Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Ghosts in the Ruins

My mother had been dead a few months that spring in 1984 when my Nana suggested we go on a picnic at her graveside.  My father didn’t want to join us – he was always teetering between genuine grief and incredible anger since my mother had died in a car accident after she had left him for another man.   I didn’t hate her for that.  I got it – I knew why she left I just wish she had been able to get me.  Even though my dad had cut down on his drinking he still was just distant stranger most of the time.  We had a few bright spots here and there – the brightest oddly enough on the night of my mother’s funeral when he shared some crazy stories about when they first met.   We laughed so damn hard that night until we cried and make no mistake – we both fucking cried like babies.  I knew in that second what it was like to be close to my dad and he realized it too – and it scared the shit out of him.  So rather than yelling at each other – we were more like roommates – a middle aged man and his 14 year old roomie- both civil but both not being able to say much that would reveal anything resembling feelings.

Nana I could talk to.  Nana got me.  Nana was my rock and the one person my dad would listen to.  I could hang out at her place when things at my house were tense.  In fact I’d stay there during most weekends.  I could relax and be myself - not walking on egg shells all the time.  
I had the feeling my grandmother never really approved of my mother but oddly enough – once she died – Nana made it a point to make sure I remembered her.   She would tell me stories about the night I was born and how Mom drove herself to the hospital while they tried to find my dad at work.  How I learned to walk holding my mom’s keys because I’d be so focused stealing them and then not notice that I was actually moving my chubby toddler feet while she pretended to try to catch me.   She had the record from the musical “Cinderella” and would hold me I her arms and sing “Ten Minutes Ago I Saw You,” while she waltzed my three year old self around the living room (just to be clear, I’m not a musical theatre fan but that song I like – ‘nough said).  

“A picnic at Mom’s gravesite?   That sounds kinda weird Nana,” I said matter-of-factly.   “They do it all the time in Europe as a way to still include family members after they’ve passed,” Nana said brushing back her salt and pepper bangs out of her face.  “Besides, if you are going to be Ghost Butler – “ “Ghost Buster!” I corrected.   “Okay, if you are going to be investigating ghosts, you might as well be comfortable in graveyards,” she replied.  I had to admit – she had a point. 
That afternoon, we packed a cooler with a lunch that included Mom’s favorites – cold fried chicken, three bean salad, peach cobbler, biscuits and cola.  We rode out to the gravesite which was under a large oak tree which my mom would have loved.  We put a blanket down next to her gravestone – which read – “Angela Bronson – Loving Mother  - 1951 to 1984.”  We’d been out almost every week in the four months since she died and it still seemed surreal.  It was like a bad dream that I hoped to wake up from and everything would be fine.  But she was dead and everywhere I looked had a painfully empty space that never seemed to be in focus.   Nana and I sat on the blanket and put down the lunch.  Nana would address Mom first and tell her what we were eating.

I tried to feel like she was with us – physically she was just six feet under but
that’s not where my mom lived – it just was where her body was – that’s all.  I liked to go to the back yard of our little house and remember how she pushed me on the swing that was still attached to the tree limbs outside the kitchen window.  The seat was deteriorating but it was still part of my mom and me.  She lived at the movie theatre where we saw Ghost Busters and the Star Wars movies over and over.   A beautiful day at the park where she taught me how to ride a bike – that’s where she lived.  Her gravesite was just a goulish fucking piece of real estate – a sad reminder that she was gone.  The finality of it sucked the wind out of me.  
I closed my eyes and tried to picture her next to us – just sitting and watching.  I tried to talk to her when I was at Nana’s or at home when my dad was at work but it never felt like she was there.  I was beginning to doubt whether I believed in an afterlife – whether it was even worth believing in.  I tried everything I could to contact her including a Ouija board – but that was bust.  All it felt like was me pushing a piece of plastic trying to get the answers I wanted.   I’d give anything to see her one more time but instead I was sitting at her graveside telling her about school and how much I wanted to be done with it and on my own.  Nana listened patiently – she never made me feel like what I was saying or feeling was nonsense.  I guess that’s why I never really talked to my dad – he could never accept what I had to say without challenging it. 

We wrapped up the picnic and put it back into the car.  I just sat there – looking at the tree and the gravestone in the distance wishing I could go back in time and tell my mom to stay put – to not try drive back to get me on an icy road in the middle of January.   I knew it was her decision to leave my dad and it was her decision to come back to see me – but it still didn’t take away the guilt of knowing if she hadn’t loved me so much – she’d still be alive. 
Thursday morning at school, I heard some boys next to my locker talking about a haunted theatre that was near the school.   “Hell – yeah it’s haunted – I saw that old Coal Miner myself!” said  Bruce Dane, one of the biggest kids in school and one you didn’t want to mess with – even if his first name was Bruce.  “They say he’ll haunt you forever unless you can get someone else to see him and then they’ll be haunted,” responded Greg d’Angelo another one of Bruce’s cronies. “Let’s go back tonight if I can sneak out.”  Normally, I would just blow off what they’re saying because most of the time it’s bragging bullshit, but this time they got my attention which they unfortunately noticed.   “What are you looking at dick breath?” asked Bruce who just then noticed my Ghost Busters t-shirt. 

“Nothing,” I said then thinking fast I added, “It’s just cool that you saw a ghost –I’d like to one day.”  “Well tonight might be your lucky night,” Bruce responded while wiping the sweat from his forehead with his t-shirt.  “If you can go into that theatre and stay there for 20 minutes by yourself - not only will you see a ghost but you’ll get the award in school for biggest badass.”  The respect of my peers would be nice but seeing an honest to God ghost would be the cherry on the sundae.  “Meet us there at the theatre around 11:00 pm and we’ll see if you can take it,” explained Bruce.   Holy shit, not only was I going to hang out with the toughest guys in school, I might actually capture a ghost on video.  Finally, my dreams of being a ghost investigator might come true. 
When Nana picked me up, I asked her about the old theatre and if there were any ghosts that she knew of.  “I’ve heard tell of people seeing a Miner around the back stage area but I never saw him even though I did some plays there ages ago,” she replied.  “The theatre was built over an old abandoned mine and the scuttle butt is that he died in that mining accident in 1950 – they never did find his body.”   “Whoa, how come I’m just learning about this now?  You know how I love ghosts,” I replied excited that this ghost might be legit but pissed that no one told me we might have a bona-fide haunting in our town.   Those guys were not bullshitting me after all.  “Hey, Grandma – do you still have that Beta video camera we got at that garage sale?” I asked sweetly.  “Yes, and you still have to show me how to operate the thing – I paid a whole $50 for it,” she replied.  “Let me take it home tonight and I’ll show you tomorrow.” I could tell that Nana knew something was up but she let me have the camera anyway.   

That night – I waited for my Dad to finally fall asleep.  He was pretty hammered at dinner so I knew it wouldn’t take long.   Luckily the old theatre was off the town square which was about a half mile from where I lived. I got Nana’s camera with video in the case and quietly walked out of my house.   I wondered if the guys would meet me there – if not – I had a camera and would gather my own proof.
As I walked on the quiet streets of Dawsonville, I wondered if I would capture my mother on video.  I didn’t want to think she was a ghost but I wanted to get proof that she was around - that her death was not final.  My heart was a gaping wound once I found out that she was dead but if could talk to her one more time – to just see her – even if it was as an apparition I felt that I could move on.  When I arrived at the theatre – Bruce and Greg were there waiting.  “So you showed up – we were laying odds that you would be too afraid to be here,” Bruce said with a sneer.  “I’m here and I brought a camera to document what I see – “  “Hey that’s a good idea – why haven’t we done that?  Your family has the money - ” suggested Greg who looked like he was beginning to question Bruce’s leadership.  “Shut up ass-wipe,” replied Bruce, “let’s just see if he gets anything.  We’ll lock you in and you have 20 minutes to stay in there – if you run out before then – it means you are a total chicken shit – but stay in and got some evidence on video then I might actually let you be my friend.”  I was close to saying something sarcastic but I bit my tongue since these guys were supposed to lock me in and let me out.  “Okay, Jack – good luck – you’re going to need it,” Greg said sincerely which threw me. 

I put the camera on my shoulder, flicked on my flashlight and walked into the theater.  The sliver of light from the street lamps narrowed and disappeared as the door closed with a thud along with the clicking of the locks.  My heart started to beat quickly and the darkness of the theater started to engulf me.  I turned the flash light towards the stage with its once majestic red velvet curtains now in shreds.  The smell of mildew and wood rot was pretty strong as I walked towards the stage.  There were old playbills all over the floor.  The light booth had been removed and was just a big hole in the back of the theater.  The few seats that remained were tattered with the moldy foam rubber peeking out.  It was dead silent except for the sound of dripping water which would explain all the rot. 
As I approached the side isle to go to the back of the theater, the hair on my arms started to stand on end.  The spot where I was got cooler which could have meant a draft but for my money – I knew it was a ghost.  “Mom?” I asked hopefully but I heard nothing as I usually did when I called out for her.   Things were too quiet so I decided to see if I could stir things up.  

“Hey Coal Minor Ghost – come on out – I’m not afraid of you.”  There was silence.  The silence pissed me off.  My mother would not talk to me in the afterlife but I was going to be goddamned if some stupid Coal Miner showed himself to Bruce (a guy named Bruce for God’s sake!) would not show himself to me.   I had the camera.  I knew what to do.  I was interested in ghosts long before Greg or Bruce.   I was going to stay as long as I needed to get evidence.  “Hey, ghosts, I’m not afraid and I demand that you show yourself or make some noise!” I said more sternly or as stern as a gangly 14 year old could get.  Still nothing.  Now, I was getting seriously pissed.  The start of my ghost hunting career rested on this.  “Do you fucking hear me?  I demand you show yourself!”  I was angry because death should not be final.  I couldn’t let it be.  My mother was not gone, she had to be here or somewhere and I was going to find her.   If I tried hard enough, she would find me.  She tried to get me when she died – on that icy road four months ago.  She and I - we had more to say to each other.  I needed to hear it and not through a Ouija board – that was for amateurs.  My anger was welling up and pushing out through tears – but I was not going to let this ghost see me cry or think he was the reason.  I wanted to punch something but my hands were full of a camera which was getting really heavy. 
I kept the flashlight on the stage and it was still – nothing was happening but I knew something was there. I was frustrated and just let loose.  “Look Mother Fucker – I know you’re here – show yourself you piece of chicken shit- “ Just then a spotlight turned on – it was coming from the non-existent light booth.  A disembodied head suddenly appeared – it had smudges on the face and he looked pretty pissed.  The hand with the flash light started to shake uncontrollably.   I had the presence of mind to keep the camera pointed at the stage when the ghost started to talk. 

“Young man, if you are going to come in here trying to wake the dead, you are going to do it with some manners.  You do not come in here cussing like a sailor and screaming like a banchee –because we the undead will teach you the manners your mother has taught you and that you have obviously forgotten.  Now, get your skinny white ass out of my sight until you can come back resembling some kind of gentleman.” 
I stood there still not believing what I was seeing or hearing.  I started to
scream and run away, but all I could see was his head following me and laughing a demonic laugh.   20 minutes or no 20 minutes – I was getting the fuck out of there.  I ran to what I thought was the front door but the main isle seemed to get longer and longer with no end in sight.  I kept running and at every corner I saw the Coal Miner looking at me – the last time was him with half his head caved in and blood all over his face.   I finally reached the front door and was yelling for Greg and Bruce to let me out.  I was pounding and yelling but all I could hear was the Coal Miner laughing.  My eyes filled with tears because at that point, I was pretty sure I was about to die – my heart was ready to beat right out of my chest.  The door opened suddenly and there was Nana with her arms open grabbing me and pulling me out of the doorway.   She slammed the door shut and held me until I calmed down.   

“Where are Greg and Bruce?” I asked still trembling.  “Those two boys were just standing outside and laughing while they heard your screams – I walked up and asked them what the hell they were doing and they took off, those little pissers!”  “How did you –“ I couldn’t finish my sentence.  “Your father got up to turn off the TV and couldn’t find you.  He called and figured that you were with me –which I let him believe because if he knew you were here, he’d tan your hide.  I’m having a hard time not taking switch to you myself.  What the hell were you thinking?   Anything could have happened in there – forget about ghosts – there are drug addicts that like to live in abandoned places like this, you could have gotten hurt or killed!”

I tried to say something but all I could do was look down at my sneakers and the camcorder – which right now was my best friend – it might have caught footage of the ghost talking and all this would have been worth it.  “Let’s go back to my place, you probably have a few sets of clothes for tomorrow at school,” she said curtly.  I understood why she was mad but if the footage could show the ghost - there would be redemption. 

We got back to Nana’s house and I tried to show her the video I had taken.  We got the playback up and started to watch.  My camera work was pretty shaky but then I was pretty scared.   It didn’t look like much – it was rather grainy in the dark until the spotlight came on and there was movement within it.  Some people might say it was my shadow but from the angle I was shooting at – I could not have made it.   I looked at Nana and she looked at me.  “Well, Jack you might just might have gotten a ghost on video!”  I could not wait to tell Bruce and Greg what I got.
The next day, they were at the lockers surprised that I was at school.  “Dude, we heard you screaming and then this old lady showed up-“ Greg said excitedly.  Bruce looked like he was trying to keep his cool but we all knew they were the ones who ran away and left me there.  “Yeah, grandma bailed you out – nice going – did you tell her where we were?” he accused thinking he could turn his cowardice back on me.   “No, I just asked her about the theatre and when my dad couldn’t find me, she put two and two together.  But I did get some footage of the ghost on camera –“  I said triumphantly.  “No shit, for real?” Greg responded with admiration – it looked like Bruce was beginning to lose his lackey.  “I’ll believe it when I see it –“ he said trying to make me out as a liar.  “You can – I have it set up at Nana’s – just come on over and see for yourself,” I said supremely confident.  “Oh, goodie a trip to Grandma’s house – is she going to give us milk and cookies,” Bruce quipped sarcastically.  “Do you think she would?  I love the kind of cookies Grandma’s make – they are always so warm and soft in the middle – “  Greg gushed.   This guy was mine for the taking if I could just show him the video.  “Shut up Greg.  Okay, we’ll see your little tape and if it’s legit – maybe it can get on the news.”   I had not thought of the news but that would definitely make a splash in this town.  

When Nana picked me up I had Bruce and Greg with me.  “Hey Nana, could Bruce and Greg come back to your place and see the video I shot?”  “Also,” Greg interjected, “did you happen to bake any cookies?”  I could see Nana’s feminist ire start to stir up – “Young man, I happen to work full time and not all grandmothers bake –“ she said with a wink – “but as luck would have it – yes – I actually did just bake some cookies before I came to pick Jack up.”  “Score!” Greg and I said together but Bruce didn’t say a thing – he just looked at us like we were babies for wanting cookies. 
We arrived back at Nana’s who still had the video set up from the night before.  She called Bruce and Greg’s parents to let them know where they were.  She also brought in cookies and lemonade while I fiddled with the controls.  I clicked the TV and the playback for the betacam - there was the grainy dark video.  “What a rip- it doesn’t look like you got anything – “ Bruce said somehow feeling redeemed.  “Wait,” I said confidently.  Just then the light hit the stage and you could see a figure moving – mostly the size of a head.  “That’s just your shadow,” said Bruce dismissively.  “Nope, the angle I’m at shooting it couldn’t be.  Besides, Nana checked and the electricity has been off in that building for a year – so the light had to have been ghost-made – remember it was 11 at night when I went in there.”  “This is incredible – I mean this looks like a ghost – its freaky cool!” said Greg admirably as he took another snickerdoodle.   I looked and Nana and she looked at me.  I felt like I was on my way as a ghost hunter.  “Okay, I guess maybe it could be a ghost – maybe.  I guess we could get it analyzed –“ said Bruce, “My dad knows some people at the news station – maybe they could look at it.”   “Sure – when can we go?” I asked excitedly.  Just then Greg’s mom pulled up.  “Greg, your Mom is here,” Nana yelled from the kitchen.  He got up to go and grabbed a few cookies on the way out.  “Hey, don’t tell anyone about this okay?” Bruce whispered. “Why?  This is amazing – Jack got some cool stuff – “ Greg responded while stuffing another cookie in his mouth.   “Just don’t –“ Bruce said rather threateningly.  He knew that Bruce meant business and the conversation ended there.  He thanked Nana for the cookies and left as we saw his car leave the driveway.  Just then, Bruce’s dad Ben Dane pulled in and walked up the sidewalk to say hello.   Bruce brushed past us and to his dad.  “Hey dad, gotta go.”  “But I just got here and I wanted to thank Miss Claire for looking after you – especially with your mother out of town -  “ “Dad, we need to go,” Bruce said more forcefully and his father complied.  “Say thank you to Jack for inviting you over – “ “Hey thanks – see you at school.” And with that Bruce and his dad departed. 

I felt great.  “Nana, did you see that?  They both saw what we saw –“ I said as I sat down on the couch and started to rewind the tape.  The player kept flashing and error code.  “What the hell?” I looked into the betacam and the tape was gone!  “Shit, Nana, the tape is gone,” I said figuring out pretty quick who could have taken it.  “That sneaky little fuck,” I said.  “Jack – your language!  Are you sure it’s gone?”  “Yes Nana, Bruce had to have taken it while we were saying goodbye to Greg,”   I was crestfallen.   Nana tried to call Bruce’s house but there was no answer and it being a Friday night – I would have to wait until after the weekend to confront him about it at school.   
That night all I could think about was the video.   If Bruce did steal it – he was going to get an ass-kicking – I didn’t care how much bigger he was then me.  As I closed my eyes I saw my mother like she was when I was three – younger and laughing with my dad when who was smiling because he was home on leave from Vietnam.  She touched my hair and told me it was going to be alright.  Suddenly, I saw the scene shift and saw the Coal Miner ghost getting back in my face.  He was laughing with half his face caved in with blood everywhere.  I woke up in a sweat barely able to breathe.  I reached for my Pup-Pup to comfort me which was one of many advantages to spending the night at Nana’s.  My dad didn’t like the idea of me having stuffed animals in my room because it made me a “sissy.”  Nana had saved Pup-Pup when my father threatened to throw him out.  I grabbed the stuffed dalmation my mother had given me as a toddler, turned on my clock radio and listened to music until I fell back to sleep. 

I wanted to confront Bruce so bad – I was willing to go to his house to do it.  We didn’t know where he lived but his family was pretty prominent so Nana was making phone calls on Saturday afternoon around lunchtime when an interesting news story popped on the TV. 
The mid-day news anchors threw it over to a petite blond reporter standing outside the old theater.  “I’m standing here with Bruce Dane, a young Ghost Buster who actually might have caught a ghost in video while camping out here at the old Dawsonville Community Theater.  Many people have claimed to see the ghost that haunts this theater but no one has gotten evidence until now.”  “That sneaky little fuck,” Nana whispered under her breath.  “Bruce, how did you get this footage?”   “Well I snuck in late on Thursday because I knew this theater was being torn down today – so I wanted to take a shot and see if I could find the old Coal Miner they say died in the mine this theater is built over and I did!”  “Interesting, the footage in compelling but the voice of person shooting it does not sound like you,” the reporter noted. Bruce started to look uneasy.  “Good, nail him lady!” I said thinking it would be even better than me confronting him if he was exposed as a fraud right there on TV.   “Puberty ma’am, my voice changes a lot,” he said quickly recovering.   “We’re going to roll the footage of the ‘supposed’ ghost that Bruce caught and our viewers can make their own minds up.”  

The footage of the spotlight and the shadow actually looked more compelling on the news channel and they were able to close up where you could see the face and mouth moving.  The blond reporter smiled – “So there you have it – the town’s Coal Miner ghost on video.  You have to wonder where he’ll go once this theater is torn down today.   I’m Christie McKay, Channel 4 Action News.”  The news anchors at the main desk looked impressed.  “Thanks Christie – well that sure is interesting.  I’m not sure I believe in ghosts, but that video is certainly intriguing.  In other news, four cows shut down I-136 this morning – it seems the misguided bovines had gotten loose from their pasture-“ Nana shut off the TV.
“Nana, we need to go to the theater and confront him – I want my video back.”  Nana thought about for a nano-second.  “You’re right Jack – in the past I would have told you to let it go – but this is just plain wrong.  Let’s get that little asshole.”  We jumped into her car and she sped to the downtown area which consisted mostly of private shops, a few restaurants and cafes and the old theater which was now going to be torn down for a new Builder’s Square with the hope that large store would bring back the down-town area.  It had turned into a festival with tents for food, moonwalks for the little kids, etc.

The roads were blocked as the demolition of the old theater was going to commence.  But through traffic jam on the road into downtown (which for Dawsonville was big in 1984) I happened to see Bruce and his dad talking to a group of people. “I see them Nana-“ I jumped out of the car and started running towards them before Nana could stop me.   “Hey Bruce, where the hell is my video?” I yelled as I ran up to him.  “What, you don’t know what you’re talking about,” he replied uncomfortably trying not to make eye contact.  “You know, the footage you stole yesterday when you were at my Nana’s house with Greg.”  I looked over and saw Greg nearby who was trying to move away as far as he could.  “Hey Greg, you were there – you saw it,” I yelled knowing I would get some back-up – Greg was a decent guy.  He just looked down – “Hey, I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about,” he said feeling like a deer in headlights about to be torn apart by two different sets of hunters.  “Look, he took the footage a couple of days ago –“ replied Mr. Dane in fierce defense of his son.  “Where the hell did he get the camera? Huh – where did you get the camera you liar!”  I yelled.  “It’s the family camera,” he said as he pointed to the case that his father was holding.  “No, you stole it from my Nana – from a grandmother who gave you snickerdoodles!”  At this the crowd started mummer – you don’t steal from grandmothers especially ones that make delicious cookies.  “Look, son, Bruce got the footage fair and square and nothing you say will change that,”  Mr. Dane said like the defense attorney he was.  A few of the Chamber of Commerce business guys started to try to get me to shut up.  It didn’t phase me – I wanted Bruce to admit the truth.  “He and Greg locked me in the theater and then ran away when they heard my screams – that’s my voice on the video – Jesus – you have to believe me –“ I pleaded. 
The crowd started to gather but then the alarms sounded and the news
cameras were focused on the demolition.  The Chamber reps directed  everyone’s attention towards the demolition and away from me. There was a countdown over the PA system and then a loud bang as the theater walls and roof came tumbling down.  Nana ran up just as the theater was becoming nothing but tons of rubble.   It was all gone.  There would be no chance to shoot a second video.   Greg walked up to me while all the commotion was happening and out of the sight line of Bruce who was taking video of the demolition to prove he had a camera.  “Hey sorry man, but he told me if I didn’t go along with it – he’d make my life hell.  He was going to tell everyone I’m a fag – I’m not but I couldn’t have that – you know.  Life in junior high is tough enough without that bullshit piled on.  By the way, they just bought that camera today.”   I was so pissed off – so angry that what was happening was wrong and yet a guy like me couldn’t do much about it against a family like the Danes.  Just then, out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw my mom standing by the big oak tree near the park off the town green.  “It’s Mom!” I yelled and took off. “Jack – no don’t go over there! It’s not Angela!” Nana pleaded.   I ran as fast as I could “Hey Mom – I knew it was –“ I stopped short as it was a young mother with her toddler playing near the tree – real people living and having fun – not ghosts.

Nana ran up and saw my face.   “C’mon on Jack.  Let’s go home and try to figure you how to make this right.”  “There is no way to make it right Nana-  people like us don’t matter to the rich downtown Chamber people – they can do whatever they want and no one will challenge them.”   She tried to take my hand but I just pulled away.  We walked past the ruins of the old theater which now felt like my life. 
The drive back to Nana’s was silent – I looked out the window breathing hard because the heat of my rage was taking up every molecule of oxygen inside my body.  I went to my room and started to tear down my Ghost Busters stuff.  Dad was right – dreams were for losers.   Nana walked in and stopped me from taking down the last one.  “Jack –stop – this is a set-back – it sucks – yes – but true heroes recover and fight back.”   I just looked at her and didn’t say anything.  I sat in my room in the dark with the TV on until she told me it was dinner.   We had a quiet dinner – I didn’t talk because all I wanted to do was yell and scream.  I was not mad at Nana – I was just pissed as hell at life.   When it was time for bed, I sat there with my eyes open hoping I could get out of this horse shit town and make something of myself. I wasn’t sure what or where but it was sure as hell not going to be here.   Finally, around 4:00 a.m. – my anger subsided enough to let me sleep.

At Bruce’s house there was celebration – his dad patting him on the back and having drinks with the board of the Chamber – it was a new day for downtown – a big chain store was coming and his son was the town hero.  But Greg was noticeably withdrawn.   Bruce pulled him aside.  “Dude, what the hell is wrong with you?  We had an awesome day – I was on the news.”  “It was a lie, Bruce.  You stole your spotlight.  Shit – you have everything – could you not have let Jack have his one moment?” Greg asked – his voice dripping with disgust.  “Look – sometimes you have to make your own luck – “ “You mean steal your own luck – “ Greg retorted.  “Look – if you don’t like it -  leave –I don’t need you.  Fuck you man!”  “Right back at you dick-breath,” Greg said as he pushed open the screen door and left out the back way.  
That night around 4:00 a.m. Bruce started to have a very vivid dream.   He was in the theater and the walls started to close in like he was there during the demolition.  Everywhere he tried to escape – he was met with explosions.  It felt like he was in a mine – with no way out. Just then the face of the Coal Miner appeared – with glowing red eyes.  His face looked normal otherwise but then another explosion took place and half his face was gone – fragments of skull and brain covered Bruce who tried to scream but couldn’t.  The mutilated face of the Coal Miner got closer as the sound of a heartbeat got louder.  “I know what you did to Jack – you took what was not yours.  Tell the truth or I swear I will appear to you every night until you make amends.”   Bruce woke with a start sweating profusely.  “It was just a nightmare – okay- it don’t happen.”  Suddenly there was a howl of pain – Bruce looked down and noticed that he was covered in sweat but it was sticky like blood.  A bright flash of light and the Coal Miner was right in front of him – still missing most of his face “Your nightmare is still happening–“ An echo of laughter surrounded the scared teen as his sports trophies started to fly off the shelf.  He screamed like a little girl as Mr. Dane ran into his son’s room just as the last trophy hit the floor in its own.  “Jesus H. Christ – what is going on?”  Bruce’s dad turned on the lights and saw the shelf with the trophies on a downward slide which explained all the items on the floor.  “What the hell?” Bruce was shaking.  “Dad, we have to tell the truth – we have to tell people that Jack took the video or very bad things will happen –“  “And look like a laughing stock – no son – we need to stay on course – “ his father shot back.  Just then a chill hit the room.  A trophy flew up from the floor – floated for about 10 seconds – then hit the window and shattered the glass.   Bruce and his father ran like hell out of the room and down the stairs.  “Okay, we’ll make a correction tomorrow – we’ll fix this - holy shit – holy shit!”  They both decided to sleep in the den that night with the lights and TV on. 

At 8:00 a.m. while Nana was making breakfast before church, she got a call from Ben Dane.  “Hey there Miss Claire – I feel really bad for the confusion yesterday.  It seems like Jack played a bigger part in getting that video than we gave him credit for – so we’ll let the news station people know and I’ll see if we can get his video back.  Well okay, thanks and we’ll see you later at services.”  Nana put down the phone a little dumbfounded but believing her prayers were answered.  “Jack – wake up.  I just talked to Bruce’s dad, they are going to credit you with the video and let the news station know.  “Wait, what –“ I mumbled still half asleep.  “They are going to credit you and give the video back Jack – we won!  I guess the powers that be made them think better of it.  They’re even coming to church today- I haven’t seen the Danes at a service in years.  Now get dressed!”  Nana practically skipped out of my room.  I shot out of bed, got dressed and for the first time in my life – could not wait to go to church. 
We were among the first ones there greeting the congregants as they entered with a big smile.  Finally, Bruce and his dad showed up – looking a little exhausted and shaken up.   “Hello Bruce – “ I said waiting for an apology.  “Okay – here’s the thing – we told the news station that I was there that night and that you went in to videotape as part of my idea.  I stayed outside to keep guard – but you were the one who physically caught the ghost.  I just told you where to look,”  Bruce looked at me hoping that would be sufficient.  It was mostly true and at least I’d get credit for the video which is really all I wanted.  “Okay – cool –thanks,”  I said with my hand out stretched ready to shake like a gentleman.  Bruce looked at his dad who nodded that he had better shake on it.  
On the mid-day news – the anchors made a quick correction about the video -that I had shot it then quickly moved on – it was a small moral victory.  I was good with that.  Nana took me back to my house since school was the next day.  She made dinner for my dad and me and told him what had happened that weekend.  He was moderately impressed which for him was saying a lot.   After she left – my dad actually congratulated me.  “Jack – you stood up for yourself against those snotty rich people.  Good deal.”  He shook my hand which was my second of the day and was as close to a hug as my dad would ever get.
I got into bed feeling like maybe being a ghost hunter was not out of reach. It was also the first time in two days I was not seething mad as I tried to go to sleep.
In the corner of the room, Angela stood watching over her son.  The Coal Miner appeared and looked on.  “Thank you for helping him – I really appreciate it,” she said quietly.  “I never really cared for that whole Dane family when I was alive, it’s good to scare the shit out of them now that I’m dead.”  Angela laughed and almost woke up her son.  “Why don’t you show yourself to him?  You’re the one he’s looking for – not me.”  “I can’t yet, I just can’t-“ her voice trailed off as she started to cry.  “Hey there – um –“ the Coal Miner struggled awkwardly for words trying to change the subject. “Nice job with the trophy through the window. How did you learn to throw like that?”  “My father taught me as a kid.  When I’m mad I can still do it even as a ghost.”  The Coal Miner winced when she said father.  “I have to go –“ he said quickly and faded out.  Angela stayed and watched her son sleep.  “I love you Jack and I always will,” she smiled through yet another tear and faded out.

For more on Ghost Wanderers - go to