“Mr. Wilson”

Mr. Wilson:

I tell you what, I’ve been in this neighborhood my whole life, and that house has always been an eyesore. It’s completely out of place. Who wants a big kooky gothic building like that in a residential area?

Its history is something else too…

The house was built by a tobacco baron, about 220 years back. But the very day he was to have moved in, him, his wife, and their two kids perished in a ghastly accident.

The family was en route to the house, riding in a horse-drawn carriage, when the carriage suddenly caught fire, and the four burned to death inside. A lantern had spilled, lit the carriage ablaze, apparently. But this was a while back, before forensics, CSI, and science like that, so it’s impossible to say what exactly happened. Whatever it was, it must have been a terrifying experience.

Worse yet, the driver of the carriage and the family’s butler had tried to pry the stagecoach doors open, but the horse got spooked and galloped away and that dang runaway horse then dragged the flaming carriage all through the town. The townsfolk, their pants scared off, were hollering and pointing and running every which way…

A policeman on horseback finally rode in, chased after the flaming wreck, and shot the runaway horse dead. Tragically, however, none of the family survived.

I tell you, it must have been a nightmarish scene.

Allegedly the house was built on the spot of a battle, or a massacre, depending on who you ask, involving Pilgrims and Indians. Exactly who massacred who is hotly debated among historians. But it is for sure that many died and were buried on those grounds. The Pilgrims’ bodies were dug up and moved later, given proper burials. Rumor has it that the Indians, though, are still buried there…

For years it was considered cursed, hallowed ground. No one wanted to build anything there. One merchant tried to build a general store, but accidents kept happening during the construction, and he gave up. A couple workers died too during the construction of the house. Both fell from tall ladders, in the same spot, weirdly enough, I read.

After the tobacco guy and his family died in that freak fire, the house and the land sat empty for years. Until it was bought by the funeral folks.

Yessir, I remember back when it was a funeral home. When we were kids, we’d ride our bikes by the house, rubberneck and gawk at it. The funeral home only took in bodies, embalmed or cremated them, at that time, from what I can recall.

It’d creep the heck out of us, watching columns of gray smoke billow up from the chimney, knowing where the smoke was from… There’d be a noticeable metallic odor around the house too, kind of like a roast lamb or the smell of a cooking grill after cleaning it…

No one wanted anything to do with the place, other than gawk at it out of morbid curiosity. No one I knew had ever gone in there, no one I knew had stepped foot inside that creepy gothic monstrosity…

It was a family business for years, the funeral home. Then the family moved on, passed on. I never read about or heard of any accidents or gruesome stories involving the funeral home family, though, the Barkers. The patriarch was said to be a fine man. He was well-respected in the community and donated generously to the local church.

One of the sons eventually became the undertaker and ran the place. But he didn’t live there and wasn’t active in the community. I remember seeing him. He was a freakishly tall, thin, and pale fellow. The man was pale as a vampire. He and his assistant, another pale, tall fellow, lived on the other side of town.

The two seemed to always be together and no one knew much about them. Given their work and unsettling appearances, no one wanted to have much to do with them. They were an embodiment of death. They looked like ghosts themselves, and there were rumors that they might actually be ghosts.

The two scared the bejeebus out of everyone. I got the heebie-jeebies just at the mere sight of them.

The pair worked there for years until they closed the business after the last Barker died.

You know, it’s off-topic, but I wonder what happens when an undertaker dies? Who buries the undertaker? Must be strange for an undertaker to bury another undertaker. I don’t know. I wonder about stuff like that. My wife says I talk too dang much. Anyway…

Anyway, they sold the property. We thought it’d be torn down and rebuilt, but a young family bought it and moved in not long after the funeral business shut down. It surprised everyone in the neighborhood. We couldn’t quite wrap our heads around why they’d want to live there, of all… You know, the stories of that place…

Everyone had a ghost story about it, about the house. Everyone in the neighborhood would talk about how they’d see strange phenomena, ‘round there. The most popular was the story of a ghost lady in an old-style white dress, and her stomach was ripped open and bloody, as if she’d been attacked, stabbed and murdered in a gory way.

The lady allegedly looked like someone from colonial times; she had a bonnet of some sort, and she’d walk around in circles, on the front lawn of the house, looking confused, like she was searching for something. At least that’s what everyone said. I never caught a glimpse of her.

Maybe because I don’t believe in it. I don’t believe in that ghost hooey. I never cared for scary movies or any of that jazz. I never even believed in God, to tell you the truth. But I never told anyone about that because there’s nothing worse than an atheist. An atheist is one step up from a communist. Or are atheists worse than communists? I don’t know.

I used to hate going to church. I hated pretending to pray. I’d daydream during the sermons. The priests up there in their robes. They were only grown men in pajamas to me. You know, one of them touched the altar boys, and I’d heard about it. Maybe that’s why I didn’t believe in God, because I heard the rumors about the priests. I heard it long before it became a national news story…

I hated the church. I hated it for most of my life.

But after the shootings, I’ll admit that I came to appreciate the community aspect of our church. I must admit the prayer services, candlelit vigils helped me through those dark days, just being with others, at that time, you know?

Still, the ghosts and that jazz, it’s hooey! I think it’s people’s imaginations. I can’t stand those silly horror movies. I really can’t! My wife watches them, but I think it’s nonsense.

And I can’t stand those “ghosthunter” shows on TV, either. I tell you, it’s a bunch of shysters, if you ask me. Hoaxes and hoaxers. All that. All those mediums and exorcists. Those “demonic possessions.” For shame! Those possessions back in medieval times were probably just some poor, mentally retarded kids, kids with speech impediments or folks with mental illnesses. Demons and ghosts, hah! It’s hogwash. It’s sad. It’s gosh-darn sad. Plain sad.

Everyone in the neighborhood figured they’d tear the place down. Not that I believe in ghosts, but still, who wants to live in a former funeral parlor? It’s yucky. It makes me want to throw up, thinking of those bodies in there, rotting and being embalmed and burned. The blood and guts running up and down the pipes in there. Who wants to shower in that? I gotta wonder if they flushed the blood and guts down the same pipes as our sewage. And then… does the treated water go to the same place as our drinking water comes from? The same pipes our house water comes from? I could google it, but it’s probably one thing you don’t want to know… Ick!

But, anyway, they remodeled the house and converted it into a residential property. I’m thinking they removed the funeral equipment before the family moved in, although I can’t say for sure.

Rumor has it the place still has its original furniture, the antique furniture, from the tobacco family, from 1800. Now that must be a sight, I tell you what…

Heck, they seemed alright, that family, the Oswalds. I remember them. They weren’t kin to the, you know, the infamous Oswald, but it must have been strange to share his name. It must have toughened them up, I’d think.

They came to a few neighborhood cookouts. But, tell you the truth, it was always uncomfortable being in their presence. Because they lived in that house. It was like the death clung to them. The spirit, idea of death had wrapped itself around them. Anytime you’d see them, you’d think of the bodies, the corpses being drained of blood or burned or whatever.

Again, I don’t believe in that junk about ghosts. But how could they live in that house? Why would they? Just look at it. Its gothic spires, its Victorian architecture. It looks like something from Edward Scissorhands.

They’d only lived there a couple months before… that happened… and all of them had been looking haggardly and sickly, more so than ever in the days prior…

A couple of the neighbors had caught a whiff of a burning smell coming from the house, similar to when the crematorium was running. Another neighbor said she’d been smelling a puke-like stink wafting out of there, another said it was like burning garbage. But me, no sir, I never noticed anything of the sort. Aside from the folks looking sickly, I never noticed anything strange ahead of that.. that day. That nightmare.

It was such a nightmare too, when it happened. When the kid snapped. The kid had seemed normal enough, originally. Before he became a recluse. He’d been running around the neighborhood, same as any other kid. I heard other kids teased him, and his siblings, over their house, called them the “Adams Family” and stuff like that. You know how cruel kids can be.

But I don’t know if that was enough to make him snap. I don’t know if there’s ever really one reason. If there’s ever really one sign or there’s many signs. I don’t know.

I blame the parents, to be honest. How do you let your kid not leave his room? How do you let your kid sit around 24/7, playing violent video games and posting gory pics of plane crashes and gruesome murders online? The kid taped black garbage bags over his bedroom windows. He washed himself compulsively. He had no friends. He was pale as a ghost and only wore black. The kid looked like a monster, like a vampire. It was scary. Like sometimes you hear that a neighbor or coworker snapped, and you think, “How could he?” But him? It was like, “Of course he did…” The kid was a freak. He had serious issues.

So why did the parents buy that little freak a gun? A machine gun? It’s not like he’s going deer hunting with an M-16. I can’t wrap my head around it. Really, I just can’t.

I didn’t hear the gunshots. But I was home. I was getting ready for work. I saw the little freak, too, driving his mom’s minivan, on the way to shoot up his school. It was the first time I’d seen him in months. He looked a lot older than I remembered and was wearing a dang wedding dress. His face was blanched, looked made of marble. I couldn’t spot a trace of emotion.

Of course, I didn’t know he’d just shot his whole family and was on the way to shoot up his school. When the police interviewed me, I told them this. I wish, I so wish I would have known. I wish I had a clue. I would have called the cops. Then maybe I could have stopped the little freak from killing those poor kids at the school.

That’s the regret I live with. That’s what I think about. I flashback to that muggy morning. How hot and sticky it already was. How high the sun hung in the clear blue sky, the sun this huge shimmering orange ball. That might have been the hottest morning I can ever remember.

My dang car was like an oven; it was plain scorching inside. The steering wheel in my car felt like it was on fire. I was standing in the driveway waiting for the car to cool down when I saw that little psycho, driving along in his death van.

I think about that, about seeing that kid, that freak. He didn’t look at me. But I looked at him. I almost waved at him, like I do every neighbor, but I didn’t. Because he scared me. I think of that too. What if I’d waved at him and he’d rolled down the window, of that brown death van, and shot me dead in the street, like an animal?

What if that stopped it, though? What if he’d shot me, then the cops came and stopped him from going into that school? I’d rather he took me out than those kids. Maybe I’d have survived, and it’d be me in that wheelchair instead of that kid a few doors down, who’ll never walk again. I’ve lived for 52 years. That kid is only a kid. That kid is only 15, and he’s got to be in a stinking chair for the rest of his days!

I live with that. I live with those thoughts.

In the days following the shootings, I wanted the house torn down. Everyone in the neighborhood did. There’d be gawkers, idiots driving by, snapping photos of it. As if that’s what we needed, after the press, media was hounding us, with all their press vehicles, photographers, slick-talking journalists poking mics in our faces, their news tents pitched everywhere up and down the block.

We wanted to have that ugly house bulldozed once the cops were done with the crime scene. Heck, I’d have driven the bulldozer myself, taken it down. Everyone around here wanted that house gone.

But not the relatives of the family, some cousin who inherited the house. No sir. He insisted on keeping it and renting it for now. He’s holding out to sell it later, apparently. Maybe he’s thinking the infamy will wear down and he can command a better price.

We, and I mean me and the other folks on the neighborhood council, lobbied the bank to buy the property so it could be torn down. We wanted to build a playground on the site, or start a small farm, a garden, do something to put life there, bring life to that place of unspeakable death.

But we didn’t get our wish. That ugly old horrible house is still standing, high and creepy as ever. And weirdos still are driving by to take photos of the dang thing. It’s a travesty. It absolutely is.

Now a former NFL player is moving in, renting the place. I remember him playing. The guy was a terrific lineman.

But when I saw him driving up, walking into the house, he didn’t look good. He was limping and his face was sullen. I think he’s fallen on hard times. That must be why he’s living in an old murder house. Poor fella…

I wonder, would a guy like that be afraid of “ghosts?” I mean, he played against the fastest, strongest, most ferocious athletes in the world. What’s scarier than an NFL linebacker? No one is tougher, nothing is scarier than an NFL linebacker flying at you. A dang pumped up, 6’2, 240-pound hot mess of muscle. A meathead with a neck as thick as a tree trunk. A mohawked-maniac stabbed full of steroids, all screaming and flying at you like a bat out of hell. I tell you what, nothing is scarier than that…

Speaking of linebackers, Junior Seau was that fella’s teammate for a couple seasons. Junior Seau! I want to ask him about Junior, the “Tasmanian Devil.” I loved that guy! He was a favorite player of mine, probably my second favorite linebacker ever, after Derrick Thomas.

I’m not sure I could work up the nerve to ask about Junior, though. Not after what happened… I guess it’s one of those things you shouldn’t mention…



A piece of trash

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