Ghosts (Flash Fiction)

“Are you excited?” asked Catherine.

Bob looked up at the Victorian home. The molding was new, and the house was freshly painted, but his aging eyes saw the house he knew so well, the house he lived in as a boy. His eyes found their way to the window of his sister’s bedroom. The glass was new and clean with white curtains parted to the side. All he could see was his sister’s ten-year old face.

“I suppose,” he said. He pressed the car door open and slowly climbed out. His cane was loose in the gravel driveway.

“How long has it been since you’ve been here?” Catherine asked. She rounded the sports car in a hurry and took his free hand to help him walk. The worn concrete steps had been replaced with wooden stairs that were pristine and stained a dark cherry. Bob took each foreign plank of wood with caution. His memory saw the potted flowers that used to reside next to the narrow, concrete stairs.

“I don’t know,” he said when they reached the front door. “Sixty years I suppose.”

Catherine squeezed his hand and opened the door for him. Bob made his way in. He noticed that the knocker on the door was still the same, just polished to an obscene shine. “Brian was so excited when he saw it on the market,” Catherine said. “He bought it that very day.”

Bob grunted. “He’s a good son-in-law.” He peered around the house from the entry way. His hunched back made the room seem taller and harder to see. The living room was remodeled and the walls extended further out. The stone fireplace was gone and replaced with a fancy wood stove. Bob saw the windowsill he and his sister used to huddle next to and watch the snow fall. He could still feel the cold seeping through the thin glass.

“What do you think, Dad?” Catherine asked.

“It’s different,” he said.

“Yeah? Does it bring back memories?”

Bob felt his eyes swell with water. He turned and looked at the entry way. The door, a frosted window bordered by wood painted white, was closed but his memory saw it open. He saw the Germans with their guns pointed at his parents. He saw the barn house on the other side of the drive, no longer there, engulfed in flame. He could still hear the livestock screaming from inside its locked doors. He could still hear his father yelling at the German Lieutenant. “Yup. Lots of memories here,” he said.

His daughter was in the kitchen, pouring a glass of water. “What kind?” she asked. Her voice echoed across the living room. “Do you remember grandma?”

Bob saw the memory of his father being gunned down in his own drive way. He could hear his mother howl in the most unnatural way as she fell to her knees. The German who had killed his father looked at him, smiled, and kicked his mother hard in the gut. She folded over and crawled to her dead husband.

“Dad?” Catherine asked. “Here, I brought you some water.”

“Thank you,” Bob said as he took the glass.

“Well? Any stories you can share?” she asked.

The German smiled at Bob, who was only a young boy, and pulled the trigger of his machine gun. His howling mother was silenced, and the screaming of the burning animals dominated the gray sky. The Germans climbed into their jeep and drove away. Bob saw himself run down the cracked cement steps and into the drive. He stood there until the jeep disappeared over the horizon. When he turned, he looked up and saw his sister looking down at him through the upstairs window.

“Not really, sweetheart,” Bob said. “It was a long time ago.”

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