Last night, the bedroom door slammed shut and locked just as we were desperate for sleep.

No one knows how it managed to lock. Wind from the open window? My husband insists the physics are not right for that. But how? Ghosts in the attic? Attic ghosts– mice, bats, squirrels, flying squirrels, have all lived up there. There’s a roof right off the windows that are over our heads when we sleep. One summer night when the windows were open to their screens, we roused to see fourteen little racoon paws, and fourteen eyes peering, like children peering at animals along a zoo railing. As soon as we startled, a low mother’s growl came from the roof’s edge, scattering the tiny racoons.

 

The house was once a farmhouse, once a speak-easy––broken shards can be found in the garden soil–– once it was a red-light house for a one-woman business along what was once a gravel road, and now is an arterial. That woman kept goats in the basement, but finally ended up in a local mental institution. A family bought this house, turned it respectable in the late 1940’s. They cleaned up the basement, poured fresh concrete over the rubble foundation, laid a steel rod across the basement ceiling so the main floor wouldn’t collapse, and added on to the house in higgledy-piggledy fashion. And they were all short.

When they rebuilt the stairs to the second floor, anyone taller than 5 feet can smash their head going up or down. The small farmhouse doorways were never enlarged when they turned the old back porch into a kitchen and dining room. If you need to move a rocking chair or something bigger from the living room to the dining room, you need to carry it outside, go out the front door, come in the back.

This is a place where winter can be eight months long. The house is a force for stability. You have to think carefully about changes. When strange things happen, I just accept it. So last night, I  crowd-sourced the solution to the internet, followed friends’ directions, and popped open the bedroom door.

 

8 Comments

  1. Lisa Moore

    Martha,

    This house sounds fascinating!!! I really enjoyed this piece. Your descriptions are vivid and you add just the right amount to outline the history of the house.

    My favourite part of the story is the final paragraph. I love the tone and the sense of openness to the unknown in the final lines. I would like to know more about the ‘crowd-sourcing’ and consultation with friends. Were there calls and texts? what did the internet say? I think some additional details might strengthen this already effective ending.

  2. Neil Clark

    Some fantastic descriptions in this piece – especially of the ‘attic ghosts’ and I loved learning about the quirky history of the house.

    The woman who kept goats in the basement really intrigued me and I would like to know more about her – maybe a line about how she ended up in the mental institution?

    I agree with Lisa’s comment – the last paragraph is great, but might be even better with some additional details.

  3. Bud Smith

    Hello Martha,
    This was so cool, I love how we tumble farther and farther back in time so we meet speakeasy ghosts and then red light ghosts and the goat in the rubble basement. I thought it was really wise at the end that the narrator is able to get out of the locked room by using the internet, that feels like magic in itself. What does she do? Take the door off the hinges? Or does she have to learn how to pick a lock–that would be just as interesting and also something that would add to this story and also could be something symbolic. We learn a lot about the people and creatures who have inhabited the house in the past, I think the narrator’s journey to learn how to open the door could do a lot to show us who she is and what she is capable of. I also like how the story ends on the thought that winter can be eight months long and that made think that there is a wood stove in the room beyond the door or some kind of heating device otherwise that she would need to get to in order to keep from freezing. Which also makes me think, why can’t they just get out the window? Maybe something could be reverse engineered into the story as a reason why they can’t just climb out the window (too high is an obvious choice but then again there could be ice all over everything making any climb out death defying and they don’t want to become ghosts too). Whatever is chosen, it surely can find a way to connect to the feeling or at least information of the spirits of the past. That also being said, I loved the ghost bats and the raccoons out the window. This piece was fascinating. I hope you’ll give it am energetic pass back over. Thank you for this!

    • Bud Smith

      Here is a condensed and reorganized version of the text if you are interested:

      Sometimes a Door

      Last night, the bedroom door slammed shut and locked just as we were desperate for sleep.

      No one knows how it managed to lock. Wind from the open window? My husband insists the physics are not right for that. But how? House ghosts? Basement ghosts? Attic ghosts–mice, bats, squirrels, flying squirrels, have all lived up there. There’s a roof right off the windows that are over our heads when we sleep. One summer night when the windows were open to their screens, we roused to see fourteen little racoon paws, and fourteen eyes peering, like children peering at animals along a zoo railing. A low mother’s growl came from the edge, scattering the tiny raccoons.

      The house was once a farmhouse, once a speak-easy––broken bottle shards can be found in the garden soil–– once it was a red-light house for a one-woman business along a gravel road that is now is an arterial. That woman kept goats in the basement, but finally ended up in a local mental institution. A family of dwarves bought this house, turned it respectable in the late 1940’s. They cleaned up the basement, poured fresh concrete over the rubble foundation, laid a steel rod across the basement ceiling so the main floor wouldn’t collapse, and added on to the house in higgledy-piggledy fashion.

      When they rebuilt the stairs to the second floor, anyone taller than 5 feet could smash their head going up or down. The small farmhouse doorways were never enlarged when they turned the old back porch into a kitchen and dining room. If you need to move a rocking chair or something bigger from the living room to the dining room, you need to carry it outside, go out the front door, come in the back.

      This is a stable house, you have to think carefully and forcefully about change. When strange things happen, I just accept it. So last night, I crowd-sourced the solution to the internet, followed friends’ directions, and popped open the bedroom door. Winter can be eight months long here.

  4. Bud Smith

    or further:

    Sometimes a Door

    Last night as we were desperate for sleep the bedroom door slammed shut and locked.
    How did it manage to lock? No one knows. Wind from the open window? My husband insists the physics are not right for that. But how? House ghosts? Basement ghosts? Attic ghosts–mice, bats, squirrels, flying squirrels, have all lived up there. There’s a roof right off the windows that are over our heads when we sleep. One summer night when the windows were open to their screens, we roused to see fourteen little paws, and fourteen eyes peering, like children peering at animals along a zoo railing. A low mother’s growl came from the edge, scattering the tiny raccoons.
    The house was once a farmhouse, once a speak-easy––broken bottle shards can be found in the garden soil–– once it was a red-light one-woman business along a gravel road that is now is an arterial. That woman kept goats in the basement, but finally ended up in a local mental institution. A family of dwarves bought this house, turned it respectable in the late 1940’s. They cleaned up the basement, poured fresh concrete over the rubble foundation, laid a steel rod across the basement ceiling so the main floor wouldn’t collapse, and added on to the house in higgledy-piggledy fashion.
    When they rebuilt the stairs to the second floor, anyone taller than 5 feet could smash their head going up or down. The small farmhouse doorways were never enlarged when they turned the old back porch into a kitchen and dining room. If you need to move a rocking chair or something bigger from the living room to the dining room, you need to carry it outside, go out the front door, come in the back.
    This is a stable house, you have to think carefully and forcefully about change. When strange things happen, I just accept it. So last night, I crowd-sourced the solution to the internet, followed friends’ directions, and popped open the bedroom door. Winter can be eight months long here.

  5. Janelle Greco

    Martha, this piece is so interesting. One section really grabbed me: “The house was once a farmhouse, once a speak-easy––broken shards can be found in the garden soil” – kept wondering if those shards were from bottles; had the narrator ever cut herself on one? Does she keep them? Salvage them? I’m so curious. I also love the line, “This is a place where winter can be eight months long.” The tone really pops out to me here for some reason. I wonder sometimes throughout the essay what the narrator thinks about all the things that happened here. Are they creeped out by some of it? Do they feel scared of the house or comforted by its history? Do they love the quirks? Maybe just a few lines that indicate somehow how the narrator feels about the house itself and its history would be helpful. Like others in this thread, I do wonder more in the last paragraph what the narrator found to be the solution. Was it just their imagination that it was actually locked or did they need to pick the lock? This was a great journey into the mysteries of an old house and I absolutely loved it. Thank you for sharing!

  6. K Chiucarello

    Martha, I absolutely adore the way you built up the house. It is truly the main character in this piece. This line in particular made me laugh “There’s a roof right off the windows that are over our heads when we sleep.” but it continued on so beautifully throughout the paragraph that I nearly forgot about its structure by the time I was finished with the paragraph as a whole. I am going to echo the sentiments above. The last paragraph sticks out to me — I again love the language in the opening line “this is a place where winters are eight months long”. It reminds the reader of the darkened environment. I’m curious what would happen if you left the reader to imagine themselves what is happening with the door. Again, you build up so well throughout that I nearly forgot about the bathroom door being the root of this whole problem by the time I was down on the last paragraph. What if you were to nix the crowd-sourcing and added additions details that solidified the unanswered mystery this house holds?

  7. Kevin Sterne

    I love the way you tell this story, making the house the main character. that’s such a hard thing to pull off and you could write the manual on how to do it. The writing here really sings. There’s a great flow to the narration. Such movement. My only suggestions is to up the narrator’s emotional involvement/stakes a bit more, flesh them out to give an arc. Something that changes their life forever.

Submit a Comment

Pin It on Pinterest