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Pass the Tequila: This is a story written for an NYC Midnight flash fiction challenge. Genre: ghost story; Action: Rolling across the floor; Object: a pet leash

By Cathy SchieffelinPublished 13 days ago Updated 11 days ago 3 min read
Top Story - April 2024
Photo by Amin Zabardast on Unsplash

Her house was once a rustic retreat: Grammy’s ancient Afghan draped over the cracked, leather chair next to the wood burning fireplace. Sun-faded yellow gingham curtains in the kitchen danced in the afternoon breeze. She kept the windows open year-round, demanding to breathe in only fresh air. I spent many afternoons curled up with Aunt Bette, watching raunchy movies and drinking good tequila. That was her poison. She hasn’t been gone six months, but I still feel her in the weathered boards of the sagging front porch. I sit on the rough-hewn stairs, avoiding the papaya-colored porch swing. Can’t sit there. It’s not meant for one. Without a hint of a breeze, the swing slowly comes to life.

It wasn’t your time, Bette. You were too young.

I indulged her despite mom’s disapproval. She and Bette were never close. Mom resented her wild sister’s life choices. Thought she was frivolous and undisciplined. I envied her joie de vivre and hope for a similar trajectory… aside from the cancer thing.

Aunt Bette could work magic with a camera and was paid to travel to the ends of the earth, capturing the nomadic lives of pony herders in outer Mongolia or racing camels across the Sahel with the Wodade. I spent a summer with her after one of those trips. I loved being locked in the dark room, assaulted by the stench of chemicals as she pulled shiny, dripping photos from tubs of developer, revealing provocative images.


What the f***?

I jump up. “Hello?”

Footsteps… from inside? Bette always said the old place was haunted, belonging to her spry great grandmother who ran an apothecary from a back shed nearly one hundred years ago. I never believed her. Those spirits kept quiet when I was around. I wondered if it wasn’t the morphine messing with her mind when she’d start talking to someone out of the blue.

I step inside after extracting my key. A velvety exhale caresses my face with the softness of a silk scarf and a hint of tuberose… Bette’s favorite flower.

I glance out the living room picture window, where acres of switchgrass sway golden beneath a melting sun. I swear one of the old dairy goats, attached to a frayed lead rope, stands by the dilapidated blue barn. There haven’t been goats on this property in a decade. When I look again, it’s gone.

I duck into the kitchen where a light flickers on. Need a drink. It’s gonna be a long night. A door slams upstairs. I drop the glass I’d been filling with water, shattering on the terra cotta tiled floor.

Maybe something stronger.

My hands shake as I reach into the fridge, wanting the tequila. There’s a bottle still hidden in here somewhere in the back. Instead, my hands find the grapes – frozen grapes? From the fridge? I fumble them, laughing as they roll across the floor like marbles.

Touche, old gal!

Bette used to freeze grapes and suck on them when her mouth was too sore to eat. Said it was like sucking frozen eyeballs. One night we had a frozen grape spitting contest to see who could projectile their grape the furthest. Bette won when she nailed the window, breaking it. That probably still needs replacing. I imagine there’s a lot that needs repair in this old house. Now it’s on me to resume loving this place, with her gone. It’ll never be the same, but maybe I can breathe life back into these walls.

Upstairs, Bette’s bedroom windows are open... the faded linen curtains billow and dance. Less than a year ago, I was snuggled in this very bed with her, watching Stripes with Bill Murray, sipping Herradura from Waterford crystal rocks glasses. There’s no longer the stench of stillness and death. Thank God.

On the way downstairs, the hall light flickers on.

Bette, no exorcist shenanigans tonight. Deal?

In the kitchen I find the shattered glass sitting on the counter in one piece, with two fingers of tequila. She still knows me.

Cheers Aunt Bette.


About the Creator

Cathy Schieffelin

Writing is breath for me. Travel and curiosity contribute to my daily writing life. I've had pieces published in Adanna Lit Jour. and Halfway Down the Stairs. My first novel, The Call, comes out in 2024. I live in New Orleans.

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Comments (6)

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  • Blake Booth10 days ago

    What a delight! No wonder this was top story. You’re right he waswonderful. I enjoyed every sentence. What a great take on this challenge.

  • Ameer Bibi10 days ago

    Congratulations 🎉🎉 for top story You're making significant strides with your hard work and commitment. Keep up the momentum

  • ROCK 11 days ago

    Newly subscribed! You really have the knack for excellence; what an engaging piece!

  • Anna 12 days ago

    Congrats on Top Story!🥳🥳🥳

  • D.K. Shepard12 days ago

    Very well done!! Really liked what you did to include a pet leash! I’m doing the nycmidnights short story contest and plan to sign up for the 100 word micro. They’re good challenges!

  • Andrea Corwin 12 days ago

    A broken window from a frozen grape? hilarious! What a great story. Hey, my mom visited me when I was cleaning out her house - she flicked the garage door opener light on for a few seconds so I could find the cord to pull for the light in the little storage room in the garage. The garage door didn't open, I didn't have the remote and there was no way I turned it on for a couple of seconds. I couldn't find a switch to turn on a light for the garage, so she did it for me.

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