An Unwelcome Haunt
The arch demon Halifax seemed a little put off by my cordiality, but I’d had a bad day and wasn’t really up for a whole bunch of witty back and forth.
“Want me to reanimate your parents and make them say they’re proud of you?” Halifax coughed.
I just rolled my eyes. Demons really only have that one card and they love to play it.
This wasn’t the first time Halifax had appeared in my life at a low moment. Archdemons like to keep tabs on all former owners of the houses they haunt in case something goes wrong with the water heater and they need advice.
A year earlier he took possession of the table buzzer at Red Lobster on the night Julianna-Anne told me it was over between us.
We’d been dating for three years and Julianna-Anne said felt she’d outgrown me. The fact that I’d gotten the kids’ menu that evening and was engaged in coloring in an image of a fish the whole meal apparently only “proved” her “point.”
“We’re on separate paths,” she said. “My career is taking me places and I just feel like you’re still figuring things out. I’m looking for someone motivated; a teammate to take on the world with.”
“At least I don’t work at a place called ‘Google,’” I retorted. “That’s probably the silliest sounding company name I’ve ever heard.” My feelings were hurting and I wanted to hurt her feelings back. The claws were out.
But she was right, of course. I was paralyzed by my fear of what the future held. Every step forward in this choppy life felt like it required decades of calculations and strategizing to avoid getting hurt. I tried to put this insecurity into words for Julianna-Anne in order to save the rare spark of love we’d found from being snuffed out and puffed into the lower atmosphere, mixing with clouds and raining regret upon us both.
“You grind your teeth and it drives me crazy,” I said.
“Goodbye, Dennis,” she said, standing up and saving us both the trouble of worrying more about what the future might hold for us. As she left the restaurant, I could still hear the faint sound of her molars — grinding away like a cast iron grain mill.
All the while the table buzzer was lit up with glee, Halifax telling me in Morse code that I’d blown my chance at happiness. Now that buzzer’s ghoulish inhabitant was standing before me again, the same smirk spread across his ghastly face, no doubt — drinking in my misfortunes like a cherry slushie on a July afternoon.
“Raincheck,” I told Halifax as I began to saunter away to my new Rolls.
“How about a levitation? My treat,” he continued.
“Really, I’m fine.”
“You’ve gotten boring. And fat.”
“Come on. Don’t ice me out, man,” Halifax pleaded. “Why don’t you come over to the coven. We’re smearing centaur blood on the walls and watching Top Chef.”
“You know, Halifax, you never did know how to read the room.”
“Just get out of here. I don’t want to deal with you right now. You are the curse that keeps boomeranging back into my life and whacking me in the ulnar nerve.”
“You know what what you’re doing right now is called? It’s called ‘projection.’ You’re projecting all your crap onto me just because I’m the archdemon who stole your life. Except I’m more than that. I’m also a ghoul — with feelings.”
“You’re a pain in the ass is what you are.”
I made a sharp turn at the Schlessenger plot but Molskein stayed on my tail.
“Well, maybe I’ll just go haunt someone else,” Halifax taunted. “Maybe I’ll introduce Chuck to the skeleton gardens of hades. The femurs should be in bloom right about now.”
I spun around fast, catching Halifax by surprise. I took advantage of his teetering stance and forced him up against a drooping elm, my elbow pressing hard upon his larynx.
“Mark my words, Halifax,” I said, trying hard not to giggle (as is my habit at inappropriate moments). “I’ll take you down and get our house back and banish you from our lives. It might take me months, years, decades, but I’ll do it. And I’ll do it the right way: through the justice system.”
“Stop, stop. You’re only hurting Mrs. Molskein,” he croaked, but the tears in his eyes said otherwise. I let go and he dropped to the ground, gasping for air. A dark cloud burst from Mrs. Molskein’s ears and dissipated in the misty graveyard air.
Mrs. Molskein stood up and looked around, dazed.
“Where the fuckin’ shit am I?”
“Not now, Mrs. M,” I said, walking briskly away. “I’ve got work to do.”
This chapter of Ghost Law: My Journey To Reclaim My Haunted Childhood Home Through Due Process was sponsored by Chips Ahoy! Tune in tomorrow for the next “choco-riffic” installment of the series: