Note to my reader: I wrote this several years ago, but in honor of Halloween and to placate Fred, whom I have ignored all summer, I thought it was worth sharing now.
Some of you may have met my resident ghost and literary muse Fred. Glenn and I were told when we moved into our 1874 cottage on the Butternut Creek that a ghost inhabited the old house, but we were mostly unaware of his presence until his pranks came together one summer evening. He ran the stove out of gas, started my husband’s truck, and, when we ran back into the house to get a fire extinguisher (Fred didn’t know the first thing about engines and shorted out the starter motor) to put out the engine fire, he made the doorknob fall off in our hands so we could not get into the house. I thought Fred was quite the little prankster.
To be honest it was easier for me to assume a good-natured ghost than to believe the tricks he played were the outcome of an unpleasant and perhaps malevolent personality. Did I say that across the creek from us is the local cemetery? Live across from dead people with an unsettled ghost as a house guest and you kind of need to lighten things up when it comes to unexplainable happenings.
We close down the cottage for the winter, so I don’t know what Fred does those months, but I think he goes to visit relatives in the south because my next door neighbor, who checks on the house while we’re gone, has seen no evidence of him. Fred is shy, and I’ve heard ghosts could care less about temperature swings, but I think he’d get very lonely in the house by himself all winter, and I can’t imagine the folks planted across the stream are much company for him.
Since that summer night of Fred’s perfect storm, things have been quiet around here. I’ve tried to include Fred in my life by mentioning him often on my blog and when I guest on others. I also was under the impression that Fred and I were friends, well, if not friends, then friendly or tolerant of one another. Perhaps I’m wrong to think one can share housing with a ghost, call him my muse, and think there’s no price to pay for cohabitation with a disembodied entity. I’ve assumed the ongoing battle with high water in the creek might have scared the ectoplasm out of Fred, because he hasn’t been up to his usual tricks. Or so I thought.
Every now and then, usually on the warmest nights of this past summer, I’d come downstairs it the morning and find the electric fireplace on, heating the living room to near ninety degrees. I blamed the cats for stepping on the remote. Cats are desert animals, I told myself. They like it hot. Glenn and I laughed at how clever they were. Looking back now, I think the giggling and assumption the cats were to blame, made Fred mad. But we continued to think our felines were the culprits. We found we were wrong when Glenn was sitting next to the fireplace, and it came on!
The incidences came with greater frequency. We woke up to a hot living room often. Fred was getting annoying. And then things began to go wrong, very wrong.
At lunch last week, Glenn and I sat in our living room having our noon tea and sandwiches. The digital camera lay on the hand carved Chinese bar behind Glenn. The lens began to telescope in and out, over and over again. When Glenn picked it up, it was turned off, yet it continued the lens movement as if an unseen finger was manipulating the lens button. There was nothing we could do to stop it. It was off!
The other day I flipped on the fireplace because it was cold in the living room. I left and, when I came back, the fire was off. No, it wasn’t broken because I tried the remote on button, and it worked.
I’m certain I’ve somehow offended Fred, and I’m at a loss for how to make amends. Perhaps I’ve taken him for granted. I’ve been writing away all summer with little thought of whether Fred was happily sitting on my shoulder inspiring me or not. I just forgot about him as my literary muse. Perhaps he’s more sensitive than I realized. If the impending flood frightened him, perhaps I was remiss in not comforting him, but how was I to know ghosts find water as threatening as do people. Maybe they don’t.
I know I’ve avoided getting to know him. I’ve assumed his sense of humor defines him, but I wouldn’t say that about a living person, would I? My entire relationship with Fred has been built upon my sketchy of knowledge about his kind and, I’ll admit it, my suspicion he really doesn’t exist. I simply used him, then dismissed him. Ghosts may not take well to this kind of insensitivity especially since they are here because they probably have unresolved issues from their own past lives.
At dinner last night while our favorite jazz album was playing, a horrible sound emanated from the CD player. It had to be Fred. In the past I would have said he wanted to sing along and just couldn’t carry a tune. Now I wonder if he’s trying to scare us. I need to find a way to cohabitate happily with my ghost. I don’t want to lose his companionship, but his unpredictability is creeping me out. I want Friendly Fred back in my life.
Summer 2016 epilogue: Fred has been soooo quiet this year, and I think I know why. We have been renovating our master bedroom, a project that is taking us three times as long as we originally imagined. All the banging and sawing (and swearing) has freaked out our cats and made me almost psychotic with anxiety, so I think Fred has left the premises and is residing with family across the creek for the summer. That’s where the cemetery is located. Boy, is he in for a surprise! We’re scheduled soon for creek side work which will necessitate bulldozers and other heavy equipment on our side of the stream and on the cemetery land. I’ll never get Friendly Fred back. I might have to select our resident woodchuck as my new muse.