Another Halloween is just over, peanut butter appreciation day is just around the corner, and sandwiched in there somewhere is the publication date for RESET by Marian Evans. Karen and I are meanwhile out working (so say some — playing say others) in the pine bough fields these days. I love it for the time spent out of doors, and for the chance it gives me to think. Think about things like, “did I just publish a ghost story?”
Which of course leads to the question, “do I believe in spirits?”
Well, first off, I don’t believe that you have to believe in something to write about it, but you do have to believe you can make it believable. You just have to accept that you may never really know what you profess to believe in, whether or not there is merit in that notion.
Yep, I believe in ghosts. Since dad died, for sure. Not because I saw him moving in his coffin, at the funeral, and before that at the viewing — something that I attribute to the mental distortion caused by my deep grief. Not because doors ajar would be heard to close on windless days, and lamps would get turned off by an unseen hand in an empty room when they were no longer needed, (two of his biggest pet peeves were those very things). And not, certainly not because I see him in some of my most treasured dreams, and they seem so real that when I wake to a world without him, I just want to go back to sleep. These things taken together might conceivably lead one to wonder…
Sure, call me impressionable and you’d be in with a company of others. That’s fine, but I could cite two seemingly inexplicable personal occurrences for every call to reason that the aforementioned company might offer. Suffice it to say that I probably believed in ghosts all along, just more so lately. More so since writing RESET.
One thing about beliefs — you can adjust them to reflect new information, they are subject to change. They may get stronger or weaker, according to any given marginalia. They may become unassailable with the weight of years, or seem to. In the case of ghosts, I find my point of view to be ever-expanding, starting with the definition of the word, and all of its synonyms.
We went to a far out Halloween celebration Saturday before last, at the Plump Pumpkin; John and Elaine, Karen and I. There were giant flaming balloons aloft and fireworks in the road when we arrived. There was a walk in the haunted forest. There were costumes of great variety and imagination. Poe would have been proud. It was a modern day Masque of the Red Death, minus the actual death. Talk at the bonfire out front ranged from neighborly chat to the pitfalls of socialism. While at the bonfire out back, Tiyi (pronounced tee-I) told ghost stories, but they weren’t just stories, they were her personal experiences — to which I found I could relate.
I thought about the ghost of Mrs. Chronski in Karen’s parent’s house. Victim of a hideously abusive relationship, ending in murder and suicide, Mrs. Chronski was known to haunt the house for years after, sometimes turning off the diningroom stereo mid-song, and ejecting the cassette with force enough to flip it out onto the floor. Her way of telling Karen and her siblings that they belonged in the closet? Like all good children?
“I felt like a ghost myself the other day,” I told Tiyi when she finished her last story. “I walked into mom’s kitchen. She was doing dishes. She looked up as I opened the door and stepped through. When she looked into my face, she screamed aloud and grabbed the edge of the sink to catch herself.”
“Ohh!” said mom, “I thought you were your dad!”
“I assured her that it was only me.”
That’s the short and sweet version.
The truth is, I’d had the old man in mind when I stepped through the door. Dad was a storyteller, by nature, aspiring to poetic expression. He wrote alot and had a few small things published throughout his later years. Alas, he died too young, shortly after retiring from GM.
So, I was walking into mom’s with a ‘proof’ copy of my new book in hand, wishing dad had lived to see it, lived to write his own book, to enjoy his retirement, to meet my grandchildren (his great-grandchildren).
Was he with me? Was he standing there looking through the window for that brief moment outside their door, watching my dear mother, his ‘Punky’, bent over her dishwater? It is comforting to imagine him still hanging around, watching over the farm and family, offering his wisdom as a whisper on the breeze… until I stop to wonder, “what comfort is there for a ghost?”
I had just gone down to the mailbox to get the daily junkmail, there was my book proof, which I was to review and either approve, or upload a revised copy. I hadn’t expected it so quick, but I was happy to see it when I peeled open the package and there it was all glossy and new.
Karen was at mom’s house, helping her clean, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to show it to both of them. They were as excited as I was, and proud. Mom insisted on getting a picture of me, ‘new author with his first book’. When the fuss was over I left them to their cleaning, to go home and curl up with a good book. I’m happy to say that I found it even better than I thought it would be. B. Cool