Tea, Ghosts, and a Bit of Gossip
“I’ve always wondered whether ghosts were real,” said Granny. She sipped a steaming cup of sweet tea as she gazed at the apparition hovering ever so slightly above the sofa cushions. “My grandmother was a believer. Hells bells! The stories she told us children would curl your hair!”
The apparition nodded and glanced at the old Tambour clock sitting on the mantle over the fireplace. It was nearly midnight as the seconds slipped away. Granny noticed the apparition checking the time and smiled to herself.
Granny hurried on before the apparition disappeared. “For years, I refused to accept that our house was haunted, but obviously, I was wrong.” Granny shrugged her thin shoulders. “Still, you’re the reason our family could never sell and move away. My grandmother always said she felt like a prisoner. After my parents took over, they tried, but couldn’t unload the place either. I suppose I’m destined to live out my days here as well. All because you died and refused to leave.”
The apparition shook her head. “I’ll never leave, besides where would I go? They say a spirit can’t rest after a violent death. I’ll just have to haunt this place for eternity. And if it gets torn down, I’ll haunt whatever they put up next. No, I’m never leaving.”
“But, you didn’t die a violent death. Grandmother always said you fell down the stairs one night and broke your neck. So, actually, you don’t have to keep haunting this place because it was an accident.”
“You really believe those old stories, don’t you? It wasn’t an accident, it was murder! I was murdered by my husband, the rotten scoundrel. In those days, we didn’t have furr . . . for . . .”
“Forensics,” Granny said, supplying the word.
“Yes, that’s it. Back then, I suppose a good wallop upside the head looked much like a broken neck from a fall.”
“Grandmother said you drank too much. Probably missed a step and fell.”
The apparition appeared agitated. “Your old grandmother . . . she couldn’t tell a straight story if her life depended on it. Your mother was just like her.”
“Why pick on Mother? What did she ever do to you?” Granny said indignantly.
“And you’re just as bad as they were,” the apparition continued. “What with scaring your children half to death with those old stories. And now you make your poor grand-children listen to that same claptrap like it’s gospel, but there’s not an ounce of truth in any of it.”
The clock droned on; the minute hand had advanced another couple of notches as time drew nearer. They caught each other looking at the clock. Granny set her cup down firmly and sat up all prim and proper; clearly miffed at hearing her family disparaged.
“I merely passed on the stories as they were told to me. Besides, scaring the bejeezus out of children makes them behave or else bad things might happen. It kept me and my sisters in line. It’s become a family tradition.”
“Are you serious? Does that really work? Wouldn’t you like to know the real story?”
“Of course, but first tell me, is the “legend” really true? They say your spirit remains here only as long as you return to the bell tower each night before the clock strikes midnight else the demons will drag you straight to hell. Is it true?”
“Well, you finally got something right, old girl! Obviously, I’ve never been late, not in a hundred years, and not for all eternity. I’ll always be here,” said the apparition, as the ticking clock marched forward relentlessly.
Two minutes to midnight.
“Before you go, tell me the plain, unvarnished truth. What really happened that night? Did your husband truly kill you, as you claim, or were you drunk like everyone says?”
“It was my husband, alright. I suspected he’d been carrying on with that Pearson girl for some time, but that night I caught them at it. Imagine! In my house . . . this house! Right under my nose!”
“Do tell! Did you throw them out? What happened?”
One minute to midnight. Granny couldn’t let the apparition leave now; she just had to know!
“They were up in the bell tower . . . you know . . . doing the “naughty deed” as we used to say. I crept up the stairs and there they were, laughing and fornicating. They played me for a fool. So I fixed them good; both of them!” said the apparition with feeling.
The second hand on the clock swept along ticking off the final seconds. Granny heard the gears click into place as the old clock prepared to chime the critical hour.
“What did you do? Tell me quickly!”
“It was easy. I stabbed both of them with a carving knife. They wanted to be together so badly, so that’s the way I left them. Now they’re stuck with each other forever.” The apparition cackled with glee.
“But, I don’t understand. How did your husband kill you?”
“Before he died, he managed to haul himself up and gave me one last mighty whack that broke my neck. The useless sheriff we had at the time, old Sheriff Coots – and never was a man more aptly named! – couldn’t tell the difference between a broken neck and a stubbed toe. When he found me at the bottom of the stairs, he assumed I tripped and fell to my death.”
“You said a violent death won’t let a spirit rest. What happened to your husband and his mistress? All these years, why haven’t I seen or heard them haunting this old place like you?”
“I keep them locked up in the bell tower with me. For the way they treated me, I’m going to enjoy tormenting those two forever!" The apparition laughed, but it sounded more like a screech owl.
Just then the clock struck twelve; the familiar low melodic sound filled the room.
“Oh no! What have you done? You kept me talking for too long! I’ve got to get back to the bell . . .”
Suddenly, the apparition disappeared in a puff of smoke. As the last chime marked the midnight hour, all was quiet, even peaceful, with the promise of a new dawn only a few hours away.
Granny heard soft footsteps coming down the stairs. Her husband shuffled into the parlor rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
“I thought I heard you talking to someone down here. Who’s the darn fool calling at this hour?”
“I was talking out loud to myself. Go back to bed,” Granny said. “We’re meeting the realtors tomorrow, and I just wanted to ensure there were no ghosts lurking about and cluttering up the place. I don’t want anything to prevent us selling this old dump. Not this time.”
Her husband scratched the stubble on his jaw and said, “I keep telling you there are no such things as haunted houses, so quit worrying. You were joking just now, right? Please tell me you don’t really believe in ghosts.”
“Ghosts?” Granny smiled. “What ghosts?”
By: Terry Adcock © 2021