The lightning is flashing and the rain is coming down in sheets. My husband is out. It’s just me, my cat, my canary and my imagination, which is no small thing.
Full disclosure: I love reading mysteries and watching mysteries, but I’m not reading or watching one now. I’m in my office working, when suddenly I hear a sound. Whoosh. And then it’s silent. What was that? It wasn’t the canary. He sings better than that. It wasn’t the cat. He’s sitting at my feet, the hair raised on his back. And it certainly wasn’t my imagination. Was it?
One thing I’ve learned watching whodunits is that if you hear strange noises in another part of your house, you should never go investigate, especially if you’re home alone, it’s a stormy night, the power is out and there’s scary movie music playing. Actors do that all the time, and it never ends well for them.
But the power is on and there’s no scary movie music, so I leave the safety of my office. I check the bedroom, bathroom, living room, dining room, and kitchen, turning on lights as I go. The scariest thing I see is a stack of dirty dishes.
If you watch mysteries like I do, you know that if you’re home alone on a stormy night and you hear a noise, you should never venture into the basement. But what choice do I have? I look around for a weapon and grab the dust mop. I figure I may as well use it for something.
I tiptoe down the stairs and check the laundry room, the family room, the bedroom, and the guest bathroom. All clear. I run up the stairs, leaving all the lights on and dropping the mop in my haste. I don’t go back for it. It’s not like I’m going to need it tonight—or ever.
When my husband comes home, he asks why every light in the house is on and why there’s a dust mop on the staircase. I tell him about the sound. I tell him I think we’ve had an intruder. He’s skeptical about an intruder who does nothing but whoosh.
But he takes a look around, finds nothing, goes to bed and sleeps like a baby. I lie awake for hours listening. I think I hear the sound again around 2 a.m. I know I hear it the next day and several more times over the next week. My husband doesn’t. I’m starting to wonder if he’s hard of hearing. He’s starting to wonder about me too.
And then one day, I’m standing in the hallway next to the guest bathroom and I hear it again. Whoosh. And suddenly, I know what it is. We have a ghost and it’s flushing our toilet.
When my husband comes home, I tell him that we have a ghost and it must have bladder problems because it’s using our guest bathroom with alarming regularity. He’s doubtful we have a ghost and that if we do, it has a bladder.
He suggests we need a new flapper in the toilet. I know almost nothing about plumbing. You may have guessed that by now, but a bad flapper sounds better than a ghost. He fixes the flapper and all is well. Or so I think.
And then one night, whoosh. The new flapper has made no difference. The ghost is back. The toilet begins whooshing at all hours of the day and night. I say we need ghost busters. My husband says we need a plumber. We do it his way.
The plumber comes. He fixes a valve—or something. And I haven’t used the dust mop since.
(Dorothy Rosby is the author of several humor books, including I Used to Think I Was Not That Bad and Then I Got to Know Me Better. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.)