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Supper Table

She just watches. She watches the house. She watches all of us.

Supper was grilled chicken and rice, with green beans, one of El’s favorites. Her Mom noticed the subdued reaction when her plate was placed in front of her.

“Is something wrong, honey?” asked Alice.

Silence, at first. Eventually, El told the family that she saw a ghost in the house the night before.

“Where?” asked Em.

“In the bathroom,” said El.

Em started laughing. “Were they pooping?” She laughed again, and John and Alice joined her.

El’s seriousness quivered in her expression, her voice. The laughter died as she spoke.

“Really,” she said. “I went to the bathroom last night. And she was standing there.”

“A she? A woman was there?” asked Alice.

“Yes. An old woman. With long grey hair. And shiny eyes.”

“Where in the bathroom?” Alice asked.

Wanting to tell the truth, but cringing at the laughter from her sister she knew would result once she spoke, she said, “In front of the toilet.”

Em howled with delight, exclaiming, “I told you! The ghost was pooping! Ghost poop!”

Her parents quickly quieted her (though John felt himself suppressing a giggle). El said, “She wasn’t pooping!” She seemed on the verge of tears.

Alice said, “What was she doing, honey?”

“Nothing. Watching. Just standing there, watching me. She wasn’t pooping.”

“We know,” said John. “No one is laughing anymore, honey. Was she scary?”

Fear rose up in El’s eyes, but she said, “I don’t know. I don’t think so. She wasn’t...anything. Scary or sad or happy. She was just there. Watching. She watches.”

“Does she watch us poop?” Em offered. John silenced her with a sharp glance.

“No. She just watches. She watches the house. She watches all of us.”

“And you’re sure you’re not scared.” He asked because he felt a little fear himself.

“No,” said El, true emotions inscrutable.

Dinner went on, the subject eventually changed. John pictured the bathroom as he cleared the table. He knew where the figure would be standing if she were in front of the toilet.

She’d be directly in front of the mirror of the medicine cabinet.

What he wanted to ask his daughter was, “Does she watch us from the mirror?” but he restrained himself. Something about the mirror unsettled him. Not just the bathroom mirror. All the mirrors.

Still, it was genuinely kind of a funny story, and John was sure it would turn eventually into an amusing anecdote, maybe one they would tell friends at backyard bar-b-que over drinks while sharing tales about their children. No one really believed in ghosts anymore. They might tell stories, heard from a friend of a friend. They might pretend belief. But no one took them seriously.

That night, John awoke from unremembered dreams. He had to go to the bathroom. He found it hard to get out of bed, imagining a figure at the end of the hall. He felt stupid entertaining the fears of a scared child, and forced himself up and to the doorway.

No ghostly figure awaited him, of course.

Get it together, he told himself.

He walked down the hallway to the bathroom and entered. No ghost in the bathroom either. Still, he steadfastly avoided looking in the mirror. His sleep-addled mind had conjured what he would see in the glass: a dark face, grey hair floating in the air as if she were underwater, blood red lips on a smile filled with terrible knowledge, dead eyes like bright shining pennies, staring into the dark of his soul.

 

 

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