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 (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)

Let’s Be (Official) Pals!

Sign up for the weekly North Dakota Nice email and get a story and the news delivered to your inbox once a week (and never more than that).

Oh, did I tell you Kyle broke his elbow? Because he broke his elbow. | August 31, 2022

Five days before we were set to leave for Las Vegas, Kyle started limping.

“My Achilles’ is bothering me,” he said, wincing.

“How about some ice?”  I asked.

“No,” he said.

“How about some heat?”  I asked.

“No,” he said.

“How about some rest?”  I asked.

“No,” he said.

“How about a doctor?”  I asked.

“No,” he said.

The next day, he had devised a solution.

“I’m going to go play hockey tonight,” he said.  “I think I just need to stretch it out.”

“Maybe instead of hockey, you should try resting it first,” I said.

“No,” he said.

An hour later, I was sitting on the couch – I’m EXCELLENT at resting my body parts – when Kyle returned, nursing his left forearm.

“I think I broke my arm,” he said.

“How about going to the doctor?”  I asked.

“Okay,” he said.  And then,

“My Achilles’ feels much better.”

“Terrific,” I said.

Lo and behold, his Achilles’ had actually and miraculously healed itself.  Also, he had broken his elbow.  Fortunately for both our trip and Kyle, he didn’t require surgery, and didn’t need a cast.  The doctor’s instructions were simple: wear the sling, work the arm a few times a day, and don’t lift anything high or heavy.

That last rule has been a real problem for me because it turns out I’ve become pretty dependent on Kyle having two working arms.

Here’s an example:

Before we left for Vegas, I decided that we would share one giant suitcase instead of taking two smaller ones because I figured Kyle would appreciate having one free usable arm to protect himself from tripping and breaking another elbow.  This was a good plan in theory but less so in practice, as I am both short and only able to lift something above 50 pounds if I’m carrying it on my back and it’s the same size, shape and grippiness as my children.  Our enormous suitcase weighed exactly 50 pounds (we were nothing if not prepared for every outfit-related vacation scenario), and was so tall that I couldn’t hold the handle on the top while also gripping onto the bottom.  This meant that in order to get it into a vehicle, I had to squat on the ground and use my shoulder as support.  (In hindsight, I’m sure there was a better way to do this, but when I got married I not only stopped dating other men, I also stopped putting suitcases in cars.)  Las Vegas (and Kyle) will forever be changed with the memory of a small, sweaty Jewish girl hoisting a suitcase into an Uber like Atlas with his globe.

Here’s another example:

We have a number of items at our house that are above my eye level, but it’s never been that big of a deal because I’m married to the human version of one of those grabber things.  Except that now that grabber can only reach with one arm.  As luck would have it, all three of the light bulbs in our walk-in pantry burned out simultaneously, and the only person in our family who is both allowed to climb a ladder and has two available hands to twist open the light fixture and pull out the bulbs is this girl right here.  Which means that I have spent the last week using my cell phone as a flashlight to get the canned peas because the only time I remember I need to change the bulbs is when I’m in the middle of cooking something or typing this story and am otherwise indisposed.

The whole thing has been so much work that I’ve taken to “jokingly” asking all of our male friends to do things for me.  Just the other day, I tripped and one of those friends caught me.

“You have really strong forearms,” I said.  “Can you come over later and help me with something ha ha?” 

Then, after he looked really nervous and I realized he thought I was suggesting he come over and “help me with something” untoward, I said,

“No, no, I need you to move a table.”  And then he looked REALLY nervous and walked away.  Now not only do I no longer have a friend, that table is still unmoved.

Kyle feels badly that I am apparently incompetent at life’s simple activities, and so he’s been sneaking around trying to do things to help me out, like fold sheets out of the dryer or move tables.  This means I’ve had to not only do extra stuff – like LIFT SUITCASES OUT OF THE CAR AND CHANGE LIGHT BULBS – but I’ve had to anticipate his every move so as to ward him off.  We recently attended a hockey tournament in Fargo, and I was forced to wake up early because Kyle thought he’d surreptitiously put our son’s goalie bag (which is the equivalent weight and floppiness as an adult body bag) into the car.  After he was caught, he pretended to walk away and instead slipped out of the room with two heavy coolers.

We’re a few weeks away from the arbitrary “healed” date set by the doctor, and I’m marking the minutes off like a person would on a prison wall.  In the meantime, I’ve ordered a ramp to get things from the ground into the trunk of my car.

The photo above is of Kyle on vacation in Las Vegas.  You would not be surprised to hear that a great many people asked him what happened to his arm.  You would also not be surprised to hear that every single one of them was incredibly, deeply disappointed that it didn’t happen to him in Vegas.

This week’s news has a neighborhood greeter, an annual block party, and the Babe Ruth World Series. Read on.

In North Dakotaish news, the FM Legion riders honored Moorhead’s John Cunningham, who is best known for sitting outside his building waving to passersby. (KFYR TV)

The entire community of Jamestown throws an annual block party in order to welcome University of Jamestown students back to school. (Jamestown Sun)

Dr. Richard Faidley, the superintendent of the Williston Basin School District, goes around to all of the local and rural schools and says hello at the start of the school year. (KFYR TV)

Fort Yates now has a new mural thanks to group of Denver-based and local artists. (KFYR TV)

Speaking of murals, Fargo’s Lauren Starling has brought the world of Mario to the downtown. (Valley News Live)

Williston was the hot spot of baseball after hosting 48,000 people for the Babe Ruth World Series. (KFYR TV)

Finger’s crossed, it’s looking like it’s going to be a pretty successful year for North Dakota’s farmers. (Facebook)

Let’s Be (Official) Pals!

Sign up for the weekly North Dakota Nice email and get a story and the news delivered to your inbox once a week (and never more than that).

Ma and Pa Kosior go to Las Vegas | August 24, 2022

Kyle and I just got back from a weekend anniversary trip to Las Vegas.  At least I think it was a weekend.  If you have ever been to Vegas – this was my first visit – you know that is a place that completely exists outside of the realities of time, space, and society’s expectations about liquids consumed by the yard.  The whole thing is so wackadoodle that at one point I was standing next to one woman clad head-to-toe in a Louis Vuitton sweatsuit and bucket hat and another woman wearing nipple tassels and what I think was a bathing suit bottom with “It doesn’t eat itself” written on the tush and my very first thought was, “Only one of these two people is dressed appropriately for the heat.”

For a brief period in my Boston twenties, I was cool.  Well, cool-adjacent.  My glamorous and exotic best friend and former roommate spent six years extricating me from my pile of chinos and proclivity towards exclamations like, “Oh, my word!” and “Holy buckets!” and into a lifestyle with dark eyeliner and the knowledge of the right and wrong place for a glass of champagne.  However, you can take the girl out of the Gap but you can’t keep her from Internet ads for sleeveless pink polo shirts; and my move back to North Dakota twenty years ago (after which I married a guy who has a standing text chain with his friend to share Dad Jokes) started an aggressively deep slide back into The Mom I’ve become today.

Anyways, and as such, it became pretty apparent immediately after stepping off the plane that Kyle and I were not really the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce’s poster children for their updated catchphrase, “What happens here, only happens here.”

First of all, Kyle and I look like our idea of a wild time is to research and shop for new bathroom cleaners.  They were handing out shots of this chocolate mint-flavored whiskey in the airport, and the beautiful whiskey girl – everyone who works in Vegas is gorgeous and incredibly fit, which…how?  Is there a talent agent who travels the United States looking for The Venetian Walgreen’s next hot checker-outer? – said to the tattooed guy nearby, “This is the perfect way to start off a night,” and then had to really rack that beautiful brain of hers to come up with this pitch for us: “…This is good…to go…with…a cup off of coffee after dinner.”  Then she smiled apologetically because of course we two nerds wouldn’t have a stimulant before our bedtime at 5:30pm.

Our taxi driver from the airport to the hotel further hammered home this fact when he offered up a completely unsolicited warning.  “Pot is legal here,” he said, “So you know, don’t freak out if you smell it.”  (This was a helpful head’s up, by the way, because pot smoking is a competition in Las Vegas and everyone is out to win.)

Second, neither Kyle nor I gamble.  I mean, we did gamble a little; Kyle put $25 down on various sports books and I played (and lost at) video poker for twenty minutes before I realized deuces were wild.  We also spent about $20 in various slot machines, but came out net ahead after I kept finding abandoned poker chips on the floor because who doesn’t go to Vegas to admire the wide variety of carpet patterns?

Obviously, you don’t have to gamble or look rock-n-roll to have a good time in Vegas.  Here is what we did when we weren’t drinking airport whiskey and learning about the perils of marijuana:

  • We went to several excellent restaurants and one buffet; and the buffet had so many food choices that it actually grossed me – ME, the QUEEN of BUFFETS – out of buffets for possibly ever.  The restaurant (“restaurant”) had something like ten different full buffets, the most popular of which being the seafood spread.  Every single person in line walked away with an ocean’s worth of fish, which they devoured like a shark frenzy.  The waiters (they brought the drinks and were the only normal-looking waitstaff in all of Las Vegas) would wander table-to-table, eyes glazed over, scraping chum and plates onto a rolling cart while simultaneously making a feeble effort to keep their souls from leaving their bodies.
  • Attended a show called Absinthe. The advertising for Absinthe said “If you only see one show, see this!” Which is the type of confident advertising that I automatically immediately discredit.  However, the models on the poster were enticing and Kyle booked the tickets so we went.  We sat next to two drunk ladies about my own age who shared my level of pre-show skepticism at the promised amazingness of Absinthe.  I don’t know if it was the free-flowing alcohol or the fact that the performance had a lot of mostly-naked men, but those ladies, and this lady, were all converts to the awesomeness by the curtain call.  My review is, “If you only see one show and you like acrobatics and dirty jokes and you’re okay with getting splashed with water and there isn’t another show you want to see more, see this!”
  • Went to this thing that was either called “Meow Wolf” or “Omega Mart” which is a thing I found on a list of “If you only do one thing in Vegas, do this!” I think Meow Wolf/Omega Mart was an interactive art exhibit; although my thoughts really didn’t matter because Kyle and I were 100 years older than 100% of the other attendees and about 4,000,000% less aware of what was happening.  You enter into Omega Mart, which is a mind-bending grocery store where the products on the shelves are all what the kidz would call “ironic.”  If you dig deep enough (specifically, open the freezer or go behind the deli counter), you enter into another world that was a little like if Pandora was run by Big Pharma.  Or something.  In addition to being 1000000000 years older than everyone, we were the only ones not taking constant selfies (one kid near us never once looked up from his phone).  Despite our total uncoolness stinkin’ up the joint, we thought it was great.

The very best thing we did in Vegas, though, was talk to the staff.  The young and hot (and incredibly nice) waitstaff were always happy for a chat, probably because we reminded them of their parents’ friends.  One waiter kept saying, “It’s your birthday, right? *wink wink* Because we have dessert for you,” and “It’s also his birthday, right? *wink wink* Because you get free drinks.”  We closed out a French restaurant because the bartenders invited us to stay.  The morning before we left, we went for breakfast and were greeted by a (hot and young) chilly waitress.  She took our order, and came back a few minutes later.

“Are you from Minnesota?”  She asked.

“North Dakota,” we said.

“Oh, I’m from St. Paul!”  She said, warming instantly.  “I figured.”

The photo above was taken at Omega Mart.  I don’t think I’m supposed to be smiling.

This week’s news has Williston’s first triplets, a Bachelor, and Weston Dressler.  Read on.

Bismarck’s Weston Dressler has been inducted into the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ Plaza of Honor. (KFYR TV)

Halliday’s Dante LaPierre took third place in a 24-hour, 100-mile endurance race through California. (KFYR TV)

The Chahinkapa Zoo has a new baby girl gibbon.  Congratulations to Effy (Mom), Sprite (Dad), and Poppy (Sister)! (Wahpeton Daily News)

The first triplets to be born in Williston are turning 70 years old. (KFYR TV)

New Salem is getting a mural relating the culture and history and Morton County. (KFYR TV)

Grand Forks’ Baylee Bjorge got a special video message from “The Bachelorette”’s Logan Palmer. (US 103.3)

Two bits of good news: Dickinson’s Ian Vesey is expected to recover from brain cancer, and Make-a-Wish North Dakota is sending him and his family to Alaska for some salmon fishing. (Dickinson Press)

Let’s Be (Official) Pals!

Sign up for the weekly North Dakota Nice email and get a story and the news delivered to your inbox once a week (and never more than that).