That was a cold winter. We didn’t go out unless we had to; I spent a lot of days at the kitchen table doing school. The old lady preyed on my mind; what was she doing out there in the cold? What if she came in? I never could hear her rocking over the snow and wind, and I never saw her. I was getting stir-crazy, of course; too long cooped up in that house. I thought I would go wild. When the thaw finally came, I was dying to get outside and do something. I finished my school and chores double-quick that day; when my mother finally told me I could go out, I near flew out that door. I was whooping and hollering and generally raising a ruckus, when I saw her.
She was still sitting there, still rocking. And all on a sudden, all the terror of that year froze inside of me, and I hated her. I hated her so much. How dare she make me be afraid in my own home? Who did she think she was? I swore to myself at that moment that I would get rid of her if it killed me. I didn’t want to do it when my parents were around, though; I was just sane enough to realize that they would think I was crazy if I started trying to kill an invisible old lady.
Come to think of it, that does sound pretty crazy.
Well, my parents had cabin-fever, same as me. Pretty soon, they went to our neighbors for a day. It wasn’t hard to get them to leave me behind. This was my chance. I snuck out onto the porch, and looked. She was still there; still rocking. With a roar like an angry bull, I charged that rocking chair. With my eyes half-shut I grabbed the rocker and dragged it off the porch—with her still in it—it was uncommon light, as if there was no-one sitting there. I was yelling every time I had breath all the way to the hayfield, trying to make myself forget she was right there. When I got to the field, I put it down and sprinted away as if all the demons of hell were after me.
When I got back, she was sitting on the porch again. Still rocking. It was as if I had never moved that rocker.
I roared again, all unreasonable, and hauled the chair off in the other direction. Same result.
I didn’t want to touch the old lady; but I was sure if I could move the rocker far enough away, she wouldn’t come back.
By the end of the day, it had been all over creation, and the old lady was still rocking on the porch.
I gave up. I dragged myself inside, collapsed by the stove, and just shuddered. I couldn’t get rid of her. She was going to send me to the grave, with her incessant rocking, rocking, rocking–
Which had stopped.
I sat up and listened to the silence, unconsciously backing up to the wall. There was a creak from the porch. Then another. Then another–and the old lady’s silhouette appeared, framed in the kitchen door’s window.
I stopped breathing.
The knob turned–slowly–hesitant, as if she had forgotten how to open a door. It opened, though. I couldn’t look; I scooted back the few inches it took to get behind the stove. I heard her walking across the floor, but she stopped before she reached me. Then she spoke.
“Luke, you come out here,” she said, and it was the most natural-sounding thing I had ever heard, as if my own mother were speaking to me. I half-expected Luke to come out from—well, wherever he was.
“Luke, you come on out here right now.” Where was that darned Luke? She obviously wanted him real bad. I kind of had a suspicion rising in me, that maybe, maybe she thought—but that was impossible. Wouldn’t she know who her Luke was? The floor creaked. I peeked out to see what she was doing, and almost smacked my face on her knees. I screamed, and jerked back, banging my head hard against the stove.
“Stop that hollering, Luke.” Was the last thing I heard before blacking out, confirming my suspicions and withering my courage.
Next thing I remember is my parents standing over me. I didn’t have a real good explanation for why exactly I had hit my head on the back of the stove—I knew well enough that “the ghost lady made me do it” was not going to fly. After my mother spent hours fussing over me, they finally sent me to bed, with instructions to let them know if I felt dizzy. I must have hit my head pretty hard, ‘cause I didn’t care. In fact, I was deliriously happy.
I finally had a solution.