Darnell Adams slipped down the bathtub drain.
Just as he'd always feared.
In his case, always was a long time, nearly sixty-eight years.
His family had been the first with indoor plumbing in Harbor Knoll. The Adams family lived on a bluff overlooking the Pacific in Seaside, Oregon. Constructed before building codes, the house featured floor to ceiling windows in every room that looked out on the rolling sea.
Darnell, named for a sea captain grandfather, had an inborn wariness of his majestic childhood home. In fact, when the bathtub was installed, he informed his mother he would never get into the contraption.
"Why? You'll be the envy of every child in town."
And he might have been, if townspeople hadn't been so fearful of the house that none of them ever came to call. Those who lived below the Adams swore the house moaned and wailed, emitting eerie human cries every night.
Darnell's father said that sort of talk was a bunch of poppycock.
But Darnell knew better. Every morning over steamed oatmeal he told his mother secrets the walls had whispered to him during the night. "Grandpa Otis still keeps watch from my window," he said. "And he has friends. Lots of sailors and the Whiskey Woman."
"Your grandmother never touched whiskey," his mother said, appalled.
"It isn't Grandma."
The first time they put him in the bathtub, he screamed. When he said the Whiskey Woman tried to push him down the drain, his father left strict orders he was never to be taken out until a proper bath had been accomplished.
One day he explained to the gardener exactly how that bathtub drain plunged straight down the cliff to the sea, even though its design was well hidden. "That's the way the sailors come and go," he added.
Fear became obsession and obsession paralysis. Sixty years later Darnell still faced a daily battle with that tub. He added a strong wrought iron grate over the drain, as well as a shower head.
He never married.
One morning his housekeeper turned on the hot water, laid out his clothes and helped him into the bathroom. Though she waited in the next room, he never came out.
She heard a slurking sound and a muffled cry. The house heaved as if all the air had flown out of it. Pipes groaned.
Pushing into the bathroom, she thought she saw one of those dance hall women from the old west. But she disappeared so quickly it might have been a reflection.
Darnell? The grate was missing from the drain and he was never seen again.
First published: November 2005
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