Bates Motel Anyone?

If I disappear for too long, be sure to tell the cops to look in the backyard of this house for my dismembered body parts. Not that I am in danger of anything but being creeped out, but still, the atmosphere here does give rise to such imaginings. I’ve always claimed I don’t have much of an imagination — and I don’t; I can only marvel at the macabre scenarios people come up with — but this is a case of no imagination necessary.

I’d been looking for a place to stay, and there was nothing even remotely appropriate (the best was a nice house in a nice neighborhood with a pit bull roommate — the canine kind). So when a friend (a now erstwhile friend) offered to rent me the master bedroom of her house that will soon be on the market, I jumped at the chance, especially since the deal came with the use of the garage.

I should have known this was not going to be the sinecure it seemed when my ex-friend’s mother (who had been living in the house until recently) came to give me the keys and the garage door opener, and the garage door opener didn’t work without a lot of fiddling and hand banging. Turns out the battery was so old and rusted and leaky, that it must never have been replaced. I cleaned it and replaced the battery, and now the opener works fine.

The room looked nice enough, but still, I kept my socks on the first night since I didn’t want to walk on the floor until I had a chance to clean it. Good thing. The floor turned out to be filthy. Dog hair galore. I had to throw away the socks. After a day spent scrubbing, the room is now clean and livable, with my own sheets, pillows, and comforters on the bed.

Luckily, the door of this master bedroom can be locked because here is where it gets immeasurably creepy. There are molting plants everywhere except my bedroom. Not genteel geraniums or a well-behaved rubber tree, but a forest of weeping plants, folliage drooping and cascading over tables, with tree-like plants by the fireplace and parked in corners, even a partcularly unattractive leaf-dropper in my bathroom.

Moving on to the kitchen. No. Let’s not. I stay away from there, though I am supposed to have kitchen privileges.There is not a single surface, table, chair, counter, shelf in the refrigerator or freezer or cabinet that is not completely packed with food, some of it open, most of it long expired.

Do you see that I am leading to the piece de resistance?

The house comes complete with its own resident ghoul. Actually, I am not being fair. The late-middle-aged fellow, who speaks not a word of English, has mental problems of an undisclosed nature. He talks to himself, has night and day inverted, and is somewhat of a recluse. He had been married, but she walked out on him. His best friend decamped, and after his sister kicked him out, my friend took him in. Supposedly he is harmless, but he is not at all affable, though he did wake me up at 6:00 one morning to offer me a piece of gum. I think that’s a good sign. At least, I hope it is. Besides, the dozens of cloying angels perched on every spare surface will look after me.

His room is on the opposite end of the house, so I don’t see him much. And I take comfort knowing there is a door on the shower rather than a curtain.

Best of all, this is good preparation for when I take off next month, heading into the inhospitable winter.

If I survive.


(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

My newly restored beetle has nothing to do with this post, but I am using the image anyway because it is one of the few things that currently makes me smile.