November 28, 2009 9:23:00 PM
Shannon Bardwell - [email protected]
I want to tell you about my aunt, the one that always said, "Geet?" meaning, "Did you eat?" I''m only going to say that she lived in a Southern town that had an annual pilgrimage, and she lived in one of those old houses downtown and the house was said to have a ghost. My mother always said, "That Aunt Sarah is a bird," which meant that she was eccentric or a "character."
Aunt Sarah was a beauty even in her old age. Her hair was pure white and upswept. She had been a horsewoman and raised her daughters so. She was active and vibrant, full of "vim and vinegar."
After her husband (Uncle Brother) died, she decided to open her home as a bed and breakfast of sorts during pilgrimage. Once, a prospective guest called asking if she had any rooms available, and Aunt Sarah, thinking it was a friend playing a prank, said, "You know damn well that I do!" The caller hung up. She did play hostess to a few guests, but after some Northerners took off with her handmade quilts, she decided that was not an endeavor she would continue.
Over breakfast one morning, just she and I, she told me how much she missed Uncle Brother. He had been gone 10 years or more, and her eyes still watered. She said the house was lonely -- just she and "Alice." That was the ghost.
"Alice is a friendly ghost," she said. "She just drops things, makes noises and opens doors. She never comes past the front staircase though." Aunt Sarah''s mood was somber; then, suddenly she brightened.
"You know what I wish? I wish I could turn this house into a gambling house! Now, I wouldn''t take a poor man''s money, no siree. It would be a fancy place where gamblers could come down the river and stay. Wouldn''t that be something? Now, the ladies down at the Baptist church might frown on that, but, oh, hell, their husbands play poker."
Aunt Sarah never opened the gambling house, but I was told one night she slipped into a brand new pair of red silk pajamas, fixed her hair, applied scarlet lipstick and went to bed. That night she joined Uncle Brother with her usual flair.
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.