My shirtsleeves were dripping wet while I pushed them up past my elbows after searching for the second steak knife I knew was lurking in the bottom of the sink. Of course, as I found it Ben screamed out for me and I slid my finger across the blade as I stumbled over the kitchen table into the living room clutching my bloody hand.
“Ben, are you okay?” I asked repeatedly as I tripped over the rug and fell onto my knees behind the couch. He was sitting on the couch, watching batman boom and pow and zing some villains.
“I got a popcorn kernel stuck in my tooth and it hurts.” He told me, right as batman’s sidekick exclaimed, “Holy cats!”
I appreciated Robin’s exaggeration and got my son a toothpick after I cleaned my hand and inspected the damage. I think I will be all right. I’m sure Ben will be. I drained the red water from the sink and rearranged the table I had fallen over. I should have been able to see it, but the lighting in the kitchen had stopped working soon after we moved in. I’m no electrician and I had a lot of other things to work on in this old house. It’s around two hundred years old and is way more house than the two of us need, but we hadn’t had much time for house shopping when we got here and it was the right price, and right downtown in an old neighborhood. It’s the last house on the street with plenty of woods for Ben to explore when he gets a little older. It had a lot of rooms that I haven’t even looked through yet. I’m just trying to get our living space to be liveable. Ben doesn’t seem to mind. Especially if he has a comic book in hand. I was never interested in them, but I’m fine if he wants to go his own way on some things. I try not to compare everything he does to myself. He does so many things that catch me completely unaware. I lost him for a good few minutes in the house soon after we moved in, only to find him in the study, which I hadn’t been in yet, surrounded by old, dusty books. He loves to read. Not just that though. It’s like he drinks the information in. He’s like a sponge that can’t get enough. He just wants to learn and understand everything. He says the most unexpected things too. The other day he said, “What would it take for you to turn your back on me completely, and kick me out of the house?”
“What are you talking about? I would never do that. Nothing you could ever do, would make me stop loving you, ever.”
He looked at me as if I didn’t understand and said, “Ok, we’ll see, Dad.” I thought it was an off the wall statement at the time, but it kept me up that night thinking about it. It was either Ben or the strange noises that accompany you when you live in a very old house. Ben had ended up sleeping in my room more than once on the windy nights we often have here. Even during the day I found myself looking over my shoulder or peeking around a corner to make sure I was alone. There’s just an odd presence in this house. It’s difficult to relax for very long and I found myself trying to do extra strenuous activities throughout the day to make sure I’m tired enough to fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. Staring up at an old wooden ceiling and a dusty chandelier for hours at night leads to some strange thoughts. Wondering if Ben is ok, or if he’s been kidnapped or fallen through his floor into the dungeon I never knew we had. Or perhaps, was that just an old house creaking or the front door letting in a group of heathens to perform their usual seance without knowing we had moved in. It’s a big door. I think I would recognize the sound if it opened. But what if this was some group of apparitions who didn’t need to doors, but could float up from their hellish dungeon and help themselves to my leftover pot roast. If that was the case and they didn’t need doors then there wouldn’t be any noise. And since there was indeed noise, there’s no way it could be them. Although-, well i won’t go any further, but I think you see why the dusty chandelier and i prefer not to speak when we can help it. Things are never as bad as they seem. At least that’s what I’ve heard. But they’re also never as good as they seem, so I’m not sure where that leaves us.
I’ve just about had it with this arrangement. The house is void and dark and lifeless. My son does nothing but study and learn and try to better himself in all sorts of ways and I couldn’t be more peturbed by it. I keep telling him to stick with one thing and get really good at it, like woodworking, but he wants to learn it all. I think he just wants to understand how to relate to different types of people which I get, but I never had to do that. I just called it how I saw it and people respected that. I’ve decided he needs a better atmosphere to live in so I’m going to fix this place up and see if that motivates him to invite people over and have a group of friends around him, other than batman and robin.
So I went to the kitchen and its electrical problems. I opened up the fuse box, jiggled a few wires and said “Let there be light!” And there was light. Then I added curtains to the windows and brought in a few plants and plastic shrubs for atmosphere. I even snatched a stray dog out of the neighborhood alley to give some new life to the place. We named him Neptune and put him to work sniffing out rodents. I started going through each room methodically, cleaning it, labelling it in my notepad and making notes about how it could be used, sizes, dimensions, etc. It was a difficult task but I made sure to rest when I felt I could without feeling like the house was calling out to me, or when Ben and Neptune would drag me into the backyard to play catch.
As I was pushing my way, by force or sheer will power at times, through the old house, I felt like I was cornering some unseen creature further into the depths of the house. I never felt too close to it, but somehow I could tell it was running out of places to hide.
I really felt like I was accomplishing something. Getting the house in order and putting it in place to where it could run smoothly on its own without me having to start over ever few days, repairing things or cleaning them. I still felt like something was missing. My first thought was for Ben. I hoped he didn’t suffer with me being his only guardian. He was a boy with a lot of initiative and drive, but i wasnt sure if that would be enough for him in his life. I didn’t want him to be emotionally damaged his whole life because of how I had raised him; I didn’t know what to do. Something was definitely missing though. Ben could watch enough Batman to make him forget about it for awhile but not forever. I have to figure it out for him. There is another part to us. We aren’t meant to be a dynamic duo forever.
I stepped into the last room of the house. It was downstairs in the basement. The basement was mainly a cellar with a dirt floor that covered the length of the house but there was one concrete room with a green painted door in the back corner. It had shelving for storing cans of preserves or vegetables in the winter and the hot water heater in the corner. It was covered in cobwebs and at least a half foot of dust on every shelf. When I opened the door, I felt the wooden planks of the floor shake, and a rusted can clanked to the ground. Something bumped me from behind and i did a strange dance of wailing my arms and legs while I was two or three feet in the air spinning around to see that Ben had followed me down. Batman must be taking a commercial break. Ben was white as a sheet. I don’t know if I had scared him or if he also felt this ominous being that we had possibly barged in on. I was terrified, but at the same time so surprised that we had finally met up with the fears of my haunted nightmares that I had a curious boldness. I suppose my brain was sure I must just be having a dream. Ben wasn’t so sure. I looked back at him, and then back into the darkest corner of the room. Dust was starting to swirl in circles around the room toward us. A ball of light began to grow in the middle of the floor and burst sun beams straight through the ceiling. My body quaked with overwhelming stimulation. I felt like I was crumpling into a ball on the floor, but also felt stronger like the light was taking over my body and holding me off the ground. I couldn’t see Ben for the light. I desperately hoped he was all right. There was nothing I could do for him. No words to describe how much I wanted to help him, but I heard him clearly when he exclaimed, “Holy Ghost!!”