Short Story: Hardware

This is a short story I wrote after being prompted to write something I had seen in an old house. It’s in the Hallowe’en spirit.

Hardware

“A psychic once told me I was protected by a spirit named Fred.” Theresa said, waving her dessert fork over the stiffly white table cloth. “But I don’t believe in all that occult nonsense.”

“That looks good. What did you order?” Beth said.

Theresa’s dessert huddled like an uninhabited island in the corner of an oceanic plate. “Heritage-apple compote over cedar-baked brie.” After the rude surprise from the cayenne pepper jam drizzled like jellyfish across the expanse of unused plate, she hesitated over the next bite. “I’ve never known anyone named Fred, let alone someone dead who would watch over me.”

She nibbled some cheese, letting it coat her teeth, then sucked the flavour in with a forkful of fruit. It tasted okay, but a slice of pie with cheddar would have suited her better.

Beth dabbed at her lips then lay her napkin across her empty dish.

Theresa felt bad, lingering over lunch when she knew her friend was keen to get back to shopping. But she longed to go home and repair the latch on the attic door.

“When we visited the ghost hunter, you mentioned the presence in your attic,” Beth said.

Startled by her friend’s reference, she nearly snorted compote up her nose.”I know, but that was more for the sake of conversation than anything else,” she said, realizing Beth was still on the psychic topic.

“You waited in line for 20 minutes to talk to him.”

“Well,” she paused while the waiter took Beth’s empty dish and they ordered the bill. “Apparently the man who built my house was a blacksmith.”

“The ghost hunter said it was possible to have a foul-smelling ghost, just like the aura you experience on the third floor stairs.”

“It’s only body odour, could be my running shoes.”

“You run regularly. Where do you keep your runners?”

“By the front door.” She frowned at her empty water glass. “The hardware in my house is unique so they have no idea how to help at the big-box stores. They want to sell me replacement stuff, starting with the door, including the frame, hardware, surrounding wall sconces and a mat with a cute saying. I only need a small spring, not a solution that will fill a cubic metre of landfill.”

“I’ll give you the name of my contractor.”

Theresa trailed behind Beth as she strode from the restaurant into the street, taking a wide birth around the dirt-crusted man shambling towards the bus shelter. She bee-lined for the newest store on the block, offering organic footwear.

Not long ago, it had been a traditional hardware store. The man that owned the place listened to his customers and found the twenty-nine cent solution to their problems if he could.

Theresa paused in front and watched Beth disappear into the racks of footwear in the depths of the shop. She turned to face the sun, absorbing its warmth. Almost like someone whispered in her ear, it came to her. The place that sold craft supplies, just down the street, had what she needed to fix her latch.

Pausing with her hand on the door to the craft emporium, she watched a bus plow into the window of the shoe store, slamming through the spot where she stood not a minute before. It bobbed to a stop, nose buried less than a foot into the store front. She rushed forward, trying to recall everything she ever knew about first aid, but saw no one hurt either on the bus or beyond the shattered window.

As relief flushed through her, she wondered if the man who owned the hardware store, the one told her the history of her house, was named Fred.

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