A few of the residents believed they lived in a haunted house. To the ghosts, it seemed unlikely anyone believed. They bumped into the living without the slightest notice. Sometimes they made a sudden movement to remind each other they were still around. They bounced among the residents coloring happy memories or darkening deep regrets. Never had they sparked passion in the hearts of the living. The ghosts wished people believed.
Tommy woke from an afternoon nap. He rubbed his eyes, stretched up his arms, and crunched his knuckles. A ghost bounced a light stream around the cracking fingers. The light then flashed away. The ghost hung above the bed. An idea popped into Tommy’s head. He smiled at the sudden thought.
This time he would do it. Weighing only 98 pounds, more or less, his mother had told him he was too small to play football.
“You’re better suited to chess,” she would say.
But he wanted to grind his toe in the grass and scuff up his shoes until they were green. He yearned to slip the shoulder pads on, bury his head in the helmet, and chew on the mouthpiece.
Today he would race down the field and catch the winning pass. This was going to be his year; he would not be too short, too skinny, too uncoordinated. He was playing football, no matter what. Of course, mother would never approved. He let that thought slip away.
He climbed to end of the bed on his elbows and pushed up to the edge. His spindly feet touched the cold floor. He jerked up before setting them down again on the concrete. Should he stay in bed?
He considered his plan. It is nice and warm in here. He looked back at the paperback he was reading. The next chapter could be good. He snapped out of his doubt. No, I have to do this.
Across the street from the old house, two teams gathered on a long field of green. Tommy grabbed his helmet and shoulder pads and rushed across the street. He slowed as he reached the edge of the grass and paused. He thought better of the idea. He turned back.
Tommy missed his chance to retreat. A large hand grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled out on the field. On the line, a hulk known as Smasher thumped Tommy’s helmet down hard over his head. Tommy bit down deeper into his mouthpiece. Smasher smiled a deep satisfying grin. He crouched down opposite the wimpy football player.
“You’re going down,” said Smasher. Tommy cringed. “Not likely,” he said under his breath. Tommy breathed in and stared into Smasher’s eyes. Blood gathered in his veins.
Tommy slipped sideways to avoid the mass facing off from him. Smasher followed and crouched back into a stance. Tommy trembled at the thought of grizzled terror bearing down on his small frame. He stepped backward and started to pull up but missed his chance to flee. The quarterback counted down, the ball snapped, and both lines pushed together. Tommy froze.
He started counting. One, two. Tommy didn’t get to three.
Smasher lunged forward before grabbing Tommy by the waist. He twirled Tommy above the crumbling defenders. He pushed him high above the tangled bodies and laughed. Smasher curled the smaller player downward and then pushed him back up. A weak scream escaped from Tommy as Smasher reached higher and higher. Tommy hung above the field in slow motion. He could see the entire team below him collapsing into a twisted heap. Smasher dropped his prey.
Before falling onto the mangled mass, Tommy saw an entire stand of cheering fans. The crowd vanished in a blink as Tommy landed on the pile below. Mom would not like this, he decided.
Tommy lay on the ground for a few more minutes before pulling himself up. He limped to the side of the field and fell down again on the grass. He stared up at the clouds rolling passed. He smiled a satisfied grin. After a few minutes, two orderlies placed him on a stretcher and carted him off to the infirmary.
“What you don’t seem to remember,” said the nurse “is that you are 84-years-old and too fragile to be playing football.” She placed an ice bag on Tommy’s knee. He covered the bag and smiled up at her.
Both men sat in the library playing chess and grinning. It had been a good day.
“And you, Mr. David Lemboski.” The nurse pushed away a wandering hand from the bottom of her skirt. “You should be ashamed of yourself. Trying to pick up a grown man over your head!” She smacked the back of his head and walked away to the nurse’s station.
“You know Smasher,” Tommy said. “I never felt more alive.”
The two men turned to the chessboard between them. Smasher picked up a rook and put his queen in jeopardy. Tommy considered a sudden revelation. “Mom was right. I should have stuck to chess.”
Touching the ceiling, two ghosts hovered above Tommy and Smasher feeling very alive. They then floated through the pieces on the game board. Tommy and Smasher advanced through the squares. The ghosts picked up speed and flew across the room.
They drifted over to join a group of other faded personages. Both ghosts shined brighter than the rest. One in particular seemed very pleased and she beamed a sliver of light down to the chessboard.
Tommy looked over at the two happy ghosts and winked. A wave of happiness extended from the ghost of his mother to his eyes. He chuckled. She nodded in approval. Tommy realized it didn’t matter anymore what she thought.
The line of ghosts drew inward forming a common light, floated through the chess pieces, and then shot out the window. Tommy watched them disappear. The truth was very clear to him. They lived in a haunted house.
Copyright 2013, Michael S. Sommermeyer. All Rights Reserved.