Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Halloween Flash Fiction winner #2, Hammond House by Mary Vettel

Here is winner #2! Congrats to Mary Vettel!

Hammond House by Mary Vettel

It was not The Summer of ’42. It was not The Summer of Love. It was the summer my parents took us to Hammond House. My sister and I were teenagers and had no interest in this Revolutionary War museum. It was comprised of three separate houses –from the 1600s, 1700s, and 1800s - that were brought together. The curator lived in the Civil War era portion and gave us free reign to walk about giving ourselves the tour. My sister and mother remained downstairs in the 1600s house while my father and I went upstairs where a lot of farm equipment and hand tools were on display. They were desperately in need of repair, rusty, the leather torn, and the wood rotten with what looked to be termite holes. Not exactly something you’d ooh and ahh over.

Dad and I entered another room that was empty and in mid-July I saw my breath. We quickly exited and headed for the door to go downstairs. Near the door stood a dress dummy that appeared to be at least a hundred years old. I bent to feel the material at the hem and the dummy rolled up a ramp toward me; up a ramp that had been put there to keep it from rolling around. My father and I raced down the stairs, erupting into the room where my mother and sister were admiring a spinning wheel.

My mother said, “You two look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”

Not quite, but close. Dad and I stood at an antique writing desk explaining about the dress dummy when a small bouquet of dried flowers rose up from a pewter vase, hovered, then fell to the floor.

Mom asked my father how he did that. As though he’d arrived ahead of us and rigged the joint. Dad disavowed any knowledge and studied the pewter vase, determining there were no springs or strings involved. I had a real good case of the creeps at that point and wanted to leave.

As a group we moved along to the 1700s section of the house. I stood near the large fireplace when a candle in a pewter holder rose up off the mantle, hovered, then fell to the floor. My mother again asked my dad how he did that and told him to knock it off before he scared us. Too late. Dad examined the candleholder, most likely looking for springs or strings. I heard them suggest the summer heat had something to do with the expansion or shrinkage of the wax, etc. My sister and I weren’t buying any of it.

We moved on to the curator’s section of the house and sat in his living room as he spoke about the curator’s duties. We heard footsteps above and my mom asked to speak with his wife. He said his wife and kids were out and he was alone in the house. My sister and I thought this was odd and excused ourselves to wait out in the sweltering car.

My parents joined us about a half hour later and, as we made the drive home, they sprung the news on us that we were going to be moving into Hammond House as the next curators. It was a done deal. We had no recourse, no amount of complaining, protesting, or reasoning would change their minds. They’d already found a buyer for our Bronx home. Contracts were signed. My mother tried to soften the blow by saying my sister and I would finally have our own bedrooms. My father told her about the frigid room that was to have been mine and thought it best if my sister and I remained roomies.

We moved in a few weeks later. The footsteps continued. The cold room remained cold even in August. The feelings of being constantly watched never ceased. The sensation that someone was right behind you on the stairs. My sister and I took turns as lookout while the other showered. Things disappeared and turned up elsewhere. My teachers didn’t want to hear, ‘My ghost ate my homework.’

One of my jobs was to hang the flag in the morning and take it down in the evening and I always heard a small boy’s laughter though we were miles from anyone. Negative energy permeated the place and arguments grew out of nothing. We lasted that one school year and were back in the Bronx by the end of June.

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