On Sunday, October 28th, 2012, I was waiting in the car while my husband checked out farm implements. Surrounded by driverless tractors, we were the only living creatures in the parking lot. Hurricane Sandy was on her way, and it was a dreary windy morning. I started thinking about ghosts, and Halloween and how I’d love to write a ghost story in time for Halloween. My muse sent me this and I scribbled it down in longhand on paper I keep in my purse for just that purpose. With a few tweaks, here is the story. P.S. My old yellow cat, Oscar, died October 31, 2012 http://wp.me/p1BAlV-30
Going Out on Halloween Louise Sorensen October 29, 2012
“I know he’s not real,” Ellie McCracken said to her sister Lena, “but I can see old Oscar plain as day, sitting at the foot of my bed. Right there,” she said, pointing. “He’s purring and smiling just like he’s been up on the kitchen counter and polished off a whole bowl of cream.” Ellie, propped up by a pile of pillows on the raised front end of her bed, nodded towards the end of the coverlet.
Her sister Lena peered over her wire rimmed glasses, nose wrinkling at the smell of disinfectants and rot in the hospital room. “Why do you think he’s not there?”
“Oh, Lena, they’ve got me so hopped up on drugs in here I can’t see straight,” Ellie said. “See this button? Any time I feel like it I can press it and get a shot of morphine. It’s great.” She pressed the button and sighed. “Good stuff. All day now I’ve been seeing our animals coming in for a visit. Most of them from forty years ago. Why, I can even see your old dog Ben there, lying at your feet.”
“You can? Well. Isn’t that something?”
“Yes,” said Ellie. “Isn‘t it? I stayed away from drugs my whole life and I come in here and the first thing they do is pump me full of them.”
“Looks to me like you’re doing your own pumping, dear. Go easy on that stuff, will you? I don’t want you falling asleep on me. So. What else is new?”
“Well. Daddy was here a while ago. In fact, I thought I saw him talking to you when you came in. He kept me company for hours, sitting right there in that chair where you’re sitting now. We were talking and joking and having a great old time. He had such a good sense of humour. I knew he wasn’t really there because the nurse kept coming in and asking me who I was talking to. I’d say I was talking to myself, and what‘s the harm in that? Didn’t want her to think I’m losing my buttons.”
“You’re as bright as you ever were, Elle,” Lena said. “You know it’s Halloween tonight, eh Hon?”
“Oh, I’ve never liked Halloween, Lena, you know that. Not since those high school boys stole my bag of candy. I never went out Trick or Treating after that. My last time,” she said, nodding her head for emphasis and crossing her arms in front of her.
“I know, Hon.”
“You’re not here to make me go out are you?”
“The nurses won’t allow it. I’m too sick. And too old.”
“Pish tosh. No one’s ever too sick or too old to go out on Halloween,” Lena said. “Now get up out of that bed. We‘re going to a party.”
“Oh, I don’t go to parties.” The rising wind rattled the windows. “And we can’t go tonight. It’s pitch black out there and there’s a bad storm on the way.”
“Nonsense, Elle. Storms are the most fun.”
“I know you used to love storms, Lenie. But I’ve never been able to go outside in one since you, you know…
“Oh,” Ellie said.
“Yes, I know dear.”
“I’ve missed you, Lena.”
“I know Hon. I’ve missed you too. But I’m here now, and we’re going out dancing.”
“But… I have nothing to wear. Just this old hospital gown. It‘s open at the back,” Ellie finished in a whisper.
“There’s fancy duds at the party. You can change there. Hurry up, now. Everybody‘s waiting.”
Ellie struggled to get up out of the bed. “I don’t know about you,“ she said, eyeing her sister’s smooth skin and dark curls, “but I’m not as young as I used to be. Give me a hand, will you, Lenie?”
Her sister took her hand and helped her sit up. Ellie swung her legs over the bed. “Ooh. That hurts. Just a minute Lenie, I’ll give myself another shot. There we go. Much better.” There was a faint ripping sound as she stood up.
“That wasn’t so bad now, was it?” said Lena.
“Yeah. Not bad at all. I feel much better. Almost like dancing.”
“Wait til you get there. There’s going to be all kinds of dancing. A family reunion. Even those awful boys who stole your candy. You can give them a piece of your mind,” Lena said, smiling.
Without a backwards glance, Ellie locked arms with Lena and they walked out the door of the hospital room. The black lab named Ben followed close behind. Oscar, the old yellow cat, sniffed at the pale still form lying in the bed, meowed once, then jumped off and trotted after the two sisters, tail up.