Mr. Anderson's Birthday Party (A Halloween Short-Short Story)
Dear Sister Hilda:
I am submitting this for the English assignment you gave us, to write a story about something true. You are going to think I am making all this up, but I’m not. It really happened. My Mom will back me up, if necessary. Even my brother Patrick will back me up, because he won’t tell a lie to a nun.
When I was nine years old, Mom and Dad bought a corner lot in our little town “for a song.” The lot had a peeling, two-story wood frame house with one of those big verandas that had a swing. It took them almost a year to bring that old house up to where it could be inhabited again. It cost them more to renovate that old fossil than they had paid to buy it. When they were finished, though, it was really lit. Mom planted a flower garden, and Dad re-seeded the lawn. We moved in right after my tenth birthday.
People would drive or walk by our house, stop and take pictures. “You should see what the McMahons have done to the old Wilkerson house! It’s a miracle!” was what everyone was saying. This got to be a real pain.
We had all heard the stories about the house being haunted, but nothing bad had ever happened there, and if there were any ghosts around, they didn’t seem to mind us or all the renovations.
One night, shortly after we moved in, I was in the bathroom, brushing my teeth after having washed my face, including the back of my neck and behind my ears (because Mom loved to pull surprise inspections). I heard three loud POPs coming from the bathtub. When I looked, I saw a tiny red bubble sneaking up through the drain and a yellow one trying to hang onto the faucet. I screamed.
I heard loud footsteps on the stairway, and Mom and my little brother Patrick slammed into the bathroom.
“What is it?” screamed Mom.
All I could do was point to the bathtub. By this time, it was filling with tiny bubbles of many bright colors, coming from the faucet and the drain.
“Shit!” said Patrick. His mouth was hanging down about a foot.
“Don’t say that word!” said Mom.
Patrick managed to close his mouth and swallow. “Sorry, Mom. It just came out.”
“It must be coming through the pipes,” said Mom. “We’ll have to go check them out.” Mom is good in a crisis.
“You mean the pipes in the basement?” I asked. “But Mom, it’s spooky down there!”
“You two won’t have to go down,” she said. “I’ll go down. You’ll just have to stand at the top of the stairs, hold the door open so I can run up fast if I have to and keep a flashlight ready, just in case.”
“Well, okay,” I said. “But maybe we should call the Psychic Hotline or something first.”
“Don’t be stupid.”
We ran down to the basement – well, Mom ran down to the basement. Patrick and I just kind of hobbled downstairs and fell over each other on the way to the basement door, trying not to get there too fast.
“Move, you little zit!”
We finally reached the basement door, where Mom was waiting for us. We remained at the top of the basement steps while she went down into the darkness. For some stupid reason, the light switch is at the bottom of the stairs.
Mom turned on the light. This made the space even spookier. It was so quiet I could hear Patrick breathing behind me. Mom went over and inspected the pipes, but didn’t find anything. She couldn’t find anything by the boiler, either.
“There’s nothing down here,” she said. “I guess I’ll just have to call a plumber in the morning.”
She turned off the light and started to come back up the steps. She was stopped dead by a voice that whispered, “Mrs. McMahon?”
Mom whipped around and turned the light on again. “Who’s there?” she demanded.
“It’s only I,” said the voice, and a middle-aged woman in a long, pale dress suddenly appeared at the other end of the basement.
All three of us screamed.
“I am so sorry,” said the woman. “I keep forgetting that one mustn’t materialize so quickly in front of people who are still living in their bodies. Please forgive me.”
“Who are you?” asked Mom.
“Oh, where are my manners! I am Rachel Wilkerson. This was my family home. We all perished in the influenza pandemic of 1918. My sister Leah and I were the last ones to die. She’s here, too. Leah, come and materialize. We have visitors.”
Another voice answered, “I can’t. I’m not dressed for receiving.”
“Oh, nonsense! You’re a ghost! Nobody cares how you look. You’re keeping our visitors waiting!”
A head, two hands and two feet appeared.
“Leah, this is Mrs. McMahon and these are her two children. They live here now.”
“I am pleased to meet you, Mrs. McMahon.”
“Uh, likewise, I’m sure,” said Mom. “Can either one of you tell me why we are getting colored bubbles in our bathtub upstairs?”
“Oh, goodness!” said Leah. Her two hands clapped both sides of her face. “They must have gotten into the water somehow! How awful! It’s my fault. You see, we are having a birthday party for poor Mr. Anderson …”
“The man up the street who died recently?” asked Mom.
“Yes, indeed,” said Leah. “We felt so sorry for him because he never had a birthday party when he was alive, so we are giving him one now. I was trying to make colored bubbles and I guess I did something wrong.”
“Don’t worry,” said Rachel. “We won’t do that again. You can live in peace. In fact, we will be leaving soon. We have been waiting all these years for someone to come and fix this house and make it beautiful again, and you have done a creditable job …”
“A wonderful job,” said Leah.
“Yes,” said Rachel. “Leah and I have decided that it’s time for us to get a new evaluation and, hopefully, progress on our way to the heavenly realm. We’ll be sure to say good-bye before we leave.”
With that, they both disappeared, leaving the basement as quiet as before, but a lot less spooky.
“That was Gucci!” said Patrick.
“It sure was!” I said.
“Okay,” said Mom. “That was enough excitement for one night. To bed, both of you!”
Two weeks later, we found a note in our mailbox from Rachel and Leah, saying good-bye and thanking us for being good to their house.
|Happy Birthday, Mr. Anderson,|
wherever you are now!