The Granny Room

The Granny Room

 

By Elton Camp

 

            At the end of the hallway in my grandparents’ house lurked the Granny Room.  It was the smallest of the four bedrooms.  A half-bed was forced against the left wall, a chest-of-drawers stood against the right.  A ceramic receptacle with single bare bulb, controlled by a pull chain, was centered on the ceiling.  The blown bulb had remained so for nearly a decade.  Belle was afraid to stay the room long enough to make the replacement and nobody else seemed to care.  A ragged, brown throw rug lay at an angle alongside the bed. The only window opened toward the back yard.  Faded, dusty curtains covered it so thickly that little light penetrated.  The room had a musty, closed-up odor found only in a house not in use.  Except for spots of black mold, the horizontal boards of the walls were the same dark green they’d been on the long-ago day when Granny Duvall died.

 

            Not a soul had slept in the room for over twenty years.  Few had entered it.  The door was habitually kept shut, invariably so at night. The Granny Room was a place of dread among family, especially the grandchildren. 

 

            Most of the adults scoffed as they made brave statements.  “I’m not a bit afraid of that room.”  “Nothing’s gonna bother you in there.”  “It’s just a bedroom like any other.”  “Don’t be a coward.”  “There’s nothing to worry about.”  “I don’t believe Belle’s wild tales.”

 

            But, one and all, they declined to sleep there during family visits.  “The couch is more comfortable.”  “I’ll just stay in the room with my sister.”  “It’s crowded.  I’ll sleep in the barn.”  “It’s such a hot night.  Think I’ll take the daybed on the back porch.”  “A pallet on the living room floor will be fine.”

 

            Belle was no longer even moderately attractive as she had been in her youth.  Her yellowing, gray hair stuck out in all directions.  Decades of exposure to the sun had imparted a leathery look to her wrinkled skin.  Glasses with thick lenses made her eyes appear overly large. She wasn’t fat, but her abdomen protruded, its muscles weakened from child bearing.  Inexpensive dentures gave an abnormal bulge to her lips.  Make-up had never touched her face.  She owned no jewelry.  Belle had been a hard-working, often unappreciated, presence for many years.  Most seemed to take her for granted.

 

            Fifteen-year-old Bernie was the only grandson spending the night.  Several granddaughters shared the middle bedroom with its four double beds.  He was assigned Junior’s room for the night. 

 

            “It’s next door to the Granny Room.  You won’t be afraid, will you?” his mother asked. “If you are, you can sleep on a pallet on the floor in the living room with us.”

 

            “Tell me again what they say about that room?”

 

            He’d heard a vague story about it, but the details became important only now that he’d be sleeping with only a thin wall between his room and the feared place. 

 

            “Oh, there’s nothing to it, of course,” his mother explained.  “It’s the room where Belle took care of her mother, Granny Duvall, for a few years.  Granny died in that room.  Afterwards, Belle said that she saw a casket floating in it.  She claims to have seen it several times over the years, but we know that’s impossible.”

 

            “Then why won’t anybody sleep there?” Bernie asked.

 

            “Why, Leon has slept there a time or two and absolutely nothing happened.”

 

            She had no idea if Leon actually had slept in the room, but believed the idea would reassure her son. 

 

            Bernie didn’t want to be thought a wimp, didn’t believe in the supernatural, and certainly didn’t want to spend the night on a hard floor.  “Sure, I’m not afraid.  I’ll stay in Junior’s room.”  He came to rue his decision. 

 

            Junior’s room was small, but cozy.  When he was dressed for bed, Bernie clicked off the overhead light.  Enough light entered from the window that he could easily see to move about.  He was glad that it wasn’t totally dark.  The bed was comfortable with clean-smelling sheets and three flowered quilts.  It quickly became a warm cocoon on the cool night.  As he was about to drift off into sleep, there came a rasping, grating sound from the direction of the Granny Room. 

 

      Instantly alert, Bernie pushed the covers off his chest and sat up.  The sound repeated again and again with only seconds of delay.  He felt his heart begin to beat faster and harder.  As he prepared to leap out of bed and run, he recognized the sound. 

 

            “It’s nothing but a mouse chewing inside the wall,” he thought.  “I’ve heard that exact sound in the barn at home.  There’s nothing to be afraid about.” 

 

            Bernie pulled the cover up around his neck as he lay down again.  The persistent sound continued.  Despite what logic told him, the unfamiliar surroundings and proximity to the Granny Room proved unnerving.  After a couple of hours, he remained wide-awake although tired from the activities of the long day.  Each time he opened his eyes, he automatically turned and stared at the wall separating him from the Granny Room.  He realized that he’d remain sleepless the entire night.

 

            “I’m gonna get some good out of this,” he thought.  “Those girl cousins of mine should be easy targets.” 

 

            Bernie eased out of bed, pulled loose the white top sheet, and wrapped it loosely around his body and over his head so that only a small vertical slit remained so he could see.  Cautiously slipping into the hallway, he reached back and turned the doorknob so that it wouldn’t make a click as he shut his bedroom door.  He was in arm-length of the closed door of the fearsome Granny Room.  He placed his hand on the knob, but hesitated.  In seconds, his resolve returned and he pulled it outward and slipped inside.  It was darker than Junior’s room, but enough light penetrated for him to jerk the quilt that covered the single bed halfway to the floor.  Bernie struggled to stifle a cough from the fog of dust.  He gently laid a cane-bottom chair on its side and slid the top drawer of the chest partly out.  The room looked sufficiently disheveled for his purpose. 

 

            He stepped back into the hallway and crept cautiously toward the bedroom occupied by his cousins.  The rough boards felt cool under his bare feet.  No matter how slowly he eased forward, repeated squeaks came from the old floorboards.  From the front of the house arose distant sounds of snoring.  From his cousins’ room emenated a combination of scents of powder, perfume, and hair spray.  Bernie wrinkled his nose and frowned.             

 

      “Owwww, owwwww,” he cried mournfully as he stepped through the open door. He imitated the sound of a crazed old woman as best he could.  Bernie repeated the plaintive call twice more until his cousins began to arouse. 

 

      “What’s that?” one of them shouted as she caught sight of Bernie encased in the sheet.  Her exclamation aroused the others and they began to scream frantically. 

 

            With a final moan, Bernie darted into the hallway and made a mad dash for the Granny Room.  He slung the opened door with a loud bang against the wall of the hallway.  Quickly, he jumped into Junior’s room, roughly slid the sheet into place, leaped into bed, and closed his eyes. He tried to lie still, but shook with barely controlled laughter at the sounds of alarm.  

 

            Chaos reigned in the house as his cousins screamed for help.  One of them sobbed hysterically.  The ado brought the parents stomping down the hall, demanding an explanation as they converged on the girls’ room. 

 

            “A horrible, moaning ghost came right into this room,” one of them said.  “We all saw it, didn’t we girls?” 

 

            She got a chorus of frightened agreement from her cousins.  They tumbled out of bed and embraced their parents for comfort. 

 

            “Then we heard a loud bang from toward the Granny Room.  I bet it was her,” she quaked.  “I never want to sleep in this horrible house again.”  

  

      Although suspicious that it’d been nothing but a dream, the parents ganged in front of the entrance to the Granny Room as the terrified girls stood behind them. 

 

            “Look at that,” Iduma shrieked.  “That door’s always been shut at night ever since Granny died.” 

 

      Leamon, who considered himself to be above superstition, turned on the hallway light.  He boldly stepped into the partially lit room.  When he jerked the chain on the ceiling light, it wouldn’t come on.  When he detected the disorder, he made no comment.  The others remained in the hallway, but peered inside. 

 

      “Everything’s all tore up,” Iduma said fearfully.  “I tole maw they should’ve moved out of this house years ago.  Granny is mad because we all had a good time today but she couldn’t take part.  I just know it.” 

 

            In view of the loud talking, Bernie decided it was time that he must make an appearance or else bring suspicion upon himself.  He opened his bedroom door and stepped into the hallway, rubbing his eyes as if he’d been asleep. 

 

      “What’s going on?  Is something wrong?” 

 

            He tried to look as innocent as possible, but it was a struggle for him to keep from laughing at the gullibility of most of his relatives.  The scheme was working even better than he’d expected. 

 

            By that time, Bernie’s parents arrived from the room where they’d been asleep on a rollaway bed.  After she learned of the scary episode, his mother caught his eye for a second.  Instantly, she knew he was the culprit and eased to his side. 

 

            “Get back in bed.  We’ll talk about this tomorrow,” she whispered as she jabbed his side sharply with her finger. 

 

            A measure of calm slowly returned, but nobody slept much for the rest of the night.  Bernie presumed that he’d be punished, but the fun had been well worth it.  Besides, he’d seen a hint of amusement in his mother’s eyes that told him she also found it funny.  Adults felt compelled to hide such feelings. 

 

            As he hoped, his mother didn’t reveal his culpability.  The night’s events served to increase apprehension about the Granny Room among some of the family.  Even those who attributed the events to overactive imagination by the girls had a particle of doubt. 

 

            “Hey, you never know,” one of them privately admitted when questioned about it.  “Granny was a strange old bird.” 

 

 


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Elton4562
Short Story
Comedy
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Synopsis
About a room in my grandparents' house. Set in the mid 1950s.
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