Monday, September 27, 2010


Was I busy this weekend? Not very. I don't know what to do with my Sundays. Sleep, mostly. But I heard on NPR about a short story contest, ending in, like, an hour, and I had to do it. The rules: no more than 600 words long; must start with the phrase "Some people swore that the house was haunted" and end with "Nothing was ever the same again after that." That's pretty much it.

Well. Aren't those crappy sentence? Cliches. Some people? Who? And they swore? Awfully vehement, isn't it? And, golly, a haunted house! Brr. And then the vapid nothing was ever the same again after that. Don't you just love that "again"? And the "ever"? And the "after that"? Four precious words of the allotted 600, wasted! Let's see how many useless words we can insert: "And then there was nothing at all that was ever in any way the same or similar again, not even close, after all of that exciting and very interesting stuff that happened in that scary haunted house that was so frightening to everyone who all swore about how haunted it was. The End."

But even so though and however, I decided to bless them, the NPR dudes, with the succulent fruit of my genius. And you will of course recall that I have recently written that I didn't know what to do with a certain idea. The moment I heard the rules, I had the story. Voila. And here it is. Pardon the recycling of several ideas. And themes. I do only a few things, but brilliantly. La!


Some people swore that the house was haunted. Of course it wasn’t. There’s no such thing as ghosts. Like I told my daughter, once, when she was little: there are no monsters – there are only people. Young as she was, she did not hear the horror embedded in that statement. And there are no haunted houses. Only empty ones.

The horror in that statement could make a man mad with grief.

It had been on the market for, what, three years. Nice neighbourhood, good schools, location location location. Set apart at the very end of the street. House of the Green Door.

Later, after she’d stopped believing in monsters, a teenager now, my daughter let someone in, into the house. Knock knock, oh excuse me might I use your phone for my car has broken down. Well. She didn’t believe in monsters you see, so she didn’t ask, I hadn’t thought to teach her to ask what he was doing at the end of a quiet street, with no door to knock on but hers, alone and after dark.

There are monsters. I came home and found her. I’ll spare you the images.

So the house was empty. How could I live there. How could I live. I hardly did. But eventually I pulled in the strings of my soul and had some realtor company put the house on their listings. One must be practical after all. Can’t live in the past. Move on, just move on.

It wasn’t a fly-by-night company, but the house was hard to sell, and it was not their priority, or mine. So it started to look like a haunted house.

And here’s all I could think about, for all the long months and years that followed. All I could think about was Pandora’s box, out of which every dark thing poured, and one bright thing, hope. But that’s not it. All I could think about was the empty box. What happened to the box? I think of it as the universe, so infinite and empty that any light there is must be a statistical nullity. I think of it as hell, because for all that there are no horrors left in it, no hope is there either, and hell is where there is no hope.

I think of it as a house with a green door at the end of a pretty street, into which every horror poured, and hope left.

A few weeks ago I filled four 5 gallon bottles with gasoline, walked past the green door and through the dark halls, empty rooms, splashing out a trail of gas as I went. Paint the picture yourself. A wooden match, and I burned the house to the ground. Sirens and flashing lights -- I know, it’s a public hazard. But I can plead insanity, right? Mad with grief? Even though I’m so coldly self aware?

The world ends in fire and ice. The world ends with the swing of hinges. Everything changes, everything has to have an end. Even if we have to take matters into our own hands. But this is not the end of my little story. My story ended three years ago, and a few weeks. Because nothing was ever the same again after that.

There are a few tweaks I could have made, but it is basically first draft. Dude, I only had an hour, and I just wrote it. Took about 20 minutes. I just can't get over how fantastic I am. I took that hackneyed dribble, and made it profound and moving and beautiful. Amazing. I'm just amazing.

If you would like to share about how amazing you agree I am, comments are open.



bob k. mando said...

that was strong. and, i'm sure, far different than anything they expected to receive.

OT: what do you know of Bloom's Taxonomies?

Jack H said...

I think it's like Marxism. Grand theories that explain everything, with little reference to actual evidence. Perhaps I'm being harsh though ... although that would be so unlike me.