Short Story Sunday: Uncle Bud’s House

Uncle Bud’s House

The whole Covid-19 pandemic thing hit my sister and I pretty hard. I was laid off from my job, my girlfriend kicked me out, and I moved back in with my parents. My sister Luna was finishing up her senior year in college online because nobody was allowed to take classed on campus. 

My name is Hawk, because, well, my parents are earthy crunchy organic well to do educated hippy types who didn’t want to conform to the norms when it came to putting traditional tags on their children. I’d started using my middle name Griffin, due to the fact that the name Hawk turned up in too many action and superhero movies and nobody took me seriously. I was tired of being asked if Hawk was my real name. It sucked.

Luna liked her name, which was good since her middle name was Gertrude, after Gertrude Stein.

One day in December, when I was trying to write a novel, and my sister was on break my parents suggested we get out of our rut and go stay on the coast in Uncle Bud’s house.

Uncle Bud’s house? That was new. Why hadn’t we ever heard of Uncle Bud’s house. Why hadn’t we heard that mom had inherited Uncle Bud’s house ten years ago? Mom just shrugged and said it slipped her mind. 

“It’s a beautiful place on the coast, surrounded by redwoods. I’ve been renting it out to vacationers in the summer. It’s a six hour drive but well worth it. The place is beautiful. Your Uncle Pete and I loved going there when we were kids. There’s beach access too.”

So to make a short story a little longer, two days later my parent’s packed us up with sage, healing crystals, homemade granola, oatmeal cookies, almond milk, and a key to the house.

On the way we stopped by a few wineries and picked up a couple of cases of really nice wine. In town a few miles from the house we got more groceries.

The house was beautiful. Again, we wondered why our parents never took us there. Once inside I set the crystals on the mantle, and Luna burned the sage to rid the place of any toxic vibes. I’d half expected a musty old place filled with dark old furniture. The place was contemporary and bright, all decorated in blues and yellow. I recognized the art on the wall as stuff my mom had painted when she was in high school. A few of the other paintings looked like my grandmother had painted them.

The phone worked. The Internet connection was strong. There was a drizzle of rain but no snow. Life was good.

That night as we were fixing spinach and lentil soup, we heard a noise coming from the back of the house. I looked down the hallway and saw a dark figure standing there.

“Oh my god,” said Luna. “Is that a nun?”

At the end of the hall stood a young woman in a black habit, her large brown eyes wide with fear. She screamed like someone in a horror movie, then vanished. Seriously, she vanished into thin air.

I looked at Luna. “What that a ghost?”

“I think so,” she whispered.

We burned more sage, finished making the soup, and opened a bottle of wine.

As we at dinner in the dining room we heard a sound in the kitchen. Someone was quietly singing. I didn’t recognize the song. 

Getting up to investigate was found a guy about my age standing by the kitchen sink. He was wearing jeans and a red flannel shirt. He looked over at me and smiled, then like the nun, he vanished.

“Holy shit,” said Luna. “How many other ghosts are in here?”

Despite the weirdness neither one of us were afraid. We could handle it.

Then there was a knock on the door. Just like in a horror movie. Maybe somebody had broken down and we’ll all be trapped together for the night. Maybe it would be some weird guy with a chain saw looking to collect more heads for his collection. Or maybe it would be our neighbors.

It was our neighbors. At the door were two people who introduced themselves as John and Mercy. They were brother and sister. Like us they were taking a break from Covid and school.

We shared our soup and the cornbread we’d made, and later a few more bottles of wine. John and Luna went for a moonlight walk on the beach while Mercy and I stayed inside.

“I’m sure you already saw Sister Antonia and Luke,” said Mercy.

She knew all about the ghosts. Apparently they’d been around for the past hundred years. Nobody knew who they were or where they came from. Mercy told me they were harmless. 

You know, I felt a sudden ease with Mercy. She said she graduated at UCLA. I told her I’d gone to UC Santa Barbara. We talked about the pandemic and tried to avoid politics. Then she kissed me, and I couldn’t stop kissing her back. 

The next morning I found myself alone with the other side of the bed cold. Mercy had left. So much for coffee in bed and another roll about.

Luna was downstairs making tea.

“Is Mercy still here?”

“She left. John?”

“Nope.”

“OK. Do you want breakfast?”

I scrambled up some tofu and made squash patties. Luna made blueberry muffins. 

“Hey, we have a bunch of muffins left. I’m bringing them over to Mercy and John.”

As we headed out the door was saw our neighbors in their front yard. They waved at us. I looked at Luna and sort of gave her a half laugh. It was cool. They weren’t too embarrassed to see us.

“You know Hawk, we’ve been here for three weeks and this is the first time we’ve been over here,” said Luna.

I knocked on the door. There was no answer. I knocked again. We walked around back to see if they were out there but there was nothing but a lone turkey vulture picking at a dead possum. 

“Mom would say that was a sign,” said Luna.

“Mom says everything is a sign,” I said.

The back door was cracked. I called inside, “John? Mercy? Hello?”

“Hawk. The kitchen is empty.”

Despite being brought up not to go where we haven’t been invited we went inside. The house was empty. I mean completely empty. Not a wine bottle, or a glass, or a beer can. Not a single stick of furniture, not a sleeping bag, no soap or shampoo in the bathrooms, or even toilet paper. The house was completely empty. We even checked the attic. It was empty.

“Well this is weird,” I said. 

“Son of a bitch,” said Luna. “They played us. I bet they’re over at our house right now stealing our computers.”

Nobody was at our house.

I called my mom and asked her if she knew anyone named John and Mercy.

“They lived next door. John was my summer boyfriend. Mercy was always flirting with your Uncle Pete.”

“Did either one of them have kids?”

“No, they’ve both died in 1977. John was going to UC Berkley and was hit by a car. Mercy was murdered by her boyfriend a few months later.”

“What did they look like.”

“Um, check the photo album on the bookshelf. There should be one marked 1976. We spent the entire summer there before we all went off to college.”

I thanked my mom but didn’t give her any details. 

That night we sat on our back deck sharing a bottle of wine and trying to digest the weirdness of the past few weeks. We sat without words for a while just listening to the frogs and crickets.

Luna tapped my arm. “Look,” she whispered.

Out in the yard was the nun, her head now bare, and her short hair adorned with a pink ribbon. She was in the arms of the man in the red plaid shirt. They slowly swayed to the sound of a song only they could hear. 

“I feel used,” I said.

“You think? Me too. If I’d had any idea, if mom and dad had any idea…,” said Luna.

“Do you think they’ll be back?”

“Fuck no. Their kind never come back. There is no way in Hell I’ll ever let any kids of mine come here, especially after they’re grown.”

The next morning we packed up my car and headed back to our parent’s house. Mom put the place on the market. It would sell quickly. Who wouldn’t want a beautiful Victorian house in the woods, close to town, and with beach access? 

Well, not Luna and me. 

~ end

Thank you for reading this short ghost story written with lightning fast speed over coffee this morning. For more ghosts, and far more interesting and true ghost stories do a search on this blog. You’ll thank me for it later. ~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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