Of Ghosts and Old Doorbells

The old doorbell had been silent for over twenty years. After this house was abandoned, people eventually stopped coming to visit, or even to try and sell things. It had been so long, in fact, that the ghosts started to assume it was too rusty to ever make another sound.

Three generations of ghosts dwelled in the old house; they drifted lazily up and down the stairs, reenacted balls in the parlor, had the same conversations that had echoed in the halls for hundreds of years. They spoke of wars long finished and weddings whose couples had long been buried together.

In the midst of this nostalgic echo, this perpetual sigh, the doorbell rang. It was really just an old bell situated somewhere by the front door; someone outside rang, and a string caused it to rattle. It wasn’t the loudest sound, and it hadn’t been touched with the greatest strength—the noise it made was indeed feeble—but when that doorbell rang, everything stopped.

The ladies dressed in ballgowns stopped their repetitive gossip to look at the door, wide-eyed. The butler, who had long run out of things to do, stopped mid-pace with his hands clasped behind his back. The scullery maid got to her feet, bouncing; an old greyhound who rested by the chilly fireplace lifted his head, whining.

“Visitors!” cried one of the ladies, fanning herself (in vain, because she could not produce any air with a ghost fan.) “I do miss playing the piano!”

“Stop it, Dinah,” said her companion with a deep, dramatic sigh; “you know as well as I that we cannot touch anything. Not even the door.”

Dinah played with a lock of her long blonde hair; it had come out of her elaborate knot, somehow, over the course of her years being dead. “Then who’s going to answer the door, Annie?”

Her companion, clearly the wiser of the two, shrugged with a regretful smile. “None of us can. We cannot touch anything.”

“But we should be polishing the silver,” said the butler, speaking for the first time in centuries. “Lighting candles. Dusting the curtains!”

“We can do nothing of the sort, Mr Brown.”

The dog whined, putting his head back on the ground, nose twitching as if struggling to hold back real tears.

The doorbell rang again, a bit more loudly this time. The ghosts stared at the bell as it rattled into silence, some hugging themselves, some breathing heavily, all knowing perfectly well that they could do nothing about it; they had no physical hands with which to open the door for them, no real voices with which to greet them or sing happy music.

“Then what did we get from any of this?” asked the maid sadly, sitting back down on the ground and crossing her legs as they listened to gravel crunch—their visitor was walking away, having realized no one was home to answer them.

Annie paused, gazing at the bell as she forced herself to think, really think, for the first time in a while. “It woke us up, Dinah. I think that’s good enough. It woke us up.”

With that, she took a step back and crossed to the other side of the room, where she lifted her chin and stood with her shoulders back.

“And I propose,” she continued, “a change. Shall we spend the next twenty years in this corner, rather than that one?”

Dinah watched Annie with a quaint frown. At last she shrugged, seeing as there was nothing for her to lose anyway; she crossed the room as well, while the baffled Mr Brown watched, himself reluctant to do anything differently from how it had been done a century ago. “I say,” she exclaimed, “it’s sunnier in this corner.”

The dog got up and crossed the room after her, where he sat down at her feet in the exact same position to listen. Annie smiled, taking Dinah’s fan and using it herself—it was her turn, after all.

“Now, then,” she said to her friend, as the other ghosts slowly began to shift position until the next person rang the doorbell, “tell me about your wedding plans.”


Why Writers Don’t Have to Drink Coffee

For many writers, coffee’s essential in order to practice the craft. It gives us energy, smells good, and there are many ways to drink it—you can add creamer or take it black (I love it both ways!)

I, too, swore on coffee being the writer’s drink—until my mom got me a brilliant cocoa-latte machine. After experimenting with different things in the recipe booklet, I realized we shouldn’t limit ourselves to coffee.

Your cure to Writer’s Block might be simple as choosing a different hot (or cold) beverage!

Recently, homemade hot chocolate’s been my favorite when it’s time to write or edit. I’ve also tried a hot Nutella drink and a variation made with dulce de leche (if you haven’t tried this Argentine delicacy, do. It’s so sweet, you may only be able to handle one spoonful!) Other days I need a classic cup of warm tea. Since springtime weather has come, I’m planning to make cold drinks—special lemonades, iced coffee, even smoothies.

The point of this post is we shouldn’t confine the craft to one age group, genre, or drink. I used to look at people who preferred tea with suspicious eyes, but this winter realized that limiting our writing to one beverage is like forcing us all to follow the same storyline.

Writers shouldn’t be limited to the workspace habits of others. We build our own, choosing how to organize our desks, even picking which pens to write with. Believe it or not, this does make a difference!

Don’t let anyone force you to drink coffee. I encourage you to experiment before you decide it’s not for you, since a lot can be done to ‘customize’ it; however, don’t do it because you feel pressured.

You can be a writer and not like coffee. You can even be a writer and not like tea. Be a writer by being you.

Choose your favorite writing beverage, make a playlist your muse enjoys, write in a shadowy corner or a sunny spot in the yard. I believe we would get more original stories if people would walk away from stereotypes, embracing themselves as individuals.

What do you drink while writing—coffee, lemonade, or plain old water? Do you write in a cafe or your comfy bedroom? Do you listen to indie music or classic rock?

Choose what feels right for you, for the sake of your story!