The Floorboards Creak

By Andrew Herriott

We consciously made the decision not to believe in ghosts, though they’d been around as long as we could remember. Their ghost-skin brushed our flesh-skin leaving goosebumps, but we blamed it on the winds clawing their way through cracks in our drafty house. We could see our parents glance at them over their shoulders while cooking or washing dishes, as dead friends and relatives skirted around the rims of their eyeballs. When my parents made love, they pretended that it wasn’t Grandma in the corner, looking on with a face so twisted and disgusted that they had to wonder if she had ever been alive in the first place. We didn’t know either. They told us she had died before we were born, but they say a lot of things.

They come around for important things, like birthdays. They always stay too long, chatting about things that ghosts chat about with voices so faint that you might confuse them with creaks in the floorboards, or open windows. Alex taught me that if you put your ear against the wooden door frames, you can hear them smiling. She said it sounds like music. Not like regular music, but that old-time music that you can only hear on water-stained records that move as far up and down as they do around. Mom caught us one time listening to the warbled sounds of ghosts smiling. It was the last time I heard her talk about them. She whipped us, then washed our mouths out with soap. She said, If you kids spend all your time listening to the ways ghosts’ mouths curl up, your hair will turn gray, your skin saggy, and you’ll be standing in the corners of lovers’ bedrooms wondering if you had ever really lived in the first place.

Andrew Herriott is a graduate from the University of Cincinnati. He plans to pursue his MFA in fiction writing.