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Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Staircase Hauntings

By Christy Claxton




I don't want believe in ghosts, but this thing has been following me around for a lifetime.
It started when I was five. There was something about the hollow space underneath my grandmother's staircase that made me leap over the third and fourth steps. My people are practical people. They do not believe in ghosts or allow their children to believe in ghosts. So I never told anyone about my daily leap. My terror grew as I realized the haunting had moved into the deep, dark closet in my room at my grandmother's house. Now it could wait for me to fall asleep, but it knew I'd lie there paralyzed with fear. I couldn't close my eyes because it would get me. I couldn't bolt down the stairs because it was faster than me, and it would just position itself under step number three to grab my wobbly ankle as I raced down the steps, through the living room door, and into the warmth of the kitchen. It was a well planned haunting. So don't think ghosts don't think. They do. And this one followed me to college.

Texas A&M University is like my family. Practical. No room for the paranormal or mystical; unless, of course, you believe a bonfire will control the outcome of a football game. But it's a big, powerful school. They have ways around their own superstitions. For me, the problem was much more personal and real. Stupidly, I picked a house to rent that had a staircase. That ghost followed me there and set up residence as if my new set of stairs was a comfortable old shoe. The hauntings commenced immediately. I had a paranoid, drug addict for a roommate, and the ghost knew he would be easy pray. Johnnie couldn't tell a bad acid trip from a paranormal bullying. Instead of lurking under the stairs, the entity tended to loiter in the stairwell itself. This old cottage had one of those tightly enclosed staircases that's about four feet wide with dark paneled walls. It was about as creepy as they come. At the age of twenty, I could still clear thirteen steps in two leaps. The old fear from Grandmother's house was in good shape when it came to an aerobic ascent to the upstairs bathroom. Johnnie simply refused to come downstairs for days at a time. The ghost also took up with living creatures. It preferred the company of roaches and rats. They moved in and lingered in the stairwell, too. I could hear them scuttling in the walls. Sometimes one would zip through the kitchen, and they held convention in throbbing masses on the trunk of the old oak tree out front. A more grounded individual would have told me that I was not suffering from a haunting, but from a hefty case of student poverty. No matter. I knew the truth, the ghost was my life mate, and it would always be there to give me a healthy dose of chronic fear and uncertainty.

As Texas A&M faded into the back room of my young adulthood, and an actual career pulled me out of student poverty, I bought a nice piece of property in the country. I built a house on a hayfield that was backed by twenty acres of woods. Why I thought that ghost wouldn't find my woods to be the perfect play ground, I don't know. It moved right in; preferring to lurk just on the edge of the trees near the well house. It liked to blow up it's energetic meanness and spook me into a sprint for the house whenever I was forced to go to that little well house for any night time business. Naturally, it was faster than me, and it mastered the ability to haunt the very walls of my home. It took up a new practice. In the wee hours of the morning, I would be awakened by the distant sound of AM radio. This ghost was a fan of 1950's rock n' roll. Since I'm an independent music producer and writer, I came to understand that the ghost chose me for a reason. It was time to make my peace with the paranormal and let it be my friend.

All I had to do was think, "Be my friend," at 3 a.m. on a balmy spring night, and the fear lifted. That doesn't mean my ghost no longer haunts, but now I'm in on the joke. We know that the best way to get rid of an unwanted house guest is to send them up the stairs in my country home. By step three they'll sense the fear. By step four, they'll be certain there's an evil claw wrapped around an ankle. By step five, they will have decided they don't like me, and they will leave forever.

This ghost could get me through the kind of divorce where I get it all. All it has to do is grab an ankle. I love my ghost. Tonight, we'll hum a few bars of "Love Me Tender" before I drift off to sleep.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Freeing Jesus

By Christy Claxton


My mama raised me to fear Jesus. It wasn't intentional. It's just that we was always goin' to them holy roller churches in the strange little towns we always lived in. I accepted Jesus into my heart at the Free Jesus' Name House of Prayer in Eastland, Texas. I only did it because my mama always swore I'd grow up to be a no good whore. She said I was pretty goddamned sorry for skippin' school and smokin' with the boys and I should be burnin' in hell at that very moment since Jesus went and died a slow miserable death for me. And how did I think He felt, she would ask in her crazy whining voice. I figured Jesus hated me. So I let them elders drown me in a stock tank in somebody's pasture, hopin' Jesus might forgive me and let me be a good girl. Only thing is, I didn't feel no different when it was all over. I went right out and smoked a cigarette with some older boys. Then I let them touch me where mama said it was bad. I thought that strange feelin' was some kind of holy fear sent down by Jesus, so I kept on doin' it hopin' He would come right down in the middle of them boys and say I belonged to Him and they better get their hands off me. He never did though. 'Bout the time I turned sixteen, I gave up on Him and figured I'd better save myself.

I never had no daddy, and I was obviously just a pain in the ass to Mama, so I just went out and sat on Highway 16 'til some trucker would give me a ride. That first ride cost me my virginity just outside of Lampassas. I figured it was over and done with so I might as well ride on into Austin with the bastard. He had him a place there, and that was pretty convenient since he wasn't around that much. All he expected was for me to be waitin' in his bed when he got home once a week or so. In the meantime, I was free to do whatever I wanted, so I got myself a job at a titty bar. I made some damn good money, but I had to go and open a savings account so the bastard wouldn't steal it to go drinkin' on.

I turned a few tricks, too, if there was something I really wanted, like a new dress. Thing is, I wasn't feelin' too pretty.  I mean, I sure looked better than any of the girls I worked with.  I even went out and bought fashion magazines and got my hair bleached a holy white color.  I went to tannin' and exercisin' during the day, but I still felt ugly. The bastard never told me I was pretty.  He just had his way and went on to sleep. Once my body started to get harder from the exercisin', he did ask for a Polaroid to show his buddies. I figured O.K. Only thing is, his buddies started callin' up when he was gone to see if I wanted to go out.  Mostly I sad yes.  I guess I was hopin' one of them would be O.K. and ask me to move in, but they was all the same as the bastard.  Sometimes they would get real drunk or high and make it really hurt when they did it to me.  I really started hatin' doin' it since I wasn't getting' nothin' but sore and dirty.

This went on for maybe two years, when one day I was at the bastard's place nursin' a case of the crabs and I got to lookin' at my savings account statement.  I suddenly realized I sure didn't need to stay there. I had managed to save enough money to move out on my own.  So I just packed up and left. I didn't even leave him a note to say Kiss my Ass.  I moved into an apartment complex with lots of college kids. Boy! I never even knew people could be that pretty.  Even the boys.  Every once in a while one of the boys would smile at me or wave, but no one ever spoke to me.  I figured they did a lot of talkin' about me, though.  I was always bringin' these horny old men home with me, and I know they was thinkin' I was nothin' but a whore.  It got me to thinkin' that maybe I needed to broaden my horizons; maybe take up some hobbies or make some friends.

When I was a child, mama and me used to make wind chimes out of just about anything.  She said the sound they made was a whisper from Jesus.  I figured, what the hell.  I'd give Jesus one more chance. So I started makin' wind chimes.  At first I used beer cans the college kids left layin' around.  I'd cut the end out of a can, and then I'd poke a hole in the other end.  I'd run a few strings through the hole, and I would attach bottle caps to the strings. The sound they made tapping against the can wasn't exactly heavenly, but it got some of my neighbors' attention.  Some of the boys started askin' if would make them some, so I did.  I advanced to pieces of glass and wood, and I have to admit that some of them were truly beautiful.  Pretty soon my place was covered in wind chimes.

I got a new neighbor.  She was a mannish lookin' woman, and she was the first female to actually talk to me since I moved in. It started out with her complementing me on my wind chimes. Then she started bringin' me things to make chimes out of.  They were beautiful beads and crystals and pieces of pottery. Pretty soon we were watchin' movies together and havin' dinner.  One night she confessed to me she was a lesbian, but that I shouldn't be scared off or anything.  Actually, I was kinda excited.  I felt special for knowin' a different kind of person.  I felt like I finally had somethin' on all of them college kids.  They still stared and whispered, but I didn't feel like anybody's outcast.  Now I had my own private world that wasn't mean or always expectin' a piece of me.

I stopped doin' tricks pretty soon after I made my friend. Once she asked if she could come and watch me dance. I said sure.  Afterward she said I really was good, and I shouldn't have to waste my talent on a bunch of horny old men who didn't care about me as a person.  I knew that, but what else was I supposed to do?  She said she could get me a job at her friend's bead shop, and she felt like I would like my new job a whole lot better since I was so good with me hands.  I went ahead and took the job, but I wasn't makin' near as much money, and that was a problem.  Now don't get me wrong. I sure didn't miss dancin', but it was getting' really hard to make ends meet.  I started getting' pretty stressed about money.  My friend said I needed to relax 'cause I had more in savings than most people in retirement already.  It didn't really help much since I was used to havin' a surplus of money.  To chill me out, she offered to take me out for a drink one night.  I said that was fine, 'cept I wasn't old enough to get into anywhere.  The titty bars I worked at always overlooked that fact. She told me not to worry.  She had some friends that owned a bar and they wouldn't mind havin' me in their place, as long as I was with her.  So we went.

I have never seen so many women in one place in my life.  I thought I'd be scared, but I found that most of them were beautiful in a different kind of way.  The young ones reminded me of deer. They were sleek, athletic, and sort of jerky, like a deer on the lookout for a hunter or somethin'.  The older ones were more like men. Most of them wore men's jeans and boots. Some of them even had hats that were every bit as nice as my richest tricks from my whorin' days.  And let me tell you, I ain't never got attention like that in all of my life.  They was really nice to me, buyin' me drinks and shakin' my hand, and even huggin' me sometimes.  I even got to dance with a few o' them.  My friend was kinda funny about the whole thing, like she didn't trust any of 'em, but I told her I was havin' a super time and not to worry.  She said O.K., but still acted kinda worried.  Finally, toward the end of the evening, she just kinda slipped her arm around my waist.  Everybody else pretty much left me alone after that.

I started goin' to that place on a regular basis' even if my friend couldn't go. I got to know the bartenders and owners.  Eventually, it came out that I used to be a titty dancer.  The owner got really excited, and asked me if I would dance at her club. She assured me that the ladies that came to her place were much more appreciative than any old bastard at the hetro titty bars.  I said O.K.  Since I wanted to get my savings account back up to what it used to be.  Besides, I sort of missed getting' to show off for people.

I told my friend about the offer.  She got really quiet and left my apartment.  I pretty much didn't see her after that.  I was kinda hurt, since she was the only really close person in my life.  Who was I gonna watch movies with?  Who would I go to when I had nightmares 'bout the bastard comin' to kidnap me? Actually, it had gotten to where I rarely slept at my house at all. I just felt safer with my friend.  She would always snuggle with me like a big sister I never had.  Not even Mama ever hugged on me like that.  I don't even think Jesus could make me feel that protected... that is, if He ever made up his mind to come and save me in the first place.

I practiced and practiced on my routine. I wanted my show to be perfect since these girls were my new friends. I went to the club every afternoon and listened to records with the DJ until I had found the perfect music.  She helped me select something she called primal, which means it was rhythmic with lots of bass and percussion.  Then I worked up a special routine that allowed me to make the most of the huge dance floor, so everybody would get a really good look at me.  I was used to dancin' on a stage or bar.  The dance floor made me feel free and in control.  There was no doubt in mine or the DJ's mind that my dance would be a total hit.

Most everybody promised they would come to see me.  I even wore a new dance costume.  It was all white.  To start out with I had on a simple white, cotton sun dress.  My nipples got pretty hard under the air vents, and a lot of the girls were havin' a hard time disguisin' that they was lookin'.  Even though I hadn't really planned it like that, I knew by instinct that I needed to bring a whole bunchg of attention to my tits.  So I walked around the bar tellin' everybody how cold I was, and I would rub myself like I was tryin' to warm up.  Some of them women looked at me just like those old johns used to.  Since I'm familiar with that look, I knew I could count on them for some pretty good tips in my thong.  That's all I had on under the dress. Mostly, the women who had danced in the club in the past had worn a bra or somethin'.  I was goin' to be the first to take it all off... at least as much as was legal.

'bout eleven o'clock the show started with some tired old drag queen doin' a lip sync to somebody named Ertha Kitt.  The place was pretty crowded, so I was havin' trouble getting' up to my starting place by the DJ booth without bumpin' into people.  Everyone was sayin' good luck, and I got a dollar for you baby, as I made my way through the crowd.  I guess it never really occurred to me until that time that maybe some of them women lusted after me.  For a split second it was scary, then I was kinda turned on, which always helps to make your dance good.

After the queen, the owner came out onto the dance floor and made a special announcement 'bout it bein' a real special night 'cause they had a new performer to entertain and excite everyone.  Suddenly I realized she was talkin' 'bout me. I quickly scanned the crowd for my friend, but I didn't see her.  I was hopin' I was just over lookin' her.  I really wanted her to be there since I knew she thought I was a good dancer. The music started and I didn't have time to look for her no more. The crowd was cheerin' me on. I got myself in a sexy mood and strutted onto the dance floor.

The moves came back to me much easier than I thought they would, and all the cheerin' made dancin' as exciting as it had ever been. I focused on the pulsing rhythm of the music as I slid my hands up my thighs, tummy, and across my breasts.  The ladies cheered and clapped as I slowly raised the hem of my dress. I was only teasin', which is how every good dancer does it, so I let my dress drop back into place. As I rotated my hips and flowed with the lights and sound, I worked my way to the edge of the dance floor.  A woman in a cowboy hat slipped a dollar bill between my tits. I was really surprised at how arousin' I found that; bein' I was used to men and all. More women rushed to the dance floor to give me bills and touch me.  I teased them by dancing just out of their reach and slowly pulling my dress up around my waist.  A few of them were able to slip a bill or so into my G-string.  Again, I felt an electricity around me.  I twirled to the center of the dance floor and lowered myself to the floor and rocked like I was doin' some john.  Then I snaked my way to my feet, taking my dress up with me. Again, I heard the excitement in the room build as they realized I was actually gonna let them see my tits.  I pulled the dress over my head as the music quickened.  I swirled my long, angel white hair around, and I pumped my hips with all the sexual fury I could work up... and let me say I wasn't havin' too hard a time workin' it up.  No room full o' boys had ever excited me like this.  I strutted along the edge of the dance floor, letting them fill my G-string full of money, letting them touch and kiss me, laughing and kissing them back.

The music ended too soon. The crowd went wild. I would normally rush through the crowd for my own safety, but this time I just kinda strolled so as to be sure everybody got one more good look before I disappeared into the owner's office.


I slammed the door hard and leaned against it, breathing heavily.  I was a star to them women, and they would want me more every time they saw me dance.  I would make more money than I would ever make in some man's joint.  I could see every john's face I had ever done pass before me, looking sad that they would never touch me again.  No.  I would only dance for women now.  Women really knew how to appreciate an exotic dancer.  I ran my hands across my chest, and I was surprised to find my nipples were not erect anymore.  I didn't understand.  I mean, I had just had the performance of my life. I had found my place.  At least I thought I had found my place just minutes before, as I was making my way to the office. I began to feel really confused.  I should have felt really good ‘bout myself being that those women went wild about me because to me, it meant everybody really liked me.  But somehow, I didn't feel so great.  I sat down at the desk and looked at myself in the small mirror sittin' there. I really was beautiful.  As I studied my eyes, my angle white hair, and the smooth complexion of my face, I felt like I was back in Eastland.  I thought about the boys who used to touch me in my privates.  I thought about Jesus.  It upset me so much I had to put the mirror face down on the desk.  I just sat there and stared at the wall. It was very quiet in there.  I could feel the pulsin' bass in the beat of the music outside.  I didn't feel like part of it no more.  Somebody knocked on the door.  I called for them to go away.  They knocked again.

“Go away!” I shouted.

I knew they was still there.  I waited.  Another knock.  I jumped up and stormed towards the door.  I called, “What do ya' want?”

Still no answer.

Finally, I flung the door open, and I dropped to my knees at the sight.  Jesus was standin' there, and he said,  “I come to take you home.”

I bowed before him, sobbing, “Dear Jesus forgive me I've sinned. Oh my God! I've sinned. I sold my body like Mary. Please save me I've sinned!”

“What?” he asked. “I just came to give you a ride. She sent for you.”

I just lay there confused for a minute. Wasn't this Jesus?  Was Jesus a woman now?  She?

“Huh?” I looked up at him. “You ain't Jesus? I mean you look like Jesus.”

And he did with his long blonde hair and beard.

“Hell no, I ain't Jesus.  I'm her brother, and she feels like she drove you to this and wants you to come home.”

Man, I was still really confused.  “Jesus has a brother? Jesus is a woman?”

“Are you really fucked up or something?” he asked as he pulled me up off the floor.

“No. I mean... who are you?”

“Bobby. I'm Jessie's brother.  Aren't you Jessie's little neighbor friend?”

“Jessie?” I had to think a minute. Who was Jessie? “Oh! Jessie.”  My neighbor.

“Come on.” He led me out of the office, through the bar.

“Hey! Don't you want your money?  I owe you money,” the owner called.

“No, she don't want your money,” he growled at her.

In the car, Bobby was very quiet. I felt safe with him. He never even looked sideways at me, and I thought that was strange. I really expected him to at least look, but he didn't.

“You gay, too?” I asked.

“No.” He sure was the silent type.

“My name is Noelle. My mama really has a thing for Jesus.  Sorry I thought you was him,” I said, laughing a little.

He still didn't say anything.  The ride home seemed really long, but I didn't want it to end.  As we pulled up in front of my apartment, I could see Jessie standing under the porch light.  She looked kinda holy with the light falling around her.  I never thought of Jessie as a pretty woman, but suddenly, seeing her standing there, she seemed like the most beautiful creature I had ever seen.  I started to cry.  Bobby got out and came around to open my door, which made me cry harder because nobody ever did that for me. He took my hand and helped me out.  His hand was soft but strong. I could have melted in its warmth.  He gently led me to the door of my apartment, where she was standing.  I stood face to face with her. There was sorrow in her eyes.  I could see she had been crying.  I felt his hand slip away, and as I turned to thank him, he had disappeared.  I turned back to her, and as if Jesus himself was pushing me, I fell into her arms and cried.  I cried like a little girl, and she held me patiently, gently rocking. She led me inside, took me to the bathroom and began to run warm water.  With a clean washcloth, she wiped my face, taking away the make-up and tears.  Then, with the gentlest fingers, she slipped my dress over my head.  I couldn't even remember putting it back on.  Bobby must have done it without me realizing it.  Maybe he really was Jesus in some magical way.  Maybe they were both Jesus.  I stood nude before her, and I thought she wanted me. She slipped the G-string over my hips and let it drop to the floor.  I was ready to give myself to her.  I wanted to give myself to her.  She led me to my bedroom, pulled back the covers to my bed and guided me to the pillows.  She was so close.  I thought I would kiss her.  I waited.  She was so close.  She pulled the covers over me; still close.  I closed my eyes and felt her lips on my forehead. When I dared to see again, she was gone.


I woke up at eight. I was a beautiful Sunday.  I sat down and wrote a letter to my mother.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Guillotine

By Christy Claxton

Some people swore that the house was haunted.  I was inclined to go with that theory.  That old mansion was as big and square as a city block.  It had massive pillars holding up a front porch overgrown in kudzu, and this made any possible trip to the front door a butcher fest as those vines ripped and clawed at innocent arms.

At sixteen, my driver’s license was still crispy and new, but my car was about as boxy and rusty as that old house. I could get thirteen kids in it, and we would spend countless hours plotting exactly how we were going to breach the fading picket fence that guarded the mysterious old house and its even more mysterious inhabitant.  Naturally, Halloween was the perfect night to try.  So we packed the Oldsmobile to capacity with adventurers and curiosity seekers.  We had no real plan, so we circled the block and speculated about the horrors inside the old mansion.

“I hear they got a guillotine up there in that attic,” chirped Susie Becker.  She chirped, and it was irritating, but she was a dumb kind of fun, so we always made room for her.

I was prone to addressing her with insults.  “Ding, ding!  Pass me that bottle of Boones Farm when you stop giving your French history lesson.”

I took a swig of the super sugary concoction.  “Now.  If we park at the old hospital…”

“That’s haunted, too.”
“Shut up, you’re freaking me out. We need a plan.  If we park at the old hospital and walk up the side street, that old man won’t see us.”
“He has green hair.”
“Shut Up!!  We can go through the garage to get in the yard.” 

There was a long silence as I kept circling the block.  Finally, Tim Jones spoke up.  He took a deep breath, sighed and said, “I’ll do it.”
“Good!  I’ll go with you!” I shouted.
“Who’s gonna drive?” someone asked from the crush of kids in the back.
“Susie can drive.”
“My god.  We’ll all die.”

I pulled into the hospital parking lot, and Tim and I jumped out of the car.  Susie climbed over the back seat and took the wheel.  She lurched forward and began her patrol around the block of the old house.  Tim and I stood in silence, looking across the street at the old mansion.  It seemed as if the vines and trees pressed against its walls were moving with a life of their own.  My stomach started to hurt.  I stared at a window on the second floor because I could see a dim light through it.  Probably the old man's mad laboratory.  Probably the location of that guillotine.  Probably where he chopped off noisy kids' body parts to make his own version of the Frankenstein monster.  I sensed Tim move beside me.  It was time to get brave.

The old man who lived in the house really did have green hair.  We didn’t know what “chemo” was, but we knew that’s why it was green.  In my mind, it was because of his mad scientist monster making experiments..  I was scared senseless.  Tim and I slowly crossed the street.  Another light went on in the house.  We crouched and ran along the curb to the old garage.  We slammed ourselves against the outer wall and caught our breath.  Still bent over, we crept into the dark, dusty building. Cobwebs stuck to my face and a scream stuck in my throat.  Halloween had always been fun until that very moment.  I couldn't hear Susie making the block.  Had she driven off with a carload of terrified traitors we once called friends?  Tim and I moved slowly through the dark, bumping into unidentified objects in the old building.  When we got to the door that entered the yard, we stopped to assess our plan.

Tim touched my arm and asked, “Exactly why are we doing this?”
“Because it’s fun and I want to see inside.”
“Do we knock on the door or something when we get there?”
“I don’t know!  I guess.”  I really didn’t have a plan.  I thought we might need to crawl to get to the front door.  “Down. Crawl.”
“Unbelievable. O.K.”

We dropped like soldiers and made our way to the front of the house.  As we got to the front steps,  we stood and walked up the steps.  I think the most we expected was to to grab one of the old door knockers, bang it once and run like hell and call it the best Halloween in our lives.  It would probably spring us to the pinnacle of high school popularity, too. We tiptoed towards the door.  The kudzu grabbed and scratched. The porch decking creaked.  We froze.  Someone was moving inside; just beyond the front door.  Panic rose in me like fire, and just as I turned to run, the door opened, and a weak, raspy voice said, “Where ya goin’ so fast?”  I whipped around, and there he was, green hair and all.  He had two bottles of Coke in his right hand.  “Y’all come on in here.”

We hesitated. 
“Come on.”
We slowly walked inside.
“Have a seat.”
We moved like Siamese Twins and sat on an old sagging couch with our shoulders smashed together.  I thought my eyes were going to pop out of their sockets I had them open so wide. 
My mouth was dry and even though I figured it was acid or poison, I really wanted that Coke.
He handed us each a bottle, smiled and asked, “Do you know what cancer is?”
We nodded.
“I have it.  Let me tell you my story.”
There was no way I was saying, “No,” so I sat dead still and listened.
“My name is Jack Roberdeaux.  I used to teach at your school.  Although I know you're intent is less than kind, I have to tell you.  I look forward to your weekly cruises around my old mansion.  You, know.  I was born in this house. I was born on this day.  Halloween!”
I wanted to scream at that.  He continued.
“Never got married.  Never had kids.  But I love kids.  Even kids like you.”
Now I felt bad.  It couldn't be.  He was a nice man, and we were a bunch of mean spirited brats.
“Had to stop teaching fifteen years ago because this cancer came along.  Then it went.  Then it came back.  And I don't think it's going anywhere.  So my birthday is a serious trick with no treat!  ...until you kids came along.  Now, THAT'S a treat!”
I felt Tim lurch a little.
“Settle down boy.  I don't eat kids or make monsters out of body parts like you believe.  My hair is green because chemo makes it that way.  Chemo is supposed to fight the cancer.”
He was quiet for a moment.  He smiled at us in a warm way and said,
“Gets lonely around here.  I'm so glad you came by!  Would you like to see my mad laboratory?”
He winked and we nodded eagerly.

Two hours and two cokes later, we had toured the house, and indeed!  There was a guillotine in the attic that his family had brought over from France.  They had been knife makers, and it was sort of a joke.  Now Mr. Roberdeaux used it to cut watermelons and grapefruits.  He said fresh food was his only champion against his disease.  We were fascinated and delighted.  As we left, I turned and hugged the old man.  We skipped down the steps to the street.  Susie peeled around the corner shouting, “Oh my god!  I thought you died!  Get in!”

Tim and I looked at each other, and I said, “Nah.  We’ll walk home.”
The sound of laughing children, dressed in costumes and busking candy drifted in the Halloween night air.  Susie shrugged and slowly drove off.  The other kids in the car were silent and curious.  I simply smiled and waved.

We turned to look at the old mansion one more time.  We watched in silence as the lights inside went out one by one.