Blanket of Chill Chapter 1 Night was coming fast.

The wind was a death-chill that no one person or thing could escape.

Three kids huddled behind the Central Mall dumpster, shivering. Bruce had his arm wrapped around Tatia, whose teeth chattered loudly. Not more than a foot away, Jack sat on the cold, hard asphalt, hugging his legs. “If we don’t get somewhere, I’m gonna die,” said Tatia through clenched teeth. Jack stood up, resolute, and said, “Let’s go!” “Where?” asked Bruce, partly annoyed and partly curious. Half the time, his ideas got them into trouble, and the other half, got them what they needed. “I don’t know but sitting here on the ground isn’t a good idea because it’s only going to get colder. My butt already feels like a chunk of ice.”

“We could sneak into my father’s shed. I know where the key is. Problem is, if he finds us, he’ll kill us,” chattered Tatia. “No, look what he did to you last time you were there!” Bruce said angrily. Begging on the streets during the fall and winter months was the worst. With holidays and all; people in a bigger hurry to get where they’re going, they’d hardly collected any money during those times. After several days had passed, and all they’d eaten was a couple cans of tuna, Tatia snuck into her father’s house to find food. She thought he was at work! “Where the hell have you been?” he shouted.

Tatia dropped the loaf of bread and turned. When she wouldn’t answer, he lost it. She turned to leave, but he pinned her against the wall and gave her one of his mind blowing welts.

Tatia slipped out of his grip, bolted through the kitchen sliding glass door, into the back where she hopped up onto the brick wall that fenced in the yard. In a hurry to get away, she lost her footing and rolled off the wall, smashing onto the ground where she broke her nose and her glasses. Her nose healed rather quickly, but her glasses were shattered. The white tape that now held them together almost glowed under the light of the moon.

“We could try the City Pan again?” suggested Bruce. It was one of the few shelters that took people in without asking questions. For a couple of underage kids, their options were few, and especially during winter as more and more adults sought shelter earlier in the day. “No, the beds will be taken,” Jack replied. “Well,” Tatia said, as she stood up, “let’s go. The cold coming up from the ground is just as bad as the wind. The neighborhood park lawn will be warmer.”

As they made their way through the Pickley Hills neighborhood, they were careful to stay in the shadows. They needed to avoid adults who would call the cops. In their part of town, it wasn’t

common to see teens lurking the streets at night. Tatia lived in the neighborhood for as long as she could remember and although it was a middle class neighborhood, her family wasn’t at all respectable. The first time she left home, she spent the night at the Pickley Hills Park. That was where she met Bruce and Jack. Since then, they’d stuck together no matter what. “Oh no,” she said soddenly, and stopped walking. From a block away, they could see the sprinklers, at the park, had been set. “Let’s keep on,” said Bruce. “We’ll just have to squat tonight.” They continued past the park, and into another neighborhood.

“What do you think of this one?” asked Bruce, as they approached a dark house with a ‘For Sale’ sign. “It’s been sold,” said Jack. He pointed to a trail of heavily disturbed dirt that lead up to the front door. Its screen was slightly bent out of place, and there were scuff marks on the porch. “Someone’s been moving things in.” After a few more blocks, they happened into a wealthier neighborhood. Nearly every house had tall security fences that protected the mac mansions in their midst. “This looks good,” said Tatia with hope, as they approached a tall gray manor style house. Its gate had been left open. They walked up to the porch. Jack peered through the front window.

“Oh, man,” he groaned excitedly. “What?” asked Tatia. “There’s a table setting and dishes out; candles and silverware, too. They’re probably going to show it tomorrow.” “Think there’s food in there?” asked Tatia. “Gosh, I’m starving,” said Bruce. Jack did a 360, and seeing that none of the neighbors’ lights were on, urged Bruce and Tatia to keep a lookout while he went around back. A moment later, they heard the sound of breaking glass. Next, an alarm sounded off. “Oh, no!” Bruce said in a loud whisper. “Jaaack!”

They turned around and around, looking for neighborhood security cars. “Jack! Come on! I hear sirens; they’re coming, now!” Bruce said hoarsely. Carrying a bag, Jack ran past them and out of the gate; Tatia and Bruce followed. They turned right and ran to the corner, made another right and then a left. When they finally stopped running, they found themselves in an unknown alley. “What did you get?” asked Bruce. “Chicken and some rolls.” In the distance, they could still hear sirens.

“Did anyone see us?” asked Jack, panting for air. “I don’t think so,” said Bruce. “Great. The last thing we need is to get into trouble with the police again.” “Hey, what if we crashed here?” asked Tatia. Jack turned to look behind him. Bruce moved his head over, so he could see around Jack. Across from where they stood was a large wrought iron fence that was barely visible through a barrage of ferns that were growing out of control. The property was dark and still; the gardens were overgrown and the grass was over three feet high. In the center of the property was a two story house; its brown

paint cracked and peeled on every square inch of its surface. “What do you think?” asked Bruce. “Vines are growing up through the cobble stones,” Jack commented. “Ivy has broken through the window. I’d say it looks like a good place to hide out for a couple days or more… maybe weeks.” The sirens got louder. “Okay, help me up,” said Tatia. Bruce and Jack intertwined their fingers, giving her a boost. She grabbed the top of the fence, lifted her leg up and over, and jumped onto the ground. She, in turn, stuck her hands back through the iron bars and clasped her fingers with Jack. Bruce jumped over and, together, they

stuck their hands through the bars, once more so Jack could follow. Right as Jack dropped to the ground, flashing lights glared down the alley. “Hide!” Jack said. Tatia and Bruce jumped to the right side of the bushes while Jack jumped to the left. They stood real still as the police car drove, slowly, by. When it’d passed, they went up to the tall, dark and creepy house, and looked through the windows. “I can’t see anything,” said Bruce. “Let’s go in,” said Tatia. The lock was rusty, for Jack only had to ram the door with his

shoulder once. It swung back, wildly, hitting the wall. Inside was dark and dusty. The only thing they could see was the cobwebs that were highlighted by the moon. Bruce pulled his backpack off and pulled out his little battery operated fluorescent lamp. Holding it at arms-length in front of him, he, slowly, stepped over the threshold and into the entrance hall. Jack and Tatia stayed right behind him. At the end of the hall, they stopped. Tatia sneezed half a dozen times. “Ugh!” she cried, trying to swallow. “I think I’m allergic to dust!” The living room was filthy.

In the center, covering a plastic wrapped couch was the largest spider web they’d ever seen. Next to it was a plastic wrapped chair. “I’m not going in there until someone finds the spider and kills it!” said Tatia. “I hate spiders.” Ignoring her, Bruce and Jack continued further into the living room. “Hey, did you guys hear me?” “It’s just a spider, Tatia,” said Bruce. Despite her protest, she followed, closely, behind them. Facing the couch was a sooty fireplace. All along the walls were books, magazines and newspapers piled high. In the right corner, half a dozen wood chairs were piled on top of one another.

“A fireplace; thank goodness,” said Tatia. She made to go and grab a chair to start breaking down for a fire. “Wait,” said Jack. “Let’s inspect the rest of the house, first.” Although the house had many rooms, it only took a few minutes for them to check it out. Past the living room was a parlor and, beyond that, a den that had an old armoire, a glass display case with an old record player and records, and some photographs. Sticking close to one another, they made their way to the kitchen. There were still dishes in their cupboards, and pots and pans hung from the ceiling. A microwave that was completely covered in spider web sat on a counter.

“AAAAAGGHHH!!!” screamed Tatia. She grabbed Bruce’s arm. “AAAGH!!” followed Bruce. He jumped back, stepping on Tatia’s foot and nearly knocking her over. “Will you shut it!?” said Jack. With bulging eyes, Bruce pointed to the kitchen window. It was missing a curtain, and perfectly outlined by the light of the moon that shone through was an enormous tarantula spider. “Relax, guys, they’re harmless,” said Jack, as if it were nothing. “Wrong!” Tatia Blurted. “The females are bad!”

“That’s not a female,” said Jack, who picked up a large pot and placed it on the glass, over the spider. “Quick, give me something flat to keep it inside the pot.” Bruce handed him a plate from the cupboard. Carefully, Jack slid the plate between the glass and the pot. A little black leg stuck out as he did this, making Tatia scream again. “Open the kitchen door for me.” Bruce did as he asked, and they watched him carefully carry the spider outside. Gently, he squatted in the three foot high grass. He set the plate on the ground, and jumped back as he lifted the pot.

They watched the softball sized spider scurry away, and then he said, “I advise being careful. There may still be other spiders in the house.” Upstairs, they found half a dozen emptied, but dusty, rooms, except one that had an old, moldy mattress. A door at the end of the upstairs hall opened up to a set of attic stairs. When they opened the door, there were many scurrying and scraping sounds. They made it to the top of the stairs in time to see a family of raccoons waddling to escape through the broken window. One turned around and, barring its fangs, lifted its paws and hissed. “WAAaah!” Jack yelped.

“Are you seriously scared of a coon?” asked Bruce incredulously. “Yeah, did you see the size of its teeth?” “It’s just the light, Jack.” There were boxes everywhere, piled in stacks of 5 feet and higher. In the center were more plastic wrapped couches and chairs. “More spider webs!” cried Tatia, taking in the voluminous string that covered the furniture, boxes and ceilings. “I’ll see you at the bottom of the stairs.” A moment later, Bruce and Jack reappeared in the hallway. “Probably best to check out the attic during the day,” said Bruce. They followed Jack to the room with the moldy mattress, which they dragged downstairs into the living room.

Half an hour later, they sat on the couch, eating baked chicken and rolls in front of a fire. Since Tatia had allergies, they turned the plastic inside out and laid it on the mattress, creating a nice clean film for them to put their sleeping bags on. One thing they never did, until they were sure of their surroundings, was split up. So they pushed the furniture back against the books that lined the wall. That night, Bruce climbed in between Tatia and Jack, on the mattress in front of the fire. But Tatia couldn’t fall asleep. For some reason, there was something about the house that made her uncomfortable. She didn’t want to say anything, but several times since they’d arrived, she’d thought she’d heard moaning.

When a particularly foul scent singed her nose hairs, Tatia said, “God, you suck.” Bruce tried to pull her back, as he laughed. She wrenched her shoulders out of his hands, went to the couch, and watched the fire for a bit. Tatia reached into her backpack, and pulled out the picture of her mother. Sometimes, she liked to imagine what it would have been like, if she’d stayed. Her father liked to tell her over and over that her mother couldn’t stand her; that without warning, she picked up and ran, one day. She didn’t believe it, though. Even if she did do what her father said, she would’ve never left Tatia behind. In many fantasies that she’d had, Tatia imagined that one day her mother would return. She’d grab Tatia, and they’d run for it; it

wouldn’t matter where they went, either, just as long as they were together. Every day, she would go to school and, when she’d come home, her mother would be waiting for her. They’d do homework together, and then she’d make her dinner. When she was sick, she’d make her chicken soup. They’d be so happy because, together, they’d have escaped the ogre that was her father. Tatia was distracted from her thoughts when a rush of cool air blew all over her, making the hair follicles on her arm stand. The fire flickered ferociously, leaving her in complete darkness for a moment. She got up from the couch, walked to the hall entrance, and looked into the darkness, wondering if a window had blown open in the den or the parlor.

A creeping sound, like the whining of a failing brake echoed through hall. At first, she didn’t think much of it, but then the sound seemed to get closer. The whining traveled through the air and blew directly into her ear. Tatia screamed and jumped back. “Shut up!” said Jack annoyed. Ignoring him, Tatia slowly backed into the wall. Wind blew through the room, blowing up the dusty curtains, making the rods rattle. Jack sat up and looked around the room. The whining brake sound turned into a high pitched steam whistle that blasted through the air.

Bruce jumped out of his sleeping bag. “What was that?” he asked. The draft and the whistle continued to blow louder and louder. They raised their hands to their ears. Bruce and Jack backed against the wall, next to Tatia. Suddenly, a loud CRUNCH noise rent the air. The noise came from a hole that’d been punched into the wall on the other side of the room. Wood splinters and dust sprayed across the room. Holes continued to appear in a straight row, across the wall. Tatia covered her eyes to protect them from wood shards.

CRUNCH! CRUNCH! CRUNCH! PSSSSH, sprayed more wood. Tatia was too scared to scream. Bruce’s eyes were bugged out, and Jack jumped each time a new hole appeared. Bruce and Jack watched the trail of magically appearing holes, all the way to the brick fireplace, where it hit iron behind the wall, and made a high DING! The holes stopped appearing. The waves of the fire flickered again. Bruce shrieked and yanked at Tatia’s arm. Tatia uncovered her eyes and asked, “What?” “Look!” said Bruce, pointing at the hall.

Floating toward the living room was a whited out ghost of a man. It had the round eyes and an oblong opened mouth that made it look similar to a lost soul. The steam whistle blasted through the air again; they grabbed their ears. Slowly, it levitated closer and closer to them. From its mouth, a dark sludge spilled out over its lips, down its chin and all the way down its chest. Jack looked about the room for a quick solution. His eyes settled on the fire poker. He grabbed it, raised it skyward, and slashed it down through the ghost. Instantly, it disappeared, leaving a wisp of white in the air that slowly dissolved.

“How did you know to do that?” asked Bruce. “I watch T.V.” Tatia ran to her sleeping bag and began rolling it up. “What are you doing?” asked Bruce. “I’m getting out of here.” “You can’t leave! This is a great place! No one’s been here in forever. We can probably spend the winter here.” “What if it comes back?” Jack handed her the fire poker. “If you get scared, swipe the ghost with the poker,” he said. “I think he’s right,” said Bruce. “You know how it is. We could search for weeks, and never find a

place like this. We just have to learn how to live with a ghost.”

Get Comfortable Chapter 2 The next morning, they made it a priority to bathe. Most of the time, they were forced to wash with the ice cold water of Pickley Hills Park bathrooms. Jack and Tatia heated pots of water by setting them on the fireplace while Bruce snuck out to find breakfast. When he returned, he had Captain Crunch and a carton of orange juice. “Did the neighbors’ see you?” asked Tatia. “No, I was real careful going out and coming in.” “No milk?” asked Jack, whose hair was still wet.

He walked over and set the large pot of water on the fireplace. “I didn’t realize it was juice until I was halfway down the block. The clerk was onto me, and the only way I got away with these was because a couple of Joey’s kids came in and pepper sprayed him in the eyes.” “That’s terrible!” said Tatia. She was sitting with her back to the fireplace, hoping her wet hair would dry quickly, as the house was still very cold. Joey was the city’s bully. In his father’s warehouse on the other side of town, he resided as an unofficial magistrate to a host of about a hundred kids. In exchange for letting them stay there, the kids provided public services, such as window washing,

pick pocketing, shop lifting, and sometimes burglary. The kids would give him all their earnings, in exchange for his ‘protection’ and his silence. “Well, you want to eat, don’t you?” asked Bruce sarcastically. Tatia walked to the kitchen and brought back a couple bowls and spoons. “Yeah, well, just don’t let them do us any more favors,” said Jack. “As it is, I don’t know how I’m gonna get my guitar back.” When Tatia got her nose broken, Jack and Bruce went to Joey for help because the hospital wouldn’t admit her without health insurance or an up front payment. Jack gave Joey his father’s 1952 Roy Buchanan Fender Telecaster, in exchange for the

$1,000 they needed to get Tatia’s nose fixed. “I’m sorry, Jack,” Tatia said. She grabbed the cereal and juice, poured them into the bowls, together. “You don’t have to apologize, Tatia. I don’t blame you, but I’ve got to get it back. It’s the only thing my father ever gave to me, and it’s worth a lot more than $1,000.” “Like how much?” asked Bruce sounding excited. “I don’t know. It’s just what my father told me before he died, but I won’t sell it – not for a million dollars.” “Well, today’s Tuesday,” said Bruce. “I’m gonna mow Mrs. Henderson’s lawn, so that’s $20; tomorrow, I’ve got Mr. Bracket, so that’s another. I’ll go through the neighborhood, today, and try to drum up some more business, too.”

“Right,” Tatia chimed in. “Today I’m going to school. I’ll raid the kitchen and get food supplies; hopefully enough for the week, so that’s one less expense. Then I’ll give blood, that’s $20, and Mister Crane on Milton Street said he’d pay me for my newspapers today, so that should be another $20.” Sounding downtrodden, Jack said. “I don’t have anything lined up today. What am I gonna do?” “Wash windows, of course,” said Tatia. “Great. Maybe I’ll make five bucks, if I’m lucky.” “Jack, five is five; you can’t give up,” Tatia said sympathetically. “Maybe we should go and work for Joey?” Bruce suggested, taking a bite of his cereal.

“No,” said Jack. “We shouldn’t get any more mixed up, with him, than we already are. If there’s one thing I know about Joey, it’s that he doesn’t like to let go of his debtors. He’ll always come up with an excuse to pull you back in, and make you his slave.” “I’ve got an idea” Tatia said as she munched. “You should scavenge this house today. We don’t know what’s upstairs in the attic. For all we know, there could be valuables.” “Great idea,” he said. “I’ll go through all the boxes, and even the kitchen. We’ll sell what we can.” They flinched as a sudden noise blasted. Waaaaaahhh! The sound was like the far away, prolonged horn of a train.

“Aah!” Tatia jumped in her seat, nearly spilling juice over the side of her bowl. The wind around the room blew again, rattling the curtains. The ghost appeared again. This time, he looked angrier than before. A copious amount of sludge issued from his mouth as he made the floorboards rattle, and the couch levitate. Jack ran for the poker. The ghost, seeing him with it, backed away and around the room. WAAAAHHH! the ghost wailed louder. Jack chased him around the couch several times before he gave up and disappeared, leaving behind another wisp of white.

Roy Buchanan Chapter 3 After breakfast, they went their separate ways: Tatia to school, and Bruce to mow lawns. With a trash basket, a bucket of hot water and towels, Jack went up to the attic. The air was thick with dust. He choked on the scent of recent animal urine. “Achoo! Ugh…” he heaved. He walked to the broken window, stuck his head out and breathed in deeply. Then, he opened the two other windows, allowing a breeze of fresh air to sweep the room. When Jack was a kid, his father told him all about Roy Buchanan and the Potato Peeler, Bobby Gregg.

“The best darned musicians of all time!” He grabbed the broom and stuck the wide end with the bristles into the largest cobweb that was attached to the couch. Jack twisted the broom, rolling the web into a huge wad. When he got as much of it as he could, he used his fingers to pry it off, and dropped it into the trash basket. Jack didn’t meet his father until much later. His mother told him they’d hooked up in a moment of fiery rock ‘n’ roll passion. That was about all he needed to know. He was fine without his father. Never, did he ask any other questions about him or why he wasn’t around, until one day when he got a letter in the mail. ‘Dear Jack,

I’m your father. I’m dying. Come visit me. Your Dad, John’ That was it; that was all it said. No I’m sorry for being absent; sorry I never sent you a card; sorry I never bothered. Nevertheless, his mother insisted he go. She printed him a ticket, packed him a lunch and took him to the train station. “In case of an emergency,” she said as she shoved a wad of cash into his front jeans pocket. When he arrived at his destination, his father stood there looking like a grim reaper. He was dirty, wheezy-breathed, and sleazy looking.

John moved Jack into the spare room that would have been his nurses, but he didn’t need or want around the clock care, yet. Every day with his father was torture. Jack tried not to fall asleep as he rambled on and on. On more than one occasion, he wanted to tell is father to shut it, so he could have some peace and quiet. The man could talk for hours, going over the same details, repetitively. Jack said nothing, though, out of respect for his dying father. But in all the days, he never stopped talking about his time as a musician. Two weeks after Jack moved in, his father got worse. Instead of just dying, like Jack anticipated, he wasted away. He got skinnier and skinnier, until he couldn’t walk.

Jack, then, stayed by his side, and listened to his ramblings as he lay in his hospice bed, which had been moved into the living room. “Buchanan made his distortions without a pedal,” he remembered his father shouted at him, over the television commercial. “These days, musicians have it too easy; these days, guitars are made of tin and fiber board,” he’d scoff. “No wonder they can’t make music worth a darn. They don’t have to work for it!” One night, his father told him that no one in his family liked him very much. They called him a bum, reckless and impulsive, only cared about making music and nothing else. “They’d say different if I was Mick Jagger or Mc Cartney, or Lennon,” he coughed through phlegm. He grabbed a tissue and wiped his mouth.

“People, they love music, but they don’t want to suffer the sight of a musician. They turn on the radio, but they don’t hear the music. Most of the time, it’s just words they hear, and they don’t even understand them, not really. They hear a real musician playing next door, trying to perfect his craft, and they tell him to shut it – even call the cops. People are fakers.” He reached over for his smokes, and tapped one out. “Oh but son, that night in the Ozark, we knew we were headed for success. We knew we were good. The people loved us, but then Roy showed his true colors. He showed what a traitor he was, and it ruined my life. Me and Roy, we were best friends, but he was half wolf-half man, just like they said. Roy didn’t get along too well with others, neither.”

He took a deep inhale. “HOOOOooooo,” he blew loudly. “Roy had one guitar: a 53 Telecaster nicknamed Nancy. It’s in a museum, but what most people don’t know is that he had another: A 52 Tele. Sure, Nancy was nice, but 52 was as perfect as it got. That was the year they perfected it. The year after, they cheapened the Fender Telecaster. Not only does the 52 allow both pickups to be used at the same time, but look at this: Slot heads, not screws!” He stopped a moment, as Jack examined the guitar. “Anyway, Roy got into it with one dude over creative differences. He felt they should have been doing what he told them. Now, I was just protecting my friend. Roy wasn’t much of a fighter, like he thought he was. He was just

scary looking, that’s all. This dude was more than I could handle though. So while I was getting the crap beat out of me, he made off with this.” He indicated the guitar by tapping it with his finger. “That was the night I went to jail. The dude was real well known, real respected; the law was on his side from the get go. He was church goer, and it was the Bible belt. I was just protecting myself; I wasn’t drunk and messing up my life, like people like to say.” He paused a moment, to wrestle back the emotion in his voice. “seven years, I did over that. Should’a been ten, though. Still, I never got back on the train after that. It was like my time was done. No one wanted to give me a second chance.

And, yet, sometimes I blame myself for never making it. I was broken, when I left prison. Hell, I didn’t even touch a guitar the entire time that I was in there.” He took another drag and said, “Many years later, I caught up with Roy at the Rockaplast show. He thought I just wanted to say ‘hi.’ All he wanted was to get away from me because he knew that if he hadn’t left me, I’d have never killed that guy and gone to jail. We were supposed to be tight. Roy knew he’d betrayed me. Anyway, he pretended to be glad to see me, and then he made some lame excuse and left the room. That was the night I stole my ‘52 tele from him, haha. I thought it was the Nancy, and I didn’t realize it wasn’t until later. Still, I heard that he was downright angry, and that he was gonna find me and put a bullet in me. But he died instead.

Oh but it was me, the Potato Peeler, and Roy. We were good and we were tough. But that was back in ‘52. Waaay back when.” ……………. Jack listened to his father’s incessant ramble for several weeks, until the cancer took him into a coma. When he didn’t wake after several days, the nurse said it was probably permanent. Relieved and thinking he could finally go home, he called his mother that very night. To his surprise, she insisted that he stay with his father until the very end. Violent anger welled up inside him. He didn’t want to spend another moment in that house. She didn’t understand what a torturous experience it had been for

him to spend each day with the foul scents of his dying father. He knew he should be ashamed for feeling the way he did, but he’d have given anything to be anywhere else. When Jack protested, she insisted that he needed to be there for him, in case he woke. “He’s your father!” she shouted at him. “How could you be so selfish?” He was going to do as his mother wished. His mind changed when a few a days later, the nurse came in and started instructing him on how to change his diaper and sponge bathe him. He just couldn’t do it.

The man was a stranger to him. Why should he do for his father, what he never did for him as a baby? So that night, Jack grabbed the 52 Fender Telecaster, and left. Every day, he felt guilty about it, too. That first night away, he wandered to the Pickley Hills Park. Sitting on the moist, wet bench, he pulled the telecaster from its ugly brown velvet case. It was obvious that the guitar was old. The alignments were funny, the spacings were off. He ran a chord. It felt nice and warn, the way the strings resisted and pulled back. Unimpressed, he put the guitar back in its case. He never touched it again. A whole week passed with him sleeping at the Pickley Hills Park,

and wandering the streets. Nights later, he ran into Bruce, who used to spend time there, too. They’d talk and watch the families come to the park and have parties. Sometimes, other teenagers would come by, too, though not for good times: more or less, good time trouble. Bruce was the first person he’d talked to about his father. He was a good listener, too. After Jack had finished talking, Bruce said, “Jack, you have to go back. Your father is not you, and you have to be better than him. He ran away, and now you’re running away.” Bruce gave Jack the kick in the pants that he was looking for. It gave him the courage to go back to his father’s cottage at the hospice.

He intended to apologize. From that point on, he was going to do whatever to make his death easy. But when he got back to the cottage, it was empty. He knocked on the door, repeatedly. Finally, he walked to the side of the house and peered through the sliding glass window. No one was there. The living room was completely emptied of all furniture. At that moment, a buzzing feeling erupted on the hair line of his forehead, and traveled down his face, back and body. A ringing noise in his ears deafened him. In a zombified state, he walked blindly, but with eyes wide opened, through the neighborhood.

Eventually, he made his way back to Pickley Hills Park, where he met up with Bruce again. Nearly every day, Jack remembered the crackle sound the tobacco in his cigarette made, as he dragged on it. Anytime he heard anything like it, or saw smokers, he thought about his time in the hospice. Even as he worked, he tried to forget those weeks with his father, but the images and conversations played themselves over and over again, in his mind. It was late in the afternoon before he finally sat for a break. He’d cleaned out most of the cobwebs and swept up all the animal droppings. So deep in the last memory of his father, Jack was that he jumped when Tatia walked in.

“Wow, this place is looking good!” Jack had pushed all the boxes to the left side of the room. All the stuff he’d pulled out were in piles on the right. In the lower corner on the floor, he’d piled old clothes. Just up from that were old raggedy toys, and, up from that, a couple of old jewelry boxes. Immediately, Tatia walked over and lifted some of their lids and pulled out their tiny drawers. She found a couple old rings and necklaces. “What do you think?” “I don’t know,” she said. “Looks costume to me, but some of them have the little stamps on them though. So they’re real gold, though it’s old. We just need to clean it up a

bit. Toothpaste: that’s what Maggie at school always says.” “Who?” “Just some stuck up rich girl.” She walked over to the pile of toys. She picked up a doll with bright red hair. “Wow, some old ugly toys, but someone might want them.” She stood up and walked to a large stack of 10 lb cans that said “Bully Beef.” “What in the world are these?” “I think they’re rations from the army.” “Wow, 1949, it says. Well, I guess that means you didn’t find much. I hate to say it, but I don’t think these necklaces will fetch much. You know how pawn houses are.”

“Are you kidding?” he asked, looking at her like she was crazy. “These cans; this green helmet and clothes are vintage stuff. Someone will buy these. Trust me. Plus, I’ve still got another dozen boxes to go through. We’ll sell what we can to the pawn shop. With the rest, we’ll take it to the swap meet on Saturday.” “How are we gonna get these cans to the swap meet? They’re humungous.” “We won’t. We’ll put those on Ebay.” “Whoa!” said Bruce, who had just walked in. “I can’t believe all this stuff.” Jack smiled and said, “It’s great, isn’t it. Maybe I’ll get my guitar back sooner than later.” “Did you get any food?” asked Jack. “I’m starving.”

“Yeah, I got quite a bit, but I don’t think I’ll be able to go back. The cafeteria guy saw me.” ~~~ That evening, they sat on the couch, eating ham and cheese sandwiches. “Did you see the ghost at all today?” asked Tatia. “No but I felt him.” “Weren’t you scared?” “Heck, no! I told him to go away, and he did.” Just then, as if he knew they were talking about him, the sound of a whiney brake entered the room. This time, they didn’t panic. Rather, they waited for the noise to abate.

When his white form didn’t appear, Bruce said, “What’s up, jerk?” to the air. Waaaaahhhhhhhh!! The couch rumbled and shook. “Bruce, shut up! Don’t call him names,” said Tatia, trying not to drop her sandwich as she held onto the back of the couch. “Aww, what? Did I hurt your wh’ittle fee’ wings, aww…” The ghost looked at him. Tatia gagged as more black sludge spilled down his front. Then, fast, he flew into Bruce and disappeared. He screamed and jumped off the couch. “That was cold!”

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