One summer, when I was about 14 years old, I spent the week with my cousin, Bryan. The first thing I remember was this haunting smell when we walked into the house. “Oh, boy,” Bryan said. “We’re having beef liver tonight!”
One of my least favorite things to eat. In fact, I would rather chew on a cake of flattened road kill. He tried to explain how that his aunt prepared it in a way that everyone loved. I took another long inhale and shook my head. There is nothing that can be done to mask the hideous flavor of this cow organ.
My mind flashed back to the time my mother tried to do this. I walked in the door and was stricken with an urge to convulse. “We’re having liver for supper,” I said in a disheartened tone.
“Oh no. Your dad is making pepper steak,” she said.
Pepper steak was a dish my parents made on occasion. They cut up thin slices of beef, battered, and fried them. Then they put it in a gravy sauce with lots of bell peppers. I also don’t like bell peppers. But that’s better than liver. And now they were trying to hide this illicit meal by preparing it like pepper steak. But the smell could not be hidden, for there is nothing like the smell of liver.
I looked at mom and said, “Oh no. You can’t fool me.” I pointed a condemning finger at the pan. “That’s beef liver.”
She laughed and made another weak attempt to convince me that it was pepper steak, but the truth had been carried on the wind. It did work on my sister, though. She hated liver too, but after the meal she said it was the best pepper steak she had ever tasted. Ah, the power of the mind to alter our perceptions of reality. But apparently my mind wasn’t powerful enough to overcome that smell.
Now I’m walking into my cousin’s house and the truth is again in the air. Their family enjoyed the meal, but I became a vegetarian for the day.
That evening I discovered another haunting sight. My cousin had a large bed – either king or queen – can’t remember which it was. There was plenty of room for two boys to rest, but it had a problem. The box springs were broken on one side and the bed slanted downward. How my cousin could sleep on this ski slope amazes me to this day. The only way to keep from rolling off the bed was to push against gravity. I asked how he could sleep like this, but he said it was something you get used to.
He was sleeping happily, but every time I started to drift off, I would relax and roll. This would jolt me awake. I drifted in and out of sleep all night, but never completely fell asleep. In the morning, I was exhausted. Bryan was rested and ready to go. Bryan, if you read this, I’m still impressed with your super human ability.
At some point during the day, I noticed stairs going into what looked like an attic loft. “What is that,” I asked.
Anne, Bryan’s step mom said, “Oh no! You don’t want to go up there. The attic is haunted.” She went on to explain about some woman who died up there and torments everyone who tries to stay in the attic. “No one has ever been able to stay up there for a full night.”
Others piped in with other stories of horror. Anne’s daughter looked up and trembled, and then gave her tale of terror.
I looked back toward the bed that tormented me last night. What could the ghost of Lizzy Borden do that could be worse than that bed? I peeked upstairs and saw a nice bed. “So no one is staying up there?” I asked. Heads shook. Eyes grew wide with terror at the thought. “Can I sleep up there,” I asked.
Shrieks of horror filled the room at such a thought. “You can’t do that. No one can.”
At this point, let me digress again. I don’t believe in ghosts. I never have and never will. I find it ironic that both ghosts and aliens only seem to appear before those who believe strongly in them. I had a friend named Frank who once tried to tell me that a statue of Mary in the cemetery off the Marietta square was haunted. He said, “If you go at midnight and say, ‘Mary, Mary, how did your children die’ six times, she looks at you.” In case you’re wondering, that statue has a woman holding two infants. I’m not sure where the other infant came from. Perhaps it was a hapless child who didn’t believe in ghosts.
“Surely you don’t believe that,” I said.
“It’s true! I saw it myself,” Frank insisted. “We went at midnight and I swear, she looked right at us. On the sixth time, her eyes went, ‘Bam!’ and looked right at us. We all saw it and ran like mad.”
“Okay then, let’s go. I’ll prove it’s all your imagination,” I said. And we went down there just before midnight, waited until the witching hour, and then started our chant. You know what the statue did? Nothing. But I did something. Frank looked so nervous, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I shouted in terror, “Oh my gosh, Frank! Run!” And run he did. I saw a blur and the crackling of twigs as he disappeared into the night. I hoped he wouldn’t run into a headstone. That would ruin the humor and make me feel guilty. But he survived, and I swear I saw the statue give a smirk and a wink as I walked by. And both her babies gave a thumbs up.
But back to my story of haunting. I convinced them to let me take the upstairs bedroom loft. Not a person in the house bothered me the whole week. Occasionally, when someone was heading to bed, they would peek over the edge of the stairs and ask if I was okay. They were genuinely concerned for my safety. And apparently for theirs since they wouldn’t actually come up to check on me. It was all I could do not to scream in a voice of terror, “She’s coming after me!”
One thing is for sure, my stay was quiet, comfortable, restful, and no slanted beds of horror. Now if I can do something about the haunting smell of liver.
Eddie Snipes 2012
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