Those Things

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Two Rivers

Do you believe in...

Submitted: March 24, 2018

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Submitted: March 24, 2018



Charlie sat at his kitchen table, drinking coffee, smoking a cigarette, and scanning the headlines on the local newspaper.  He wasn’t much for books, magazines, or anything with a printed page as far as that goes, but it occupied his time as he sat there trying to wake up.  He subscribed to the paper for his wife, Terrie.  She was the reader.  She read everything

It was their morning ritual since he retired.  She lingered in bed as he got up, made the coffee, and waited for her to join him.  He looked out the kitchen window at the bird feeder and a squirrel trying to raid most of the seeds he had poured in just yesterday.  Charlie didn’t care.  He thought it was kind of entertaining to see the squirrel’s ingenuity.  It drove Terrie crazy to see the squirrels stealing all the birdfeed.  “Seed costs money!” she’d exclaim.  He’d just laugh.

Most people thought of Charlie as a gruff person, hardened by life, and thoughtless to other’s feelings.  His favorite expression, “Well, you brought it on yourself.”  Terrie knew better.  She knew he was a powder puff inside, especially towards her.  He’d been a paratrooper in the Army, a volunteer firefighter, hunter, fisher, racecar owner and a truck driver for twenty years until retiring. 

If anyone hit him up about ghosts or the paranormal, he’d always respond, “I don’t believe in those things.”  That usually ended the conversation.  But once, after getting home from a long over-the-road run he parked his car and went to retrieve the garbage cans left by the alley.  A dapperly dressed gentleman just appeared out of nowhere in front of him.  He stepped back shaken for a moment.  Then dismissed it as the image slowly dissolved into thin air.  Charlie shook it off as fatigue from the too long of a period on the road and lack of sleep.  He’d remembered driving his rig once about half asleep and seeing the road turn to the right.  He nearly drove his truck into the ditch before becoming fully awake. 

He went on into the house not mentioning it to Terrie.  She had grown up a staunch Catholic and didn’t tolerate talking about ghost any more than he did.  The craziest thing was, he saw other aberrations afterward in the house.  It never scared him, but he didn’t know what it would do to Terrie if he told her the house was haunted.  Maybe it was only haunted to him.  He let it go at that. 

 Once, he had fallen asleep on the couch watching NFL football on TV.  Terrie went on to bed and left him on the couch asleep.  He remembered waking up, and there were maybe a half dozen black misty figures leaning over him staring at him like they were puzzled by him being there.  Finally, when he was wide awake, he looked at the clock above the TV.  The large digital numbers read 3:32 am.  He thought, “Man, I got to take a piss!”  He started to get up and the figures made way and dissolved all at the same time.  Another time, Charlie saw as a man standing by the fireplace in the living room, just standing there with his right side towards the fireplace and left side towards Charlie, the aberration was staring at the floor, and then faded away. 

Just now, as he drank his coffee, he caught it out of the corner of his eye, through the door leading into the dining room.  There was a vision of elderly woman maybe in her eighties dressed in late nineteenth-century garb, leaning on the back of the chair.  She looked tired.  Charlie turned his full attention towards her and watched her fade again into nothingness.  He felt funny.  This was the first time anything of the spirit world had ever revealed itself in broad daylight, and in the morning

Terrie got up and got some coffee and sat down across from him.  She had quit smoking 12 years ago but sat with her hands clasped around her coffee cup.  She’d do that with a cigarette between her index finger and middle finger of her right hand when she had smoked.  He thought, “Old habits are hard to break.  I should quit smoking for her sake.  How easy it would be for her start up again.” 

Terrie wasn’t much of a talker in the morning, so he waited, looking at some classified ads of old cars for sale.  He thought of buying a junk car for the county fair demolition rally.  He knew Terrie would kill him if he did unless he could find a driver.  Pretty soon she reached over and grabbed the front page.  She placed it on the table in front of her and then she put her chin in her left hand with her elbow on the table, staring out the window at the bird feeder half empty now.  Finally, she looked at Charlie.  “Did you see him?”

He didn’t ask who.  He knew what she meant.  “Yes,” he answered.

“Did it scare you?” she asked.

“No,” he said.  “Did it scare you?”

She gave a pouting grimace.  “No.” Then she began playing with the corners of the newspaper.  “Are there more?” she asked.

He stared at her.  He’d never seen her so solemn.  That scared him.  “Yes,” he finally said.

She looked steadily at him.  “What do we now?”

“Why do anything,” he said.

“Well, everyone knows we don’t believe in this stuff, and here we are living with these things, whatever they are.”

“Ghosts,” he said.

“Yeah, ghosts,” she responded.  “I’m not going to tell anyone: not my family, and especially not my friends.”

“Okay,” he said.  He took another drag off his cigarette and looked at the smoke.  It looked just like the ghosts. He snuffed it out in the ashtray.  “Okay, we’ll tell no one,” he said.

She turned to read the paper, and he got up to cook them breakfast. That had been his responsibility too since retiring.  “Scrambled?” he asked.

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