Wrote this piece for the NPR 3 Minute Fiction contest back in 2012. The premise was to write a short piece with a limited number of words that could be read aloud within 3 minutes. Oh, and you had to use the opening sentence of “She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door.”
Sadly it was not chosen, which totally bummed me out because I was (and still am) rather proud of it.
I KNOW YOU’RE OVER THERE GHOST:
She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door. Pausing, her hand just grazing the cool metal of the doorknob, she looked around her childhood bedroom one last time. Everything was neatly arranged; a yellow gingham bedspread dulled from dust and sun exposure shrouded the iron day bed, books lined the shelves, minus the Class of ‘88 yearbook she’d placed on the table beside the bed. Turning her head, she could just see the dust motes stirred up by her visit, jostling each other for prime positions on the porcelain figurines of kittens and unicorns standing sentinel on her desk. It had been far too long since she’d been home. Far too long since anyone had scuffed their toes in the thick pile of rusty orange carpet, or “vacuumed it for that matter”, she thought ruefully, eyeing the faint outline of her recent passage.
It wasn’t a large room, filled with furniture and bookshelves, yet it still felt so empty she swore she could hear an echo as she pulled open the creaking door. Walking into the hallway she turned left entering the next room, her brother’s room. She’d always been jealous of her brother for this room, larger than hers and boasting a third window to top her two. Seeing it now she felt no echoing pangs of jealousy, just more of the same hollowness she’d been feeling since she’d first walked through the kitchen door little more than an hour ago. Before her was a decrepit four poster bed with gouges along the base and a broken post, listing more than a bit to the right, next to it stood a beaten up dresser with a parade of model cars covered in a thick layer of obscuring dust.
Running her hand over the grungy haphazardly carved letters of her brother’s initials on the dresser, she was swept into a fragmented memory. They were eleven and ten years old, playing with some friends while their parents played cards downstairs. The room was dark, except for a faint glow from a street light through the windows. She, her brother, and friends were laughing near to hysteria playing their favorite game, which consisted of throwing themselves with abandon about the darkened room shouting, “I know you’re over there ghost!” Shrieking in delight as they crashed into one another, the furniture, walls, and floor. The game usually ended abruptly with Mom or Dad shouting up the stairs, “You kids stop all that crashing about right now!”
The memory short-lived as the game, she found herself back in the present, sitting hunched over on the lumpy listing mattress, choking on dust and sobs. Her husband’s voice called up the stairs, “Hon? You ok?” His tone suggesting that he really did not want an answer. “Uh, the realtor’s here for the keys and we’ve got to get going if we’re going to make our plane.”
Through a veil of dust and tears, she looked around her brother’s bedroom, at the grimy windows, peeling wallpaper, tattered karate posters, and model cars. Reaching out, she took one of the models into her shaking hands, wiping at the grime to reveal a faded decal of the Confederate flag against a once bright orange plastic body. Clutching the car to her chest she whispered to the ghosts she knew were there, “I’m sorry.” She wanted so badly right then, to close her eyes and fling herself toward them; instead she rose and walked from the room to join her husband and the realtor downstairs.