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The glass bottle of raw milk slid across the table and smashed the floor. Not to be outdone, the jar of cream followed it. JJ’s mother stared. JJ thought she might’ve been inclined to blame him, but he was on the other side of the room. She had only heard the milk smash, but she had seen the cream move.
Her mouth falling open in a surprised O, she swayed, and then grabbed hold of the edge of the counter. “Did you see that?” She asked JJ.
He nodded. And then they both heard the sound of a child’s laughter. JJs mother put her hand to her chest and her eyes teared up.
JJ had a bad feeling that this was his fault.
Two days earlier, on the night of the full moon before Samhain – or Halloween as most of his friends called it – JJ had stood at the cross street nearest his house, with a bag that held three apples. He wasn’t sure that this counted as a proper crossroads, since it was in the middle of suburbia. But the one that seemed like it would be absolutely correct, was too far away for him to go on his bike, especially at night when he wasn’t supposed to be out at all.
Pulling a trowel out of his backpack, he began to dig around the roots of a small tree planted in the sidewalk. Digging around the roots was hard, and instead of making one large hole, he has been forced to make three smaller ones. Into each hole he dropped an apple. Once he had all three apples buried, he stood up.
He hadn’t planned on what to say. So he stood quietly with his hands clasped in front of him and said, “Dear spirits, I’m sorry that you’re out here all by yourselves with no family. I hope you like the apples. I just want you to know that you’re not forgotten.”
JJ went on, “I had a little brother. He died. I miss him a lot. But I wish mom and dad would have another baby. I hope he’s not alone, and I don’t want anyone here to feel all alone.” A sudden breeze ruffled his hair and stilled. He stood for another moment, and then headed back to the house, up the ladder to the garage roof, and back in his bedroom window.
Two days later, the milk bottle broke.
The milk bottle was just the beginning. Pictures fell off walls, dirt jumped back onto floors after being swept up, cold spots manifested randomly around the house, and lights and electronics turned themselves on or off.
His mother did a house clearing after two days of chaos, and for about 24 hours, things were quiet. But then they erupted again with renewed vigor and the sounds of childish laughter.
The only upside was that JJ’s parents were suddenly doing something other than grieving for the child they had lost. Their voices were once again animated, and their faces were mobile. And even though the voices were yelling and the faces were anxious and grumpy, JJ found he was happy to see something besides hanging heads, tears, and slumped shoulders.
He missed his brother too, but he missed the parents he remembered even more. He had never said so aloud, but he resented their emotional absence.
There was another very cool thing about the spirits presence. With Samhain approaching, JJ found the idea that they had their very own ghost in the house to be highly entertaining.
Since presence of a rowdy spirit had it’s pluses, and JJ continued to say nothing about his excursion to the cross roads.
A week before Samhain, JJ asked if they could decorate for the holiday. For the last two years, his parents have not bothered to do so. The first year after his brothers death, they had gone through the motions for JJ’s sake, but after that they had just given up. He was mildly surprised when they agreed to his request and pulled out the cobwebs, and gravestones, and orange and purple fairy lights, and several things that JJ had totally forgotten about.
His dad even took him to pick out some pumpkins to carve. The house began to take on a somewhat spooky air, which went perfectly well with the child’s giggling, and things occasionally flying around the room. Although this did seem to be happening less often. JJs mom had done a tarot reading, and had been very closed-mouthed about what it had told her. What this had to do with the lower level of activity JJ had no idea.
When his parents decided to do a small celebratory dinner for the holiday, JJ was delighted. Their family did not do the traditional dumb supper, but told stories about their beloved dead, whether those were ancestors or not. JJ had missed the stories.
They did the dinner the night before Samhain so that JJ could go trick-or-treating if he wished. When his dad told a funny story about something his little brother had done JJ had a feeling but everything was going to be OK. He saw his parents holding hands. When the story was finished the fairy lights in the dining room all jiggled as if a breeze had blown through. And everyone at the table took a deep breath. JJs parents smiled at each other as they had not for a long time.
JJ hoped that he might have a new brother or sister at the end of the summer.
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