Categories
sketches

Little Chapel of Wronged Women

You read the travel brochure in the truck stop display: twenty miles off I-82, just past Paducah, east of St. Ivanson’s, stands the little chapel with a red roof and the graveyard full of ghosts.

There, the brochure says, visitors will find more than plenty weeping widows and hanged maidens and brides murdered on their wedding night. More than anyone could need. For the more intrepid connoisseurs there’s a few wailing adulteresses, headless maids, bloody schoolmistresses. The brochure tells you to watch among the headstones for signs of the melancholy fiancé, the dejected debutante, the tearful opera singer, the despondent niece. Look closely and you’ll find graves for the dismembered administrator, the gutted fishmonger, the assassinated scholar. If you’re lucky, the brochure says, you might catch sight of the rarer phantoms: the spider-legged crone, the tall ones, the mother of eyes.

Stop for the night and throw breadcrumbs about the graves, the brochure says. Watch the ghosts scramble.

Don’t turn your back on them, the brochure says.

Stop for lunch or put your feet up at the nearby Manor House museum-hotel. There’s a summer beer garden and corn-hole tournaments every weekend. Make time for the annual Little Chapel Lilac Festival in the Spring! Lodging includes brunch and easter egg hunts for the kids.

You stare at the photos in the brochure. A crooked little church with a red roof. Figures among the graves, shadowed. Children stooped over to scoop into their baskets little things they’ve found scattered about the earth: plastic eggs, flowers, pebbles and lost teeth, bits of stray bones.

Categories
sketches

It Only Played Piano

The homeowners were, for the most part, grateful the ghost only made tinkling musack, inoffensive easy listening tunes, and did not wail or howl at all hours of the night. It didn’t even weep ceaselessly. The ghost didn’t throw knives or stomp or bang on the walls. No one’s toes were nibbled. There were no figures in the mirrors, standing right behind them, over their shoulder, glaring a death’s glare (or worse, a grin!). There was just the sound of C sharp, B minor, the occasional chord plunking away right in their ear wherever they turned. They never woke up to scratches (maybe some headaches), and the songs the ghost played were never morose or doomful (although it was clear, from the occasional off-note, the slips, that the fucker needed to practice, didn’t it?). It only played repetitive, uncomplicated modern compositions, (how much Philip Glass can one ghost take at a time?). And while the ghost did help for parties, its origins were quite the conversation starter, at some point they stopped caring whether it was the spirit of a murdered cut rate musician, or a musically frustrated housewife turned to suicide, or if the piano itself was possessed with some poltergeist of bad taste, or if perhaps it was just a curse (they were pretty sure it was a curse, though).Yes, they would say, (before they stopped saying anything at all), the ghost only plays piano. And no: it isn’t very good. And no: it never, ever stops.

Categories
poetry

We Got on the Wrong Bus

After Edward Gorey

It seemed strange the driver didn’t ask for our bus pass. Instead he shook a box full of finger bones and growled exact change only.

Cleo sat down by the hooded figure near the front. She didn’t want to offend anyone by mentioning the smell.

Tyrone stepped over the pink-clear puddles that oozed over the center isle from the seats. He said ahem and I prefer to stand.

The chanting bothered Willem, but only when she took out her earbuds and glanced around at the faces under the hoods.

A skeletal hand was left on the seat Charise wanted. When she poked it, it scrambled under her feet.

Bones to Dust, read the sign above the driver, but Paro couldn’t see very well to read the rest; the purple fog was too thick.

Jacinto thought he heard the giggle of children, checked the seat behind him and saw an empty baby carrier.

Katy pulled the cord and heard brakes screeching, but the bus didn’t stop. Neither did the screaming.