the short story project


Lori Taylor




  Sixteen year old Holly Parker and her younger brother; Rod, who was fourteen were at their Grandma and Grandpa’s.  Their Mom and Dad had gone off on their 25th anniversary trip and had left them with there.

  It wasn’t that they minded, they loved their Grandparents,  but it was just so boring there.  There was nothing for them to do.

  Friday night they went out to dinner with their Grandparents and then to the movie theatre to watch a movie; Dumbo, of all things!  Good grief, their Grandparents thought that they were still babies!

  Saturday they spent the entire day visiting with family members that they didn’t really know and with friends of their Grandparents.

  Sunday when their Grandparents went to Church, they were able to stay home.  For that they were grateful.  Almost as soon as they left, Holly suggested that they explore and, of course, Rod was all for that.  He was just as bored as she was.

  “Where do you want to start?”  Holly asked, “In the attic or basement? Or would you rather explore the barn?”

  Rod shrugged, he really didn’t care.

  Holly frowned, considering their options. “Let’s just start in the attic and work our way down and out, okay?”

  Rod nodded. “Fine by me.”

  Flashing her brother an encouraging smile, Holly walked past him and started up the stairs that lead to the attic, calling over her should to him to, “Come on!”

  Rod followed several steps behind her.






  Holly opened the small overhead door and pulled down the ladder.

“Want to go first?”

  Rod shook his head.  “You go.”

  So, Holly grasped the rungs and began to climb.  Poking her head up into the attic she was overcome with a wave of heat.  “Damn . . .”  She murmured.

  “What?” Rod asked, from below, “I couldn’t hear you.”

  “I said,  it’s hot up here.” Holly said as she sit down and swung her legs into the attic.  “Come on up!”  She called as she rose to her feet.

  Rod went up behind her but ended up having to go right back down because the thick dust that covered everything started effecting his Asthma.

  Holly started down after him.

  “You can explore,” Rod told her, “I’m okay.”

  “Exploring is no fun on your own.” Holly said, stepping past him, “Come on, let’s try the basement.”

  Again, Rod followed her.

  The basement wasn’t as dusty as the attic but it was damp and it had an earthy smell.

  There wasn’t much to discover in the basement.  All they found was canned goods, the washer and dryer, a big sink, and box after box of canning jars and lids.

  “This is boring.”  Rod complained, “Lets go out to the barn.”

  Bored, herself, Holly quickly agreed. This time she let Rod take the lead and she followed him back upstairs, out of the house, and across the yard to the big old barn.

  “I want to go up to the loft, first.” Rod told her, “I’ve always wanted to look out those doors and see what there is out there.”

  “You know what’s out here, Goofy.”

  “You know what I mean . . . “ he muttered.

  Holly laughed.  “Yeah, I know.”  Then gave him a little shove.  “Get going.”

  Rod pulled open the barn doors and stepped inside.  Instantly, the  hay caused his Asthma to flare up and he began wheezing.

  “Where’s your inhaler?” Holly asked.

  He gestured toward the house.

  “Well, go get it.” Holly ordered.

   Rod hesitated. “You’ll go up without me.”

  “No, I won’t.” She assured him.

  “I want to be the one to go up first.”

  “You can be.” she said, growing impatient with him, “Go get your inhaler and I will poke around down  here until you get back.”

   “You promise?”

  “Are you serious?”


  Sighing heavily, Holly nodded.  “Alright . . .  I promise.  Now, go.”

   Satisfied, Rod turned and left the barn.

   “Hurry!” Holly called after him.




  While Rod was in the house, getting his inhaler, Holly poked around in the small tack room, near the back of the barn.  She found an old Sears and Roebuck catalog and flipped through it; marveling at the pointy toed, high heeled shoes and the pointy bras.  She’d never be caught dead in a bra that made her boobs as pointy as those of the ladies modeling them.

  Turning to the swim suit section, she got a giggle out of the bathing suits that they male and female models were wearing.

“What year is this from?” She asked herself, out loud.

  “Nineteen Forty.” someone answered from outside of the tack room.

  Holly frowned.  “Rod?” She queried, although it wasn’t Rod’s voice and she knew it.  

  Silence answered her.

  She returned the catalog to where she found it and stepped out of the tack room. “Rod?” she called, louder.

  ‘What?” Rod answered as he came into the barn.

  “There’s someone in here.”

  Rod glanced around.  “Where?”

  “I’m not sure.  I was looking at a catalog, wondering what year it was, and someone answered me.” She replied, “Told me that it was nineteen forty.”

  Rod laughed, not believing her.

  Holly glared at him.  “I’m serious!”

  Sobering, Rod asked, “Want me to take a look around?”

  Nodding, Holly replied, “I’ll go with you.”

  They scoured the entire bottom level of the barn but found no one.

  “The only way to go is up.” Rod said.  “Do you think they could be up there?”

  Holly shrugged, uncertain.  “I don’t really know.”

  Rod took hold of the ladder and began to climb.

  Suddenly, the ladder began to shake.  

  “Stop it!”  Rod yelled down at Holly, “Quit shaking the ladder!”

  “I’m not touching it!” Holly yelled back, fearfully, “It’s doing it on it’s own!”

  Rod leaned out and glanced down at Holly. She looked genuinely frightened.

  The ladder shook harder, nearly knocking him off of it.

  “Holly!” he wailed, his eyes wide with fright.

  “Get down off of there!” She screamed up at him.

  Just as Rod began his descent the ladder began shaking violently and he lost his grip on the rung.

  Holly watched, terrified, as Rod was shook loose of the ladder.

  Rod fell, landing with a soft thud in a rounded mound of moldy hay.

  Holly ran to him.  “Are you hurt?”

  “No,” Rod said as he scrambled to his feet, “but lets get the hell out of here!” He darted past her and ran out of the barn, not bothering to look back and see whether she was coming or not.

  Holly was hot on Rod’s heels.

  The two of  them didn’t stop running until they were safely back in the house.

  “What was that?” Holly asked as she slammed the door shut and leaned up against it.

  “I dunno,” Rod replied, panting, “but I’m not going back out there to find out.”

  “Me either.”  Holly quickly agreed.

  “Wonder when Grandma and Grandpa will be back?”

  “I don’t know.” Holly replied, “Around noon, I’d guess.”

  “What time is it?”

  “I don’t know, it’s probably close to that now.”

  “I hope.”

  “Me, too.”  Holly concurred and she meant it.  





  Neither Holly nor Rod told their Grandparents what had happened to them out in the barn nor did they talk about it with each other.  They felt that the less that they talked about it, the better off they were.

  Their parents called, that night, to talk to them and they, both, expressed their eagerness to have them back.

  That night, neither of them left their Grandparents sides.  

  Holly helped their Grandma with supper dishes and Rod kept their Grandpa company in the front room; watching game shows.  When dishes were done, Holly and their Grandma joined them.

  When their Grandparents said it was time for bed, Holly and Rod went upstairs too.  

  “Holl,” Rod asked, pausing outside of Holly’s bedroom door, “do you think it would be too weird if asked if I could sleep in here with you?”

  Holly smiled and opened her for him to enter.  “I was hoping you’d want to stay.” she admitted.

  “You know what?” Rod chuckled, “My pajamas are in my bedroom.”

  “Want me to go with you to get them?” Holly offered.

  Rod nodded.  “And, if you don’t mind, could you wait outside the bathroom while I change and brush my teeth?”

  “Not if you’ll do the same for me.” Holly replied, grabbing her nightgown and robe from the back of the chair.

  Rod smiled. “Deal.”

  They went up the hall to Rod’s bedroom and she waited while he got his pajamas, then they went down to the bathroom and Holly waited outside while he changed and brushed his teeth.  When he came out, he did the same for her, then they returned to her bedroom.

  Rod thought nothing of climbing into bed with his sister, he used to do it all of the time when they were little.

  Holly turned the light off and they lay there, in the dark, talking, until Rod fell silent.  “Rod?”

  A few minutes later, Holly heard him softly snoring and knew that he had  fallen asleep.

  Try as she might, sleep would not come for her.  Every time she closed her eyes she would hear that voice saying, “Nineteen forty.” and her eyes would snap open.

  She laid there tossing and turning until three o’clock when the need to use the bathroom overcame her.  She thought about waking Rod up and making him go with her, then changed her mind.  ‘It’s okay, nothing is going to happen.’

  With every nerve in her body on edge, Holly carefully made her way down the hall to the bathroom.

  When she finished in the bathroom, she returned to her bedroom to find Rod gone.  ‘Where did he go?’  She knew he wasn’t in the bathroom because she had just came from there.  

  She went up the hall to his room and cracked the door to peek inside.  Sure enough, he had gone back to his own room.  But why?  He’d asked to sleep with her and she’d said he could.  The truth was, she was glad that he’d asked because she hadn’t wanted to be alone in her room.

  ‘Oh well . . .’ she sighed and returned to her room.  Upon entering, she turned the light on.  There on her bed lay an old fashioned Ouija board and scrawled on her mirror in her red lipstick was the words ‘ Talk to me.’

  Her heart started pounding in her chest as she looked from the Ouija board to the mirror. ‘What the . . .’

  A screeching sound, like nails on a chalk board, caught her attention and drew her eyes back to the mirror.  Her lipstick tube was in the air and scrawling ‘TALK TO ME’ in capital letters.

  “How?”  She asked aloud, glancing nervously at the Ouija board on her bed.  

  ‘BOARD’ and invisible hand wrote in her lipstick.

  Holly swallowed.  “I can’t play by myself.”

  ‘Not playing’ the lipstick wrote, ‘communicating’.

  Holly walked over to her bed and sat down on the edge of it, her eyes on the Ouija board.

  Before her eyes, the planchette scraped across the board and on the mirror the lipstick wrote, ‘HANDS ON POINTER’.

  Frightened to touch it and frightened not to, Holly reached out with trembling hands and lightly placed her fingertips to the planchette. Instantly, the planchette went to ‘HELLO”.

  “Hello.” Holly returned, scared beyond words.

  ‘IAMAMANDAWHATISYOURNAME’ the planchette quickly spelled out.

  It took Holly a moment to realize what it said. ‘I am Amanda, what is your name.’  

  “I’m Holly.” Holly replied, “What do you want with me?”


  ‘Just to talk, I am lonely.’ Holly deciphered.  “Why are you here?” she asked, “Why aren’t you wherever your family is?”


  ‘I don’t know how to find my family.’  Holly understood the ran together words.  “How old are you?”


  “What is your last name, Amanda?”


  “How did you die?”


  “Car accident.  When?”


  “Did you live in this house when you were alive?”


  “Where did you live?”


  ‘In town.’  Holly read.  


  ‘Hit and Run.’ Holly frowned. “I’m sorry.”


  “You miss your parents.” Holly repeated, sad for the girl.

  The planchette went to YES.  Then, ‘CANYOUHELPMEFINDTHEM?’

  ‘Can you help me find them?’ Holly read, then replied, “I can try.”


  “You’re welcome . . .” Holly murmured, then asked, “Did you push my brother off of the ladder, in the barn, today?”

  The planchette went to ‘YES’

  “Why?” Holly asked, “He didn’t do anything to you and you could have seriously hurt him or killed him, even.”


  “Then you would have had company.” Holly read, incredulous.  “If you would have hurt my brother, I wouldn’t have agreed to try and help you.”


  “You stay away from him.”


  “I mean it. You come near him, again, and you’re on your own.”


  “I’m going to have Grandma take me to the library tomorrow and try and look up something about the accident and your parents.  If we can find where they are buried . . .”

  The planchette flew around the board of its own free will.  ‘THENICANBEWITHMYPARENTS.’

  “Yes,” Holly replied, sincerely hoping that was how things worked, “then you can be with them.”

  The planchette went to ‘GOODBYE’ and didn’t move again.





  The next morning, after breakfast, Holly had her Grandma run her into town, to the local Library.  

  She asked the Librarian about old newspapers, the early 1940’s in particular.  The Librarian said that they had some and she asked Holly to follow her into the back room.

  She placed Holly before a microfiche viewer and handed her several sheets of microfilm of the local newspaper from  the 1940’s, and then she left her to her own devices.

  Holly searched through the archives until she found what she was looking for.  ‘Local girl killed in a hit and Run’ she read, ‘Twelve year old  Amanda Rothford was struck and killed in front of her home on Thursday evening by someone in a dark green Ford truck.  The driver of the truck fled the scene of the accident.’ In the article, she learned the names of Holly’s parents; Elton and Maybelle Rathford.

  Digging deeper, Holly found Amanda’s funeral arrangements. The girl was buried in the Dover Hill Cemetery, just outside of town.  She figured that if Amanda was buried there, that her parents couldn’t be buried too far away.

  When her Grandma picked her up, she asked if they could run out to the cemetery.  

  Although her Grandma found that to be a strange request, she agreed to run her out to the cemetery and let her have a look around.

  At the cemetery, she was able to find Amanda’s grave, “I read about this poor girl at the Library.  They never did find the man that ran over her.”  

“Oh how sad!” Her Grandma exclaimed, “That poor child!”

Having found Amanda’s grave, she asked her Grandma to help her look for Elton and Maybelle’s graves.

  That was another strange request and this time her Grandma had to ask, “Why are we looking for them?”

  “Just something that I read at the library.” Holly replied, telling a half truth.  “And I was just curious how far they were buried form their daughter.”

  “Oh. I see . . .” Her Grandma mused and began helping Holly look for their graves.

  As Holly had suspected, Elton and Maybelle weren’t buried far from Amanda, just across the road and two rows down.  “Here they are.” she declared and prayed that Amanda could hear her.

  “Yes,” her Grandma said, “there they are.”

  They stood there, in silence, for a few moments and then her Grandma asked her if she was ready to go.

  Holly nodded.  ‘I hope you’re here, Amanda.  I hope you’re with them now.’ She silently said and turned to follow her Grandma toward the car.

  A short distance from Amanda’s grave, Holly heard her name spoken and glanced back over her shoulder.

  There standing between two adults was a beautiful red haired girl of about twelve. The girl flashed her a warm smile, then reached out and took a hand of each of the adults.

  Holly returned her smile.

  The family turned, their backs to Holly, and started walking away.  The farther they got from Holly, the more transparent they became until they vanished entirely.

  “Are you coming?” Her Grandma called from several yards away.

  Turning, Holly quickly followed her Grandma to the car.

  After that, she didn’t see or hear anything of Amanda again and the rest of their visit was uneventful.

  Their parents returned from their trip and her and Rod home.

  That was one trip to their Grandparents that Holly would never forget.



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