Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction

From Linda G Hill’s Blog: Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “-tion.” Find a word that ends with “tion.”

It was Mark Twain who once remarked sagely, in the person of Pudd’nhead Wilson, that “truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction is obliged to stick to probability, and truth ain’t.”

If you asked me to pick one of the weirdest experiences I have ever had that I could apply to Twain’s quote,  it would have to be what I saw before I was caught up in the Nisqually earthquake in downtown Seattle.

An hour or so before it hit, a man in a blue plaid work short walked by my workstation. He was holding a white coffee cup and I remember thinking that I hadn’t seen a haircut like that since I was a kid and my Dad and his friends were rocking the dry look – in case you don’t remember it went something like this:

Well, I thought some of us just get stuck in a rut and that’s the way it goes.

I went back to my tasks and then I decided to go upstairs and get my friend for lunch and that was when the earthquake hit.

We were standing in a doorway, like they tell you to do in earthquake drills ( and it’s true, it’s great because the floor doesn’t move there ) and in those few seconds I looked up and the guy in the work shirt  and old school hairstyle is standing a few feet away from me with his coffee cup in his hand and he’s smiling at me, and then as if the floor isn’t turning to jello under his feet he walked away from me and headed down the stairs to the warehouse.

So a few weeks later we’re doing repairs in our building and we open up a blocked off part of the warehouse where they used to do repairs and maintenance on lighting fixtures.

We had to inspect the entire foundation and walls and what we saw right away was that it a pretty nasty in there- it was full of rusty tools, spray paint cans, lighting fixtures that were in the middle of being repaired or fitted with new wiring- and all of it coated with grime and cobwebs.

There were wastepaper baskets next to the desk in the corner and I had no desire to look inside of it. I know the smell of rat pee and I was sure there was a lot of it in that one can alone.

Our in house general contractor told me this area had been shut off back in the mid-1970’s which means nobody had been in here for around thirty years.

We poked around and I see sitting on the workbench  the same coffee cup I saw the guy in the Work shirt had been holding. It sort of nagged at me – it was just a non-descript white coffee cup with gold or yellow along the rim-  Why am I dwelling on that cup? There must be thousand of them out there.

As we’re trying to decide what cleaning this area out would involve  the Contractor’s assistant tells me that the Warehouseman who had my job  years and years ago had an aneurysm and died on the job- and he had heard he had died in his workshop.

He told me he assumed that the area was the one in the newer section of the warehouse but we guessed this was where ‘it’ happened.

Then out of nowhere the Contractor turns to us both and says, ” there are no ghosts in this building. I’ve been here for over 30 years and I’ve never seen a thing.

It was like he was challenging me, you know?

” We weren’t talking about ghosts. But if there were any I doubt they’d be haunting this place. It’s gross in here, plus it’s closed off. What’s the point in haunting something if nobody knows you’re there?

” Yeah, well. I don’t believe in ghosts.”

We finished our graphing and picture taking and note taking and we left the workshop area. I was the last one out. I remember I turned around and saw that cup on the worktable and it felt like it was yelling at me, you know?

I shut the door and then I locked it and when the cleaners came in and took care of it I never went back in.

Why?

Because I’m sure that cup is still there and it’s true, truth is stranger than fiction. I was more afraid of going into that room again and seeing that cup than I was of seeing the guy in the work shirt.

That’s why.

amm

 

It Starts With a Knock On The Door

FOWC with Fandango — Paranormal

Photo A.M. Moscoso

The best ghost stories always start with a knock on the door- my Grandpa used to tell me as he settled into his favorite chair next to our fireplace and a nice drink to warm his bones.

It didn’t matter if it was day or if it was during the dead of night, but the best ghost stories are the ones that give you nightmares, the ones you share all over the place in the hopes that you’ll get it out of your head and the ghosts from those stories will go haunt someone else for a spell.

Of course, he said, they come back and when they do, they’re more likely to knock at the window.

No wait, he said. I take that back, they don’t knock at the window. They’re more likely to scratch at the window. Scritch scritch scritch. He told me.

That’s what the ghosts in the best ghost stories do. They knock at the door and then they’ll scratch at the window, it’s always the kitchen window and wouldn’t you know it? That kitchen window always seems to look out into a backyard with a swingset and one of those swings will always start swinging from side to side instead of back and forth just when you think that nothing is out there.

The Sun can be beating down from a cloudless sky or it can be the dead of night and even if there isn’t a breeze or even a cold blast of wind that swing will start to swing all by itself.

I nodded and asked, what do the ghosts want in those ghost stories? The good ones I asked. Not the silly ones where the ghost hides in a doll or plays with light switches.

” They want someone to open the door. ” he said.

My Grandpa used to like to sip sherry when he told me what made a good ghost story. Sometimes when he put the glass I’d stick my pinky into it so that I could have a taste.

Sometimes I knocked the glass over, but he didn’t seem to mind.

Once I was about to help myself to a dab of sherry

when I heard a knock at the door.

Grandpa sat back in his chair.

We waited and then we heard, from down the hall a scratching at the kitchen window and light as the sound the tiny bells on my cat’s collar made we could hear my swing start to move in a non-existent breeze.

I felt a shiver and it sizzled up and down my spine.

Then we heard it again, there was a knock at the door and this time it was more insistent and it was a little louder and it echoed through our dark house.

” Are you going to answer it? ” he asked.

I went to the door. I put my hand on the knob and then I turned around and smiled.

He smiled back and raised his little glass.

” This is going to be a good one. ” I said hopefully.

Did You Hear That?

I love radio shows from the old days so now and then I try to dig some up and post thembut I think they are so neat I’m going to make it a regular thing.

So to start off

here are three episodes from some programs that I enjoy:

Inner Sanctum always had great stories, but my favorite part was when the psycho narrator sold Lipton Chicken soup before and after the show.

Inner Sanctum Mystery

Orson Welles…come on how could this NOT be great?

Tales From The Black Museum

The Whistler! I love the whole intro and the stories which were pretty edgy back in the day. My Aunt said she usually couldn’t make it to far into the episodes before freaking out.

The Whistler

There Were Dogs In The Trees

My childhood friend died a few years ago.

She lived around the block from where I lived and we used to do the normal stuff that kids do.

We rode bikes, climbed trees, played with our Barbie dolls and roller-skated to the corner store for Slurpees and penny candies.

The other thing, the biggest thing we had in common was our love for dogs.

We had our own dogs, but we didn’t stop there.

If we saw dogs, we asked to pet them. We’d play with the neighborhood dogs and walk them. We would go to the library and check out books about dogs.

We collected toy dogs and wore t-shirts with dog decals and long before it became fashionable we used to wear our dog’s old collars around our wrists or even around our necks.

Then my friend died- it was unexpected and it was a cruel death- I can’t say more then that. Not because I don’t want to, but when I think about how to describe it I can hear dogs howling.

And my heart breaks all over again.

 

My friend’s childhood home was sold and the profit went to her sons and I guess life moved on for us all. It just moved sort of sideways in my case.

One day I was out walking my new puppy. He was a little guy at the time, so we didn’t go far. Just around the corner and that’s when we met the family that had moved into my friend’s house.

The Mom was a nice young woman, she was around my son’s age and her children were very small. They asked to pet my puppy and we chatted about her new house.

” I think the family who lived here were really into dogs- ”

It seemed best to not say anything about my friend or the fact that her back yard had been designed for her dogs- there was a dog run, a well built dog house, trees to lounge under. It was pretty much a great place to hang out if you were a dog and you owned a few children.

Besides, this family was on the edge of making a life and my new neighbor was so excited to share her story with me.

Me and my friend and her last dog to live in that yard didn’t need to be part of that story- or so I thought.

She went on, ” they must have been big dogs, but it’s great. We promised the kids we’d get them a dog when we got the house and look at that yard. It’s going to be wonderful for them!”

I’m sure of it, I said with real  enthusiasm.

 

About a month later I saw my now familiar neighbors out walking their two new dogs and we stopped to chat just at the end of their driveway.

She asked the boys to take the dogs in for water and they sort of turned into this mass of fur and barking and laughing  kids bodies all mushed together and they burst across the yard and I flinched just a little when I hear the gate to their back yard click open and then bang shut-still,  it was great.

” I was wondering, ” my neighbor asked ” what you know – I mean if you know anything about my house or maybe knew the people who lived there.”

” Well. Yeah. I do. What’s up?”

” We love it here, don’t get me wrong. But when the people you know lived here- did they ever see anything, I mean, this is going to sound-”

” I know the house is old, so I was wondering if there were any stories about it. ”

It was an old house, but it wasn’t that old. I was curious. ” What kind of stories?”

She took a breath.  ” Did, I know this is going to sound awful. But did any children ever die here?”

” No. And I know that for a fact.”

” Well. It’s just that sometimes in the evening when I let my dogs out for their run in the yard- over there by the trees. I saw, I think I saw a little girl. And then she wasn’t there.”

She could not say it. She could not say the word ” ghost “.

I couldn’t either. I was distracted. I was hearing something- dogs barking- but of course the dogs I was hearing weren’t the ones in her yard or my yard or any of the yards around us.

They barking, I think, from a long time ago.

 

My friend had passed away in her early late 40’s. She loved her sons she loved her new home which was 60 miles away from her childhood home. I couldn’t imagine her as a ghost coming back to this house.

And let me tell you, me and my friend had very active imaginations where anything was possible. That was an attitude we took into adulthood with us.

” I think, ” I said ” that this was a great place to play and grow up. I think a lot of kids used to come over here with their dogs and they played with the kid who lived here. See those trees where you saw the, um, the little girl? There was a tree house there and somehow the kid who lived here and her friend got a full grown Malamute up there and a year old Retriever. They never told anyone how they did it. The problem was they couldn’t get them down and the Fire Department had to help them all out of the tree house.”

” You’re joking.”

” No. It was actually a big deal. And the four of them were really stuck and I think even the dogs were embarrassed. So they never brought it up with anyone except with each other.”

” So the girls in the tree, the  one who lived here- they both grew up. They didn’t, they grew up. Right?”

” Yep. They did. ”

” I know what I saw.” she said firmly this time.

” You know, I believe you. But whoever or whatever you saw- it’s not a bad thing. I think you’re seeing something…I think you’re seeing a happy moment for someone. That’s what I think.”

” I can live with that. We can live with that.” she told me.

And as far as I know- they still are.

Photo A. Moscoso