Scene 17

Bernie flipped off the television set. The news had just gone on ad nauseam about a possible fire ant infestation on Powell Butte. This was later revealed as a hoax. Local scientists discovered that some prankster had simply dyed a mound of regular ants with red food coloring.

“Is anyone else super bored?” he asked the room.

It had been weeks since the Jackson’s had heard another howl, let alone anything else paranormal or creepy coming from across the street.

Lonnie's pictures had not revealed anything ghostly, with the exception of odd, blurry lights and orbs. No spirit house, no cowled figure, no well into hell.

No proof whatever.

Chazz also seemed to have disappeared off the face of the Earth. She had failed to make her weekly contact to her family, and her old friends from the Police Department had been searching in vain for her all around town.

Other than that mystery, Lonnie and Melody had to admit that they were, actually, a little eager for something odd or adventurous. It seemed like life may have returned to normal on Lafayette street once again.

...and it was driving everyone crazy.

“I ran into Mrs. Rhoads at the end of the block and she kept going on and on about how she missed triple coupons,” Lonnie said. “I thought I was going to lose my mind.”

Bernie smiled, viciously. “You used to love talking about your couponing prowess.”

“Yeah,” she said. “That’s what I’m all about, Bernie. Domestic housewifery.” She scowled at him. “I don’t suppose it never occurred to you that the only reason I mention chores was because I was hoping you might take a hint and help out.”

Bernie only raised an eyebrow at this and cracked his newspaper in front of him. “I folded some towels only last week,” he said, indignantly.

“No wonder you’ve been so tired lately,” Lonnie said, scowling back.

Melody didn't want to admit her own addiction to the bizarre and phantasmal. Now it seemed if something wasn't completely off-the-wall she didn't even want to hear about it. “I wonder if this is what ghost hunting groups go through. Always on the lookout for their next fix.”

“Maybe,” her father said.

Melody shook her head. She didn't like it. She had always strongly and adamantly opposed to anything habit-forming – with the possible exception of chocolate. She drank only herbal tea, she played only cooperative board games. “What was my point?”

Bernie shrugged his shoulders. “I keep telling you I can't hear the conversations that go on in your head.

“Oh, yeah,” Melody said. “I remember now.” She continued with her thought. There had to be some outside force insinuating itself into their lives.

“Gobsknuckles!” she said suddenly.

“Another meaningless exclamation?” Bernie asked.

“Sort of,” she said. “Though this one has a specific purpose: to denote frustration.”

“I might start using that one,” Lonnie said, with a wistful look in her eyes.

Melody sat back into her chair, and closed her eyes. She tried to examine what the woman in white and the hound from hell, along with this possible external addictive force, might both have in common.

It did occur to her that there might be some sort of funky gas leaking up from the sewers. Mixing paint, yard chemicals, and detergents for years could probably come up with all kinds of weird concoctions. This thought then led to the inexorable conclusion that everything they had so far seen might be a delusion of sorts.

No, but then what of Malika? Was she simply hiding in the weather station, perhaps suffering the same effects.

Maybe Chazz and Malika never existed either. Maybe there was never a woman in white. Maybe she and her parents were still in their beds, wasting away into nothingness, knocked unconscious by the gas.

It was a horrible thought. She wondered if there was a way to prove otherwise.

Then suddenly a thought struck her.

“DAD” she said, popping out of her chair.

Her father shrieked and threw the remote control up in the air.

“Call your Uncle Frank.”

Bernie eyed the girl suspiciously. “Uncle Frank died years ago,” he told her, eyes narrowed.

One aspect of the test, passed, Melody thought. If this was a dream, her father might not know that, or Uncle Frank in this deluded reality might still be alive. Now if she could get her father to call him and find that his phone number was disconnected, or reassigned to someone else, that would be proof enough for her that they were inhabiting the real world. “Please call him,” she said. “I have something to ask him.”

“I think you might have suddenly lost your mind, young lady. They don't have phones in Hell if you're wanting to ask him if he has a pet dog.”

Melody placed her arms between her knees, becoming more annoyed with her father by the second. “Just caaaaaallll.” Why did her father have to ruin such perfectly laid out reality tests.

“What exactly are you trying to do here, Melody?” her mother stepped in. “Make your father squeal like a little girl. Because there’s much easier ways to go about that.”

The girl sighed and explained her suspicions.

At first her father laughed the idea away, but then his eyes became distant with obvious concern. It seemed to be an idea he hadn't considered.

“Where exactly did you meet Chazz and Malika?” he said, snapping his fingers at his wife. “Quick,” he said. “Pop quiz.”

“I told you already,” Lonnie said, grabbing a hold of the snapping hand and effectively quieting it. “It was at a local crafting conference. We are not under the influence of some gas! This is reality.”

“But how do you know that?” Bernie still seemed unconvinced.

“Call it woman's intuition.”

Bernie's facial muscles relaxed a moment. Woman's intuition was stock that he could feel comfortable buying into. Suddenly, his eyes grew large, and he snapped his fingers again, pointing at his daughter. “Melody's a woman,” he said. “And it was her idea in the first place.”

“I think the problem is she's too much like you.”

Melody furrowed her eyebrows at this accusation.

Lonnie explained before her daughter could protest. “You both think everything's a conspiracy.”

“I absolutely do NOT,” Melody said.

“Two words,” Lonnie said. “Brainwashing gas. Just how far back in our lives would you allow this to go to prove your theory? Maybe your father and I don't even exist. Maybe you're just a brain in a vat in some laboratory and everything you've experienced has been some virtual reality environment.”

“OH MY GOD!” Bernie yelled. “that is NOT beyond the boundaries of believability!”

Melody smirked at him. He was so gullible sometimes.

“No,” Lonnie said, standing up, as if to give a speech. “Woman in White, real. Chazz and Malika, real people. Hound from Hell, to be determined, but there's definitely something weird going on.”

“And we're back to the well to Hell fifty feet from our driveway,” Bernie said, almost pouting.

Lonnie raised up her hands. “I don't know what to tell you, Bernie,” she said. “I'm going to bed.”

Bernie began to point around the room, seemingly at random objects. “But the... And the...”

“I'm going to bed, too,” said Melody. “You want me to get you a glass of warm milk or something?”

Bernie shook his head.

Melody leaned forward and gave her father a hug, and he squeezed her back tightly. If he had wanted warm milk that would have given her pause. Fortunately, he passed this final test.

“You going to stay up?”

“Yes,” he said. “I'm going to watch a little television. It calms my nerves.”

“Turns them to a puddle of goo, you mean.”

Bernie chuckled to himself. “Yeah.”

“I take it's a no to that warm milk then?”

“Yes,” her father said, almost seeming offended by the question. “Gross.”

Melody smiled. “Just making sure,” she said.

They said goodnight and Melody wandered down the hallway. She imagined if they WERE under the influence of some partially toxic gas, they probably wouldn't be experiencing all of the mundane aspects of life. She would think their existence would be broken into only quick exciting clips with no boring bits like small talk, brushing of teeth and going to the bathroom.

Her bedtime business complete, Melody heard the following coming from the television:

“Next on Svengoolie, Peter Cushing, in 'The Hound of the Baskervilles'. This preceded her father's exclamation, “That CANNOT be a coincidence.”

Melody chuckled to herself, and came back out to join him. They popped some popcorn during the commercial break, and turned out the lights for added spookiness. Not long after, Lonnie, aroused by the noises, came out to join them. Bernie laughed at all of Sven's corny jokes and the Jackson’s huddled together, enjoying themselves as a family for the first time in a long time.


It Happened on Lafayette Street

Season One: Episode One

Melody Jackson

vs. The Hound from Hell

by BMB Johnson

Scene 17

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