Of course the house on Rebecca Street, a two-story home to pigeons and wasps with a gravity-flush toilet and a cobweb-filled attic, was haunted.
When you’re five years old and you’ve spent your entire life in various mobile homes and trailer courts, what else could a place like that be?
It was a rambling thing, loose jointed, drunk with the years, with a front porch that threatened to scoop you up from its crabgrass lawn and bring you inside forever.
Upstairs, the attic door didn’t fit well in its frame and had a tendency to unlatch itself at night. The pigeons fluttered around outside my bedroom window, and the wasps crawled ominously between panes of double glass, skittering, clicking shadows against the moonlight.
The floors creaked and the windows didn’t open.
In 1971, the haunts came hard and heavy.
On TV, and in real life.
At Rebecca Street, we watched Barbara Stanwyck’s made-for-TV gothic-thriller The House That Would Not Die.
Dark Shadows and Night Gallery.
Through it all, Mom had my back, keeping Barnabas Collins at bay like a ray of sunlight, countering Rod Serling’s macabre paintings with hippie flower posters.
Chocolate milk and peanut butter sandwiches.
Hostess fruit pies from the Wonder Bread store on Hamilton.
It was a weird and wonderful time
And on a dark, rainy day, Eddie came to live with us.
Not all the time. Not overnight or even in the afternoons.
Just early in the morning when his mom had to go to work and there was nobody to look after him until the school bus picked him up at noon for afternoon kindergarden.
Eddie had torn clothes and Mom asked if she could do some mending on them.
Eddie shrugged a lot. So did his mom.
All the parents smoked back then, but Eddie especially reeked of tar and nicotine. His hair was long, even for those days, and thick and sticky.
More than once, I remember Mom making him take a sponge bath at the bathroom sink before he left at noon.
It was during one of those cleanup sessions, when Eddie was in the bathroom goofing off, stripped down to the waist, that I saw the bruises on his ribs and back.
“Did you fall down?”
“Yeah,” he said. “I fell down the stairs.”
That sorta freaked me out because, you know, in our house the attic door was at the end of the hallway at the top of the stairs.
“You gotta watch out for stairs.” I remember telling him.
“You gotta watch out,” he said, sorta mean sounding. “Just watch out.”
And it wasn’t about the stairs or an attic. It was like he meant you gotta watch out everywhere.
I knew what he meant.
I had no idea what he meant.
But I took it as gospel, because he was older than me–six, almost seven. And I lived in a haunted house.
But during the weeks that followed, Eddie was clearly more haunted than me.
He flinched a lot at everyday noises.
He had this weird blinking thing he did with his eyes. Sometimes he limped.
We didn’t get along that well, but we played with blocks and cars together. Sometimes we built forts out of blankets and furniture. Sometimes we went outside into the backyard.
One time he showed me a burn on his arm.
Mom talked about Eddie a lot on the phone. I don’t know who with.
And then he quit coming to our house. Mom said the family had broken up. Eddie and his mom were moving a long ways away.
I never saw him again.
But the memories of my mom, mending his clothes, teaching him to wash up, plying us both with chocolate milk and peanut butter…
Well, those memories made me see the truth.
The truth was, the house on Rebecca Street was haunted.
It was haunted with love.