Red House Part 2

I carefully wrote this story so that it would be easy to understand without it’s earlier part. If you want to read part one, it’s under short stories. Thanks for reading and do tell me if there is something I can do to improve it.

         Lisa took a big bite of her Italian vegetable sandwich and patted the white, metal body of her Bobcat E32 Excavator. She’d never done demolition before and was looking forward to it.

        The ancient, brick mansion was mostly the work of much larger machines but daddy had promised there would be some left for her.

       “Hey you!” said one of the guys handling the beehive under the eave. “Who me?” “Yeah you, stop stuffing your face and knock that door in.” She swallowed. The sandwich was delicious. Ordinarily it peeved her to be distracted at lunch but today was special. There was building on the menu and she’d just been ordered to take the first bite.

       Her fellow workers scattered to an unnecessary distance as she eased the unit into position. They yelled things like – “Clear off! There’s a woman in this one!” She swore back at them as was expected. Lisa was willing to bet she had twice the experience of all of them. Such shouting matches were the required social niceties in this crowd.

      She studied the door in question. It appeared to have been beautifully decorated at one time. Now it was covered in the scratched names of children who had knocked at midnight to prove their courage. There were other scratches too; the usual occult symbols meant to keep bad stuff in or perhaps sick it on your enemies. Old houses just did that. People thought they were magic.

      She raised the arm of her machine and dragged it across the weathered wood, leaving the largest scratch of them all. This would be nothing. She placed the tines of the shovel near the top. She would either tear the door off its hinges or peel out a hole big enough for the bee wranglers to step through. She wondered if the floor would hold, and for a brief instant was thankful she wasen’t the one going in.

She eased the arm ever so slightly forward . . .

           The crew dropped their coffees as a loud crash shook the earth under their feet. A long column of opaque, white smoke billowed sideways from the south face of the old mansion. Quickly, they rushed to the aid of their friend.

        Her excavator looked to be covered with a coat of thick, gray paint.

       A rag was rubbed across the window. The glass was cracked but not broken.

       The woman inside was sitting up straight, eyes wide.

      She stumbled out when they opened the door. “What the hell!” She cried. Lisa turned to the door she’d been told to knock down, the frame was gone also, along with a significant portion of the wall around it.

        The bees were in a panic. The humans sought the safety of their vehicles. The swarm was not of that murderous breed and calmed down after only a short while. Lisa then made for the bee keeper’s truck, intending to make one thing clear. “That wasn’t me.” “We Know.” said a guy in a dark blue business suit. They told her his name was Dale Winter, THE Dale Winter. He raised a bullhorn to his mouth. “Everyone go home! That’s enough for today!”

           As soon as Lisa left, a man in a bee suit came forward. “We’ll have to call in a bomb squad. Something exploded in there.” “Don’t remind me.” Said Dale, curling his lip at the house. It had been an eyesore on the block and a thorn in his side since taking office.

   He did not consider himself to be the superstitious sort but upon pursuing what little records existed on the place he had noticed a pattern. It seemed that the Red House attracted trouble. More so the longer it remained in it’s owners possession. As a former lawyer Dale knew a liability when he saw one, and as a current mayor he knew it was his duty to take it down.

 

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Burlap Cat – Part 2

Since some people have expressed their intention to read more of this, I present to you, Burlap Cat – Part Two. SPOILER ALERT! – scroll down for part one. (You can also find it under short stories.) Please read part one first. As I am very proud of it. Oh, and Merry Christmas.

Burlap Cat – Part Two

Slanting rain drops beat the south side of the house. Wet leaves stuck to the windows. One episode of Unsolved Mysteries after another played on the living room television. Soon the disk menu reappeared but Joanne did not replace it. A tray of holiday goodies was left untouched on the couch.

Joanne sat with her eyes keenly focused. She tossed another peanut at the thing on the coffee table.

It had arrived in the mail only two hours ago. After she had only looked at it on a seedy, occult website three days before. Save for the strange manner in which it had come, the thing was nothing more then it appeared to be, that is, a burlap cat.

Joanne wasn’t sure if it was curiosity that prompted her to actually bring the thing into the house or her irrational fear that it would harm her in some way if she didn’t.

Her telephone hummed in her pocket.

“David!” she said, holding it to her ear.

“Hey Joanne, I was wondering if you have any of my games. Red Dead Redemption has gone AWOL.”

Joanne saw the title among the DVDs on the bookshelf and was quick to slip it out of it’s case. “I do indeed have it. I’ll be right there.”

She hung up before he could talk her out of biking over in the rain. David had been present the night she first caught site of the cat. He was the one who had shown her the website. It had been on his computer.

She unpacked her crinkly blue poncho and pulled it over her head, snapping it across her arms. She dropped the game into her back pack, hesitated, then stuffed the cat in there as well.

A soaking wet wind struck her as she opened the back door. She wrestled her bike out of the shed and struggled to build momentum.

Cars rushed by on the slick streets, spraying water and throwing mud. “What the heck am I doing.” She wondered. Joanne was afraid, but this was no time to admit it.

David’s house was by the *overpass. Joanne often teased him about living under a bridge, but his family was far from poor. Restoring their large Dutch Colonial had been her father’s crowning achievement.

She turned down a flagstone path into a garden darkened by the shadow of the highway, and the walls built to control the noise. David claimed he couldn’t sleep without it. Joanne was not so inclined. She flinched as an eighteen-wheeler blew its horn.

A light came on, revealing a sinister, if not familiar face. “You will have to pay the toll! Sayeth the troll!” “This is why you can’t get girlfriends.” She snapped. Driving the plastic bag containing David’s borrowed game into his chest. “Red Dead!” He laughed manically. “The lady hath good taste, she does.” He stroked it lovingly. “My preecioussssss . . .”

She ignored him, and made a bee-line for the house. David followed, his smile turning to a frown. “Joe what’s going on.” “Nothing. I’m cold and I’m wet, and I do believe you owe me.” “Owe you? I never said you had to return it right this instant, is something wrong?”

“I think your over-reacting.” said David twenty minutes later as they sipped cider and stared at the cat.

“Just tell me the truth.” Joanne insisted. “Are you, or are you not fooling with me.”

“Look Joe, you saw an ad.”

“On a website selling cursed knick-knacks.” She reminded him.

David sighed. “On a website selling haunted nick-knacks, supposedly haunted knick-knacks. Those things were far too cheap to be authentic. You clicked on a blank space and found an ad with a picture but no price, no name, and no contact, then it went to an error message. They were experiencing technical difficulties. Not surprising, considering most of them couldn’t spell. Someone probably thought you were trying to order when the site crashed.”

Joanne crossed her arms. “They would have thought you were trying to order, it was your account.”

David shrugged. “Perhaps you signed in out of force of habit.”

“I would have still needed a credit card number, or at least an address, then there’s the fact it came in an unmarked, open box.”

“A crappy website, a crappy delivery service. All you need to worry about is someone trying to charge you for it.”

“but what are the odds, that I would run into a problem like this on a website like that?”

“Because people who run websites like that still think the world is flat and are consequently, bad with technology, but hey, there’s no reason why we can’t make the best of it.”

He removed a small black box from his pocket and pointed it at the ancient stuffed animal. “I wouldn‘t do that.” said Joanne. David pressed his lips together. “Why?” “You could provoke it or something.” “You’ve explored haunted buildings with me before.” “When I was certain they weren‘t actually haunted.” “You read way too many ghost stories Joanne.” “I’m not the one with the EMF detector.”

David put away the Device. “Look, if it makes you feel better I’ll send an E-mail to the owners of the sight, asking them what happened. If you want, you can leave Marvin here with me.”

Joanne glared at the little brown face, the remaining button eye dripping hardened yellow glue, the black thread mouth seeming to smirk. “Marvin?” David picked up the cat and made it dance on his knee. “It just seems like a Marvin.”

The rain beat Joanne as she sped home. David had wanted her to wait it out, but she told him her family was eating at Sylvan’s tonight and that Sylvan’s was her favorite. It wasn’t a lie, but it would have taken more then great food to push her out into this. David’s casual treatment of the cat was making her nervous. He could do as he pleased with it, by himself. After all, it wasn’t like she didn’t warn him.

She passed the neighborhood mail box and decided she might as well. She parked her bike near one of the yellow concrete posts that sheltered it from the road. The box was covered by a tin awning, but the slant of the rain made it useless. She held an umbrella in one hand while she fished for the key to her family’s compartment.

The Christmas cards, bills and random junk, fell in an avalanche at her feet.

As there was no way to tell them apart she would have to collect all of it. She dropped her phone. There was a text from David.

“Hey, I thought you were going to leave Marvin with me.”

Joanne saw something out of the corner of her eye and snapped to attention.

Balanced atop the yellow post where she’d parked her bike was

– the burlap cat.

Forgetting everything else she screamed, and ran.

A loud squeal of tires was followed by a crash.

She turned to look, and saw a damaged pickup truck backing away from the crushed mailbox, swerving back on to the road and, speeding away. Her bike had been folded around the post, yanked free, and left with the front wheel bent skyward and spinning.

The cat lay at the base of the post, face down in the mud.

Joanne didn’t want to think about what almost happened. What would have happened, if the cat had decided to remain at David’s house like a good little inanimate object.

Joanne tucked it under her poncho, and began the long walk home.

*(Note – to my friends across the pond, an overpass is a flyover.)*

Fictions and Depictions: The Burlap Cat.

The Burlap Cat.

     A bolt of lightning split a tree in the field behind Shelly’s house. Joanne had just finished her ghost story and could never have expected such epic timing. Male and female voices were raised in high pitched squeals as the deafening crash shook the earth and rattled the windows of the living room. “Bwha ha!” cheered Joanne over the pounding rain, knowing that the ears of her three friends were still ringing, and that her cheesy, triumphant laughter would go unnoticed.

“Holy – ” Shelly remembered her parent’s were home and quickly changed the word to “Fudge.” It would be another minute before the others were up to speaking.

“Dude!” Eric let go of his head and opened his eyes. “That was awesome!”

“You know what else is awesome?” said David, reaching for his computer.

“No! Don’t!” Screamed Shelly. “It’s a thunder storm, lightening is attracted to electronic devices!”

David switched on the monitor and pointed it at Shelly “Pew! Pew!” Everyone laughed, except Shelly.

“Alright.” said David. They all gathered around the screen. “I found this website that sells ghosts!” “Those aren’t ghosts!” Laughed Joanne. “It’s just a bunch of random junk.” “Junk that’s haunted.” He whispered. A gleam in his eye. “Dude, you are the very definition of lame!” Crooned Eric, tossing back the long bangs of his mullet. “I know.” said David. “but you have to see this, it’s hilarious.” “Give it here.” said Eric. David was forced to let go, least his expensive Mac Book be damaged.

“Listen to this Idiot.” said Eric, always yearning to be the center of attention. “He calls himself ‘The Lord of Lancashire.’ and he is a selling a – ‘Very magic, rare warrior sword’ that is – ‘powerful spirit of Scottish Kilt King.’ I wonder if that’s Baron von Man dress? Dude, he can‘t even spell.” “I’m sure he meant Celt King.” said Shelly. “and Barons are German.” Joanne had warned Eric that Shelly was no fun, but Eric had a nasty habit of never saying no to blonds.

 Shelly took the computer with intent to return it to David, shaking her head at the screen. “Voodoo doll, possessed painting, candle stick supposedly used to murder ancient Egyptian duchess, cursed ring that slowly kills its wearer – this is stupid.” Joanne intercepted Shelly and laid claim to the device. “Your doing it wrong.” Joanne cleared her throat. “Ahem – ‘Ancient, Pirate, Murder, Chest!’” She searched for another dubious pitch. “ ‘Medieval torture brush.’ How do you torture someone with a brush?” Joanne smiled at Eric, knowing he always had a come back ready. “First you’d have to make sure their hair was really badly tangled.” he said. “You speak as if from experience.” Observed David. “Is that extra long douche – do biting the hand that combs it?” Eric laughed hysterically, far too fond of jokes at his own expense. This drew the attention away from Joanne and she used the opportunity to try and top that last one.

Ugh, nothing else seemed to be worth mentioning. She scrolled down past the usual china dolls and clowns. Things that were understandably scary ghosts or no, and came upon an entry that was blank. Joanne was fairly sure that it was impossible to place an item for sale on this or any other site without at least some identifying code. She clicked on the empty space. Only a picture came up, a photograph of something propped in a dark corner covered in cobwebs.

 A stuffed bear, made of, burlap? No, it was a cat. It’s one remaining ear was pointed. It appeared to have been hand made from an old sack, and repaired clumsily over many, many years. The smile had unraveled on one side. Two black threads hung like limp whiskers. One eye had gone missing, the other was a button, crudely glued to the side of it’s head. Surplus glue had leaked down it’s face.

All in all it looked like the thing would crumble if anyone so much as breathed on it. Let alone tried to ship it. It was all so perfect, this Madam Mumbo Jumbo, certainly knew what she was doing. She checked for the seller’s screen name. There was no name either, no price, and no way of contacting said seller. This was not the kind of funny Joanne had wanted to find.

 “Let’s see what you’ve found.” Eric reclaimed the computer and snorted at what he saw. “Error message – ooooohh, scary. Hey Dave, looks like they might have sold you a lemon.” Joanne snatched it back, reset the page, and searched again for the Burlap Cat. The blank space she’d first clicked on no longer existed. She decided to just forget about it.

   It was still raining three days later, when Joanne went home to the barn her father had converted into a two-story house. He was off on another construction project. There was a note on the refrigerator saying he’d be back by the weekend. Joanne’s mother occasionally weighted tables in the restaurant that was her pride and joy. Now that Christmas was on it’s way she’d be in her elf suit greeting the afternoon crowd. There was no school, no homework, and Joanne would have the place to herself.

  She pulled out her box set of Unsolved Mysteries. She slipped a disk into the player and made herself a mug of hot chocolate. On her way back to the couch she turned on the tree. It was a jungle of angels and fairies, knights and fair maidens, topped by a gleaming golden griffin she had made herself. The wind howled outside, rattling the wreath attached to the door.

   She carefully set down her mug, and the tray of snacks she figured wouldn’t contain too many calories, and threw herself across the couch. She stuffed a cookie into her mouth and raised the remote.

Something struck the door – hard.

  Slowly, cautiously, she made her way to the window, peering out at the front porch. Her parents did a lot of shopping online, so she wasn’t surprised to see a damp cardboard box laying next to the mat.

She unlocked the door.

 The box was open, laying on it’s side at an odd angle, as if someone had thrown it. No effort had been made to tape it closed. No markings indicated what company had sent it. She turned it over with her foot. Nothing was on the side facing the ground save a few water stains. It fell upright, so that the contents were exposed. Smiling up at her, was the burlap cat.

Fictions and Depictions: What Really Killed Dr. Lake?

Beaker, courtasy of Wikipedia.

 

What Really Killed Dr. Lake?

Keith ran quickly and quietly down the halls, peering discreetly into empty labs and dark offices.

Good.

He was alone.

       Keith had no fear of security cameras, from the back he looked like Bert, and he had been extra careful not face them. He punched the stolen combination into the pad beside Bert’s door. Bert was the only one who got an electronic lock. What was so darn special about Bert? All the man ever did was sip coffee and shoot the breeze with the bigwigs. Perhaps that’s why he’d gotten that extra funding. Keith doubted any of Bert’s crazy ideas were worth a sinch otherwise.

      With a beep, the door opened. Bert’s computer monitor shined like a beacon of hope. Keith knew exactly what went on between Bert and that hot young supervisor. Their relationship had certainly played a huge part in Bert’s project getting raised to priority six, a position Keith had been stalking for the past five years. It was, of course, against company policy to promote your lover. If only Nora’s dirty little secret was common knowledge –

     Keith’s fingers flew across the keyboard, typing out the sequence he painstakingly recorded one digit at a time with the camera on his phone. Bert loved to show off his office. Even to his enemies. It had taken multiple occasions of sucking up to the man for Keith to sneak enough pictures of his finger work so as to learn the entire password.

Yes, he was in . . .

Minutes ticked by . . . adding up to an hour. Keith felt stupid.

Why would Bert and Nora need to send lurid E-mails to each other when they could just hook up after work? Most likely he was wasting his time.

Then he heard footsteps.

Keith logged out instantly, hid in a dark corner, and waited, glad he’d had the foresight to close the door.

    Bert stormed in, gathered some papers, and left. Bert was burning the midnight oil it seemed. A sudden thought occurred to Keith. He grabbed a hefty triple hole punch and crept after him. “Don’t think.” He said to himself. “Just act.” Keith needed that grant. Keith really, really, needed that grant.

   Bert was due for an extended vacation. Nora wouldn’t go with him, as it would give their affair away. It would be some time before Bert was missed. No one would suspect mild-mannered Keith Waterson of anything. No one even knew he harbored a strong dislike for the man.

  Hoping to catch a glimpse of his prey, Keith peered through the small glass window in the specimen room door. What he saw made him forget all about Bert’s Murder, and rush inside. Seemed someone had beaten him to it.

   Keith had once mentioned Burt’s crazy experiments to a janitor. They had laughed about Bert’s obsession with mind control and dissecting monkey brains. The janitor soon revealed herself as an undercover animal advocate. Sarah said that Keith’s own gene mapping project was of no concern to her organization, and that helping to expose Bert as an abuser would force a company renowned for it’s ethical practices to either sack him or lose face. Keith’s boring but far less controversial work would rule the day, and all would be right with the world, and it would have been – had it not been for Keith’s cold feet. Now however, there would be no turning back.

       On the damp tile floor sat Sarah, the dying Bert in her arms. “It was an accident.” hissed Sarah. “No it wasn’t.” hissed Keith. “No one has to know about this.” They said. Almost in unison. Keith smiled and they kissed.

       Their interlude was interrupted by one of the companies elite security guards. Grail Industries employed some very expensive and dangerous substances, as well as some equally expensive and dangerous people. The Guard raised her gun, and without even blinking, put three shots in Burt’s chest, finalizing his ordeal. The couple didn’t even have time to wonder if they were under arrest, before the guard spoke. “Thank you” she said. “for helping me catch a terrorist.”

    “What?!” They responded, both shocked and relieved. “Mr. Bertram Lake” She went on, “was filmed talking to some suspicious persons outside his car last night. As you probably know the technology he was working on is of special interest to the government. It could be a valuable tool in our nation’s defense. In the wrong hands, however, it could be deadliest thing since the invention of the atomic bomb.” So that’s why Bert was getting all the special treatment. Thought Keith. “Ma’am, may I ask what -” “Sorry Sir, but that is all I’m allowed to tell you. There will be a de-briefing, so any further questions can be addressed then.”

They waited in silence. Till a second guard barged in.

“Report to Central.” Said their captor. “I will.” said the new guard. “just as soon as I take care of business.” He raised his gun. “Stand back.” Yet another bullet struck Bert. Keith was starting to pity the man. “What was that about!” Shouted the female guard. “This man was refusing to cooperate with quarantine!” “He’s a terrorist!” “He’s also been infected with Q2 Pariah!”

Gasps filled the room.

    “Don’t panic.” said the male guard. “Q2 runs its course in a week. We will however, need to remain under observation for at least a year.” “There must be a cure.” demanded Sarah. “This a level three facility!” “There is a cure.” said the guard, but I don’t see why they’d bother. The cure causes a severe allergic reaction in twenty percent of recipients, and Q2 has never killed anyone.” He regarded the body on the floor. “At least not directly.” Keith stood up. “Then why even bother -” The new guard was big man fresh out of black ops, he had probably gotten fired for being too trigger happy. He shouted in Keith‘s face like an angry drill sergeant “Because it just a dangerous disease!”

         The people in the room started to fidget. “What he means to say.” said the woman. “Is that while Q2 Isn’t harmful in and of itself, it can be easily manipulated by a terrorist to create something far worse.” Keith relaxed, even though he knew he was being fed bull. It was becoming clear the Bio-agent in question was a closely guarded trade secret rather then a killer scourge. He did his best to reassure Sarah, yet Keith still couldn’t dismiss the feeling that something was terribly awry.

       The sudden appearance of Burt’s fling would confirm those feelings. Nora’s voice rang loud and clear over the tense tableau. “This whole section is blocked and no one will let me use the phones!” She pushed past the two guards and was confronted by Bert’s battered body. The look on her face brought on a pain like nothing Keith had ever known. He sincerely regretted what had had to happen. Burt’s death had been necessary – or had it been?

     He saw Nora’s face go from twisted to spiteful. “Good riddance.” She said, and began to kick the corpse repeatedly. A guard put a hand on her shoulder. “Easy ma’am, we know how it is to be betrayed by a friend.” “Friend!” She screamed. “That two-timing bastard had lots of friends!” Keith couldn’t remain silent a moment longer. “Does it bother anyone that we all suddenly hate Bert?” They looked at him like he’d just said something crazy.

    The containment team arrived before Keith could finish. All were led to sealed plastic cells to await screening. “You may not even be infected.” Keith was told by his long time friend and associate Howard Means. However, if you are infected, this bullet-proof prison may be more for your own protection then anyone else’s.” “What do you mean?” said Keith, pressing his hand on the glass between them. “I’m not supposed to tell you this but – Q2 has only one symptom – those who die of it – “They said it wasn’t Fatal!” “It is not directly fatal, but let me finish. Those who die of it, are murdered.”

Fictions and Depictions: The Red House

THE RED HOUSE

Old Slumpy – courtasy of Wikipedia.

The old house was boarded up tighter then a bank vault. Rumors abounded of water in the cellar and bodies under the floor.

A large beehive droned in the attic, driving all would be interlopers even further back.

No one, stood farther away then Dale Winter, latest executor of the town blight.

      The Red House had stood in Bismuth since before Bismuth was even a town. As there were no records of architects or owners, it had fallen under the jurisdiction of city hall. The condemned box of mildew was occasionally offered to various historical patrons, or bounced around Bismuth’s various families as way of writing “I never really liked you.” in a will.

      Two bulldozers rolled past him into the yard, crushing a jungle of ancient weeds. Two Bee-keepers pumped smoke into the attic, making the roof appear to be on fire. As soon as those bees were boxed up, Dale would use a friend’s tractor service to discreetly get this over with. That permit was taking forever, and he was tired of waiting. Volatile chemicals and asbestos be dammed – he doubted that anyone had set foot inside the friggin’ thing since the stone age.

   “Can I have a key Sir?” Dale looked up to see his bee enthusiast neighbor staring him down through a ridiculous mask. Dale laughed. “A key? In all the records we have on this place there has never even been mention of a key. If you need to get in we’ll have to remove the door, that’s all there is to it.”

* * *

    In the dim living room she sat waiting, as the demolition crews gathered outside. Today was the day her prison would be broken. Today was the day she’d be loosed upon the world.

    Leaves floated in her cracked cup, the only surviving member of a tea service smashed years ago at a party permanently interrupted. Something dripped in to it as she raised it to her lips – honey – oozing like blood through a crack in the ceiling. It tasted sweet. Sweet Like revenge.

Thrills and Chills At The Old Snow Cone Stand

In the south Louisiana town of Gueydan, are a couple of vacant buildings few seem to notice.

The, now closed, Pioneer Hotel catered mainly to hunters, coming in for ’duck season’. The towns only claim to fame is for being the ‘Duck capital of America.’ (Yes there is a sign, and yes, It has been desecrated on many occasions)

Imagine these doors in various bright colors. So sorry I didden’t photograph it sooner.

 Originally the hotel’s eight rooms had color coated doors. An adjoining home office for the woman who ran it is off to the side, where a single trellis still passes for a garden.

I used to suggest the place when we planned our vacations, liking the colorful doors and being too young yet to realize the pointlessness of accommodations so far from the beach and not ten miles from home.

Though now that I think about it, the place may have been closed even back then. The lady who ran it lived out her life there, long after she stopped renting rooms, so it continued to look livable for quite awhile. It deteriorated after her death, so that now nearly all of the color has faded from the doors that sparked my interest.

 I could go on forever about that hotel, but It was the much smaller building next to it that led to one of the most harrowing experiences in my otherwise uneventful life.

This second building is red, but for some reason I remember it being rainbow. Those I’ve questioned insist it has always been simply red.

Small things amuse small minds I guess.
 

I have very clear memories of being held up by an older cousin while my first snow cone ever was handed to me through the single bay window that formed the little shack’s entire front.

It may have been a case of mistaken identity, as many such places had come and gone all over town, yet for much of my life it continued to be the old snow cone stand.

I would discuss it with friends at recess, who mostly had no idea what I was talking about, though it seemed some older kids had mentioned a place where small trinkets had come with snow cones in much the same spirit as Macdonald’s or Crackerjacks.

One evening, as I was falling asleep to my one-eyed Teddy Ruxpin’s rendition of “Come and discover the world with me.” I quietly concluded that it must have been the place, what with a building that cool, they had certainly gone all out.

I shot from my bed when it hit me. Surely some extra trinkets were left behind when they closed the joint. All those prizes could still be there, locked up in the stand, awaiting the child bold enough to brave the ghosts and claim the treasure. ( It was a proven fact that all old buildings had ghosts and treasure.)

I tossed and turned but couldn’t shake the thought that there was an endless pile of multicolored crap with my name on it. This thought followed me onto the porch where I found myself mounting my rickety, training-wheeled contraption and pedaling like mad across the wide open. Simply being alone at dusk was almost enough to make one die of fright but my eye was on the prize, and my brain was full of that awesome, idiotic reasoning one often encounters around bed time that makes even the dumbest ideas seem divinely inspired.

Soon those three black windows gaped at me out of the dark trees. I had second thoughts when there seemed to be blurry faces peering out of them. The faces never moved, and with all the courage and stupidity that could be mustered I snuck around to the back, where I discovered an even greater obstacle.

A rusty screen door was the only entrance. Those things were a pain to open. The handles would stick, and if you tried to force them, they would summon an army of angry adults. I attacked it anyway. The noise was deafening in the quiet.

Three dark figures eclipsed the light of the windows. They never moved so I turned on my light, and shrieked.

Someone had left some cardboard cutouts in front of the windows. Maybe the video rental place was using the building for storage? It didn’t matter. I was scared to death of cardboard cutouts; all those eerie, two-dimensional people with their staring eyes and obviously fake smiles. Oh, but what was that?

There were boxes of Mardi Gras beads and quarter-machine eggs littering the floor. I was in heaven. I propped the stubborn door open with a stick and was faced with enough beads and bracelets to make up a kiddy-king’s ransom. I thus filled my pockets with enough small rubber animals to make up a first class security force.

There was too much to carry, but I wasn’t worried. I only needed enough time to nab the pieces I wanted. Ooh a dinosaur! I reached for it just as the stick fell to the crabgrass and the door slowly started to close. I turned around to catch it, but the thing was tightly sealed. I tried the stuck handle again and again, then struggled against the screen, screaming for all the world to hear.

The wind moaned outside and one of the cut outs fell over. The pouting face of Julia Roberts wavered inches from my own. With superhuman strength borne of unholy terror, I burst through the screen. The next thing I remember was my butt hitting bike seat and my legs tearing out of there.

I awoke safely the next morning with three pink bracelets still safe on my arm. No one believed me when I showed them those bracelets. Father insisted I’d won them at a party the day before, and swore I’d never left my bed. Still It’s hard to believe I dreamed it, though I was never that impulsive in real life.

As for the old snow cone stand, knowing what I know now it is unlikely that it could have ever been used for that purpose. Mother always commented on how much it reminded her of a tug boat. It was only recently I questioned my uncle who insisted that it was indeed, part of a tug-boat. Namely, A disembodied wheelhouse left there by a man who used to fix them back in the fifties. He knew very little about the man and claimed my late grandfather had known him.

It was too bad I’d missed my chance, not that I never asked my grandfather about the past, but without specific questions there was never much to say. Perhaps if I’d known the right questions then, many of my favorite landmarks would have had even better stories.