The moving truck had left and I was alone in the kitchen of my new home. I opened a cupboard and began tearing decades old shelving paper out. I heard glass break on the floor behind me. I turned around to see a glass pitcher on the floor, whole and unbroken.
Out of nowhere, Martha appeared in the kitchen entry. She looked like my uncle’s ghost, but more yellowed. She said, “Don’t be afraid. I won’t hurt you.”
“I know,” I said. “I’ve seen my uncle’s ghost for years. ”
“Oh, so you touched the ground where he died?”
“Yes. My uncle shot himself in the head in my grandparents’ garage when I was five. None of the kids were allowed in the garage after that. I did sneak in once and saw a big stain on the floor next to the washing machine. I knelt down and touched it. After that day, my uncle appeared to me every time I visited my grandparents’ house. I called out to him a few times, but he never looked my way or said anything. Where did you die?”
Martha said, “In front of the cupboards, where you were tearing out the shelving paper. He left me for her. I raised three kids in this house, alone. I helped them make science projects on a table we had right here.” Tears welled up in her eyes. “I had to do it all by myself. And President Kennedy was about to get us involved in a war with Russia over Cuba. The kids were so scared. Matthew finally came home on a Saturday and said we should divorce. He had a ‘For Sale’ sign in his hand. I went to check on the kids playing in the backyard and when I came back inside he stabbed me in the stomach with a kitchen knife. I screamed and held my stomach. I saw my kids come inside and then I blacked out. After that, all I remember is floating above my body as my husband hurried the kids out and then came back to put a hammer in my hand. Matthew told the kids I tried to kill him. He told the same story to the sheriff, but added because of the divorce.”
“Did he go to jail?”
“I don’t know. But I did see my oldest daughter a while ago. She was beautiful and had kids with her. They stood right outside the kitchen window, looking in.” Martha put her hand on the windowpane.
I heard a car pull up in front of the house. Through the front window I saw my sister Linda walking up the driveway. When I opened the door, she said, “Hey bro,” and poked me in the chubby part of my belly as she walked past. “Here to see the house.”
She hurriedly went room to room and at one point I heard her shout from another room, “Nice place.”
“There’s a ghost living in this house,” I blurted.
“Who’s living with you?” Linda said as she opened and closed closet doors.
“Nothing. Forget it.”
“You’re so weird. I thought you’d grow out of it.” She jingled her car keys in her hand, kissed me on the cheek and headed for the door, “Catch ya’ later, alligator.”
“See ya’, sis.”
“No. Say it.” She smiled, jingled her keys in my face and poked me in the belly.
“Okay, in awhile crocodile. Happy?”
She hurried to her car and hollered, “Congratulations! Someday you’ll get married and have a reason to own a home. Just kiddin’. Love ya’.” She blew me a kiss and drove off.
It was getting close to dinnertime, and I wanted to fiddle around with some woodcarving tools I found in my toolbox before I ate. I took them out, placing them on the workbench on the back porch. In the vice grip I tightened a piece of hard, cracked wood. With my left hand, I grasped a chisel, and in my right hand, a hammer.
I struck the head of the chisel with the hammer and it slipped off the wood and cut into my stomach, just below my belly button. I felt warm blood run down my belly, and also a sharp pain deep in my stomach. Blood dribbled, then started to flow when I tugged on the chisel. I fell to the ground and gasped. As I crawled towards the backdoor, everything became fuzzy and heavy. Through the kitchen window overlooking the back porch, I could see Martha looking out at me. I reached my hand out and she did the same.
After I died, I glided around the backyard. On the day the new family moved into the house, I leaned against the wall outside the open kitchen window, and talked to Martha. She said, “It’s nice to have kids here again. No offense.”
I said, “None taken.”
One of the kids ran out of the house and across the back porch. The little boy stopped and stared at me.
Not wanting to frighten him, I stood still until the boy approached me. I glided closer to him, squatted down, and said, “Do I frighten you?”
The boy looked me up and down, and said, “Not really. What’s your name?”
I steadied myself, and answered, “I’m Scott. I used to live here until I died on the back porch. What’s your name?”
“Timmy. We moved here from Canada for my dad’s work. When I grow up, I want to drive a bulldozer or be a pirate.”
I laughed and said, “A pirate?”
“Yeah, I want to travel the world on a ship and have gold.”
“That sounds like fun, Timmy.” I sat down on the ground and crossed my wrinkled legs, and he did the same.
The boy’s father yelled out the kitchen window, “Timmy, come in. Mom’s making hot chocolate for us.”
Timmy stood up, and before running inside asked me, “Do you live here?”
I got back on my knee, steadied myself, and said, “Yep. I live right here in the backyard.”
Timmy ran inside and let the door slam behind him. I glided to the kitchen window to get a glimpse of the family. I saw the boy take a seat at the table, and Martha leaning against the kitchen counter. She smiled as the family drank hot chocolate.