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MARY HASTINGS Part Two

Posted in Afterlife, Entities, Ghosts, Hauntings, Paranormal, Saturdays, Stories, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2012 by Dave Lapham

She listened to the wind rustling the leaves of the oaks, the jays squawking, the far-off chugging of a tractor working in the groves. Then she whispered, “I just wanted you all to know I’m back, back for good. I’ve retired, and I’m moving into the house—just so you know. I’ll be visiting you more often.” She stood for a few more moments then drove back to the house. Sometimes she felt silly talking to her folks and Will like that, but it was a comfort, so she wasn’t going to stop.

As she drove into the yard and got out of her car she thought she heard the front door slam and footsteps slapping across the porch. Hmm, she thought, probably my imagination, and she dismissed it from her mind.

She had just finished unloading her car when her sister-in-law, Betsy, and her three daughters-in-law pulled up. They were soon followed by a passel of grandkids and a few great grandchildren. The silence Mary had experienced when she first arrived was now replaced with happy chaos.

“Aunt Mary, we’re so glad…” “Come see my new dog, Aunt Mary.” “I hope you had a wonderful trip…” “You must be tired, poor thing…” “Aunt Mary…” “Aunt Mary…”

Mary was tired, but she was engulfed in love. The younger women took charge of things and began preparing dinner. An hour later Travis arrived with his sons and grandsons, and the noise level swelled. The women eventually served dinner, a celebration of Mary’s homecoming and also perhaps the end of the sadness and mourning over their father’s recent death. When the last dish was washed and the last person had left the house, Mary traipsed up to her bedroom at the end of the hall overlooking the lake, happy but exhausted. She didn’t unpack, just pawed through dresser drawers until she found a nightgown, changed, and collapsed into bed.

In the middle of the night she awoke and looked at the clock on the night stand. Three a.m. She closed her eyes and lay in the stillness for a long time, but couldn’t sleep. Then she heard noise. It sounded like footsteps on the stairs. Adrenalin rushed into her veins, and her heart began pounding. Without turning on the light, she rose up on one elbow and reached for the top drawer of her night stand. She hoped that the pistol, a little .32 caliber revolver, which her father had insisted she learn to shoot from the time she was old enough to hold it, was still there. She fumbled through the papers, magazines, and assorted odds and ends until her fingers touched cold steel. She hadn’t had a gun in her hands in years, but she picked it up now and held it snugly. She sat up in bed and aimed the pistol at the door.

Quickly, Mary slid out of bed. Walking to the door, she opened it. No one was there. She tip-toed along the hallway and down the stairs. She knew someone could still be on the second floor in one of the empty rooms, but she had no desire to prowl in and out of those bedrooms. No, she’d stay downstairs where she could run if she had to. In the kitchen she called Travis.

“What’s up, Sis? You’re awake early.”

“Trav, could you come over here?’ She explained what had happened.

“I’m on the way.”

While she waited for her brother, she checked the outside doors in the kitchen, front hallway, and the office. All were locked with dead bolts. Travis soon arrived and checked every room in the house, finding nothing.

MARY HASTINGS Part One

Posted in Afterlife, Entities, Ghosts, Paranormal, Saturdays, Stories, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2012 by Dave Lapham

Mary Hastings pulled off the highway and stopped to check her dad’s mailbox before heading up the drive to the house. He’d been dead two weeks, but he was still getting mail. Even her mother, who’d died two years before, received an occasional piece of junk mail. Sure enough the mailbox was full, and none of it was for Mary. Laying the stack of mostly advertisements on the passenger’s seat, she closed her door and drove on.

As she continued up the orange tree-lined road to the house, now hers, she felt a warmth which made her smile, even after thirty years. She had grown up among these groves, swum in the lake, learned to drive dodging around citrus trees, received her first kiss by the water tower, enjoyed birthdays and holidays with her friends and a loving family. But she also felt a sadness. Her parents, her grandparents, her brother, Will, killed in Vietnam, were all gone, all now buried along with her great grandparents in the little family cemetery on the north side of the lake. Only she and her younger brother, Travis, remained.

She was thankful that the place had remained in the Hastings family. Mary had chosen to go off to college up north. At the time she wanted to get away from this place, this backward way of life, this boring little town of Lake Wales where nothing ever happened. The big excitement was a Friday night high school football game or a Saturday night movie. So she had elected to attend the University of Virginia, one of the biggest party schools in the country, and the home, more or less, of Edgar Allen Poe. She wasn’t a big party girl, but UVA did sound exciting, and academic standards there were high.

But that was a long time ago. She had majored in English Literature and had gone on to get her PhD. A series of teaching jobs at several universities followed, and suddenly it was thirty years later. Mary retired when her dad died, and now she was coming home for good.

In the meantime Travis had remained in Lake Wales and had taken over managing the groves just as his father, his grandfather, and his great grandfather had done. And he had harbored no ill feelings toward his sister because she’d chosen to do other things. As far as Travis was concerned, he’d always said, “No problem, Sis. When you get ready to retire, come on back. There’ll always be a place for you.”

In fact, there was. Travis and their father made sure that Mary was taken care of. At Travis’s request, their dad had willed her the family house and the adjacent five acres on the lake. The property was beautiful, covered with old live oaks, a well-maintained beach, and a large pavilion for family gatherings and parties. And the house. The two-story house was too large for Mary, five bedrooms, an expansive kitchen and adjoining dining room, and a wide, screened porch surrounding all four sides, but she loved it.

Approaching the house and seeing no cars there, she drove on to the family cemetery above the lake. It was a pristine spot. Her dad and grandfather had wisely kept the trees around the shoreline, so that anywhere a person might sit, he would feel the tranquility that only a forest and a lake can provide. The cemetery sat back several yards off the water on high ground. Enclosed by a filigreed wrought-iron fence, it was spacious, large enough to hold many more graves. Mary walked to her parents’ resting places and bent down to pat the fresh mound of earth covering her father.

Will was buried on the other side of her mother. Mary smiled down at Will’s grave and sighed. Even after forty-five years, she pictured him in minute detail, his brown eyes, strong jaw, his big grin, even the cow lick on the crown of his head. She had idolized her big brother. He’d taught her how to drive, how to smoke, how to drink, how to fend off unwanted attentions from the boys. When she was a girl he was always there to protect her. She loved her little brother, Travis, but Will was her hero. He’d been such a terrific young man. What a waste.

Does anyone like my stories or am I whistling in the wind? Let me know what you think. I’d appreciate it.

FEATHERS

Posted in Stories with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 1, 2012 by Dave Lapham

     My mother died a few years ago in May, two weeks short of her ninety-fifth birthday.  She was living at the time with my sister in Cambridge.  She had been doing poorly for weeks but seemed to be hanging on, as though she wasn’t quite ready to die. She was all but comatose, eating and drinking almost nothing, but still clinging to life. Maybe Mom just wanted to say goodbye to my brother and me; neither of us had seen her for three months.

     I called my brother, and the next morning we were both on our way to Boston. We met in Baggage Claim at Logan and took “The T” together out to Porter Square. Ten minutes later we quietly entered Mom’s bedroom. I was shocked to see her. Mom had always been a hardy, robust woman. She walked up to ten miles a day and had more energy and stamina than an ox, but here on her bed lay a tiny, lifeless, wizened creature not much bigger than a doll. My eyes filled with tears.

     The three of us stood around her bed. “Ma. Ma,” we shouted; she was almost deaf. “We’re here, Tom, Dave, Diane.  We’re all here, Ma.”  She was so still. We couldn’t even tell if she was breathing. But then her eyes opened slightly, and her parched lips stretched into the faintest of smiles. She had heard us.

     We spent the next three days planted in her bedroom reminiscing with her, talking to her as if she were awake and fully functioning, instead of dying. On Friday Tom and I both had to leave. We went into Mom’s room one last time, kissed her, told her we loved her, and said that it was okay for her to go. Half an hour later as Tom and I were saying goodbye to each other at the airport, Diane called; Mom had just passed away.

     Two weeks later we returned with our families for a celebration of her life and a wonderful family reunion. Mom wanted to be cremated and have her ashes strewn over our flowers, so that’s what we did.  I brought my portion of her ashes home with me and scattered some of them over my rose bush, one of her favorite flowers, but I held back some of the ashes, thinking perhaps that I might  sprinkle other flowers with them.  I knew she’d enjoy that.

     Later that month I was planting a Chickasaw plum tree in my backyard. It was warm and sunny, not even a hint of a breeze stirred, a typical Florida summer day. I was almost finished digging the hole when I was shocked to see hundreds and hundreds of tiny, bright-white feathers, no bigger than a little fingernail, scattered in a ten-foot circle around me. Ma, I thought. She was there. I ran quickly into the house, grabbed the remaining ashes, and ran back outside putting them into the hole. Then, I turned around to pick up the tree.  When I turned back again—the feathers were gone!

     A storm blew the tree down last year, but Ma is still there. I’ve since planted more flowers in her spot, and it is a very happy place.