Prefontaine and Lander

For Fandango’s Flashback Friday: Prefontaine and Lander

Written For The Soul Food Cafe 

Halloween of

2009

Photograph  Shaun O’Boyle

Mia and  Gerty were sitting on a park bench just across the street from the Lander House watching the camera crews and the ghost hunters and the famous Medium, Mr Newport doing whatever it was one does to get ready to tape a tv show.

” I think Mr Newport is so debonair.” Mia sighed. ” I wish I lived in a haunted house. I would love to have him sit across from me and take my hand in his and help me bring light to the dark places that haunt us all”

” The where? Are you serious here Mia?  He’s a ghost hunter. Tell me. What does one do with a ghost they’ve hunted down?”

” How should I know?”

” Well. You’re such a fan. So take a stab at it. Do they cut their heads off and nail them to a wall? Turn them into rugs or belts or umbrella stands? All hunters take trophies Mia. It’s the nature of the beast.”

” You have no Soul Gerty . None. You could travel around the world and end up sitting on this park bench across the street from that awful building and still wonder if Becks still makes strawberry milkshakes with fresh strawberries and not frozen.”

” Becks makes the best strawberry milkshakes Mia.”

” Well. I don’t care what you say. Mr Newport is my favorite TV star. I think he really believes in what he’s doing and he helps people Gerty . What’s wrong with that? Look. It’s not like he’s actually hurting anyone. I mean. Seriously. He can’t, can he now?”

” He certainly cannot.”

” I’m glad you agree with me.”

” I’m not agreeing with you, I’m stating a fact. ” Gerty   told Mia.

” I just don’t understand why you hate him so.”

” I hate him, ” Gerty said for the hundredth time that month, ” because he’s vain and stupid and that accent of his has got to be fake. That’s the worst. That stupid accent. I mean, he doesn’t even try to be convincing. He has got to be the worst actor on the face of the earth and he must have a million fans. How does something like that happen?”

Mia shrugged and looked away from Gerty .

” Mia. This guy is so bad. Look over there. The Lander House. The Infamous Hospital where the story says  the staff disappeared and the patients were all found murdered in their beds and instead of taking all those dead people to a cemetery they buried them on the grounds behind the hospital because there was so little left of the bodies to bury. Why Mia did he chose the Lander House to look for ghosts?”

” Because it was the scene of a terrible tragedy and sometimes tragic events imprint themselves onto things in the physical world and they get replayed over and over again.”

” You got that from the tv show, didn’t you?”

” So?”

” So the Lander House wasn’t the hospital, The Prefontaine Hotel-” Akela pointed to a large brick building behind them ” was the hospital where the staff did disappear and twenty patients died and they were buried on the grounds because the Prefontaine was a charity hospital and in the old days that’s what they did to people who died there. The only weird thing was them turning it into a Hotel. Still.  Do you know who gets that history wrong? Historians and Ghost Hunters- and do you know who duped them into looking at the wrong building? The Developers that turned the Hospital into a hotel.”

”  Well.  I’m sure there are ghosts at the Lander”

” Mia, there isn’t a single one. It’s just a building with a bunch of junk in the halls and paint peeling off of the walls. That’s it.”

” Well. I think Mr. Newport’s heart is in the right place. I think he really does want to understand the next world. I can see it in his eyes.”

” Oh Geeze.”

” Mia, I don’t care that he’s never actually seen a real ghost or been to a real haunted house or that he’s got a silly accent. He wants to find those things. He’s a true romantic.”

“Well. He’s not going to find them over there. That’s for sure. And if you and me went over there right now and told them that boring brick building across the street was the…”

” Hotbed of paranormal activity.”

Gerty  took a deep breath and ignored that last comment from her friend. ” real scene a terrible tragedy and mystery they wouldn’t care because that…” she pointed to the Lander House ” looks better on film than that…” she said waving her hand at the Prefontaine.

” He could be sensing something at the Lander.”

” No, he isn’t and you can bet he won’t be sensing anything at the Prefontaine either.”

” Poor Mr. Newport.” Mia said.

” I wonder what his real name is.”  Gerty asked.

Before Mia could answer they saw a woman from the Ghost Hunter crew pointing towards them and then she waved at them and crossed the street to where they were.

” Hi, nice afternoon isn’t it?” the young woman held her hand out and said ” my name is Adelle Peterman, I’m with the crew. I love your outfits. Especially your little hats. I didn’t think anyone wore those anymore. They’re very cool. Retro. Really. They’re awesome. “

Gerty  kept her arms folded across her chest and Mia said:

” I love your show.” Mia making sure to smile and look not directly into  ‘s eyes, but a little to the right. She reached out and rested her hand, softy  on Adelle’s forearm and then she lifted her hand gently away.

“Wow.  Thank you. We appreciate that.  I was wondering if you ladies would like to be in one of our interview segments.”

Gerty  told  Adelle  Peterman, ” there aren’t any ghosts over there  you know.”

“I think there are. ” Mia added.

” Well, if you know any background about the Lander- we’d love to hear your stories.”

Gerty looked at Mia.

” Okay. Sure. Why not ” Gerty said. ” We’ve got the time.”

Mia stood up first and smoothed her white Nurses Uniform with her pale hands and as Gerty did the same  Mia whispered into Gerty’s ear ” take it back. You know I’m right.”

” Cool it Mia.There aren’t any ghosts at the Lander….yet.”

The Jolly Family

RDP Monday: Chipper

Photo by Jeffrey Czum on Pexels.com

The Jolly family grow wheat and corn under a pale blue empty sky out in the middle of Nowhere USA

No kidding, the town they live in is called Nowhere.

The Jolly family have taken pride in the fact that their family settled Nowhere back in the”  Pioneer Days ” and that over the years as Nowhere grew and other people moved to  farm Nowhere, the Jolly Family took their place as the founding family of Nowhere and if anything happened in Nowhere- from  the Easter Egg Hunt to the Harvest Festival and the 4th of July Parade,  to the lighting of the Christmas tree in their little town square, the Jolly family had a say in it.

I’m sure you are wondering if   the Jolly family lived up to their name- well, they did.

They all had round red ruddy faces and their eyes were the same pale blue color as the sky above Nowhere. They all had the same smile and when they laughed- they’d squish their eyes up and wrinkle their noses and they’d flash their big white teeth but one thing needs to be made clear.

their eyes did not smile.

Their eyes were not Jolly at all.

Henri Matisse

Nowhere is just as vast and endless as the sky above it and with not as much as a tree to break up the flatness of Nowhere, it  might look like the Earth was competing with the sky for how much space it could gobble up and swallow.

It was a strange race to anywhere  and if you lived in Nowhere you might wonder if there would ever be a winner-you might also wonder what happened to the places Nowhere reached in that race, but more likely then not you would not care.

And there is one reason one  very big reason for that.

Out behind the Jolly family home, there is a picnic table and picnic benches in the center of  the yard and next to the kitchen door is a wheel barrel that has been turned into a planter, but all of the plants in in are dead.

The plants are brittle and dry and covered with cobwebs. Sometimes a bee or a fly gets stuck in one of the webs and anyone from the Jolly Family who walk by the planter can hear the bees buzzing as they struggle to free themselves.

The buzzing can go on for days. Once a bird flew against the kitchen window, broke it’s wing and fell between the planter and the house. It’s chirped and squeaked for exactly eight days before it died.

I’m sure the Jolly family heard the bird and they’ve heard the bees and the fact is- I am sure that they like hearing those sounds.

They must have.

Photo by luizclas on Pexels.com

There are Tikki torches set up around the yard,but they’ve never been lit and there are even lawn games set up but no one has ever played them and there’s a swing set that’s covered with mold and rust.

Sometimes the wind pushes the swings back and forth and spins the seats around a little too. That is pretty much he only time they get used.

Now we come to the reason that the people who live in Nowhere USA don’t ask why  they thought that moving to Nowhere was such a great idea or why staying out in the middle of Nowhere is an even better idea and why it is that you’d let a family called Jolly who seem to enjoy the suffering of Bees and birds with broken wings organize your Christmas Parade is this-

In the Jolly’s backyard is a big shiny yellow and green wood chipper.

It’s not like the lawn games or the swing set or the picnic table, it actually is cared for, it gets used and it is so loud that if you live in Nowhere it’s all  you can hear when-

you start to wonder for as much as a second or two,  if it might not be such a good idea to leave Nowhere and go…

Anywhere.

Mr Goosberry’s Shed

For Fandango’s Flashback Friday

Mr Goosberry’s Shed

first published at the

Soul Food Cafe

April 15, 2007

Just above the railroad tracks that lead into the town of Mount Prefontaine is a Gardener’s Shed.

The windows are caked with dried mud and pine needles and above the door of the Gardener’s Shed, which is not locked, is a sign that reads:

“Mr. Gooseberry’s Gardening Shed.”

That’s all the warning you’ll get to stay away.

Arnella Day, Julia Barnwell and Cynthia Stevens all rode the commuter train that ran through Mount Prefontaine.

They’d sit in the passenger car and drink their flavored Lattes and “Ooh” and “Ahhh” over each other’s shoes, and laugh way too loud at each other’s jokes, and of course they’d try to comment on the passing scenery, so that it would at least appear they cared about what went on outside of their world.

Then one day Cynthia pointed out the little green and white Shed that was built on the stone outcrop above the tracks.

She pointed the shed out because it occurred to her that you could only say so much about trees, and shoes, and makeup, and tell stories about the bottomless lake that the train crossed over, before people just tuned you out altogether, just so that they didn’t have to hear another one of your dull stories.

If there was anything Cynthia really hated it was being ignored.

So instead of talking about the Devilbit Lake, she decided to say something about the little shed and when she opened her mouth and spoke, she was as surprised as anyone else at what came out.

What she said was this: “I wonder if there are any dead bodies buried in there?” Cynthia looked up and around, and then she realized those words really did come out of her mouth, and she took a long drink of coffee to keep herself from saying anything more.

“I guess,” Arnella said, “you can’t really find any live ones buried there, right?”

Julia felt like she was standing next to herself, and watching as that someone who looked like her, and sounded like her said, “I guess there’s only one way to find out – I guess we should come back and see for ourselves.”

So they did.

The three of them met at the “Prefontaine Park and Ride” early the next Saturday morning, and they were all dressed in the newest word in day hike gear from “Lady Olympus Sportswear” at the Bellmark Mall, and each one of them had little backpacks that had those special pockets for your cell phones.

Arnella brought the camera and some Granola snacks and little bottles of water, which was good, because all the other two remembered to bring was their make-up and sunscreen.

That’s how their day started – it was bright and sunny and all was right with the world. They chatted about shoes, about what shows were on TV the night before, and how ugly the new guy in the accounting department was.

So, as the three women made their way up the trail, none of them really noticed how quiet it was all around them. There wasn’t a sound, not a bug, not a bird, you couldn’t even hear the cars drive by from the road that ran right in front of the trailhead.

It only took them twenty minutes to reach the hill and when they got up there, they looked down at the tracks their train passed over every single day, and they stood there and wondered if Devilbit Lake was really bottomless, and then they turned around and read the sign above the door that said:

“Mr. Gooseberry’s Gardening Shed.”

Arnella slowed down and then she nearly stopped walking and she asked her friends, “Why do you suppose there’s a Gardener’s Shed up here? I mean, look around, there isn’t a house to have a garden for – so what’s the deal with a Gardener’s Shed?”

Julia and Cynthia stopped at the door and turned back as Arnella kicked at the ground. “See, it’s all rock. You can’t plant anything up here.”

The three of them still didn’t notice the silence, or the cold that was creeping out from under the Shed’s door, and they only paused for a moment before Julia reached out and pushed the door open.

The smell that rushed out the door wasn’t bitter and dusty and old, it didn’t smell like earth or fertilizer.

All three of the women thought they could smell wet leaves and somewhere in there they picked up the faint scent of rubbing alcohol and antiseptics.

They could have turned back and headed down the trail, and after a short drive, they could have been at “The Floral Hills Mall”, drinking iced coffees.

But they didn’t.

They went in.

The Shed was humid and cold, and everything on the shelves, and leaning against the wall, was covered with a dark mold that looked spongy and soft.

Arnella went in first, and she started looking at the little jars on the shelves that lined the east wall and at the ones that were arranged neatly on the workbench – she couldn’t tell what kinds of plants and powders were inside dusty containers, but she understood what the little symbols drawn in ink on the labels meant.

“These are all poisons…what the Hell kind of Garden Shed is this?” She thought she was saying out loud: “There’s enough poison here to kill an entire city.”

Cynthia was looking at the shovels that were leaning in the corner of the Shed and she was thinking: “I wonder how it would feel to actually dig a grave.”

And Julia, who was standing next to Cynthia, wanted more then anything to reach for the pickaxe that was leaning against the shovel. She could actually feel how right it would be if she picked that axe up and swung.

Arnella felt the Shed get smaller and the air became more acrid and her skin started to crawl all over her muscles and bones and she left her camera, her backpack and her friends in that Shed.

They found her around the back of the Shed leaning over a ruined fence, vomiting onto the hard rocky ground.

“Why did we come up here?” Arnella asked her friends, “We don’t do hikes, we don’t camp, the closest we get to nature is the flower kiosks at the Mall. So why are we here?”

“It just seemed like the right thing to do today,” Julia said.

“Whatever, I’m going back in to get my stuff and then I’m leaving.”

Arnella went back into the Shed and as she crossed the threshold, she saw, just as clearly as she could see that shelf full of poisons, Julia and Cynthia wanting and planning the trip to this Shed. She could see the way they enjoyed their little stroll up here and she thought she could hear them out there laughing, right next to the place she had just vomited.

“They really hate me,” she said into the cold acrid darkness, and the darkness seemed to agree and the air seemed to warm just a little.

She went to the workbench and picked up her camera and put it inside of her backpack and when she turned around…

The shovel and the pickaxe were gone, they weren’t there, and she was sure that when she ran out, they were right there in the corner.

Arnella could see, clear as a day, the way Julia and Cynthia were drooling over them when they let her run out of the Shed sicker than a dog, all by herself.

And then, the image of her friends laughing at her turned to another image of them digging a hole just before the trail head, and Arnella was sure one thing.

She wasn’t going to be standing there with them, she wasn’t going to be digging or snickering.

“Damn them…” she hissed into the warming darkness, “damn them both to Hell…”

Arnella went back to the work bench, unzipped her backpack and when she was done, she opened the Shed door with a bang, and called out: “Let’s go…”

Then, as she slammed the door after herself.

Behind her moldy dust fell away from the window by the shelf full of glass jars and there in the new light, leaning against the shelf, was a shovel, and a pickaxe and-

a smooth clear round spot on the workbench where a jar used to be.

THE END

 

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