The poltergeist lost steam throughout the week and by the time Alex and Willie came home from their public schools everything was back to normal. Painters were finishing up the remodel. The ghosts of the laughing children were again heard running up and down the hallways along with silver bells and the scent of flowers. One day Mary came up and gestured. “I heard it too. The bells. The scent of flowers. It scared me. It all scared me. It always scared me. You were always —- the one who was open to being weird. I was always the one who denied hearing things or seeing things until the other boys said they saw them or heard them too. Only then did I admit I saw and heard them as well. I did not want to acknowledge being like you. The trouble is we are too much alike. You are a bastard and I am a bitch. We will never get along. But I am willing to call a temporary truce if you are.”
“As close to an apology as either one of us will ever deliver” I said.
I quite enjoyed the truce as long as it lasted. One day Grandmother discussed clairvoyance when we heard Mother had actually rented the haunted house to some new victim — who did not seem at all bothered!. “First off it is not really haunted any more dears. You pricked the psychic boil and drained away the paranormal pus. Mary most heroically cleaned up the putrid ectoplasm that originally oozed from the mirror all over the mantle. Any evil residual will evaporate in mundane banality of ordinary living. And of course the supernatural, the paranormal, the ghostly, and the haunted can be seen best by those who are born sensitive to it. Rather like someone who is born with an especially keen nose who becomes a perfumer or someone who is born very strong who becomes a boxer. Everyone is born with talents and strengths and vulnerabilities and weakness. The family who moved into the ex-haunted house could be especially mundane. They might have never noticed much of anything but vague depression and attributed to mold and bad gaslight. While John here is especially sensitive so he can open the door to the full intensity of the experience. What we clairvoyants call ‘channeling’ and…..”
Mary jumped up and punched me right in the face so hard I fell of my chair and hit the floor with one hand over my nose as blood poured out. “Bastard! Bastard! I knew it! It was you! It always was you! You always started it! Always! You! You! You!” Mary kicked me violently and then stormed out of the room. I carefully sat back on my chair as Grandmother rang for reinforcements before pulling out her handkerchief to help me stanch the bleeding.
“I think” I said, “that the truce is over…..”