Last night, I watched a couple of movies.
First there was Escape Plan with Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, which turned out to be surprisingly entertaining despite — or probably because — it was so ridiculous. I felt like Stallone was fighting the silliness a little bit, but Schwarzenegger was embracing it wholeheartedly, and as such was really good in the movie. I wouldn’t call it good, but it was a lot of fun.
After that, it was a real change of pace with Dallas Buyers Club. The movie wasn’t exactly remarkable, but it told its story well, and Matthew McConaughey was very good. So was Jared Leto, who I didn’t recognize until the movie was almost over, and both he and McConaughey deserve the Oscar nominations they got for the movie.
In between the films, I discovered a cat living in the garage. I’d been hearing noises off and on for the past couple of nights and discovered the blinds on a couple of the windows mussed up. But I chalked the former up to the wind, and the latter up to imagination…or more wind. (Well, the rational part of my brain did, anyway.) But I heard the noise again last night and although it was only for a second, I saw a cat creep into the far back corner. The garage is full of stuff, including furniture and boxes I moved back from Pennsylvania a decade ago with, so there are lots of places a small cat like that could hide. I gave up on trying to find it last night, partly because I didn’t want to chase it out into the cold, but I saw it again this evening. I tried leaving the garage door open, coaxing the cat out with soft words and tuna fish, scaring it out with loud noises, and the most I seemed to do was to chase it from one inaccessible corner to another.
It’s not so much that I mind there being a cat in the garage. I got a better glimpse at it tonight, and I think it’s a stray, so I want it to be warm. I just don’t want it to set up shop out there, think it’s a good place to go to the bathroom or have kittens, or get stuck in one of those inaccessible corners with no food to be had. I think I might have chased it out this evening — into what’s unfortunately become a snowy night — but I also thought I’d maybe done that last night.
So hopefully I chased it away and it will find a better place to hole up. Or if it’s still out there, I’ll be able to find and catch it, so that I can somehow take it to the vet. (I say somehow because we don’t own any cat carriers anymore.)
Anyway, that was most of my weekend. Today, after a prolonged absence, I joined my writing group again and wrote this:
“There are no ghosts here,” Jimmy said. I didn’t know which one of us he was trying to convince.
“Sure, there are stories,” Jimmy said. “The old house, the caretakers murdered.” He walked over to the shelf behind his desk and pulled down a book. “That was in 1908, three years after the house was first built. Then there was a fire in the barn, that family who rented the place and went missing in the ’70s.” He handed me the book, which was older than the paperback I knew he’d seen me tuck into my backpack, and was probably a first edition if I knew anything about Jimmy Bell.
“It’s all in Trevor Burnam’s novel,” he said, “if you can get past the lousy prose. And some of it’s corroborated by press clippings — of which,” he added, “there aren’t for that time and this area. But that’s a far cry from saying the house is haunted.”
“Then why aren’t you living there?” I asked. “Your family owns the house, you’ve been living in town for six months, and yet you’re still renting here, in this place.” It hadn’t escaped my attention that there had been a fold-away cot stored in the closet, or that Jimmy had shut the closet door when he noticed me snooping.
“You’ve done your homework,” he said. I couldn’t tell if he was pleased. Looking at him from across the desk, I thought maybe he couldn’t tell either.
“I just want to know what happened there,” I said. “Don’t you?”
“’They drank the milk and ate the butter,’” he said. “That’s the first line of Burnam’s book.” He nodded at it in my hands, and although I pretty much knew the thing by heart I flipped to the start of Chapter 1. “’Miss Abigail returned to the kitchen that cold October morning to discover the pantry door unlatched, the fire in the hearth gone out, and the little dead girl waiting for her at the top of the cellar stairs.’
“It’s not great writing,” Jimmy said, “but sure, I can see why people liked it at the time. After the Wilson family ran off in ’76 –”
“Disappeared,” I said. “There were five of them, and they weren’t ever found.” I handed him back the book. “There are press clippings about that.”
“And about Ken Wilson’s drinking problem, too,” Jimmy said. “Look, I like you, Clara, and we went to school together, which is the only reason I agreed to meet. But you’re seeing this from a distance and missing the details. And the details say there’s no such thing as ghosts.”
“I just don’t think you believe that,” I said.
I took the writing prompts from this magazine cover. Imagine if I’d gone with the picture!