And it was such a nice l.., p.1
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And it was such a nice little town..
“Truro, the Hub of Much Chaos”

  A collection of short stories

  “Don’t Be Silly, Ghosts Don’t Eat Sandwiches”

  By Amy Marie Brander

  If Anna had known any better, she wouldn’t have entered the dilapidated bungalow sitting idly across the gravel road, but this is not a story about little girls who know any better. So when seven year old Anna moved into 48 Cherrywood Lane, and noticed the peculiar little house, she felt an immediate and large desire to intrude upon it.

  Now Anna’s parents had given her extensive lessons regarding entering the woods. They explained the dangers of speaking to strangers and why it was important to look both ways before she crossed the street (and she did so to commence this particular adventure). Yet somehow, in all their busy lectures, they had neglected to mention the problematic situations one might find herself in, should curiosity lead you into an abandoned house.

  It wasn’t much of a house really; not a proper home. Some grey shrubbery crowded the space under the front windows. Most of the house had fallen into disrepair. The porch saggy and rotted, led up to an optimistic pink door that Anna felt was decidedly out of place. She suspected it may be all that remained of some happy family that once resided within. A withered wreath hung crookedly over the door, forgotten, like the rest of the building.

  Why had they left without their things? Why had no other family moved in? Perhaps they could not sell the house. Yes! It must be haunted, Anna thought. She couldn’t wait to push beyond the bright door and find out what lay behind! You see, our little Anna had a great interest in mysterious places and what they might hold! Anna was an adventurer. Anna was a ghost hunter!

  Originally, Anna had been delighted when her parents informed her of the move to Cheerywood Lane. Her old house in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia was built new and no previous occupants to speak of. No history, meant no ghosts. No ectoplasm, no apparitions, spirits or mystery and certainly, NO ADVENTUER. It was too much to hope that their back yard might have once been an ancient Native American burial ground.

  “Is it a very old house?” Anna excitedly poked her parent’s for information on her new home, begging for some shred of hope that it may have a long history of murder, madness and death. Now, any normal child might be asking questions regarding their new school or how many other children one might find to play with. But not Anna, she was interested in the macabre and morose. It indeed was a very old home and Anna had heard that Truro had a great history of paranormal happenings! Oh the paranormal possibilities!!

  It was to Anna’s great disappointment that the first night in the house left everything to the imagination. She tried so hard to keep her eyes open all night and bid her ears be active listeners in her search for ghostly sounds, yet she awoke the next morning to find that she had slipped into a pleasant and restful sleep, undisturbed by any matter of harrowing haunting. It was to her great displeasure, a silent and peaceful home. No creaking of floorboards, no footsteps on stairs in the middle of the night, no cupboards opening of their own accord! Things could always be found exactly where one left them. No, not even the flickering of a light bulb; a virtual paranormal desert, completely devoid of adventure.

  Anna had high hopes for this little bungalow though and prepared a bag for the entry. In her little blue knapsack she counted out: one flashlight -best for inspecting closets and crawl spaces; one Ouija board –should she find the perfect place to call upon the spirits of the damned that lie within the basement; one empty jar- should she be able to obtain a sample of ectoplasm; one spool of yarn – in case she should happen upon some dimensional portal leading to the spirit realm, she would have to find her way back; and finally one sandwich – should she become hungry.

  She collected the tools into her ghost hunting bag and pulled the drawstring closed. She sat in the front yard and patiently waited for the sun to set. Dusk was when she would enter; everyone knew that ghostly activity happened at night! Her parents called her to dinner but she shrugged them off plainly. Her mind was consumed by the possibilities hidden behind the pink door.

  When the sun had finally begun to set, Anna made her way across the muddy gravel road. Each footfall closer filled her with quiet glee; the anticipation growing with every tiny step. She wore her best Jelly sandals (it was important to look her best for her first ghost). She carefully ascended the three saggy steps of the porch, the wood sighing beneath her feet. It sent a chill through her which only excited her little nerves more. Slowly reaching out to the door knob… almost there and… a sudden cracking! It made her jump ten feet in the air! (You know how children exaggerate) She spun around in a circle to realize the banister had split. Anna had simply put too much weight on it. Phew. Quickly now, she grabbed the door knob and gave it a forceful jerk only to find it locked. She pushed with all the weight of her body that the wood may be so eroded that it would give, but nothing.

  With a heavy sigh and a lot less care, Anna thumped down the steps, her enthusiasm now placed in the stomping of the decaying yard. She decided to circle the house, which turned out to be a fine idea as it just so happened a window was missing out back. It was a little high up, so she scanned the yard for something to give her a boost. A few lawn chairs scattered the yard and an old rusted BBQ. She pulled and pushed, heaved and hauled. With everything she had, she built herself a mountain of junk beneath the window. She could be patient no more and mounted the pile quickly. She poked her head through the opening, eyes closed. She listened first and heard a small creaking. She opened one eye, then the other, to reveal a dusty living room, the sofa just beneath her. She pulled her body through the window, her legs to follow and performed a deft little tuck and roll onto the couch. Inside! At last! Anna shot up and began to bounce forgetting all the caution she meant to take. She was supposed to take care that she didn’t scare away that ghosts but why would a ghost fear a little girl anyway! It wasn’t like fishing.

  She leapt from the couch, landing squarely in the middle of the room. She made a quick turn on the spot and scoped out a bookshelf covered in dusty, a lamp, a piano and some picture frames whose pictures were hidden under dirty glass. Anna used her sleeve to wipe away some dirt. Beneath lay a photo of a dog, and a funny looking man. He had a big wide smile and crooked teeth, probably the same age as her father. All adults were hard to place when it came to age. She tripped around the room and fingered some books, got a nose full of dust and sneezed loudly. As she went to wipe her nose she heard a creaking of floor boards and a set of footsteps! An involuntary shiver crawled through her skin as she cautiously approached the hallway.

  “Hello!?” she called in a much softer voice than she intended. Was she frightened? No! Not Anna the ghost hunter! With one big confident step she forced herself into the hallway, took a deep breath and yelled “HAALLLOOOOO!!!!??” To her shock she received a reply!

  “Hello?” a little tiny voice sounded from down the hall. She was so excited she almost tripped over her own feet as she headed to the end of the hall.

  “Hello? Who’s there?! What’s your name? Where are you from? Why are you here?” the questions spilled out of her and she feared she may over whelm the voice.

  “I… I’m from here. I... I have nowhere to go” the voice replied.

  Oh! How sad, caught between worlds! “You can’t cross over? Shall I help you?” Anna asked.

  “Cross over? What do you mean?” questioned the voice. A tiny little boy’s voice, Anna thought. A bedroom lay at the end of the hall, yet when she peered in, she saw no one.

  “Can I see you?” Anna asked hopefully. The voice did not answer. “Please! I really want to meet you! Or shall we communicate through my spirit bo
ard!?” She thought suddenly.

  “Spirit board? I had one of those once!” the voice was more positive than before and this time the body of a small boy accompanied it, crawling out from behind the bed. He was so tiny, and frail. It was as if she could see right through him! His grey eyes were sunken into his head and heavy dark circles surrounded each one. His tattered clothes matched his grey skin. He was just how she imagined a ghost might look! Right down to his dirty bare feet. What ghost needs shoes? He was missing the chains though… she had always assumed a ghost would have chains like Marley in the Christmas Carol.

  “What is your name!?” she blurted.

  “I’m Michael” explained the little boy.

  “How long have you been here?” Anna was curious; his moth eaten outfit didn’t look modern. The boy stared back at Anna, hesitantly.

  “I… I dunno.” he confessed. It was around this moment that all the energy she had expended in the yard building her mountain of garbage began to take its toll. Her tummy growled loudly and she felt almost light headed suddenly wishing she hadn’t shrugged off supper as she had. She closed her eyes a moment and flopped down on the floor, took off her knapsack and stuck her hand deep inside to pull out the sandwich. It was smart of her to have packed it, she thought to herself. The ghost boy moved in closer, “can I have some?” he asked, his eyes big suddenly.

  “Don’t be silly, ghosts don’t eat!” Anna responded quickly. “Why, it would fall right through you onto the floor, and would be a dreadful waste! All that dirt...” she eyed the moldy carpeting.

  The boy looked confused but made no argument. He stood over her and watched Anna devour the sandwich. Anna greedily consumed it with a raised eyebrow at the ghost boy, who she was beginning to suspect might have been left on Earth for being too boring for the afterlife. He certainly didn’t seem a threat and he hadn’t done anything interesting, like disappear and make things move about the room like the poltergeists she’d read about.

  “Don’t you have any special powers?” she eyed the ghost boy Michael with suspicion.

  “I dunno what you mean.” He only replied.

  Anna sighed loudly after swallowing the last bit of sandwich.

  “You don’t know much do you? Do you know what happened to your parent’s? Can you remember?” she figured he may have forgotten if he’d been haunting the little house for a long time. Besides, he didn’t seem to know anything else, best not get one’s hopes up.

  Michael’s face held little emotion as he answered “Mom died when I was young and Dad was always drinking out of the bottle, until he couldn’t get anymore.”

  This didn’t make a whole lot of sense to Anna “Sorry about your mom, what happened to your father? Is he long gone too?”

  Michael lowered his head to the floor and said that he suspected so. Suddenly he looked Anna straight in the eye and said “Do your parents drink from bottles all the time?”

  “Well, not that I’ve ever noticed.” She answered.

  “Can I go to your house?” the ghost boy asked.

  “Aren’t you suppose to have unfinished business here? I bet you can’t even leave this house.” She told him.

  The boy ghost looked confused. Anna noticed it, perhaps she was wrong. Maybe he could leave the house and visit her new room! He could live in her closet and scare her mom and dad! Oh the tricks they could play together!

  Anna got up off the floor and realized the time. “Okay ghost Michael, I have to go home but maybe you can come visit my house” she thought for a moment, “after I finish unpacking my room”. Yes it was a dreadful mess and she didn’t want the ghost boy thinking she had no space for him.

  Michael looked worried, “when will that be?” his hopeful look completely faded away.

  “Sometime tomorrow, I’ll come back at night and get you!” Anna exclaimed. She noticed the disappointed look on Michael’s face and rolled her eyes. She scolded him for being rude enough to invite himself over in the first place which left the grubby little ghost boy staring down at his feet again. Anna took leave of the house through the front door this time. She told Michael to leave the door unlocked so she didn’t have to climb the junk mountain to get in when she came to get him. She waved good bye to Michael through the window of the house. He’s so skinny, she thought. But she suspected that real ghosts would look that gaunt. Now she had proof. She went home to work on her bedroom and prepare for her new-soon-to-be resident ghost boy. That night she dreamed up all kinds of wicked little tricks to play on her parents and maybe even some to play on the kids she would meet at her new school.

  At dusk the next day, Anna tore across the street to meet Michael. She entered through the open front door left unlocked just as she had bid the little ghost boy to do. She called his name at the top of her lungs! “I’m here! Let’s go! Let’s take you to my house where you can live in my closet! We’ll have adventures all over this town and maybe even find other ghosts!” Anna the ghost hunter and her side-kick ghost boy!

  Yet when Michael didn’t respond, Anna found herself searching the house. She called the ghost boys name over and over. She went to the little bedroom at the end of the hall assuming she may have better luck there. She sat on the bed and looked around. Behind the bed! Perhaps he is hiding. Sure enough Michael was there, laying face-down on the ground. She shouted his name at him unsure what game he was playing, but the ghost boy did not move. She reached out to touch him. Her hand lay on his corporeal body; it didn’t sink into him like she assumed and so she gave him a shove over. Michael made no sound, no movement, and he did not blink his eyes. He stared straight ahead with those dead grey eyes, only they seemed much deader than before.

  “If it Talks Like A Duck”

  By Amy Marie Brander

  No one ever asked Fadi how he felt about being the only boy in school with a permanent tan. To be honest, no one ever asked Fadi about much of anything. So on a brisk November morning when he happened upon a peculiar white duck, he wasn’t so much surprised that it spoke to him. Fadi was taken aback by the fact that someone had actually asked for his opinion.

  On this particular day, Fadi was considering skipping his 5th grade history class and decided to doddle about and throw rocks at the ice that lay on Kiwanis Pond. It was then, just as he was about to chuck a particularly large rock, that a little ivory colored duck begged a word.

  “Excuse me sir, but what do you make of this situation I appear to have gotten myself in?” Fadi, not having much conversation with anyone over the last couple years, wondered if he heard correctly, or if perhaps he was slipping into some form of senility. Is it not possible that one would eventually start hearing voices from animals, if one was denied any interactive conversation for long enough? Fadi however, was all too eager to grasp this opportunity to lend more than a quiet ear and activated his long neglected vocal chords.

  “Why it looks as though your feet have frozen into the ice!” he exclaimed. Fadi knew that ducks were supposed to have all flown away at the onset of winter, yet here the little duck remained cemented into the ice.

  “I was afraid of that” exclaimed the duck, unable to crane his neck to assess the situation he was in. “What are you doing here in this cold?” Fadi exclaimed? “Shouldn’t you have left with all the other ducks?”

  “Well it made more sense to stick around a bit longer you see, for every afternoon some fine gentleman and ladies come by the pond with bits of bread. I suppose I have slept too long through the night however, for my flock appears to have up and left. Not that I’m surprised” he remarked, “for they have long ignored me you see.”

  This Fadi understood deeply and he felt for the poor cast-off duck. “Why do they ignore you?” Fadi asked.

  “I suppose it is because I have this ivory feathering, while so many of my flock are of browns and blues and greens. I suppose I shouldn’t refer to them as ‘my’ flock anymore, should I?” replied the duck.

  This explanation too hit home wit
h Fadi and he crouched at the shore of the pond to speak more directly with the little ivory duck. “I know how you feel little duck. I am not the same color as the children at school. They are all pale as you and I am darker much like the other ducks you have flown with. I am ignored, or worse! It’s as if they do not see me at all.” Fadi explained.

  “Let us make a pact,” suggested the Duck. “You get me out of this pond and I will help you with the children at school.”

  Fadi knew that this whole situation was ridiculous; that ducks didn’t talk and entering a bargain with anything that couldn’t possibly be sentient, was merely his subconscious making a pact with his waking mind. Under the circumstances however, being so long invisible to his peers, he decided any ounce of hope was worth investing in. It was with some difficulty that Fadi began to sculpt a plan in which to free the little mallard. He grabbed the large rock he had intended to throw into the pond and carefully edged out. He began to whack a way at the ice, slowly chipping away at its density. After only 20 minutes the duck was free and flopping numbly towards the shore.

  The duck immediately thanked the boy for the assistance. Fadi was eager to learn how he should receive help from the small bird. Now the duck replied. “While you chipped me out of the pond, I thought of ways in which to help you gain the trust of your peers!” Fadi listened intently. “It appears the root of the issue is that you are of a different feather than your flock as is own my predicament. My solution for you is that you take my white feathers and don them as your own! Then you shall match the children of your school.”

  This suggestion took Fadi aback. “Would this not injure you mortally?” cried Fadi. “Why yes it would,” explained the duck. “But I too know the weariness of being cast out and have endured the loneliness so long. I do not wish to go back to a life of antagonism in the flock, nor do I wish to be alone on this planet. I wish to die a quick and swift death. If I am able to help you in the process, then all the better.”

  Fadi considered the ducks proposal, still holding the large rock he had used to free him. With a small nod, he lifted the rock high above him and sent it crashing down on the head of the depressed water fowl. The duck accepting his fate, and given completely into sadness by the rejection of his brethren, made no attempt to move and fell to the ground. Fadi shed a quick tear for the duck but had not the years of experience to understand why he would want to throw his life away. He deftly gathered all the lovely white feathers and put them in his book bag. He would bring them all home and then cover himself in the ivory.

  The next day Fadi woke up early to set about gluing every feather onto his skin. His parents thought perhaps Fadi was creating a costume for some odd school play, although they couldn’t recall him mentioning a role at any point. His parents concluded that the feathers were ultimately no cause for alarm and so they sent their son off to school as normal.

  When Fadi arrived at school, he was greeted by a myriad of reactions from giggles and pointing, to pats on the back and jokes. Fadi was thrilled at being acknowledged! It worked, he thought! His teachers looked at him confused but chose to ignore the display mistaking it for some distant custom from? -Where was the boy from?

  Fadi completely oblivious to the ignorance of both his peers and teachers sat studiously during his classes, beaming and blissful. He thought perhaps the duck had indeed been a magical creature sent to help him out of his rejection and despair.

  It wasn’t until the fourth day of the feather presentation, that people began to be less responsive. One of his teachers finally pulled Fadi aside and asked him to explain the feathers. Perhaps the magic of the feathers had begun to wear off? He simply could not understand. He thought it was best to keep the ducks plight to himself and simply said that he wished to appear as pale as his school mates so that he could fit in. This didn’t seem to convince the teacher who insisted that he was making a spectacle out of himself in order to frustrate her and hijack her class. She sentenced him to an afternoon of copying pages out of the dictionary and demand he rid himself of all the feathers.

  That night, Fadi lay in bed thinking on all the events of the days past in dread of his return to school. He felt as though he was back where he started and the one individual whom seemed sympathetic to his plight was now dead and gone by his very own hand. He felt the sting of loneliness in his chest. Why had the feathers worked initially he wondered? Why would they not continue to allow him to fit in? When Fadi fell to sleep, he dreamt of the duck. The duck had come to take Fadi swimming. He tried to ask him many things about the feathers but received no response. The feathers hadn’t improved his standing within his community and he felt that perhaps the duck had been right all along.

  “If only the town could look past my coloring,” He stated to the duck. “I understand why you chose not to re-join the flock.” The duck looked at the little boy and began to speak, “I would offer you advice but I fear you would only be consoling yourself”.

 
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