The Haunted House | October 19, 2022

As you’ll see in the news, the Williston Herald is running a kid’s ghost story contest.  When I read it, I thought, “I want to write a ghost story.”  The last time I wrote a short fiction piece so many of you lovely people sent me the nicest notes and I’m like a gremlin when it comes compliments (and food) – feed me and I won’t leave you alone.  So, in the spirit of Halloween and contests that I’m too old to do, here you go.


The Haunted House

by Amanda Kosior

“Don’t go over to that house, Coop, you hear me?”  Natalie Schanz’s sunshine smile had darkened to a thin grey line.  Around her feet, the autumn leaves swirled.  “Pretend like it’s not even there.”

Coop looked at his mother, who had only moments before been laughing with her childhood friend.  Her mother gave him the look that said that he shouldn’t even think about it.

“Don’t even think about it,” Laura Rooney said.

Natalie’s son, Sawyer, shifted his weight to the other side of his bicycle, and stared at the ground.

Coop was pretty sure he was going to like his new house.  He was pretty sure he was going to like his new school, and his new neighborhood, and his new town, and North Dakota in general, because they were all like his house, school, neighborhood, and town in Wisconsin – only now they were closer to his grandma and grandpa.  He was pretty sure he was going to like living across the street from Sawyer, because Sawyer was also eleven, played hockey, and rode a bike.  But he wasn’t sure what to think about that old, rundown house at the end of the block.

“Sawyer will show you all the good places you can go; won’t you, buddy?”  Natalie’s smile returned.

Sawyer nodded, his eyes still downward.

“I see they still haven’t done anything about The Olson’s,” Laura had said to Natalie five minutes earlier when she had brought over a meat tray and Sawyer to welcome the Rooneys to the neighborhood.  Laura had tilted her head to the house – which had probably been bright purple once, although now the few flecks of remaining paint were more of a dusty violet – and, as she did, the rickety screen door flapped open and closed a few times.

“They put up a ‘No Trespassing’ sign a couple of times, but you know how it is,” Natalie had said.  “Ardie Jean set up that trust to pay the taxes and keep the lawn and sidewalk clear, so it just goes on and on.”

“Still?”  Laura had scoffed.  “She died, what, fifty years ago?”

“At least.  My dad said it was haunted when he was a kid.”

That’s when Laura and Natalie had remembered that their boys were standing there.

“Don’t go over to that house, Coop, you hear me?”  Natalie said.

Later that afternoon, after the moving van left and the pizza man called, Cooper took his dog, Gunner, for a walk.  He thought about going left, towards the park, because that’s where his mom told him to go; but instead he casually strolled to the right, in the direction of The Olson’s.

Earlier, the street had been busier with cars and neighbors but now it was just Coop, Gunner, and the wind – which pushed him along until he found himself in front of the place he had been warned not to think about.  He studied it.

Cooper had assumed all haunted houses would look like something a person would find at Disney World, with a big spire and a gargoyle or two.  This was just a regular old falling-down house.  The porch tilted so low forward that the weeds had started to wind up the siding and most of the boards covering the windows were long gone.  But still, slap a coat of paint on it and it wouldn’t be too far off from their old home in Wisconsin.  In fact, he was pretty sure his mom had that exact same planter by the door, except this one had pieces of broken glass where the flowers should have been.

Gunner pulled on the leash, bored with the normalcy of this forbidden abode.

“Bye, house,” Cooper said.

The front porch light came on.

Cooper stared at the light.

“Must be a prank,” he said to Gunner, trying not to be scared.  He also tried not to be frozen in place.  Neither seemed to work.

“Stay away from this place, buddy,” a voice called out behind him, and Cooper jumped out of his skin.  He flipped around, grateful that he was at least able to move again.

The voice belonged to a mom pushing a baby in a stroller.  The baby chewed on the ear of a stuffed elephant, holding it out to Cooper as they approached.

“It’s probably about suppertime, isn’t it?”  She asked, patting him gently on the shoulder.  “You’d better get home.”

He nodded, and flipped Gunner’s leash.  She stood in front of The Olson’s until he turned into his driveway.

Cooper didn’t sleep a wink all night.  He got up twice to peek out the window.  In the darkness, The Olson’s front porch light burned brightly.

The light was still on the next morning when Sawyer rode up on his bike.  Together, the boys turned away, towards the park.

They rode until they ran out of runway at the baseball field, where they joined a game of 500 already in progress.  They played until lunchtime, when they, with a few new friends in tow, rode back to Sawyer’s for hot dogs.  For the rest of the day, they rode and played and played and rode until one of the kids – a boy named Jack – said, “I’m hungry,” and, without discussion, all of the boys turned down the road one block behind Cooper’s street.

They parked their bikes behind some tall bushes, and army-crawled to the back door of The Olson’s House.  The back porch light was also on.

“What are we doing?”  Coop whispered.  His voice shook, and he played it off with a cough.

“Shh,” Sawyer said.

A moment passed, and then the back door to the house creaked open.

“C’mon,” Jack whispered, and Sawyer grabbed Cooper’s arm, dragging him forward.  The boys ran up the stairs, through the door, and into the kitchen.

The condition of the kitchen mirrored the outside of the house.  Cobwebs hung off of every surface, from the dented ice box to the shredded polka-dotted window curtains.  Inside the doorless oven, a squirrel chirped.

“Hello, Mrs. Olson,” Jack called.

Once again, Cooper found himself unable to move.  He wished he had listened to Natalie.  He wished he had listened to that lady with the baby.  He wished they hadn’t moved out of Wisconsin.  He wished and wished, but those wishes still didn’t stop the fact that a real-life ghost was floating right up to him.

Except, Cooper realized, his legs loosening up a bit – like the house, this ghost wasn’t very…ghosty.  She was see-through, to be sure; but more of a pinky see-through.  She wore an apron embroidered with hearts and had tied a little bow on the top of her fluffy hair.  Cooper sniffed, and realized the air smelled like chocolate chip cookies, which were his favorite.

“Hello, boys!”  The ghost said in a twinkly, twittery voice.  “Sit down, sit down, I baked too many cookies!”

The boys sat down at the table, which Cooper noticed was not only completely devoid of dust, but polished clean and covered in a lace tablecloth.  Mrs. Olson puttered about the countertop, and when she turned around she was holding a platter of actual, non-transparent chocolate chip cookies. 

She held the platter out to Cooper.  He took one and bit into it.  It was warm and gooey and perfect.

“Now who are you?”  She said, as she pushed the platter to Cooper to make him take a second.

He told her his name the best he could with a mouthful of cookie.

“Cooper Rooney,” she said, tapping her finger on her lips to indicate she was thinking.  “Cooper Rooney.  I don’t know any Rooneys.  Are you from around here?”

“No,” Cooper said.  “But my mom’s family is.  My grandma’s name is Ginny Thompson.”

“Ginny Thompson!”  Mrs. Cooper threw her head back and laughed.  “So you’re Laura’s boy?”

Cooper nodded.

“She loved chocolate chip cookies, too,” Mrs. Olson said, handing him another one before giving the other boys three cookies of their own.

“You can’t tell your mom about this,” Jack said, shoveling two cookies in simultaneously.  And then, in his best mom voice, “Too much sugar.”

Sawyer nodded.  “Always ruinin’ supper,” he sang, and the boys laughed.


Okay, in all honesty, I don’t know where the photo above came from. I didn’t take it. I had it on my phone picture roll with all sorts of other photos that I downloaded that I thought were funny, like this one:

I was going to get a stock photo of a spooky house and saw these skeletons and thought they were much better. If it’s your photo or your skeletons and you want me to take it down, please message me (and I’m sorry).

Obviously, this week’s news has a writing contest. It also has sauerkraut and a perfect game. Read on.


Know a middle schooler or high schooler who loves to write ghost stories?  The Williston Herald is hosting a spooky writing contest! (Williston Herald)

Medora and Garrison have been named two of the coziest towns in America by MyDatingAdviser.com. (KX Net)

Once again, Wishek’s Sauerkraut Days are a stinky, delicious success. (KFYR TV)

Speaking of Wishek, here is a story of two random acts of kindness by teenagers Dominic Sayler and Gavin Wolf. (KFYR TV)

This is the non-obituary obituary for Arthur’s Joanne Iwen. (Fargo Forum)

Congratulations to eleven-year-old Tatum Lee of Bismarck, who bowled a perfect 300 game! (KFYR TV)

For the 42nd year, Williston is Tree City USA. (Williston Herald)


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Friendship is Magic | September 21, 2022

I had a pretty craptastic week last week.  There wasn’t anything that would be deemed an actual, real problem – I was coming off of a cold, Kyle went out of town for work just as both of our kids decided to have their own minor ordeals, my band didn’t get hired and then my nonconformist friend needed me to go back in time with him to make sure my parents fell in love at the school dance or else I’d cease to exist, etc etc – but combined made it one of those situations where my nightly routine was to get in bed and think, “Blech.”

Fortunately, though, there were a few bright spots (specifically, people) that ultimately got me back on the path to jollyville, and so I’m going to tell you about two (technically three) of them now.

The Cushman Classic is an annual football game between Grand Forks Central High School and Grand Forks Red River High School.  The first Cushman Classic was held in 1997; since then, it’s grown to a communitywide event with bouncy castles, dunk tanks, face painting, and, of course, chips-and-queso (Grand Forks loves queso almost as much as ranch dressing).  If that wasn’t enough fun-ness, this year, a bunch of my eleven-year-old’s friends were playing in their own mini-football game on the field during the half.

By the time gameday rolled around, I was so pooped out by the week’s suck that I only wanted to curl up on the couch in my “Fri-YAY” underpants with a bowl of ranch dressing in one hand and a bowl of queso in the other.  Since Kyle was out of town on his aforementioned work trip, however, it was up to me to feed and care for my children…and also to take my son (and, by lack of a babysitter, his unwilling younger brother) and his buddy to the Cushman Classic as promised.

You know how in Looney Tunes when a character is disheartened they drag themselves, weighted by their melancholy, through the motions while a mournful violin plays in the background?  That was me through the making and cleaning up of an uninspired soup-and-sandwiches supper, through the half-assed brushing of my hair, and through agreeing to absolutely whatever my children wanted so long as they ate eat some portion of their meal (“You want cotton candy at the game?  Sure.  You want a Coke at the game?  Sure.  You want cocaine at the game?  Sure.”).  I was begrudgingly tying my shoes when I heard my son’s friend pull up and his dad have a short conversation with the kids before popping his head in the back door.

“Hey, Amanda,” the dad said.  “Do you want me to take the boys to the game?”

Now, I’m sure he was doing this to be polite after my son probably told him that Kyle was out of town.  Also, I’m sure he had something to do after dropping off his son at my house that didn’t involve high school football.  So, my brain told me to say, “No, thanks, we’ll have a great time.”

Instead, my mouth said, “You know, that would be awesome.”

While my eleven-year-old went to the Cushman Classic with his friend and his friend’s dad and had a whale of a time (someone streaked across the field, so they could have cancelled the game right then and there and it would have been a major success to those boys), my seven-year-old and I got ice cream and popcorn and watched Minions: Rise of Gru (v good) in our jammies and the entire week turned around with the absolute nicest, most necessary-in-the-moment gesture.

Okay, the second story: Kyle and I have been good friends with this (now) married couple for almost as long as we’ve known one another.  They are the type of good friends who stick with you even when you become terrible friends.  For example, we were some of the first of our group to become parents – thereby going from SUPERFUN Kosiors to REALLY BORING WHY ARE THEY ALWAYS WITH THEIR BABY Kosiors.  Because they are good friends, this couple would organize movie dates by selecting the film with the lowest possibility of an audience, and then sitting there with us and our baby in an empty theater watching movies like Cowboys Versus Aliens (which was undeserving of its universal panning, by the way).

In addition to being good friends, this couple is really smart.  Kyle is also really smart, so when the four of us get together at least once during the gathering I will think to myself, “I am the dumbest person here.”  Before you’re like, “Aww, Amanda, you’re smart, too,” listen: we all have our interests and skills.  For Kyle and our friends, it’s historic, scientific, and world-based knowledge.  For me, if there was a Jeopardy series solely about Laura Ingalls Wilder and quotes from the movie Back to the Future THEN I WOULD CLEAN UP, I REALLY WOULD.

Our most common get-together with this couple is to go to lunch, during which we do the “Tidbits” trivia.  “Tidbits” is a free newsletter in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks that is basically everything great about a newsletter – in its own (accurate) words, “[‘Tidbits’ is a] non-controversial, weekly paper dedicated to publishing entertaining morsels for the mind, food for thought as it were: trivia, fun facts, amusing stories and oddities.”

There are two trivia segments in “Tidbits,” one for sports, and one for general trivia, which is usually on the same theme as the week’s newsletter topic itself. One of the reasons why “Tidbits” is so charming is because of its fast-and-loose attention to detail in the trivia.  For example, this past week’s theme was “Four-Letter Words” and one of the questions was, “What’s the largest country in Europe?”  The answer was “Russia,” and Kyle and our two friends spent the rest of the lunch discussing how much of the Russian population was actually IN Europe and what role the Urals played in that population spread.

(In case you were wondering, my guess for that question was, “Asia.”  Obviously, I knew that Asia is neither a country nor in Europe – but it was the only four-letter place I could think of; I’m the dummy of the group, anyways; and, most importantly, the answers in “Tidbits” often require a bit, “Well, whatever”-ing…like how “Russia” being is in Europe and spelled with four letters.)

In addition to enjoying lunch with our friends, I like doing “Tidbits” trivia with them because I can be the information deadweight and still answer like 40% of the questions correctly.  In fact, the writers of “Tidbits” must anticipate dumb-dumbs like me needing a little nudge in the right direction (I guess “Babe Ruth” for every single sports question) because my friend shared this gem from one of the past issues and I haven’t stopped laughing about it:

If the image didn’t show up, the question is this: “How many NFL teams do not have an official mascot? (hint: 5 teams)”

Anyways, those three people (and “Tidbits”) helped right my ship, and this week started off about much, much better than the last.

The photo above was taken at the hospital gala this past weekend.  Last year, I had gotten rid of all of my fancy dresses in the move and had to wear a pink-sequined ice skater number that I had originally purchased as a Halloween costume (I think it’s on my Instagram if you feel like scrolling, which I do not).  For my birthday this year, Kyle got me a real dress so that we could look like a normal couple, and not like a normal Kyle and his pretty-sparkle-unicorn-princess wife.

This week’s news has Family Feud and Chateau Nuts. Read on.


In “These people are living out my childhood/adult dream” news, the Meyhuber Family of Fargo will soon be contestants on “Family Feud.” (KVRR)

Grand Forks County’s Shane Rothenberger – the only drug recognition expert and the first cultural liaison officer for the GFCSO – is the third North Dakotan to be named to the International Association  of Chiefs of Police’s 40 Under 40 list. (Grand Forks Herald)

In “News we all knew was happening but in true North Dakota fashion kept it a secret,” two North Dakotans got married a couple of weeks ago. (Facebook)

Linton Public School, Larimore Elementary School, and Roosevelt Elementary School in Bismarck have all been named Blue Ribbon schools by the U.S. Department of Education. (Valley News Live)

If you are thinking of visiting Medora anytime soon, you should probably check out Chateau Nuts in Medora. (Fargo Forum)


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A thing of beauty | May 18, 2022

I am writing this from a massage (which is aggressively vibrating like the engine room in a submarine) chair at the nail salon, where I am getting a pedicure.  Since you didn’t ask, my polish color is a coral-ish named “I Eat Mainely Lobster” – which is purely aspirational since the last time I had lobster was 2021 and it was a part of a bisque so its statehood was unknown.  I am getting a pedicure because society has generally agreed that painted toenails are a basic expectation of summertime grooming, like wearing a bathing suit under your clothes – or, in the case of my husband, as clothes – just in case.

I am very aware of society’s base-level expectations of beauty because I am the dictionary definition of doing the absolute bare minimum.  The other day I styled my hair after a lobster bisque-esque period of time of braids and ponytails, and three of my coworkers asked, “Whoa, why are you all dressed up?”  The week prior, I was complaining to my friend that I am starting to look old and she said, “Well…do you use…some…thing?”  Not, “Do you use this serum?” or “Have you tried this treatment?”  Just, “Do you put absolutely anything on your face besides the Earth’s oxygen?”

I wasn’t always like this.  Back in THE OLD DAYS, I would spend hours plucking and feathering and masking and filing, and squeezing things in and pushing things up, and saying “If I ever got a tattoo, it would be a permanent wing eyeliner” and “Ugh, no, I can’t wear that to Saturday brunch; that’s a Sunday brunch outfit.”  But then I became the mother of two boys, and it’s hard to put in a lot of effort when my target audience thinks the perfect look is a baseball cap, cut-off sweatpants, and a box of farts.

My sweet, darling, muddy, oblivious personal universe has very low expectations of my appearance because, as Kyle says, “They like me for me” (and for my ability to make macaroni and cheese).  For example, my ten-year-old tells me I look beautiful when I wear a pair of pajama bottoms with a satin waist-tie.  When I ask my seven-year-old to pick out earrings for me, he always goes to a fist-sized pair of sparkly jack-o-lanterns that I got for a Halloween costume because “They are the prettiest.”  That same seven-year-old went through a period where he would wipe things on my clothes (usually boogers) so that his own didn’t get dirty.

As my boys are perfectly satisfied with my appearance, it’s hard for me to justify (to myself) breaking away from all the mac-and-cheese compliments for spa treatments and shopping trips.  While I used to spend hours upon luxurious hours combing through clothing racks and testing out makeup samples, now my mantra is “Get in, get out, get back into those booger-wipers.”  A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to shop for a bit with another mom, and it had been so long since I’d browsed that I’d almost forgotten how to do it – as evidenced by the fact that I bought a crop-top see-through army green tank-top that I’m apparently going to wear on my leg because that’s the only place it will look good.

I know for a fact that my sons would go with me to get a pedicure if I asked.  They would sit there and hum along with the chair vibration and drink their little bottle of water and have a grand time – and then never willingly go back.  I know this because my seven-year-old recently pulled out my box of nail stuff and demanded a manicure, and I got halfway through one hand when he said, “That’s good,” and then spent the next week with one-half of one-hand haphazardly painted until he figured out he could pick off the remaining polish with a wooden sword.

Even though pedicures pull me away from my pajamas and fart boxes, and even though I have a nail salon’s worth of polish under my sink, I will do them forever because if my last bastion of beauty is lobster coral nails, you can bet your bippy that I’m tipping my sword to the professionals.

I’m not alone in this sentiment because I’m currently sitting next to a lovely woman who told me that she gets pedicures because she recently had knee surgery and it’s good for the scars when the pedicurist massages her legs.  “I suppose I could do it myself,” she said with North Dakota pragmatism.  “Why on Earth would you do that?”  I said.

At some point in the near future my children will no longer want to hang out with me, and then (possibly) I’ll get back to the glamorous life.  Or, maybe I’ll create a club for situationally-similar moms where we organize day-long fishing-and-bonding trips for our children and their fathers at resorts that are conveniently located near spas and mini-malls.  In the meantime, I will admire my perfectly-painted toes from the driver’s seat of a go-kart while my seven-year-old eloquently shouts, “We’re going so fast that my spit is coming out of my mouth!  VROOM VROOM VROOM!”

The photo above is of Kyle at said go-kart track in Fargo.   You’ll be happy to know that he is tall enough to ride the bumper cars.

This week’s news is about a marathoner, a makeover, and a mayor.  Read on.


Edmore’s Holden Mack is looking for the group of people who rescued him from his burning truck so that he can thank them in person. (Grand Forks Herald)

Alivia Lowery was Williston’s Mayor for a Day thanks to her award-winning essay. (Williston Herald)

After running his first marathon in Fargo in 2015, Grand Forks’ Nate Lizakowski is set to complete 50 marathons in 50 states. (Grand Forks Herald)

Children’s Park in Medora got a sweet new makeover thanks to a volunteer crew of 80, who power washed and re-stained all of the wooden equipment and replaced the rubber mulch. (Dickinson Press)

The Minot Girl Scouts Troop 10028 earned a badge for kindness by planting flowers, bagging and carrying groceries, and handing out cookies. (KX Net)


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