The Story of the Barn Ghost

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Source: Ken1843 on Pixabay, modified with Deep Dream Generator

In the living room of a small house on Marigold Street that had a freshly mowed lawn and a prim garden bordered by daisies, Evan Cummings sat on his grandfather’s lap. His grandfather was a big man who had been a sailor in his youth, and his lap was the most comfortable place in the world.

It was late afternoon, and small dust motes drifted through the rays of sun coming through the window blinds. In his hand, Evan held his grandfather’s gold watch, which always hung from a chain attached to his vest button. Aromas of chicken and potatoes emerged from the kitchen, and they would be sitting down to dinner soon, when Evan’s father got home.

“Grandpa?” Evan asked. “What's it like to grow old?”

A small gasp came from the kitchen, and Mother’s head emerged from the doorway like a pop-goes-the-weasel.

Evan covered his mouth and looked up at his grandfather. But he could see that no harm was done. His grandfather’s grizzled face was as merry as Santa Claus, and his smile wrinkles were at their wrinkliest.

“I’m not sure,” Grandpa said after a small laugh. “But I’ll let you know if it happens to me.”

Jimbo, their tabby cat, jumped up and joined them on the couch, and then the three of them were cozy together and Evan wished someone would take a picture of them just like that, and he would keep it forever. He thought about how every moment of a person’s life was like a single photo, and if you put them all in one big pile you could stack it all the way to the moon.

Evan patted Jimbo’s head and looked up at his grandfather again. “Will you tell me a story, Grandpa?”

Sometimes his grandfather was in the mood for stories, and sometimes he wasn’t. But if Evan caught him at just the right time, Grandpa might talk about his own childhood adventures and how he grew up on a farm where they had a pig and a goat, and fields full of cattle and one dairy cow named Gladys. And they had all the food they ever needed, even in the Great Depression.

“Hmm,” Grandpa said. “Let me see. Did I ever tell you the story of the spooky barn?”

Evan shook his head. “Why was the barn spooky?”

“Well that’s exactly what makes this story interesting,” Grandpa said. “The spooky barn was at the very edge of our farm — out beyond our pastures, almost to the next farm, and no one ever used it. My father said it was too old and would probably fall apart in a big wind, but it never did.”

Evan shivered, thinking about the spooky barn and what might be lurking in there. “Did you ever go into the barn?”

“No,” Grandpa said. “It was way too spooky. And yet I was mysteriously drawn to it, as if it was calling me. Sometimes when I was done with chores I would walk through our pastures, past the cows in the fields, past the windmill and the grain silos, and I would go stand at a safe distance and just look at that old barn. It was a dark, shadowy place that seemed to be shrouded in old secrets, and I thought it was probably haunted.”

“With ghosts?”

“Yes. With ghosts. And in fact, one day I became sure of it.”

A cloud had suddenly covered the sun, and the room became darker. Evan could no longer see any dust motes or shafts of sunlight. Very quietly, he said, “Why?”

“Because,” Grandpa continued, “sometimes I would hear an eerie song on the breeze. Like some lonely spirit was singing quietly to itself, perhaps caught between worlds.”

Evan could barely breathe. He held onto Grandpa’s watch for comfort. It was warm and smooth in his hands. “What happened?”

“Well, I had to find out. I had to see. So one day, as I finished my chores and the wind was just right, I heard that eerie singing. That haunting, sweet melody floated to me all the way across those fields. So I put away the ax I was using to split wood for the coming winter, and I walked across the pastures to that old barn.”

“And then what?”

“Once I got there, I stopped. I was so afraid. A wind had come up and it ruffled my hair and I could see storm clouds moving in. But I couldn’t turn away. I began creeping toward the barn. Step by step. And just then, a figure appeared in the blackened doorway of the barn.”

Evan swallowed. “The ghost.”

“And so I turned, and I ran. I ran so fast that I lost my shoes there in the field. When I got home, my feet were bruised from rocks and covered in stickers. My mother removed them and put a salve on my feet and wrapped them. But you know what that meant.”

“What?”

“I had to go back to get my shoes.”

“Oh no.”

“Oh yes,” Grandpa said. “It was the Depression, you know. My mother couldn’t just buy me more shoes anytime I wanted. So she sent me right back to get those shoes the very next day, wearing an old pair of my father’s work boots. Well, I was very relieved, I tell you, because I didn’t hear the singing. So I relaxed. And I reminded myself that teenage boys — for I was 17 at the time — are not afraid of ghosts. So I neared the barn, and there was one shoe. But… where was the other shoe? I looked and looked, pacing through the dry grass until I finally found it. In my search, I had nearly forgotten about my fear and the ghost. And then…” Grandpa paused.

“And then?”

“I heard something. A faint sound. Not singing. It was something else. Something was moving around inside the barn. I heard rustling. Then a clank. More rustling. I backed away, and I wanted to run. But I shouted out, ‘Hello?’ I wanted to see it. I wanted to know for sure. ‘Come show yourself!’ I called out. And at that moment…”

“Hello! I’m home!”

At this, Evan shrieked and fell off his grandfather’s lap. But it was only his father returning from work. “Daddy!” he said. “I’m listening to Grandpa’s story about a barn and a ghost.”

His father laughed. “I know the one! Carry on! I’ll see if I can help in the kitchen.”

“Tell the rest, Grandpa! Did the ghost come out?”

“Yes, in fact she did. But she was not a ghost. She was the most beautiful young woman I had ever seen.”

“What? Why was she there?”

“She was the girl from the neighboring farm. And just like me, she liked to visit the old barn. She found it peaceful, and she loved to sing. So that's where she would go. And do you know who she was?”

“Grandma?”

“Yes, your Grandma. We became fast friends after that. It was right before I enlisted in the Navy. I’m not sure why she’d wait for a country bumpkin like me, but she did. And when I returned we were married… and then two years later, your father came into the world. So in a way, that old barn was the beginning of this family. It was your beginning. When you were just a twinkle in my eye.”

Evan sighed. His grandfather always told the best stories. And he knew, now that the story was done and they sat quietly together, that they were both missing the one who was not there.

“And so,” Grandpa said. “To answer your first question, I don’t know what it’s like to grow old, because all those memories of the past keep me young.” He reached out for Evan to help him up from the couch. “Come on, sport. Let’s go eat.”

“Grandpa?”

"Yes?"

“Is there a heaven, for real?”

Grandpa laughed. “You’ve used up your questions for the day, buddy. We’ll tackle that one another time.”



Thank you for reading my story! I wrote this in response to last week's short story prompt from The Ink Well, which is three words: shoes, mood and adventure.

As a community admin in The Ink Well, most of my time goes to reading and curating stories by our members, as well as writing the weekly prompts and our newsletters. But now and then I try to set my tasks aside and turn out a story of my own.

Interested in writing short stories? Check out The Ink Well community!

p.s. Here's the original barn image from Pixabay. I enjoyed making it look a little more sinister by using a filter in Deep Dream Generator.

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Photo credits: All of the photos in this post were taken by me with my iphone and belong to me, unless otherwise noted.

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