A summer afternoon in Hacienda Heights is ass-drenching hot. I should've remembered this because I grew up there.
I was playing fetch with my sister’s dog at my childhood home this past Saturday, chucking a slobber-soaked tennis ball across the backyard. The little bastard never got sick of chasing that ball, even in this heat. He didn’t even get that pissed when I’d pretend to throw the ball but hid it behind my back instead. I guess he figured it was his fault for always falling for it.
I wonder if he sensed that it’d be the last time he’d be playing in his beloved yard. Dogs are suckers for sentimentality after all and have been known to cry at weddings ... Not here of course, but in a parallel universe where dogs get married, sell insurance, and frame cats for murder.
Inside the house, the movers were grunting as they struggled to carry a massive cabinet out of the living room. Just looking at them almost made my lower spine snap. Nice guys. They were brothers, both in their early forties. They were covered with tattoos and spent all their free time on their Harleys – either fixing them or riding them. One was a bachelor living in Pasadena, and the other had his skinny teenage son helping them out.
I’d end up tipping them with a bottle of tequila. They acted like I’d paid them in gold bullion. It was really good tequila.
“Don’t fucking mess with me,” she said in a loud, husky voice. It was Becky, scolding one of her mutts in the next yard. “Don’t fucking mess with me.”
Becky’s the daughter of our next-door neighbor, a divorced Japanese-American man named Kevin. She's also the poster child for what can happen to females who don’t wean themselves off bad boys.
Back when she was in junior high school, the girl was a Phoebe Cates lookalike. On summer afternoons like this we’d all watch movies on her dad’s big-screen TV or play hide-and-seek. Then she switched from an all-girls Catholic school to a public school. And straight out of an afterschool special, she “fell in with a bad crowd,” hanging with hessians and stoners.
After high school, she got knocked up and moved in with one of her mullets. Not surprisingly they broke up, and she and her daughter moved back in with her dad. When I saw her again, I was stunned. She’d instantly turned into one of those large, haggard women you see in the supermarket with frizzy hair, baggy t-shirt and faded jean shorts, throwing a bag of frozen corndogs into her cart as a cigarette dangled from her mouth. Did I tell you she used to look like Phoebe Cates?
According to my little sister, she'd continued her high school tradition of dating losers. Pulling up in front of her dad’s house in their bass-blasting '97 Thunderbirds, they’d bellow out her name until she trotted out and hopped in the car. Three years ago the street was flooded with cop cars and helicopter lights, and they hauled Becky out of the house in handcuffs.
Glad to be leaving that behind.
I was looking at the house one more time. I'd spent almost 10 years growing up there, but I was surprised at how little I cared that it was no longer ours. I never really liked this place.
“That lady, she had another dream,” my mom said as I was standing by the garage. She was referring to the woman who hung herself, the reason why we sold my childhood home.
“I didn’t want to tell you or anyone else this until we moved everything out of here. But the day before she died, she told me she had a dream. She woke up in the middle of night and found someone, a man, standing next to her bed. It was very dark so she couldn’t tell who he was. And he said something to her in Korean.”
“Chut-dah,” she replied. “He said, You lost.”
As the movers slammed the truck door shut and prepared to leave, I took another look at the spot where the woman had taken her own life. I’d looked at it before in the previous weeks, as hokey as it sounds, to make sure nothing was there – that the visiting ministers and pastors had “cleared” everything. Even though the future owners knew about the suicide and didn't care (They bought the house at its asking price.), I didn't want them moving into something they didn’t bargain for.
Back when all this happened, I’d truly begun to wonder if the house had some sort of malicious presence or spirit of some sort. But now I’m certain that whether or not the house was haunted, that poor woman came with her own ghosts.
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