Eva's NYC Midnight Honorable Mention Ghost Story
Brenda Simpson sat on her couch in the dark, clutching the remote control and staring at the place where the TV screen had just blinked out of existence. Now all she could hear was the clicking of the radiator behind her head and the rustle of wind through the tree branches outside.
She put down the remote, grabbed her phone from the coffee table, and dialed. “Jimmy, my damn lights’ve gone out again,” she said when her son picked up.
Jimmy sighed heavily.
“You hear me?” Brenda demanded. Her voice sounded loud in the suddenly-silent house.
“I hear you, Ma,” he said. “Did you trip the circuit?”
“I don’t even know what that means.”
“That’s what happened last time. All we had to do was flip the breaker switch, you remember?”
“No, I do not remember.” Brenda was scared, which made her irritable. She thought she heard the far-off mewl of a cat coming from somewhere outside, and the hair rose on the back of her neck.
“It’s ten o’clock at night, Ma. Just go to bed.”
“I can’t see a damn thing! What if I get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, and I fall and break my neck?” She didn’t like the darkness. It transformed everything. The floor lamp was now a strange man in a hat, lurking in the corner. The armchair across the room crouched like an animal, waiting to attack.
“Why don’t you call your neighbor, what’s-his-name?” Jimmy suggested.
“He’s not an electrician. I don’t want him messing around when you could come over and do it right.”
“And anyway, I can’t let him see me like this. I’m in my curlers!”
Just then Brenda heard a scratching sound coming from the other side of the back door. Her heart seized, and she stared in the direction of the door. It sounded like the way her cat, Pudding, used to scratch to be let in. But Pudding died two weeks ago. Jimmy buried him in the back yard.
The scratching sound came again, and goose bumps ran up Brenda’s arms. “Jimmy,” she hissed into the phone. “Somebody’s here. Somebody’s standing on my back porch, looking in the window.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Somebody’s outside scratching on my door.”
“It’s probably a tree branch scraping the side of the house,” Jimmy said. “It’s windy out.”
“I need you to come over here right now, and I mean it.” Brenda tried to sound authoritative, but her voice trembled.
“Look, I’m not driving forty-five minutes over there just to find out it was something you could’ve fixed on your own.”
Brenda didn’t say anything.
“Why don’t you go down in the basement and flip all the switches off and on, and if that doesn’t solve the problem you can call me back, OK?”
Now that she was thinking about Pudding, Brenda felt tears prick behind her eyes. Lord, she had loved that cat. He’d shown up on Brenda’s doorstep the month after her husband, Karl, died, as if the cat had somehow known there was a vacancy. Brenda opened the door, and there was this skinny orange cat with big yellow eyes and a stubbed tail. No collar. That was seven years ago now.
“Ma?” Jimmy said. “You understand? I put a flashlight for you in the junk drawer in the kitchen. So get that and go down to the basement. I know you know where the breaker box is because I showed you.”
“Fine,” Brenda grumbled. “But if I get murdered, I’m blaming you.”
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