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More unsettling were the ragged circle of butter knives stabbed angrily into the wood ceiling.

“Where the hell are all the forks?” John grumbled from the kitchen, not for the first time.

“Emily takes them,” said El from the dinner table.

“No I don’t!” wailed Em.

El turned to her Dad. “Emily takes them and she hides them,” she said.

“This is between her and me,” said John. “No need to get involved.”

Sensing a temporary victory, Em added, “And quit calling me Emily!”

John shushed them both and continued making breakfast.

He knew Em stole forks. She’d been doing it a long time. Sometimes she hid them, most times she simply threw them away, due to simple laziness or an eccentric expression of tweener angst. He’d even caught her a few times; he went down to her room and found them in the trash can. Sometimes spoons too, and knives (this was back before all the knives got locked up), and even the occasional bowl or plate, but most of the time she—or something—expressed a stronger interest in forks.

Em, typically, denied taking any of it: the spoons and knives and forks, the bowls and plates.

John knew she took some of them. John wasn’t convinced she took all of them.

When the girls were little he found a fork hidden in a glass fixture hanging from the high upstairs bathroom ceiling; John hadn’t even noticed it until the bulb blew out and he had to get a step-stool and replace it. He unscrewed the glass globe and there lay the fork, covered in dust, sharing the space with scattered dead moths.

The girls couldn’t reach that high, not even with the step-stool. It could not have been Em or El.

Of course, it wasn’t his wife.

He tried not to think about it too much. Darker thoughts threatened to intrude, involving whether his family lived truly alone in this old and storied house.

Many months later he found a shoebox, buried deep in the recesses of Em’s closet, filled with silverware. All of the silverware had been neatly divided, stacked, and placed into ordered little stacks: knives, spoons and forks. The neatness certainly didn’t point guilt toward Em; her room was a mess, the orderly arrangement inside the shoebox contrasted sharply with the remainder of her wildly disorganized closet.

He noted the presence of silverware he’d never seen before, some of it so tarnished and worn it seemed as old as the house, which added to the mystery.

He showed the shoebox to his wife. He shared his concerns about the uncharacteristic tidiness of the box of silverware, and the age of some of the utensils.

“She could have found them somewhere. It’s an old house, lots of ancient stuff hidden in the nooks and crannies. She loves to explore all the odd little corners of the house.”

“What about how organized it all is? Have you ever seen her room this organized?”

“She’s mercurial. She’s smart. She can be neat. Maybe she had to stack them all up like that to get them to fit into the box.”

They approached her with the box of silverware together.

“I didn’t take them. I didn’t put them in the box like that,” Em insisted to her parents. John expressed no opinion. 

His wife, less likely than he to entertain doubt because of her disbelief in the paranormal, said, “One-week grounding. And you buy new silverware with your allowance this week.”


“No buts,” said Alice, which made El giggle.

He found forks in the upstairs bathroom more than once. Laying on the floor. Sitting at the bottom of an empty tub. Stabbed into the soap. El once was preparing to take a bath, turned on the faucets to fill the tub, and when the tub was full, she looked down to find a spoon at the bottom of the tub, under the water.

El screamed.  Her Dad came running up the stairs in response.

The sight of silverware didn’t inspire much fear in John; the girls tended to eat late at night, or at odd hours—as he did himself—so it did not overly concern him. The bathroom seemed an odd choice as a place to eat a snack, but kids’ lives were complicated, and tween-aged girls lives appeared particularly complex. Body images issues loomed like landmines at this age; John could easily imagine one of the girls wanting to eat in private, for any number of reasons.

More unsettling than random silverware in the bathroom were the ragged circle of butter knives stabbed angrily into the angled wood ceiling of the attic, at the far end of the room. John found them while replacing the screens with storm windows for the winter.

The forks had been thrust with such force that the grain had splintered where metal entered wood. The handles of the knives were twisted, warped, blackened, bent.

One of the kids might have done it.

His wife might have done it.

What could unequivocally not be blamed on his kids or his wife was the roasting fork that floated high over his head in the bedroom at three a.m.; he had been sleeping and woke from unremembered dreams and opened his eyes and saw the sharp twin spires of the fork pointing directly at his eyes like the sword of Damocles. If it dropped he’d be dead, as the thin metal rods pierced his brain; he felt certain whatever force that held the fork would fling it with enough violence to kill him.

Alice slept peacefully next to him. He wrestled with whether to wake her or not. He did not want to endanger her.

He did not want to die.

Scared to make a sound. Scared to move. Scared to blink. All night long.

The alarm clock clattered.

His open eyes stared wearily at the empty air above him, as they had all night.

Sunlight tumbled through the window, filling the room. His wife roused next to him.

“Good morning, honey,” she said, kissing him on the cheek.



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