May 11, 2006

SEATTLE, Washington – Fog creeps in, reducing Ballard to charcoal smudges. I pad down the back stairs, through the alley, and almost collide with my neighbor. We both recoil.

Night and fear make strangers of us all.

Two blocks onward, I pass the haunted house. An empty wine bottle and children's book rest on a mattress in the front yard. It's been deliquescing for six months or so – the fabric dissolving, springs twining with weeds.

The door opens. A shadowy figure emerges.

I screech. The screech of a cartoon housewife cornered by a 4oz mouse.

The ranch has been derelict at least two years, since I returned to Seattle. And now a man's stirring on the unlit porch. "You startled me," I say.

He doesn't reply. Probably because he's about to peel off his rubber face mask, cackling, "I would have got away with it too, if it weren't for you meddling kids."

Hooligans smash bottles on Market Street – not the neighborhood norm. I glance up. The moon's soft-focus from the mist, but appears pretty full. Yeah. Figures.

"Ballard's edgy tonight," I tell the convenience store clerk. "Has it been this freakshow all evening?"

"Have a good night," he responds automatically.

Somehow – with the spook vibe – I doubt I will.

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