a Ghost Story
The pounding and carving of the machinery created a soothing, constant motion. Reassuring. Pulleys, cogs, cranks, piles of wood, and water churning through the stream that powers Rose Valley’s small but growing community. David walked up the path, a lunch pail in one hand and a worn leather notebook in the other. He looked forward to these sounds.
As he took in the early morning light and nature that made his commute so pleasant, he hummed his usual tune, entering the building with a nod to his Super. The Super was a hard man, but not unkind. His worn, ruddy face showed he knew a hard day’s work since he was a young boy. Keeping a stern face kept men in line.
Old Hutton’s Mill was built in 1840 as a feed mill. Now seven years later, the mill supplied bobbins and served as a warehouse to the nearby textile mill where the “Old Mill” presently stands.
Apart from his usual humming, David was a quiet man. He kept to himself and bothered nobody. Nobody bothered him. He liked the quiet. He liked Rose Valley. The mansions nestled among the hills and valleys of the community melted into the natural scene. It was better to work here than in the city. Here was clean dirt. There were Greens and blues. Lights and darks. Busy and Quiet. Life and death. No city stress. A gentle purpose in the solitude.
David made his way over to his work station. A pile of wood, ready to be carved into bobbins and carted across the way to the textile mill. Purpose. Hammering and carving. The smell of carved wood. Sawdust underfoot that made a soft crunching noise. David hummed and carved, carved and hummed.
On his lunch breaks, David would sit on the little stone wall by the mill wheel with his lunch pail beside him. His notebook in his hand. As he sat he sketched new bobbin designs, practical, purposeful. Sometimes he drew ornate bobbins, like the knobby trees making up the surrounding forest. Sometimes he drew nature; his feet dipping into the cool water below him until the Super’s bell called everyone back to the grind.
Everyday was the same. The Super was always first to arrive. David was always on time followed by a sleepy crew of workers who spent their nights and wages in town, grumbling at the birds racket. They clocked out every night at the same time. The sleep crew now excited to get out with David trailing behind, as usual, carrying a bobbin snuck in his sleeve. The Super last to lock up.
One morning there was no hammering, no pressing. There was no reassuring. No soothing. The super unlocked the doors to the creaking of weight on a settling beam. David’s body was slowly swaying to the tune of his morning hum, as his feet swung inches above the mill floor. Pages of sketches dancing underneath as the wind blew through the open door. Purpose blown away.
Years later, no one remembered David, or the Super, or the pounding and carving. After the 1985 fire that left the theatre a hollow shell, workers came in to repair the building. One man always stayed late. Kept to himself. Liked the quiet sound of hammering as he rebuilt the flame consumed building. Once a mill, then a hall, now the shell of a theatre to be rebuilt from the ashes.
Late at night he heard swaying and creaking. Looking up he saw nothing. Just a sturdy beam, blackened by the flames that swirled around it. Sway, and hum, sway and hum.
“Who’s there?” Shouted the man.
He went back to his hammering.
Creak. Sway. Hum.
“Go away!” he called out.
Before he could get the words out his hammer flew from his hand, across the worn out shell of the stage.
“I said, go away!” This time the man was louder. He was angry.
The hammer flew across the other side of the stage.
Humming. Swaying. Creaking.
“ENOUGH! I-I just want to finish my job. You finish yours and let me finish mine.”
A bobbin rolled across the stage.
“Thank you,” breathed the man. He picked up the bobbin and looked at it. Old. Worn. Loved. Purpose. The man picked up his hammer and went back to his task. As he worked he quietly hummed David’s tune. Reassured.
The events of this story are based on fables, truths, and honest lies. Names have been changed, or assigned for anonymity and clarity, respectively.