Some people swore that the Wells house was haunted. The only one who did so consistently was Fatty Bergman, and his testimony always came after five or six drinks at Flannery’s. He pled his case every other night, but the jury of townies and barflies had long since quit hearing his appeals. Fatty’s story kept changing over the years (and beers), but the gist of it was that Larry Wells “did bad things to his kids” in that house. What exactly those bad things had been and even how many kids there were might be different each time, but Fatty always spoke every word with total conviction, serious as a judge. Nobody gave his rants much thought until that final telling.
On the night in question, Fatty came in at his usual time but stayed unusually quiet. Drew, who had tended bar at Flannery’s for years, noticed how long it took him to finish his first beer. Fatty was still nursing his second when Drew finally sidled over and asked, “You all right, Fatty?” Even though their eyes met, Drew told people afterward that Fatty seemed to be looking past him rather than at him, like he was answering somebody else.
“I still have a heart.”
“What’s that mean?”
Fatty broke out laughing. Drew frowned. Fatty shouldn’t be drunk after only two beers, but here he was, cackling like mad at something only he seemed to understand. Fatty ran his fingers through his thin gray hair, pressing the top of his head like he was trying to hold it down.
“What do you believe in?” he suddenly asked Drew. “Do you believe in what you see? Or in what’s really there?”
Drew was more confused than before. “Uh, I…”
Fatty abruptly started laughing again. He grabbed his glass and gulped down the remaining beer. Out of habit, Drew started to ask if he wanted another, but then Fatty slammed the glass down on the bar. It exploded into jagged shards, some of which sliced Drew’s right hand. Fatty jumped to his feet, toppling his barstool to the floor. Every eye in the place was on him. He scowled back at them and raised an accusing finger that was dripping with blood.
“All of you, walking so tall!” he snarled. “You think you know things? You’re all just little children lost in the dark, and if you ever came face-to-face with what’s really there, you’d fall down screaming for Mommy and Daddy! I know what’s there! I’ve seen it!”
“Fatty, what the hell are you talking about?” Drew yelled as he wrapped a towel around his wounded hand.
“The house! The Wells house! I know what’s there!”
“Shut up about that damned house, Fatty!” Drew bellowed. “Nobody cares what happened there!”
A grim smile spread over Fatty’s lips. “Little Boy makes big noise.”
“Get out before I call the cops!”
“Little Boy has help,” Fatty said. “The Sisters are with him. Lucky, too.”
“That’s it!” Drew went for the phone at the far end of the bar.
“Lucky helped get rid of Daddy. They gave Lucky their hearts. He said he’d bring Mama back, but he never did. Now they want someone new to play with.”
Drew hurriedly dialed the phone. Fatty had never been a violent drunk before, but he might not be drunk now so much as just plain crazy.
“You’ll never understand!” Fatty hissed at the stunned bar patrons. “None of you! Not until it’s too late. I’m the only one. I’m the only one.”
Fatty stormed out of the bar repeating that phrase to himself. Drew finally heard the police dispatcher pick up the phone. He stammered that Fatty Bergman had gone nuts and they better pick him up before he hurt someone. The dispatcher asked where Fatty was headed. Drew could only think of one place.
By the time the police got to the Wells house, the whole place was up in flames. Fatty Bergman lay dead on the front lawn with a lighter in his hand and an unlit Molotov cocktail by his side. It seemed he had already tossed one through the front window and was about to light another when he dropped dead of a massive coronary. The fire took the whole house and all the trees around it and nearly spread to the neighboring houses before the firefighters finally got it under control.
Everyone figured Fatty must have been drunk out of his mind before he even got to Flannery’s that night, and the fact he had Everclear for his Molotov cocktails seemed to confirm it. But then word got out that the coroner found Fatty’s blood alcohol was below the legal limit when he died; those two beers Drew served him were all that was in his system. People started to wonder about those things Fatty said about the Wells house, about something being in there, about Little Boy and the Sisters and somebody named Lucky. The word “haunted” started to creep into conversations, and some wondered whether Fatty Bergman himself might be floating around there now.
Nothing was ever the same after that.
Copyright (c) 2012 by Eric Landuyt