I’m still pretty new to this whole blogging thing. It’s a little uncomfortable but I’m finding my way. My goal is to post something new each week. The challenge is figuring out what I should be blogging about. I am a fiction writer, or tying to be; so it doesn’t make much sense to use this platform to share my thoughts on politics, religion or the deplorable state of the New York Mets. I should warn you, however, once football season rolls around again, my prose may get a little more purple (and gold) than usual.
For now, I’d like to share something I wrote a few years back. My son was struggling with writing. I tried to help him with a few simple exercises, including giving him writing prompts. One such prompt dealt with an old house. I challenged him to come up with a story about it and, so he didn’t feel like it was a homework assignment, I told him I’d do the same thing. This was the result. It’s a bit lengthy for a single blog post so you’ll have to check back next week to find out what happens. .
Apples (part 1)
The house was old; so run down and dilapidated it barely resembled a house at all. Warped, tilting walls strained to support what was left of the roof, and most of the large stone chimney had long since crumbled and fallen down. Strangely, though, the house stood, year after year. It had been white, or perhaps gray or yellow. One couldn’t say for sure. Long periods of grime, decay and neglect had all taken their toll. Most of the paint had flaked away. What little remained had the same soulless hue as a salt bleached road on a gloomy February afternoon.
The house had been vacant for so long, no one in town, not even Old Mr. Fitch, who spent four hours a day on the same corner stool at the diner and knew everything there was to know about everyone, could remember who lived there or what had become of them. It was hard to imagine anyone ever calling the place home. In its current condition, it appeared about as welcoming as sweat stained sheets. On one side, thick vines crept as high as the second story windows. A few of those windows held bits of broken glass, making them look like gaping mouths and sets of ferocious teeth. The other windows were empty, Anyone who cared to could look right inside. No one did. No one dared.
If the house was a wreck, the quarter acre lot it sat on was an absolute disaster. A nasty snarl of pricker bushes sprawled out in every direction, climbing the front steps and completely covering the large, sagging front porch. Remnants of an old driveway led to where a garage must have once stood. There was no sign of it anymore. Two thinning strips of gravel gave way to a thick mass of weeds, bushes and brambles. From their center, an ancient oak tree stretched skyward. It was enormous but withered, some of its spiny, gnarled branches drooping all the way to the ground. Between the edge of the yard and the sidewalk, a dozen crooked, moss-covered support posts were all that was left of a picket fence that once stretched the length of the property. Where everything else was falling down, it seemed like an extra fence post would show up from time to time. No one knew for sure because no one spent that much time looking at the house or yard.
The kids at the nearby elementary school all swore the place was haunted. There were even rumors that,, over the years, a number of children had disappeared. Michael knew for sure of one boy, an eighth grade bully named Dennis, who’d boasted that he wasn’t afraid of a stupid old house. He claimed he didn’t believe it was haunted and was going to prove it by going there to explore. That had happened nearly a year ago, and Dennis hadn’t been seen or heard from since.
As a result, most of the kids Michael knew wouldn’t go anywhere near the house, not even on a bet. Of course, for some kids, Michael included, keeping their distance was easier said than done. It was only a block from the school , right there on Main Street, which made it nearly impossible to avoid. Michael, along with several of his friends, had to walk past the house every morning on their way to school and every afternoon on their way home. To stay safe, they came up with a few rules they had to follow. First, you never went by alone. If you had to walk past the house, you made sure you were with a friend. Second, when you did walk by, you kept your distance. Usually, that meant crossing to the other side of the road and walking as fast as you could. And finally, you never, NEVER, NEVER looked at the house. A lot of kids believed that a mere glance at the place was enough to cast you in its evil spell.
Michael always thought that last rule was kind of silly. Even if the house was haunted, and he had no trouble believing that it was; it was still just a house. It couldn’t reach out and grab you. Or… could it? Who could forget what had happened to Dennis? Not that anyone really missed him all that much. He was a jerk. Still, Dennis hadn’t disappeared simply because he’d looked at a house. He’d gone to explore. That was his mistake and he’d paid the price. Michael had no intention of doing the same thing. But what harm could come from looking? As his mom always said, you can look, just don’t touch. And looking is exactly what Michael did.
At first, he was very cautious. Deep down, Michael wasn’t entirely sure what he was doing was safe. He also didn’t want his friends to catch him breaking the rules. So, each morning and each afternoon, while all his buddies were busy looking the other way, Michael glanced at the house, always out of the corner of his eye so no one would notice. And, he never looked for more than a second or two. Well, almost never.
It was a beautiful and sunny Friday afternoon when he saw the apple for the first time. He was walking along with his best friend and paying no attention to his surroundings. Richie was in the middle of a story involving burps, farts, school lunches, and other wonderfully disgusting things. Michael was so caught up in the tale, he was nearly past the house and had forgotten to take his normal quick look. Then, suddenly, something caught his eye. It was bright, red and shiny. But that couldn’t be. He started to turn to get a better look. Richie grabbed his arm. He was surprisingly strong for a little squirt.
“What are you doing?” he asked, plainly alarmed. “Don’t look at that place. It’s dangerous!”
Michael wanted to tell him what he’d seen. Richie was a friend and could be trusted. Besides, they were together. What could happen. Still, he didn’t argue as Richie led him away. Hee didn’t look back either. He did, however, spend that entire weekend wondering. Just what had he seen? More important, would it still be there the next time he walked past?