Some people swore that the house was haunted. Because of this, the children were afraid. Their father requested a haul-away dumpster, bringing his sledgehammer and pry bar, gloves and safety goggles. With these tools and free weekend hours, he aimed at the heart of the myth. It was a tiny house, after all, and they wanted the land more than the building.
The man grunted under the work, cut his knuckles, coughed mouthfuls of dust and splinters and stale air. Sweat cut channels down his face. He wrenched doors from their frames, shattered the remnants of windows, and pried siding from the walls. The dumpster filled once, and the service brought an empty one.
“Don’t you want some help?” his wife asked.
He studied the cuts and calluses on his hands. “No,” he said. “I’m fine. It’s good to work again. To really work with my hands.”
The sledgehammer broke bedrooms into fragments. Blonde splinters rained down. Gypsum powder clouded his goggles as he worked, fine and white and powdery. Voices echoed. People lived there, once. The walls whispered snatches of conversations. The floorboards squeaked and groaned with the memory of footsteps. The man heard only his ragged suck of breath and the work prodded rattle of his heart. His bones shook with the work; his muscles sagged like lumps of baker-stretched-dough.
Even a small house bares its teeth and fights when it must.
The man cried as he worked. Big, barbaric tears.
The house surrendered in the afternoon, and the man knelt on the packed earth amidst the ruins, head bowed, and his skin soaked and sticky with grime and sweat. He closed his eyes. Perhaps he prayed for the house and its former occupants and the dreams, loves, and heartaches he destroyed with metal and muscle and blood. Perhaps he merely found his breath and summoned the strength to go home, call the county to haul away another full dumpster, shower, and eat dinner with his family.
Either way, he staggered, weary and aged, to his truck, shoulders stooped and low. His body had become heavy with the demolition, with the freeing of the house.
A haunting, it seems, is not rooted to a place.
Aaron Polson was born on the Ides of March: a good day for him, unlucky for Julius Caesar. He currently lives and writes in Lawrence, Kansas with his wife, two sons, and a tattooed rabbit. To pay the bills, Aaron attempts to teach high school students the difference between irony and coincidence. His stories have featured magic goldfish, monstrous beetles, and a book of lullabies for baby vampires.