In this excerpt from A DEAD GUY AT THE SUMMERHOUSE, my paranormal suspense novel set in 1968, the narrator, 17-year-old Mitch, has just learned that Albert, the last man his elderly employer (who wants him to call her Aunt Missy) hired, died on the job. Aunt Missy’s brothers and sister-in-law died in a car crash, going to the funeral. The family maid believes that Mitch is possessed by Albert’s spirit.
excerpt from A DEAD GUY AT THE SUMMERHOUSE
by Marian Allen
I had a sense of standing on quicksand; a feeling I got sometimes when I was talking to grown-ups. I mean, you never know when somebody else has laid a mine that you're going to walk straight into. The shop teacher had gone ape last year because a kid forgot to put a t-square back in the right place. They said his wife had left him, like that was supposed to explain it. I sensed, now, that Aunt Missy's blank face and bland talk was a kind of veil, but I couldn't guess what was behind it. Maybe this wouldn't be a real good time to tell about Corrie's obsession. Maybe some other time. "Well, I'm sorry about your brothers, anyway. And your sister-in-law." Aunt Missy smiled up at me. "Thank you, dear. You're very kind. It was rather a dreadful shock to me, I'm afraid. It's taken me longer than one might have predicted to recover from it." Bits of information that had slid past me before suddenly lined up and meant something. "You haven't been out of the house since it happened," I said. "Until you came and hired me today." "Until I came and found you, today." Aunt Missy looked away again, then gestured with her book to a nearby chair. "Sit down, dear." I sat. Chan and Wong made a couple of dodges at me, maybe hoping I'd get up and chase them, then settled to the floor with mournful sighs. "As my bringing you here seems to have raised the subject –" Unfortunate choice of words. "– perhaps I'd better tell you a little about that situation. I met Albert in Paris. Does that tell you anything about him?" "He was French?" Aunt Missy's laugh was surprised, silvery, youthful. "No, dear, he was American. I should have told you that." When she'd said, "Paris," I had pictured him as "Ahl-BEAR," a European gigolo type, with a pencil-thin mustache and a black beret. Now I had to draw a new picture. Aunt Missy went on, "Does his being in Paris tell you anything about him? No? Well, you are young. He was what we, in Paris, referred to as an expatriate. Do you know what that means?" "No, ma'am." "It means someone who prefers another country to his own. Like Gertrude Stein, and Ernest Hemingway, and dear Louis Bromfield. Albert kept company with that sort of crowd. He was very cynical, very amusing at other people's expense. Do you understand what I mean?" If I did, he sounded like what we, in high school, referred to as "a jerk."
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A WRITING PROMPT FROM ME TO YOU: Write about someone from your main character’s past.