Terry Adcock, “Tea, Ghosts, and a Bit of Gossip”

“I’ve always wondered whether ghosts were real.” Granny
sipped a steaming cup of sweet tea as she gazed at the apparition
hovering ever so slightly above the sofa cushions. “My grandmother
was a believer. The stories she told us children would curl your hair!”
The apparition nodded and glanced at the Tambour clock
sitting on the mantle. It was nearly midnight. Granny noticed the
apparition checking the time and smiled.
Before the apparition disappeared, Granny said, “For years,
I refused to accept that our house was haunted, but obviously, I was
wrong.” Granny shrugged her thin shoulders. “You’re the reason our
family could never sell this old house. Grandmother always said she
felt like a prisoner. My parents took over, but they couldn’t unload
the place either. I suppose I’m destined to live out my days here as
well. All because you died and refused to leave.”
The apparition said, “I’ll never leave, besides where would I
go? They say a spirit can’t rest after a violent death. No, I’ll always
haunt this place. And if it gets torn down, I’ll haunt whatever they
put up next.”
“Grandmother said you fell down the stairs and broke your
neck. So, actually, you don’t have to keep haunting the place because
it was an accident.”
“Do you really believe that old story? It was no accident. I
was murdered by my cheating husband, the rotten scoundrel! In
those days, we didn’t have furr . . . for . . .”
“Forensics,” Granny said, supplying the word.
“Yes, that’s it. Back then, I suppose a good wallop upside the
head looked much like a broken neck from a fall.”
“Grandmother said you drank too much. Probably missed a
step and fell.”
The apparition appeared agitated. “Your old grandmother
couldn’t tell a straight story if her life depended on it. Your mother
was just like her.”
“Why pick on Mother? What did she ever do to you?”
Granny said indignantly.
“And you’re as bad as they were,” the apparition continued.
“You scared your children half to death with those old stories, and
now you make your poor grandchildren listen to that same claptrap
like it’s gospel, but there’s no truth in it.”
The minute hand advanced another couple of notches as
midnight drew nearer. They caught each other looking at the clock.
Granny set her cup down firmly and sat up all prim and proper;
clearly miffed at hearing her family disparaged.
“I merely passed on the stories as they were told to me.
Besides, scaring the bejeezus out of children makes them want to
behave or else bad things might happen. It kept me and my sisters
in line.”
“Wouldn’t you like to know the real story?”
“Of course, but first tell me, is the “legend” really true? They
say your spirit must return to the turret next to the widow’s walk
each night before the clock strikes midnight else the demons will
drag you straight to hell. Is it true?”
“You finally got something right, old girl! I’ve never been
late, not in a hundred years, and not for all eternity. I’ll always be
here,” said the apparition.
Two minutes to midnight.
“Before you go, what really happened that night? Did your
husband truly kill you, as you claim?”
“I suspected he was seeing the parson’s wife and that night I
caught them together!”
Granny absently poured more tea. “Oh my! What happened
next?” Granny couldn’t let the apparition leave now; she just had to
“They were up in the tower doing the “naughty deed” as we
used to say. They played me for a fool, but I fixed them good!” said
the apparition with feeling.
The second hand on the clock swept along ticking off the
final seconds. Granny heard the gears click into place as the old
clock prepared to chime the critical hour.
“Lord a’mighty! What did you do? Tell me quickly!”
“I stabbed them with a carving knife. They wanted to be
together so badly, now they’re stuck with each other for forever.”
The apparition cackled with glee.
“But how did your husband manage to kill you?”
“Just before he died, he gave me one last mighty whack that
broke my neck and I fell down the stairs. Old Sheriff Coots couldn’t
tell the difference between a broken neck and a stubbed toe. He
assumed I tripped and fell to my death.”
“Bless your heart! But you said a violent death won’t let a
spirit rest. What happened to your husband and his mistress? All
these years, why haven’t I heard them haunting this old place like
“I keep them locked up in the turret tower with me. They
treated me badly, and I’m going to enjoy tormenting those two until
the end of time!” The apparition laughed, but it sounded more like
a screech owl.
Just then the clock struck twelve; the familiar low melodic
sound filled the room.
“Oh no! What have you done? You kept me talking for too
long! I’ve got to get back to the tower. . .”
Suddenly, the apparition disappeared in a puff of smoke.
As the last chime marked the midnight hour, all was quiet, even
Granny heard soft footsteps coming down the stairs. Her
husband shuffled into the parlor rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
“I thought I heard you talking to someone down here. Who’s
calling at this hour?”
“I was talking to myself. Go back to bed,” Granny said.
“We’re meeting the realtors tomorrow, and I just wanted to ensure
there were no ghosts lurking about and cluttering up the place. I
don’t want anything to prevent us from selling this old dump. Not
this time.”
Her husband scratched the stubble on his jaw. “I keep telling
you there are no such things as haunted houses, so quit worrying.
Tell me, you don’t really believe in ghosts, do you?”
“Ghosts?” Granny smiled. “What ghosts?”

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