“Gorman’s Trunk”

By   Andrew McMorrow

Todd Bradford scowled at the car window as the rain beat against it threatening to break in and make his already miserable life worse. A month ago when his father passed away, he felt like his world was going to end. Then his dog was hit by a car, his mother lost her job and just when his life looked like it couldn’t get any worse, his mom came to him and said,

“Son, we’re moving.”

Her voice brought him out of his self-pity. He looked at her confused and said,

“What was that, Mom?”

“I asked you what’s wrong, honey?” she answered.

He waited for a long few minutes before saying, “I understand you lost your job and you needed to get a new one, but do we have to move out to the middle of nowhere to take this one?”

Marion Bradford turned her head back to the road, the exasperation clear on her face, and after a moment said, “Son, I know you didn’t want to move, but there aren’t too many people in my line of work thrilled about hiring a single mother with an almost teenage son. These people were the only ones who would even consider me.” She shook herself trying to get rid of her anger and after a pause continued, “Besides we’re in a new town, a quiet southern town that holds a whole new batch of adventures and experiences. Not to mention we have a nice two story house to move into.”

“That’s another thing,” Todd said, ignoring the safer path of shutting up. “This two story house we’re moving into. Do you even know if it’s a decent place? Have you looked at it at all?”

“Well the realtor said it’s a fixer upper, but all that really means is that it needs a little cleaning and a lot of care,” Marion said with that same confident smile she always used when she was unsure of something.

Todd was about to protest further but his mother cut him off by saying,

“Here we are.” By now, the rain had stopped, and the old house before them was covered more with ivy than rain. Here and there, the chipped white paint peeked through.

“Wow! It’s a regular dream home,” Todd said not even trying to hide his sarcasm.

“Come on; let’s give it a chance,” Marion said defensively and stepped out of the car. “She’s an old girl. Like me.”

Todd climbed out and looked over at his mother. He was not a good judge of age, but his mom could not be older than thirty-five.

“Mom, you’re not even forty, but this house has got to be at least three hundred years old,” Todd said leaning back against the station wagon door.

“Oh she’s not that bad. She’s got two solid floors plus a roomy attic. According to the realtor, it’s furnished. Granted, a lot of the furniture is probably older than the house itself, but some might still be good. Plus, next week your Uncle Charlie promised to come down and help us fix it up.”

Todd rolled his eyes and turned around resting his head against the window. Uncle Charlie was a nice guy but he always smelled like whiskey.

#

“Come on. Let’s get our stuff unpacked,” Marion encouraged. “The moving van should be here tomorrow.”

Todd spent the next hour dragging his feet and sulking while his mom cleaned up and whistled some nameless tune in her head. The house was coated in dust, and every piece of furniture was covered with a large blanket.

“Any idea who owned this place last?” Todd asked.

“I did some checking, and the last tenant I could records for was an old priest. That was ages ago, though. Not too long after the Civil War,” Marion answered.

It had been an hour now since they had talked, and Todd had spent that time upstairs in the room that would be his. He had cleaned up most of the junk, and his mom had even helped him chase out a raccoon that seemed to be trapped in the closet. He decided to take a break and do some exploring. The rooms on the second floor didn’t offer much adventure, but since attics are always places of mystery, he was curious. He stood at the stairwell leading up to the door of the attic. Part of him wanted to go, but another part of him was scared. He slowly ascended the stairs one at a time. He reached the top and tried the door. It stuck at first but when it opened slowly, he stepped inside. Todd was old enough to know that ghosts and goblins don’t exist, but the old creepy attic still gave him shivers. As he nervously looked around, he noticed nothing was up there except some old boxes and a trunk. He looked in the boxes and saw mostly old clothes and some candles. Just as he reached for the trunk, he heard his mother’s voice.

“Todd?” Marion called for him. “Todd, where are you?”

He turned away from the trunk, determined to open it later, and left the attic. Marion was

#

in his room looking for him.

“Here, Mom,” he answered.

Reaching for him, she embraced him and scolded, “Don’t disappear like that. You scared me.”

“Sorry,” he said through her arms.

“Look,” she said. “We’ve been working a while, and it’s getting late. Why don’t you take your bike and go to that gas station we saw a couple of blocks back and grab us some sodas? While you’re gone, I’ll dig around in the cooler for supper.”

She reached into her pants pocket for money. Todd, feeling the need to point something out, said,

“Mom, that wasn’t a gas station. It was a bar.”

“Well they should still have soft drinks,” she reassured.

Handing Todd a five-dollar bill, she followed him downstairs and helped him unload his bike.

“Hurry up,” she yelled as he pedaled off.

He made his way back towards the bar. It didn’t take him long to get there. He let his bike coast into the parking lot and up onto the walkway. With no lock for his bike, he just leaned it up against a post. Opening the front door, he was hit with a wave of stale smoke and liquor. He stepped inside and looked around.

“Well what could a young boy like yourself want in a place like this?” a woman behind the bar asked him.

#

Todd crossed the floor and said, “My mother and I just moved into this house down the street, and she sent me here to get a couple of sodas.”

The bartender gave a customer down the way a look then said, “Sure. Why not?”

She reached behind the bar and pulled out two sodas in plastic bottles. Todd handed her the five but she refused it.

“It’s on the house, son. Just our way of saying welcome to the neighborhood,” she laughed.

“Thanks,” Todd said.

He turned to leave but a man’s voice stopped him.

“So you moved into the old Gorman place, eh?”

Todd turned around to see an old man shuffling up to him, his long stringy hair strewn about. When he spoke, his breath assaulted Todd’s nose, and the filth on his teeth made it hard to look at him.

“I’m sorry, sir?” Todd asked.

“The old Gorman place is the two story house just down that way.” He pointed back in the direction of the house.

“Yes, sir,” Todd answered despite his desire to run from the strange man.

“Now, Rodger, you just leave him be,” the bartender said. “Don’t pay any attention to him, son.”

“Dolores, you quiet down. The boy needs to know what he’s getting hisself into.” The old man turned back to Todd and said, “You know that place hasn’t been occupied since the Civil

#

War?”

“Yes, sir,” Todd answered.

“You know why?” he asked.

“No, sir,” Todd replied.

“It all started just after the Civil War. That house was owned by this old priest named James Gorman. Well now, old Gorman was a kind old soul who wouldn’t hurt a fly. But folks say that one night a stranger came a calling. Now this man he knocked on Gorman’s door, and when Gorman answered it, the stranger said, ‘Excuse me, sir, but I need a place to rest for the night.’ Now Gorman noticed that this man’s skin was as black as the night, but that wasn’t going to stop old Gorman’s kindness. He let the man inside and offered him something to drink. They were enjoying their drinks when the stranger noticed two men out in the yard. He panicked and said he needed a place to hide because they were probably the men who had been following him. Old Gorman normally wouldn’t have allowed a person to hide out from the law, which was what he figured this man was doing, but something about that stranger made old Gorman feel different. So, he hurried the stranger up to the attic, and there he took him to the big old trunk. ‘Hide in here,’ Gorman says. ‘I’ll lock the trunk, claim I can’t find the key, and say that the old rusty lock has been on for years. They should leave it alone.’ Well the desperate stranger let old Gorman to lock him into the trunk and leave him there. When those men knocked at the door, old Gorman went downstairs to answer. He figured the men to be law enforcement of some sort, but they were a couple of bandits. They forced their way past old Gorman and tore up the place taking what they wanted and beating old Gorman. When they got bored with tormenting him,

#

they shot him and left him there to die. Now when old Gorman left the church, he became a loner, so there wasn’t anybody who didn’t expect him anywhere soon. Weeks later they found his body and buried him, but by then that stranger was lying dead in that trunk. Now the real story doesn’t happen till afterwards. Story goes people would move into this house and then before the night is over, they’re gone. No trace. No stuff. Gone. Most people figure it’s the town, but I know better. It’s that stranger. He’s still locked in that trunk waiting for old Gorman to come let him out, and until he does, whoever opens the trunk is an enemy to the stranger. That is unless you’ve got a good heart like old Gorman did. Then he might let you live.”

Rodger was cut off by the bartender handing him a drink. He quickly accepted it and while he was gulping it down, she turned to Todd and said,

“You’d better go while he’s drinking cause this story could go on for hours.”

Todd nodded and moved quickly toward the door.

“You remember what I said, boy. Your life just may depend on it,” Rodger yelled as Todd hurried out. It was getting dark, so Todd quickly slipped the drinks into his backpack and started for home. He pedaled hard, moving as fast as he could. He wasn’t concerned about being out after dark; he had been in that position before. He just wanted to hurry up and tell his mother what he had heard about the house.

As he coasted into the driveway, he noticed a pickup truck parked next to their station wagon.

“Uncle Charlie must be here already,” he said as he hopped off the bike and leaned it against the front of the house.

#

He ran inside and yelled, “Hey, Mom. You’ll never believe what I heard back at the bar.”

He stopped when he saw a man standing over his mother, a gun in his right hand. Marion was lying on the couch scared and nervous. The man, dressed in blue jeans and a plaid shirt, wore thick work boots covered in mud. He turned to Todd and just stared at him.

Todd was about to run when he was suddenly grabbed from behind.

“Well, lookie what we have here,” the man holding Todd said. “Looks like we got ourselves a little boy bout to go run and call the cops.”

The man looming over Marion turned from Todd back to her and said, “You lied to me. And after that nice talk we had about honesty.” He looked at her for a moment then said, “Ritchie, take the boy upstairs and see if there’s anything worth taking. The missus and I need a moment alone.”

“Oh come on, Jay. I wanna watch,” Ritchie pleaded.

“I said go!” Jay snapped.

Ritchie turned around and grabbed Todd, dragging him up the stairs. They had just entered Todd’s room when the lights went out.

“What’d you do?” Ritchie accused him.

“Nothing,” Todd said.

He wanted to run, but in the dark he didn’t know where to go. Ritchie had such a tight grip on Todd’s wrist that his hand was starting to hurt.

“Ritchie!” Jay yelled from downstairs. “Did you do that?”

“No, Jay!” Ritchie yelled back.

#

“Find a flashlight or some candles,” Jay yelled back.

“I’ll check the attic. People always have stuff like that in the attic,” Ritchie replied.

Todd showed him the way to the attic, and Ritchie forced him up first. Todd could not see very well, but moonlight coming in through the window bathed the room in a pale white glow.

Ritchie started looking around for candles but when he could not find any, he barked, “Where are they?”

“I don’t know.” Todd replied.

“Ritchie, you find any candles yet?” Jay yelled.

Ritchie was about to answer when he saw a trunk. He moved over to it and ran his hands along it. Attached to the top was an old rusty lock.

“Ritchie, where the heck are you?” Jay snapped, pushing Marion up into the attic. When he saw Ritchie, he shoved Marion over towards Todd. She fell and Todd did what he could to catch her. She held him close. Todd could tell she was scared. He was too but didn’t know what to do.

“Ritchie, I’d like to see this fine woman and what I do with her. In the dark’s no fun for me. I can’t see the merchandise,” Jay said.

“Jay, look at this. You think it might have treasure in it?” Ritchie asked.

“Don’t be stupid, Ritchie. It’s just an old trunk,” Jay responded.

“I’m gonna find out,” Ritchie said and pulled out a small pistol. He shot the lock twice and jerked it off.

Todd remembered the story the old drunk had told him: “Whoever opens the trunk is an enemy to the stranger. That is unless you’ve got a good heart like old Gorman did. Then he might let you live.”

“Sir, please don’t open that,” Todd asked really starting to get scared.

“Shut up, boy,” Jay growled.

Ritchie opened the trunk but saw nothing. It was empty.

“Aw, shucks,” he said disappointed.

Some black smoke began to seep out from the inside of the trunk. Ritchie and Jay started to get up when they noticed it gathering around their feet.

“What is that?” Jay asked.

“I don’t know, but it seems to be coming from the trunk,” Ritchie responded.

When Ritchie and Jay turned and looked deeply into the trunk, suddenly black smoke shot out from it hitting them in the face. Todd closed his eyes and didn’t open them until he heard his mom calling him.

He slowly opened his eyes and saw he was down on the floor in the attic with his mom still holding him. The trunk was closed, and Ritchie and Jay were gone.

“Mom, what happened?” Todd asked.

“I don’t know, son, but let’s get out of here,” Marion ordered.

They raced down the stairs to the second floor, and Marion started packing their things. Todd glanced outside and saw the truck still parked in the driveway.

“Help me here, Todd. We need to hurry up and get out. Those guys could be back any

#

minute,” Marion replied. Todd helped her pack, but he knew the men would not be coming back.

Marion Bradford found a better job back in the city, and she even managed to buy back their old house. She and Todd never came back to the Gorman house or to the trunk inside. Todd saw on the news that two escaped convicts Ritchie and James Simmons had disappeared and might be in the area. For a while, the realtor tried to persuade Marion to keep the Gorman house but she refused. Todd knew that the house shouldn’t be sold because it wasn’t vacant. There was still one person living inside.

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Published in: Uncategorized on October 18, 2012 at 11:20 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Great story


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