Tuesday, November 2, 2021


Previously in this blog serial...

(Click here to read Chapter Twelve

Now the HAUNTING continues...


Haunting Sturgeons, chapter 13 by john L. Harmon

    I am climbing the precarious stone steps of the rebuilt Sturgeons Public Library.  I wasn’t an avid reader as a kid, so my memories of this place are vague pieces at best.  An echoing silence.  A slight musty staleness in the air.  Occasional shushing.  I recall the overall feeling being serious and more for adults than children.

    Two pillars stand guard on either side of the double doors, the only ornate aspect of the two-story brick building.  I enter and take in the one large room, finding it how I remember, but also different.  The walls hold shelves of non-fiction books, with several free-standing rows for fiction.  An assortment of tables and chairs are scattered about, along with a few patrons watching me.  Across from the doors is the main desk, which is where the difference can be seen.

    Instead of the clinched, no-nonsense librarian from another era that I remember, there stands someone only a few years older than me.  His fiery red hair is a splash of vibrant color against the muted shades of green and grey.  He smiles as I approach, my footsteps shattering the silence.  The curious look in his eyes indicates he is trying to place me, but I don’t think I know him.  I would surely remember his vivid put together-disheveled style.

    “Hello, may I help you?” the librarian inquires, his green eyes still searching for recognition. 

    Thinking about the other patrons, I lower my voice to a loud whisper, “Hi, I am looking for a book.”

    As if out of habit, he readies his fingers on the computer keyboard.  “What’s the title?”

    “I don’t know,” I answer, feeling my heart thudding in my chest, “but the author is Benjamin Straker.”  Even with my lowered volume, I swear the lawman’s last name reverberates through the stacks.

    The librarian removes his fingers from the keyboard and gives me a hard look.  Then a knowing smile slides across his face, “Are you Jimmy Schroder?” 

    “Yes,,” I answer uneasily.  “Why do you ask?”

    “You’re on the list.”  Before I can ask about this list, he tells a nearby clerk to watch the front desk and then beckons me with a wave.  The need to know drives me forward and I follow this suddenly talkative stranger.  He tells me his life story as we walk through a door into a back room.  His name is Simon Hollis and he interned at the library as a teenager.  Then he came back to become the youngest head librarian in Sturgeons history.   Simon had also been in the same class as Tommy, but I still don’t remember him.  He grins as we walk down a narrow flight of stairs, “You know, your brother cut a fine figure.  Such a waste that he wasn’t more like…us.” 

    I don’t even know how to respond as we continue down the stairs, especially with his sly wink.  Obviously everyone from the elderly to his peers wanted my brother, but I would rather focus on more important topics.  “So, what’s this about a list?” 

    “Oh, it’s a list of names,” Simon answers vaguely as he flips on a set of lights hanging from the ceiling.  Shelves of old, dusty books fill the basement, along with a solitary table and two chairs in the middle.  “Names of people he believed would be interested in reading his book.” 

    “You mean Benjamin Straker’s book?” I ask, just to make sure the librarian and I are still on the same page. 

    “Yes,” Simon answers, his back turned to me as he studies one particular shelf.  “I only met Straker once, when he left his book here.  He struck me as a nice guy, but he split town with his husband before I could get to know him.  I swear the good ones are always married or hetero-centric.  Ah, here it is!” 

    I watch as the librarian removes an oversized paperback from the shelf and blows dust off of it.  Coughing a little, he places the volume on the table.  I can barely believe Ms. Minch steered me in the right direction and now the lawman’s book is in front of me.  Taking a seat, I study the green and black cover, but there is something peculiar.  I open the book and feel my heart sink. 

    “What language is this?” I question as I flip through a few pages of unfamiliar markings.

    “It’s shorthand.  Guess Straker was eccentric.”  Simon grins and takes a seat across from me, “Flip it over.”

    I do as he says and study the revelation.  The back cover is almost identical to the front but the text has been translated.  Can the lawman’s words actually explain what happened to my brother?  Could it change my feelings?  Alter my perception of the last ten years?  Caught up in my thoughts, I forget that I’m not alone and read the cover out loud, “Shadowtown, a novel by Benjamin J. Straker.”


The HAUNTING continues in…

Chapter 14

Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words! 

Freak Out, 



Click the pic ⤵️ to open November’s Collective Eye interview with artist-author…

JP Cline-Márquez