“Lideric” a short story by Jennifer Stevenson

BLURB MATERIAL:

The author is indebted to Valya Lupescu and Madeline Carol Matz for introduction to their notions of house spirit. She took some liberties with their idea, blended them with a Roumanian sex demon, stirred, popped it all in the oven, and ended up with a Roumanian-American house spirit doing daycare.

 

Lideric

“Mom, Mom, I think this house is haunted after all!”

“That’s nice, honey.”

“The man said it wasn’t haunted but it is!”

“Are you sure?”

“Mom, can I have some bread dough?”

“I gave you some.”

“I put it in the barn for the rats. You said this farm has been deserted so long, even the rats are starving. I didn’t see any.”

“You have to wait to see a rat. They won’t come out if they think you’re watching.”

“Like ghosts, right, Mom?”

“Why don’t you go watch for the rats? You may have to wait a long time.”

“I waited a long time already! Can I have more bread dough? It’s for the ghost.”

“The bread’s in the oven, honey.”

“Can you make some more?”

“I’m getting ready to paint this room. Maybe later.”

“Can I go in the storm cellar and talk to the ghost?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll ask him if he likes bread dough.”

“You do that.”

“Because if the rats don’t want it I can bring it down cellar.”

“Exactly.”

“Everybody says ghosts are hungry.”

“I bet they are.”

“But I don’t want to take food away from the rats if he doesn’t like it. Do you think he likes it? You don’t like bread dough but I do.”

“I would ask him, honey.”

“I love bread dough!”

“I know you do.”

“But I’ll ask first, because I would eat it if he doesn’t.”

“Go ask him now, honey.”

“He might not answer. He doesn’t talk yet.”

“I’m sure you’ll find a way to make him answer.”

“Or I could paint. I’m a good painter.”

“Honey?”

“Can I help you paint?”

“Go play in the storm cellar!”

~o0o~

“Hey mister.”

“Ugh.”

“Hey mister, are you dead or are you asleep?”

“Go away.”

“Hey mister, where’d you come from?”

“I live here.”

“Hey mister, let’s play bears.”

“Ugh.”

“I could bring you bread dough, if the rats didn’t get it.”

“What year is it?”

“I’m five.”

“That’s not what I asked.”

“I was four, but then I became five.”

“Shut the door, kid, I’m trying to sleep.”

“Dead people don’t sleep. They only em-you-late real life.”

“I’m not dead.”

“If you were dead, you would be a ghost.”

“Grrrr.”

“How long did you sleep so far?”

“I don’t know. What year is it?”

“I don’t know. This farm was listed for twelve years. The man said.”

“Ugh. Twelve years. I can’t believe they were able to sell it.”

“We’re renting. Did you sleep for twelve years?”

“Apparently.”

“Are you going to keep sleeping?”

“I don’t know. How long are you going to live here?”

“We don’t live anywhere very long.”

“So there’s hope.”

“Mom had a boyfriend but he went away. And then we went away.”

“And she’s heartbroken, right?”

“She’s painting her bedroom. She cried a lot when Dad died. I could be the bear if you don’t want to be.”

“Terrific. She’s alone and heartbroken. What else can go wrong?”

“I don’t know. Can I tell my Mom you’re not a ghost?”

“Sure, kid. Tell her right now.”

“Hey mister, you don’t look so old anymore.”

“That can’t be right. You shouldn’t see me at all.”

“I have good jeans. Mom will be disappointed. She likes haunted houses.”

“Go tell her. Maybe she’ll move.”

“You just want to sleep some more.”

“Yes!”

~o0o~

“Mom, I talked to him and he’s not a ghost. So what is he?”

“You didn’t ask?”

“He doesn’t want to play bears.”

“That eliminates ghost right there.”

“He’s been asleep for twelve years.”

“Mm-hm.”

“He thinks you’re still heartbroken over Dad.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Mom! Pay attention! If he’s not a ghost, we have to move again!”

“I hope not. At least you’re having fun here.”

“You were right, Mom, a farm is the best. It’s got millions of places. I want to stay and stay.”

“I hope so.”

“The ghost won’t like it. He wants us to move out so he can sleep.”

“I’m sure he does, honey.”

“He was old before but now he’s getting younger.”

“Well, let me know if he turns into a little kid.”

~o0o~

“You may as well come out. I’m not shutting the door until you do.”

<silence>

“You don’t have to live in the cellar, you know.”

<silence>

“I’m painting the upstairs.”

“She’s your daughter all right.”

“I understand you’ve been asleep for twelve years.”

“So?”

“So you’re not a ghost.”

“That’s your daughter’s opinion, too.”

“I’m guessing you’re a house spirit.”

“What’s it to you—oh. You want the house painted.”

“For starters.”

~o0o~

“Wow, you’re a lot younger now. Is it because you’re in daylight? Ghosts can’t be in daylight. Mom says you’re a house spirit. That means you get to do things I’m not allowed to do.”

“Bully for you, kid.”

“Do you hate painting? I love painting.”

“Can you paint and talk at the same time?”

“Not very well.”

“Here.”

“You’re letting me paint!”

“Great, now you’ll squeal on me to your mom.”

“Well she’s bound to see it all over me. I paint messy.”

“I’ll clean you up so she never knows…if you’ll shut up.”

“That’s a bribe. Mom says she is above bribing me.”

“Your mom’s pants are on fire.”

~o0o~

“You’re done already! It’s beautiful.”

“Thanks.”

“Was she any trouble?”

“We negotiated a deal.”

“Do you eat?”

“Not much.”

“I’m a good cook.”

“I can smell that.”

“C’mon, don’t be a grumpy gus. She doesn’t talk with her mouth full.”

“You’ve persuaded me.”

~o0o~

“Do house spirits eat?”

“If you put a gun to my head. I thought you said she shuts up?”

“Here, watch this.”

“Okraaaaa!”

“Why did you stay when the farm was abandoned?”

“Got tired of funerals.”

“Everyone was sick here? Oh, dear. What did they die of?”

“Love.”

“Seriously, was it contagious?”

“Sadly, it never is.”

“But it didn’t kill you.”

“It never does. Hey, it’s working. She shut up.”

“Don’t change the subject.”

“Don’t ask me about it and I won’t.”

“Chickennnnn!”

“She just chows her way through that stuff like a hay baler.”

“One course at a time. Her father was like that.”

“You miss him?”

“It’s been four years.”

“You’re still running away from him.”

“He’s dead.”

“Doesn’t stop people from running.”

“Listen, you, I’m running toward, not running away.”

“Macaroneeeee!”

“Keep running and you might live.”

“So the love that kills won’t get me, huh? You must really want us out of here.”

“I never said that.”

“Pants on fire.”

~o0o~

“So how many places have you guys lived?”

“I’m not sure. I was little sometimes.”

“Count what you remember.”

“First we went to Fort Wayne and there was Alan. Then we went to Cincinnati and there was Brian. Then we went to Peoria and—”

“Lemme guess. Charlie? Cecil? Your mom has a tidy mind.”

“Thank you for letting me paint some more.”

“Thank you for not telling her. Why a new city every time?”

“I’m not finished. Peoria was Carl. Dave-and-port was Dave.”

“You said Dave-and-port.”

“Mom told me to stop saying it that way.”

“And we see how well that worked. Why a new state every time?”

“They died.”

“They what?”

“Died. All gone.”

“I can see why you’re interested in ghosts.”

“She doesn’t want ghosts of old boyfriends.”

“Just new ones, eh?”

“You were almost a ghost. Why did you get old?”

“Everybody needs love to survive, kid.”

“My mom loves me the best of everybody.”

“And don’t you forget it.”

“Are you in love so you can get young?”

“Doesn’t work that way, kid.”

“Well why do people fall in love?”

“Good question.”

“That’s a terrible answer. You have to do better than that.”

“Look, you, I’ll put up with your mouth only so far.”

“When Mom says ‘Look, you’ I know I’m far enough.”

“You’re so far, you’re far out.”

“Outa sight.”

“I like you, kid. Holy shit, look at your shirt.”

~o0o~

“Did you say ‘holy shit’ to my child?”

“Sue me.”

“You live here. You won’t leave. Therefore you will watch your language around my child.”

“Or what? You’ll kill me?”

“You’d have to be in love with me for me to kill you.”

“Like Abe and Bob and Chad and Dildo?”

“What did you sa—she told you about them?”

“Next room, I think we’ll paint the ceiling first.”

“Don’t change the subject. I did not—kill—my boyfriends.”

“I didn’t ask her how far down the alphabet you’ve got so far.”

“Are you threatening me?”

“Hey, my house is made of glass. Ain’t throwing stones.”

“They died. Their hearts were broken.”

“You break ‘em?”

“No, I did not! They were heartbroken when we met! I tried to comfort them and it—it didn’t work.”

“It never does.”

“Well at least I tried!”

“Stop trying.”

“Is that what happened to the people who lived here? You tried to—”

“Your kid asked me if I fall in love to get young.”

“She doesn’t know what house spirits are.”

“Do you?”

“Yes. I think I do.”

“Better be sure. There’s different flavors.”

“Well ‘bad attitude’ seems to be yours.”

“Mine’s Roumanian.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

“You’re not really a country girl, are you?”

“What’s that got to do with it?”

“Simmer down, sheesh. Country girls know about hired hands. Hired hands come in different flavors. You get your good-for-nothing cousin, he’s your slave for life but that cuts two ways. You get your local semi-drunk who can’t hold down a better job. You get your hobo, he’s good for a day but then buh-bye. And once in a while you get a gypsy.”

“Is that an ethnic slur? Oh—you’re Roumanian. Did you mean Romany?”

“Keep thinking about house spirits.”

“Oookay.”

“In Roumania we have a house spirit who only comes around when your heart is broken.”

“My heart is not broken.”

“Any more. Except for feeling bad about Arnie and Biff and—ow!”

“Why are you such a jerk?”

“So you’ll stay at arm’s length.”

“Back off if you don’t want to get slugged!”

“I’m backing, I’m backing.”

“Continue. Roumanian house spirits.”

“And he’s very handy around the house. After a while he even starts to look like the guy who left you.”

“Yes, I know.”

“You—what? You know?”

“I already knew you were a house spirit. I know stuff.”

“So do you know this part? Sooner or later your Roumanian house spirit just can’t help comforting your broken heart.”

“Not mine.”

“All right, someone else’s broken heart. Someone who isn’t a spiky—as spiky as you.”

“Go on.”

“And then she dies.”

“He kills her.”

“He gives her back the love she lost.”

“Can’t be that good, if she dies of it.”

“Oh yes it can.”

“Now you’re bragging.”

“Not exactly. But she forgets to eat. She doesn’t sleep. And….”

“You killed them all. All the people who lived here.”

“They loved. They lost. I did my job. They died.”

“That’s heartless.”

“I’m not. I hate funerals. That’s why I’ve slept here for twelve years. Very peacefully, might I add, until you and little big mouth showed up.”

“You ‘did your job.’”

“I am what I am, dammit. What are you? You kill and then you move out of state.”

“You bastard!”

“Hit me again and you’ll—ow! Hey!”

“If it weren’t for my daughter I’d stay and risk prosecution. I don’t care if I die! I move so she can still have a mother!”

“And you said you were running toward, not running away.”

“Let go of me!”

“Quit hitting. Oof!”

“I’m—looking—”

“Bite me and you’ll pay!”

“I’m—looking—for—something—very—specific—don’t you manhandle me!”

“Hey! All right, that’s enough!”

“Not while I can fight!”

“How far down the alphabet did you get?”

“What?”

“What was the last dead guy’s name?”

“Look, you!”

“I wanna know if I’m safe.”

“You’re hurting my arm.”

“You still wanna hit me?”

“His…his name was Kyle.”

“Bingo.”

<heavy breathing>

“Why? What’s your name?”

“I don’t have a name. In Roumania we’re called lideric.”

“Bingo.”

<more heavy breathing>

“What?”

“You asked what I’m running toward.”

“You’re—you mean—”

“I mean I already know about Roumanian house spirits.”

“Holy shit.”

“I’ve been following rumors for three years.”

“You really do want to die.”

“I’m looking for someone I can’t kill with love.”

“You—what? How—what makes you—are you—”

“I figure my father was one of those. Before I was born. He ran away and then they think he came back. But it wasn’t him. It was one of you.”

“I see. Your mother survived? How?”

“The house caught fire while they were—um—and the firemen broke down the door. The man impersonating her husband disappeared.”

“Oh.”

“He never had time to love her to death.”

“Mm.”

“And then I was born…half…one of you.”

“Huh. Kiss me again.”

“Oh, I get to kiss you but not slug you?”

<silence>

“Okay, you are adequate at that.”

“Can’t get under the telephone wire.”

______________________

StevensonJennifer-PaperMoon-200x300x100Jennifer Stevenson lives with her husband in Chicago in an old house owned by two cats and haunted by only a few very well-behaved ghosts.

Get “Lideric” and six other corny short stories with happy endings in her collection ONLY A PAPER MOON, only at Book View Café.

Jennifer Stevenson

Jennifer Stevenson's Trash Sex Magic was shortlisted for the Locus First Fantasy Novel Award and longlisted for the Nebula two years running. Try her fantasy series Hinky Chicago, which is up to five novels, her paranormal romances Slacker Demons, which are about retired deities who find work as incubi, or her women's fiction fantasy series Coed Demon Sluts, about women solving life's ordinary problems by becoming succubi. She has published more than 20 short stories. Find Jennifer at the Book View Cafe blog, at the second row at fast roller derby bouts in Chicago, or on Facebook.

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