October 2005

Ghost Story...

Itís the same dream every night now.

We never meant for anything to happen that night, I mean none of us were the type of people to ever hurt anyone.

Not on purpose at least.

Iím not going to try and tell you that we were all good friends. We werenít at all. We were just a bunch of bored kids who met up at school. None of us really cared about any of the others.

Well thatís not true, Iím pretty sure that all of us would have sold a limb and cut it off ourselves if we could have gotten into Pamís pants, but that was just the way of things. When you have four people hanging out together because they have nothing better to do and one of them happens to be a really, really pretty young woman, it tends to lead to the three males in the group spending a lot of time with their imaginations.

In conversation and in private if you know what I mean.

At least I know I did, and I canít imagine that any of the other two guys didnít. We all caught each other checking her out when we thought she didnít know.

Of course, ten years later I can say pretty confidently that she did know. Every single time I bet.

Women, especially young women have a way of telling when you are checking them out. Something of an unfair advantage if you ask me, but you didnít.

But I told you anyways.

Sometimes I talk too much. Nervous habit if you know what I mean.

But yeah, back to that night.

One of the things that we used to do when we got bored was head down to what I guess would be called the lovers lane of our town and hang out in Stuartís dadís truck. Stuartís dad ran a grounds keeping business in the town that he had bought off of some old guy for a song. It was this big old sixties ford truck that was always full of tools and stuff, but after his dad passed out at around 7 from hitting the bottle to hard like he always did, Stuart would push the truck down the gravel driveway until he was far enough away that he wouldnít risk waking up the old man when the ancient motor finally coughed and then roared itself into life.

Belching smoke out of the itís tailpipe, Stuart would bring the truck around to all of our houses, always in the same order there and the same order in reverse. He always picked up Pam first, then me and then Tom. I donít know if anyone else ever thought it, but I was always sure that Stuart picked us up and then dropped us off in that order so that he could spend a few extra minutes each night with just him and Pam in that old truck. Mind you, that could just be because I might have been a little jealous that he did get to be the one to watch her walk up her porch.

Hard to say, we were kids and all.

Every night that we got together we did the exact same thing.

Every town has one. A stretch of road out by a farm or something with a really nice view. Without fail, all of the kids would go out there for a little bit of privacy. I always thought that was strange, a bunch of kids driving out somewhere remote in their parents cars to whip their hormones into a wild frenzy.

All within fifteen feet of each other.

Some privacy that.

I always liked parking behind the old drive in movie screen. The movie could be playing and no one would ever see you, or bother to look.

Usually itís best to hide something in plain sight.

We sure did.

But Iím getting ahead of myself.

Back to the nice view.

The one from the road I mean.

Every Friday night, scores of cars would line up on this old road on a hill just outside of town. If you listened quietly enough, you could tell which cars were going to need shock jobs done.

About a hundred and fifty feet away the four of us would sit in that raggedy old ford and wait.

I came up with the idea first. At the time I was so proud of myself for coming up with it.

Take one part teenagers in heat mix that with an absolute focus on getting one another out of their clothes and you have a recipe for people who arenít paying the slightest degree of attention to what is going on around them.

Which is where we came in.

Every Friday night, the four of us would wait to see which car was left last and then we would sneak up to it as quietly as we could. We would listen so carefully and as soon as we could hear that the guy was getting close to finishing his business and we would pound on the car screaming our fool heads off.

The reaction was the same every time.

The guy would freak, the girl would turn into a screaming mess and that little moment of theirs would disintegrate into a whole world of trying to figure out what the hell had happened. That would be followed by the car screeching away as we scurried off into the bushes to laugh our heads off and open another set of beers.

That was what we did, and I can say in all confidence that we did it very, very well.

After we had been at this for a couple of weeks, we eventually had to get a little more crafty because the inevitable football team jocks would show up waiting for us so that they could kick our asses. But that kind of people arenít the patient bunch, and as long as we took the occasional weekend off, the need for kids to find a clichťd place to get their rocks off combined with jocks getting bored sitting around doing nothing always played into our favour.

So we did what we did. It made us laugh and it killed time.

Iíve been sitting here for a while trying to tell you the real story without it sounding clichťd, but I donít think that thereís any way around it. So Iíll just tell it and you can dismiss me if you want.

You know when they tell you that knowing when to quit is half the game? Well we didnít.

The Last Night We Played Our Little Game...

Fuck.

What a disaster.

Stuart picked us up in the same order that he always did. We drove up the hill in the same way that we always did. We sat in the truck drinking beer as we always did. Never too much to get us to the point where we wouldnít know what we were doing, but just enough to add some flavour to the evening.

It was like a ritual I guess. The same thing every time, leading to the same engrossing climax.

Well that night (again with the clichť), everything changed.

I was sitting in the back seat. Tom was beside me and Stuart and Pam were in the front seat. We were all laughing about the same old bullshit gossip, as I was trying to shift my ass to miss the spring that infallibly stuck into my ass.

We all had our assigned seats, and mine happened to be well enough used that the seat covering had been worn through enough that one of itís sharp rusty spring was almost through. Damn uncomfortable that.

So one of the things that I spent most of my time doing was dodging this tetanus-ridden spring.

Which is exactly what I was doing when I had what I thought at the time was the scare of my life.

As I remember, Pam had just cracked a story about one of the aforementioned high school jocks trying to pick up at a party the weekend before when up against my window came a vision of pure hell.

In the movies this would be much easier to do. The fact of the matter is that at that moment, Mrs. Strezenik came up against the window with all conviction that you would expect from Linda Blair.

A little backgroundÖ

Mrs. Streznik was a lonely old bat of a widow. Her husband had died years before and it was her driveway that we regularly hid the old truck on. The came up against the window white hair all over the place, screaming obscenities at us about trespassing and wearing those long white dress type pajamas that old people wear.

So yeah, picture that.

Scared the shit out of all of us.

That adrenaline rush that comes out of a scare like that, well letís just say that you canít beat it.

And then she brought out the bat.

Try and picture this pale witch of a woman, all old and stringy throwing herself against the window that you happen to be leaning against. After the initial shock passes and youíre all electric with adrenaline, but you think you know whatís going on, then she whips out a wooden bat that looks like itís been used to beat rats to death with and puts it through said window.

Yeah, youíre freaked the holy hell out.

We were all screaming. Our prank had turned on us, only that this crazy old woman only wanted us to get the hell of off her property. There was no intent to scare us, just a crazy lonely old woman trying to protect her land.

Stuart was cranking the starter on the old Ford. As soon as it kicked in he popped the clutch and that old wagon leapt forward.

Which would have been ok. We were just trying to get away from a crazy old woman.

But that shovel.

As soon as the truck lurched forward, one of Stuarts dadís shovels that had been sticking out caught the Mrs. Strezenik right in the head. I heard the sound through the broken glass of the window she had just smashed.

I believe that there are two sounds that no human being can ever get over. One of them is the sound of a rabbit crying in pain. The other is the dull wet smack of a rusty shovel catching an old lady in the head with what passes for a sharp edge.

The only way that I can explain it is if you fill up a zip lock baggie with corn flakes and milk, hold it to your ear and squeeze.

Thatís the best that I can do.

We went about a half a kilometer before Stuart hit the brakes.

It too me that long to convince him to stop.

When he finally did, we all sat there terrified. Four kids, having had enough to drink that it would show up on a breathalyzer had just run an old woman into a shovel with enough force to put the same shovel through a brick wall.

The truck might have been old, but she had juice.

Pam started crying. The four of us sat there trying to figure out what t do. As it always does, the singular voice of reason, which in this case happened to be Tom, convinced us to go back, prepared to drive the old hag into town to save our sorry assess.

So we did.

When youíre driving into what you know into what could very well be a crime scene, things take on a whole different sound. Crickets get louder and the subtle sounds of an engine driven well past what it should be become all you hear.

At least thatís what I heard as we stood around the old womanís body. There was a puddle of blood around her head that you could have gone swimming in and she did not move. I remember watching her chest, waiting for those long deflated breasts to make some sort of movement in the hopes that any shift in them would free me from the fact that the four of us now had a dead old woman on our hands.

Those pajamas.

There is something deeply disturbing at staring at the senior breasts of a woman that you have just been party to the death of and waiting for them to move. I remember the way that those pajamas lined her and hating it. Youíre not supposed to look at a woman that you have just seen killed and wish upon her chest that you were wrong.

But I did.

They didnít move, and the four of us sat there in silence for a long time. At least, it seemed like a long time.

Finally Stuart spoke and he said the one thing that we all knew.

We had to bury her.

If we came clean, not only would all of us go up for manslaughter, if not murder, but more importantly to our young minds, months of ruined sexual encounters would know who was responsible and the wrath of that would not know any end.

Bottom line?

If we didnít make this go away, not only would we go to jail, but we would spend the rest of what we believed would be our lives getting our asses kicked by the very people that we had spent months ruining their sex lives.

And that, to a group a scared kids, is something not to be taken lightly.

So after some hysterics and such, we decided that kicking enough gravel over the bloodstains and loading the old woman into the back of the ford to bury her somewhere safe would be the best bet.

So we did.

Ask yourself, if you want to hide a body, where do you do it?

The easy answer is some corner of a forest or a field where you can dig a grave. Problem with that is that some nosy animal always ends up digging them up. Then you always have some nosy farmer or hiker coming along and then you find yourself in the middle of a news shit storm.

So where do you hide a body?

Well I knew.

And after some convincing, I convinced the rest of my friends that I was right.

Went Down To The Cemetary...

Driving into a cemetery at the middle of night is, shall we say, creepy.

Driving into one in the dead of night with a body in the back of a truck is so much more than that.

But we did.

In the middle of the cemetery just out of town there was a large oak tree that was surrounded by those wood chippings that people like to put around plants to make them feel like things are more natural. Wood chippings are something that a groundskeeper like Stuarts dad could not only own, but easily forget that he owned.

So we buried Mrs. Strezenik in a shallow grave underneath that tree. We took enough of the wood chippings so that no one would ever see the tragic bulge that her body left in the earth. We dumped the wood chips in the pile of wood chips that Stuarts dad had out back of his house.

Should have been perfect, right?

Stuart drove us all home, in the same order he always did.

But something was different.

That night, I couldnít just go to bed despite the fact that we all promised each other that we would. That night, I spent about an hour walking around my parents back yard staring at little ceramic gnomes before I decided that I needed to double check.

But Iím not crazy, I knew enough to not go alone.

So I walked to Pamís house. She was the closest, and bottom line is that I always wanted to be close to her. Turns out that she couldnít quite get ready to tuck herself into bed either.

And so the two of us walked down the empty streets that only come at about 4 am back to the cemetery. We walked right through the wrought iron gates that the caretaker had left open to us earlier and we walked up to the old oak tree.

And we stood there.

I suppose that I should have known better, but I walked up to where I knew we had just put her. Pam hesitated, but she came up to me and grabbed me arm nonetheless.

And thatís when Mrs. Strezenik came out through the ground.

You always laugh when it happens in the zombie movies. Maybe you get a little scared for a second, but when youíre sitting there watching it, you always know that it was just a movie.

Well this wasnít a movie. And when Mrs. Strezenik came out of the ground because we did such a piss poor job of killing her, I did the only thing that I could.

I brought my boot down on her face.

Again.

And again.

And again.

Until finally, that head that we had seemingly taken apart with a shovel attached to a powerful truck came apart underneath my heel.

I felt it.

I felt her skull finally give.

And I wanted it to.

When you think that youíve killed someone and you visit their grave, you canít help but want to believe that they are actually dead.

And I did, God help me, I really did just want her to die.

So I killed her, with Pam standing beside me.

We re-dug her grave with our hands. By the time that we had managed to dig a big enough hole to hide her in again, Pam and I had hands that looked like someone had hit them with a meat tenderizer. Over and over again.

And again.

And again.

We walked home in silence.

It started raining halfway there, and we washed our hands, and my boots in the rainwater.

I always had hoped for a walk home with Pam, but this wasnít what I had in mind. At all.

I watched her walk into her house, but it wasnít with the lust that I had always hoped for, it was more a combination of fear and sympathy. I knew that while Pam was in the same boat that I was in, the fact of the matter is was that I had been the one who had put my boot through Mrs. Strezeniks face.

Not a comforting thought to go to bed with.

But alcohol is the great sedator, and as soon as I got home I raided my fathers liquor cabinet. A bottle of J.D. later with half a bottle of melon liqueur and I passed out face down in my pillow.

The next morning, I woke up to my mother sitting beside my bed. I was expecting to get reamed out, but her early morning make-up was terribly smeared by tears. As she told me, Stuart had been driving home that night and had a run in with a CP rail late night. While the old Ford could still tow with the best of them, she had crumbled beneath the weight of more than a hundred tones of grain and steel.

Stuart didnít know what hit him.

The three days following marched. I say marched because they had that regimented feel of something that should maybe know better but still does what it is told.

They simply went forward despite the wrong feeling that the death of someone carries.

At the funeral, thatís when I started to get it.

Halfway through the lowering of the casket, Pam simply dropped.

At first, the most naive of us though that she had simply fainted. Occamís razor. The simplest explanation is usually the best. In this case, Occam failed.

Pam suffered a fatal heart attack. Seventeen years old and she died from a disease that a fifty-year-old car salesman should have bought. There was no real explanation, although the official report suggested drug abuse.

Cause when a kid dies of unexplained causes, itís gotta be the drugs.

Well I can tell you, Pam never touched a thing. Her older brother was a junkie and while Pam would tip back a drink with the best of them, if anyone suggested that she should do more they would be on the receiving end of a self righteous beating that would leave them wondering who their parents really were.

Because an eighteen year old kid doesnít just die of a heart attack.

Doesnít happen.

But it did.

On the way to Pams funeral, Tom stopped at a flower shop to get some flowers for her grave. While he was paying for a boquet that was cheap enough that he could afford but expensive enough that he didn't have to feel bad about not spending enough a strung out junkie walked in and robbed the place. I don't know if it was guilt over what we did or if he was just feeling brave that night, but he decided to play the hero.

And the Junkie pulled out a pair of scissors and stabbed Tom through the heart. Tom died almost instantly and bled his life blood onto the tile floor.

The florist paid for all the flowers for Tom's funeral.

I didn't go.

When you have three dead friends and two of them died on the way to funerals, call it superstition but the smart money says that you never go to another funeral again.

So I didn't.

Ever again.

Fifteen Years Later...

Itís the same dream every night.

In real life Iím a washing machine repairman. I can tell you that most of the time the problem with your washing machine is that your kid picked up something, put it in his pocket and you forgot to check it. I can tell you that whatever he picked up has probably worn a hole in the drum and thatís why youíre leaking water all over the place.

But in my dreamsÖ

In my dreams Iím a gravedigger. In my dreams Iím the man that has to come and run the backhoe to dig the graves of the ones you love. In my dreams the backhoe has broken that day. In my dreams Iím walking across the carefully cared for grass on my way to dig a grave.

And Iím walking towards a tree.

And as I walk I can feel the ground starting to flake. Like pie crust. It loses any sort of firmness. I can feel the layers of earth and clay beginning to flake away.

In my dreams I try to stand my ground. I try to find some sort of footing.

But I watch as the ground beneath my feet starts to crumble.

And then I look up.

And as I look up I see her rising. I can see her reaching out for me. She is the whole cemetery, she is the embodiment of the dead. Her arms begin as shrouds of grass and earth, but as she reaches out for me I can see that hidden in all the dirt and carefully manicured grass lie the graves of my friends. I can see how she extends her reach past her own will to the will of the ones that were there on that night. I can feel them clutching at me, desperately reaching to bring me with them so that if I might join them I might take on some of their suffering and ease their own. I can see the waves of earth that they are all throwing at me to drown me in my own sweet misery. I can feel the back of my throat rising with the truth of what I have done.

And then I wake up.

And I know that no one else ever will.

Not from this, not from what we did.

So I wake up, knowing that again and again I will fall asleep and she wil come for me. They will all come for me.

Again and again.

And again.

And again.