My Dobie, Baby, and I took a walk late one October afternoon. The breeze was light and refreshing, and seemed to be calling us out of our house to enjoy the pleasant fall weather.
When we came to the first corner, the breeze swirled a gathering of leaves around us. To the right, the wind directed, go to the right. So we did.
About half way down the block, we found a box that must have fallen off a mail truck. Some people drive too fast around this neighborhood. Pizza deliverers, high school kids, and those overnight mail delivery trucks are among them. I have had more packages delivered to my house this year that didn’t belong to me than those that did. Last time, I called the carrier to pick up a mis-delivered package. It lay on my stoop for 4 days, and no one came to pick it up. So when I saw the carrier on the afternoon of day five, I ran up to the truck with the box. The driver looked petrified, and took off past me. Luckily I still have a good pitching arm, and flung it into the opened driver’s side window. The only thanks I got was an “Ouch!” and a lung full of tail-pipe fumes.
This time, I’d do it differently. This time, I’d deliver the package myself. Weather and location permitting, and being the former was nearly perfect today, I would just have to get a look at the address and we’d be set.
I left the package in the bushes and picked it up on our return. It would have been an uncomfortable walk lugging it around. It turned out the address was nearby. It was 5 more numbers than mine. I got a chill up my spine when I guesstimated, it was the house catty corner from my house. The house across the street everyone called the Haunted Inn.
We turned the corner and the wind met us again. This time like a chilly frost. “Where did that come from?” I said to Baby.
She looked up at me and raised the tan Dobie buttons over her eyes. She didn’t know either.
I decided to take the box inside my house first, and maybe reconsider delivering it. I looked out the mail slot in my door. Yep, that was the house. That was the Haunted Inn that matched the address on the package. I swore I could see a ghost looking out that top winder at me now. I mean window.
The Haunted House is inhabited by a drunken cowboy named Festus, who has an overwhelming influence on people like me. I’m a feeler. A psychic. An intuit. Festus has a sidekick, too. A laid back old hound dog named Smokey. Smokey and Festus make the rounds around the neighborhood every so often. I can hear them hooting and howling. “Yee-haw! Aooooo!” Occasionally, I wake up with the taste of cigarettes and bourbon in my mouth. Festus’s aura really stinks, and leaves me with a hangover I didn’t even get the pleasure of enjoying the precursors of. Fetus is best at passing off these things to his neighbors. That’s why I hear snickering when I wake up and realize I’m suffering the aftereffects without ever having the pleasures. He’s got to be watching somewhere blowing me a raspberry.
And I’m not the only one in the neighborhood whose had such experiences. Festus shares his practical jokes with most of us. The ones he leaves out, we figure he doesn’t like.
The person who lives in the Haunted Inn is a renter, or as he calls it, the caretaker. The owner of the house lives in another country.
Transylvania, I think. The renter has taken advantage of the fact the house has got a reputation, and has it registered on-line as a unique place to lodge for those wanting an out-of-this-world experience.
I’m not sure how many lodgers have run out of the Haunted Inn, but now and then, deep in the night, Baby and I hear a Taxi’s horn honk, or screeching tires of a rental car pulling out. I swear I hear Festus snickering as these people drive off. I guess people don’t believe it till they experience Festus and Smokey themselves.
Why just last week, there was a flurry of activity when one of the potential boarders fainted. I heard through the grapevine that the would-be lodger was left alone when the caretaker had to go into the main house to get the boarding agreement. That’s when Festus and Smokey appeared, evidently they walked into the bedroom right through the wall, Festus pardoned himself claiming he just needed a nap, walked through the wall into the bathroom, back out again, and laid on the bed with Smokey right behind him. The Paramedics and Fire Dept filled the streets with that one and so did the gossip.
I don’t go any nearer the house than my swale, and I go that far only because I have to mow my swale. I don’t want to get any closer to the goings-on over there as I really don’t appreciate Festus’s hangovers and don’t suspect I’d appreciate any other of his practical jokes. Though I assume he knows that and pays me some respect by not going any further.
I think his dog likes mine. Every now and then, I see Baby play bowing out in the back yard and acting as if she’s playing with another dog. But there is no dog out there! I am supposing that relationship between our dogs keeps Festus mindful of boundaries, and not to cross mine any further than an occasional Festus hangover.
Plus I smudge my house every week to keep it clean of negative energy.
Well, none to wait too long, I grabbed my amethyst protection amulet for my pocket, a lovely black onyx pendant to ward off evil for my neck, and the mis-delivered box. “Baby,” I said to my beloved Dobie, “I’ll be right back, and I mean right back.”
I turned to run, and as if to thwart my plan, Festus and his hound appeared right before me. Festus was leaning against a pine tree like a Eule Gibbons’ clone except with a cowboy hat and a cigarette dangling from his mouth. He was looking at a pinecone he held in his hand, and Smokey was sitting next to him, decked out in Halloween décor and holding an orange Cuz ball in his mouth.
Festus looked up from his pinecone, tipped his hat to me, grinned, and vanished with Smokey into their nebulous world.
Eww kay. I booked it on home. Across the street and into my house. Through my house and into the laundry room where my collection of smudge pots were, and got to work smudging the place, inside and out, and finished up with smudging Baby and me. By then I was psychically exhausted, so I sat down with a glass of wine after I put a CD of Native American Indian flutists on. Before I had a chance at a second sip, the doorbell rang, which was strange being I didn’t have a doorbell, and it wasn’t a part of the CD. I’d listen to it enough times to know so.
I pushed myself off the couch, and went to the door. Baby was right with me, so I told her to back off the door. I looked through the peephole, but didn’t see anyone, but just to make sure, I opened the door a crack, and what was on the stoop? Festus’s pinecone and Smokey’s ball and pumpkin boppers.
I looked around and saw no one. I picked the gifts up and said a mental thank you.
I came back in, and Baby looked up at me. “Gifts Baby.” She looked up at what was in my hand. “These two are for you.” I gave her the ball and put the pumpkin boppers on her DoberDiva head. Then I added the pinecone arrangement to my door. It looked nice, so I thanked Festus and Smokey again.
Baby went to the back door, so I opened it. I took my wine outside and watched the setting sun while Baby stared off at something I couldn’t see.
Ewwwkay! Get festive!
Have a Festus mail carrier of your own deliver a nifty orange Cuz ball to your doorstep for Halloween! Or something else Halloweeny!
Holy Doberdog! What a catch!