The Bachelor’s House

Just in time for Halloween, a little witch and ghost story…


I place a hand on the stone, and I see snow on the roof while a girl with a bow in her hair runs on the hardwood floor. In the dining room, a family is gathered at a set table with candles, and there’s the scent of oregano, roast beef, potatoes, and fresh bread everywhere.

Imagination is a beautiful thing, filling up a cold house with warm memories that may never have been. 

Turning the handle, the door creaks, and I peer inside. A fireplace from a nearby room sheds some light into the hallway. Yellow-stained curtains are hung, and there are light switches, a coat hook, and nothing else. There’s warmth, but it escapes through the open door. So, I close the door.   

“Elizabeth,” Helen says in a red dress with a two-foot train—the same one she wore last time I was here. The fire in the hearth hisses as she passes, and dampness drips from somewhere. Helen leans in, touches my elbows, and kisses me on the cheek. “Are you ready to start?”

“Yes,” I say, hanging my coat and purse on the coat hook. Before I leave, I remember I need my hard hat and dig into my handbag to find it. Helen places a hand on my elbow as we walk through the hallway. I look up the stairs and into several rooms and ask, “Where’s Paul?”

“I’m here,” he says, leaning against a doorway. Paul wears brown trousers and a white shirt. His thumbs are hooked under his suspenders.

“I will wait here,” Helen says.

I nod. “Are you still coming with me?” I ask.

“Yes,” he says, straightening.     

I turn the knob on the door to the basement. There’s no railing, so I place my hand along the brick to guide me and carefully take a step down the stairs. Paul’s cool breath is in the back of my neck and stays there until I reach the bottom step. 


Tucking my hair under my hat, I flip the switch on. Light spreads out, and a rat runs across my boots and squeezes into a hole.

I stare at the beams with webs where spiders cling to them and touch one spider called Eve, who apologizes that she wasn’t here the last time I visited. Eve tells me about dishes that were thrown, a child who couldn’t sleep without a light on, and how a waiter ran out of the house one night and never returned. Eve’s eight legs tap the beam, and she says, “The man who built this house, he drank gin nearly every night. Poor thing, he was in love. But he never told anyone. Not even his best friend . . .”

I see. 

Paul slouches nearby and looks around, bored. Ghosts can’t speak Spider, thank goodness. 

I nod to Eve, and she returns to her artwork. “Where are you?” I say. My fingers fumble over the switch on my hat, and it clicks.

“You still can’t see them?”

“Like I told you the last time—I’m a witch exorcist, not a clairvoyant.” Paul shakes his head. “Hey, you’re a ghost that can’t get rid of a ghost.” Paul doesn’t say anything.

Annoyed, I take the cap off and move the knob to another setting. Sure, it’s great that I can see in the dark. But I need to see everything.

I flick the switch with my finger and shake my head. Witches aren’t allowed to use their magic to pay for their day-to-day living expenses. It’s part of the rules. So, I’ve got a nine-to-five job to pay for rent and such, but I have to work these jobs to pay for Mom and Dad’s costs in Trolls Thumping Residence.

“What?” Paul asks.

“Nothing,” I whisper. The knob clicks. “Ha! Now we’re in business!” I cheer. I place the hat on my head and tighten the chin strap. And now I see everything.


Stepping forward, five large snake-lizards are wrapped around the beams.

Paul leans forward, bumping into me. His hand slips through my back and comes out of my stomach.

“Gross,” I say. Some ghosts are good at making themselves flesh-like. Paul is not.  

Weaving through the room, the snake-lizards hiss as we pass by them. I’ve seen these creatures before—they belong to light and shadow and can kill the flesh and devour souls. I suspect Paul might know this, too, based on his raspy breathing.

There’s a flash. I scan the room, looking around the snakes-lizards and the—

“Oh no,” I hiss. Air rushes around as I fly up, hit the wall, slide down, and fall to the dirt floor. “Ow,” I mutter. 

Paul shakes and looks around. Then running toward me, he stumbles. Paul hits the ground, and a snake-lizard unravels itself from a beam like lightning strikes and hisses. It snaps when it’s within reach of Paul. “No,” Paul says. The snake-lizard’s head rises, and Paul and the creature stare at each other.     

I’m eye to eye with a snake-lizard, too. “Did you get the memo? I’m a witch exorcist. I can destroy you.”

The snake’s head bobs back. His black eyes blink. I’m sure I see his head tilt, and then, he vanishes.     

“Paul!” There are heels on the stairs, and a translucent red hem appears.

“Stay there!” I yell.

Helen crouches down and covers her mouth. “Oh, Paul!” she cries.

“I love you, Helen. I always will.” Paul’s voice is steady, and his eyes are misty. But he keeps both eyes on the snake-lizard.  

I smack my hands together, and bits of scales and leathery skin fly up and explode in the air and onto the dirt floor.

I’m not sorry about killing the four remaining snake-lizards. They heard what I said to the other one and knew Paul and I were traveling together. Paul drops his head to the floor. I raise one finger, Paul rises from the ground, and I place him beside Helen.

“Is the ghost gone?” Paul asks.

“No,” I say. “But I don’t think he’ll come out with both of you here. So, go upstairs and stay there.”

“How do you know?” Paul asks. 

“I got a message,” I say, pushing my hair back. “Besides, Paul, I don’t want you to get hurt. You and Helen couldn’t be together because of her hateful, controlling, abusive husband. Now, you can be. You’re only here because you think you should be. But those creatures could have taken your soul. And where would that leave Helen?” So there’s no doubt, I add, “I’ve got this.”

Helen and Paul glimpse down at me. Even though their ghosts, their eyes shine with some look of understanding. Nodding again, they turn and climb the stairs, and the door creaks closed.    

“Perfect,” a man with dark eyes says, holding a watch. “It’s Elizabeth?” he asks, snapping the timepiece closed and hooking it onto the vest of his suit.

“Yes—and you are?”

“Jeffrey Sackston the III’rd,” he says, bowing.

“You can probably drop the III’rd now.”

He spins his cane, grins, and says, “Yes, I suppose I can.”

“I thought it was you.”

“Most people did.”

“I thought you didn’t want anyone to live in your house.”

“Well, you were wrong,” he says.

“You scared the flesh.”

“Yes, unfortunate side-effect.”

“I’m to—”

“I know what you are to do, Elizabeth,” he says. His smile dips. Then he throws his cane up, catches it, and smiles brightly again. 

“You never wanted the house.”


Looking up the stairs, I ask, “How long have Helen and Paul been here?”

Jeffrey’s eyes watch the stairs behind me. 

“You did it because of Paul and Helen?”

“Yes,” he says. “Paul’s insecurities about how he wished he had protected Helen better in life, plagued him in the afterlife, too. Certainly, their murders at the hands of Helen’s husband didn’t help,” he says, sighing. I had hoped it would be something Paul could overcome. I guess he did, somewhat. Still, Helen knows he’s not perfect, and she loves him just the same. Thanks to you, Paul knows that too, now.”

“You could have asked for help.”

“I did not have your number,” Jeffrey says, winking. “Besides, if anyone else knew, there was a risk it would be repeated to Paul, and my old friend would be embarrassed.” 

“You’re the bachelor who wanted ghosts to have love in the afterlife?”

“Don’t tell too many people. I wouldn’t want them to think Jeffrey Sackeston the third was a softy!” He smiles and leans into his cane. 

“How did you make yourself invisible to them?”

“I’m very good at hiding.”

I roll my eyes. “How did you get those creatures to cooperate without them taking your soul?”

“Ghost secrets,” Jeffrey says, arching an eyebrow. There’s something in his smile or his eyes, and it reminds me of a saying that I’d heard when I was young—

Ghosts who want something can ask the snake-lizards a favor. But they must trade their souls—and a willing soul is more delicious than one taken!


There’s a snap—a snap from fangs that bite into skin and a mouth that can inhale wisps of air that are phantoms. 

It’s also the snap from my fingers. And the snake-lizard I allowed to leave is gone. Permanently. Well, except for the dust.


I stare down at the yellow-eyed orange furball. “Jeffrey . . .” I say, “you almost died a second time.” I shake my head and gather him up in my arms. “You’ll live this life as a cat as this form protects you from those scavengers. And also, that way, no one can say I never did my job. It will be our secret,” I whisper, stroking his fur. “And maybe in your next life, you’ll come back and can find love, too.” I climb the stairs, cradling Jeffrey, and add, “Now, I need to get paid.”

The Hero Mouse, Brob-Ding

“My foot’s stuck! My foot’s stuck!” A little girl’s scream rushes over the water, across the green grass, and is heard as high as the treetops of the forest.

Brob-Ding the mouse, with his mouth full of sweet apple, pops his head up when he hears her cries.  He swallows his food and glances over at Jacob the fox, and Mittens the bunny. There’s no movement from either of them. Jacob is fast asleep on his back with his feet in the air. Mittens is too busy sitting there, wide-eyed in her frozen-bunny mode, pretending as she does that no one can see her.

Brob-Ding looks down at his enormous, half-eaten apple that stands as tall as he is, but is MUCH wider. There’s a lot of food to be eaten there. The apple will keep him fed for the next few meals.

He glances up and says, “Hey, Mittens! Did you hear that?”

“Hear, what?” Mittens’ eyes shift in the direction of Brob-Ding but the rest of her doesn’t move a muscle.

“Ah, the scream… It sounded like it might be a little human girl?” He asks wondering if his mousy ears are playing tricks on him.

“I didn’t hear anything.” She says with annoyance as she maintains her frozen pose.

At that moment, Jacob swings his head in the direction of Brob-Ding while his four feet remain in the air and says, “Not our problem, kid. She’s a human. They would never help us. Why should we help her?” His two black eyes stare at him as if he really is waiting for Brob-Ding to answer.

“Help me!” A desperate scream echoes through the forest again.

Then, it’s quiet.

It’s an unsettling quiet for Brob-Ding because with his super-mouse ears he now hears muffled crying. It sounds like it’s coming from Stoney Stream.

Brob-Ding peers up at upside-down slumbering Jacob, and frozen-bunny Mittens. He blinks a couple of times at them and turns and swings his tail around and quickly scampers over thick grass, over huge black rocks, and occasionally stumbles over tree roots.

But Brob-Ding NEVER stops as he races in the direction of the faint sounds of a little girl weeping.   

Once he is at Stoney Stream he pokes his head around the corner of a rock so the human can’t see him. There, in front of him, is a little blonde-haired girl in a green dress. Her hands are held over her eyes. Brob-Ding has seen this before in humans – it’s a sign of panic, of desperation – when someone doesn’t know what to do.

Brob-Ding bends his body as close to the ground as he can. He slowly creeps closer to the small girl’s leg that’s in the water and is wedged between two rocks. He doesn’t want to scare her in case she removes her hands from her eyes and sees him. She may scream, because humans are afraid of him. Or, just don’t like him. It could be either one.

Or, she may swat at him like so many other humans have done! It’s a terrifying ordeal. Brob-Ding wonders why he’s helping. There’s a perfectly good apple that he left back there where Jacob was sleeping, and Mittens was –

Well, doing whatever Mittens does. The apple will probably be gone by the time he returns.

Sounds of whimpering come from the small human. She rolls over and now has her face in the dirt. Brob-Ding pauses. The fur on his forehead wrinkles with concern. He hates watching anyone cry; whether it’s a bird, a fox, a rabbit, a deer, a bear, another mouse – and even if it’s a human.

Brob-Ding stands before the swirling water of Stoney Stream. He hates swimming and he’s not very good at it, but no one else is around to help the girl. He pauses for only a second. Then he takes his two front feet and places them together, as he dives into the deep water! His eyes open, he pushes with all front and back legs as well as his tail, as he swims towards the large trapped foot.

The foot is wedged between two rocks. He heaves, and pushes, and pulls at it and then he notices he can squeeze his tiny fingers between the rocks. With determination he chips away and loosens the dirt around it. He gives the HUMONGOUS stuck foot a final push while wiggling the rock. Finally, after great effort by a very tiny mouse, the foot kicks free!

And then, it wallops Brob-Ding!

He begins to spin out of control from the force of the kick. His mouth opens from the pain causing him to accidentally swallow cold water. Brob-Ding’s feet and tail spin out of control, his eyes are wide. Just then he remembers the words fox said to him before he left: they would never help us. Why should we help them?

Brob-Ding realizes he made a mistake.

Then out of nowhere, a human’s hand reaches up and scoops him from the water and places Brob-Ding on the grass.

“Thank you, mouse, for helping me.” A child’s voice whispers to him. “Are you alright?” She asks with slanted eyebrows.

Brob-Ding can’t speak as he lies there for a moment, frozen with fear, like Mittens.  So, instead he nods his head up and down.

“You understand me?” She asks as her large eyes get a little wider. It’s as if her eyes could swallow him up.

Brob-Ding says, “Yes.”

“Wow!” The child says. “You can talk! I’m Kayla. What’s your name?” She says as a small crinkle forms in her nose and dimples appear in her cheeks.

“Brob-Ding,” he says.

“That’s an unusual name.” Kayla says.

Brob-Ding begins to lick his feet to clean them, while cautiously keeping one eye on her. You can’t trust humans. He doesn’t really want to provide an explanation about his name; the grooming session is a stall tactic. But her blue inquisitive eyes blink at him and there’s something in those eyes; a certain kindness he’s never seen before.

He peers up at her and says, “Its short form for Brobdingnagian. It means giant. My parents, they liked to read.”

Kayla erupts in giggles. “You’re so small! Why would they give you that name? Are you bigger than other mice?”

Brob-Ding’s eyes get glossy. She’s not the first one to make fun of him about his name, and his size. At school the other kids would tease him too. Once Brob-Ding was old enough he could have changed his name. But he didn’t, because his parents named him. Brob-Ding hasn’t seen them in a long time because they got tired of reading about all those places in the world like the Eiffel Tower, and Stonehenge so they left to travel around the world once Brob-Ding was able to take care of himself.

He misses them…

“No, I’m smaller than most other mice. They said they named me Brobdingnagian because I was small, but I had a big heart.” His eyes shift back and forth along the grass that surrounds him. He won’t look at Kayla. “My friends call me Brob-Ding for short.”

Kayla gently places a finger on the top of his head. He raises his eyes, and notices Kayla’s head is slanted to the right side and she says, “I LOVE YOUR NAME! It fits you.” She says as she nods her head at him.

“Can I call you Brob-Ding?” Kayla asks as she wipes the mud from her face.

“Yes!” Brob-Ding enthusiastically shouts.