Every town in America has one house on one street where no one dares to go. In Bridges, New Hampshire, that house was 317 Bleeker Street where old man Putterwig lived alone in the dark. The grass in the yard stayed brown and never quite got cut. The gate in the picket fence let out an excruciating squeak when opened. The paint, dingy and faded on the old wooden slats and shingles, looked chipped here and there in uncountable places. The floorboards in the long wooden front porch creaked with every step. And when the wind picked up, the walls in that old house had enough cracks and holes to make the whole house moan, an ethereal, unearthly sound.
Now and then Mister Putterwig could be seen on that porch, sitting in an old rocker, taking in the life that passed before his eyes. No one ever saw him leave that house, but no one wanted to look. The adults all said they felt sorry for old Mister Putterwig, widower that he was, but when he was out front watching, they hurried passed the house, afraid of the glare in the man’s squinting yellow eyes. The kids knew better. There was something more than just odd about Greely Putterwig.
Bleeker street was a good, solid neighborhood full of fine middle class citizens, with plenty of kids to fill the schools. Jake Simon, a high school junior, lived there with his parents and his seven-year-old surprise little sister, Elizabeth, whom he had to watch every day after school because mom and dad both worked. Jake wanted to play soccer. He wanted to join the Sci-Fi club at school. He imagined all sorts of thing he might have done if Elizabeth never came along and ruined his life. When Jake thought like that, he would say to himself, “What life?” and he would sit down at the game console and tell Elizabeth to go to her room. It all would have been so much easier if Elizabeth was a brat instead of the kind, loving and purely innocent child she was. Dad said Elizabeth got her good nature from her mother. Mom blamed Dad. All Jake said was she didn’t get it from him.
Jake imagined most of the time that things might have been different if he was really good at something. His childhood friend, Robert Block, the one they all called Blockhead, made the football team. Tommy had money, that is, Thomas Kincaid Junior, the one who had not been seen without sunglasses in several years. Mike Lee was a nerd who could not only win every video game, but he could fix the console if it should break. Jake had no special skills, talents, or abilities. He was average, normal, middle of the road, in the middle of the class, or as he described himself, boring. No wonder Jessica Cobb was not interested in him.
It was late in October, the leaves showered the streets and lawns. and the air got almost crisp enough to frost, when Jake picked up the mail and found a note from Vanessa Smith inviting him to a Halloween party. Jake was thrilled because Vanessa and Jessica were good friends so he felt sure Jessica would be there. He fixed himself some food, dreamed about Jessica, and waited for Elizabeth to come home on the school bus. Someone knocked on the door.
Sunglasses Tommy and Mike the nerd were there, and they brought their magic decks. They wanted a three-way game. Jake got taken out first.
“My deck’s too big. It needs work,” Jake said. While he watched, he casually mentioned the invitation. Mike and Tommy immediately had to spoil it by saying they got invited too.
“I’m going as a nerd,” Mike said.
Type casting, Jake thought, and he decided to stick with the theme. “A babysitter,” he said, as he heard Elizabeth come in the back door.
Tommy and Mike packed up and headed for the front door and Tommy’s car. Tommy’s parents had the money to buy him a car, even if it was an economical model.
“Mister Donut?” Tommy asked and offered. They all knew the answer. Jake had Elizabeth, and as they left, Elizabeth came into the living room and switched on the television.
Jake turned with a touch of anger in his voice. “Don’t you have homework?”
“Not in the second grade,” Elizabeth said, as she found the cartoon channel.
“You know that will rot your brain,” Jake said, and instantly thought of several good comebacks. Are you speaking from experience? Is that what happened to you? Or even the proverbial, “Like you should know.” Elizabeth said none of those things. She looked up with an innocent, trusting face.
“It is only cartoons. Would that be all right?”
Jake regularly disliked himself. He did have homework and took himself up to his room.
When Halloween rolled around, Jake found he could not go to Vanessa’s party anyway. Mom had cooking and cleaning to catch up on and Dad would not be home until later. Jake had to take Elizabeth out so she could trick or treat. He really resented her for that.
They planned to follow Jake’s old route which wound around the neighborhood in a way where they did not miss any houses and did not have to backtrack. The well designed plan put Bleeker Street first on the list.
The one hundred block, mostly businesses and buildings, had a group of apartments set back from the road. Jake always found the apartments to be slim pickings. They did not go there.
The two hundred block was where the houses began, and Jake took Elizabeth to the first couple of doors. After that, he stayed on the sidewalk and let her go alone, now that she knew what to do. They came to the three hundred block.
Elizabeth went up to 315 when Tommy’s car roared to a halt out front. Mike rode shotgun. Jessica and Serena Smith squeezed in the back with Blockhead who wore an old football jersey in keeping with the type casting costumes.
“Lookin’ for you, dude.” Tommy sported a new pair of shades.
“Nice costume,” Jake let the sarcasm flow. Mike at least looked like he ironed his white nerd shirt. Jessica and Serena made an attempt. Jessica had on a plaid shirt and jeans that fit her well, but over the shirt she had the orange vest of a hunter. She even wore a ball cap with a gun of some kind as the logo. Serena, the glam-girl, was supposed to be a zombie, albeit a cute one that was not too rotten.
“I was going to say, what are you supposed to be?” Serena asked.
“Babysitter,” Jake answered with a straight face. “I’m taking my little sister trick or treating.”
“I know,” Jake responded glumly. “I sometimes wish Elizabeth would just disappear. Then maybe I could have a life.” He looked straight at Jessica.
“You don’t mean that.” Jessica stared right back at him.
Jake looked to the side. “I don’t know what I mean anymore.”
“Hey dude.” Tommy got their attention and pointed. “Your sister is with old man Putterwig.”
“What? No.” Jake turned in time to see the old man take Elizabeth’s hand and walk inside the haunted house. “No!” Jake screamed and started to run. Jessica popped out of the car and ran right on his heels. The gate out front closed on the others who needed a moment to get it open again. When they reached the porch, the last touch of the sun dipped below the horizon and the front door slammed shut. Jake and Jessica managed to dive inside, but the rest got stuck outside of the locked door.
When Jake and Jessica leaped into the house, they became very confused. Instead of a downstairs hallway, they came down on pine needles and pine cones, enough to litter the ground beneath their feet, several inches thick. Somehow, they fell into an ancient pine forest. The last of the purple sunset faded and the stars came out bright and twinkling above their heads. They caught a glimpse of the doorway they came through, but before Jake or Jessica could react, the door shrank and disappeared altogether with a loud Snap!
“What the —?”Jessica mumbled. Jake had something more pressing on his mind.
“Elizabeth!” he shouted. “Eiliza-BETH!”
Charmed is either a very, very small book or a long story offered in eleven parts over this October, 2015, leading up to Halloween. The posts will be put up on the blog on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, October 5, 6 and 7; 12, 13, and 14; 19, 20, and 21; 26, 27, and an extra note on the 28th. If you miss a post, or want to go back to the beginning, they are easy enough to find. Just click on the archives and select October 2015. Charmed is the only posting for the month … So after the 28th, I say to you all, Happy Halloween, you know, Boo!