IN EVERY ESTABLISHED NEIGHBORHOOD, it seemed true to me, there was one house the local grade school kids claimed was haunted or possessed or itself alive with a demonic soul. In the heart of Upper and Lower Ashbury, on a grand tree-lined boulevard in the Old Downtown district, that house was my house.

The kids said the past owner’s wife, a longtime widow, died there alone in the attic on her eighty-first birthday. She was up there looking through sixty-years worth of photo albums and an inexhaustible variety of knickknacks for the silver gravy boat given to her by her mother. She was preparing to pass the heirloom along to her own aging daughter. A daughter who, coincidentally, died that very same night in a car accident. It was, they claimed, six months before a grandniece found the old woman there so long dead and decomposing with the gravy boat clutched tightly still in skeletal fingers locked with rigor mortis.

And every year, on her birthday, on the very last night of October,” the narrator of the story would invariably conclude, “you can see her ghost in the dormer window, waiting there, always waiting there so patiently for her daughter. The daughter who never came.”

A convoluted story to begin with, it became ever more so with every retelling, including all manner of plot twists, topped off, finally, with jealousy, insanity and matricide. But repeating the tale had always the desired outcome: On Halloween night, the younger kids avoided our house, leaving the full-sized candy bars my mother bought to the older kids who perpetuated gleefully the story of the ghost in the attic.

The story started when I was little, and told under a different pretense. Our neighbors’ oldest son, who was four years older than I was, thought he’d scare me shitless. But even at six I knew who the past owners were, my grandparents (and even the owners before that, Mom’s own grandfather — “Pa” — and his second wife). Anyway, Grandma and Grandpa retired to the Pacific Coast just after I was born and sold the house to my mother cheap. And even though the house was well over a hundred years old, nobody had every died there.

I told him so.

No. It’s true,” the neighbor’s boy said. “I’ve seen the ghost myself. In the attic window.”

Liar. That’s my bedroom.”

And that’s where the ghost is waiting. For you. On Halloween night, it will come. You’ll see.”

Then I told him what to do with himself, using a phrase I’d often heard from my father, especially when talking about his boss at work.

When Dad heard from the brat’s mom what I’d said though, I wound up with a stinging rosy bottom. Turns out my dad was as proficient with his palm as he was with four-letter words.

And though the story hadn’t scared me, then or ever, it was always there, just under the surface, in my thoughts. And especially around Halloween. Though Halloween was nearly two weeks past, I found myself thinking of the story again as I sat reading in my grandfather’s favorite armchair, feet propped up on his ottoman. It was raining hard and the sound of it at my window, the dormer window by which I sat, had a chilling effect on my nerves. My parents weren’t home — wouldn’t be for the next few days, in fact — and as an only child I had the old house to myself, its many, many rooms disturbingly empty. I was sixteen and, admittedly, a little jumpy because I had taken a recent liking to the “classic” horror novels of the 1980s. It was after eleven when the thunder came. And with it I decided I could no longer read this tale of demons and ungodly curses, its pages filled with so many horrifyingly abstract and abominable illustrations, and stripped off for bed.

I slipped under the comforter in my boxer briefs and turned out the lamp on the bedside table. A moment later a blue flash lit my room brightly followed a half second later by an explosion of thunder. That was close, too close for my liking. And so I rolled onto my side, facing away from the window, and tried to sleep.

A sound downstairs startled me and I jumped up to make sure I had locked the front door. I made my way down the spiral staircase to the second story and went to the grand staircase.

Another crash of thunder made me jump and I felt like a fucking fool for the little yelp of fear that escaped my lips.

But it was the figure coming up the stairs that made my heart skip.

Oh, god!” I cried with sudden relief when his handsome face came into view. “It’s just you.”

Just me, huh?”

Sorry. Didn’t mean for it to sound like that.”

Can I spend the night?” my boyfriend asked.

Fighting again with — ”

Yeah. My dad skipped work today. He’s been drinking all day.”

Of course you can stay.”

I went downstairs to check the front door.

It’s locked,” he called down to me from the top of the staircase. “Do you really think your mom would trust me with a key if I wasn’t responsible?”

Sorry,” I said. “Force of habit, I guess.”

Before becoming my boyfriend six months ago, he’d been my best friend. Ever since the start of junior high school, the two of us could be found together. We had so many things in common, it seemed. Even then, though, his father had been abusive. And my friend had come here from time to time to escape the dysfunction of family life at home. His short-tempered father battled depression and alcohol abuse. His mother was a shadow, lacking willpower and the courage to stand up for herself or for her children.

As time progressed and it became clear what was happening at home, my parents let him know he was welcome in our house whenever he needed a safe place to run to. That happened a lot, throughout our junior high years and even more so into our first year of high school. Mom finally gave him a key to the house when we were fourteen and freshmen.

I’m soaked,” he said. “And I’m freezing.”

I was just trying to get some sleep before you got here.”

Sorry to bother you,” he said. “But I really could not take another minute there. The tension was too much. And — ”

Did he hit you?”

Not this time, no.”

I led him up the spiral stairs to my bedroom in the attic, and, once there, he peeled off his sopping wet jacket. He left it hanging over the back of the office chair by my computer desk, then went to the attached bathroom.

Mind if I shower?” he asked after bringing up the bathroom light. “I hate being rain soaked. Especially sleeping that way — all coolish and clammy, you know?”

Go on,” I said. “You know where the towels are.”

Wanna join me?”


He kicked off his shoes, lowered the toilet lid, and sat to remove his socks. Then he pulled the T-shirt over his head and off before slipping out of his wet jeans. He too was wearing white boxer briefs and they were damp, allowing me to see everything in perfect outline.

Listen to that storm, man,” he said.

The thunder?”

No. Its the wind and rain.”

What about ‘em,” I asked.

The sounds of the wind and rain have always kinda freaked me out.”


Guess it just reminds me of nights when my dad would yell at my mom and tell her what a piece of shit she is. The fucker.”


Yeah. Oh,” he repeated.

He turned slightly so his side and back were to me and I saw the faint scar on his back, a light pink line across his tanned skin just under the right scapula. It was something that was not to be discussed. Last year his father had taken his belt to him, to swat his bottom until the tears flowed freely, as was too often the case, a punishment because he had stayed too many nights in a row at our house. But, as the Old Man was drunk, the buckle end slipped out of his palm and left a gash.

It was the only time my boyfriend’s mother ever stood up. She called the police.

Long story short, things didn’t improve. In a way, they might have even gotten worse since then. The dirty bastard certainly hadn’t learned any lesson from being hauled away for the night to the drunk tank.

I touched his spine, ran my finger down its length, needing suddenly to touch him.

Upon being touched, he turned and grinned at me. “Working out pays off,” he said and made a muscle. “Yeah?”

The two of us had basically the same build, lean. Tall and lean and lightly muscled. Even so, the two of us worked out after school three times a week. Sometimes four. Both of us were fast, too, and had plans to try out for the track team come spring.

Looking good,” I told him and flexed in front of the mirror, too.

Standing close together in our tight boxer briefs, I was impressed by the sight of us, two lean young men, one with a golden tan complexion, the other pale. He was of French ancestry, I think, his forebears coming from a Mediterranean province. And I was an Irish Gael, so naturally I was pale. Both of us had the same color hair, a dark dusty blond. In fact, both of us had similar looks, enough so that we were occasionally mistaken for brothers.

Then, with an idle look, his full lips parted slightly, he pushed his underwear down around his thighs and grabbed his cock, which was still soft. He tugged at the foreskin.

What are you doing?”

Nothing,” he replied as though his mind was somewhere else.

I took off my underwear. “Ready for that shower?”

A long moment passed; he said nothing.

Then, “Do you think your parents know about us?”

Probably,” I said.

Are they cool with it?”

If they know, then, yeah, I’m sure they’re cool with us.”

Sometimes I think I should tell my mom.”

Think that would go over okay?”

My mom’s not a bad lady,” he said. “Just....”


A sad, resigned look came over him then, replacing the mild absent look that had been there a moment before. “Yeah. Weak.”

I wish things were different.”

Me too.”

Then he took off his underwear and we stood there in front of the mirror for a long moment, his shaggy hair hanging loose and dripping still from the rain. He came up to me from behind, partially anyway, and put his arms around me.

Sometimes I wish I could just stay here forever,” he said. “Sometimes I wish I could just leave my sisters and mom to deal with the shit. And then I feel guilty for thinking such a thing.”

I get it,” I told him. “It isn’t anything to be ashamed of.”

Grabbing me by the hand, he led me into the shower, turned it on, adjusting the water temperature. Then we were soaping each other up and down. Both of us were hard. It felt nice every time my erection brushed against his thigh or against his cock. We stood face to face, cock fencing, and then we were kissing each other.

Feels nice,” I told him.

Every time we’re together.”

He reached for the bottle of shampoo and handed it to me. I applied a little shampoo to his hair, his back to me. He rinsed. I washed his back then and his ass, separating his buttocks.

Touch me,” he said.

I pushed him against the shower’s tiled wall, pushing his feet apart with my own, widening his stance. Then I slid one finger inside of him, though just a little bit.

He whimpered.

Like that?”

He nodded.

So I placed my cock between his buttocks and start to grind, pressing the length of my shaft against his opening. I was grinding hard against him until I nearly came. All the while, I had his rod in hand, stroking him, my hand all slick with soap.

Oh, god,” he said with a sigh.

I rubbed the tip against his pucker then, circling it slowly, deliberately.

We had never fucked. He was convinced it’d hurt. Probably right about that. And then there was the fact I never could picture either of us as a bottom. But we’d tried other things. Like fingering each other’s prostate, massaging it. And I liked it when he gave me a rim job, too. I was a little less fond of licking him, but it was okay.

I kissed his shoulder and then the nape of his neck. Slowly, I kissed him all the way down, following his spinal column from one vertebra to the next, until I stopped at his tail bone. I kissed him there. Then I kissed his right buttock. My hand was around front, on his erection, stroking him again.

Lick me,” he begged.

And I did, flicking my tongue over him a few times.

I wasn’t anywhere near as talented in that department as he was, I knew. But I gave it a go for almost a minute, tasting water and soap.

I stopped when another peal of thunder shook the house to its bones.

That was right outside,” he said.

I turned off the shower right away, we were both well-rinsed, and we toweled each other off. I dimmed the bathroom light and he led me toward the bed by the cock. It made a good handle.

The wind drove the rain against the window with gathering force and he drove me down just as fiercely onto the mattress, thrusting his tongue into my mouth. And, in response, all I could do was grab the round globes of his ass and hang on.

Despite the roar of thunder outside and incessant rush of the wind and rain, we were all that mattered to the other at that moment. I met his thrusts with my own. Our kisses left us breathless. And when I pushed my finger into him for the second time it sent him right over the edge and he cried out.

We came.

And then he collapsed on top of me, our breathing matched, in and out, and again, as though we had merged, a single being sharing one heart and one set of lungs.

A very long moment passed and the sound of our heavy breathing was quieted and then lost in the sounds of the storm outside my window. Slowly, sleep approached.

It really isn’t so bad, I guess,” he said, his voice gentle and contented.

What isn’t?”

The sound of the rain at your window.”


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