“Have you ever seen a ghost grandma?”
Daniel was nine, curious, and sensitive. Diana wanted to treat the question with respect without giving any suggestions.
“Yes, there are spirits all around us all of the time. Some are angels who come back down from heaven. Some are people who haven’t realized they are dead yet, or had something they still felt they needed to take care of.” She replied.
“But have you ever been bothered by a ghost?” Daniel pursued.
“No,” Diana lied, “Mostly those kind of ghost stories are made up to scare little children at night.”
Diana crept up behind him and poked her fingers into his ribs softly. He saw her coming but still jumped just a little.
“Don’t you worry,” Diana said, “Your ancestors are all around this place. They will always protect you.”
When Daniel was safely packed in the car, with one last wave Diana hit the button for the garage door.
“Damn you, damn you, damn you, damn you.” The garage door ground down, low and angry.
“Too much talk about ghosts.” Diana thought.
Later, cleaning a cluttered corner of the kitchen, “Bah!” sounded through the patio door behind her, loud and percussive like a thunderclap.
Diana spun around, saying louder than she meant to,
“Daniel, I thought you left already,” into thin air.
There was no one there but a large starburst of ice crystals spread across the sliding glass door and a steady ache formed across Diana’s chest.
That night the ache grew to a dull pain then a sharp rhythmic stab.
“I’m having a heart attack,” she thought, “I’m definitely having a heart attack. What if I’m having a heart attack and I’m here by myself. I should go to sleep and it will be better in the morning.”
She closed her eyes tight and tried to sleep but every powdery white sheep turned skeletal as it leapt across the darkness of her dreams.
The house rumbled Diana awake, throwing her out of bed. As she hit the floor her eye nicked the bedside table. A red stain spread across her creamy white carpet. She crawled to the bathroom and grabbed a towel to stop the bleeding.
“Mom,” she heard her daughter calling from downstairs. She had let herself in, “shoot, I thought there’d be fresh baked cinnamon rolls,” she said as she came up the stairs and into the bedroom. “Hey, what are you doing crawling around on the floor, and what did you do to your eye? Let me take a look.”
Diana stood up feeling foolish.
“No seriously mom I think you need stitches.” Gina said.
“I’m fine, I’ll just put a Band-Aid on nice and tight and ice it a little.”
“Ok, if you’re sure you’re okay. I came to see if Daniel can stay after school for a while. I have a project I have to finish.”
“Sure, absolutely.” Diana replied.
The day seemed to go by without anything unusual. Diana was beginning to think she imagined it all and the fall out of bed was caused by a bad dream. She put in a load of laundry and started up the basement stairs when foamy water shot around the washing machine cover in a rhythmic pattern. The machine made a noise Diana had never heard from her washer before, a grating rub,
“Dam you, damn you damn you, damn you.”
She started back down the stairs to check out the leak. Just as she got to the washer the front door creaked open and then slammed shut. Heavy footsteps pounded across the floor above her and down the stairs.
The washing machine burst open. Water gushed out, knocking Diana to the floor. The heavy pressure spread across her chest again.
“What’s the matter, grandma?” Daniel walked cautiously up to her.
“Oh, nothing, grandma didn’t sleep well last night, and now the washers going crazy.” She got up and unplugged the washer before they could get electrocuted.
“Let’s go up and get you a snack.” Diana started up the stairs, but from the corner of the basement where she kept her garage sale items waiting to go up for sale on eBay an old tin pop up toy wound to life with the children’s song “ring around the rosy, pocket full of posy, ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”
Daniel ran to the corner of the basement shouting “Hey, cool, grandma!” but Diana was one step ahead of him. A sharp burst of pain came with every beat of her heart.
“Don’t touch it!”
Daniel looked at her, suddenly terrified.
“What?” he yelled over a steady rumbling that had overtaken the house.
Diana grabbed the toy ran to the patio door and hurled it as far as she could. The rumbling ceased.
Snack time was quiet that afternoon. Daniel didn’t bring up the tin toy or the rumbling house and Diana didn’t volunteer anything. Plenty of time to talk about what had gone on that afternoon when Diana figured out what she thought was behind it.
As soon as Daniel was gone Diana grabbed the toy and threw it in the back of her black minivan. She drove to the farthest dumpster from her home that she could find and hurled it in while it tinkled “ring around the rosy…”
The great weight of dread lifted. That constant aching pain in her chest was gone for the first time in days. She felt like a free woman.
Early the next morning a sleepy garbage crew came to make their regular stop at the dumpster. The garbage truck picked the dumpster up and tossed the garbage in without the crew even noticing the faint tinkle “ring around the rosy, pocket full of posy…” but as the hatch ground closed the crew looked at each other.
Did they really hear? “Damn you, damn you, damn you, damn you.”