As far as I know, our Mr. Butt has never offered any violence to anybody. The kids named him. We’re not sure where he came from, since my husband built the house, but he’s been here from the first. He lives on the second floor, slams doors, talks, and plays classical, jazz, and information radio that switches off when we go upstairs. He’s a good ol’ boy, and we love him. Daughter #4 always said she wasn’t afraid of ghosts, because Mr. Butt wouldn’t let them in.
I didn’t expect him to turn up in this story, but there he was. Hey, Mr. Butt. Thanks for being our friend.
Mr. Sugar vs the Poltergeist
by Marian Allen
I finished my cat kibble in record time. It was Friday afternoon, and Mrs. DiMarco, our neighbor down the street, had just come home from the grocery. I knew this because my exceptional feline senses heard the car door slam over and over as she ferried bags to her kitchen. More important, I smelled the enticing aroma of a deluxe fish dinner carry-out, her usual Friday night repast.
On nice days, she ate on her porch, but this was a chilly, gloomy November, so I needed to slip into her house with one of her loads.
I raced time itself from our back yard to the street, across (checking for cars with my astounding feline swiftness), and down to the part of the street where lawn decorations took the place of paid professional care. In Mrs. DiMarco’s yard, in particular, pink plastic flamingos and faceted gazing balls and so on sprouted nearly as thickly as crabgrass and (in the spring, of course) dandelions.
In spite of a truly phenomenal turn of speed, I was too late. As luck would have it, however, a ruck in her entry rug had blunted the effect of her final butt-bump, and the door hadn’t latched. No doubt she had noticed, but the first thing she always unpacked was the beer, and she was too busy with that to think about the door.
By the time she remembered to close it, the groceries had been put away, a second beer was in progress, she was into the second chorus of asking Maybelline why she couldn’t be true, and I was safely ensconced beneath the living room end table, where I had a clear view of the kitchen table. Being, as I am, extremely white and extremely fluffy, one would think I would shine like a spotlight in the shadows of the living room, but Mrs. DiMarco, although one of the most perceptive humans I’ve ever met, had her mind on other things and didn’t even glance my way. Maybelline’s bad behavior, for the most part.
It appeared that the only thing on that table was a bottle of whatever brew had been cheapest today and a brown paper bag that had been torn open, now serving as a place mat for the toothsome repast driving me mad with desire.
I always give in to temptation whenever possible, and this was no time to make an exception. When Mrs. DiMarco detoured to the bathroom to make way for more beer, I levitated (as one does) onto the table, inhaled three fried scallops, and savored a nibble of a piece of fried cod, still steaming hot inside it’s crisp, greasy crust.
When the alarm signal of the gurgling flush warned me of Mrs. DiMarco’s eminent return, I grabbed my prize – or as much of it as broke off when I grabbed it – and ran. The DiMarco woman and I are, astounding as that is to anyone who knows my fastidious elegance – friends, but experience has taught me that even the closest of human friends would object to what I had done. They might share the food from their plate, but not (contradictory as it seems) the food on the plate. I believe it’s a control issue.
At any rate, the only open door not soon to be blocked by Mrs. DiMarco led to a set of steep wooden stairs leading down. I took them and carried my prize before me behind a tumbled pyramid of empty boxes.
From the top of the stairs, Mrs. DiMarco shouted down, “Is that you, Mr. Butt? I’m back from the groashry. Got a new furnace filter an’ a bulb for that light down there. Try to make that light last a little longer this time, ‘k?”
She shut the door and went back to upbraiding the recidivist Maybelline, who persisted in doing the things she used to do.
It wasn’t until I had finished cleaning my face and paws and had heaved a contented sigh that I noticed the faintest of physical manifestations at the far end of the basement. I only detected it at all because … well … I’m a cat, and because it hovered near the ceiling, fiddling with a light bulb.
The bulb came on and the manifestation lost what visibility it had, but I heard it chuckle.
“Mr. Butt, I presume,” I said.
I sensed the manifestation approaching me.
“You don’t live here,” it – I should say he – said.
“Just visiting,” I said. “Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Mr. Sugar, although Mrs. DiMarco calls me Ragmop. We’re friends, so I permit it.”
“You lie. You’re a thief. You robbed her!”
I felt a chill around my heart. I’m not being flowery; it wasn’t a metaphorical chill, it was the sort of chill one would feel if dead hands could reach inside one’s body and clutch one’s physical circulatory pump.
“It was only a bite of fish! And three scallops! She would have shared with me, but I couldn’t bear to wait!”
“No! No! Help! Mrs. DiMarco, tell him!”
The basement door opened again.
“Keep it down, Mr. Butt! I can hardly hear myself sing!”
“That sounds like a cat!” She flicked on the light.
I broke away and crept weakly from my hiding place.
“Ragmop! What’d you do, sneak in while the front door was open? And here I was cussing the fish place because they shorted me on my order! You fuzzy rascal! Whatsa matter? You scared of the dark? You think you were trapped inna dark?”
She picked me up and cuddled me, an unprecedented tenderness.
“I gotta get me a kitty,” she said, carrying me up the stairs. “The mister’s been gone ten years this very night, and I still miss ‘im. I sure do miss ‘im.” She put me down on the kitchen floor and turned back to flip off the light. “Is ….” She went back down a couple of steps. “Damn if that light isn’t back on!” She laughed, “Funny, Mr. Butt. Real funny. What a funny, funny guy. Well, I thank you. You take good care of me.”
She turned off the light and shut the door.
“Hey, Ragmop, where’d you go?”
Where I had gone was under the table, under one of the chairs, as if wooden rungs could protect me.
She got down on her hands and knees. “Whassa matter? You scared of a li’l ol’ ghost? Mr. Butt wouldn’t hurt anybody. He’s a good ol’ boy. Keeps me company.” She reached under a rung to tickle me under the chin. “Not real, o’ course. Just made him up because you know how you put something somewhere but it turns up someplace else? I starting saying Mr. Butt moved it. The mister had just got shot inna line of duty, you know, and I bought this house and the snooty neighbors didn’t like me, and talking to Mr. Butt got me through it.”
She leveraged herself back up and took her seat at the table.
A scallop hit the floor and rolled under my chair. Waste not, want not; although my appetite was gone, I ate the friendship offering.
“I always order for two on the anniversary,” she said, “so there’s plenty.” She leaned down and shook a greasy finger at me. “But no more stealing. Stealing’s a crime, don’t you know that? Only a fool would try to rob a cop’s widow.”
MY PROMPTS: Fish on Friday, our own Mr. Butt