Friday, October 31, 2008

 

An October Moment...


As you know, I spent a week with BB in New Hampshire, right around Labor Day. The main reason for my visit--there always has to be one besides brotherly love, of course--was to help BB empty the sagging old barn hanging (literally) off the back of the house. The thing is over 250 years old and several people--from my own father (before his death) to a skilled restorer of these barns, to the appraiser the insurance company sent out--have told BB that the thing could collapse completely at any moment. So BB decided the time was ripe to empty it of anything remotely valuable--and when you have C.R.A.P. Syndrome, it could all be valuable.

The thing is, the barn really was sagging. The loft seemed especially treacherous. BB--who it’s worth mentioning dresses out at around 340 pounds--couldn’t place a foot on a floorboard up there without the whole structure groaning like an old man with gas pains. And yet there were several crates and two old steamer trunks up there and BB and I wanted them. So it was that after reinforcing it as best we could from below, I began carefully, gingerly emptying the loft, slowly working my way to the back of the barn, where the very worst of the sagging could be seen. And it was there, on the third day of work, that I climbed up one morning and saw, sitting on a pile of hay, this innocuous object:


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It is a Tupperware container. Although in fact, I should say it is THE Tupperware Container. It is, in its innocuous way, the best proof I can offer that the stories I’ve told here about the unseen are as true as I understand truth to be.

For one thing, if I had made these stories up and was looking for a tangible object to verify those stories, I’d have picked something more visually interesting and dramatic, you know? I’d have gone with an old fountain pen that wrote by itself, for example. Or perhaps one of those steamer trunks I just mentioned, albeit one that shook of its own accord and seemed to contain a presence of some kind. I wouldn’t have voluntarily gone with The Telltale Tupperware.

But the container does have a tale to tell.

The Telltale Tupperware entered our lives in the most mundane possible way: My mom bought it with a lot of other Tupperware containers at some rummage sale or other the summer we moved to New Jersey and took up residence in the old green farmhouse that dated to 1785. The container was originally intended to hold food, but at first, it held pinecones. My mom had decorated our kitchen’s breakfast bar with a few wooden containers filled with pinecones my brother and I had long ago collected from our hill in New Hampshire.

But over the years, the pinecones had been lost or commandeered by a cat looking for a new plaything. And as the numbers dwindled, my mom reduced the overall area in each of the wooden containers by setting a smaller container inside the larger ones. Thus it was that this innocuous Tupperware container sat in the bottom of the larger wooden container, while on top of it my mom stacked the remaining pinecones, positioning them artfully so that it appeared she had a full container of the things, although we all know now that she didn’t.

And then, one cold winter night, something emptied that container, hurling pinecones at my brother. I told you that story here. What I didn’t tell you is that, at the very end of the incident, the yellow Tupperware box popped out of the wooden container and landed on the floor near me. When I picked it up, it was warm to the touch.

Thereafter, the Tupperware went into the dishwasher and became a holder for various foodstuffs, sometimes leftovers, but mostly blocks of sharp cheddar cheese, which we all loved to put on sandwiches or shave onto crackers for a late-night snack.

Well, one night, late in the summer of 1985, I had just come home from working the late shift at the movie theater. BB had picked me up, since I didn’t have a car, and by way of thanks, I offered to throw together some crackers and cheese for us to nosh on while we watched a late movie.

So there I was, cutting the cheese, as it were, standing there in the semi-dark kitchen. The Tupperware container was sitting on the counter next to me. I finished shaving some slices of cheese onto a plate, plopped the chunk of cheddar back into the container, then dropped the lid on it.

The second I did this, that container, on its own, turned a full, slow quarter-turn there on the counter, as surely as though an invisible hand had grasped it. I stopped what I was doing and turned to look at it. It had been more than a year since anything like this had happened in our house, long after a bad incident involving my brother and some stupid friends and the injudicious use of a Ouija board. My friend Ruth, a woman who had helped me to communicate with the entities that occupied our house (and the daughter of the Witch Man, for those of you keeping score at home), had helped me out of that jam, and I swear to God I'll tell you all about it one of these Octobers. Suffice it to say, after that incident, Ruth had told me the spirits in the house might not reach out to us so much again. For months, it seemed she had been right. And truth to tell, I missed those experiences.

So it was with mixed startlement and excitement that I turned my head to watch the Tupperware move by itself there on the counter.

And then BAM! As I stood there watching it, the Tupperware container full of cheese slid across the countertop with dizzying speed before hitting the edge and going tumbling, cheese and all, up and over a bread box and a spice rack, landing on the rug right by the basement door. I turned on all the lights (and you would have too) then went over to pick it up. The block of cheese had fallen out of the container--I hadn’t secured the lid--and was now festooned with grit and dog hair. I picked the cheese up with one hand, while with the other I grabbed the Tupperware and discovered that, once again, it was warm to the touch. Hot really. And then I turned the container in my hand and saw this:


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As you can see, some kind of heat source had melted the edge of the box near the lid, as well as two distinct holes in the side, a few inches below the lid. I suppose it would be easy to dismiss the damage you see as perhaps an accident involving a red-hot stovetop or an overheated cooking implement. But I know this: the container didn’t have that damage when I got it out of the fridge that night. And it didn’t come in contact with anything hot enough to cause those melt marks and holes. I have no rational explanation for how the Tupperware got those marks in the few seconds it was seized by, well, whatever it was seized by, and shoved along the counter.


By now, my brother had come over to see what the commotion was.

“What did--ohhhh, fuck me fucking fuck!” he cried, dancing away. BB now hated “that spook shit,” as he called it, and had been more than pleased to be rid of any phenomena the past year or so. He took the cheese from me and rinsed it off in the sink, afterward deeming it safe to eat (even in the face of the supernatural, my brother always had his eye on the priorities of life). But the Tupperware container, he wanted no part of that. He chucked it, lid and all, in the trash. And that was the end of it.

Except, of course, that it wasn't at all.

When my parents eventually moved back to New Hampshire and BB and I were helping them unpack, we found the damn thing--lid and all--stacked neatly among all the other Tupperware kitchen items. I remembered the container instantly--you would too, even if it had been two years by then. My mom couldn’t remember saving the box from the trash (and honestly, she wouldn’t have, not with two holes melted into the side), but there it was. She couldn’t really use it for storing food anymore, not with those holes, so she pitched it out. I personally saw it go into the trash bag and I personally threw that bag into the back of my Dad’s pickup truck the day he ran a load out to the dump. That had been in 1988 or so, a solid 20 years ago.

Except...here it was again, sitting inexplicably in the barn. I recognized it at once--those holes are hard to miss, you know? Smiling, I bent down, picked it up, and lobbed it out of the barn. “Here, catch!” I yelled to my brother.

BB was outside, pulling on some gloves. “What--?” he said, putting his hand up instinctively, catching the container. He turned it this way and that. It took him longer to recognize it, but recognize it he did. “Oh, fuck me fucking fuck!” he shrieked, flinging it into the back of the trailer we’d rented for hauling trash. “What the hell is THAT doing in there?”

“You tell me!” I called back as I stepped deeper into the gloom. It was dark and close back here. I ducked under a massive cedar beam, about as thick around as a big man’s thigh and 20 feet long, stretching from the peak of the roof to a jagged hole in the floor, just to my left. I stood under it for several minutes as I grabbed onto armloads of debris and old hay in an effort to clear space around the trunks and items of value that we wanted. It was sweaty, dirty work, but I was up for it. I managed to get the trunks out by day’s end and was planning to get the rest of the boxes under that corner of the loft the next day.

And the next day, when I climbed up into the loft, there was that damned Tupperware container again. Almost in exactly the same spot as where I’d found it.

“Very funny!” I called out, winging the container back out to BB. This time, he saw it coming and dodged it.

“Hey!” he called back. “I did not fish that out of the trash and put it up there. I haven’t set one toe up in that loft. The fucking thing would collapse on me the moment I stepped up there.”

And the moment the words left his mouth, I stopped where I was.

Squinting, I looked around the dark, close eaves of the barn with new eyes. Everything was sagging inward here, but it all looked sturdy enough. I reached up and gave a tentative shove of that heavy rafter. It didn’t budge. You’re fine I said to myself. Now you’re just psyching yourself out. Shake it off and do the work!

And so I shrugged and took one more step deeper to into the barn.

“MM,” BB said quietly.

I stopped, turned, looked at my big brother. He had a funny expression on his face. Not funny ha-ha.

“Come on out of there,” he said evenly.

And without arguing, I did.

I decided to spend the rest of that day in the yard in front of the barn, clearing all the crap I’d dug out of there, hauling some stuff up to a pile for burning later, and in general performing basic pick-up work. It was nothing terribly substantial, but it filled the hours and by 4 o’clock, we were both a little tired and willing to call it a day. We showered, changed clothes and decided to make an evening of it by going out to supper.

I know what you’re waiting for: the moment when we come back home to find the barn had collapsed.

But it didn’t happen.

In fact, so far as I know, the barn is still standing (barely). So I’m not sure why the Telltale Tupperware would make a fresh appearance in our lives. I’m at a loss to divine any meaning from its regular reappearance over the years. On the other hand, I’m glad it compelled us to knock off early in our efforts to clean the barn. BB and I had been rather single-minded in that week, dedicated to emptying the thing, and had spent hardly any quality time together. So the fact that it rattled us enough to make us stop and go out to dinner was, on the whole, a good thing. Not as dramatically good as saving me from a collapsing barn, I grant you, but still good in its own, special, odd, Tupperware way.

I left the container in New Hampshire, sitting on a stack of wood by the edge of the barn. BB threatened to throw it out when he hauled away the rest of the detritus from the barn. But somehow, I don’t think that’s going to work any more than it did the other times we tried it. So there it sits.

As I said before, this object represents the best proof I can offer that the stories I’ve told here are as true as I understand truth to be. Which is to say that these stories aren’t always complete, they don’t often make any kind of sense, being rife with holes and bits that run together, containers that don’t fully hold water, if you will. But they do serve as a reminder that there are things out there that we will never completely understand. Maybe if we wait long enough, they will reveal certain truths to us.

And one of those truths is: sometimes you never get the whole story.

Sometimes, you just have to be satisfied with the mystery of it.


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Happy Halloween, everyone.

Yours,
From Somewhere on the Masthead


Comments:
Oh how I've missed these!! As always, I love it. Happy Halloween, MM and family!
 
Every time I read one of your October moments, I start to dig through my own unexplainable moments to see if I have experienced something similar.

And I always knew Tupperware was a little bit off....
 
Perfect tale for today~ :) Happy Halloween!
 
Happy Halloween! So glad the ghosts are looking out for you!
 
AWWWWWW, MAN! Such a good story but so MEAN to tease Ruth and the ouija board for (at LEAST) one more year! And now I feel properly guilty for "keeping score at home". But it's only because I love October Moments so much.

Enjoy Halloween with your family, MM. And thanks for the evil Tupperware story.
 
Wow, sounds very Steven-King-ish. At least it's not a malevolent tupperware container. But that is definitely strange.

I am looking forward to the further story of your friend Ruth, maybe next October?

Happy Halloween!
 
freaky, and the perfect halloween present. thank you!

probably i would have hauled it home just to see if anything happened, but then again, i have no harm avoidance tendancies and it's a wonder i've made it this long.
 
Happy Halloween MM! That tale really gets me in the Halloween spirit (if by Halloween spirit I mean a vague sense of unease)

Which would be a lot better than the sheer terror I'd probably be feeling after the Ouija board story.

I can wait a year, or three. :-)

Julian
 
thank you for freaking me out, i need to go cuddle a puppy or something now, otherwise i will not be able to sleep tonight.
 
OH thank you for the Halloween moments. You have such a gift of bringing tham to life! Hopefully I can still sleep tonight. Lizardmom
 
BTW, I would watch up to 10 min of a still frame video of Flaming Duck vs. Telltale Tupperware even if you told us in advance that nothing happened. That would be better than Thing vs. Hulk! And if you or BB were enterprising enough, I bet you could sell tickets :P
 
Maybe it just needed to be burped. You’re supposed to burp Tupperware, you know. Painful gas building up in my insides could conceivably give me cause to stalk a family for years seeking relief.
 
I'm here thanks to Karen Sugarpants and I won't be leaving anytime soon.

*shivers and runs away*
 
Jeezus!
 
That was a great story, I was riveted.
How much was true and how much author's licence, I wonder. If true, I feel the goose bumps rising, if not doesn't matter...to make a umble tupperware box the centre of spookiness was genius.
 
Next time try burning it or chopping it up with a hacksaw.

Then tells us what happenes.

Did you get everythign you wante dout of the loft?
 
Want the Ouija board story.

But this one was great. I especially enjoyed "So there I was, cutting the cheese" and "Fuck me fucking fuck!"

I wonder if BB was a target because he gave off so much negative energy towards whatever was in the house. They were probably insulted :>

They probably liked you, too, since you were more receptive.
 
Now that was riveting..I do love your October Moments...

Happy halloween...
 
I agree....

CRUEL of you to tease us with Ruth and The Witch Man.

Great story!
 
Looks kinda like where the fingerprints would be, doesn't it?
 
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