So I’ve given our writing group an assignment. It needs to use ten words from a random generator off the internet. Nothing more specific. I’m about to post mine since I’ve managed to pick away at it here and there, but I thought I would also post it here. Because why not? I’m wanting to post more and this is something I’ve been working on. It starts off with the word list, and then it goes into a bit of a story. I’ve italicized the words as used within the story. Enjoy!
The kettle sat on the stove, and wisps of steam had just started to trickle around the lid’s edges. Agatha could hear the faint burbles that came just prior to the shrill whistle as she went about fixing the rest of the tea tray. She brushed aside an errant swath of curly aqua hair, her most recent shade, and nodded in satisfaction. Sugar cubes, honey, lemon, and a collection of food things that were a must for a proper tea were compiled on an old Howdy Doody TV tray. The food things consisted mostly of half eaten packets of Girl Scout Cookies and other prepackaged snack cakes. “All out of, well, everything really. Sorry.” Agatha offered by way of apology as she sat the tray down on the cluttered devastation that served as her kitchen table. “I do keep a healthy stock of Earl Grey. Everybody likes a simple mug of EG, right?” She smiled at her guest. More than a touch mad but earnest and genuine, Agatha’s smile was infectious. Usually.
Her guest did not smile. He rolled his eyes around the sitting nook crammed with all manner of things and his shoulders slumped. Bored wasn’t the right word for it, but it would do. Barely contained impatience that wanted to boil over, much like the water was doing in the not so distant distance, would be more accurate. But bored would suffice. “I’m not thirsty.” It barely carried over the kettle’s impatient cry for attention.
Agatha’s face pinched briefly, faint creases of annoyance and strain played at the edges of her eyes. “Mr. Griggs, please. It’s not only polite, but it’s part of the…” The word, what was the word she wanted? “Ritual. Ritual of it all.” Fetching the ketle, she sat the table for tea and began to pour the water. For a moment Mr. Griggs seemed to disappear as the steam wafted up, but the moment was soon done. Sugar and honey were spooned in and dissolved. Tea steeped, and everything seemed to be going well. Agatha took a hesitant sip and found the taste to her liking. A little hot, but Winter’s chill had crept in uninvited. The bit of warmth was most welcome. Another sip and then her smile returned.
The smile disappeared when her guest’s mug shattered against the wall. Mr. Griggs’ chair flew backwards with his bellowing, his rage finally no longer contained. “I DID NOT COME HERE FOR TEA!” The lights dimmed and the small kitchen began to tremble with the spirit’s rage. The outburst shocked Agatha, her eyes widening and her mouth fell agape.
Her mouth snapped shut and then her eyes hardened. Agatha closed her eyes, stilling her own heated response. No, no, Mr. Griggs came to her for help. He couldn’t handle things on his own. Mortal hands, the restless shades needed the help of mortal hands, and there were so many spirits in such desperate need.
She took another patient sip, deliberately and defiantly savoring the luxuriant moment. She needed to calm her nerves and Agatha hoped that the ghost would rein in his own temper. Mr. Grigg’s rage seemed to only grow and the trembles grew into violent shudders. Odds and ends from the table began to rise from its surface of the table. The salt and pepper shakers, stolen from an old NYC diner, the saucer for her teacup, also stolen from… somewhere. An old pair of gloves, some half eaten candy bars, and a ring of car keys. All of these started a slow rotation around Mr. Griggs. A ragged hiss came out of his much changed face, no longer the merely washed out and wan greys of most ghosts. His face now bore the look of death,p ockmarked by rot and decay. The jaw distended and rotted fangs sat where relatively straight and perfectly normal teeth had been just minutes ago. His funeral fineries were tatters and the chill of his grave had merely amplified the already too present cold. A rime of frost marred the windows and it was then Agatha set her mug down. That was more than enough.
Agatha stood up and glared at Mr. Griggs. “I’m not sure how you are used to handling things, but when you are in my house you will behave.” The ghost, suddenly less certain of his righteous outrage, paused. Lisa did not. “You don’t want the tea? Fine. You don’t want to show the civility or simple decency for this delicate act of communication, I get that. But when you come into my kitchen and start busting my shit, well I really hate to say it but I’m afraid you may have stepped too far out of line.” Agatha went to a drawer and snatched it open. Her own anger setthing and bubbling over much like the kettle had done moments earlier.
This wasn’t what Mr. Griggs had expected. Usually the mere hint of his presence was enough to send people running. But this? This was full on ‘angry spectre from beyond the grave’ and it just seemed to piss this woman off. As she dug furiously, Griggs settled back into his more usual appearance, and began to approach Agatha, hoping to catch some snipper of her quite but frenzied mutterings. When he drew closer Agatha was too far gone in a miniature rage of her to keep her own voice down. As her timbre rose the words came faster and faster. “Comes in here, busts my shit, I’ll show him. Teach him, incorporeal sumbitch. Yeah, I’m talking about you!” came a particularly biting snap as Lisa emerged with a hand full of items. A cloth bag, a small plastic tub, and a skeleton key. Mr. Griggs cocked his head in confusion, hoping the gesture was secretive and misleading enough to hide a creeping sense of dread. It had been some time since his emotion palette held more than overwrought rage and ennui.
“Okay, so here’s how this works, fuckstick.” Agatha dumped the bag out on the table and gingerly opened the tub. The contents of the bag looked to be a few stones, possibly one of them was a segment of bone, and a feather. The tub held dirt. Mr. Griggs had started to drift back, a sense of apprehension creeping upon him, but at the sight of the brickabrack he stopped short. This? Junk? Ha. His relief and amusement were beginning to give way to the ever present anger when Agatha continued. Before he knew it, she had swept the feather through the mists of his non-body, rubbed the feather on the stones and bone, and then shoved all of the bits into the tub full of dirt.
Griggs lurched. He felt different. He felt… pain. Lisa closed the tub back up, stuck it into the bag and started tying the strings, around the skeleton key. “So, how this works. I’ve got you. No, don’t try to run. And Hell no don’t try and ‘fix’ any of the shit you’ve broken. It’s past that.” Griggs shrank under the verbal and metaphysical onslaught. “As things stand, I’m not going to punt your ass into Purgatory, or whatever the fuck bullshit afterlife thing you believe. Fuck. What I am going to do is pour the tea again. And you,” Agatha pointed an angry finger at the ghost, a ghost who looked on the brink of tears,” You sit your dead ass down and drink the goddamn tea this time.”
Griggs weighed his options. He had heard tales of mortal sorts who could harness mystic energies and bind the spirts of the dead to their whims. He had heard rumors of even worse treatments. Tea suddenly seemed like a wonderful thing. The bag sat there, heavy and dark and it seemed to pull at his very being. Griggs didn’t think he could leave if he wanted, not without Agatha’s say so. It was that and the tick of rage still pulsing in one eyebrow of the wild eyed woman that found him sitting back down. Besides, other rumors held that Agatha was about the only person of mortal flesh who could help the restless dead.
Agatha went through the motions of tea all over again. The kettle, the mugs, the tray. It was done partially to teach Mr. Griggs some patience and to give him some time to think about his now even more precarious position. It also gave Agatha a few moments to still the jittery hands and reflect that some day her overconfindent bluffs would blow up in her face. Oh, Mr. Griggs was bound. There was no question of that. But if push came to ethereal shove agatha wasn’t sure if she could really hurt the spirit, much less send him to some great Beyond…