(You might remember in our last blog we were conversing in a French castle with the invisible ghost of Rusty Pliers whose manuscript we’d found, while the creepy English butler fetched some libations.)
“The gin’s arrived,” said the ghost.
The butler had left ten minutes ago. He hadn’t returned. Nothing had arrived.
“Where?” demanded my wife. “I don’t see anything.” Saucy Boy was unafraid of the ghost from the beginning, which in turn gave me courage.
Besides, he wasn’t a very scary ghost.
A heartbeat later there came a knock at the door and the butler entered, pushing a trolley with bottles and glasses. He didn’t look quite so creepy now, I thought, but was a welcome sight pushing a trolly of refreshments into the room.
“Ah!” said I with enthusiasm. “The drinks!”
“Gin and tonic please,” said my wife.
“Nothing for me, thanks,” intoned the ghost of Rusty Pliers.
After a pause he added,“I’m driving! Hahahahaa!” His terrible, unearthly laughter at the horrible old joke swirled up maliciously and echoed around the room.
My tortured ears cursed the day they were born to hear that ancient jest uttered by a demon from the bowels of hell. My wife, on the other hand, smiled with amusement.
"He has the same sense of humor you do," she whispered to me. "Unfunny."
"I'm three times funnier than any old ghost!" I insisted under my breath.
“I see you still possess the same sense of humor, Mr. Rusty,” said the butler, completely unperturbed. He wore the faintest touch of a smile as he spoke. Now I could see that he wasn’t creepy at all, he was just very dry. He finished preparing the drinks, handing one to my wife, one to me.
“Will that be all, sir?” he asked me.
“Yes, thank you,” I said.
“Leave the trolley, please,” said my wife. “We’ll handle it from here.”
“Goodnight,” we all said to the butler.
"Goodnight," he said to us all, then he turned and left the room.
"He wasn't so creepy after all," I said, meaning the butler.
"He makes a very nice gin and tonic," said my wife. "I don't suppose he gets out much, living in a castle as he does."
"He lingered over your underwear," said the ghost, "when he put your things away."
"Oh he did, did he?" answered my wife, getting a bit riled.
"She doesn't like people touching her underwear!" I laughed.
"You!" she accused me. "Don't you ever think of anything else?"
"I was only kidding," said the ghost. "He didn't touch your things I heard you speak of it earlier and thought it might help me to break the ice. Sometimes it's difficult to start a conversation with new people. Especially across the line between the living and the dead."
"You don't seem so dead," said I. "For a ghost."
“So, let me ask you this,” said Saucy Boy, changing the subject. “You’re a ghost because no one ever read your book? Is that it?” She sipped her drink and smiled encouragingly.
“That about sums it up,” replied the ghost. “I’ve been cursed.”
“Poor ghost. What do you want us to do?” asked my wife.
“Re-eeeeead my boo-oook!” said the ghost in a funny, fake-scary way and we all laughed again.
“Well. I’m not much of a reader…” began Saucy Boy.
“Why don’t you read it to us?” I suggested.
“Like books on tape!” added Saucy Boy, delighted with the idea.
“Okay,” said the ghost. “Why not?”
“That’s the spirit!” said my wife.
“Hey!” said the ghost.
“Sorry,” said my wife.
We settled back in our chairs and sipped our gins as we listened to the ghost read his bittersweet tale of a young boy growing up in a strange land. As I listened it occurred to me that the boy in the story grew up to become the ghost in the room.
The ghost never materialized, by the way, but remained only a voice.
A couple hours later he finished and asked, “Well, now you’ve heard it. What do you think?”
“I think I’d like another drink,” I said, helping myself at the trolly.
“Uh,” began Saucy Boy. “It’s long, isn’t it?”
“I liked it,” I said, exaggerating a little. “Especially the part about the lunatic and the car blowing up.”
“Yes, I like explosions,” answered the ghost. “I wish I’d put in a few more.”
“What do you want us to do now?” asked Saucy Boy. She yawned. It was late.
“Get it published!” answered the ghost. “So I can be free of the curse! If just one person reads it and enjoys it, it’ll finally be R I P for the once proud and previously alive Rusty Pliers.”
“Well, we can try,” I said.
(I should explain that this was in 2005, over ten years ago. Since then I have edited, written, rewritten and even ghostwritten HOLD THE BEETROOT, the ghost’s story from the MS we found that night, but it remains unpublished still. No one wants it.
That is part of its curse.
But it is bigger than that.
Part of the curse was passed on to me. The unpublished manuscript haunts me now. I’ve become obsessed with it and I’ve even assumed as my pen name the ghost’s name, Rusty Pliers, while trying to write something before I die that even one person will read and enjoy. The writer's curse!
The MS sits in my office. Unable to resist its cursed beckoning I return to it when I have a spare moment.
I’m currently on the 16th rewrite and still looking for a publisher.)
“Well, we can try,” I said all those years ago, little knowing.
“Sure,” said my wife sleepily. “Why not?”
“Uh-oh,” said the ghost. “It’ll soon be daylight. I’ve got to be leaving now.”
“You can only appear at night, huh?” I asked. “Like the ghost from Hamlet?”
“Him!” responded the ghost. “What a drama queen! None of the other ghosts can stand him!”
“Who else is up there with you?” I asked. “Or are you in the hotter place?”
“As near as I can figure from where I am, there is no heaven or hell,” answered the ghost. “Except what we make for ourselves.”
I pondered the ghost’s simple words.
“Well, I’d better be going,” repeated the ghost. “It’s almost daylight.”
“Then you cannot walk during the day?” I persisted.
“It’s not that,” he answered. “Day or night makes no difference to a ghost. To a ghost what matters is the penance he must do! For to be a ghost is to be punished, make no mistake about that and I’m no exception. Alas! What matters to me now that I’m dead is the time I wasted while I was alive! And the horrible penance I must do! Currently I’m doomed to work for eternity in the Haunted Mansion at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. You ever been to Orlando?”
I was about to tell him sure I’d been to Orlando and that I used to work for Big Mouse too as an animator in the 1990s, but he was in a hurry and kept on talking.
“Twenty-five thousand times a day I have to jump into a moving car and scare a tourist! I’d love to meet the guy who dreamed that one up! ’In perpetuity and throughout the universe’ too says my Disney contract, and brother, is my shift manager a son-of-a-bitch!”
Ha! Ha! I thought. Life or death, a boss was still a boss. Then I laughed a little at myself, for my Disney contract had also said ‘in perpetuity and throughout the universe.’
“I must go!” said the ghost. “I could get onto real trouble!”
“How much trouble can you get into?” I asked. “You’re a ghost.”
“Oh, you’d be surprised,” said the ghost, his voice growing fainter. “You’d be surprised.”
No I wouldn’t be surprised I wanted to say, I worked there for fifteen years and I wouldn’t be surprised at all, but what was the point?
“Goodbye,” said Saucy Boy. “Where will you go now, poor ghost?”
“I’m off to Walt Disney World!” he announced as if he’d just won the 1976 World Series and was on his way, but faintly and drifting off.
“Goodbye,” I said.
“Adieu,” whispered the ghost. “Remember me.”
And he was gone.