Friday, November 17, 2017

Raking Leaves


Raking Leaves

By John W. Vander Velden    

 

 

          There is a yard we care for that is within the city limits of a nearby city.  The reasons we are responsible for that particular yard really doesn’t matter.  We have that responsibility and we care for that yard.  Throughout the summer I mow the lawn.  In the winter I need to keep the sidewalks cleared.  Snow you understand.  But during the fall, it is leaves that require our vigilance.
There is only one tree on the property.  Just one.  But it is a large maple, and maples have a lot of leaves.  Sorry Mrs. Lambert.  Maples have a great many leaves.  My teacher told us that “a lot” was only properly used to describe the area needed to build a house.  But the leaves I blow to the edge of the street are not just maple leaves.  Or at least not just the leaves from that solitary maple tree.  For example thousands and thousands of leaves settle in the back yard and there isn’t a tree back there at all.

The house sits on the corner of two tree-lined streets.  Across the way is a property with ten oak trees.  Those leaves come later.  But the leaves I move do not have labels indicating ownership.  They just need to be moved and moved to a schedule.  It might not seem fair that we need to rake up other people’s leaves.  Can’t they keep control of their own trees, for pity’s sake?  But it really doesn’t bother me, because I know that the wind carries our leaves to other places as well.  They are just leaves, sometimes only a few, most times many, that need to be piled along the curb for the city to haul away.

It’s a job.  Not that I get paid for moving leaves.  But a job that needs to be done and I take a bit of pride in doing it and doing it well.  And most of the people of the neighborhood must feel the same way, because the leaves line the street as far as I can see.  You see we all understand that it is more than about whose trees produced the leaves that settle all so gently on the grass.  It is about caring for your little part of the neighborhood, and in doing so making the whole place a little nicer.

Perhaps there are some that get frustrated.  Perhaps there are some that get angry. But if they do they haven’t spoken to me about it.  It’s life, and for six or seven weeks in the fall each of us rake leaves and not really care whose leaves they once were.

You see during the heat of summer that tree-line street offers shade.  A most pleasant break from the sun’s rays.  And the shadow of each tree is not confined to property lines.  Maybe that’s why few complain about the leaves each fall.  That the benefit we get from those same leaves demand a kind of payment, and after months of shade a few, well maybe more than a few, hours labor is a small price to pay.

So I rake leaves, and I think about all the other good things in my life that require a little “payback” and I bite my lip when I feel like complaining….

(549 Words)   11/14/2017

Friday, November 10, 2017

Childhood


Childhood

 

By John W. Vander Velden

 

If there is one thing that all adults share, it is childhood.  Not that my childhood was just like yours or that yours was like anyone else’s. Childhood isn’t just a title hung on a particular set of years, it is all the experiences of our youth.  We share the fact that we grew up…or at least I hope we have grown up.  We share the process, not the things that occurred to us as we did so.  We all share the broader concept of what childhood was…and is.  A time when we learned so much about the life we live. 

For me, like most, those years, which now live in my memory, were a time filled with joy, heartache, and were mostly what we would call the dull ordinary days between.  But each day, whether I recognized it or not contained lessons just for me.   You see that is what we share.  Not the thousands of experiences that was our individual childhood but that we, each of us, had experiences, faced lessons, many hard learned, and grew.  So when we look back, and not all do, we should do so objectively. That isn’t easy, as we focus on good times or bad…those days we would wish to relive…others we had hoped to forget.  But with the attitude that each moment is a learning experience, a step toward a new place, maybe we can understand ourselves better.  

Childhood is the past. It is something in each of our pasts.  But though the past holds lessons learned, we are not bound prisoner by it.  Learn and go forward.  Learn and grow.  Learn and when it is wise to do so, change.

(282 Words)   6-24-2017

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Past


  The Past

By John W. Vander Velden

 

My dad remembered his past.  He did not speak often to me about the world in which he grew up.  But when kin or friends from Holland came for a visit they would spend hours reliving the years of long ago.
Dad remembered, and dad thought that remembering was important.  But he never took the time to consider why it was important.  He never dwelled on the whys.  The past was exactly that…past.  It brought you to the now, but how it did, really didn’t matter to him.  He was well read and could discuss many topics.  He carried strong opinions…often unswayable views.  But he never saw the reason to just study how the things that had happened in his life shaped the man he became.  I don’t think he ever took the time to even consider exactly what he was.  My father was a decent, hardworking, Christian man, and that was enough.
Jacob Vander Velden, my father, told me I thought too much.  Maybe I do.  It’s nothing new.  I guess I have always “thought too much” about too many things.  He told me I thought too much about my faith.  I’m not certain that’s even possible.  To dad GOD was GOD and that was enough.  He trusted GOD in every aspect of his life without question.  Perhaps I envy that.  Then again perhaps dad kept his questions private between himself and the Master of the Universe.  Fearing that if he didn’t, his children might get the wrong idea.  GOD was GOD, JESUS saves, and the HOLY SPIRIT was everywhere and in us all.  That was clear…black and white…and to him it seemed enough.
He’d learned it in his childhood…his past.  And he did not dwell upon the meanings of his past.
I look at things closer.  I study the whys, when my mind races back to years ago.  Sometimes late at night.  Sometimes when I ride my bike or walk down the road.  I have this need to figure out…why…and how…and sometimes the when.  I understand that these things built me piece by piece.  I also understand the GOD’s hand was in the building one way or the other.
But for me these “deep” thoughts are important.  To remind myself that events touched me in more ways than the obvious.  That I have at times been supported and other times hurt.  Remembering my “feelings” should help me to always consider the feelings of others and tread more carefully.
Yet there were times I was insensitive.  There were time I blundered stomping on the emotions of others “willy-nilly”.  Times when I place my own needs first.  You see I’m human.  But that is not a good excuse.  I understand that I’m not perfect, but….
         As time passes I think about those actions as well.  Those are the most troubling memories, as I wonder how I could have been so thoughtless or careless.  They are the difficult things I face when I judge myself…harshly.  Even years later those failings haunt me.  Growth comes from both successes and failures.  I must remind myself that by not sweeping those events aside as no value, I show myself that I have learned…something.  I understand that perfection is beyond my reach, but my imperfection cannot be an acceptable reason for poor behavior that happened years ago…might happen today…and likely will happened tomorrow.

Maybe that’s the most important thing about the past…my personal past that is…and my continuous evaluation of my history.  To understand me…better.  To strive to make me…better.  To look forward and know that I am both good and evil, but to do my best to keep the dark parts under control.  Always trying to tap in the very best GOD has given me.  To learn from my mistakes and humbly accept my successes.  For today, I stand upon a foundation of the past’s stones, doing my best, with GOD’s help, to build myself into something better for tomorrow.  

(665 Words)         9-25-2017

 

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Rembolt House


The Rembolt House  

A Halloween Story

By John W. Vander Velden             

 

I was new to the area and I stopped at the hardware for deck stain.  At the checkout an old man came up behind me his eyes moving from my head to toes.  “You bought that house on the lake.”  He said as if I didn’t know where I was living.
He swayed slightly as he drew his bushy white brows down.  “That big gray house next to the Rembolt place.”
He must have noticed the confusion in my eyes.
“That old stone house in the trees.  Nobody lives there.”
My mind went to the thick grove of trees and brambles south of my place that had swallowed an old tumbled down pile of rocks.  Part of the roof had fallen in years ago and a cottonwood grew up through the gap.  I nodded at the old gentleman.
“You’d be the sixth that bought that place.”
I understand that houses change hands, but the house wasn’t old so that fact surprised me.
“’Spect you’ll leave soon.”
Now I couldn’t remain silent.  “And why would I leave?”
“Oh, you won’t want to, but there’s something about the Rembolt house.  You’ll see soon enough.”
I noticed the cashier shake her head.
“So the place is haunted?”  I asked not being able to keep the smile from forming on my lips.
“I didn’t say that.”  The old man began.
“There’s always been stories…”  The cashier interrupted.
“Stories, Bah.”  The old man set his bag of screws on the counter and shaking his head he walked out without them.
“Pay no attention to old Charlie.”  The cashier whose tag said Misty smiled.  “He’s got a story about everything.”
“Then he’s a local?”  I asked.
“Lived hereabouts before Camden was anything more than a four way stop on the highway.”
“So he’s an old timer?”
“He’s old, that’s for sure.”
When Misty handed back my credit card, I picked up my two gallons of stain and backed out the doors to the street.  Charlie was leaning against my Chevy truck waiting.
He wore a button down shirt that may have once been white with thin green stripes, over dark green work trousers.  As I approached he held out his hand.  “I’m Charles Chapwell.”
I took his hand surprised the strength in the old man’s grip.  “I’m Marty Anderson.”
The slightest smile came to his lips as he asked.  “Any kin to Daniel and Mary Anderson?”
I shook my head.  “They from around here?”
“Were, but that’s been a while ago.  Dan was my best friend’s brother.  When we were kids you understand.”
Now looking at the man I guessed was at least eighty I didn’t know what to say for a moment.  “My family’s from Michigan.”  I said at last.
He just nodded.  “So why’d ya buy that house on the lake?”
“We wanted a place to get away.”
“Picked the wrong place.”  The smile left his face as turned to face me.
“I don’t know Charles.  This seems like a nice area…”
He leaned forward.  I feared he would fall over me.  “Yeah, this area is nice, but you’re too close to the Rembolt house.  That place should have been torn down seventy years ago.”
I tilted my head a bit.  “Why hasn’t it?”
“Legal mumbo-jumbo.  Every time some bring it up to the county council it gets shot down.  The commissioners know enough not to fight the Rembolts.  Not one of them have set foot in the county for years but that don’t matter.  They pay the taxes and maybe more and so that shack still stands.”
“Hmmm.”
“And just because the trees hide it from the road don’t mean a thing.  That place is just evil.”
I would have thought the old guy was just pulling my leg, taking the new guy for a ride, so to speak.  “It’s just an abandoned old house.”  I answered as I looked him over again.
“I’m just warnin’ ya.”
I wasn’t sure if it was a warning, or some sort of threat, not that the old man, fit as he seemed, was in any condition to threaten.
I looked him straight in the eyes.  “What makes you think that place is evil, Mr. Chapwell?”  I just tacked his name into the question to remind the guy I knew his name.
He looked down, shook his head and said, “That house et my best friend.”
I blinked, tilted my head and asked.  “The house ate your friend?”
Mr. Chapwell nodded once rocked slowly to the left and then to the right.
“It were a hot October Sunday, and I went over to Jim Anderson’s ta see if he wanted to go fishin’.”  His eyes focused on mine.  “His pa said that it was Ok so we went to the lake at the head of the little creek that runs into town.  Folks hadn’t given the Crescent Lake and Youst Creek names yet back then.”  He looked away as if trying to picture the scene.  “The lake was just across a couple of fields from the Anderson’s Farm.  We’d been fishing at the lake lots of times, so it weren’t nothing for us to grab a couple of poles and head out.”
“Was the fishing good at the lake?”  I asked.
He turned to look at me again, his eyes dreamy.  “Usually.  But not that afternoon.”  He looked down a bit and went on.  “It didn’t matter none, we wus friends and whether the fish were bitin’ or not we had a good time, talkin’ mostly.  We sat on the west bank with the sun on our back so we could see into the water better.  Didn’t notice the storm clouds that come up behind us til the wind came settin’ the trees to swayin’.”  The old man looked back into my eyes.  “Before we gathered our stuff there was lightning strikin’ all around us.  Took off running ta home, but figured it weren’t safe ta cross the open land so we decided to hole up in that old stone house.  The Rembolt’s had abandoned the place long before I was born.”
I lowered my right eyelid wondering if what I had heard was true, that Charlie Chapwell could tell a good yarn and if he was busy weaving me one.
“I told Jimmy that we oughtn’ to stay away from that place.  That there were plenty of stories even then about the strange things that happened there.  But the storm was a howlin’ and the thunder like ta shook my ribs outa’ my chest.  “We’ll just stand on the porch.””  I says to him.
“Come on,” he says, “it’s daylight and all.  Ain’t nothing gonna happen to us in the daylight.”
“But the clouds were so thick that it could’ve almost been night.  There was a window with a broken pane that opened to the porch.  Jimmy he looked into the kitchen and tried to lift the sash.  “Why don’t we try the door?”  I asked, and sure enough it was unlocked.”
“That’s more than seventy year ago and I still can remember how I felt as we went into that empty house.”  The old man shook his head as once again he looked down.  “The air was stale, musky and dust covered everything especially the floor.  Even though we were the first to walk those dusty floors in a long time, the hairs on the back of my neck made me certain we weren’t alone.”
The man turned facing the lake far beyond our sight and swallowed.  “I told Jimmy we had to get.  But the thunder and flash of close lightning seemed to hold us there just inside the open door.  Another flash lit Jimmy’s face, I saw it plain, a strange smile and wild eyes.  He turned and without saying a word dashed up the stairs.”
From the top of the stair and outa sight I hear him call, “Come up here Charlie…there’s something ya gotta to see.”
“You can forget that, cause I ain’t going up there.”  I yelled back.
“Then that feeling that something was wrong come over me stronger.  “I’ll wait for you on the porch.”  I shouted.”
The storm kept on, the wind, thunder, and lightning.  I watched the water churnin’ on the lake and the trees bendin’ and swayin’.  My heart was a beatin’ thump, thump, thump, I could feel it in my ears, and I kept tryin’ to get my air.  I don’t know how ta describe it, but I felt like I was  drownin’” Then Chapwell looked me directly in the eyes.  “It was then I heard the most awful sound, loud it was, louder than the storm.  Like a scream of pain or a cry for help, but somehow I knew it weren’t human.  It came outa that house.”  The old man’s eyes were wet.  “I yelled as I turned to go back in for my friend but at that instant lightning struck, where I don’t know but it was so close that I found myself on the ground later, drenched wet, lightning flash blind, and thunder deaf.”
“I lay there afraid, finally able to crawl on all four all the while the storm raged around me.  If any other sound came from that cursed house, I couldn’t hear it.”
Chapwell looked skyward.  “We never found any trace of Jimmy…nothing.”
I looked hard at the man leaning against my truck.  “You expect me to believe that your friend was swallowed by some old house?”
The man straightened, drew his bushy eyebrows down.   “What you believe…that’s up ta yu.  I’m just tellin’ you what happened that day.”
I shook my head not accepting any of the nonsense I’d heard.
“You got your doubts.  Well fine, just go to the marina.  There’s a fella that works there.  Barney’s the best outboard mechanic in these parts.  But he won’t tell ya so cause he ain’t said a word in nigh on forty years.”  He leaned closer.  “Not since he got drunk and bragged he was gonna knock out the glass of the last window of the Rembolt House.”
I blinked.
“Well the glass got broken but Barney ain’t said a word since that night.”  Chapwell turned but as he left he said over his shoulder.  “You should ask him…maybe he’ll tell ya.” 
Now I didn’t give much credence to the story Charles Chapwell told me that morning.  Though I found myself looking out of my bedroom window late at night.  But I saw nothing more than brush and trees.  But I was glad when on my weekly trip to Harriet’s CafĂ© on the corner of Leeper and Main that Manny Wilcox was seated at the counter.  He welcomed me to join him and his friends so I sat.  After the introductions I asked Manny.  “I know you have a boat, do you get it serviced at the marina?”
“Sure, when it needs work, which isn’t often, I take it over to Carl’s.”  He said with a smile.  He ribbed me.  “Bout time you get a boat.  I know of a real fine Master Craft…”
“Maybe next summer,” I interrupted.
I placed my order of eggs and hash browns and then asked the question I wanted answered in the first place.  “You ever meet the mechanic there?”  I couldn’t remember the name.
“You mean Joe or Barney.”  Said Leo Parker who sat on the other side of my friend.
That was his name.  “Uuhh…Barney.”  I said at last.
“Barney’s great with outboards, but if you’re got a sterndrive or inboard, Joe’s the one you want.”
“But you guys have met Barney?”
A chuckle moved through the group.  “Yeah we all know Barney.”  Manny said.
“I’d like to talk to him.”  I stammered.
Manny tilted his head, “About what?”
“My dad has an old Johnson, real old,” I lied, “and I might want to get it fixed.”
“He’ll be able to fix it, that’s for sure, but he’s not going to talk about it.”  Laughter erupted as if a joke was shared by them.
“What do you mean?”
Manny calmed down his friends.  “Barney can’t talk.”
I blinked as I feigned surprise.  “Born mute?”
That’s when the guy at the end of the counter, Greg Garrison his name, spoke.  “From what I heard he was a chatty kinda’ fella…once.”
“Really,” I asked, “he have an accident?”
“No one knows for sure.”  Nanny answered.  “He won’t tell.  I guess he could write something out, but he doesn’t.”
“There are sure a lot of stories about Barney.”  Said Harold James that sat between Nanny and Leo.
“If you’re curious,” Greg added, “Charlie Chapwell is the one to ask.”
Now there was just the person I wished to avoid.
“Have you met Charlie?”  Nanny asked.
“Yes,” I said, “what do you think of him?”
Nanny smiled as he looked my way.  “Old Charlie is alright.  He gets worked up from time to time.  But he knows everything about this place.”
“And he’s more than willing to tell you or anyone else.”  Harold chuckled.
I moved the conversation to other subjects, the weather and golf.
After Church I caught up with Nanny again.  “Why hasn’t anyone torn down that old abandoned house next to me?”
“Oh, you have been talking to Charlie.”
I looked toward the sky an instant.
Nanny smiled.  “You have to know that the Rembolts owned the lake and all land around it.  They held it with an iron fist.  The county wanted to develop the whole area.  What’s the use of having a piece of water as big as Crescent Lake and no access?  That’s when they struck a deal.  The Rembolts sold everything but where their house was, on the stipulation that it be left as it was.  I don’t know the reasons, since nobody from the family has set foot in that place in forever.”
“So the county will not even consider…”  I began.
“If you had any idea how much taxes this county gets from all those houses like ours… Well it just makes sense.  What’s one old place?  You can’t even see the place from the road or the lake most of the year.
I will admit that the things I had heard set me to thinking.  But we had lived there for nearly two months and hadn’t seen anything unusual, so I kept my concerns to myself.  Didn’t seem any reason to upset my wife.
Sunday afternoon, my wife Lisa and I were sitting on the deck admiring the lake reflecting the blue of the sky.  She had just brought me some coffee when she said.  “Did you know that old place beside us is cursed?”
I nearly gagged, the hot coffee burned in my nose.  “What?”  I asked as soon as I could clear an airway.
She looked over my way as if she had just announced that it was Sunday or something.  “While you were talking to Nanny Wilcox, Janet Waters came over and told me.”
“Told you that the old place beside us was cursed?”  I tried to be nonchalant.
“Well, she didn’t just come over and say, “You live beside a cursed house,” if that’s what you mean.”
My hand began shaking slightly so I set my coffee down.  “But she did tell you, right.”
“We were talking how the new shutters on the Adam’s house were the wrong color.  You know you just can’t put green shutters on a blue house and get away with it.”
I had no idea where this conversations was heading and how Joe and Iva Adam’s house up the street had induced such revulsion that the concept of house cursing flowed out of the conversation.
I tried to focus on what was said, green shutters?  “What does shutters have to do with cursed houses?”
“Nothing silly,” she said with a smile.  But Milly Danver overheard us talking and came over.”
I couldn’t put a face on whoever Millie Danver was.  “So this Millie told you about the cursed house?”
“Of course not.  She just said we were lucky that there were no neighbors on that side of our house.”
I waited a moment but she just took a sip of coffee.  “Then Janet told you about…?”
“Your just jumping ahead again Mike.  It was Mrs. Lawton.”  Lisa said with a slight shake of her head.  “You know the older woman with the blue hair stacked up.  She was the one wearing the yellow dress.  It really didn’t become her…”
“And she told you about…”
“You know I don’t like it when you interrupt.”
“Sorry, but I hoped you would get to the point.”  I was beginning to feel anxious.
She set down her coffee and stared at me.  “You have heard something?”
I shook my head.  “Nothing about the place being cursed.”  I said doing my best to give the appearance of total innocents.
She rocked a bit in her chair.  A sign she didn’t quite believe me and I was to tell her….EVERYTHING.
So I told her about Charlie and how his friend had vanished and told her the rumor about Barney’s not speaking.  When I had finished she said.  “Well it all makes sense now.”
I had to blink.  How did any of this make sense?
Lisa shook her head.  “Well it does to me.”  The left corner of her lip curved up.  “I suppose it will to you too if I tell what Agnes told us.”
I shook my head.  “Agnes?”
Her brows came down a little.  “Mrs. Lawton.”
“Oh that Agnes.” I said as if I had any idea who Mrs. Agnes Lawton was.”
“She told how two hundred years ago, maybe not quite, but it was a long time ago.  Mr. Horace Rembolt shot a young man for trespassing.”
“For trespassing?”
“That’s what she said.”  She looked at me with that ‘You’re interrupting again” look.
With the most penitent face I could muster I said, “go on.”
“Anyway, the boy’s father put a curse on Mr. Rembolt and the house.”
I blinked wondering if that was all to the story and if it was, what I had missed.
She must have saw my confusion for she said.  “The boy was the son of some old trapper or hermit or something.”
I tried to imagine how a hermit had a son.
 “Well, this hermit, or whatever he was, and his boy lived deep in the woods.  Everyone in the valley knew the guy was an odd one and were happy that he kept to himself.
“Just because some loony guy said the house was cursed….”  I looked at Lisa as I shook my head again.  “You don’t believe any of that stuff, do you?”
She leaned back, picking up her cup she took a sip from her coffee.  “Well, a few days later Horace Rembolt fell down the steps of that house and died two days later.” 
She looked my way as if the house being cursed was the most logical conclusion the earth had ever seen.
“Come on Lisa.”
Her mouth fell open.  “Oh, I forgot to tell you the most interesting part.”
I rolled my eyes, more interesting than a cursed house.
“Those two days he kept saying how he had been pushed down those stairs…”
That seemed the most logical part of this story.
“That the house pushed him.”
“Pushed by a house?”  I shook my head for the umpteenth time in disbelief.
Lisa drew her eyebrows down and I knew I was in for it.  “You can make fun all you want Marty, but weird things have happened over there for years.”
I’d already told her about Jim Andrews and Barney at the marina, so I wondered what other “weird” things she was talking about.  “Like what?”
“Well for one thing, Mr. Jackson’s dog won’t even walk past the place.”
Mr. Jackson had a Pomeranian, cute dog but not a killer you understand.  If something frightened the dog it wouldn’t make the papers.
“And talking about dogs Amber’s Rocwelier just growls and barks at the brush there.  Amber thinks he knows something wrong about the place.”
We need to respect a dog’s opinion, I thought to myself.
“I know what you’re thinking, Marty, but dogs are smart that way.” 
Just as the sun was setting I wandered the south edge of my lot looking at the briars and raspberries that form a thick uninpenitratable wall between us and the ruins beyond, I tried not to take too seriously the ramblings of an old man, the rumors about a mute and other things, or the behavior of dogs.  It was the twenty-first century for crying out loud.  I had to get real.  So pushing, all that I had convinced myself was nonsense, into a safe box within my mind, I felt at ease when I returned to the house that evening. 
Gave no thought about what lay behind the brambles out of sight for nearly a month when I was awakened out of a deep sleep.  I had no idea what had woken me as I looked over to see Lisa sleeping soundly at my side, but I had the strange sensation of being called.  I checked my phone, nothing there.  Moved quietly downstairs to the doors. There was nothing out front, the light down the street shown bright in the early morning.  From the back deck I saw that a mist was coming off the lake a gray sea of moisture that slowly blanketed the backyard.
Confident that all was well I turned to return to my bed when I sensed it again.  A call felt not heard that sent the hairs on the back of my neck to standing.  The darkness that surrounded me was silent.  The stars above shown bright in the indigo sky as I calmed my breathing, my heart thumping in my ears. 
I felt it again.
The calling came, I was certain, from the brush land to my south. Panic overtook me and I rushed indoors, locked the door, leaned against the frame, my breath racing.  Fear like I had never felt before seemed to prevent me from leaving that spot in the kitchen as I blinked and wiped the perspiration from my brow.
I had seen nothing…heard nothing.  Forcing logic to take control I returned to the bedroom relieved that my beloved yet slept.  But the call came yet again, and moving to the south window I caught sight of a flash of light.  It came from beyond the brambles.  A moment later it shown again.  A soft yellowish flicker of a light that remained only a few brief instants and then fade to black.
I did not sleep well for weeks.  Always expecting the un-hearable call, I often sat for hours at the south window.   But I never saw the light again.
It was the second week in October when I felt the tingling at the back of my neck again.  I jumped like a cat from the bed, so violently that Lisa sat up as well. 
“What’s going on Marty?”  The words of the half awake, slurred but understandable.
“I thought I heard something.”  Perhaps I had, but the sensation familiar.
The room grew still.  “It’s nothing,” she said while settling back and straightening the covers.
I was not so confident.  “I’d better look around.”
Everything was as always.  Inside and outside of the house things were completely normal.  But I felt the call.  It tugged at me.  I moved to the back deck my eyes devouring the night, the shadows and wedges of light that spilled through the trees.  The moon but a sliver gave no aide as I stood with my pulse raging.
Something caught my eye.  I dashed inside for the five cell maglight I had purchased after the first night’s calling.  The bright beam aimed at the row of thorns along the south border.  A gap had been cut in the wall of briars.  Clearing my head as I resisted the call that drew me there, I allowed the beam to sweep over the entire back yard.  Again a thick mist was over the water, rising slowly coming my direction.  The mist, the gap, the constant call, I panicked with my back against the door, trembling.
I knew that the calling came from beyond the trees, from the Rembolt House.  But a blackness swelled out of the rising mist, like a great hand, cold and hard, that wrapped itself around me.  The darkness squeezed my chest and I found myself struggling for breath.  I heard my heart thundering within my head as gasping I drew one breath and then another.  I could move in only one direction and I fought the hand that wished to drag me deeper into the blackness, pushing myself harder back against the door.  Yet all the while I could not take my eyes off the gap in the thorns, as if the force that assailed me waited there…would come for me…from there.
Lisa found me, cowering unable to open the sliding door, most of an hour later when she turned on the kitchen light.  I couldn’t speak as I shook more from the terror than the cold damp night air.  Her eyes were wide as she shouted words I could not understand, words that could not penetrate the calling that only I heard, a calling that wished to possessed me.
How pale she looked, my Lisa.  There was panic in her eyes as well.  Panic driven by a different source than my own.  I stumbled inside and tumbled to the floor in our kitchen when she had finally could wedge opened the door.  And while Lisa did her best to return me to a right mind, I lay pulled up in a fetal lump on the cold tiled floor.
I remembered little of the ambulance ride or the kind men that did their best to straighten me out and lash me to the stretcher.  But in the morning I was as right as rain, and fully aware of what I had seen and felt.  There was, Charley had said, something evil amongst the stones next door.  Something I could not explain. 

 

***

 

I faced two days of observation.  Thousands of questions, the answers would not be fully acceptable.  I answered carefully.  Told them truthfully that I had been frightened by something.  What it was I had no idea.  But I did not speak of the calling.  The subconscious pull that I had fought and on that occasion had beaten.  It seemed those type of words would get me a ticket to a room with padded walls, and I was sane…still.
I could not say which day of the week I returned home.  I felt confused and out of touch.  Lisa had taken off work and her eyes followed every move I took.  I spent the time wondering if I had the strength to resist when the calling came again.  For I was certain it would come…again.  And if it were as much stronger the third time as the second was stronger than the first I doubted I could keep from answering that evil request.
In the afternoon I convinced Lisa to walk with me about the yard.  When we came to the midpoint of the south side of the lawn, I pointed out the hole cut through the thorny barrier that separated our property from Rembolt’s, and told her everything I had seen and felt that night.  Her mouth flew open at the sight of a well-worn footpath that led through the trees.  And our eyes followed that newly tread trail and to the stony crumbling remains of the house so long abandoned.
“We’ll have a fence built.” She said, the slightest tremble in her voice.
“We’re selling the house.” I replied.
We stayed in a hotel that night, never would I sleep in our gray dream house on the lake again. 

(4670 Words)  10-21-2017

 

 

 

  

 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Thinin' About October


Thinkin’ About October

 

By John W. Vander Velden             

 

Been thinkin’ about October.  The autumn month wedged between September and November.  Seems to me that October is a month of change.  I guess the whole season of autumn is.  But to me October is a special month. 
Typically as a farmer, October is when harvest begins.  That was not the case for all those years I milked cows.  I always said harvest began around Memorial Day, with the first cutting of hay, and did not end until the last ear of corn had found its way to the bin.  Good years that would be before Thanksgiving.  Great years, and they did not happen often, by Halloween.
But things change, and October is about changes.  We notice the change in temperature.  Frosts come in October to remind us winter approaches.  On most years the leaves become glorious, the green of spring and summer replaced by golds and reds.  Usually those leaves abandon their posts flying on the breeze for brief moments to settle in our yards, in October.  We do not allow them to remain blanketing our grass.  Instead we rush about raking them to neat piles to be hauled…somewhere.
 
           It’s still football season for our area High Schools, and Marching bands yet take the field in Saturday competitions.  It can snow in October.  It usually does.  Another reminder that winter’s at the door.  But the white stuff doesn’t hang around for long.  But I can remember my son sloshing around the field, counting his steps and fingering brass valves in memorized order.  They say you’re not a fan of the Bands if you haven'’ been snowed on...and like it. 
 

It’s October and things be a changin’.  But in truth each day brings some sort of change, no matter what month it is.  Life is about changes, isn’t it?  How we handle the changes tells a great deal about us.  Surely there are those changes we anticipate…even enjoy.  And there are those changes that come sneaky to the unprepared and turn life of its axis a bit.  Sometimes more than a bit.  And so as I think of October, as I think about changes, I become reflective.  I take a bit of time to think of the changes I have seen.  I consider how those events have changed me.  I wonder what I would be like if…. Now that’s just counter productive.  Things happened and I changed… period.  Or have I…Hmmmmmm.  How would I know?  How can I be certain that I have grown because of the changing environment that surrounds?  Perhaps I have done no more than adapt to the ever changing world.  Is there a difference?  Perhaps…perhaps not. 
But even if I have only adapted to the changes of MY world…I am different because of those adaptations.  So I HAVE changed.  Hopefully for the better.  So I’m thinkin’ about October and about changes.  About the changes I have seen and endured, and the changes, expected and unexpected, I will face in the days ahead…

 

(501 Words)  9-26-2017