Here was my entry for NPR’s Three Minute Fiction Contest, which just ended and named a winner (obviously not me, but it was fun to try).
I’m getting more into flash fiction lately and I like the challenge of parameters. The thing with this was you had to start with the sentence “Some people swore that the house was haunted” and end with “Nothing was the same again after that”.
Some people swore that the house was haunted. I never believed that,
but Turk did. He told me stories of faces peeking out windows when no
one was home–white, sorrowful faces. But I know Turk. He wanted to
see those faces.
It was Lacey who lived there. Her family bought the house when they
moved from Nebraska. Was it five years ago? The reason Turk was always
riding his bike by the house was because Lacey lived there and Turk
thought Lacey was his. In his thirteen year old way, he loved her. And
so whenever he could he took the long way home and rode by that big,
ancient house on Cleary street.
The truth was, Lacey sort of belonged to both of us, but it was my
hand she grabbed that night on the way home from the station. We had
seen Turk off to go visit his dad in Chicago. Lacey came because her
mom was playing bridge with my mom and Turk and I talked her into
coming along. That was when we got up the nerve to ask Lacey about her
house. Did she ever hear banging noises or have things go missing? Was
there a girl in a white dress floating through the hallways? Lacey
said she had been scared the first few weeks after they moved in. All
the neighborhood kids had warned her of ghosts. But then nothing
happened, so she figured it was an urban legend. Turk had to ask her
what an urban legend was and Lacey laughed while I rolled my eyes.
There was a lot Turk didn’t know.
Turk didn’t want to go to Chicago. It was only for a week, but being
in Chicago meant a week away from summer in our town, and me, and
Lacey, too. Lacey didn’t belong to us before that. Later she would be
a constant presence with us at the Y pool or the arcade or even taking
our bikes out to the ramp park. In some ways she was just another boy
to punch in the shoulder and make fart jokes with, but I knew Turk
liked her and I knew she liked me and those were hard secrets to keep.
That night after we waved goodbye to Turk and Lacey grabbed my hand
and I let her, we had smiled at each other and I wondered if in her
smile, like in mine, there was a little bit of sadness. I loved Turk
and knew she would too, and if he couldn’t have Lacey then there
wasn’t much else for him in his life. Nothing but ghosts.
And then that day at the end of the summer, when Lacey came over and
Turk didn’t–because I didn’t invite him–well, nothing was ever the
same again after that.