The Brownie of the Alabaster Mansion: A Short StoryAndrew Barger / Horror
The Brownie of the Alabaster Mansion
A Short Story
This book is available in print at all major online book retailers. It is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
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An Epic English Poem
The Brownie of the Alabaster Mansion
“Why are you . . . waving a fish . . . at me . . . in a threatening manner? Very square.”
---The Brownie of the Alabaster Mansion
Nineteenth century legends of brownies, those little creatures who take up residence in the quaint cottages of Ireland and the stone houses of chilly Scottish moors, are well documented thanks in large part to the “Ettrick Sheppard” that was James Hogg. It seems these creatures have fallen out of publishing favor (although as real as ever) not only in Europe, but most certainly in America, where they have seldom (if ever) been seen on these literary shores.
By this tale the feisty brownie has been resurrected through a wonderful literary manifestation called The Short Story. They tell us The Short Story is dead in the modern age given our handy e-reading devices. Don’t you believe it. The Short Story is more alive than ever.
It is the other end of the literary spectrum that is in danger of becoming extinct: The loooooong novel. Who wants to slug through War and Peace on a computer screen even if it fits in the palm of one’s hand? Who wants to read Tolstoy’s masterpiece on their phone? What’s more, very few have the patience in this time of hyperbursts of information from multiple people at the same time. Video killed the radio star. Tweets and text messages killed the long novel. May it rest in peace.
It is The Short Story that can be digested on our subways and trains and buses in one sitting. It is The Short Story that is more inviting in our modern age despite our ability to now carry entire libraries of huge novels in our pockets. For instance, in researching The Best Ghost Stories 1800-1849 and The Best Horror Stories 1800-1849 I read many short stories on my phone. This was a far from intolerable experience. The little tales were actually enjoyable even on the smallest of our electronic devices.
If you are about to read “The Brownie of the Alabaster Mansion” on your phone, I commend you. It is my hope that the creature will once again pull up a fireside chair and take residence in shirt pockets and carry on bags to be forgotten no more.
In truth, the brownie has always existed apart from the literature James Hogg created over 150 years ago, especially in America. It is only recently, however, that this pathetic creature has moved into the Alabaster Mansion.
July 22, 2011
Some thought he was a mongrel . . . some a kelpie, or a fairy, but most of all, that he was really and truly a Brownie.
The Brownie of the Black Haggs
I. The Tarwicks
Booker Tarwick opened one of the tall front doors on the ground floor of the Alabaster Mansion and stepped into a massive foyer overhung with an equally massive glass chandelier. A set of stairs flanked each side of the foyer and upon strolling through it he was met with a long hallway running perpendicular. Its oaken floor stretched down to the western wing on one end and the eastern wing on the other. Off the hallway sat a library where Booker Tarwick often worked from home. This evening would be no exception.
He had lodged a full day at Tarwick Timber Corporation and had another hour, maybe two, of calls to return. Being third generation CEO of the conglomerate demanded as much, especially when utilities were considering wood once more as a “renewable” fuel.
On his way down the long hallway he passed the map room, the china room, the room of gilded silver decorations that had yet to be named by Chelsea, the elliptical room leading onto the south portico (the most talked about room by the select few residents of the county who had visited it), and the parlor where the girls were camped out.
“Not so fast, Daddy,” said Claire the towheaded eight-year-old.
Booker stopped dead in his tracks. He had been caught once again trying to sneak by. Claire was arranging a wooden chair while her three-year-old sister, Jan, had taken to running with a toy bus around the room.
“What problems of the world are you solving today? A new dance move? A new castle for the princesses?” As the father of two young girls, Booker was well versed in the latest princesses and teeny bopper dance moves.
“We need to know on which side of the fireplace to put the brownie’s chair.”
“A brownieeee, Daddy.” Claire pointed to a book splayed open on the floor. “Says here in ‘The Old Scottish Book of Fairies and Mischievous Creatures’ Mommy gave me that if you put a chair out for a brownie he will come live in your house.”
Booker Tarwick was befuddled. The girls’ imaginations had no bounds.
Jan burst out with another passing of the bus around the parlor. “Airybus!” she exclaimed, running the two words together.
“Well?” Claire asked.
“Oh, the chair. I don’t think, honey, it will matter to the brownie what side of the fireplace he sits on. Whatever a brownie is.”
“Okay, Daddy, I’ll leave it where it is.”
Booker spun out of the parlor with a smile on his face. He had to get back to being CEO. The trust fund handed down to Booker Tarwick by his parents—the Timber barons Percy and Martha of Tarwick Timber Corporation, and before that his grandparents, Winston and Aubrey Tarwick—was every bit as generous as had been rumored in the county at afternoon teas, under church awnings and knitting clubs.
By the simple bequeath the young Tarwicks had become far richer than anyone in the county could imagine given the size of their intangible assets. Booker did not rest on his wealth. He had more than tripled the trust over the years due in large part to his love of innovation and a good, old fashioned work ethic that stuffed the coffers of his bank account and gave a tidy lifestyle to a few stockbrokers in Manhattan and bankers in Dallas.
Despite the constant media attention, Booker and Chelsea remained humble in the face of their fortune. They never stooped so low as to mention their money at any social function. They turned out to be religious and giving people. Their magnificent gifts to church and charity alike were all given anonymously.
There was one tangible asset, however, that could never be hidden from public view and that was their house. Of course to call it merely a “house” was to deem the Empire State Building just an “office building” or Route 66 a “road.” Since Booker took over the mansion from his parents eight years ago, and decades earlier when his grandparents built the whitewashed bulwark of brick and stone over a five year period in the nineteen thirties, it had simply been known in the county as the Alabaster Mansion. This was due in no small part to its columned balconies and semicircle porticos lined with countless windows, each guarded by the finest wooden shutters and black iron hinges.
At three ample stories with peaked roofline, the venerable structure loomed over any house in the county. Its height, no matter how impressive, was overcome by the girth of the mansion that had expanded over the years by the addition of