The Quilton Sisters

 

Lorna Quilton is walking away from her parent’s house holding an off white photo album trimmed in gold close to her chest. It’s a little frayed around the bottom edges and it smells like that furniture polish that her Mother likes to use- Lemon Plus- not that it actually smells like Lemons Plus anything. But  Lorna finds it oddly comforting to find and latch onto the familiar and it soothes her nerves just a little, but not enough to keep the sweat from trickling down the back of her neck.

She thinks that if she finds a place to sit down and relax she can open the album again and she will not let herself panic like she did in the living room. Lorna is sure that she slammed the door a little to hard when she ran out of the house with the photo album clutched in her hands because she heard a bang and some shouting about the door but she could not stop-she had to get as far away from home as she could before someone asked her to explain herself.

She walked briskly, which was fine because the autumn air had a bite to it,  all the way to Jack Cross Park which is right across the street  from her high school.

It’s a shady park  where the city’s water towers ( painted a soft shade of green to blend in with the trees and grass because sure, that will camouflage two 125 foot towers full of water ) that only has visitors on the hottest days of the year because it’s always wrapped in shadows.

The towers themselves  are surrounded by white and pink rhododendron bushes  and barbed wire topped fence- but never mind the barbed wire! Someone got the elementary school kids to paint bread loaf sized wooden fish bright and cheerful colors and they’re swimming on the chain link fence to take your mind off the chunks of razors just over your head.

Lorna goes to the benches at the back of the Park and she takes a seat on a bench and she looks up, takes a breath and opens the photo album on her lap.

On the first page are pictures of her very pregnant Mom standing next to a Christmas tree. She’s smiling and she looks a little sad, but that’s probably because her feet hurt. She told Lorna once how much she hated it when her feet swelled up and how ugly they were and how her Dad wouldn’t even look at them because they grossed him out.

Then there’s a birth announcement for Mary- it had little birds and butterflies all over it and they were bearing the glad news stamped on a silken banner that baby Mary was a long and chubby baby, just like Lorna had been.

Lorna takes a breath, holds it and lets it out slowly.

She turns the page and her sister is a toddler, she’s learning to ride a bike, in other’s she’s playing with the family dog. As the  pages flip by slowly- because Lorna is forcing herself to turn them slowly, there are family pictures of vacations, Christmases, Mom’s new car, birthday parties, class pictures, and then towards the end there are wedding pictures and Mary is a bridesmaid in some and towards the end she is a bride herself.

Lorna is proud of herself. She did it.

She looked at pictures of her Sister without throwing the album down and running from it because

until about a half hour ago Lorna would have sworn she didn’t have a sister- but the was there courtesy of Kodak film.

 

She has a sister named Mary Quilton and they grew up in the same house and had the same parents but Lorna doesn’t  remember her.

It wasn’t that she just didn’t remember her- it’s not like she looked at that Thanksgiving picture where her Mom was wearing the sweater Lorna had given her for her birthday and saw Mary seated next to her Dad with her finger up her nose and something familiar popped out.

Tthere is an absence of feeling about the picture, the people in it feel like strangers, like interlopers.

Lorna guessed her Uncle Mert took the picture because he thought it would be funny to capture that moment forever. He loved to catch people doing silly or gross stuff on film.

That little tidbit did nothing to take away from her anxiety because she should have remembered that moment. The minute the flash went off and Mary was immortalized forever with her finger up her nose,  her Mother would have had a kittens.

Nothing.

It was almost time to start setting up for their Halloween party, Lorna should be there helping her Mother and their friends. But what was going to happen when she showed up and her sister Mary showed up an and Mary asked  something like ” How have you been?” because she guessed Mary would know her.

And Lorna would only be able to say, ” Pretty good. So. Who the Hell are you?

Lorna could see Mary sprouting horns, she could hear her skin crackle and split and turn red and Devil Mary would say, ” Hell indeed.”

Lorna closed the photo album and stood up.

Well, she had a hard time convincing herself that  scenario was less crazy then the situation she was in right now.

The five minute walk home felt like it only took seconds because Lorna did not want to be here- she did not want to walk into that house and face a Sister who had been living under the same roof with her and she had no  memory of her. Not a single one.

People were showing up with bags and boxes and plastic containers- Lorna guessed they were helping set up for the party  and on the way up to the house  she saw a slightly older version of the man Mary was standing next to in one her wedding pictures at the curb shutting a his car door. He reached up on the roof for a tote bag full of streamers and when he turned around Lorna was standing next to him.

She looked into his face and for just a second she thought he recognized her, maybe he knew her and that terrified her.

Then the look was gone and Lorna took a breath.

” Hey. Hi. Here for the party? You’re early so you must be here to help set up.”

Lorna nodded and  she looked towards the house. ” I’m here to help my Parents.”

” Oh yeah? And who are they? ”

” Marie and Harold  Quilton. I’m Lorna.”

The man from Mary’s wedding picture does not look happy. ” Look,  know it’s Halloween, but whatever you’re doing here, it’s not funny. Go on, get out of here before my wife and her parents show up. I mean it. Get lost.”

Lorna is still holding the photo album next to her chest and she lets it fall from her hands to the ground. Her face is a smooth mask without a single trace of emotion, but her eyes-

they are as dark as a basement in an abandoned and lifeless house and Guillermo steps back from her and bumps into his car.

Lorna’s panic reaches epic proportions, she is ready to scream, to cry to run but then it’s gone and the thoughts she does know push themselves to the front of the line and knows for certain:

she can’t remember Mary, she can’t remember getting her drivers license or graduating from high school or what she did the day after she was running across the street to catch her bus on the last day of school.

But she does know one thing right now.

” I’m here to help my parents.”

” With what? ” Guillermo asks hoping that she will not answer.

She does not.

Guillermo leans down to pick up the photo album because he has to do something and when he straightens back up with the album in his hands, the teenage girl pretending to be his Wife’s sister who died before she was born is gone.

 

MOUNTAIN VIEW

Marie Lourdes Quilton 65 and Harold Quilton  68

of Mountain View died October 31, 2019 in a traffic accident.

Funeral arrangements to be announced.

The Chair

Maybe, sixteen year old Thomas Gilder thought when his heart slowed down enough for him to think clearly, if I just relax and close my eyes I can figure how I got here and how I can get out because if I got into this I can get out too- that’s logical, or science or something like that right?

His hands, were clammy and sweaty and cold and they grasped the smooth arms of the chair with less force then he realized because he was very close to passing out. He bit his lips to keep from calling for his Mother. She’d be so disappointed in him if she knew where he was. He could not- would not do that to her. He would not call for her like he did when he was a little kid waking up terrified from a nightmare.

At least not right now.

Thomas turned his head and looked at the little window with the pale blue curtain drawn across it that was to his left

and he wondered why the room was painted pale green and why it didn’t really match the curtains in the window and why

he was sitting in this electric chair and how long it was going to be before the Executioner realized he was here .

Thomas looked up at the clock and watched the second hand crawl from one number to the next- not that he could read the clock. Most kids his age can’t but it gave him something to think about and when his thoughts got back on the Tommy Gilder train he made himself remember the walk down here, the instructions, and the RULES.

Maybe that was the key. If he could remember the short walk that brought him here maybe he could avoid the long walk ahead.

What ever he came up with, he had to snap himself out of this nightmare before the face appeared in the little window and saw him.

It was all over for him at that point, wasn’t it? Or maybe it really ended for him when he decided to heck with it and decided to not follow the RULES.

Thomas wasn’t bad kid, well- he knew if he had made a few better life choices he wouldn’t be here waiting for that curtain to be moved to the side and for Hell to rain down on him.

There had to be something he could do, maybe say he was sorry and that he’d never screw off and he’d promise on a stack of bibles to follow THE RULES but before he could put his thoughts into order and choose one of those flimsy options his out of control brain had come up with, the curtain in the small window opened and then the face of the Executioner appeared and it was indeed the face of his doom and a painful molten rain of words did indeed fall down upon him.

” Son of a bitch! Take your kid to work day. What can go wrong they said. You only work for the State. None of the dumbasses that nagged me to do this asked me what I do for the state.”

She took a breath which meant she was nowhere near finished yelling.

“What did I tell you about wandering off? This isn’t  a playground. I work here. I told you what the RULES were. So tell me. How the Hell did you get in there?

Chin to his chest, Thomas held up his Mothers keycard.

” Forget asking me for the car or for the password to WiFi at home which I am changing and NEVER going to give you. Forget ever hoping that I will forget this stunt. Get over to the door NOW.”

Thomas got up from the electric chair, he bowed his head and he walked slowly to the door.

When the door opened and he saw the Executioner- (or as she was known at home ” Mom” ) standing there with how miserable his fate was going to be written all over hear face, he knew his punishment would indeed be a fate worse then death.

Do Not Disturb

Photo by Jan Koetsier on Pexels.com

There are no monsters

under my bed

they aren’t hiding in my closets

they’re not buried in my shed

 

There are no ghosts

rattling their chains

up in my attic

moaning in pain

 

There are no witches

knocking at my door

there are no devils in my garden

trying to steal my soul

 

We all live nicely

inside of my head

things are pretty quiet here

now that I’m dead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solitary Soul

Ellen Telfer sits on a bench, the same bench at the train station on King Street every single day of the week.

She is there  when it is raining she is there when it is unseasonably hot or cold. She is there when the first train pulls in and she is there when the last train leaves in the evening.

No matter how crowded the platform gets or how many people wish she would move so they could have the bench to themselves – Ellen stays seated. This bench is her place and she holds it with her silence which is as steely and formidable as the locomotives that roar by every half hour.

The morning commuters and the evening commuters, the security guards and the station agents have gotten so used to seeing Ellen Telfer that sometimes they don’t notice her at all.

Now you see her, now you don’t and now you see her again looking right through you.

 

It was two days before Halloween when a new commuter joined the 1513.

Mary Morse was not like her fellow passengers.

She didn’t have a phone, she smiled at you not through you and she spent her commute either reading an actual book or staring at all the faces she wanted to stare at that were sitting around her because everyone for the most part spent the train ride staring into their hands.

It was like she was the last person in the world and she could walk into any house or building and try on clothes or go through drawers or sit on the furniture because nobody was there to stop her.

There was nobody left to care.

 

On Halloween Mary Morse swung off the train and hopped onto the platform and she ended up right in front of Ellen Telfer who was planted on her bench.

Mary stood there staring at Ellen until she saw stars and was able to take some air into her lungs so that she could yell but her body decided it needed that air and she remained silent.

Ellen Telfer, the lady on the bench was not alive and Mary Morse didn’t understand why she was the only one on that platform to notice there was corpse with it’s melting face and the bugs and flies flying and crawling all around her and the crows sitting above her and flapping their wings and chatting excitedly- “look!” they seemed to be saying, ” Someone down there sees it too!”

” At last!” The Murder of Crows replied.

Mary Morse was trapped in that crowed, she was  in danger of being swept away by a tidal wave of humanity shoving it’s way through the King Street Station with their eyes focused inward and their heads bowed down mechanically following a path carved into their brains, etched in their DNA,  each person wired into their own reality- lost in their very own Universe, obliviously  falling through Space on their own.

Mary Morse got her footing back and she pushed her way up the stairs and she fought to way to the street above and when she was topside she did yell and she screamed but it didn’t matter to anyone around her.

No matter how loud she yelled, nobody heard her.

Not a single solitary soul.

 

 

 

 

 

Cooking The Goose

Jack and Jill

went up the hill

to fetch a pail of water

Jack fell down and broke his crown

and Jill was tried for his murder.

Little Jack Horner

Sat in the corner,

Eating his Christmas pie;

He put in his thumb,

and pulled out a tongue

and he said nothing

nothing at all.

Polly put the kettle on,

Polly put the kettle on,

Polly put the kettle on,

We’ll all have tea.

 

Sukey put something in the tea,

Sukey put something in the tea

Sukey put something in the tea

Now they’ve all gone away.

 

Polly and Sukey  are coming my way

coming my way

coming my way

Polly and Sukey  are coming my way

that’s what the Hangman says

The Mystical Madame Esme

Halloween Night

Seattle, Washington

1973

 

” No Felicity. No. Not this again.”

Felicity was digging her heels in, like she did every Halloween in front of one doorway or another with a tastefully handwritten  printed placard taped on the window  inviting you in for a ‘consultation.’ with- who is it on this night?

Madame Esme.

Why not Archie thought to himself. Why the heck not. Last year it was Madame Francesca and the year before that The Amazing Zephron.

” Felicity, this never works, it will never work and you’ll spend the rest of what should be a festive night for the both of us crying over spilt milk. Come on old girl, it’s Halloween. Let’s kick up our heals and maybe have a little fun for once.”

Felicity gave him that look- the one that said we have had a lot of fun and look at where it’s gotten us.

When she was sure he heard, or rather saw that, she continued:

” I have a feeling about this one Archie. I think this is the one that will help us -please don’t turn away Archie. Look. ” she took his hand and placed it on the glass door. ” Can’t you feel that?”

Archie closed his eyes and his lip curled back. He tried not to gag. ” Felicity. Something is sticking  to my hand and it’s sticky.”

Felicity’s eyes welled up a little and she let her tears, cool to the touch Archie knew, roll down her cheeks. ” Please Archie. Let’s try. What can it hurt? Maybe tonight we can talk to our Son. Maybe tonight is the night we can find him and  he’ll forgive us.”

Archie loved Felicity. He loved her weird taste in music and the way her eyeliner always ended up getting smeared so her eyes ended up looking like they were melting and the way she always poked herself in the chest when she put on one her Great Grandmother’s many broaches that were shaped like Bumblebees and said, ‘oh it stung me the nasty thing.”

” Oh Felicity. Ok. We’ll try. Again. ”

He held the door open and Felicity went through first.

Madame Esme by far, had the best fake British accent Archie had ever heard. Both he and Felicity had grown up just outside of London, but that was a long time ago and they have lived in the States for so long that only the faintest hints of their old life came through when they spoke. Still they could spot a fake accent in a heartbeat and Archie for one was ready to write Madame Esme off right then and there.

But not Felicity.

They followed Esme into her Parlor- it was lit with candles,  the windows were shuttered and there were ferns  hanging from the ceiling in baskets . All around the room there  were shelves lined with little jars full of dried herbs and plants and shells. A cat was asleep on an ‘offering table’ next to  silver box with slit on the top.

With a little bow, Esme invited them to sit at the table in the center of the room.

After they were seated, Madame Esme leaned forward and looked deep into Felicity’s eyes after first  looking  into  Archie’s less then amused ones. ” I think for you, we will use the Crystal Ball.”

” It’s very pretty. I think that’s a  wonderful choice.”

Madame Esme remembered to learn forward and to gaze with intensity from Felicity’s face into the crystal before she dramatically  took Felicity’s  hand into her own . But she did she pull  back a little when looked up and she thought Felicity’s eyes were melting. Before she broke character all together she realized it was her eyeliner it was smudged ,  apparently the  lady did not have a steady hand.

Esme ( aka Edna  Phillips ) took a deep breath, she looked up and wondered if she remembered to turn the coffee maker on before the  couple came in and then she closed her eyes and dove into the Crystal Ball remembering to let her earrings and bracelets and necklaces swing and jingle as she leapt.

”  Close your eyes and imagine that we are standing in front of an elevator in the lobby a  grand old Hotel ”

” I’m seeing the elevator in the Marsten, what are you seeing Archie?”

” Felicity, shhh.”

“The doors open and together we move into it. The doors shut and a button on the panel lights up and we start to move slowly up  to the top floor.”

Esme opens her eyes and  looks into the crystal ball and she says, ” We’ve stopped.  I see the door opening, I see someone standing there, wrapped in shroud. It’s falling away from the figure. This gentle Spirit has been waiting for you with a full heart for a very long time. ”

” Who -. Oh no Archie. Oh NO!” Felicity reached for Archie and if she could have moved fast enough she would have been out of her chair before anyone could stop her.

Esme reaches out to Felicity and takes her hand and gently encourages her to sit down. ” Don’t be frightened. This Spirit means you no harm. He has a message for you.”

Archie puts his hand on Felicity’s shoulder. ” Listen here Madame Edna ”

Esme dropped Felicity’s hand. ” What did you say?”

” You’re scaring my wife. Now fun is fun and it’s the night for it. But  I can not tolerate…-”

” It’s someone who loves us very much? Only one person could say that without laughing. Our Son. But in the end, we even let him down. We should have never gone out to the Circus that night. We got a little tipsy you see  on the way home with some Gin we bought from the Bearded Lady and on the way back…”

Felicity  reached for Archie and she took his hands in hers and lifted them to her cheek. ” We had an accident. At the Bridge. And we lost our Son, he was only five years old and he is the only other person we loved more then we love each other.”

Esme was on firm turf here. ” Your son says all is forgiven and that he has known great peace.”

Felicity dropped Archie’s hands and she lowered her head down and sobbed. ”  Our poor Son. He was such a gentle creature. Two Devil may care people like us should never have produced such a  lovely soul.”

Madame Esme aka Edna Phillips went into Earth Mother mode. She dropped the dramatic gaze, she fluffed her hair just a little, just enough to let the scent of lavender fill the air. ” But he loves you and we wants you to know that he is waiting for you, that he will be there when the time comes. ”

” But he’s gone. He lived an entire life without ever knowing how much we have missed him. ”

Edna echoed ” You left him and he lived an entire life? ”

” Our Son is dead Archie. I really thought we’d find him first and that we could say we were sorry for leaving him and now he’s dead and he’s on the other side and we will never be able to…” Felicity grappled for the right words and found none.

Her sobs were heartbreaking.

” He wasn’t in the car Felicity and that is all that matters. He wasn’t in the car with us that night…Now calm down. I’m pretty sure that Madame Edna here got her wires crossed and  she stopped the elevator at the wrong floor and had a chat with the wrong Spirit.

It wasn’t our Hamish, I’m sure of it and nobody we know has ever, geeze I can’t believe I’m going to say this- rode the elevator to the top floor, so I’m sure Hamish is fine. He’s probably out there right now with his  Grandchildren, he might  have a dozen of them by now. I’d bet the farm that they are out there right this second celebrating Halloween. Our favorite holiday. Just picture it Felicity. Our Hamish with his big wonderful family laughing and happy and Trick or Treating. I’ll bet he even has that dog you always wanted him to have.”

”  I wanted to give it to him for his Birthday that year. I wanted to name it Champ.” Felicity hiccupped and covered her mouth with her hand.

” I am POSTIVE”  Archie glared at Esme ” that Madame can  gaze into her crystal ball, ride the elevator and find a spirit who can tell us where to find Hamish so we can pop in and see how he’s doing.”

Archie’s eyes  burned like coals and before she could cry out Archie was on Esme’s side of the table – she wanted to look anywhere except for Archie’s face because Sixth Sense or not she knew what she was going to see wasn’t going to be good. So she looked down  and that’s when she saw water was pooling at Archie’s feet and  she turned away and looked across the table and saw  small slow moving rivlets of water  were streamimg from Felicity’s forehead and into her eyes and that her eyeliner was running down her cheeks.

“Give it another go Edna. What have you got to loose? Two lost  Devil may care spirits like me and my wife are game for another try. Are you?”