Recently, two of my readers recognized me at the train station. The first one approached me and was reaching into his vest pocket when a shot rang out. Pulling a pen and paper from his pocket he gave a look that seemed to say, “Will you please autograph this?” And then, as if the look were not enough, he said those exact words and dropped dead at my feet. I’m highly suspicious of anyone who reads my work, you see, and am inclined to shoot first and sign autographs second.
The next man who approached me was nothing but a sobbing, slobbering, jellied mass of tears. The man’s name is a secret between him and myself which I will sell for a quarter to anyone who can prove they have a healthy interest in sports, foam rubber or blackmail. He cried on my shoulder for a long, long time, and I considered having him surgically removed because he was costing me a fortune in train fare and making for unfavorable sleeping conditions at home, until my wife suggested I ask him what was wrong. It worked!
The man said he had nearly been driven insane by a ghost. The ghost had entered his house via the television set and tortured him by making double images on the screen and changing channels when he went to the washroom. Later the ghost learned to frighten him by casting shadows that looked like Alfred Hitchcock. In the end, before the man fled the house, the ghost would access his email and delete just enough words to make the exact intent of a message unclear. In trying to respond to his friends, the man only succeeded in alienating them to the point where they stopped writing back.
It was then that he came to me for help, although I can’t see why; I’m certainly no expert on the subject. It’s my opinion that there is no ghost in his house, but plenty of bats in his belfry. Or it could be that his story, like so many others, is true, but so ridiculous that one can’t care. In any case I will state here what I do know of ghosts if it will be any help.
I first heard of ghosts as a child happily growing up in the little town of Stunt Growth, Michigan. For years our next-door neighbors believed they were being tortured by a ghost that would shout in a deep, bellowing voice, “For God’s sake, get out!” Instead, they discovered, it was only the efforts of a patient fireman trying to rescue them from their house, which had been steadily burning for years. After being rescued, the mother wept tears of joy, until she remembered the house was not insured. Then the tears became real. Running back into the house, she threw herself into the flames, but as the flames were very small she only succeeded in putting out the fire and blistering a finger or two.
My firsthand experience with ghosts has been very limited, but pleasant. I have only seen a few in my entire life. Usually they are strolling down the sidewalk, passing in the opposite direction, in which case we exchange nods, a cheerful smile or a jovial wink, as did one ghost who was ecstatic over a new pair of platform shoes he was sporting. Ghosts, as you may know, are absolutely crazy for new shoes, and especially shoes with high heels. They are quite vain about their height, probably because they are so hard to see in the first place. In fact, after seeing one I always have to ask myself, “Did I truly see a ghost?” Although I can never get a straight answer from me, I find it much safer than asking someone else. Once I merely wished for someone to confirm what I’d just seen, and inquired of the fellow walking alongside of me. “Surely, my good man,” I said, “surely that was a ghost wearing platform shoes that just passed by and winked at me, was it not?” The man acted very much as if he had no other choice than to strike me in the face repeatedly, knocking me down into the street and oncoming traffic. The experience was extremely humiliating, and for years I was convinced it had devastated my sex life, until my wife explained to me what sex was. What a relief!
This kind of ghost story is not uncommon, for apparently no everyone can see ghosts, or if they can they have the good sense to ignore them. My grandfather could do neither. He complained that although he never caught sight of his ghostly assailants, every night as he was dozing off, several of them would sneak up and tickle his feet until he was almost conscious, then run and lock themselves in the bathroom along with the best magazines in the house. Grandpa would kick and scream and pound on the bathroom door, his face turning orange, then green, then a lovely shade of purple (I never actually saw him at those exact moments, but I know those were the colors Grandpa turned when he kicked and screamed and pounded on things). But it was no use.
“They were all cowards,” he said. “Four to one, and they were still afraid.” He knew there were four because once they were taunting him by asking, “Guess how many of us there are, you old goat. Go on, guess.” “One?” asked Grandpa defiantly. “No!” they all cried with delight. “Two?” They simply laughed. “Three?” “You’re dumber than a jackass!” they screamed. “Four?” “None of your damn business,” they growled. He had obviously touched a sore spot, but it didn’t help him to know whether there were two, four, or a dozen. The only way he could ever get any sleep was to keep a vacuum cleaner running by his bed all night. He claimed the ghosts were loathe to come near it for fear of being sucked up and forced to spend eternity among old carpet dust and bits of shredded Kleenex.
Unfortunately, my grandmother shared the same fear and finally left him. I was the only one in the family who believed him, and he was committed to a home, where I believe he did very well until his death several months ago. In fact, I recently received a letter from him that stated, “I believe I did very well until my death several months ago.”
This being all the information I have on ghosts, I ask my readers to go now in peace, and may God be with you. Run! You must run and never stop running. Don’t look back over your shoulder unless you wish to know where you’ve been. Go on, scat. Boo!