Archive for the ‘the unknown old woman in the attic’ Category

The night visitor

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

By Tiber 

I’m still tired from my road trip. Not too tired, however, to realize in my sleep last night that some old lady had started to crawl into bed with me.

Yes, it was the unknown old woman Mom spotted once up in the attics who evidently is still living here.

At least I’m guessing that’s who it was. That or suddenly, I’ve become the hottie of the week down at the senior center.

Anyway, she was as freaked as I was when she found the bed occupied and she took off and disappeared before I even got out into the hall.

My sister Iris Nell‘s room is right next to mine and she woke up because of all the noise and looked out accusingly.

I came back with my own accusation.

“I think that old lady from the attic has been sleeping in my bed! Didn’t you notice any activity over here in my room while I was out of town?”

I know for a fact there are families who welcome home returning relatives with hugs, smiles, maybe even a special dinner.

I got a pause. A yawn. A pensive look. And then the ultimate greeting.

“Oh. Were you out of town?”

Belgian Catnip

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

By Tiber

As you know, for a little extra cash, my father has rented a room up here on the third floor of the house to a business associate of a friend, a Belgian man named Jasper. You also know that the first night the slight and polite Jasper was here, he was mistaken for an intruder by Aunt April, who attacked him with a pitchfork.

Thereafter avoiding dining with us, he then was almost carried off into the forest by the dogs, who discovered he had some snack food in his pockets.

Dad keeps reducing the price of the room, however, and brave Jasper keeps staying on.

This week, Dad even managed to entice Jasper to join us once more for dinner since Cook’s food is so good. But even here, Jasper’s path is not all smooth. For some reason, from the beginning, Cook has taken a liking to him and she keeps pressing large amounts of Brussels sprouts on him. (“In case he’s homesick!“) I can only hope he doesn’t loathe them the way I do, because now there’s no way to avoid them, The only thing worse than having Cook like you is having Cook not like you.

Jasper did get a food offering that he enjoyed, however, when an older woman seen disappearing up the back stairs left a little package of Belgian chocolates outside his bedroom door.

He told Dad to please thank Aunt April for her peace offering but it turned out the “love chocolates” were not from Aunt April at all. They must have been left by the unknown woman Mom spotted one day, who may be living on her own somewhere up in the attics.

Hearing about this woman’s amorous interest as well as Cook’s must have lit a competitive fire in Aunt April and since she has no food to give Jasper, she’s been making rare appearances outside of her suite every night, to stand outside of his bedroom door and serenade him with her recorder.

The key here, I think, is the fact that Jasper has no romantic interest whatsoever in any of these females, which, of course, in the weird and wonderful world of women, makes him Belgian catnip.

I always remember how in the original version of the movie “Bedazzled,” the girl is mesmerized when Peter Cook, playing the famous singer, intones, “You fill me with inertia.”

And she was hooked.

The more genuinely uninterested a man can be, to the point of actually spurning any of a woman’s advances, the more the woman will pick him as her one and only and discard everyone else.

When you really stop and think about it, it’s a wonder that human beings ever get manufactured at all. 

Stranger In A Very Strange Land…The unknown old woman in the attic

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

By Tiber 

As some of you know, a few months ago, Mom was up on the attic floor looking for something, and what she found instead was an old woman sitting comfortably in one of the rooms, reading a book. Mom was so startled that she just excused herself and left the stranger up there.

By New Year’s Eve, no one knew if the strange woman was still up there or not but when Mom, feeling festive, left her an open bottle of wine, we half expected to hear a  hammered rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” come warbling down the back stairs. The wine was polished off but no sound has ever been heard.

Until tonight.

Iris Nell, whose room is right next to mine on the third floor, flew in here with her face chalk-white.

“I know,” I said. “I’ve been hearing it too.”

It was 3AM but somebody was doing something up there. Of course, we do have a ghost, who may be a pirate and I’ve posed the question before. Who would you rather have slithering around behind your back? A young, crazy, male pirate who’s dead or an old, crazy, female stranger who’s alive? Plus, Aunt April occasionally leaves the rooms she took over and starts wandering around too. If the three of them ever meet, it will be as if we’re hosting the “Insane Uninvitational.”

The attic noises started up again.

“Is she tap-dancing, Tiber?”

“I think she might be throwing marbles.”

“Why would she do that?!?”

“Why is she up there at all?!?”

Then we heard that old rhythm for “shave and a haircut”- “dat-da-da dat-dat…” and there was a pause. Iris Nell’s superstitions kicked in and she became frantic to tap the ceiling twice just to finish the sequence.

“No, no!” I hissed, “Don’t engage her at all!”

Finally, I had to whisper the rejoinder “dat-dat” to Iris Nell myself, just to make her stop squirming.

The noises finally calmed down and Iris Nell felt that maybe she could get some sleep. She paused, though.

“I’ll bet the old lady can’t sleep at all now. Since we’re getting into summer, it’s probably really hot up there.”

Great. Now I can’t sleep.

If the noise we heard is the old lady shooting craps with the pirate ghost, then all is well.

But if the old lady’s throwing marbles while sitting around in her underwear trying to cool off, the ghost pirate’s not going to like that at all. And before long, he’s going to start spending all of his leisure time down here, barging through my walls and scaring the hell out of me.

It’s music to our feet

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010


By Tiber

Well, Dad had another of his hare-brained ideas. Actually, that’s incorrect. You never hear about rabbits coming up with insane plans for their families. They’re really just Dad-brained ideas.

He excitedly called us all together. In the past, with the estate grounds here so large, my parents have hosted musical events for charities and other groups. There’s no question, it’s a beautiful setting. Dad said that now that we need some money, why not host a musical event and just charge admission for us? Mom quickly reminded Dad that we’d have to pay for the musicians which would greatly reduce our returns.

“Not if we’re the musicians!” Dad crowed.

He could just as easily have said, “Not if we find gold bars in the toilets!“ for all the likelihood of that happening.

We have a piano and my sister, Vanessa, took lessons on it a long time ago. But Mom won’t let any concert-goers into the house or allow the piano out of the house so that’s the end of that instrument.

Duncan was on trumpet briefly in the high school marching band but he was so bad at it, he was finally told to just march and not really play. He wasn’t that good at marching either, and soon he was just wasting a uniform.

Dad still had on his “Eureka!” face, though. And he revealed that he’d found a whole cache of old musical instruments up in the attics and we could all learn to play those.

Everybody froze, of course. As far as we know, that unknown old woman Mom saw up there one time could still be there. Actually, I don’t know which would be worse. Seeing her up there again or not seeing her, because now she’s somewhere loose in the house. I keep worrying that one morning she’s going to leap out of my underwear drawer.

Dad dragged us up to the attic floor anyway and soon threw open the door to one of the rooms.

Across the way, the only two instruments visible initially were a tuba and a triangle and I can’t express to you the power of the stampede to get to that triangle. When everyone staggered back up, it was no longer so much a triangle as just three people each holding one little metal tube.

And the tuba? Well, that’s pretty much just compacted metal now. You could use it as a Frisbee…if you were on the moon.

The Ladies of the Night

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

By Tiber

I was having a nightmare at around 3 in the morning, where I’d lost both my job and my relationship. Then I realized I was awake, it was all true and that another reason I felt so down was because I could hear “St. James Infirmary” being played on a recorder on the other side of my wall. Louis Armstrong or no, that is one depressing song.

In a house where the term “odd person” carries some weight, my Aunt April is one of the oddest. She’s my father’s sister and though you tend to forget about her, she’s actually lived with us for a long time.

She has her own rooms on the third floor near me but her meals are brought up and she hardly ever ventures out.

She’s not elderly but her shoulder-length hair has gone white and when you do suddenly bump into her in the middle of the night, your first thought is that somehow, Lucius Malfoy, that Harry Potter nemesis, has teleported in.

You’d think at least hearing her play music would be reassuring but all I can ever think about is that somebody played a recorder on the other side of the wall in “Rosemary’s Baby” too, so that’s not exactly comforting either.

Maybe tonight she’s entertaining the unknown old woman from the attic, who Mom saw once and then never again. I guess it would be sort of nice if, while padding soundlessly down the halls in the dark, the two house recluses somehow found each other and struck up a friendship. Of course, with two of them joining forces, they might end up making all sorts of crazy-ass demands. They could win too. Unlike the tooth fairy, who sneaks into your room in the night and leaves you money for candy, these two can tip-toe into your room and just steal your candy.

We all have our theories about why Aunt April started  living her life as a recluse in the first place. Iris Nell thinks she was left at the altar like that Dickens’ character, Miss Havisham. But Duncan still insists it’s because she shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die, refusing to this day to admit that that’s really a Johnny Cash lyric.

Chauncey, the handyman

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010


By Tiber

We’ve had so much bad weather, somebody finally had to go up and check the attic rooms for leaks. We’re all so far away, down here on the other floors, it could get really bad before anyone knew it.

Dad couldn’t convince any of us to go up there, though, and he certainly wasn’t heading up there himself. We’ve all known about that unknown old woman in the attic since Mom first saw her awhile ago. Then Mom took up the New Year’s cookies and wine (hoping they would just sit there) and they were actually consumed. That’s made the old woman’s presence, wherever she is, a little too real for all of us.

So, despite wanting to save money, Dad had to call on Chauncey, the handyman. Yes, that‘s right. “Chauncey” is our handyman’s actual name. Evidently, with the film “Being There” coming out the year he was born and his mother in a movie mood, she decided to name him after the character, “Chauncey Gardiner.” Great film but, come on! “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” came out the same year so she could have just as soon gone with “James T.” instead of “Chauncey.” Hell, “Uhura” would have been better.

In any event, his name got him hired here. Mom heard about him and was worried that all of the “Spike” and “Moose” handymen were probably beating him up and stealing his jobs. And when he showed up and looked exactly like a “Chauncey,” we figured it might actually be true. But it turns out, he’s one strong guy. He’s like that glue in those tiny tubes, where you just can’t believe it can hold so much.

So Chauncey was dispatched up to the attic rooms to check for any water damage. He’s probably already heard that some people think our house is haunted. And nobody told him at all about the old woman.

It wasn’t long before he came down and headed right for the front door.

All he said as he left was, “No time. No leaks. No charge.”

Oh, he saw something up there, all right. The question is, which is worse? A staring, younger dead person or a crazy older live one?

Footsteps in the attic, a buzz in your head

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

By Tiber

Just to bring everybody up to speed, my parents’ house is so big, that recently, my mother went up to one of the many seldom visited attic rooms and suddenly, came upon a completely unknown older woman, sitting in an overstuffed armchair and reading a book by the light of a lamp. My mother, whose picture covers the entire Wikipedia page for the word “polite,” quickly excused herself and exited, even though it’s her house.

Since then, the few times anybody has been up there, the old woman hasn’t been spotted again. The suspicion has always remained, however, that she still might be up there…somewhere.

As my parents were feeling sentimental at New Year’s, Mom decided to take a tin of cookies up to the attic for our “guest” and Dad even contributed one of his microbrew beers, just to see if these would be consumed. But it turned out that Mom, who doesn’t like beer, had, at the last minute, opened a bottle of red wine and taken that up with a glass instead.

After the holidays, we all trooped up there to check, and now there was a brightly colored Christmas garland, that no one recognized, sort of draped around the room.

Only cookie crumbs remained of the snack and there wasn’t a drop left of the wine. 

It was probably the older woman who’d polished them off but then somebody pointed out that what it really looked like, was when we were kids and we’d left the cookies and milk out for Santa. We all paused with the same thought. Everybody’s wise about the Christmas Eve snack but really, when you think about it, when would Santa really need a pick-me-up? After Christmas.

No one has seen him, obviously, but then again, no one has seen the old woman again either.

This would not be the kind of police visit you’d want.

 “We have a report that Santa Claus has not checked back into the North Pole and he was last seen entering your house. Do you have any information on this?”

“Uh…He could be up in our attic somewhere.”

“Why would he be up there?”

Nervous glances all around. “We may have gotten him drunk.”

Happy New Year – in our own special way

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

 photo: courtesy

By Tiber

As I said earlier, Dad decided that to save money, we would all stay home, get dressed up and have our New Year’s Eve party right here. No one else was happy about this but we all did dress formally and meet up in the big living room.

And then we all proceeded to just sit there, like a 4th grade dance, where nobody wants to touch anyone.

Someone finally suggested we play “Charades” but it became obvious that nobody was into it. When my brother, Kru, got his clue and held up four fingers, Duncan just yelled out, “Four words? How about “You…are…an …idiot.”

When the next person did the symbol for “sounds like-,” Dad groused, “It sounds like you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about!”  The game collapsed completely when the other team wouldn’t even try to name what clearly was “The Sound of Music,” and instead insisted they had solved it with “The Hound of Cusack,” claiming it was a documentary the actor had made about his dog.

The evening went downhill from there and eventually, Kru, Duncan, my sister Vanessa, and I ended up playing poker up with the security guards on the third floor of the staff wing. We’re hardly ever invited over there but maybe they felt sorry for us.

My sister–in-law, Honor, put the triplets to bed, though in their case, it’s much more like day’s end at a zoo, where the animals are conned into being relocked into their sleep enclosures by the lobbing of extra food.

Mom and my sister, Iris Nell, ended up knitting with the housekeeper, Mrs. Brunty, in the staff parlor and even Cook, after putting up orange traffic cones to block people from the kitchen, came out, plopped down, ignored the others and stared straight ahead. Mom was thrilled that she was being so sociable.

The three maids were overheard happily discussing how they can get a reality show to shoot here without Dad knowing. And Brunty the butler‘s head kept looming out of the darkness, like the Wizard of Oz, as he kept roaming from group to group, evidently not finding any of them worth joining.

Mom even took a tin of holiday cookies up to the attic rooms, just in case that unknown old woman she found up there one day is still in residence. Dad even contributed one of his special beers.

Dad himself settled into his study with the same beer, pie, a book on military history, his dogs and his youngest daughter, my teenaged sister, Erin, for company, so he was happy indeed. Erin sat by the big fire and drew pictures of skulls, so I guess she was happy too.

A very cold wind kicked up outside as the new year came roaring in but even with our differences, a good time was finally had by all, here at Villa de Loon.