Dodie and her big sister, Marni, were playing dolls. Victor had been watching them, but now he’d grown bored. So he wandered away and decided to try to smell the vase of lilacs by the front door instead. The vase was on a table in the hall and the table was tall while Victor had always been small.
That was the first complication.
The second was tipping the vase over far enough so that the lilacs were close to his nose. In addition to being small and having trouble manipulating objects, his nose didn’t smell all that well either, so it took great concentration to bring the lilacs’ smell into whatever passed as his olfactory senses these days. Unfortunately, this meant that the concentration he was using to keep the vase from falling over wavered and the ceramic container plummeted to the floor with a crash.
“Mooooooooom!” Marni called.
Victor returned to the living room where Dodie and Marni had been playing in time for him to see them rush from the room.
He followed them into the kitchen where their mother was.
“What was that noise?” their mom asked, hands on her hips, a stern look on her face.
“Mooooom,” Marni whined, “Dodie brought home a poltergeist and now he’s breaking stuff!”
“What? Stop telling stories. Just tell me who broke what.”
“But it’s true!” Marni claimed. “He followed Dodie home and now he’s doing ghost stuff!”
Dodie, eyes downcast, squeaked out, “I tried asking him to leave, but he won’t go!”
Their mom sighed. “Let me just see what broke, and then we can discuss how it broke.”
The four of them went to the hall and found the broken vase of lilacs there. Shards of ceramic poked up like sea-stacks out of a shallow puddle of water.
“Marni,” their mom said, “go get the dustpan and the broom, would you?”
After Marni had gone, she interrogated Dodie. “Dodie, did you break the vase?”
Dodie shook her head.
Dodie shook her head again.
“It was the poltergeist,” Dodie exclaimed. “I told him to go away but he followed me home and now he’s here and he still won’t go away!”
Dodie’s mom sighed and shook her head. “A poltergeist didn’t follow you home,” she stated, simply.
“I’ll show you!”
Dodie disappeared into the downstairs bathroom and returned with a hand-mirror.
The mom held the mirror up in front of her face. “What am I looking for?”
“You have to look around!”
Her mom slowly began to spin in place. Dodie told her to point the mirror down more. Because Victor was small, she explained. Victor, for his part, walked over to the broken lilac vase and stood beside it. When the mom had finally revolved one-hundred-eighty degrees, she stopped. Victor could see himself reflected in the mirror’s small window. He looked like a doll, or maybe a ventriloquist’s dummy. He was approximately two feet tall and he wore a small suit with a bow-tie and shiny black shoes. There was a certain dusty pallor to him. He looked like a cut-out from a black-and-white photograph placed inside the house’s vibrant hallway.
The mom spun around. She stared hard at where Victor was standing, though he could tell that she now couldn’t see him. She turned around again and looked in the mirror. There he was.
“Oh my god!” Dodie/Marni’s mom exclaimed.
“What?” Marni sassed as she returned with the broom and dustpan. “Do you believe us now?”
“Girls, go into the living room.” The mom spun around again and focused on the spot where Victor was standing. “Leave!” she commanded. “Get out! You’re not welcome here!”
Victor wandered back into the living room.
“Did he go?” the mom asked.
Victor watched as the girls shrugged their shoulders in unison. He drifted over to where they’d dropped their dolls. He tried to pick them up, but everything’s so much harder when you’re a poltergeist, and he only succeeded in making them wriggle and dance as they fell through his fingers.
“No, here’s still here!” Marni announced. “And he’s trying to play with our dolls!” She came over and snatched them away from him. She gave the wall a very menacing look, because that’s where she thought he was.
“And now he’s making ghost noises to try to scare us! Go away! Leave us alone!”
Their mom came into the living room. “Okay, girls, how exactly did we end up with a poltergeist in our house?”
“Ask Dodie, it’s her fault!”
Dodie sniffed. “I was walking home from school. And I was going by the Blankenfeld house. And it was haunted. And there was a boy in the window. So I waved. And he waved back. And I didn’t see him in the window anymore. So I came home. And I saw him through the window again. So I asked if he wanted to come in and play? And I didn’t see him anymore. But he came inside and started messing up our dollhouse. So I yelled at him. And then he broke the vase, because he’s a bad poltergeist!” She scrunched up her face in a look of defiance.
“Okay,” her mom said. “Well, you probably shouldn’t have invited him inside. We’ll wait until your dad comes home and see what he has to say about all of this.”
When Dodie and Marni’s dad came home they gave him the hand-mirror and explained the situation to him. By then, Victor had wandered upstairs. They found him in the parents’ room making footprints on the bed. He chose to ignore the family as they gawped at him through the hand-mirror, and ignored them even more when the dad announced he was calling the local priest over to perform an exorcism.
Victor sat down at the foot of the bed and waited for the holy man to arrive, sighing loudly to make his displeasure known.
This wasn’t his first exorcism, of course. The Blankenfelds had tried this several times. But it’d never worked. Ultimately, they’d moved out and left Victor behind to haunt the house by his lonesome. They were crafty about it, too. They knew he was smart enough to know something might be up so they hadn’t done any of the things a family did when they were moving house. They’d hired no moving van. They’d left all of their furniture, knick-knacks, and soaps behind. The fridge was fully-stocked. And they’d even thrown a load of clothes into the dryer so that the click-click-click of a pants button would mask their retreat. Most heinous of all, they’d gotten the Blankenfeld daughter to initiate a game of hide-and-seek with him. He’d stayed in a closet for several days before realizing that no one was actually seeking for him. And by then it was far too late for him to know where they had gone.
This family would not do the same to him. He was determined to stick himself to them like glue.
The priest entered the parents’ room and looked around.
“He’s right there,” Dodie pointed him out.
“Ah.” The priest approached him and towered above Victor. “What is it that you want, demon?” he addressed the foot of the bed. “Why will you not leave this good family alone? How have they incurred your wrath?”
Victor blinked at the man. His silence displeased the priest.
The priest took out a vial and poured some of its contents into his palm. Then, “Be gone, foul demon!”
Droplets of holy water departed from the priest’s fingers as he flung out his hand into Victor’s face. The drops went right through him and dotted the bed.
“There. Did that work?” the holy man asked the little girl.
Dodie held up the hand-mirror. “Nope. He’s still there.”
“Damn you, demon! The power of Christ compels you! How ‘bout that?”
Dodie “hmm’d”. “He just rolled his eyes at you.”
“This might take more holy power than one man can muster.”
“Perhaps you should just leave,” Dodie’s dad said. “Thanks for your time, and for trying, at least.”
“But how are we going to make him go away?” Marni whined.
“Yes,” Dodie/Marni’s mom gave their dad a look, “how?”
“He probably has unfinished business,” the dad explained. “If we help him to finish his business, he should go away, right?”
The rest of the family nodded their heads in agreement.
Victor thought about this. Did he have unfinished business? If he did, he wasn’t aware of it. But it definitely interested him to find out.
The dad knelt down in front of Victor and spoke slowly, “What. Is. Your. Business. Here?”
Victor pondered. Then he made a writing motion with his hands.
“I think he wants to write something,” Dodie said.
They got him a pencil and a notepad of paper and set it beside him on the bed. It was difficult, put he managed to pick up the pencil enough to move it across the paper. At a snail’s pace, he managed to scratch out several letters on the notepad.
“Ice cream?” the dad asked. “He wants ice cream?”
The family shrugged. But five minutes later there was a great big bowl of ice cream sitting on the dining room table and Victor had climbed up on a chair to be able to reach it. The family had had the courtesy to stick a spoon into the ice cream, but in Victor’s case, it was as good as cemented into place. Instead, he closed his eyes, concentrated really, really hard, and stuck his face into the east side of Ice Cream Mountain. The cold tickled the tip of his nose and his eyelashes. He could actually taste the sugar and milk on his lips. The ice cream even melted on his tongue and he drank the sweet cream down in a trickle. The chair he stood on got sticky as melted ice cream spattered its seat.
“Look, he’s making a mess,” Marni cried. “I’m not cleaning that up!”
“Shh,” the mom hushed. She turned to her husband. “Do you think he’ll go away now?”
The dad shrugged, but he said, “You got your ice cream. How ‘bout you skedaddle now?”
Victor looked around at the family. He’d had a wonderful cold feeling in his belly, but with the fracturing of his concentration it was fading quickly. He made the effort to burp before it had gone completely.
“What does mean?” The dad looked for an answer from his wife and daughters. “Why won’t you go away?” he shouted at Victor.
Victor set to pondering once more. He made the writing motion and Dodie brought him the pencil and notepad again. This time, he scratched out many more letters.
I WANT A FAMILY, he wrote. I WANT YOU TO BE MY FAMILY.
“What? No! Unacceptable!” the dad exclaimed. “I’m not sharing my home with a poltergeist!”
“I don’t think we have a choice,” his wife told him.
The dad stomped his feet and balled his hands into fists. But, in the end, he said, “…fine. Just so long as he doesn’t start putting corpses in the swimming pool.”
“We’re getting a swimming pool?” Dodie and Marni excitedly asked.
“I think that was a figure of speech,” their mom told them.
Victor wandered into the living room and, after a few tries, managed to use the remote control to turn the TV on. He changed channels until he found the one showing cartoons.
“How’re we ever going to explain this to the neighbors?” the dad asked.
“We’ll manage,” his wife reassured him.
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I like your interpretation of the prompt. You have quite a flair for playful, funny, sweet stories. The main thing that I think could be improved is the language. The premise and plot are pretty much perfect. I found the language very plain - obviously that can be good sometimes but here I think it was less immersive than it could have been because of the flat language. I like this image: "Shards of ceramic poked up like sea-stacks out of a shallow puddle of water." Also, I'd do something else the line about the father stamping his feet ...
Thanks for your feedback, Eleanor! I totally agree that the language is pretty plain. I committed myself to writing four stories for this particular contest and this was the last one I wrote. So by the time I got to this one my creative energies were largely used up. That's the best excuse I have. Thanks again! I hope you have a good day!
Hi Tyler, I really enjoyed reading your story. You had me rooting for Victor the whole time! The only thing that brought me out of the story was the line, "Dodie/Marni’s mom gave their dad a look". Instead of a slash, I would maybe say "Their mom gave their dad a look," or something similar. Maybe "Dodie/Marni's" doesn't bother other readers, and it may even be the correct way to write it, but it just seemed a little out of place to me. I absolutely loved the sentence, "The vase was on a table in the hall and the table was tall while V...
Thanks for the feedback, Elise! I completely understand what you mean about "Dodie/Marni's". It does potentially sound awkward. This is a result of my desire to tell the story exclusively from Victor's perspective, which proved to be more than a little challenging at some points in the story. Perhaps instead I should've wrote the line, "The girls' mom gave their dad a look". I'm glad you liked the line about the vase. I wasn't sure if the rhyming would come across as cheesy and distracting, or what. Thanks again!
I think it's great that you took a story element typically used for horror and made it into something charming instead. So often are these prompts easy excuses to not challenge ourselves, so I'm glad you thought outside of the box with this piece. The originality it takes to not follow the "Norm" really is something I value in an author. The only critique I would have is the likely hood of the young girl knowing what a poltergeist is? Specifically the name itself. You use the descriptor a lot, but I wonder if it's a bit too advanced for sm...
Thanks for the feedback Brian! I try to aim for originality with every prompt that I write to. More so to make it interesting for me than anything else. I realized from the get-go that "poltergeist" was maybe too advanced of a term for a young child to know and that I was asking quite a bit of the reader's suspension of disbelief. But ultimately I made the decision that I wanted it to be clear right away that Victor is a poltergeist and not any other type of ghostly entity. Do I have a good reason for this decision? No. It just felt impor...
This story is adorable! I love this troublesome little poltergeist following this family like a puppy. There were a lot of great moments, like the little girl glaring at empty air and the ice cream puddling on the chair. I think you could benefit from a trick that I read about (and need to use more because my stories are too wordy and I've been lax about it). Basically, when your story is finished and you are pleased with it, try and remove ten percent of the words. If you can do that without too much strain, do it again. For example: "Do...
Yeah, I definitely see what you mean. I struggled a lot with the opening especially as I tried to convey all the info I felt it was necessary to convey while keeping the sentences short and simple. The irony is that I often feel like my stories are too stripped down in the first draft, so I'll spend subsequent drafts trying to flesh them out more. Also, it probably didn't help that I had to start editing this story immediately after writing it in order to make the deadline, instead of letting it sit for a bit like I'd prefer to do. Tha...
Very nice story. Good.
You definitely have a knack to writing humorous little stories that work with the prompt, even if it's not what we first think of when seeing the prompt. Well done! I enjoyed this a lot. ~Ria~
I enjoyed reading this story. Well written. Had me to want more. Keep writing. Would you mind reading my new story? Thanks.
Love the detail!