The Ghost in the Attic

A guest post by Bob MacDicken


The lights on the small Christmas tree across the room looked magically blurred and glowing. The halo around each one didn't so much fade as merge and blend into the next.



My eyelids felt heavy and I knew I had eaten too much. Grandma Mac's turkey was the best, and the gravy it swam in even richer than I remembered from last year. I knew if I had to sit and listen to the drone of the grown-ups around me I would soon be asleep on the floor.


Silently, I crawled backwards into the cold dark hall that led to the haunted staircase. The dark wooden handrail rose into the blackness above, toward the barely visible door at the top. I crept up, up, up an eternity of stairs that mysteriously had no creaks or movement like the floorboards in the rest of the house.


Reaching for the doorknob, I paused to make sure that whoever, or whatever, was inside would not be warned by the pounding in my chest. I opened the door slowly. A thin line of yellow raced to the bottom of the stairs, then widened as the candlelight became more and more visible.


“Grandpa?” I whispered, so as not to wake this man I so feared and so wanted to see, should he be asleep.


This was my grandfather, the only one I had, and my image of him was pure imagination. He never came downstairs, never joined in this annual family celebration. Last year, I thought the figure in the red suit handing out gifts by the tree might be my mysterious grandfather, but I had caught a glimpse him upstairs as I was saying goodbye to all of my aunts, uncles and cousins. He was far too thin, too bent, too really, really old to pretend to be Santa Claus.


So this year, I was determined to see him. I knew I could run back down the stairs if I had to, but I also knew I didn't want to leave.


My Dad's stories about Grandpa were not very encouraging. I pictured a dark, angry man with a powerful voice and fiery eyes, something like the god-men I had heard about in Celtic myths.


“Grandpa?”


“Who's there?” Until then, I had not imagined a Scottish accent and had never before heard one in only two words.


“It's Robbie, Grandpa.”


“Who?”


“Robbie. You know. Bob's son.”


“Oh.”


“Grandpa, can I come in?”


“Why?”


“Because I want to see you.”


“Oh, okay then.”


After what seemed like at least two or three hours of slowly moving the heavy door, I inched inside.


“Grandpa.”


“What?”


“Why don't you come down?”


“Can't.”


“Why not?”


“I don't want to see anyone.”


“Oh. Grandpa, can I see your eye?”


“Which one?”


“The one that isn't there. Daddy said you got hurt. He said you poked it out while you were building a house, or something.”


“It got infected, and I lost it.”


“Can I see it?”

“No, it's ugly. It would scare you.”


“Okay.” I turned to leave. “Grandpa?”


“What?”


“Can I come back and talk some time?”


“What'd you say your name is?”


“Robbie. I'm Bob's son.”


“Oh, yes. You told me.”


“Well, can I?”


“I think I'd like that.”


“Bye, Grandpa.”




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Bob MacDicken is an ordained American Baptist minister who recently retired from the Unitarian ministry.

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