low angle shot of man on ladder

The Haunted Ladder

I always look forward to writing stories about my dad. He led such an interesting life. He was one of the most hardworking men I’ve ever met in my life. I remember growing up, he always had two to three jobs, just to make money to put food on the table.

One Saturday morning when I was about 10 years old, my father approached me to see if I would be willing to help him with a residential house siding job that he put a bid on and won. I had no skills for this work, but I was a quick learner and hardworking, so I said yes. We drove to the west side of town and arrived on location at 8 o’clock in the morning, ready to start. As we pulled up in front I noticed the house was quite large, two stories, and the aluminum siding materials had already been delivered and stacked neatly on the driveway. My dad parked the car on the street right in front of the house between two large oak trees. He turned off the engine and got out of the car. I joined him in the back where he had already opened the trunk. There were boxes of nails and tools for the job. He even had two tool belts. I got to where a tool belt! This was news to me and I was feeling pretty cool strapping it on. I inspected the contents of my belt. There was a tape measure, a small hammer, tin snips, and even a small level. “Son you look like a real siding guy now. Let’s get this house done”, my dad announced proudly, sharing a smile with me.

We worked long and hard that day. The first task was to remove the window shutters and downspouts. Soon the first few pieces of siding were going up. By lunch time, we had most of the back of the house sided in place. My dad’s job was to measure twice and cut once the boxes and boxes of white siding. My job was to carry materials to our working space and hold the long end of whatever he was cutting. He took to the tall ladder quickly with grace and agility, attaching the aluminum siding to the house. I stood back and admired our work when we had completed the back of the house. The siding made the house look taller I thought to myself.

I began opening more boxes in the driveway while my dad drove to the nearby diner and purchased some man-size burgers with fries and onion rings. We sat on the hood of the car eating our delicious meal and wiping ketchup from the corners of our mouth. Knocking back the last of my Coca-Cola drink, I stood up and brushed the dust off my behind and the salt off my front. Time to tackle another two story wall.

Local neighbors were marking our progress by the siding now hanging and the ladder as it hopscotched its way around the west side of the house. Several of them stopped out at their mailboxes across the street and curiously monitored our work. I hoped they were pleased. I raised my hand and said “Hi!” More boxes were opened and emptied as we made our way around to the front of the house. My dad wiped his brow and checked the grandfather clock behind the lamp through the window in the living room. He turned to me and said, “Son, we are going to need one more day. Let’s say we complete the front side of the house and return early tomorrow and finish this job?”. “I think that’s a great idea dad!” I responded wiping my brow and checking the grandfather clock. A moment later I heard it chime four times.

Finally, we were across the front of the house and finishing the upstairs upper corner, when my dad looked at the shrubs in his way and decided to extend his reach and tap in one more nail. No need to move a ladder that has nowhere to go. The first nail in ricocheted off the house into the driveway. He reached for another nail and with and awkward swing of the hammer sent it flying even further. I could see the frustration mounting on his face. He screwed his forehead in tight and set a third nail. This time he leaned even further to make sure it counted. I was below him trying to steady a shaky ladder when it suddenly gave up the game and slid off the house, cutting through the shrubs and onto the driveway with my dad riding the whole way. He rolled twice and slumped over. I rushed to his side as he sat up and rubbed his face and his left elbow. “Maybe we ought to call it a day, what do you think?” For sure. I was shaking myself now. We cleaned up the worksite as the best we could. I put our tool belts in the trunk. My dad brought boxes of nails to the car and put them in the trunk. Just before leaving, my dad returned to the driveway for one more task. He lifted the fallen ladder and put it back on the front of the house. He hiked back to the car holding his left elbow. I think it was hurting more than he was letting on to. Tomorrow we would get that nail!

Dinner at the table that night with the family was exciting for me. Dad and I had something to share with the others. I remember the meal being warm and tasty, one of my mom’s favorite dishes, Peppy Burgers, a family classic. We all laughed at how funny I must have looked in a man’s size tool belt. I didn’t care, I felt grown up wearing it. Dinner was over, my mom was clearing the table when we all went to the living room to watch “The Flintstones” on channel 7, ABC. I loved to count the number of times I would see the same lamp in their living room when Fred Flintstone was running in his house. I turned in for bed early planning a full day of work tomorrow with my dad.

That night there was a severe thunderstorm rolling through our neighborhood. I kept waking and tossing to lightning and thunder, finally drifting off into a strange dream. I was back at the house we had worked at on Saturday. I was at the edge of the street watching my dad on the front lawn, running (holding his left elbow) the whole length of the front of the house, but now it was a mile long. There was a lamp in the window next to the front door, but there were hundreds of lamps and doors. Every time my dad passed the lamp in the window a ladder would fall down. I was terrified. I sat right up in my bed to the sound of a close thunder clap. I couldn’t really sleep anymore that night.

Morning came like it usually does after a night of bad weather, picture perfect. Morning birds and early sunshine greeted the puddles of rain left from the night before. I heard my mom and dad stirring upstairs and could smell coffee brewing. I jumped out of bed and showered. I put on my work clothes and bounded up the stairs, ready for some breakfast. A man needs a hearty breakfast if he is going to do a good job at work. After we ate and my dad was grabbing the last two pulls off of his coffee cup, I snatched my jacket and ran to the front door. As we left our house, we both got a kiss from my mom. She looked so proud of us.

The car started on the second try and we pulled away from the curb and headed down the road. My dad could not stop talking about the remaining work. I could sense that he wanted to finish by midday so we would still have a little weekend time to ourselves. Remember he has two other jobs that will fill his week come Monday morning. I noticed a few small trees down on the streets as we rolled across town. Disfigured branches lay abandoned in various front yards, and some scattered garbage cans were visiting their neighbor’s yards. The storm must have been strong.

As we approached the house partially sided, I noticed the cardboard boxes filled with siding in the driveway had taken quite a beating from last night’s weather. My dad rolled into the parking spot in front of the house very slowly. He was hunched over with his shoulders at ear height. He was clutching his elbow. I suspected he was a bit spooked. I know I was. Something didn’t feel right. I could see the ladder at the far end of the front of the house where my dad left it. I could see he was looking at it too. As he slowly shifted the transmission into “Park”, there was a sudden screech coming from the house. That ladder had without any earthly influence slid off the house, through the shrubs and onto the driveway.  Both my dad and I looked at each other, then back at the ladder casted down, then back at each other. My dad offered a suggestion that, “maybe we ought to not finish this one job”. It was a unanimous agreement. My father who would never shirk from hard work, called the owner later that day and explained how he would not be able to complete the work. His reason? I don’t know. I couldn’t tell you. I only know that he taught me a lot that weekend and one thing for sure is… well, I couldn’t express it until many years later when I read Gandhi. It goes something like this,

“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthier to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.”
-Mahatma Gandhi

It is worth noting that my dad lost his father at the young age of ten.

He had fallen from a ladder.

Thanks dad for being there as long as you could.

Miss you!

To get email notifications when I publish new stories, just enter your email address below, click “Subscribe” and follow the instructions. Then Click Here to make sure you have completed the process.

Join 5 other subscribers






One response to “The Haunted Ladder”

  1. Judie Jones Avatar
    Judie Jones

    Nice story

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: