The overstuffed room with its reminiscing scent of stale wet bread and cigarettes long ago puffed dry made me feel somewhat at home. My right thumb easily pressed around the inside of my left palm as I sat silently listening to the sobbing woman, praying when it was my turn everyone would believe my story, too.
“Thank you Maryann for again sharing with us your story on becoming an alcoholic. Everyone, please join me in giving Maryann another round of applause.” The AA counselor said, her faded green eyes glistening off the scorching overhead light the size of a Mac truck.
The counselor took a moment to glance around the cramped room, “It’s time we heard from someone new,” she said making direct eye contact with my avoiding eyes. “How about you there in the back corner, please we’d love to share your pain.”
I glanced from one side of the room to the other in search of the familiar face that haunts me. Finding only the blank stares of the weary eyed strangers, I released the pressure of my thumb from my palm and made my way toward the counselor as if I had all the time in the world.
“We’d love for you to share your story, but please start by telling us your name.” The counselor said, scraping her chair off to the side.
“Um, hi, my name is Tom, um, Tom Stanton.” I reached into the pocket of my worn overcoat, “and I’m an alcoholic because I’m haunted by an evil spirit.” I said, squeezing the comfort of my whisky companion.
The overflowing room of mirrored look a likes echoed with whispers and under tones of laughter, but soon became silent when the counselor cleared her throat, “Please, let Tom tell his story.”
I once again searched the room from side to side in search of the familiar face that haunts me. Relieved, I dug deep down inside of what remained of my fuzzy cortex to relive that fateful summer day so long ago.
“The middle of August always seemed to be the hottest month of the year growing up in Louisiana. It somehow made summer vacation drag on forever for me and my three best friends, Clayton Moore, Jerry Malone and Maggie Devereaux; each of us only months away from our sixteenth birthday.”
“A day never passed that the four of us couldn’t be found exploring the surrounding swamps for slithering critters, dried up crawfish or burned out campfires from drunken gator hunters telling tall tales the night before. It was the morning of August 10, 1972 and it would have been like any other morning out on the bayou, if it hadn’t been for our discovery...”
“Tom, hurry up I’m over here!” Jerry shouted, from a wooded area behind Maggie, Clayton and I.
Maggie rolled her eyes and said, “Great, I suppose he found another snake with its head chopped off.”
“We better go and see what he’s found before he does something stupid.” Clayton added.
I nodded and the three of us went to join Jerry, agreeing along the way that today was just as boring as yesterday.
“Wow, would you look at that!” I said stopping dead in my tracks.
Maggie and Clayton stood holding hands looking up at the ghostly curves of the giant cypress and the house sitting at the very top of the tree’s boney fingers.
“I’m going up you guys stay here!” Jerry said.
I looked at Maggie and then Clayton, “No, we all go together or we don’t go at all.” I said.
“Push Tom push!” Maggie cried out while Clayton pulled her by her arms, “Oh, I’m too fat!”
“You are getting through that hole,” I firmly pressed the palms of my hands against each of her ass cheeks, “one, two, and three!” I shouted as Maggie flew up through the small door of the tree house.
The three of us rolled around in laughter at the thrill of our achievement while Jerry sat quietly at an old rickety table in the corner. “Shhh, guys come here and look at this.” He said.
I walked up behind Jerry first and looked down at the strange book which appeared to be made from dried up cypress wood with a hideous face carved into the cover. Jerry slowly opened it and started turning the yellowed pages, “Let me read it.” I said, knowing with his grades in reading it would take him all day.
The last thing I remember before Jerry, Clayton and Maggie were torn to shreds was them laughing when I read, “Thou who shall read the last of my words and reveal my existence I shall forever haunt. Henceforth, I shall reap my wrath upon those who do not believe in me.”
“It was then I realized we had discovered what I thought was some stupid legend locals had made up to keep kids out of the bayou. It was known as Legend of The Forbidden Tree House.” I looked around the room full of blank stares, “ and tonight is the first time since that day I’ve repeated those words.”
One by one the weary eyed strangers began to laugh and even the counselor who looked as though she had her share of one too many joined in. Suddenly, the room went dead silent and all the laughing faces became frozen with fear.
I turned to see the familiar face that’s haunted me for 39 years standing tall behind me and I instantly remembered why I kept those words hidden in a bottle for so many years.
The overstuffed room with its reminiscing scent of stale wet bread and cigarettes long ago puffed dry smothered with a fresh scent of blood became a reminder to me that I will forever be trapped inside The Forbidden Tree House.
Total Word Count: 975
Total Word Count: 975