Ghost Flora Lee and Me

Ghost Flora Lee and Me

A Story by RheaB

I just knew Bertha would bang in the front door and kill us both because she was round and plump and strong, and my feet would freeze and I would just stand there and let her do it.

Here in Kentucky this summer we truly are having what my Daddy used to call the "dog days of August", we have experience forty three days with heat over 90°, getting close to a record if not already there. Oh and did I mention the humidity is right up there in the 90's and 100%. It has been steaming here. The best thing I can say, well maybe one of the two good things I can say is that it is not freezing winter, and my short hair gets really curly, otherwise breathing deeply has become a thought process!

Many summers in my life have passed ; it was on twenty second street that I had my first really personal fun in the summertime, I don't remember the heat, the dog days, just the fun. Before that time I was more or less an extension of my Mother. Now, here I was, running with my neighbors"the kids"in my side yard and on the street in front of our house. The street had a median, a grassy place where we could touch base before running across it to the other sidewalk, somehow in my mind I confused this with a "boulevard", and I really loved the word, so I used it often. Many a clover chain was built to try to stop the traffic on the boulevard but they just drove their cars right on through.

Down the "boulevard' in the summer would drive "Mr. Sneed" the vegetable man, the piles of brightly colored tomatoes, squash, peppers, corn, were pretty but I wouldn't touch them with a ten foot pole if they ended up on my plate. I had set my standards at an early age and they did not include veggies of any kind, only mashed potatoes for me. The Ice man would follow with his horse and very tall "house" looking cart, and you would have thought we were eating manna the way we (the kids) sucked the ice chips he cracked loose with his killer looking ice pick. Then the best would come, the ice cream man, I would often have bad dreams about not getting to the curb in time for my "Oh Johnny" chocolate covered ice cream bar, the funny thing is I really didn't like ice cream but it was the summer thing to do, so I did it with relish!

These were the days my baby sister came on the scene, yes, she just showed up one
April day. I came home from school and there she was. My Mother had gone away for a day or two and I had lots of visits from my favorite cousin and my aunt so life was good. No one had played the game "let's name the baby" or what would you like, a baby brother or sister? No listening to the heartbeat, no preparation, no one asked if I even wanted one! Absolutely nothing, just, "here is your baby sister". What!? From that day on till her toes drug the ground my Mother wore her like an apron. Had I known that later in life she would become a missionary to orphan children in Haiti I may have, could have possibly have had kinder thoughts.  But at this time, it was just another reason to stay outside, that and hiding from my brother, King Richard, son and heir to the throne, the early on artist, who actually became an artist and you have most likely seen his work in many Christian publications. But in those days I grew a little weary of having to admire all of his art hanging from ever nail, they got in the way of my movie star pictures. Because of all of the rather realistic looking army tanks, cowboys and soldiers I had to hang my starlets on the ceiling. "If suffering is good for perfecting a person, I should be walking on water", I thought more than once!  All this caused me to have to mature very early, so from about the age of about eight and a half I thought I actually could run the whole show much better than anyone else in my family; I constantly waited for the chance.

Our games of hide and seek, red rover, tree climbing and hammock swinging were special times, and what gave them an extra gleam was the fact that I was outside and "praying", really I did, that my Mother would be too busy to remember my piano practice time. We had already whittled it down to fifteen minutes of  practice for  the summer vacation months. I was always hoping with a little luck and a fussy baby sister (she of the long toes) or perhaps the fact Mother was just standing there,  lost in admiration of the newest army tank to come off the crayon pad,  possibly she would forget all about the piano for the day, and ever so often, she did. At least I thought she did, my playing was pretty awful, in later years I realized that maybe she was hoping that I would be the one to forget, but still she doled out those two dollars  payments every week sometimes twice a week. My Mother was a woman of strong faith.

For in those safe "olden days" of the nineteen forty's, I would catch the bus to the middle of our downtown area and disembark in front of a dark red brick mansion, swallowing my fear and girding myself with prayer (for I was a praying girl) I would climb the six very broad steps up to the huge sweeping vista of a porch and open the door and go in. If other piano lessons were still going on I was to sit on the bottom step of the circular stair case, that was about as wide as my bed room, and quietly wait. This was a ghost chamber I was sure. The stained glass from the door side lights would cast a strange glow on the floor that would reach all the way to my feet, the reflecting colors that were glittering on the walls were from the prisms that hung from the chandler, my mind saw them as little ghost children playing all over the walls that were ever so tall.

Eventually it was my turn, by now my tongue was stuck to the roof of my mouth and I would croak out hello, and then it started, the lesson. The ebony piano was a baby grand, dark and stately very imposing and so was the bench, it was polished so slickly I kept thinking some little ghost girl was pushing me off of it. More stained glass was in the tops of the windows that were in the bay in which the piano stood, so the strange lights danced all around my head and reflected in the black of the instrument of my torture.

My Nemesis
I'm sure Miss Flora Lee was kind, but she scared me, I thought she was about one hundred years old, or at least forty. Gray hair, glasses, skinny, pale and she held a pointer and she pointed with it, over my shoulder, around my head, near my ear, after a little of that she turned on my nemesis's ( can a "thing" be a nemesis?) the metronome, the object that ticks the rhythm to the music you are playing. I hated that thing. We never got together, my heart beat in rhythm with it much more than my fingers and it would beat just as loudly. And I would pray again.

Miss Flora Lee had a sister, her name started with a B, I'll call her Bertha. Neither had married, they both taught piano, I don't know why. Maybe their Daddy just wanted them to have something to do with their time. Their family was wealthy, they had inherited the house and each lived in one half of it. The giant staircase was the dividing line, and it carried through to the upper flours, and they never crossed the line, from what I gathered they didn't like each other very much. Bertha was younger and was out most of the time when I was there, but there were the times while waiting on the steps she would stick her head into the hallway to see if I sat on the proper side. Both sisters were scary. But I got a strange enjoyment out of this situation; I really think it was because it gave excitement to me to be scared and to live on the edge.

For some reason Miss Flora Lee liked me, I could tell, you know how children are, they can just sense those things.  On one occasion she told me her sister Bertha would be gone most of the day, and  she wanted to explore, she took my hand (goose bumps) and off we went to the "other side", I was totally frightened, she drug me past Bertha's baby grand piano and from room to room, she held on to me with one hand like I was an accomplice and we darted in every nook and cranny, she flipped papers and opened doors and drawers and I felt as though her icy hand had a grip on my heart, I just knew Bertha would bang in the front door and kill us both because she was round and plump and strong, and my feet would freeze and I would just stand there and let her do it.

We then went up the stairs and walked right up the middle of them with Miss Flora Lee treading on Bertha's side. After peeping in several rooms, we settled on one with a giant canopy bed, covered in something shiny, like satin. There was another chandelier and crystal everywhere. The chest were so tall I could not even see the tops and neither could my kidnapper, she just pulled open the drawers and plunged her fingertips in and stirred real good, she pilled out several pink, blue and Black underwear, after stuffing them back in we went to the closet. Here is where things get muddled, my ears were roaring by now so all of the long sweeping dresses and the short shiny ones seemed to billow out, like a rainbow cloud that wanted to suffocate me. Finally she closed the last door and with a quick look under Bertha's bed we casually strolled down the polished mahogany steps. "Dear God, please, please and amen." Finally, the romp was over and my teacher patted me on the head as she ushered me out of the door and said what a lovely lesson it had been.

The bus felt like home, it was security; thank heavens I hadn't lost my dime. The driver was like a saintly uncle, I know he wondered why my eyes were so round and why I hardly blinked. I needed to be sure I was really on the bus, that I wouldn't come out of my trance and be in that dark kitchen, and maybe in the cave like pantry with Bertha yanking opening the door!

So, just another great summer of piano lessons. Why, you may ask did I keep it up, having no rhythm or even liking the piano, especially since I was such an avid advice giver to everyone else. Well I think it was like this, I was never a quitter, I took seven years of piano lessons and still can't play with the right and left hands at the same time, but I know the notes! This is true and also I loved adventure. You know, God has used this duo over and over in my life the "stick to it-ness and sense of an exciting mission". And oh yes, I have learned to take the tough times as a dare, and climb through them, on to the adventure of living out in rhythm with Him, the life He has in store for me, even in the Dog Days!

© 2010 RheaB

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Added on October 31, 2010
Last Updated on November 2, 2010
Tags: childhood, once upon a...



Owensboro, KY

I am "a word doodler' and story teller. I draw on life experiences from my family, friends and geography. Recently, through much prodding, I have begun to record and share these through the written wo.. more..

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