After selling most of the furniture and such, I spent half a dozen weekends over the course of five months emptying my parent’s house after Dad died in 2009*. My husband, Charlie, gave me a quizzical look when I snapped the photo below.
Yes, it’s just a basement. A dirty concrete floor. Small, dusty windows. Nothing special, right?
“My parents bought this place when I was in diapers,” I said with a sigh, “And I actually spent a good bit of time in this creepy cavern, believe it or not.”
My husband nodded and meandered into the adjacent room to help haul out Dad’s beer fridge, the last item to go…
When my brother, Ben, was in high school in the 70s, he played bass guitar in a band called White Lightening. They practiced in the spooky space pictured above, usually at night. When the wind was lashing about and rattling the windows, it was all the spookier.
Ben would often let me and my friends watch the band rehearse as long as we didn’t talk much. We were in Junior High at the time. Being a groupie, of sorts, for a ROCK BAND was a big deal – augmented by the occasional attendance of high schoolers was also WAY cool when you’re merely 13 or 14.
We all sat cross-legged on that cold, hard floor, listening to White Lightening play tunes from Supertramp, The Police, Peter Frampton, Cheap Trick and the like.
Then, there was the mysterious matter of Norma. She was beautiful girl with long dark hair, blue eyes and icy white skin. She was 19. She was dating Gary, the drummer. And she drank. A LOT. I watched her suck down seven rum and Cokes one night and never falter on the path out of the doom and gloom to the bathroom upstairs.
One particular autumn evening, a thunderstorm was crackling and booming in the distance. My blonde friend, Sophie, and I were swaying to the music along with Ben’s friend, Jenny, and a couple of her friends.
Jenny was 16. She was a tiny little thing, five feet tall, 100 pounds, sporting a brownish peasant blouse and a really cool pair of very tight, acid-washed Jordache jeans. I was saving my babysitting money for a pair very much like them at Anderson-Newcomb department store downtown.
“She’s a witch,” Jenny suddenly whispered beside me as she watched Norma sashay out of the basement, following the guys who were headed out back for a smoke.
“Who’s a witch?” I whispered back, trying not to laugh.
“Norma,” Jenny whispered, louder this time.
I studied Jenny for a moment, unsure how to respond.
“It’s true,” Jenny said defiantly, while twisting her long, red hair around her index finger. My friend, Betsy, actually went to her coven,” she said in a somber voice, her dark eyes widening in intensity. “She said it was pretty strange, sitting around a fire in the woods while chanting some sort of pagan prayer in Latin or something…”
“Really?” Sophie said with obvious sarcasm.
Ignoring Sophie, Jenny nodded again. “She said, they didn’t, you know, cast any spells or nothin’, just the prayers to the earth or the trees or some shit.”
“And where is this coven?” I asked.
Jenny shrugged, “Somewhere in Boone County, I think.”
I nodded, glancing sideways at Sophie, who grimaced and shook her head, which I took to mean she thought Jenny was full of shit.
“And witches can consume a lot of alcohol without getting trashed according to one of my sister’s books, All About Wicca.”
I nodded again, wondering if Jenny, herself, was trashed or bullshitting me, so she could laugh at my reaction. But her ardent expression didn’t change.
“I’m getting another beer. You want anything?” Jenny asked, standing up.
I shook my head, taking a sip of my Stroh’s, stolen from my Dad’s stash. Occasionally, the other girls would share if I couldn’t snatch any myself. There was always a cooler of beer either in the corner or out back in the snow in winter.
On an extremely frosty night in December, all the girls were sitting on an old sleeping bag, huddled in wool blankets. It was so cold the guys fingers were too numb to play even with the heater set on HIGH, so they quit early. The band began packing up their equipment, and all the girls started filing out of the room when Norma pulled me aside.
“If he breaks up with you, don’t sweat it,” Norma said in a low voice – glancing warily at Sophie waiting for me by the door. “He’s not worth your time. He might claim to be a Christian, but he’s got a very dark soul,” Norma continued, her blue eyes darkening to a light shade of midnight.
“What’re you talking about? I don’t have a boyfriend.”
“Oh,” Norma said, a hint of surprise in her voice. “I guess you haven’t met him yet.”
“Is this part of…” I wasn’t sure how to ask Norma if her prediction or whatever was part of being a witch. If Jenny’s story was fabricated, I’d look like a complete idiot. “Jenny told me about, you know, Boone County.”
“Yeah,” Norma said, nodding. “Most people don’t get it, but the witches understand. I started having these awful dreams when I was 4 or 5 about things that haven’t happened yet, usually. You remember that bridge that collapsed in Point Pleasant like 10 years ago**?”
“I was really little, but I’ve heard people talk about it.”
“I kept dreaming about a white rabbit drowning in a car, a brown station wagon, when I was in second grade, and I’d wake up screaming.”
She nodded. “Then, all those people were killed on that bridge when I was 8, and I saw an interview with this woman whose little girl and her husband had died. She was holding her daughter’s toy rabbit that was all waterlogged and dirty. The brown station wagon was in the background.”
My spine tingled, and my arms rattled as if from a nervous shockwave. Somehow I just knew that Norma was telling the truth, but my friends would never have believed it. I looked past Norma at Sophie who was beckoning me out of the frigid room.
Norma nodded. “Anyway, this guy, his name is Jarrod. I’ve had this dream several times, and I hear this sound like the crack of a baseball bat, so maybe you’ll meet him at a ball game or something, but I can’t see the source of the noise to be sure.”
And that was the last time I saw Norma. She and Gary broke up a week or so later. No one ever mentioned why, but I wondered if it was the whole witchy thing…
Six months later, I was at a bowling alley in town one Friday night with a couple of friends when Ben walked in with several guys. The drinking age was 18 back in the day, and a few minutes later, Ben and his friends settled into a nearby table. Someone bought a pitcher of beer, and they all dove in :).
Ben introduced me to a guy named Jerry. He wasn’t a babe or anything, but he was cute in a Ritchie Cunningham sort of way. A couple weeks later, Jerry was hanging out with Ben at the house one night, and he asked me out.
I was doing homework at the kitchen table. Completely taken aback, I stared at him for a second.
“You know I’m only 14, right?”
Jerry was 17, a senior that fall.
“I know,” he said, smiling, sheepishly.
We dated for four months. He told me he loved me, one night when we were making out on a lumpy couch in his parents’ basement (always the basement, right? :))…I was stunned by his use of the BIG L WORD.
I didn’t say anything. He kept looking at me expectantly…then, covered the silence with a kiss.
He seemed more surprised than unsettled that I didn’t proclaim my mutual undying love. I liked him a lot…but LOVE? I didn’t FEEL anything when he sputtered those words most guys are terrified to say aloud, so I knew I couldn’t have been punctured by Cupid’s arrow.
On our next date, he tried to unzip my jeans. We were rolling around in a passionate embrace, our lips were locked again. But this time, we were in his bed. His parents were out of town.
I stood up and said, “Sorry, if you’re looking for a slut, then you’ll have to look elsewhere because I’m not going to have sex with you or anyone until I get married.”
At least that was plan when I was 14 …:)…and I was almost 18 before I shed my virginity..
Jerry’s dark eyes flattened in anger after my declaration of the no-sex clause. “I thought I’d earned at least 3rd base.”
I picked up my shoe and threw it at him. “Really?” I said opening my purse. I tossed a $20 bill on his bed. “I think that’ll cover our dinners at Taco Bell, Shoneys and Pizza Hut. I can give you the $5 for the movies after I babysit for Mrs. Connor this weekend.”
“I didn’t mean it like that,” he said, his eyes shifting nervously. “I meant since…”
And he never finished that thought. Guess he didn’t have the balls to lie and say it was because of all the MEANINGFUL nights we’d spent together.
“Whatever. Take me home.”
He broke up with me that night, sitting in his green Pontiac in front of my house. I bawled my eyes out for weeks. A couple months later, I met Krista, Gary’s new girlfriend. Funny thing, she went to Jerry’s church. Turned out, his full name was JARROD…
Norma’s warning ignited in my brain like petrol on a forest fire. “Oh, my God,” I mumbled, sitting on the same old sleeping bag, listening to the band play “I’m Just Waiting On A Friend” by the Rolling Stones.
At that moment, I realized that being psychic was possible, and that maybe, my parents DIDN’T know everything…though Mom always said that her younger sister was very “sensitive”, which is SOUTHERN speak for clairvoyant…
Standing there, looking at the empty basement, I remember that moment led to something rather significant. Two years later I told Dad that I wasn’t going to the Catholic church anymore because I believed in more than the Catholic faith had to offer…
“What’re you talking about?” Dad sputtered.
“There’s a lot more to the universe than what’s in the bible.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
I couldn’t explain it to him then, and I don’t think I could really explain it to him now…
However, fast forward to that sad day in May of 2010…as I turned to leave the basement, I felt bad news was slithering toward me, just seconds after the photo above was taken…and…
When I strolled into my parents’ backyard for the last time, my cell phone rang.
It was Ben, now almost 50 years old, and living in California. He called to tell me that he’d canceled the sale of Mom and Dad’s house because of all the debt our younger brother, Danny, had racked up illegally in Dad’s name. On the verge of tears, Ben explained that despite Dad having paid off the mortgage in ’97, the house was now going into foreclosure because of Danny’s misdeeds.
For the full story on that whole mess, check out Post #17 – https://tenaciousbitch.com/2011/05/26/and-along-came-an-urn/
At that moment, I wondered if my childhood home were cursed but dismissed the thought immediately because it wasn’t like the house somehow caused Danny to become a drug addict. But I think several events that OCCURRED in that house shoved Danny toward his beloved crack pipe…
But all that will be revealed in my upcoming memoir called Stop and Smell the Crazy, which I hope to finish in late September.
And there you have it. Norma didn’t get the details exactly right. However, bowling pins crashing against each other sounds very much like the CRACK of a baseball bat.
So, the next time someone sneers at you for taking a photo of something insignificant to THEM…remember the ghosts that might be milling about, cuz there are definitely quite a few stirring around the image above of my former teenaged hideaway…
OVER and OUT from ANTI-CRACK central… 🙂
TenaciousBITCH and company
*For an awesome story about something amazing my dad did as a kid, check out Post #43 at: https://tenaciousbitch.com/2011/12/19/blog-42-the-kindest-man-who-ever-lived/ …
** Point Pleasant is a small town in West Virginia about 70 miles northeast of my hometown. A bridge collapsed over the Ohio River between Point Pleasant and Kanauga City, West Virginia. in 1967.
© Tenacious Bitch/Kennedy Smith 2012