Posts Tagged ‘The house’

It was Duncan, in the maze, with the mallet……..When butlers are beaned, you’re Clueless

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

By Tiber

We have  a big hedge maze out behind the house. You can legitimately get lost in it, which is why we often give people glasses and a bottle of wine. Might as well enjoy yourself while you’re waiting to be rescued. Of course, adding liquor to the mix, who knows what’s gone on behind those high “shrubbies,” as our gardener, Nestor, persists in calling them.

Some of my parents’ oldest friends, who know their way out of the maze, took some newer friends in for a look last night. And when they came back to the house, they said, “You’re getting us in the mood to play ‘Clue’ tonight, aren’t you?” – which made no sense to my parents.

It turned out they were referring to “who killed the butler, in the maze, with the croquet mallet.” Eventually, this was determined not to be “Clue” at all but instead, Brunty, our real butler, dead in the maze, from a croquet mallet. Thankfully, it turned out that Brunty was only beaned, in the maze, from a croquet mallet.

He’d been out there clearing away glasses from the night before, when a croquet mallet came flying over from the nearby croquet pitch and hit him on the head. He seems fine now but really, considering how he is normally, how can we be sure?

Plus, would the mallet-thrower strike again? No one knew who it was. Until captured, we were advised to just avoid the maze entirely.

Finally, it was discovered that our maid, Taffy, had seen my brother, Duncan, walking towards the croquet pitch last night, where she had then heard the simple sound of croquet balls hitting each other.

Taffy, however, in her usual special way, had decided that what she’d really heard was Duncan throwing artificial legs onto a pile to light them on fire. So she had moved along, not wanting to interrupt his mission.

Later, Duncan, who of course had only been playing croquet, had gotten frustrated with his game, and had thrown his mallet over the hedge where it ended up hitting Brunty in the maze. So the mystery was solved – except for the Taffy part.

I noticed something long ago. Other people don’t seem to live in houses like ours, where residents will, with only an ounce of information, leap to conclusions like this one where, it was believed that a family member, after having had a long and particularly busy day, had decided that out of all the ways in the world to chill, the best choice would be to construct an artificial leg pyre in the dead of night on a croquet pitch.

There is a bright side, I guess. The members of our household who so often book non-stop flights to Crazy Town are happy there.

Once Taffy had “figured out” what Duncan was doing, she had just nodded at his having his own enjoyable time and serenely went off to bed.

If ghosts can walk through walls, why do they go bump in the night?

Friday, March 26th, 2010

By Tiber 

I love anything to do with ghosts.  And though I’m aware of all the supernatural occurrences, witnessed either by me or others, here in my parents’ house, I still have yet to come upon a full-body apparition. And a full-body apparition is what I want to see. It would be the Holy Grail of the paranormal.

Of course, not everyone might feel the same way.

We had a guest staying here last night and she had her own ghost experience first-hand. She had been given a bedroom that hadn’t been used in awhile and, in the middle of the night, she woke up and saw it – a dim, white apparition, wavering in the shadows on the far side of her room.

After a moment, the shimmering thing started floating, right towards her bed. And, to the woman’s horror, she felt something clammy brush against her feet, turning them both ice cold.

The guest dived under the covers so she wouldn’t see any more.  But then she felt the mattress vibrate. as if the ghost had actually sat down, almost right up against her, in the dark.

Was the thing conscious of her presence or not? Was it angered by her being in this bed or in this room?

The woman became too paralyzed with fear to make a run for it. All she could do was continue to hide until she finally got up enough courage to just peek out. By the time she did, the specter had vanished.

Even then, our guest was too terrified to scream, she was too terrified to move and since we just found out that Brunty, the butler, has started sleep-walking, we’re all too terrified to tell her.

And we have lift off

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

By Tiber

With all of the cold weather, my brother’s 10 year-old triplets, Lauren, Shirley and Bo,  have been home far more than usual. And even though my parents’ house has three wings and five floors, it seems as if every time you turn around, here’s a triplet, there’s a triplet, everywhere a triplet, triplet.

It was driving Dad crazy and he told them if they went off and played by themselves, it would give them valuable life skills for the future. Well, that didn’t work so he was forced to sign an I.O.U. for the second he gets more cash.

Later, we all knew somebody was using the little iron-grilled elevator, next to the main stairs, because you could hear that humming sound as the elevator started up. This didn’t really catch anyone’s attention. The sudden metallic grinding and loud clunk that followed, however, did.

The yelling of the triplets was also noticed since they were the ones who had undoubtedly been messing with the elevator and who were now the ones stuck in the elevator.

Their mother wasn’t home at the time but my mother, their grandmother, was frantic to get them out. Dad seemed a little slower to the rescue. The kids were fine for the moment.

And Dad felt strongly that we should wait for an electrician to free them instead of having a family member fool around with the malfunctioning machinery and possibly make things worse.

That was probably true but my mother couldn’t help but catch that dreamy look in Dad’s eyes when he realized that for a short time, at least, he could legally keep the demon threesome locked up in a cage.

The rest of us entertained the triplets while they were stuck in there. Since they were hungry, Kru and I got some bananas from the kitchen and threw them to the kids through the gaps.

Again, my mother was horrified.

“You are so callous!” she railed at us but I knew that wasn’t it. The kids were enjoying the bananas, shrieking and climbing the bars. That’s what was bothering her. She knows better than anyone…our whole family is only one elevator ride away from devolving from our usual and constant nit-picking into literally picking nits.


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.

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?

Do not add water to the Cook

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

By Tiber

Everyone can reach his or her limit and Cook reached hers this week. It’s been hard enough for her to creatively cut back on the food expenses, as per Dad’s order. But then, when nature attacked, it was just too much. I know she believes in God. It’s just that her belief is pretty much confined to the conviction that He’s out to get her.

It rained hard here all week. The roof could be leaking for all we know. It would show up first in the attic rooms but since Mom found that unknown old woman up there, nobody really wants to go and check.

What wasn’t debatable, however, was the flood in the kitchen. Cook had worked a long time putting together this tasty but cost-conscious vegetable dish but with her concentration and her thick shoes, she didn’t realize that the kitchen floor was flooded until the water was up to her ankles. She panicked and slipped and before she knew it, her perfectly prepared spinach was drifting away like seaweed. She screamed and took off for parts unknown, while everybody else was called to the kitchen as fast as we could get there.

Kru found the source of the leak while Dad organized a bucket brigade with cooking pots, so we could bail out the water that was already there.

Mom felt somebody should go and try to find Cook but with the house so big, we’ve lost people in here for quite awhile before. Finally, Brunty, the butler, was tapped to look for her. He’s been lost in the house so much himself, he’s probably familiar with rooms we haven’t even seen.

And he did find Cook pretty quickly. She was holed up in the far away and isolated room that was used for the nanny, back when the house was built in the 1800’s and the Victorians not only didn’t want their children heard, most of the time, they really wanted them in another town.

Cook was rocking away in an old rocker, like a maniac, and even Brunty’s news that the water was now out of the kitchen didn’t dislodge her. So he had to take more severe measures and lie. He said it was a real shame that the dinner she’d prepared had been ruined but that without her down there, he’d heard someone say they were going to make a casserole with a topping of processed cheese and pork rinds.

Cook isn’t the youngest person in the house but she was back in the kitchen so fast, you’d think she had crashed downstairs on a fire pole.


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.”

Deck the Halls with Cows of Wally

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009


By Tiber

It would take you days to go through all of the things in my parents’ endless attics. In  my older post, “Our Maze Eats Another One,”I wrote about my mother even finding an unknown old woman up there, reading. The old lady may still be up there but Dad didn’t mention it when he was rooting around this week.

He did find a box of real 19th century clothing and he thought maybe we could make some money as Dickensian Christmas carolers at the mall.

There weren’t enough of the 19th century outfits. though, so he borrowed from a box full of 1930’s clothes. My older sister, Vanessa, ended up looking more like a call girl in a speakeasy. I didn’t tell her because a) that would be rude b) that would be unkind and c) Vanessa scares me.

My brother, Kru, was stuck with an old, drab, 1930’s suit but when he complained, Dad said to knock it off and just tell everyone he was Scrooge’s accountant.

When Dad found a little wooden crutch, he slapped a cap on my sister, Iris Nell, and proclaimed her “Tiny Tim.” Duncan said that was “just wrong.” We thought, for a second, he was trying to be politically correct. But no. He just went on that, obviously, we’d have to call her “Medium-sized Tim.”

We got to the mall and began our audition, only to realize, belatedly, that no one knew all the lyrics to the carols. We got “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose“ right.  But the next line, “Yule-tide carols being sung by a fire,” we all got wrong as “Yuletide cards we will all be a mailin,” which left us no choice but to finish the verse with “Folks dressed up like Ms. Sarah Palin.” Of course, the real line is “Folks dressed up like Eskimos,” so I guess we were close.

Dad then quickly jumped into “Oh, Tannenbaum” but he was nervous and began to sing instead about one of his best friends. “Joe Tannenbaum…Joe Tannenbaum…” He gamely tried to keep this one going with “I met him first in college. Joe Tannenbaum, Joe Tannenbaum…he has a lot of knowledge…”  There was really nowhere to go from there, though.

Even “Jingle Bells” we messed up because instead of singing “Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh,” my sister, Erin, blurted out, “Oh, what fun it is to ride in a Porsche Cabriolet.” We couldn’t stop cold on another song, so this time, we just went on with the theme. The trouble is, it was no longer a tune about festive bells so much as really a song about German engineering.

We knew then we weren’t going to be hired. The mall manager was nice and told us we were very talented. It was just that the patrons listening to us didn’t seem to be singing along.

Mostly, they all just looked perplexed.