter's pencil. A tape-reel too rusted run freely from its casing. Rusting tobacco tins filled with nails and screws in no particular order.

He didn't know where to begin.

He grabbed a dustpan and started on the wasps.

He arranged for the decorator to come and do something about the purple and gold. The festering front door.

He called the scrapyard. Yes, they'd come and get the car. But the price of scrap has gone down, you know?

He didn't know.

Didn't care. Just wanted it gone.

He hauled the washing machine into the back of his car. No easy task. It weighed a ton. They put cinder-blocks or something inside them to stop 'em dancing across the floor.

He started dragging and bagging the junk from the tool shed. It felt a little wrong. Spanners and hammers going into the bags. But what else was he to do? He couldn't live with all this junk.

Came across an old gramophone case with the little HMV dog eternally staring down the funnel. He lifted the lid. No gramophone. Just green velvet lining the box. He paused for a moment. Then into the sack it went.

But there was an awkward item at the back of the shed. No. Make that two awkward items. Two framed portraits of an old couple. Someone had commissioned a real artist to paint these portraits. The frames were gold-leaf – or at least, something that looked convincingly like gold-leaf on a heavy wood that didn't come cheap. The canvas alone had to be worth something.

It felt wrong to throw these things away.

It felt wrong and cold-blooded to ditch something that somebody had once really cared about.

So he decided to hang on to them for awhile.

But this, as you sitting in the homely glare of your computer screen know only too well, was a big mistake.


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