Sunday, June 6, 2010

the live ghost of willow manor

The Times has it wrong. I’ve seen the shameful item on page C6. Here’s the truth, dammit. You’ve seen the photo of course? The “million dollar shot” I call it. I’ll explain why later. Shall I refresh your drink? No? Here’s what happened:

It was a cold and stormy night. I was sitting in the library of stately Willow Manor, admiring framed sepia photos on cherry side tables and walls - photos of the departed, curious wedding day pictures and such. I noticed since my arrival Lady Willow is pale, like she’s been frightened by the vision of a ghost. Sure enough…

‘You’ve seen something haven’t you?’
Lady Willow pushes aside the ceiling-to-floor quilted curtain, specially shipped from Turkey by illegal tradewinds, as rain pelts the singular library window, her reflection somber, the streaking water falling like sorrowful tears.

‘Yes, in a way,’ she answers vaguely, with her back still towards me.

The answer was not good enough, for getting to The Manor, a hamlet in the mist, can only be conquered in the last mile by mule or camel. The local stable, run by a fellow resembling Buster Keaton, was empty except for an oil spitting motor scooter. I borrowed it, tried to memorize puzzling directions by Buster to the Manor, put my terrified dog hunkering down in the rear basket, and splashed along a narrow path wearing old WWI goggles into no man’s land. I only went there for the book we were to write together, comedy vignettes sprinkled like salt into her amazing recipes.

‘In a way,’ I barked in reply. ‘What have you seen?’
‘I’ve sensed coldness on hot summer days, and over these many weeks a presence, shifting curios, those framed photos faced down, uninvited visions, awful smells…like burnt magpie feathers. Right here.’
‘Only in the library?’
‘Yes, and missing books too.’ She turned to me as I sat opposite. ‘Will you do me favor?’
‘If I can.’
‘Spend the night with me, here, in the library.’
I nodded. ‘We’ll still need some proof. If we could only photograph the invisible. I do have my camera and…’
‘That’s it!’
‘That’s what?’
‘I have an idea,’ she says, eyes ablaze. Leaving the library, she returns shortly with an old bucket. ‘We’ll sit here and just wait, yes sir, be sure your flash is at the ready.’

It was a long night writhing in that chair. The storm grew worse, swishing branches against the window, the wind the sound of a woman in hopeless grief, my poor dog whimpering at my feet afraid of the dark. The caked, black oil on my sock from the motor scooter is itching like mad. Me and my dog sitting alone with this mad woman by the faintest candle light, poised with a bucket, worth a photo itself if I didn’t have just enough juice for one flash.

At about 4AM, I guess, she nudges me awake out of a dreamless sleep. I have to straighten my head with my hand, my neck is locked. Her lip at my ear she whispers, ‘movement by the north shelf, fallen book on the floor, it’s show time.’
‘Get ready,’ in a breathless voice.

And then it’s all like in a movie. My eyes trying to adjust to the dark, she flings the bucket…full of white paint…in the general direction of the shelf and yells, ’now!’
I’m disoriented. ‘What now?’
‘Take the bloody photo!’


Yes, I still shudder at that expression of disbelief; caught red handed. That frozen moment of sheer surprise for the ages. Who was that woman splashed in white paint? I don’t know. Was it her I heard crying in hopeless grief instead of the wind? Maybe.
But she is gone for good it seems. And so are those splattered white treasured books, ruined, amongst them a crumbling Balzac, a delicate Proust, a first edition Chekov.

Yet, she’s unfazed. Just yesterday she phoned. The mist has lifted from The Manor. Flowers springing up in soil once thought forever barren. Now - watch the dog scoot and dive under the couch when I say ‘Willow Manor.’


Blogger kathew said...

ooooh goody! A creepy Magpie! Nicely done! Loed it!

6/06/2010 9:35 PM  
Blogger Stafford Ray said...

Is this a true story? Naaa.. I don't believe WIllow owns a first edition Chekov!

6/07/2010 7:45 AM  
Blogger willow said...

Okay, the details are too perfect. Have you been lurking around the manor? Now, about that book...

6/07/2010 9:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Miller said...

haha. love it! it makes me want to visit themanor all the more...i love how your mind works these words...

6/07/2010 9:36 AM  
Blogger steviewren said...

Poor doggie! You guys scared him to death!

This is one of my favorite tales of yours.

6/07/2010 10:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yep I'm almost convinced I should have a drink now...great work!

6/07/2010 12:48 PM  
Blogger C Hummel Kornell a/k/a C Hummel Wilson said...

So CREATIVE! Although I doubt Willow would deface such rare volumes simply to catch a spirit in the act. Well done, very enjoyable. Great imagination you have.

6/07/2010 1:44 PM  
Blogger Vicki Lane said...

Terrific! Love the fun references!

6/07/2010 3:28 PM  
Blogger Lyn said...

Nothing like a bucket full to make sense of things..I really needed a good laugh! Thanks..

6/07/2010 7:56 PM  
Blogger Tumblewords: said...

Ohmigosh - what a tale! Loved every eerie second of it!

6/07/2010 11:41 PM  
Blogger ~T~ said...

Love the descriptions! Caught red-handed in the whitewash... one surprised ghost!

6/08/2010 7:45 PM  
Blogger Lena said...

Enjoyably eerie....! Now where did I put that white paint...?

6/09/2010 3:05 PM  
Blogger Jingle said...

exciting and fun tale..
you sealed it beautifully.

6/09/2010 3:22 PM  

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