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Stranger In The House by Chris Vaughn

Stranger In The House

by Chris Vaughn

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Sample Chapter: The Chair Falls At Night

Okay here is a sample chapter of a story I’m working on. It’s not been through many edits yet, but I wanted to put it out there. Hope you enjoy!



Chapter 1

Everyone in Chestnut, Georgia had heard the stories of the chair and the table in the Old Man Synder’s house. Some said you could hear the sound of a chair falling at night, and others said it probably a rodent. No one had been brave enough to spend the night just for fun, and few ever went into the upstairs attic room where the table and chair were left. Joy Hand would be the first to see if the myth was true, and when you are 10 you are either scared or bold. Joy had the greatest of weapons: innocence.


Joy was thankful to lay down after a day of moving and more thankful to have her own room, even if it was in the attic with out a working light bulb. Some houses stay empty because of location, some because of cost, but some stay empty for the fact that there is story that people don’t want to embrace or even tell. Joy’s family didn’t have a choice and hadn’t been in that place for a couple of years to have a choice. The Hand family were thankful they had a place to go to that was nice, secure, and would Daddy to continue his farm. When your parents are a sharecroppers raising tobacco on a slim margin, your options aren’t many when your pockets aren’t deep.
Chestnut, Georgia in 1952 was your typical South Georgia town in both the good and bad. Small and quaint with dividing lines of economy and race like every over rural town in the South. The rules of the South were never written in stone, but still understood by people. Land owners ruled, sharecroppers worked the land and town was divided by race into the white and black sections with some overlap in all areas. Of course the lines of propriety got blurred from time to time, but in the course of daily living it was best to keep your place.in the structure of the south.
For Joy this night lying down in bed was the best part of this day. It had been a long day full of excitement for her but her muscles were sore from all the work she said she had done. The whole month had been tumultuous and catastrophic since the fire that took their old shotgun sharecropper house. Sharecropper homes, even like this newer one were never maintained as well as should be thought those homes always created an atmosphere where the roof that provided your home could also be the place of your hurt or death. Joy’s parents, Mama and Daddy, never knew exactly what caused the fire. There had been discussions as to whether or not Daddy was smoking in bed or Mama had left some grease on the stove, but it the wiring in the house was never something Old Man Snyder bragged about. He was at least good that way with the men that rented his land to farm, and rented their homes from him.

He did have one home that Joy and her family could rent, but no one wanted to rent it, but for the Hand family beggars weren’t choosy but very thankful.


The whole family was thankful to be alive, and to have the some of their belongings. Some things couldn’t be replace, but the things that mattered were here: Mama, Daddy, and Joy mostly followed by the family pictures and the blankets that Mama’s family had made. Those were heirlooms for the Hands. That might not seem like much to some but the love and work that went into them was more costly to Mama than gold.. Joy’s Mama and Daddy were thankful to have a place to move to, even though it had been empty for many years. A house could be a home with a little tender love and care, and Joy liked that Mama said it needed even more prayer. This house needed the prayer more than the care, and everyone in Chestnut, Georgia knew why. Even the Hands who said their prayers, well at least Mama out loud, before they moved in and encouraged Joy to say her prayers before she went to bed.


The moon shone through the window and lit up the whole room. In the spring of ‘52, the moon was all the light Joy had in her room. She did have a lonely bulb hanging from the rafters over the table in the room, but it didn’t work and hadn’t for several years. The attic bedroom was cozy and small with the barest of furniture for a young girl. Joy’s room had a bed, a dresser, a make shift closet rod to hang her few hangers of clothes, and a table with chair; the table and chair came were in the house when the Hands moved in. Houses that hadn’t been lived in for several years alway had issues to be worked out. Joy’s Daddy was making the best of a bad situation and recovering from a fire wasn’t easy and finding a home quickly in Chestnut even harder. He had found a home with a past, but her Daddy always said, “Everyone has a past Joy, that what gives them character. Never let your past shape your future.”


She like most little girls believed the words of her Daddy, and to her thinking those were good words too. This home shouldn’t be judged by its past, and even so it didn’t have to shape the future of those who lived in it, although it would.


It took her Daddy a long time to get Joy’s Mama to accept this house as their new place to live and make a home. Both her Mama and Daddy had grown up hard and endured the Great Depression and knew what hunger was. Daddy even knew what homelessness was and would quickly remind Joy whenever she didn’t seem content with their lot in life. Joy laid in bed remembering the heated discussion they had several days before.
“Mama, we’ve got to take it, there’s no other place to move.” Daddy said.
“I don’t care, that house has spirits in it. It’s not a peaceful place.”
“Goodness Mama, you don’t believe all that giber jabber. Just a bunch of old wives tales.”
Mama wasn’t taking any of Daddy’s arguments, “Then you tell me why this house has sat for so long. I’ll tell you why, people know that this house ain’t right and there is something in it.”
“Well I don’t give a dog about what people say, and in a couple of days we are going to be in. You ought to know that by now? Anyway I’m thankful! This house is $35 cheaper a month, and that’s gravy to me. Wish I’d acted on it sooner.” Daddy rolled himself a cigarette as his adamant tone became very known to anyone within listening distance.
Mama wanted to try once more, “Well I just don’t like it. I…”
“Mama this is ended. We have no where else to go that will allow me to keep working my farm. This house sits next to my leased land. It’s $35 cheaper, it’s a nice home too. Yeah it’s been empty, but its been taken care of. It has a history, but there’s one more thing Mam… We have no where else to go. That alone settles it.” Joy’s Daddy walked outside and lit his cigarette. Mama knew from enough years that this discussion was over. Joy wouldn’t say a word if her life depended on it.She knew her Daddy, in this mood the wrong word would mean the end of her life.
All these thoughts ran through Joy’s mind as she looked around and remembered the stories of the house, the table, and the chair.


She was thankful for having a room. She knew it wouldn’t be warm in the winter since there was no insulation or even cool in the summer, as this house didn’t have air conditioning but what home of a sharecropper in ‘52 had air conditioning, in Chestnut none did. Joy laid there and listened to the far away sounds of the train off in the distance, the owls, and the stray dogs and the animals noises that haunted farms out in these parts. She thought again about the stories she’d heard about this house, or more correctly overheard about the house as her Dad moved furniture into the home.



The ‘Snyder House’ was on a long road that made it seem more lonely than the fact it had been empty for some times. It also had the dubious distinction to the better off families as being on the border to the poorer section of town. Some families wouldn’t consider the house for that fact, but the Hand family couldn’t afford to cared about that. When you’re living hand to mouth, you are thankful for everything and that includes those things that others despise. Those things didn’t matter to the Hands but surviving did, as well as the bringing in, curing, and auctioning of tobacco crop, and the knowledge of the people you could trust.


Joy starred at the window and thought how happy she was that she’d be close to her best friend Jackie. She’d heard her Daddy say they were living on the tracks now in between here and there but to a small girl that didn’t mean anything. Joy’s mind didn’t know where that exactly was but just being closer to Jackie made it worth this new house and even this room. She didn’t care and when you are 10 you don’t have the things on your mind that are would make you care. Before she fell asleep, she wanted to take the time say her prayers. She climbed back out of bed, knelt down, put her hands together, and closed her eyes as she said, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep and if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. God bless Mama, Daddy, and Jackie, Mr. & Mrs. Burnham. And thank you for this house. Keep me safe in here, and I don’t care about those stories God, I know you will take care of me. Amen.”


Joy climbed back into the bed, and looked around with the light from moon as it’s glow flowed through the window. She’d overheard her Daddy and his friends talking about how this room had a bad story, and she wondered if they would tell her.


I’ll find someone to tell me what happened up here. As she wondered what happened, her mind slowly began to drift away.
She was almost asleep and the suddenness of the sound startled her. Her eyes opened wide, and she jerked wide awake. She knew she heard something but she wasn’t sure what. She rubbed her eyes for a moment and a shadow was moving in her eyes that distracted her. The light bulb was moving back and forth. She looked around and decided that the best thing was to not let the pass but to find out what this was. The innocence of a child carries a strength of boldness that fades as you become older.


“You can’t scare me. I don’t care what you are, or who you are. I’m not afraid of you” She watched the light bulb’s momentum slow down its swinging, as she strained to hear anything else. Joy realized that nothing else was going to happen she said again, “I’m not afraid now. Remember that. In fact I’ll pray for you.”


Joy got back out of bed, and knelt down. She closed her eyes as tight as she could, “God I’m not gonna be afraid, and whoever is in here, I ask you to help him, er… or what… I need some sleep, and they probably do too. Amen.”
Joy spun around and stood up to see if the light bulb had finished it swinging. It was bare moving and her eyes went to the floor. She was the first person to see what had caused the noise… the chair had fallen.


End of Chapter 1


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Where are you in Land of Oz?

Wizard-of-oz_hologramThe Wizard of Oz is actually a great movie. To me it has so many life and spiritual lessons that I enjoy it immensely. I do hate that its available everywhere 24/7 in this present day. When I was a child it was only ONCE A YEAR! You savored it with popcorn, and the family sitting around the TV. Hold the calls and clear my calendar – The Wizard of Oz is on!

Personally I think Dorothy should have stayed in the color world. Auntie Em should have slapped, um, I mean pray — for that woman (who was the witch when the movie became color). She wanted to take Toto away, because down deep we all knew she was a mean hearted person. To me a good Christian woman would have intervened, and slapped – I mean prayed for her. But that’s another story.

My favorite line from the movie is, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” That line to speaks so much of life, leadership, parenting, or anything.

To recap the story quickly with the points I want to make are:

  • Dorothy comes to Oz
  • The munchkins & the good witch told Dorothy where to go
  • She leaves and has three people go with her on the journey
  • She make it to Oz
  • Meets the Wizard
  • The Wizard isn’t what she expects
  • She goes home to black and white

The points I make are in relation to the perspective of those in wanting to meet the Wizard of Oz. If you know the story, The Wizard of Oz is actually a carnival performer who came to Oz when his hot air balloon is blown into the land from a storm.

Everyone in life can find their place in every arena within this story. There are three perspectives of participants in the Land of Oz:

  1. The first level is the Munchkins (even the good witch is in this category to me). These are the people who are like the patrons at the carnival. They sit and watch, encourage, and observe. They have no involvement whatsoever in the outcome of the story or the events in your life, and sometimes their life. These are the people who sit in the stands.These are commentators. So many today sit and tweet or post about life. They post how angry they are at the driver in front of them while they drive to work. How they are going to straighten out the injustices of politics. The wrongs and ills that need be corrected, and all they do is post posts on social media. They dance and sing songs, conversing one with another about what should be done, and where the answers are, but they never lift a foot to walk down the yellow brick road to change anything in the Land of Oz.I’m not sure if its fear that keeps them in the land of the munchkins, but I do know it’s the desire to stay safe. Out beyond the slopes of safety are scarecrows, tin men, and lions; things that are unknown and unseen. They remain safe in their homes afraid of situations not common to their perception. When faced with the unknown, most sit and discuss the exploits of greatness instead of walking down the road.

    So if you sit in life, in church, the PTA, or even at home, and never make the effort for involvement to change the course of life: you are a spectator, a munchkin.

    If you gripe, grumble, and gossip about the issues instead of being involved: are a spectator, a munchkin.

    If you stay safe, instead of living: you are a munchkin.

  1. Next comes Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and the Lion. These are the people involved with the story, and the outcome of their lives, but they too still are looking for answers from an outside source.They want to see the Wizard of Oz. Another way to describe these people in the theater of life, are those people who make the show happen. The ones who become engaged with lights and sounds, curtains and props, to make the event and night a glorious event. They are involved, around the stage, but never on it.Where would the story of the Wizard of Oz be without these four? Nowhere, but they do set off, on foot to conquer whatever evils there are to achieve the deed of ‘returning Dorothy home, so they are ‘Off To See The Wizard, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’.

    They do not sit back, and wait for the wizard to come to them, but go in search of the Wizard. Sadly too though, they are looking for someone to answer their questions, solve their problems, and make the happenings of their life, happen.

    If the first position in the story is munchkin, this is the level of adolescence, which is in fact the approximate age of Dorothy.

    If you are engaged and taking part but display no initiative: you are an adolescent.

    If you expect others to make all of life take place for you: you are an adolescent.

    If you blame others for whatever is wrong: you are an adolescent.

  1. Then there is the Wizard. The Wizard,  I grew up not liking the name. It had for me too much of a witchcraft sound to it, but I too know it’s a fiction story. The older I get the more I like it. It embodies the mystery of the Office of ‘The Wizard of Oz’.It calls to your mind the sense of wonderment and the unknown. How does the wizard do those things? Where is he? Who is he? How did he get there? Will we ever know?The Wizard though is another level of leadership that few ever know, or experience.

    I believe its stage fright that holds them from stepping out on the stage. On the stage, the Wizard holds everyone’s attention but also has the responsibility of the presentation on his shoulders. That’s an awesome weight to step out, and know that you are ‘the man’, or ‘the woman’ in that moment.

    Few want to be the Wizard. Too much stress and exposure, with criticism at every turn for their every action they take.

    If you are bold and act in life: to those around you would consider you are a Wizard.

    If you take the heat and stay in the fight: you are a Wizard.

    If you make life better for others, at the expense of your own happiness: you are a Wizard.

When I was a child I wanted to be the Tin Man. He wore a funnel as a hat. I’m thankful for a Mother who bought me a funnel so I could live in the land of imagination.

As an adult I choose to be the Wizard, although now more reluctantly.

I’ve learned that being at that level is more pressure, which is why the Wizard in the movie hid behind the curtain. The facade is a built in protection, but you can’t change lives or influence from behind the curtain. He left the safety of the curtain, removed the façade, and held the stage as he needed to, so he could help redeem the life of those around him.

So if you aren’t willing to walk out on the stage and take the criticism that it brings, be a good munchkin, or a good Scarecrow, Tin Man, or Lion.

The Wizards of life need encouragement as they work and live. There are enough witches to bring them criticism.