Sunday, October 29, 2006

La Gritona, Part Four

This is my Halloween ghost story. Please go back to Part One if you're just starting it. I'm publishing it here in five (5) parts since it's kind of long.

Eulalia's nightmare visits continued for over two weeks. Lillian felt a tugging at her mind and will.  She avoided all mirrors.  Where did this hatred come from? Why couldn't her mother let anything go? Lillian had harbored hope for some relaxation after her mother passed away.  Once dead, her mother would have to rest in peace, right?  Surely Eulalia wouldn’t have a choice about that?

When the nightmare-Eulalia changed tactics and began threatening her husband Ben, Lillian decided to return to Fresno. She had to make sure her dad was okay.  Was he having these horrible dreams, too?

As she drove, Lillian fixated on her situation. "I spent so much time and energy making sure her tea was just right, telling people her exact explanation for her health, getting her in and out of the bathtub without breaking my back. For God's sake, who wants to bathe their own mother? What else does she want from me?" By the time she reached the outskirts of Fresno, exhaustion and worry had drained her patience. "It wasn't enough that I got every load of laundry right, that I cooked for her even when we both knew she would never eat it?"

It was after midnight when Lillian arrived at her parents' house. The doorbell brought her disoriented father to the front porch.

“Dad!  Are you all right?”  

“What’s all this noise about?” Ben asked.

“Are you okay?” Lillian insisted.

“Yes, why?  Come on in.”  Ben flipped on a hall light as Lillian entered the house and she noticed that the mirror at the bottom of the stairs had been covered. Her own mirrors were similarly draped.  

“What’s the matter?” Ben asked.

Lillian noticed a scent she'd never encountered in her parents' house before: alcohol. Had her dad been drinking? She also saw that the place was a mess: clothes were strewn, cupboards were open and the phone book lay open in the middle of the floor. “I just, uh,” Lillian realized she had no idea how to explain her visit.  “I’m sorry I woke you up.  Um, have you had any dreams about Mother?”

Failing to look her in the eye wasn't unusual for Ben, but his hesitation was. Finally he answered, “No.”

“Oh. I have.  I’ve been having dreams where Mother wanted me to come back here.  I don’t know why.”

Ben turned and walked into the kitchen and Lillian knew she would get no more conversation out of him. He switched on an electric burner and reached for the kettle.  “Have some tea.  Then you can sleep in the guest room.”

Five minutes later, Lillian took her tea up to the spare bedroom she had stayed in so many times that it felt like hers.  She reflected on her dad's drinking and the covered mirrors and knew they indicated that her dad was being plagued, too. With resentment she thought, "She's disrupting two lives just because of her petty grudges. Stupid supernatural crap. What is this? Leave this stuff to the Mexican psychics. I'm not interested!"

When Lillian got up the next morning, Ben had left for work.  As she dressed and had breakfast, she felt her mother’s presence everywhere.  The phone book was open to the page with the name of Pedro Santiaguillo's store. The air hung with the cloying scent of the lilac air freshener Eulalia used to use for the toilet (because of this Lillian had never been able to separate the smell of lilacs from toilets). The cupboards hung open the way they used to after Eulalia had shut them too hard.

Sadly, Lillian looked at the two empty whiskey bottles sitting by the recliner in front of the tv. "He is drinking." She began straightening up, but as she closed the phone book she felt the familiar rush of cold air. “I am so damn tired of this!” she said to herself as she heard the cupboards again.

When Ben got home the house was tidy, the empty bottles thrown away and, in the first open act of defiance in her life, Lillian had taken a screwdriver and hammer and removed all the kitchen cupboard doors. Ben took it all in with bleary, tired eyes and Lillian wondered if there would be any point in trying to take away his whiskey. He stared at the cupboard doors the longest, then wordlessly turned away and walked upstairs, whether in understanding or exhaustion, who knew? Later, after Lillian had said good night to her father and fallen asleep, her mother’s outrage took yet another turn.

"Have you told Mr. Santiaguillo he can go to hell? Have you? How dare you disobey me!" The dream-Eulalia hovered over her daughter like an eagle about to strike when Ben stepped in.

“Stop it,” he said in a voice that was actually a bit louder than Lillian had ever heard him use. “¡Déjala!”

The spectre now turned on Ben.  “No!” Lillian screamed and woke up in a sitting position.  She got out of bed and ran into the master bedroom where Ben slept.

"Dad, are you all -- " His colossal snoring kept her from needing to finish the question. Still, she wanted to be sure he was all right.

"Dad!" she shook him, causing him to interrupt his buzz-saw breathing for a moment of incomprehensible mumbling before he passed out again. Unable to wake him, Lillian realized her father was in a drunken stupor. If he wasn't in medical trouble tonight, he would be eventually. She straightened up and said quietly, "That's enough."

Finally feeling her own rage, Lillian felt energized as she left her father's room. She pulled his door shut hard enough to send a cracking sound into the darkness and walked deliberately down the stairs.

The end of the story will be posted by Halloween.

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