Ancestor Spirits

—Lester Smith

Jason stalked across the yard, a haunted expression in his eyes.

“Grab your toys and get inside, Linda.”

She stooped and clutched her raggedy bear, gazed up at him.

“It will be okay, Linda,” he said. “Let’s just hurry and get inside.”

He quickly helped gather her blocks and cars, tossing them into a plastic bucket, then took her free hand and marched her up the stairs, across the porch, and into the house. He set the toys on the hall rug, turned, and locked the door, pressing his hands and head against it.

The daylight dimmed, and a breeze sighed across the porch. It set the bamboo chimes to rattling like bones.

Let us in, Jason, he heard it whisper.

“Never,” he muttered.

“Daddy?”

Don’t disobey us, Jason, it insisted. Do as you are told!

“I will not.” He planted his feet more firmly.

“Daddy?”

You need to be disciplined, Jason. Spare the rod and spoil the child. You need respect!

He remembered the whippings of his youth, the angry welts left by his father’s frenzied switch—themselves the echoes of whippings by his father’s father, and countless generations before …

“Respect is earned,” he growled.

“Daddy?”

The wind whipped up, and the light darkened further.

Who are you to judge us? You are our offspring! The fruit of our loins! What makes you think you can choose your own way? Fool! You cannot oppose the weight of ages. You are what we made you!

“I am nothing like you!”

“Daddy!”

“Goddam it, Linda!” He spun toward her, fists clenched, teeth grinding. “What? What!”

She sat down hard on the rug, pale-faced, eyes wide with tears.

“Daddy, I’m scared,” she whispered.

He turned away, slumping his head against the door with a sigh. The ghosts had fooled him. They had found their way inside after all.

“It will be okay,” he lied.

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