March Madness Flash Fiction: TALISMANS by Jessica Bloczynski
TODAY’S BREW: Bathtub Brew. That’s how much I need.
Jessica Bloczynski is a writer like you read about. She’s the one that can’t stop. She cannot stop writing. Doesn’t know how. Does it all day and night. If you’re up, she’s writing. I love her for it. She has the rare sort of writing that I get addicted to. If she writes it, I’ll read it. You can read it here today and also on http://t.co/NOGmhoX4fm. Follow her on Twitter https://twitter.com/jabloczynski.
By Jessica Bloczynski
The first thing they tell you about living in a haunted house is that you need salt. Little crystal shakers. Big blue boxes with yellow umbrella girls on the side. Your collection of beach-glass worn smooth and salty to the taste even decades after you collected them with grubby fingers.
They tell you salt is the trick, so you line the sills with blues and greens and browns. Dust the lintel and baseboards. Make a rectangle of umbrella-girl salt around your bed. Tuck yourself in. Cover your face. Pray.
The trouble with salt is that it spreads. Gets between your toes and crusts your eyes. It lives in your blood and tears and snot. You scream at the cat, as she bats a chip of blue-green glass across the floor. They said you would need salt, but salt is not enough.
The second thing they tell you about living in a haunted house is that you need iron. Nails will do. Also the rust-spotted wrench you found in the shed. You think about tetanus, but the salt didn’t work and you are more concerned about how all your shells and glass bits are gone and how someone swept away all your umbrella-girl salt. Tetanus is a small price to pay for safety.
You put the nails in the windows. Driving them home, a lighting crack splits up the bottom pane. The landlady will have to understand that ghosts trump security deposits. It’s a security system of sorts. You take to carrying the wrench tied to a scarf around your waist. It’s not a terribly functional way to carry something so heavy, but the wrench makes you feel safe and safety is key.
You put your wrench under your pillow, but in the morning it is gone. You suspect the cat, but she doesn’t have the strength in her jaws. The dexterity in her paws. She has none of these things.
You suspect the landlady.
She is less forgiving about the nailed windows.
Insists you pay to replace the broken windowpane.
Makes lazy circles by her ear.
Yes, you are quite sure she has taken your wrench and nails.
The third thing they tell you about living in a haunted house is that you need chimes.
The fourth. Horsehoes.
The fifth. Garlic.
Except you’re allergic to garlic, so you keep it on the porch, giving it a wide berth when you go out. You go out seldomly, putting one Chinese slipper in front of the other. You try to remember what your life was like before you lived here. You can’t.
“That one’s bad luck.” The man at the pet store said, when you held up the ball of charcoal fluff blinking at you in wonder. You laughed at his superstitions, and named her Lucky. This was before you lived in a haunted house. Lucky is up at all hours. Animals can see ghosts, but you wish she’d be less obvious about it. It keeps you up at night.
The last thing they tell you about living in a haunted house is nothing at all. They haven’t told you anything in a week now. Perhaps it is the garlic. Perhaps they don’t believe that you are actually allergic. You would show them. Rub it on your skin and present them with the hives as evidence. You do this.
The landlady takes you to the urgent care.
“Meshuga. Meshuga. Meshuga.”
“Why do you say this word?”
More circles by her ear. More muttering. But she drives you in her clanking old Buick back to the house.
You stay awake all night listening to the wind shift the panes of glass, and howl in the eaves, and give the chimes voice. You wonder if it’s worth it. New place. New life. New everything. You used to have so much hope. You used to laugh. You used to sing happy songs and not nonsense tunes set to the song of dancing chimes.
You haven’t seen Lucky for a week now. She has abandoned you. You don’t know whether to be happy that her black spectre is no longer shadowing your path, or sad that she is not there to warm your pillow at night. The horseshoe falls off the door. Someone has left garlic on the table. You wrap it in a towel and feed it to the garbage disposal. Your chimes have been stolen.
“You are late on the rent,” the landlady says. “Pay up or get out.”
You nod. All your money is gone. That is the curse of this house. It takes all your things and scatters them to the wind. You pack your bag. Three outfits. That is all that is yours. Lucky never came back.
The thing they never tell you about living in a haunted house, is that no one stays for long. Maybe they expect that if you’ve read the stories, you know that the house always wins. It takes what it can from you and sets you back on the path toward something else. They don’t tell you that you’ll catch a bus to the next town. Find a job. A husband. A life. That in ten, fifteen, twenty years time you will tell your daughter of the six weeks you spent under its roof. You will not have the words. There are no words but this. The first thing you need when living in a haunted house is salt.