By Roz Murphy
During the break in our last LCRW meeting, someone asked me how I managed to live with a ghost. The question has haunted me (hmm….) ever since. So this morning, as part of my daily exercises in writerly procrastination, I finally decided to ask Bob, my resident ghost, his thoughts on the topic. He’d drifted in early, which was unusual since we tend to chat at dinnertime. In retrospect, I don’t know why I even bothered to consult him. Bob’s rarely much help when it comes to practical matters and he’s even less useful early in the morning.
“So my LCRW colleagues want to know, Bob, how I live with a ghost,” I tossed out, my fingers hovering over the keyboard as I awaited his pearls of wisdom.
“How should I know how you live with a ghost?” Bob muttered, obviously in a bad mood. I suspected a little too much partying in his mysterious netherworld last night. “I’m on the other side of the equation here.” He sat back in his chair at the kitchen table and rubbed his face with both hands, shielding his eyes from the bright sunshine reflecting off the lake and flooding the room. The light caromed off his balding dome and illuminated wrinkles in his usually immaculate silk smoking jacket. Maybe he’d slept in it?
“Look at the question from my point of view,” Bob continued. “My assignment is to help a crabby, middle-aged,” he hesitated as he noticed the mutinous look on my face and back-pedalled swiftly, “I mean, my assignment is to help a put-upon ‘woman-of-a-certain-age’ get a few things done. Since I’m the ghost in this scenario, I’m not sure I’m the right person to ask. I don’t really worry about how you live with me.”
Truer words were never spoken.
I sighed and took my fingers off the keyboard. Another one of our baffling conversations, circling endlessly around the drain. Bob and I had been at this for weeks–talking for hours at night to help me ‘fix’ a few issues with both my daily and my non-existent love lives. (A ghostly two-fer…lucky me…) Frankly, most days, the only issue I felt like fixing was the one in which I could show Bob the door. Not that he’s a bad ghost, exactly. As he diplomatically pointed out when we first met, he’s not one of those young, thuggish spirits who throw furniture around and terrify people. Instead, Bob’s ghostly toolbox includes martinis, babbling, obscure references and large doses of nagging. (For instance, his idea of great dinner conversation includes lecturing me on the menace of buttered toast. Or on the sex lives of newts. I mean, really…newts?) For a woman trying to survive the financial ravages of the Great Recession, I find that this ‘haunting’ situation sucks up a lot of time that I could spend better elsewhere.
“Let me rephrase the question, Bob.” I tried again. “How could I, the hauntee, make this a better experience for you, the hauntor?”
“Well, now that’s a much better angle,” Bob responded, sitting up straight and brightening. “You need more martinis around this place, for one thing. And you’ve got to do something about that awful music you’re always playing, like that Goo-Goo Lady. Why can’t we listen to something snappy by Irving Berlin or George Gershwin? They write zippy tunes!”
“Irving Berlin? That’s the soundtrack that would make this haunting experience more enjoyable for you? And more liquor? Don’t you carry enough rye around in that flask in your pocket?” I shook my head in dismay. No way am I going to incorporate Bob’s suggestions for improvement.
The conversation–as most of our conversations do–degenerated from there. When it comes to life with Bob, sometimes I feel like I’ve woken up in the middle of an Abbott and Costello routine (‘who’s on first?’) or a Marx Brother’s skit. So thanks so much, LCRW, for sending us more fodder for another lakeside squabble…oops, I mean, discussion. Sigh.
Yours from the misty shores of Keuka Lake,
p.s.–Bob also sends his regards and asks if anyone out there recalls the real (birth) first names of the Marx Brothers. He’s having a spectral moment and can’t remember them, and it’s making him (and, consequently, me) crazier than usual. If you would just comment below or post the answer on my FB wall at ‘Roz Murphy Author’ I will pass along your message and put the poor ghost out of his misery…
(To learn more about the misadventures of ghost Bob and his long-suffering hauntee, Roz, read Roz Murphy’s novel, Bob at the Lake, available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble online.)