“Things That Go Bump in the Night”


Jeanie and I sit in our upstairs bedroom and wait for the eerie sound of a rusty-hinged door creaking shut and the hollow, sinister laugh of  “The Shadow” on our radio.  It is 1940 and 7:30 in the evening.

“Heeheehee, the Shadow knows!”

Our modest stucco bungalow, set close to a paved, busy street is minutes from downtown Daytona Beach, Florida.  The street is quiet after 8 and a “lights out” situation becomes part of the current Civil Defense.  The 2nd World War has begun.  Captains in hard-hats, flashlight weapon in hand, patrol the neighborhood.  If you forget and leave your front porch light on,  Mr. Jones, our hard-hat  neighbor, comes calling.

Jeanie and I often play jacks on the front porch and wait for Mom to come home from her Civil Defense  job.  She serves food to workers in an airplane parts factory on the second, ‘supper’ shift.  We romp with the neighborhood kids in the cool of the evening, playing hide-and-seek, but tonight anticipation is high as our favorite radio program is about to begin.

Glued to our radio in the safety of our upstairs bedroom,  we are frightened out of our skin by that swashbuckler, Lamont Cranston and his faithful sidekick, Margo, as they set out on another startling adventure.  Tonight  they promise to take us into the “Land of the Living Dead” complete with nefarious zombies lurking about.  During the broadcast, I know it is not safe to look over my shoulder or behind me  for you never know what might be lurking there!

It is a quaint little house.  Our bedroom sits on the 2nd floor, nestled  in the center of what was once a small attic storage area, accessed by a narrow staircase along one side of the living-room wall.  One tiny window faces the street below.

Close in age, Jeanie and I are close for other reasons I will not discuss except to say Daddy is an alcoholic and sometimes he is home and sometimes he is not.  Jeanie and I adore him.  He always has a ready hug and smile for us.  He is a happy drunk.  Mother  is the “warden”, chief cook and bottle-washer and lawmaker on the premises and lays down the rules for girls with lively imaginations.

“Heeheehee!  What evil lurks in the hearts of men…?  The Shadow knows!  Good evening, friends and welcome once again to our program, sponsored by ‘Super Suds'”.

It is here Wizard-of-Oz  midgets sing the jingle:  “Supersuds, Supersuds, lots more suds with Supersuds!”

My plan forms as I rush down the stairs and gather up Dad’s old overcoat and hat.  Weened on the “The Shadow” and “The Inner Sanctum”  radio programs and old Bette Davis histrionics at our local movie theater,  I am game; I am ready!   I love anything overly dramatic, ridiculously soapy-romantic or terrifying.   The script and sound effects on radio make my hair stand on end.  Imagination allows me to go “into the scene”, and I become Bette Davis!

Saturdays are the highlight of my life.  Mother gives each of us a quarter; eight cents for the movie ticket and five cents for the popcorn and Orange Crush.   Our life is one of excitement and wealth!

I may become  Boris Karloff or Bella Lugosi.  If I sneak up on my little sister dressed in Dad’s old, black overcoat,  hold it up just below my eyes and make a guttural,  evil laugh, she will respond with a big screech and run to tell mother I have frightened her.  As mother is not home yet, my plan takes shape.

But my plans stray.  Just as Lamont Cranston and Margo are about to get to the most bone-chilling, dangerous part of their adventure, we  hear footsteps…

“Mom…?  Dad…?”

No answer.  We both cower beneath Dad’s overcoat and wait to see what monster emerges into our little room.  Whoever it is has a flashlight,  waving intently,  back and forth…back and forth.

“Girls!  Your mom called to say she will be late tonight!  Jackie, you are to make peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches.  There is milk in the fridge.”

Oh, gosh… Mr. Jones with his hard-hat and flashlight from next door!

“Stay put, girls, and behave yourselves!”

My stomach does not  feel so good.  I decide not to scare Jeanie,  after all.   Through the clarity of retrospect, the obvious conclusion surfaced:  things don’t always turn out as planned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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16 Comments on ““Things That Go Bump in the Night””

  1. nabanita
    March 25, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

    Great take on the prompt!I loved how you set the story in the 1940s…the radio show and the plan to scare his sister, the room …everything has been described so nicely I could see them while reading! 🙂

    Like

    • jacquelinecaseypoetry
      March 25, 2014 at 7:13 pm #

      Great! glad you enjoyed it. I seldom write anything but poetry, so this is a first for me!

      Like

  2. jannatwrites
    March 25, 2014 at 8:30 pm #

    This felt so real. It’s interesting how fear changed by the end of the story. In the beginning, it was entertainment, and fun to scare someone else. But when the tables turned it wasn’t much fun anymore. I like your poetry, but I truly enjoyed this, too!

    Like

  3. jacquelinecaseypoetry
    March 25, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    Thanks so much, Janna. This write very difficult for me since it was not a poem. Spent much more time on the edit than I would normally. Trying to clean out every corner, so every speck of dust is gone, lol.

    Like

  4. Suzanne
    March 26, 2014 at 6:39 pm #

    This was such an easy, enjoyable read! I love the characters and the setting. And I love the way you take the narrator through the different perspectives on fear. Great story! 🙂

    Like

    • jacquelinecaseypoetry
      March 26, 2014 at 9:02 pm #

      Thank you so much, Suzanne! I embellished my story of course, but I was in first grade when I lived in that house and it brought back fond memories, “BT” (Before Television), lol.

      Like

  5. Stacie
    March 26, 2014 at 10:56 pm #

    How fun to see a story from you! I felt like I was transported to the 40s and what cute sisters (was Jackie you?). The present tense worked really well too. Not everyone can pull that off. Well done!

    Like

    • jacquelinecaseypoetry
      March 26, 2014 at 11:24 pm #

      Oh, I’m so pleased to hear that from you Stacie! I really worked hard on this piece and edited it to death! So pleased you like it. Yes, the “jackie” was me (about first grade age in school) and my poor little innocent sister, Jean.

      Like

  6. Silverleaf
    March 27, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

    This is a sweet story; I really enjoyed the sense of childhood innocence and quaintness. It’s too bad we no longer live in a society where children can romp and neighbours can deliver messages to children about making their own dinners.

    Like

  7. jstansfeld
    March 27, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

    Well told engaging story – it put me there in the room with the girls radio and all. I’ve been there and done that! Cheerio, Jane

    Like

  8. Kathy Combs (@KathyCombs16)
    March 27, 2014 at 2:46 pm #

    I thoroughly enjoyed this. I felt like I was right there in the middle of the action. I too, liked how fear was at first thrilling and fun and then turned sinister and scary! Awesome.

    Like

  9. atrm61
    March 27, 2014 at 3:07 pm #

    Ah,siblings-loved the playful mood in the beginning and how it turned out to be really scary later and what a relief that it was nothing bad-great setting and loved the characterization Jacqueline 🙂

    Like

  10. Bastet
    March 27, 2014 at 3:24 pm #

    Loved how you developed this fascinating story…there were moments when I was on the end of my chair. Great job!

    Like

  11. janisezayas1
    March 27, 2014 at 7:11 pm #

    Very entertaining read! Felt like a Saturday morning show about two sisters way back when. The best part to me? When Mr. Jones turns out to be the scary monster- classic Scooby doo moment. Loved it!

    Like

  12. Christine
    March 27, 2014 at 7:21 pm #

    I love that you took a risk and tried your hand at a short story! It was very believable. I love the shift when Jackie goes from being a mischievous scamp to chastened sister. 🙂

    Like

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