Another cemetery walk, her and me.
The preacher said that it’s not the numbers on the stone that matter, but what we put into that dash.
I think he’s wrong about that dash. What matters is the name.
You get that name for only so long. As long as that dash, the preacher says.
But barring an incident or bad workmanship, the stone gets that name for longer than you do.
We walk along the path, reading names.
Getrude… Rosemary… Eunice…
“Betty?” I ask.
She thinks. “No,” she says.
We’ll take a different route tomorrow, unless her water breaks first.
I wear a transparent ribbon. It lets people know that I believe in ghosts.
But I don’t just believe that ghosts exist.
No, I also believe in the right for a ghost to exist.
If a ghost is haunting someone, perhaps that person did something to deserve it, such as betray a deathbed promise, or kill that person who became the ghost?
And if a ghost wants to marry a ghost, well, who am I to say that they can’t?
As for those Ghostbusters and Poltergeist movies, well, that’s just hate-speech.
Afterlife, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all!
Blake ran the video arcade at the mall until a poorly-grounded Galaga box electrocuted him.
When the real estate company tried to put a shoe store in that location, Blake’s ghost scared off all the customers with all his yelling and throwing things around.
Same with the novelty gift shop, the jeans outlet store, and the cell phone place.
Exorcists and supernatural “experts” failed to remove Blake.
So, we put a laser tag maze in the spot, but called it Ghost Hunters.
It would work better if Blake wore a sheet instead of a Pac Man tee-shirt and jeans, though.
Ruth is a psychic who helps ghosts resolve the issues which keep them bound to the material world.
Once these issues are resolved, they can finally head off into “the light.”
“The light” used to refer to Heaven, but escorting ghosts to the hereafter doesn’t pay jack squat.
Now, Ruth puts ghosts into antique lanterns and sells them as emergency battery-free lighting.
I’m sure you wish that Granddad or Aunt Sue were at peace up in Heaven, but you must admit that the stairs to my root cellar are rather peaceful too, right?
I even oiled the stairs. No creaking.
Ted’s an Afterlife Coach, helping the recently departed deal with post traumatic death syndrome and other issues.
He likes to say he gets ghosts to believe in themselves.
You’d think it’s hard for him to get paid. Dead people don’t carry cash. Their assets are usually frozen or bequeathed to family or given to charity.
And so few people actually have wall safes full of cash or buried gold coins in the back yard.
But when you can talk to spirits, the dead have plenty of dirt on the living.
Blackmail’s such a dirty word.
Let’s call it “Inside information.”
Dad was cleaning the gutters when he slipped off the ladder, fell, and broke his neck.
After the funeral, Mom thought Dad’s soul was in the toaster.
“He never did like wheat bread,” she said, as the toast popped up burnt again.
“You have it on the bagel setting, Mom,” I said, but she ignored me.
She’d stay up late, talking to it.
And sometimes went to bed with it.
“I’ll just have cereal,” I told my mom, eyeing the toast and butter suspiciously.
I get the milk from the fridge, which is my Grandmother, and close the door gently.
The fear holds me tight.
The judge demands an answer, but I have none.
I take the Swiss Army Tool from my pocket, flick out the sharpest blade, and draw it cross my left palm.
It doesn’t take long for enough blood to well up, and I quickly draw a circle around my feet.
“O Great Ancestors!” I shout. “Guide me through this moment of peril!”
The dust begins to swirl… the lights grow dark… a rumbling from the skies…
“DISQUALIFIED!” shouts the judge.
The dust settles, the lights come back up.
“Next contestant: Zymurgy.”
And they spell it right.
I don’t watch much television these days, but there’s this show I used to like called “The Ghost Whisperer.”
Some chick with big tits sees ghosts, talks to them, resolves their issues, and convinces them to head off into the light so they can move on.
If the producers were really serious about getting ghosts to move on, they could have gone with Gilbert Gottfried, though.
Anybody who talks to him for more than a minute, ghost or not, would be running for the light regardless of how fucked up their shit was or any leftover business here on earth.
Call them Ghosts.
Collecting up all the papers of someone’s who’s died, processing them into an AI personality engine, and plugging it into a hologram might make sense for historical figures like Benjamin Franklin or Abraham Lincoln, but doing that with the Facebook and Twitter and blog and email archives of my son…
He stood there. Right by the coffin, delivering his own eulogy.
He can say he loves me and thanks me for everything, how much he misses his mother, but this is torture.
It’s 2AM. The bottle is empty.
Standing there. By the bed. Staring.
Turn it off!
Ghosts carved messages on my arms at night.
Only when I showered off the blood did I see the messages clearly.
I ignored them, bandaged my arms, and went about my day.
So, the ghosts carved messages on to my legs… my chest… my back… my face…
I used up all my vacation time… should I call a priest… watching television… drinking… drinking…
Then, I realized… I don’t believe in ghosts.
I hired a nurse to tie me to the bed at night.
After that, the ghosts left me alone.
(But the nurse beat me with a hammer.)