The Harrow: Original Works of Fantasy and Horror, Vol 12, No 6 (2009)

Grandma's Closet

Grandma's Closet

© 2009 Heather Smith
All rights reserved.

"I'll only be gone three nights," said Grandma. She poured sugar into my tea and handed me the cup. I took it carefully. It was hot.

"Not a problem," I said, stirring in more sugar. "I'll hold down the fort while you're gone." I was eighteen now, the older and more responsible of her two grandchildren. My "reward," as Grandma had put it, was getting roped into this long weekend of house sitting. I was trading a noisy but comfy dorm room, and a messy but fun roommate, for Grandma's boring house in suburbia.

"You deserve this opportunity," she told me, and then asked, "You know how to dial 9-1-1, don't you?" I gave her my best "You've got to be kidding me" look.

"Fine," Grandma said. "Help me get my things." We climbed the big staircase and walked the short distance down the hall to her room.

Grandma packed light. One small overnight case sat on the big, wooden four-poster bed that she'd shared with Grandpa before he died.

"You have everything you need for three days in this little suitcase, Grandma?" I asked.

"Oh, the girls and I plan to be up for three nights straight at the casino, so there's not a lot of need for wardrobe changes." She winked at me and I smiled. "I do need a sweater, though," she said. "Can you grab that pink one out of the closet?"

I opened the door and felt around for the light cord hanging from the ceiling. I pulled it and nothing happened. "Bulb's out," Grandma said from behind me. "I need to ask your brother to change that for me."

"Geez, Grandma," I said. "Just because I'm a girl doesn't mean I can't change a light bulb! I can change it while you're gone." I peered into the dark closet and began sorting through the mass of clothes, most of them older than me. "Oh, I think I see it," I said finally.

I was reaching toward the back of the closet to take the sweater from the hanger when a hand — a woman's, pale and with long slender fingers — came out from between the hangers and touched me lightly on the wrist. I yanked my arm back like I'd been burned and took a step away from the closet, feeling caught in a dream. I looked over at Grandma, who sat on the bed, a pleasant look on her face. I held my offended wrist in my hand.

"You know," she said smiling, "I think I'd rather take the blue one. It's hanging in the bathroom. Would you mind?" I shook my head and walked down the hall to the bathroom.

When I returned, the closet door had been closed and Grandma was picking up her suitcase. "Let me carry that, Grandma," I said. I took another look at the closet door as we walked out and decided my mind had been playing tricks on me. I took Grandma's bag down to her car.

That night I sat in front of the TV while I ate the dinner Grandma had left for me. Then I took a long, luxurious soak in her claw-foot tub while listening to my favorite CDs. Rock music — a sound probably never before heard in Grandma's house.

I wrapped myself up in a big fluffy towel and went into Grandma's room, where I was staying while she was away. I looked over her treasures, scattered across the dresser top. There were ancient perfume bottles, old costume jewelry, a few ceramic flowers and birds, and my favorite: a little plastic bell that looked like it was made of sugar.

When we were little, my younger brother and I would sneak into Grandma's room and take turns trying to lick the sugar off of the plastic bell. It tasted like plastic, of course, but I always pretended to taste something sweet, making my brother pitch a fit because he couldn't taste it, too.

Just for old time's sake, I picked up the bell and I licked it. Nothing had changed; it still tasted like plastic. I smiled and put it back, then walked over to my suitcase to get my pajamas. I glanced toward the closet and saw that the door was wide open.

I stood for a full minute, looking at the closet. The door had been closed. I distinctly remembered looking at it before I walked Grandma out to her car. How could it be open now?

"Okay, this is not good," I said to myself. "If you're going to stay here for three nights, you can't start freaking out about this." I walked over to the closet door and slammed it shut.

Maybe I'd stayed in the tub too long or should have dried my hair, because I went to bed with chills. I pulled the covers up snugly around me, looked briefly at the closed closet door, and then pulled the covers up over my head. "It's just to stay warm," I said to no one.

At some point I fell asleep and dreamed of being in a dark place with hands grabbing at me. I woke up in total darkness and realized I still had my head underneath the covers. At least it had warmed me up. I peeked out from under the quilt and could see the clock on the nightstand. Two-thirty in the morning is not a good time to wake from a nightmare. It's too early to get up and too late to hope that someone somewhere is still awake. The world is asleep, and no one can save you. But wait a minute. If it's two-thirty in the morning, where was that light coming from?

I peeked out further and my chills came back. The closet door was wide open again, and this time, the light was on. "I guess it wasn't burned out after all," I thought dumbly.

With one eye still covered, and from the safety of the bed, I looked into the closet. Grandpa's old sport coats and Grandma's summer dresses hung closely together, unnaturally bright and almost unreal compared to the sleepy darkness of the room just outside. I lay still for a long time, waiting for anything to happen: the smallest sound of a hanger, the slightest ruffle of a dress, the vaguest movement of a hem. I saw no movement and heard no sound, but something had definitely caught my eye.

There on the shelf, in a slightly shadowed area, next to Grandma's winter hat, the outline of a face, and one dark eye staring at me. I stared back, making sure not to breathe. If it hadn't noticed me before, it might not still. If I made absolutely no movement, I might be safe.

My mind reeled. It couldn't be real, could it? Couldn't it be an object in shadow, or a doll? My mind then hit on another possibility. I vaguely remembered a Styrofoam head used for holding wigs. Didn't all old people have one of those? I started to breathe again and decided to risk a better look. I pulled the blanket off my other eye. Now that I had two eyes to see with, I was sure that I could make out what was in the closet. I looked for the Styrofoam head, for a doll, for anything that could have made that outline of a face. But there was nothing there at all now. Whatever it was, whatever I thought I saw, it was gone.

I lay in the bed awhile, my face still half-covered with blankets, feeling like I hadn't really woken from that bad dream after all. I thought about pretending I hadn't noticed any of it and putting my head back under the covers. Finally, I decided I couldn't let the door stay open like that. Something had to be done or I'd never get any sleep — if it was possible for me to sleep at all now. "You're an adult. You can do this," I said to myself.

I counted to three. One ... two ... I flung back the covers and jumped from the bed. My plan was to run as fast as I could to the closet door, pull the light cord, and slam the door shut, all with my eyes closed so that I wouldn't see any faces or ghostly appendages that might be reaching for me from between the clothes. Maybe I shouldn't bother reaching in for the light. Just shut the door.

The running part of the plan worked, but when I got close to the closet, I realized there was going to be a problem. My fuzzy socks on the hardwood floor were keeping me from stopping. I was going to slide right in.

It's funny, the lengthy daydreams that you can have in a split second. I saw myself sliding into the closet, a smiling face greeting me and hands reaching for me. The door slamming shut behind me like a mouth, and no one ever hearing from me again. Instead, I fell on my side and slid only partway in, shoving aside shoe boxes and ancient dust bunnies with my feet as I went. The bottom half of my legs were now hidden beneath hanging calico dresses and moth-eaten overcoats. I just knew something would grab my legs, back there in the dark part of the closet where I couldn't see them. I wasn't going to let that happen, though, and I scrambled to get back out. Crawling as fast as I could on all fours, I scurried away from the closet and spun back around, facing it. There at the bottom, near the back, next to a well-worn pair of penny loafers, were a set of pale, dainty feet.

My overloaded brain quickly devised a new plan. Just get out. I ran down the hallway, and flew down the stairs, not caring if I broke my neck or a leg in the process. I ran to the kitchen — the safest place in any grandma's house. I stood in the middle of the kitchen and my heart pounded.

When the sun came up, I was sitting at the kitchen table, reasoning with myself. The light made me feel better.

"So, there's obviously something wrong with the door that keeps it from staying shut," I told myself. "It is an old house. Also, how many times have you gone to change a light bulb and found it just needed to be screwed in a little more tightly? You turned it on earlier and then the bulb got joggled just the right way and now it works again."

Another, more sinister part of my brain asked, "And the feet?"

"Obviously," I explained to myself, "I've completely freaked myself out and I am now seeing things. And I'm talking to myself, too. Thank you very much. Now, I'm going to go back upstairs, turn off the dumb closet light, and shut that stupid door."

I went upstairs and stood in the doorway of Grandma's room. "This is not funny," I said aloud to the room. The closet door had been shut and the light was off.

***

"Hey dufus."

"Hey, dufus."

"Nice comeback," I said. My brother was never very good at comebacks.

"I'm at Grandma's house."

"Uh, duh, I can read caller ID."

Deep breath, I'm dealing with a 15-year-old here.

"Did Mom tell you that I'm house sitting?" I asked.

"Yep. Sucks to be you. Hey, are you having a party? You could invite LeAnn. And me."

LeAnn was my roommate. My brother had a severe crush on her.

"No. No party. I promised Grandma I wouldn't even have anybody over, including your dorky butt."

"You're the dork."

"Nice comeback."

"What do you want, anyway?"

"I have a question for you," I paused. "Have you ever been at Grandma's house and noticed anything ... weird?"

"Weird like what?" he asked, annoyed now. I was taking up his video game time.

"Like something ... supernatural."

At this my brother completely busted up.

"Oh my god," he said between snorts, "You are such a freak! I'm gonna tell Mom you think Grandma's house is haunted."

"Whatever," I said, "never mind." Then I added, "Jerk," before I hung up the phone.

I sat on Grandma's bed and looked at the closet door. What was in there? I looked down at my legs. "What did you see when you were in there?" I asked them. "Too bad my legs don't have eyes." That idea started to creep me out, and I told myself to think about something else.

I thought instead about what to do about this problem. I couldn't just let this thing stay in Grandma's closet. I wondered if Grandma even knew about it, and then remembered her sitting on the bed, looking at me after I'd seen that hand. She was completely oblivious. No, she couldn't know about whatever was in her closet.

"Oh my god," I thought, "It was the rock music." My mom was always telling me that rock music was a portal for the devil. I'd brought this thing into my Grandma's house! "No, wait," I remembered, "I saw the hand before I listened to the music." I breathed a sigh of relief. Still, I was going to fix this for Grandma.

The dresser had wheels. They were tiny, and metal, and they squeaked as I pushed the dresser across the room, but they worked. I was careful not to move too quickly, afraid that one of Grandma's treasures would fall and shatter on the floor. But I got to the closet without incident and I pushed the dresser hard up against the door. I pulled on the doorknob and the door wouldn't budge. It was a short-term solution, but it would give me some time to figure out what to do.

As I stood there thinking, the phone rang.

"Hey, honey, how's it going there?"

"Hi, Mom," I said. "Things are going great."

"Oh good. I was just checking. Your brother told me you called this morning."

"Oh. Well, whatever he told you — he's an idiot."

"Don't call your brother names."

"Sorry."

After a couple of seconds she said, "This is a really nice thing you're doing for your grandma."

"I know," I said. "My rewards are waiting for me in heaven, right?"

"That's right," she laughed. "Well, I'm glad everything's okay. You know if you need anything we're just a phone call away."

"I know," I said. "Don't worry about anything here — everything's ... fine. I gotta go, Mom."

I hung up the phone and repeated to myself, "Yep, everything's fine." But I wasn't sure everything was fine, because someone, or something, was definitely knocking on the inside of the closet door.

***

"LeAnn?"

"Oh, hey! How's the house sitting? You know, you missed a great party last night."

"The house sitting is just great," I said sarcastically. "Listen, I need you to do me a favor. You know that girl down the hall that's into all that supernatural crap?"

"Denise? Yep, I just saw her walk to her room. Why?"

"I need to find out if she knows anything about, um, getting rid of ghosts."

"Oh my gawd," squealed LeAnn, "Is your grandma's house haunted? We should totally have a sèance there!"

"No," I said, "No sèance! I'm not supposed to have anyone over here at all. I just need to find out how to get rid of something that may or may not be here — I'm not sure. I might just be crazy."

"Totally understand that," said LeAnn. She was a good friend. "I'll talk to her and give you a call back."

"Or you could have her call me," I said.

"No way, I totally wanna be in on this!"

"Fine, but can you hurry up?" The knocking was getting louder.

I made myself some lunch and then stood by the phone while I ate it. I listened to the knocking upstairs. It had started as a sort of quick rapping sound and had gotten louder over time. Now it could almost be described as pounding. A loud bang sounded every two seconds or so. I worried that it might knock something off the dresser and began to wonder if I should go upstairs and put Grandma's knick-knacks in a safer spot. I was at the foot of the stairs, ready to go up, when the doorbell rang and the pounding stopped.

"Surprise! We're here to save you!"

I held the front door open, surprised to see LeAnn. Denise was standing next to her, holding a large paper bag.

"What are you guys doing here?" I asked, smiling. I was happy to see them, despite the fact that I had specifically told LeAnn I couldn't have people over.

"Well," said LeAnn, "Denise started to tell me about what you should do, and it just got way too complicated, so we just decided to come here so she could show you."

"Hi," said Denise, pushing past me into the house. "What kind of ghost is it? Apparition, poltergeist? Are you seeing orbs or spectral mist, ectoplasm?"

"I saw a hand and two feet in the closet upstairs," I said. "Oh, and it's been opening and closing the door, turning the light off and on, and it's been banging on the door for the last hour or so."

"Wow. That is so great!" said Denise.

"Awesome!" said LeAnn.

"So, what should I do?" I asked.

"Well, there are a few things," said Denise. "First off, it sounds like the main portal must be in the closet, so you need to keep it in there if you can. Next, you need to close off all other entry points while you're getting rid of it, so it can't get back in another way."

"What other entry points are we talking about?" I asked.

"Mirrors and any reflective surfaces — they'll all have to be covered up. Also, sometimes they can come in through heater vents, sink drains, so close all of those or cover them up."

"What else?" I asked. I'd started to take notes on my grandma's "Bless this Mess" notepad.

"I don't know for sure if this is true, but I saw it in a movie once — the refrigerator may be a portal, too."

"Better safe than sorry," I said and wrote it down.

"Next, I brought you some things to help with the cleansing."

"What's cleansing?" asked LeAnn.

"Purging the spirit," said Denise, pulling things from her paper bag. She pulled out a dozen or so items: incense, a cross, a Bible, some holy water, chimes, and a few things I'd never seen before.

"What are these?" asked LeAnn, holding up a bronze bowl and wooden mallet that looked like a mortar and pestle. "For mixing potions?"

"No," said Denise, grabbing them from her. "It's a singing bowl." She struck the side of the bowl with the mallet and it gave a loud chime. She then ran the mallet around the side of the bowl and it vibrated with a clear high tone. When she stopped, so did the sound.

"Ghosts hate that," she said. "They hate any kind of high ringing sounds."

"Why's that?" I asked.

"We don't know why," she said, "Only that it works."

I shrugged. I was really in no position to question. This was my first haunting.

After she explained to me how everything worked, and the ins and outs of cleansing a house of spirits, I thanked her and asked them both to leave. I was sure the neighbors would see the car and tell my grandma I'd had people over.

"Are you sure?" asked LeAnn. "Aren't you scared to be alone?"

I thought about it. I wasn't scared. Not really. The knocking had stopped and in the light of day, it had all started to seem very mundane.

"I can handle it," I said.

"If you change your mind," said Denise, "Call me. And take pictures if you can. I would love to see any pictures or video if you can get it."

"Will do," I said, although I had absolutely no intention of photographing anything that might be materializing out of thin air in front of me.

Once I was alone, I got to work. I ventured upstairs and peeked into Grandma's room. Everything was in order. No knocking. I pulled a pile of towels and sheets out of the linen closet and covered up all the mirrors and reflective surfaces I could find. Then I plugged up the bathroom sink and tub. I grabbed my suitcase and some pillows from the bed. I had no intention of sleeping in this room tonight. I would sleep on the sofa bed downstairs in the living room.

Downstairs there were more reflective surfaces and mirrors and I ended up having to pull the tablecloth off the kitchen table to throw over the front of the microwave and the polished metal toaster and stand up blender. The kitchen throw rug was hung over the top of the stove to cover the glass oven door. The rest of the towels and sheets had been hung over large mirrors in the entry and in the living room, and over glass-covered pictures and Grandma's curio cabinets, and I'd gathered all the small, shiny objects onto the floor in the center of the living room and covered them with a sheet.

Because Grandma's heater vents weren't the type that closed, I covered them with placemats and then pulled furniture on top of them to hold them in place. It seemed that if ghosts had the ability to open doors, they could surely push a placemat out of the way.

Back in the kitchen, I wondered what to do about the refrigerator. I didn't need much out of there. I figured I'd have to have this wrapped up by the time Grandma got home, day after tomorrow, so I'd just need provisions until then. In the end, I decided to fill the sink with ice and push whatever I thought I'd need from the fridge down into it. The ice would melt, but I thought it might last until tomorrow if I covered the whole thing with tin foil. I really hoped this would all be over by then.

After I'd turned the sink into a tin foil refrigerator, I walked back through the rooms looking for anything I'd missed. Finding nothing, I turned to the next task: the cleansing.

I found a red flowered apron hanging in the pantry and put it on. There were two large pockets in the front, perfect for holding my cleansing supplies. In one pocket, I put the Bible, the small silver cross, and the holy water. "Like things with like things," I said to myself. In the other I put a flashlight. It was getting dark outside, and although there were lights in every room, I was being extra careful. In the pocket with the flashlight I put the crystal that Denise had given me. "For protection," she'd said. I didn't know how it would protect me and neither had she, but I was going in as armed as possible.

I looked at the other items in my arsenal, spread out in front of me, and chose two more — the incense and some sage. I lit both and stuck the matchbook in my pocket, in case they went out. I held them both out in front of me as they smoldered. "I sure hope the smell of these is out of here before Grandma gets home." I walked up the stairs, leaving a trail of sage and incense ash as I went.

Upstairs, the evening light was even dimmer, so I used my elbow to switch on the hall light, and then transferred the incense to my left hand so I could turn on the bedroom light.

Everything was as I had left it. The dresser stood in front of the closet door, and the little sugar bell sat on top of it, a silent witness to everything that had gone on here. It would never be the same.

I pulled the Bible from my pocket and had some trouble opening it with my one free hand. I used my other hand to steady it while I found the right page, and ended up singeing a few pages of Psalms. I didn't know if burning the Bible would have any negative impact on the cleansing, but there was nothing I could do about it now.

I read the passage Denise had marked for me. Nothing happened. I read it again. Nothing. I don't know what I was expecting. I thought about calling Denise and asking her if anything was supposed to happen. Wasn't there supposed to be a whooshing sound, or smoke, or whimpering or something? I decided to wait it out.

I went downstairs and sat on the fold-out bed, which I'd made up earlier in the day. I didn't intend to fall asleep, but I guess that with not having had a full night's sleep the night before and all the excitement of the day, I couldn't help it. I lay down and was out like a light.

When I woke up, it was full dark outside. I didn't have any way of knowing what time it was because the clock face in the living room was glass, and so I'd covered it up. I could hear only the tick, tick, tick of the clock from beneath the cloth napkin.

I lay still and listened for awhile. No sounds coming from above me, just the clock and the refrigerator in the kitchen.

When the refrigerator clicked off, I thought I heard another sound, but I wasn't sure what it was at first. Then I realized what it was and felt silly. "It's your own breathing, you boob," I said to myself. But no, that wasn't it. I held my breath but the breathing continued. I had thought it was my own breath because it was coming from right behind me on the pillow.

I was frozen in place, lying on my side. I didn't move. I slowly began to realize what I'd known all along. That sound behind me was definitely breathing, and that slight tingle on the back of my neck, was that breath? That warm spot on my arm, wasn't that a hand lying just above my elbow? I hadn't wanted to know that before, but I think it's what woke me up.

I lay there, unable to move, while waves of terror — intense heat and then freezing cold — ran from the top of my head down to my toes. Finally, adrenaline kicked in and I was able to move again. I rolled out of bed with so much force that I pulled the blankets with me. The sheets clung to my legs, and my feet got wrapped up. I tripped as I tried to pull myself away and onto my feet. I finally gained my freedom, and though I was sprinting across the room, I felt like I was moving in slow motion, sure that whatever it was that had been lying next to me was right on my heels. When I reached the light switch I flipped it on and spun around so quickly that my head swam. Nothing was behind me. I looked at the bed where I had just been laying. No one was there. I was alone, shivering from a cold sweat, my ears pounding with the sound of my beating heart.

I turned on all the downstairs lights and looked around. When I found nothing on the first floor, I walked to the foot of the stairs. Looking up, I saw something small and white on the second stair from the top — the sugar bell.

I made my way up the stairs slowly, pausing for several seconds on each step. About halfway to the top I remembered my cleansing items and I pulled the silver cross out of the pocket of my apron. I'd fallen asleep with it on. I flung the cross up the steps and it bounced off the wall at the top and landed on the floor. "You'd better get away," I tried to yell, but my voice cracked and it came out in a whisper. I pulled out the crystal and looked at it. I was wishing I'd thrown it instead of the cross. It was too late now. I held it out in front of me and continued up the stairs.

When I got to the sugar bell, I reached down and picked it up. I rolled it over in my hand and saw that it had a long, narrow crack running up the side. That really pissed me off.

I turned down the hallway and walked toward Grandma's room. The light was off, but I could tell from the shadows on the wall that the closet light was on. I got to the door and I looked inside. The dresser had been knocked over and all of Grandma's treasures were scattered on the floor. The door to the closet was wide open and light streamed out, revealing broken ceramics and spilled perfume.

I looked to the right of the closet, next to the bed, and there she was — the ghost. The hands, the feet, and the rest of her — right there in front of me. I thought about how Denise had requested that I take a picture and how absurd that would be right now. Whipping out a camera — "Do you mind if I take your photograph?" Click, click, click. I was going to tell Denise how ridiculous she was.

I cleared my throat. "I don't ... I mean, we don't want you here," I said. The ghost seemed to be looking at me, but I didn't know if she understood what I was saying. I pointed to the mess on the floor. "Look, you broke all my grandma's things." I tried to sound mad, but my voice shook more with fear than with anger. I hoped she couldn't tell the difference.

She looked at the mess, and then down at her feet, like she was ashamed. "That's right," I said more boldly, "You're a bad ghost, a really, really bad ghost." I was letting her have it now. "You should be ashamed of yourself." I wasn't exactly sure what I should be saying, but talking to her like she was a dog who'd just messed on the floor seemed to be working for the moment. Then I got to the point. "You have to go now."

The ghost looked up at me and pouted. Then she tilted her head, looked up at the ceiling, and put a finger to the side of her mouth as if she was considering what I was saying. Finally she folded her arms across her chest, smiled and shook her head.

"No?" I asked, deflated. She shook her head again. I tried to figure out what to do next. Should I read the Bible again? That obviously hadn't worked before. What about the holy water? I still had it in my pocket. Oh, the chimes and the singing bowl! Ghosts hated high-toned sounds, Denise had said so. I'd forgotten them downstairs, though. I thought about asking her to wait right here while I went and got them. But then I decided I'd better not pass up this opportunity if there was anything I could do. She might be gone when I got back, and then what?

I looked around and didn't see anything I could make a sound with. In my hand I still held the little sugar bell, but it was just a little plastic thing and wouldn't make any sound. I moved it a little, though, and was surprised to hear a sharp, "tink." I held it up and gave it a harder shake. To my amazement a clear ringing sound came bursting out of it, hurting my ears.

The sound was working on the ghost, too. She was plugging her ears and looked like she was in pain. I hated to do it to her, but enough was enough. "It's time for you to go now," I said, yelling over the din of the bell. "Just go back through the closet ... uh, portal thingy or whatever it's called ... and don't come back."

She made her way to the closet and disappeared amongst the clothes, holding her ears as she went. I walked over to the closet door to make sure she was gone, ringing the bell furiously all the time. I bent down and looked for feet and there were none there. I got out the holy water and threw it onto the clothes for good measure. I then quickly turned out the light and shut the door. Once I closed the door, the sugar bell fell silent. It was only a plastic bell again.

I sat down on the bed and I started to cry. It had been a long couple of days, and I'd stayed strong, but now I was exhausted. "I think it's over now," I said to myself. I crawled into Grandma's bed and cried myself to sleep.

***

"Would you mind telling me what in the Sam Hill is going on here?"

I opened my eyes, but all I could see was light. It was streaming in from the window.

"Well? I'm waiting, young lady."

I blinked again, and saw the ceiling in Grandma's room. I sat up in bed. Grandma was standing at the end of it. She had a broken ceramic bird in one hand, and a towel and small silver cross in the other. I recognized the towel as the one I'd thrown over the entryway mirror last night.

"Grandma, you're home early," I said. I lifted a hand to rub my eyes and realized I was still holding the little sugar bell. I hid it under the sheet.

"Lost my shirt at the casino," she said, "so I decided to come home early and I find my furniture rearranged, sheets and towels hanging everywhere. My kitchen sink is a Jiffy Pop, my things are all over the floor, and this," she held up the broken ceramic bird. "And have you been smoking in my house? There are ashes everywhere. And since when do you wear aprons to bed?"

"It's kind of a long story, Grandma," I said smiling. I couldn't help it. I was so glad she was home.

"Well, I told you no parties. Mrs. McGuffy next door told me when I drove up that you've had visitors. Long story or not, you're going to spill the beans, young lady, just as soon as I ... why are my clothes all wet?" She had opened the closet door.

"That's holy water, Grandma," I said.

She stopped and turned to me, surprised. "You saw Maryann?"

It turns out Grandma has lived with Maryann for years now. That's right, the ghost has a name! Grandma said she told Grandpa about Maryann once and he thought she had gone crazy, so she never mentioned it again.

"I thought I'd take that with me to my grave," she said.

"Aren't you scared of her Grandma?" I asked, as we cleaned up the house.

"Oh no, she's great company. Sometimes she sleeps on the bed beside me at night and lays her hand on my arm." I shuddered from my memory of the night before. Grandma didn't think my cleansing had scared Maryann away for good, though.

"But didn't you see me when I was getting the sweater out of the closet? I saw her hand then and it scared me. Didn't you notice?"

"Sure I did, but I didn't dare say anything. If you hadn't seen anything, you'd think my mind was going, and if you had seen something, well, it's not likely you would have stayed here while I went on that casino trip with my girlfriends."

***

On my way home I called my brother.

"Hey, dorkwad."

"Hey, dorkwad."

"Nice comeback. Oh, and thanks a lot for ratting me out to Mom."

"You're welcome. So how did it go with the disembodied?"

"False alarm," I said. "Too many late-night horror flicks, I guess."

"Wow, you really are a loser."

"I guess so," I said. "So, Grandma asked me to call and tell you she needs a favor."

"What?" he asked.

"She needs you to change the light bulb in her closet."

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The Harrow: Original Works of Fantasy and Horror. ISSN: 1528-4271
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