The poltergeist got in through a crack in Beasley Breakwater’s medicine cabinet mirror in the guest bathroom. The fact that Beasley rarely if ever had guests in his apartment made the poltergeist break-in a piece of cake. No doubt the poltergeist had caused the crack in the mirror in the first place, since that’s basically what poltergeists do: make life miserable for designated persons.
But first, a little background on the phenomenon: According to Wikipedia, ” . . . a Poltergeist (German for “noisy ghost” or “noisy spirit”) is a type of ghost or other supernatural entity that is responsible for physical disturbances, such as loud noises and objects being moved or destroyed. They are purportedly capable of pinching, biting, hitting, and tripping people. Most accounts of poltergeists describe the movement or levitation of objects such as furniture and cutlery, or noises such as knocking on doors. They have traditionally been described as troublesome spirits who haunt a particular person instead of a specific location . . .” Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poltergeist
Rather than own up to the cracked mirror probably being his own damn fault — which miraculously it was not in this case — Beasley Breakwater at first blamed it on the upstairs neighbors who had recently moved in. He’d heard someone, or perhaps a large kangaroo, jumping up and down in their bathroom directly above his own. With that supposition glued in his mind, he marched straight upstairs and banged on the alleged perpetrator’s door. An exotic-looking woman, who from her build might very well have been a sumo wrestler, opened. That clinched it for Breakwater, in a way both figuratively and literally. She was doubtless working out with barbells in her bathroom. Now Beasley was no slouch himself, it must be allowed, but even he had to admit that he was outweighed, out-muscled and outclassed by this amazon and in no position to raise much hell with her without suffering serious and possibly crippling consequences. He therefore wisely chose discretion as the better part of valor to be his ploy of choice in this case. He gallantly removed his hat and offered her his most conciliatory smile.
“Good afternoon,” he began.
“Yes?” she asked, casual suspicion of a stranger arching an eyebrow, though he perceived her as sizing him up for a quick snack.
“Who is it, Mom?” called a voice from within, possibly that of an adolescent girl.
Mom swiveled inclining her head toward the voice. “I don’t know yet, hon, maybe another damn solicitor,” she shouted, then returned to Breakwater. “My daughter wants to know who you are.”
“Ah. Well, not a solicitor, I assure you. I’m your neighbor downstairs. The name is Beasley Breakwater.”
The woman turned her head back again. “Says he’s Beastly Breakwater, our downstairs neighbor!”
“Uh, that’s Beasley,” corrected Breakwater.
“Beastly Breakwater?!” cried the girl from within. “Ohmigod! Awesome! I gotta see this guy.”
A few seconds later a buxom girl in her late teens — a smaller replica of her mother — bounded forth. She gaped at him a moment, a goofy, admiring grin on her face, then nodded approval. “Oh, yeah!”
“Where are your manners, young lady?” said her mother.
“Huh? Oh . . . sorry. Howdee do, Beastly?”
“Grenadine?” her mother retorted severely.
“What? Um . . . well, what!”
“That’s no way to greet this gentleman.”
“It isn’t? Oh . . . right! Sorry again. I meant, how do you do, Mr. Beastly . . . I mean Mr. Breakwater.” She giggled.
“I apologize, Mr. Breakwater. My daughter never made it into finishing school.”
Breakwater waved his hand dismissively with a nervous grin. “Not a problem, not a problem. Uh, my first name — unfortunately, it seems — is Beasley, not Beastly.”
The girl looked crestfallen. “Not Beastly?”
“But,” he continued, still in placatory mode, “you can certainly call me Beastly if you like, uh, Grenadine. I don’t mind. In fact, I think it may even be a little flattering.”
Grenadine’s mother managed to look embarrassed. “I should say not! I misunderstood you, Mr. Breakwater, and I apologize. Grenadine, you will address this man by his proper name.”
“Yes’m,” the girl said contritely, then muttered almost inaudibly, “liked Beastly better.”
The mother gave the girl a withering look, then returned her gaze to Breakwater. “Now, then, what can we do for you, Mr. Breakwater?”
Breakwater was now in a quandary. If he said he’d come to complain about the upstairs noise directly over his bathroom and the cracked mirror, he ran the risk of alienating his new neighbors, which he’d decided would be both unwise and surely unneighborly toward newcomers. But the damned mirror! The landlord certainly wouldn’t replace it for free, but he was loath to shell out money to replace it out of his own pocket.
“I, uhm . . . ,” he began.
“I . . . I-I just came down to welcome you and your daughter here,” he finally blurted in defeat.
She smiled openly then. Beasley let out a silent sigh of relief. “Really? Why, thank you very much, Mr. Breakwater. None of my other neighbors on this floor have bothered to drop on over yet. That is so very sweet of you to do. Oh, and excuse me, I didn’t introduce myself. I’m Francine Mackleroy. But please call me Fran.”
“Pleased to meet you, uh, Fran . . . and Grenadine.”
“Everybody calls me Gren . . . except my mom,” the girl replied. “Well, some call me Grenada, Grenade, Grenadier, Gremolata, uhm, Gremlin . . . and, well, there are those who call me Fatty, but those snots are taking their lives into their own hands.”
“Grenadine . . . ”
Grenadine was not yet to be silenced. “And then there’s this little nerd in my grade who calls me Abdominous. I could have decked him for that, sure, but somehow it makes me laugh. I mean, how many chubby girls do you know who’ve ever been nicknamed Abdominous?”
Breakwater stifled a guffaw.
“Nice to have met you, Beastly . . . I mean Beasley. I mean Mr. Breakwater.” With that, she gave him an impish wink and quickly retired.
“That girl,” said Fran, shaking her head, but stifling a chuckle of her own. “Uh, say, Mr. Breakwater . . . ”
“Please . . . Beasley.”
“Beasley, then. Won’t you come in and join me in a cup of tea or coffee?”
“Oh, I don’t want to impose . . . ”
“Not a bit! I’d be delighted. And, after all, you’ve come all this way upstairs to welcome us. It’s the least I can do. Ahem . . . and if you have time, I even have some bear claws I can heat up. Made ’em myself.”
Here she fluttered her eyelashes just a tad. This took Breakwater aback somewhat. Did she just flirt then, or did something merely get in her eye? He wondered if it might be prudent to withdraw while he still could. But of course the bear claws decided him otherwise. He accepted Fran Mackleroy’s gracious invitation and stepped inside the apartment where he was pleasantly surprised to see how beautiful she had arranged the living room, and said so. She beamed.
“Thanks! I’m glad you like it. The kitchen’s thataway.”
It was halfway into his second bear claw and animated conversation that Breakwater decided to broach the subject of the cracked mirror. He realized that he was probably still treading on very thin ice in spite of hitting it off quite well with the woman, so he had to do this with some finesse, diplomacy albeit not being a strong characteristic in the man.
“By the way, Fran,” he began, “have you . . . by chance been hearing any strange sounds since you’ve moved in?”
She frowned slightly. “Strange sounds? I don’t know what you mean.”
“Uh, well, I can’t vouch for the plumbing in this complex, but I heard kind of a bang recently and then found a crack in my bathroom mirror. Wasn’t sure if it was a slight earthquake or maybe, uh, a sonic boom.”
“A sonic boom? I thought those were outlawed ages ago over urban lands.”
“Me, too, but what with recent sword-rattling going on in Washington, I thought maybe our Air Force was doing special drills or something.”
“Not to my knowledge. And you say your mirror was cracked?”
“Yeah. The strangest thing.”
He watched her mulling it over, and waited. He also nibbled more on his bear claw, nearly swooning how great it tasted. Please, God, he prayed in silence, don’t let me muff this one. She glanced at him, gave him a quick, grateful smirk for liking her pastry, and returned to her ruminations. Finally, she cleared her throat.
“You know, Beasley, I’ll be frank with you. I didn’t feel any earthquake, nor did I hear any sonic booms. It’s actually been kind of quiet around here. I never hear a peep out of my next-door neighbors. In fact, sometimes I think their apartments are vacant, or they were murdered in their sleep and nobody has investigated yet.”
She grinned. “Just kidding, just kidding. But the fact is, they don’t kick up a fuss at all. And both Grenadine and I try to be likewise. I mean, we aren’t exactly quiet as mice, but we do pretty much keep things down to a dull roar at most. At the same time, this cracked mirror deal puzzles me. You say you noticed it right after hearing weird sounds?”
“Yes. Kindalike . . . oh, I don’t know, maybe barbells dropping on the floor?”
“My word! Barbells? Coming from your bathroom, you say?”
“Mmm . . . ” She glanced at Beasley for a moment with pressed lips, as though deciding whether or not to say something.
“Mmm?” Mmmed Beasley.
She squeezed the tip of her nose, still hesitating, then cleared her throat. “Poltergeists,” she announced.
Beasley blinked. “Poltergeists?”
She nodded. “Call me crazy but, mm-hmm . . . gotta be that. You’ve got a poltergeist or poltergeists in your bathroom.”
“Well, uh, I don’t know anything about that . . . ”
“Maybe not, but I do.”
“You bet I do. Well, not directly, of course, but my grandparents, God rest their souls, were battling a whole passel of them for years where they lived, Nearly wrecked their tavern up in Montana.”
“Your grandparents owned a tavern?”
“Yeah, in Hamilton. Damned poltergeists plagued them for years. Kept tipping over beer glasses, trashing their garbage cans, breaking bottles, upturning tables and stools, marauding the storage room. Finally had to get rid of the place. Sold it to some city slicker from back east.”
“And it couldn’t have been local rivals?”
“Well, that’s what everybody told my grand-folks, but they were convinced otherwise. Too many weird things happened there they didn’t think people were capable of pulling off. Had to be poltergeists.”
“So you think I have poltergeists?”
“Well, I can’t swear to it, of course, but it sure does smell of poltergeists to me.”
“What do you think I should do?”
“Well, I’m certainly no expert, but there are some things you could do that might get rid of them. I never tried any of them myself, but I never had a poltergeist infestation. I heard these from my grandparents, but just so you know, I can’t claim they ever were experts, ending up having to sell their tavern over the devils, and all. Still, I guess these can’t do any harm.”
“You a religious man, Beasley?”
“Um, to tell the truth, I’m not affiliated with any outfit, but I do believe in God.”
“Okay, forget the religious ploys. Here are the secular ones: First, don’t use a Ouija board; they draw spirits.”
“No problem. I don’t even know what a Ouija board is.”
“Good. Next, smudge sticks. These are bound bundles of sage. You light them up and waft the smoke around your apartment.”
“Third, ignore the poltergeists.”
“They like attention; feed off the stuff. If you ignore them, eventually they get bored and go bother somebody else.”
“I’ll be darned.”
“Yeah. Just don’t send them up our way!”
They both laughed.
“Moving on. Sprinkle salt in entryways. Poltergeists hate the stuff.”
“Kinda like snails?”
Fran nodded, grinning. “Greenery. Poltergeists don’t like it. We can’t plant any evergreens here in the complex, I would imagine, but you can keep pots of green plants in your apartment.”
“That’s all I got.”
Beasley sighed. “Well, I don’t know if any of this will work, but I’ll give it a go.”
“Again, this stuff comes from my grandparents. I’ve never tried any of it myself.”
“All the same, I thank you.” Breakwater glanced at his watch. “Listen, I’ve taken way too much of your time. I should go. Thank you so much for your delicious bear claws. They were absolutely delicious. And I’m so glad I’ve met you.”
They both stood up. “Listen,” said Fran, “let’s keep in touch, okay? You’re welcome here any time. And thank you for taking the time to welcome me and Grenadine as new neighbors. Hey, Grenadine!”
“What, Mom?” cried the girl from her bedroom.
“Say goodbye to Mr. Breakwater.”
“Bye, Mr. Beastly!”
Breakwater laughed and then returned to his apartment, lovely thoughts floating through his head. He decided he liked Fran Mackleroy and her daughter just fine. And he also decided that maybe, just maybe, Fran might be a very nice match for him. He looked forward to seeing her again. True, the poltergeist theory seemed a stretch, but hell, if it ended up bringing the two together, more power to them!
Meanwhile, upstairs, Fran Mackleroy, fuming, thundered into her daughter’s bedroom. Grenadine was rocking quietly in her computer chair while reading a book. She looked up at her mother with a seraphic smile. “What’s up?”
“What’s up? I’ll tell you what’s up, young lady. I better never catch you dropping those damned barbells of yours ever again on the bathroom floor or anywhere else!”
Grenadine nodded, smirking. “You’re welcome, Mom.”
“What do you mean by that, you little brat?”
“Well . . . I guess you never would have met that nice Mr. Beastly — or should I say my potential future stepfather? — if they hadn’t slipped out of my hands.”