Something a Little Different
As an add-on to the blog tour Tina Howard, Gina Conroy, and the kind folk at Writer Interrupted held for me, Tina wanted to do a scary story meme, that’s when you tell a true-to-life scary story that happened to you then “tag” five more bloggers to do the same. They in-turn, tag five more and, well, you get the picture. The ball keeps rolling. Hopefully.
So . . . I thought I’d participate and here’s my scary story, it’s real and it’s scary (my dad, mom, and older brother can all testify to its validity). But it sounds like the stuff of cheap Hollywood horror flicks.
I spent the first nine years of my life in Baltimore, living in a three-bedroom, three-floor, duplex that oozed character. Wood floors, wide molding, high ceilings, French doors between dining and living rooms, a laundry chute from the second floor, and a cellar that housed a cast iron furnace the size of a Yugo standing on its butt.
We were a family of church-goers—Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, Christmas pageant, the whole shebang. Problem was, that’s all we were: goers. It was all a show, a façade. A mask we’d don every Sunday while our closets were full of skeletons. My dad was an alcoholic; my parents’s marriage was falling apart; my brother and I were into all sorts of things we had no business even knowing about.
All that changed in 1981. I was nine and my world was turned on its tail when my dad announced he’d “found Jesus.” He wasn’t the same. He didn’t drink anymore, didn’t hang out with people who did, didn’t curse, and started loving, really loving, my mom and us kids. And what’s more, he couldn’t stop talking about it.
Not long after my dad’s conversion, my mom, so enamored with the sudden and real change in her once-belligerent husband, also converted. My brother and I followed not far behind. We were different people. The mask had been torn off and tossed in the trash.
Things in our family certainly changed, but it was the changes that occurred in our house that were really interesting. Unseen footsteps ascending and descending the stairs, strange noises coming from the attic, and a maleficent “presence” that everyone felt in the cellar, including our dog who would go ballistic whenever left down there alone.
For the most part, all this went relatively unnoticed, or passed off as explainable by some other logic none of us apparently understood. It wasn’t until “the voice” that the otherness in the house was taken seriously.
My dad had always been a gifted speaker and enjoyed using his silver tongue to proclaim the change in his life, to testify of the goodness of God. Early on, we still attended the same denominational church and my dad was asked to speak one Sunday evening. The sermon was honest, truthful, direct, and convicting . . . and so offensive to some that it landed our family squarely in the church’s doghouse and later, on the front lawn with a ticket to anywhere but there.
A few days after that fateful Sunday, my brother was in the cellar/family room with a friend and wanted to play the recorded sermon, that sermon, for him. I was there too. He popped the cassette in the player, one of those old single deck jobs about the size of a shoe box (this was the early 80’s, remember), and hit the PLAY button.
My dad’s voice came on: “I’m here tonight . . .”
I was there. I heard it. Deep, throaty, sinister . . . otherworldly. Evil.
“No you’re not.”
And then it was gone, leaving my skin feeling like a million spiders were using it as a dance floor.
We reversed the cassette and listened again. And again. Dad’s voice—the voice—dad’s voice. Same gravelly tone. Same goosebumps.
When my dad got home from work we played it for him. He frowned a frown that dropped a rock in my gut and told my brother to try erasing it. He did and the voice was gone, sent back to whatever pit it had crawled from. And for good measure, my dad then ripped the tape from the cassette and tossed it all in the trash.
Just months later we were packed up and on our way to our new house in Pennsylvania.
In cancer news. I had my second round of chemo yesterday and got the “money chair,” a chair that sits in the corner where I could do a lot of reading and writing uninterrupted. The treatment went well, left me hyper and jittery with some side effects coming back (numb lips, cold sensitivity, achy legs, painful jaw, but so far, no significant nausea (yeah!)). I’m hooked up to the pump now and will get it unhooked Thursday afternoon . . . a day that can’t come soon enough.