Posts Tagged ‘pirates’

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.

Lights out, ghost in

Monday, February 8th, 2010


By Tiber

The storm came in and our power went out. You really don’t want to be in a house this big when the lights go off. We stumbled around and finally met up in Dad’s study.

The triplets fell asleep and then somebody had the brilliant idea to play “Truth or Dare” to pass the time. Note to the wise. Do not play “Truth or Dare” with your family. While funny or titillating with your friends, “Truth or Dare” with your family just becomes a litany of “Wo!” “Eeeeeeeeeew,” or “Oh, dear God, please don’t say any more or I’m going to hurl.”

Then, suddenly, the lights flickered on for a moment, and the little elevator by the main stairs was heard starting up on its own. Somebody said it was our house ghost, coming down to get us. But Duncan thought it might be going up.

“Why would it be leaving?”

“Have you been listening to our conversation for the past half hour?!?”

So the talk turned to our finding the little pirate treasure chest hidden in the house this week, with the human hand bones in front of it. Dad has decided that the chest probably didn’t belong to a relative or even to a female pirate after all, as he’d thought. It must have come from an earlier time from when the house was built in the 1860’s.

So why had people kept on moving the chest and hiding it in safe places instead of selling the contents themselves? Erin said maybe they were afraid of the ghost of the original pirate owner. It would then make sense that our house ghost was that original pirate, still attached to his treasure.

Plus, Mom reminded us that when the ghost hunters came here, they picked up on tape an unknown voice saying the word “accordion” and those little accordions used to be played onboard sailing ships.

Duncan put it all together.

“So our pirate ghost was the one who sliced off the hand of the one dude who tried to take his treasure!  Hey, Dad, remember when the ghost hunters said they’d heard the word “accordion” and you said you were damned if you were going to buy anybody an accordion, living or dead!”

Dad leaped in.

“No I didn’t!”

“Yes, you did!”

“No, I didn’t!!! I told the ghost I’d buy it anything it wanted! Accordion, keyboards, a trumpet-”

“No, you didn-”

Even in the dark, you could hear Dad going after Duncan to shut him up before the ghost heard any more. Nobody felt like going back upstairs then.

In the morning, Mrs. Brunty, the housekeeper, found us all, still in Dad’s study, asleep on the sofa, the chairs, the floor. She said we looked like a sweet litter of puppies.

Seriously? “A sweet litter of puppies?!?”
I’m not surprised about the dog part. That we have been called. I was just surprised that anybody would ever call us sweet.

Bambi’s Booty

Friday, February 5th, 2010


By Tiber

Something amazing was discovered here this week. I thought my brothers and sisters and I had found all of the secret passages in this big, old house. We could never keep one a secret since the urge to leap out of a wall and try to give someone a heart attack was always too great.

But my brother Duncan’s preternaturally focused 10-year-old triplets found another little hidden room. In one of life’s appalling extraordinary coincidences that you can later retell for the rest of your life, my sister-in-law, Honor, asked triplet #3 to “give her a hand” in finding a dropped earring and he literally gave her a hand. Well, part of one, anyway. It was a human finger bone.

Honor, not surprisingly, went berserk. And then, so did everybody else, causing the triplets to forget where they’d found it. Demonstrating the difference with kids today, whereas I might have been calmed down with the promise of cookies, the triplets weren’t themselves again until guaranteed a trip to the surplus store to buy more supplies for the “inevitable upcoming breakdown of civilization.” But at least we found the little hidden room.

And the second Dad marched us in, we saw what was, unmistakably, a small pirate treasure chest. In my old post “Mom’s in the Crow’s Nest,” I wrote about my mother’s completely incongruous love of old pirates. It would be like a Hell’s Angel collecting Strawberry Shortcake dolls. You just don’t expect it.  But Mom, on seeing our own pirate treasure chest, was thrilled – even with the rest of the human hand bones splayed out in front of it, along with a dagger with a skull carved on it. Evidently, someone was a little too attached to the chest so someone else made him a little less attached to his hand.

Actually, we were thankful that the triplets had played with a finger bone and not the dagger. Duncan, of course, claimed that proved an interest in anatomy and that they’ll all end up being doctors. I know the triplets, though, and my guess is, if they really do have an interest in anatomy, they’ll all end up as grave-robbers.

Anyway, thank God it was just a hand, though we’re all wondering privately if the rest of our guy may show up somewhere else.

The big moment arrived and Dad stepped forward, holding his breath, and slowly lifted up the lid to delight his eyes with the solid gold doubloons he knew were within. The chest was filled to the top but with old cloth and sewing articles like needles and thread and buttons and thimbles.

We’ve since found out that these items actually had some value in their day and were worth looting by anyone. But Dad’s furious. He’s convinced that in spite of so many alpha-males like Captain Kidd, Henry Morgan and Blackbeard, his own pirate ancestor was a teenaged girl fashionista.

Hello, Bambi the Buccaneer.

Mom’s in the crow’s nest, run for your lives

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009
By Tiber
My mother Gwen, unlike my father, is a very elegant person. She never eats but, like a plant, if you water her enough, you can keep her forever.
I know she loves all of us children, but I think she was under the impression that after giving birth to us, her job was pretty much done. When she sees any of us, she always has a vaguely surprised expression as if to say,
 “Oh, hello, dear. Did you want something else?”
She has only one brother so with six of us, I think a lot of the time, she felt trapped in the middle of a British soccer riot. Many of my early memories of her consist of her exiting a room. Hello, Dr. Freud! My relationships don’t seem to last so maybe I’m just hardwired to feel more normal when a woman’s walking out the door.
Anyway, unsurprisingly, my mother likes Meissen porcelain, handmade soaps, log fires, that sort of thing. But one of her greatest obsessions is…pirates…the classic kind. We have no idea why. From her appearance, it’s not the kind of thing you’d match her up with, well…ever.
Maybe she was married to Captain Morgan in a past life. Maybe she was Captain Morgan. It’s true that even in this life, she’s still one of the few people who can scare Dad.

Sometimes, when it’s time for Happy Hour, Mom will suddenly look up from writing a thank-you note and yell out,

“What ho! It’s time to splice the main brace!”

And it’s nowhere near International Talk Like A Pirate Day.

She used to keep a small skull-and-crossbones flag in her car, which sort of unnerved us when we were little. But now that I think about it, she did always get the best parking spaces.

And come time for our birthdays, we all kept having pirate-themed parties.

“Oh, they were having a sale on eye patches,“ Mom would murmur. (As she drifted out of the room).

It didn’t matter if I or my sisters or my brothers requested “space aliens” or “Cinderella” or “animal” birthday parties, all of them would somehow always morph instead into a pirate party and we’d all end up bearded.