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The Containment Spell
About the Author: Pablo Patiño's work includes short stories in Talking River Review, Ink Stains Anthology and The Main Street Rag.

“This house belonged to him afore it belonged to ye.”

“I’m the one stuck with the mortgage payments. What’s he fussin’ about?”

“Would ye please take this seriously?”

I leaned back on the sofa and yelled towards the top of the stairs. “Honey, you best be going now! Get down here please!” I so wanted to add, And take your batshit crazy mother with you!

“Alberto,” Meg’s mother said sharply. “I’m not tryin’ to frighten ye. I have to be tellin’ ye what I saw.”

I turned to her. “Where did you see him?”

“In yer basement.”

“When was that?”

“That’d be last night.”

“You weren’t here last night.”

“I laid eyes upon him in a dream.”

I yelled back up towards the bedroom, a little louder this time. “Yo, babe! Will you come on already!”

“Alberto, I know it might sound a bit mad, but he’s dangerous, that one. His hatred gives him a strength ye wouldn’t believe.”

“We’ve been here two years. Now, all of a sudden, he acts up?”

“Ye want to know how to be rid of him?”

“No disrespect, Mrs. Duffy, but I don’t wanna hear it. If something messed-up happens, it won’t be ’cause of some wacked out ghost in my basement.”

“He won’t be restin’ until he’s booted you out of his house and done you some serious harm, mark me words.”

“His house?” I leaped off the sofa and sprinted toward the basement door in the kitchen. “Are you there?” I hollered down the cellar stairs, into the pitch-black, empty basement. “This is my house now, and if you got something to say about it, you go right ahead!” I cupped my hand over my ear, pretending to listen for a response. “What’s that you say? Nothing? Yeah, that’s what I thought.” I slammed the door shut and strutted back to the living room feelin’ all victorious.

“Ye best think twice before challengin’ him like that again.”

“Al? What’re you screaming about?” Meg asked waddling down the stairs in the hallway, luggin’ her carry-on in one hand and clutching her purse in the other.

“Just messin’ around,” I said scrambling to her side. I grabbed her bag and plopped it into the back seat of the Camry in the driveway.

“We got lasagna in the fridge from Thursday,” she said. “You can have that tonight and there’s some rotisserie chicken leftover for tomorrow. I’ll call you when I get to Alice’s. Are you gonna be OK here by yourself?”

“It’s only two nights, babe. I’ll make it through.” I flashed a smile as I leaned in to give her a kiss. But that smile vanished when I turned to her mother and leaned over to bid her farewell. She gave me the gravest look as if to say, Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

We waved to her mother who said she would walk home if only to catch the breeze from the park down the block. The warmth of that sunny September day made her gray, oversized sweater look damn ridiculous, that is, until you took a good look at the frail, delicate frame it was trying to protect.

This story appears in our AUG 2023 Issue
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