Wednesday, October 29, 2014

For Pete's Sake! Close the Door!

There is something watching me as I sit here in the kitchen writing. It is quiet now but there have been footsteps, open cupboard doors, shadows where there is no light...
It may be her story...
But this is my story too.

We were in the house about four months. Nothing special, except to us. Oh, the previous owner had passed away; 'dead before she hit the floor' according to our neighbor. Which was no surprise given the amount of nicotine on the kitchen tiles and living room curtains. At least she liked to read. Along with all the nicotine stains the previous owner left a makeshift library in the basement.
We replaced the curtains, chipped away the tiles and added a faux brick wall. The books were donated to Goodwill, except for a copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover and a vintage Escapade magazine featuring some B-List actor's wife as the centerfold. The previous owners not only had a penchant for smoking. Apparently they also enjoyed light pornography.

But it was our house now.
Nothing special.


My husband was at work, night shift. I was alone. Well, not exactly. Baraboo, our cat was there. Not exactly with me. She was never that sort of cat. But she was in the house. I went to bed with the plan of a good night's sleep before a big day of gardening.

I woke to the smell of smoke. Not the smell of a fire. Just the smell of smoke. Sitting up in bed, I took a deeper breath and the smell was gone. But as I lay back down, it drifted back into my nostrils, wrapping its tendrils around my head and seeping deep into my brain.

I sat up again. The smell was faint. But there was something else. A sound. Soft and fluttery, like the sound a page makes when it is turned slowly in a movie. My initial thought was how ridiculous it was. I had spent the past twelve weeks removing the previous owners remnants.

And then I heard the book hit the floor.

I quietly got out of bed and slowly walked to the doorway. I flipped the light switch and illuminated a nearly empty hallway. Baraboo sat at the far end, staring down the steps to the basement. She turned her head, the way a cat does, her expression a 'well, let's get this over with'.


I walked to her side and flipped the stairwell light. The house was a split level. Four steps down to the landing and then another switch to flip.
An invisible smoke curl and pages turning.
Four steps to the basement.
Flip a switch.
We were using the basement as a catch-all of items waiting for permanent spots once this level was finished. An old couch looked toward an as yet uninstalled wood burning stove. Several boxes towered in one corner. The leather front bar, a 'bonus' piece with our new upstairs furniture waited to be stocked, the bar stools sitting empty.
No smoke in sight.
No book open to a telling passage.

One last switch and the back of the basement lit up. Empty metal shelves lined one wall. All empty. Not a sound.
Not a smell.

I shook my head and looked down at the cat who gave me a look which said, "what is wrong with you. There's nothing here."

"Come on Boo. You're right." Together we turned and reversed our course. Lights flipping off. Rooms bathed in darkness as we made our way up the stairs. At the mouth of the hallway, the cat took the lead. Walking gracefully down the middle of the carpet, stopping before each open door, surveying the shadows cast by the hall light, then moving on. I followed along. One eye on the cat, the other on my bedroom at the end of the hall. Four doorways in between.

Bedroom on the left. Clear.
Bathroom on the right. Clear.
A second bedroom. Clear.
At the powder room door Baraboo stopped, I did the same. But rather than calmly sniffing the air and moving on she took a step forward. And with a low growl, she hunched her back, hair bristling from neck to the end of her tail which now stood at attention. Her tiny paws lifted her off the floor in a sideways dance as her growl became more intense.

My circulation stopped. Cold grabbed hold as every nerve in my body began to quake. Grabbing the cat I bolted for my bedroom, slamming the door and diving under the covers in less than three steps.

I never did look into that bathroom.
In my mind I heard our neighbor....'dead before she hit the floor'...
Only I would have a ghost who makes it's first appearance smoking and reading while on the toilet.

Hope you have enjoyed this month of scary. If you have stumbled over here to the Coast then check out these links on the right.
And come back next week when the Coast of Illinois returns to it's 'normal' ridiculous self. Scary, but only because these ridiculous things really do happen to me.

Friday, October 24, 2014


So..... the 'true' ghost story, which I had planned to post this week is being postponed until next week. I am going to say it is because I have been so busy saving the world, finding a cure for disease, birthing a baby on the train and hand-making all my Halloween decorations. In truth, I have just been to lazy. 

I promise, the 'true' ghost story will be up next week. It is based on an actual event which happened to ME. In the house in which we STILL live. 
Until then I will leave you with Sockmonkey. While not haunted, Sockmonkey still manages to scare the beejeezus out of me. He has appeared in the coat closet, the bathroom shower and even in the freezer holding a frozen pizza and glaring at me with a very accusatory stare. 
I have no idea of Sockmonkey's whereabouts at this writing. 
He was last seen sneaking out the front door.

Daddy's home.....

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Lesson

Hope your October is in full swing and all the horrors are of the silly variety. It has been a typical damp, dreary week here on the Coast of Illinois. Perfect for hanging cobwebs and searching frantically for full size candy bars for the neighborhood trick or treaters. Do you know how ridiculously difficult it is to find anything other than 'fun size' candy bars? Not sold separately?
It is not easy.
But not impossible. (Thank you Target.)

So, with that non-paid promotion out of the way...

This weeks 'scary' photo is AMAZINGLY real! I spotted this on a railroad overpass on the Coast of Illinois. I have no idea what is is an advertisement for. Or possibly a warning about...But either way. It can't be good for anyone...
I am pretty sure there is a cream for that....
This weeks 'scary' story is STRICTLY fiction. It is the product of just enough knowledge and just enough lack of sleep, and maybe one too many Stephen King novels. It was written in response to a 100 word challenge. In the present version there are about 144 words. The original version was just a little too spare.  It is also dedicated to all my friends in the medical field.

The Lesson

Bright lights illuminate a cold, barren room. Two figures huddle over a workspace. One the teacher. The other the student. But there is a third person in the room...

“Administer the drug. Classification?”
             “Depolarizing neuromuscular blocker?”
“You know the big words. But what does it do?”
              “Paralyzes the muscles?”
“Correct. Watch as it circulates. Receptors are confused by the drug’s action. What will happen?”

As if in response, limbs secured to the table jerk violently against leather straps.

                 “Is it painful?”
“Of course, intense spasms cause muscle pain. Give more. His pain will not lessen until the muscles become flaccid. Diaphragm now, he is unable to breath…suffocating, unless we allow the medication to wear off. Larger doses will cause…?”
                 “Cardiac arrest?”
                 “Can he hear us?’
“Yes…just look into his eyes...”

Come back next week, if you dare.....for a TRUE ghost story...
If scary is not your thing - check out the links at right  for posts from some of my favorite bloggers. And please come back in November when the Coast of Illinois returns to its usual, semi-ridiculous format.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Happy Octobooooooo......

Well, it's that time again. 
The air is brisk, pumpkins are on the doorstep, my kleenex box is decorated with an adorable owl in a pile of leaves.
It's October.
And here, on the Coast of Illinois, that means...da.da.duuuuummmmm.....
it's scary story time! 
Last year we followed the antics of some friends as they waited for the birth of a new baby. (click here for the beginning of that series and follow the subsequent links on each installment.)
This year I will haunt you with a variety of short stories, designed to give me the chills and hopefully you too!
(And, if scary is not your style, no worries. Check out some of the awesome links to the right. And come back in November for more stories from the Coast...of Illinois....)

One Hundred Eyelashes

I am sleeping and in my dream I sleep. I am curled tightly on my side, my eyes closed but behind the eyelids I can see the door. I feel a noise, the sound of one hundred eyelashes closed in a box, under the bed. They flutter gently and I open my eyes. The doorway is defined by dark gray lines. A light from somewhere else brightens the doorway very faintly and an image is there with the blink of my eyes.
He is tall, nearly filling the door frame yet light still pours around him and into the room. Or does it pour through? He stands still, questioning, and I know it is time but I am not ready. His image flickers and wavers towards me like an old cellophane movie on a reeled projector. I squeeze my eyes shut tight but he is behind them so what really does it matter? With my eyes closed he seems solid and even more real. He speaks then, as if to coax me to open my eyes.
“It’s time to leave.” His voice is the melody of those fluttering eyelashes and sounds as translucent as his image in the door frame. “You have been waiting. You can’t deny that.”
I never know when he will arrive. I notice him first as a shadow from the corner of my dreams. Off to one side, he observes. Gradually, his image gains substance as my resolve thins.
I refuse to answer and peek from barely opened lids. His featureless face is directly in front of me and I squeeze my eyes shut again, but too late. Behind my eyelids his face evolves with sunken sockets, a thin nose, a harsh mouth that opens with a gash and just as quickly, it is gone and he is translucent.
“What are you afraid of?” he asks although he knows the answer. “You’re not afraid of me. What is it?”
A shiver overtakes me and I feel the first droplets of perspiration on my brow. I am cold and hot and weak and stiff as I answer with a throat so dry my voice is barely heard above the opening flutter of eyelashes, “I am afraid to learn what I am capable of.”
My demon laughs then and my eyes fly open. Briefly, in the doorway, is an image lit from behind. I have never allowed him access here, outside my dreaming eyes. In a flickering, wavering moment I understand. He is loose now. And all I can hear is the sound of one hundred eyelashes in a box under the bed as they flutter.
I am dreaming and in my nightmare I am Awake.

(This first appeared in 2010 on 69 Flavors of Paranoia. Sadly, the site is on hiatus, but that shouldn't stop you from knocking around in the corridors, just watch out for the basement...)

Monday, September 29, 2014

I Guess I Answered My Own Question...

Please be sure to check out my guest post at Adventures of the Empty Nesters site! Plus travel stories, puppy tails and the inevitability of change.

I admit it.
I routinely skip over the terrorist news stories, the local shootings, the sports team scandals.
News that is sensationalized is not for me.
George Clooney's wedding is making me smile.

It is also making me ask: Why not me, George? Why?

Is it because I found your breakthrough performance on Facts of Life rather forced and silly?
Is it because you were always outside the top three on my 'list' behind a rotation of Sean Connery, Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig? (Keep in mind George, that while you remained in spots four or five, Misters Connery and Ford eventually fell off the top to be replaced by Johnny Depp and that long haired guy who played the Bedouin in The Mummy. You have always been a firm four or five.)
Is it because I was already married?

I have always defended you, George. Defended you to my friends who felt you were a womanizer. Defended you to those who felt you were dating women entirely too young. Defended you to my daughter when she mistakenly thought you were a good twenty years too old for ME. (We are a mere six weeks apart, George. Six weeks and one state apart, George.)

Sure, my taste in celebrity has been described as ...quirky....
Hadji from Johnny Quest
Woody Allen in Annie Hall
Gene Wilder in Silver Streak
Look at what these men and cartoon boy have in common – a gently, wounded spirit determined to do what is best and right for the world. (okay...maybe I was more enamored of Woody's relationship with Annie Hall....and Annie's style...)
But I digress...

You should be proud to be included in this list George.
You support your causes, not with ridiculous instagram photos but with honest, educated speeches. You may date younger woman, but honestly, they were all quite beautiful and your relationships appeared to be one at a time and not a macrame plant hanger of models and b-list actresses.

So I raise my cup of coffee to you and your new bride Amal.
May you have many, many happily married years.

And you are still a solid four on my list.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Yoga Anywhere...Almost...

I have been doing yoga on and off for approximately forty years. Initially, I yoga-ed along with Lillis on PBS. It wasn't long until I ventured off on my own with a yoga book, complete with photo instruction for such advance poses as LION and AID FOR STOMACH DIGESTION.
I didn't have a formal lesson until somewhere around 2005.
This is nothing to be proud of...
Currently my professional instruction is intermittent. I tend to depend on an AM Yoga DVD. The instructor, who totally rocks a terrifying speedo, lulls me into a pleasant stretch from his beach in Hawaii. And I am very content to do Mountain Pose and Cow Stretch in the comfort of my jammies on my living room floor.

Until this weekend.

Fueled by a recent segment of celebrities posting pictures of themselves doing yoga ANYWHERE and the undeniable desire to make a fool of myself...
I give you:
  Sun Salutation
on a moving boat
without a life vest
and only a cell phone camera
and not a smart phone
and definitely not one with an airbrush app.
unless your home IS a sailboat
and you have super good balance
and can swim.
 Vertical Boob Plank
This is very dangerous. Do not attempt in sports bra, cami or if you are less than a C-cup.

Stripper Pole

Not to be confused with the beginner move Balancing Mast.
 Which may or may not be a sailing porn site. 
I don't know.
Perturbed Wife.
Flowing into Annoyed Husband and ending in Swimming Plank.

(seriously, are my boobs really that huge? I may never wear that t-shirt again. Or always.)

Sun Salutation
Wide stance variation
because the boat was actually moving
pretty quickly.


DISCLAIMER: doing yoga on the bow of a moving sailboat is not sanctioned by the American Sailing Association, the Federal and State Park Departments, and everyone with the tiniest amount of good sense.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Take Five, People

I am preparing for the annual camping/sailboat outing which takes place 'out East'.
Or, Indiana.
I believe that after last year's camping infestation of college kids I swore I would never camp again. This may have been a rash statement, made in the throws of sleep deprivation.
Or, I will do anything for a 'mini-vacation'.
Or I have a very bad memory or how uncomfortable I was.
I don't ask anymore. I think it is the pre-Alzhiemers.

Consequently, my brain is not really wanting to focus on much of anything except how to pack three days worth of food into a cooler on ice without poisoning anyone.
So I thought in lieu of a new and entertaining post, I would take you all on a little mini-vacation of your own.

Welcome to the Sailboat Races!

Some of the racers preparing their boats.
 There is a scene in the movie Jaws where everyone is talking all East Coast and the only sounds you hear are the water lapping the shore and sails flapping. I had a very distinct feeling of being right in the middle of this scene while I watched the racers set up. I kept a very trained eye out for that enormous dorsal fin and that guy who likes to grate his fingers down the chalkboard in Chief Brody's office. Oh, and Richard Dreyfus.
More boats. And the tent? This is where the really loud HORN lives.
We were just observers on this particular race day. Hoping to get an idea of how the whole process works. The best I can tell, there is a configuration of buoys which you are expected to sail around.
BUT - you don't start sailing around these buoys until the person in the white tent (see above) sets out a series of flags and blasts an air horn into the peaceful calm at which point I jump and, if in the boat, most likely fall into the lake.

These boats are lined up and ready to race. Or, they are coming across the finish. I don't know. 

The boats are divided up into two categories. Larger, heavier boats and smaller, more petite boats. We would naturally fall into the larger heavier category. I feel slightly insulted. But, the larger heavier boats get to go first so NEENER to all you people who always picked me last in PE.
 I call this Boats. With dock.
Standing on the shore, watching as the various rigs floated away, the race began to look more like people having a lovely afternoon on the lake while I sweated and got bit by flies on the shore. There was no swooshing and near crashing like in America's Cup. Although I did watch one kid lean a little too far over the rail and slide - slow motion - into the lake. His buddy was in complete control of the boat and actually stopped immediately allowing for re-boarding with only a minimal amount of lost time.
Seriously. Beautiful.
We left for home before the races were over. But best as I could tell, we were the only losers, for not having taken our boat and entered too.
Oh well.
Next time.