Incident at the Laramie Farmhouse
The expansive sky stretched out in an ocean of blue. The mid-June heat was tempered by the wind so it felt just perfect, and there was not a person in sight. My friend Johnston and I were walking Aunt Cathy’s dog on the old Wyoming country roads. I could see for miles, and we decided it wouldn’t be much of a risk if we let the dog off-leash. He began to run this was and that, and trotted on to someone’s land.
“Lopso, get back here right now!” I yelled. The dog was on Ben Laramie’s property. He was our neighbor, but we didn’t know more than rumors about him. The other neighbors never talked to him, and they had told us we shouldn’t either. Johnston Barber and I started to walk onto Ben Laramie’s land, ignoring the red NO TRESPASSING sign. The dog had walked right up to a food dish beside the house. Lopso began to eat voraciously. As we walked towards the dog and got ready to catch him, Johnston started to talk with me.
“So how long are you going to be at Aunt Cathy’s for?” he asked. He was always excited when I could get over to his house and visit.
“About a week. My parents are on vacation, and decided Aunt Cathy’s place is the best place for me del they’re gone. I’m really happy Aunt Cathy’s gone on that agricultural meeting, because we can have some real freedom for once.” I replied.
“Awesome! We’ll be having a lot of fun, then. Maybe my dad will let you drive his tractor. It’s pretty fun. Nice little blue 78′ Ford. It runs just fine.” replied Johnston, loudly.
I walked over to Lopso, and tried to pick him up. He growled, so I stopped. I stood there awkwardly.
“Finish up, Lopso. We should get off Ben Laramie’s land. I don’t think he wants us here.”
Right on cur, the door opened up rather abruptly. Ben Laramie was there in front of us, wearing denim overalls and boots as old as himself. Ben had unique bright green eyes, and a roundish, weathered face.
“What are you two doing here?” he asked, gruffly.
“Our dog just ran up to your porch. I had to get him.” was my nervous reply. I could hardly look at him, for he was very imposing.
“Well, get off my land.” Ben Laramie said. He was a serious, simple man.
I hesitated there for a moment.
“Well as soon as I can get this dog to stop eating that food, we will. Sorry.” I hoped I wasn’t blushing.
Ben’s wife, Maggie, walked up to the door. She stood behind him. Apparently, she was rather mad at him.
“Ben, are you being rude again?” she asked.
“No.” Ben snapped. He was getting pretty mad at all of us.
“Here, you two. I know you from across the street.” said Maggie.
“Yep. I’m staying at Mrs. Robertson’s house. She’s my aunt.” I said.
“I’m from next door.” added Johnston.
“Well, I think Ben should be a little kinder to our neighbors. Don’t you agree, Ben? You two can come in for supper, because I know your aunt is gone for that meeting.” said Maggie.
Maggie seemed to have a calming effect on Ben, because he had changed from a furious countryman to a regular husband in a few short minutes.
“Yep. Sure. They can stay for a while, I guess. Just make sure they don’t bother me too much.” said Ben.
“That sounds fine to me.” I said. “We don’t have to be back at Aunt Cathy’s until late tonight.” Ben protested his wife’s kindness a little bit, but it didn’t get him anywhere.
“How about Lopso? Where will he be?” asked Johnston, who always thought things through, even when they didn’t concern him.
“We’ll take care of him. He’ll be fine. We don’t actually have any dogs, that bowl’s just out there as junk.” explained Maggie.
We stepped inside the old Laramie house. It was not extremely clean, but still a tolerable place, if slightly boring.
Dinner was good. It was full of small talk and tasty food. The main course was pork chops and applesauce. I could tell that Johnston enjoyed the dinner as much as I did. Ben was a fairly good sport, compared to when he yelled at us. I ate a plate and a half full of food, since I hadn’t eaten since hours before.
Suddenly, towards the end of the meal, Ben Laramie got up and left, only making a strange grunting sound. He didn’t even take his plate.
Now that Maggie Laramie had some time to talk to us without Ben’s presence, she could explain to us his quirks.
“I hope you don’t take offense to this, but why did Ben get so heated up over us on his porch?” I asked. Maggie’s contented expression was replaced by one more serious.
“He can get kind of unpredictable. There were some… strange things that happened in his past. He doesn’t like to talk about it, and I don’t bug him. Honestly, I don’t even know what happened to him. Of course, he would never do anything too out of the ordinary. He’s really not so bad, once you get to know him.” She smiled fakely.
“Okay, then” I replied, a bit rudely. I thought this over for a minute. It was disconcerting that Ben had so many problems, and they seemed very serious to me.
“If the two of you want, you can stay for breakfast, and go back to your aunt’s after. I don’t think she’ll have a big problem with that. I’ll explain it to her in the morning.” I didn’t really want to stay, but Johnston stepped in, confident as always.
“That sounds fine to me.” he said. I held my tongue, even though I disagreed.
Maggie smiled again, and started to pick up the dishes.
After a typical afternoon of watching the television and going outside, Maggie showed us to a guest room that had obviously been rarely-used. It was ugly, with the wallpaper tearing and several cracks in the floor and ceiling. The window was open just a crack. Later that night, I tried to close it, but to my dismay, it was permanently jammed open.
Since the sun was setting, it was assumed we were going to bed. However, neither one of us felt particularly sleepy. We also had later bedtimes than the Laramies, at least when our parents couldn’t tell them otherwise.
“Johnston, do you think we made the right decision about staying here? I mean, we didn’t even tell Aunt Cathy or your dad.” I was fairly anxious. Johnston thought for a few seconds, and I could tell he shared my emotions.
“I guess so. We should have planned it better. But this is actually pretty fun in a way. It’s like an adventure. I mean, our town’s just as safe as it can get. I guess we could be in a better place than the Laramies, but we have to take what we can get. It’ll be alright if we leave early tomorrow morning.” I sat there for a few seconds.
“So, do you want the bed or the floor?” I asked.
Johnston was a nice enough person to decline my offer the first time.
“I’m fine with the floor. Just get me a blanket.”
“But it’s fine, I can sleep there-” I interjected.
“No. You’re not from the country like me. I bet those bugs will scare you if they crawl around when you’re trying to fall asleep” his voice was mocking.
“Come on. I’m not afraid of any bugs.” I replied. I was, but I wasn’t about to tell Johnston.
“Okay then, you take the floor.” said Johnston. He snickered to himself.
We kept talking for a while after sundown, mostly about small things of no real concern. I still thought about how rude Ben Laramie was before his wife calmed him down. He really wanted us to get off his property.
I hoped he wouldn’t be like that again. Something told me he might, though. Hopefully, his wife would be there again to calm him down.
The wind made a quiet howling noise as it crept into the house. I felt the draft, and wished I hadn’t decided to sleep on the floor. I hoped there weren’t any big bugs sharing the floor with me, either. My suspicions were confirmed, when I heard a skittling sound next to me.
“Johnston, there’s a palmetto bug (cockroach) down here!” I whispered loudly. “Let me up there!”
“No thanks. I’m not about to be sharing a bed with another boy.” replied Johnston, snickering at his little joke. I felt sick.
I kept hearing the skittering, but the palmetto bug didn’t touch me.
Eventually, I feel asleep, and didn’t wake up until after dawn.
Breakfast was big, and reminded me much of the dinner before aside from the food. Suddenly, Ben Laramie interrupted the conversation by pouting.
“Maggie! You have to give me three pieces of bacon! Not two!” he growled.
Maggie looked up, but I could tell that she was hardly sympathetic.
We resumed our small talk and tall tales. Johnston told a funny story about him and his friends in the woods.
“Maggie!” Ben interrupted.
A bizarre energy radiated from Ben Laramie.
“Get those people out of my life!” shouted Ben. He was extremely angry. Ben stood up and ran upstairs, quickly. Johnston laughed, but I took him more seriously. What sort of problems could make a person act like this? Maggie said it had something to do with Ben’s past. I couldn’t think of much that could explain his behavior, though.
“Umm… I don’t know what to say. He usually is fine. The thing about Ben is that he has to have everything a certain way. If they’re not the same every day, he gets really mad. But he should cool down in a minute or two” explained Maggie.
Upstairs, I heard a faint banging sound.
“Well, I think we should be going soon.” I said.
“Just wait a second. You said you played the piano, right?” said Maggie.
“I do.” I replied.
“There’s an old piano in the barn. I don’t know how it got there, but you might want to play it.”
I realized that I had never played the piano for Johnston before. I was pretty good, since I had played since I was five.
“Okay. That sounds fine. But we’re going to get back to Aunt Cathy’s after that.” I said.
Maggie looked kind of melancholy, but I was relieved to know I was going to get out of their house.
After breakfast was done, Johnston and I headed out to the barn, like Maggie had said. The barn was quite simple, and was apparently not used for anything except storage. In it was a handful of odds and ends, and an old upright piano. There was a pile of hay next to the ladder upstairs.
I played a few keys to see if it was tuned. The piano was very out-of-tune, but I knew some songs that could actually make that a good thing. There is something about a honky-tonk piano that can bring out the best in ragtime and Western music.
“So what can you play?” asked Johnston.
“A lot. I’ll show you. Sit on the hay pile.” Johnston obliged, and listened to the old songs. I had never played a piano in a barn before, and it felt kind of funny.
Slowly, my mind drifted off to darker places. Somehow, I felt like the piano might attract Ben Laramie. I shuddered at the thought. Ben’s wife could keep him under control, but on his own, he was an intense, unpredictable person.
“I don’t want to play any more.” I said, out of the blue.
“It’s okay. Go on. I wanna hear more.” said Johnston. I thought for a few minutes, and decided I would play one more song.
Echoing voices started to drift through my head. The voice of Maggie was the loudest. “Of course, he would never do anything out of the ordinary.” The words flashed through my head like lightning, and lingered there like fog. “He’s not so bad, once you get to know him.”
Why did those phrases sound so false? I knew that Maggie was hiding something, some important secret. I also felt like Ben Laramie was getting closer. I waited in apprehension. Johnston noticed I had stopped playing midway through the song.
“Nate, keep playing! Gosh.” Johnston was getting very annoyed with me.
“Where has your mind been?” he asked.
“I just feel really weird. Kinda sick.” I replied.
“Well, I guess we can go back home soon. Just finish that song” Johnston prodded.
I heard the distant footfalls of Ben Laramie, getting closer every second. I played the old piano as softly as I could, just so I could hear him better. Something was wrong with this man, and I had no idea what to do about it. Should I run? Should I risk a fight with him? I knew I was outmatched. As I sat there, softly playing the piano, I realized that my only hope was to pray that he wouldn’t notice me.
Ben Laramie appeared into the corner of my eye. He acted as if he was drunk, but I knew his ailment was much more serious than a drinking problem. He had never been like this before. In his eyes was a strange, green mist. Ben stared at me. Or was it him? His eyes were clouded and fake-looking, and his manner was different. His words, though they sounded kind, were deluded and bizarre.
“Nate Leparét, you look so cute playing that piano.”
The man laughed the cackleiest laugh, and slowly walked away. He looked back at me one more time, his eyes prying into mine. Then, Ben Laramie went up the ladder into the hay loft. I waited for a tense moment, and then whispered to Johnston. Johnston was on the floor next to me, sitting on a pile of hay, and listening to the piano. I told him the obvious; that we were not safe around Ben Laramie. He agreed with me. His face showed an expression of worry.
Before Johnston and I could decide what to do next, we heard a riotous, evil laugh from upstairs. It went on for a long time. Nothing like the reclusive, introverted Ben Laramie’s laugh. It sounded like it came from a whole different person, and not a person that I would NEVER like to meet.
I was paralyzed in fear. What would happen next? I looked at Johnston. He looked paralyzed, too. We both sat there tensely, waiting for whatever fate was in store for us. I felt like my mind was hovering above my body, like I could see the top of my head. I breathed loudly and heavily. I tried frantically to sprint away, but my legs were rooted there like trees. I stopped playing music altogether. I heard a crawling noise from upstairs. Oh God. The hay-loft ladder was right behind me. I felt like I was going to faint.
I noticed that Johnston had done better than me at getting up and out of the barn. He had walked, slowly, over to the barn door. Still, there was some horrible spell over the two of us that kept us in the barn, because he had not opened the door. Johnston had a look or petrified horror on his face.
I heard Ben slowly climbing down the ladder. I didn’t turn around until he had made it to the bottom. I gasped.
Over Ben Laramie’s shoulder was a rusty shotgun. He clearly meant to use it. But that wasn’t what made me cringe. Ben Laramie’s face was bloody and still bleeding. It had deep cuts all over it, and they were brand new. He quietly chuckled to himself, which was even more unnerving than his previous laughter. The gashes didn’t bother him a bit.
I knew I was going to die.
Thinking as quickly as I could, I remembered that Ben Laramie was soothed somewhat by the piano. I began to play it again, although I made numerous mistakes due to my trembling fingers. Ben took the shotgun off his shoulder, and stared at me menacingly. He drew a bead on me, and I knew it was over.
Suddenly, Ben noticed Johnston standing there in the corner. He grinned.
“Go!” I yelled. Johnston made a run for it. He plowed through the front door, and started to run away from the barn. However, Ben Laramie’s aim was good.
I looked out of my squinting eyes. Johnston was slowing down. He had been shot in the leg. I gasped. Ben Laramie laughed as he reloaded his shotgun. I started to cry, feeling as helpless as a baby.
I didn’t look to see if Ben Laramie’s aim was good, but I knew it was, deep in my gut.
I was enraged. Enraged towards this horrendous animal disguised as a man. Infuriated at this merciless murderer. How could he possibly do that?
I quickly stood on my feet and faced Ben Laramie down. The fire in my eyes and the fog in his eyes met. I knew his single-shot shotgun was unloaded. This was my only chance for justice.
I ran towards Ben Laramie. Then, I suddenly felt a shooting, sickening impact in my hip. Ben had smashed me with the stock of the shotgun. I wrestled with Ben over possession of the gun. We pushed and pulled at it for a number of seconds.
I suddenly let go of the gun and punched Ben Laramie in the neck. He wheeled off-balance. With all my force, I tackled him down to the ground. His head smacked against the concrete. Ben let go of his shotgun, temporarily stunned. I felt around in his pocket, violently, and took out a shell.
As I tried my best to load Ben’s shotgun, he slowly got to his feet and walked towards me until I hit the barn wall. Ben was still in the fight, about to hit me again. He was smiling madly. I was cornered against the barn.
Taking the shotgun up to my shoulder, I pointed the barrel at Ben Laramie.
The shotgun violently pushed into my chest. The lead shot violently tore up Ben Laramie’s chest.
After I looked at Ben Laramie’s lifeless body, I noticed his eyes were plain green again. The foggy mist had left them. Only one question remained; why was the mist there in the first place?
I visited Johnston Barber’s grave every year on Christmas and his birthday. I put a few sprigs of lavender on it each time. He was a great friend, unique, loyal, and courageous. If only he could have experienced growing up and having a wife and kids like me, I’m sure he would have loved it. Sometimes, I feel guilty that I survived, even though all these years have passed. Maybe Ben Laramie should have killed me instead, because I probably deserved it a lot more. Even through the years, I feel like Johnston Barber still lives in that old house next to Aunt Cathy’s place.
Another scary story by me! —–> https://azurejames.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/new-scary-story/