The next morning I slide open the heavy siding doors. There were new words there. ‘You are mine to kill’. I stood on the chair and wrote ‘Break the mirror and I kill you. Give me one reason why not?’
“We have noisy ghosts here” I announced blandly to everyone huddled in the kitchen. “But ghosts or not they are just fucking bullies and this is what I do with fucking bullies” and I held up a tight fist. “Right! Maeve! Bake!”
I had Maeve used her whole ration of sugar and butter to bake goodies. Then I visited our neighbors Mother had never allowed us to visit. They were actually quite pleasant for working class souls. The house on the left was recently vacated and a new couple had moved in so I was just polite and acted like a good neighbor. The house on the right was a boarding house run by a Jewess. I realized it once I was in her parlor. “I guess you can’t eat this then?”
“But my boarders can and I appreciate the thought young man” the kindly, aging woman said gently. “I miss your dear sweet pet and your mimicry when you used to sit on the ledge of the roof and sing and mimic the street below.”
“I am sorry we did not visit before. Mother can be a bitch.” The kindly Jewess flinched. “I mean a snob” I added correcting my profanity. The woman smiled, understanding the situation. I decided to play a hunch. I got hunches sometimes. I always had this gift for hunches. A sort of intuition about people or places. A sort of instinct. “We are being haunted by a ghost of a man, a woman ,and a child” I told her now. “Perhaps two women. One used jasmine perfume. One used rose water. The man smoked cigars. There was also a child, small, maybe two? Something happened in the drawing room. It has to be bad. Something bad happened in the drawing room. And on the stairs. I think something or someone fell down the stairs.”
The Jewess flinched and nodded as a hand fluttered to her mouth. My hunch was right. “Yes. Yes. Poor child. But you only noticed it now?”
“It started when I was at school. A mirror was found in the attic and rehung back on the wall over the mantle of the fireplace in the drawing room where it originally hung. I can smash the mirror of course and Mother will whip me but that is not what is scaring me. I might need the mirror. Smashing it might not chase the ghosts away. There is a cold spot on the stairs. There is a blackness in the whole house. As clammy blackness even when Mother actually uses coal to warm the house before the minister visits her once month. We all felt it when we moved in. A dire blackness. A sort of cesspool of evil. I don’t know how else to describe it. Oppressive evil.
It has effected all of us in different ways. When we moved into the house it was after the funeral of Father so everyone assumed it was because we were all grieving but it has been over two years now. Mother is becoming — monstrous. She could be harsh and she had a fiery temper but she used to be sparkling too. Either top of the world or brooding. But now she is morbidly religious and violent toward us children. Maeve, our servant, has become more and more superstitious as if something is terrifying her. Alex is stuttering. He never stuttered. Charlie is sucking his thumb again. Willie is — well — everyone is effected. Mary is withering up into a lemon. Moving the mirror only unleashed it. It was always in the house. Moving the mirror only opened the door.”
The Jewess pressed her hands together intensely. Then she nodded. “The house was empty because you mother could not rent it. Rumors were circulating and no one wanted to move in even when the rent was cut in half.”
“Son. Shouldn’t you find someone else who is older who can handle this?”
“There is no one else. Mother pretends there is nothing wrong. I am the head of the house now. I will deal with it. But I need you to tell me what happened!”
“A prior renter, a man, a married man, with a small child, was having a love affair with another woman. Then one night while he away on business the wife packed up her bags and left. Left! Just left! So he claimed when he came back from his business trip and found the servants frantic. It was their day off and when they came back she was gone. Her bags. Everything.” I nodded. “But how could any mother leave her child behind? No one ever heard what happened to the woman. How could a woman simply vanish? How could she live? Where could she go? She simply vanished into thin air. Leaving her two year old child. The husband filed for a divorce which was odd and most shocking. But then we all realized why. He would have had to have waited seven years to declare her dead. This way he remarried in six months. But two years later the second wife fell to her death on the stairs. Apparently she tripped —- and fell —- halfway down the staircase.”
We stood up and I thanked her and I apologized again for Mother’s hostility toward her neighbors. Then I went back inside my mother’s house.