Are We Going to Be One of Those Power Couples That’s Always Talking About Work?

The Story of Ghost Law | Chapters 19 + 20

r.j. kushner
5 min readJul 5, 2021


Photo by Madelynn woods on Unsplash

Chapter 19

Scary was pretty P.O.’d about the gas spilling everywhere, but as she raced to mop it up and I raced to create some sort of torch with the lighter to help her see, the fumes from the gas helped us both calm down.

It was as if someone had put a warm blanket around my brain and tucked it in with a glass of chardonnay. A few minutes of huffing those fumes on that spaceship and I felt as if I was floating around in anti-gravity — in fact, I could have sworn that I was.

Scary and I both spent the next 20 minutes laughing hysterically at nothing in particular and bumping off the walls of the spaceship. We finally bumped into each other and got tangled up and floated to the floor.

I lit us both a couple Marlboros from a pack that was floating by and we laid back and looked out at the stars spinning out of control around us.

“Gawd, I can’t stand you,” Scary chuckled beside me.

“I know,” I guffawed. “But a doctor once told me I grow on people. Or maybe it was that something was growing on my lower back… In either case, something’s growing, and I need to come back next month for more tests.”

“Uh-huh,” Scary said.

This seemed like an opportune time for a bonding moment. I waded in.

“So what made you want to be a surgeon?”

“I wanted to play God,” she said, coughing out a cloud of smoke.

“Seems like a challenging role.”

“It’s actually pretty easy once you’re wearing the fake beard.”

“But I bet that’s not the only reason you wanted to be a surgeon,” I mused aimlessly.

“You’re probably right,” she said. “I guess in my own way I wanted to prove something to myself; prove that if I worked hard enough at something — at anything — that I could succeed. My parents gave me opportunities that they couldn’t have dreamed of having when they were children. And they sacrificed everything to give them to me. How could I squander those opportunities with a life of mediocrity — with a life lived just for myself? I wanted to make them proud of their investment; to show them I was worth it.”

“Oh,” I said. “I was going to say it was probably also for the money.”

Scary snorted and for a moment our eyes met, despite mine being crossed due to an unfortunate air fryer incident.

“But I guess I can understand that,” I finally said. “My parents were always like, ‘Put some pants on! Stop snorting all the Gold Bond, your father’s got a fungus!’ It’s like — I’m not Superman, you know? My urine stinks after asparagus just like every other creature on this goddamn earth.”

“Earth? You mean that thing?” Scary said, pointing to the shrinking blue dot in the window of the ship.

We both laughed but then we were silent for a while, too. I suddenly felt a longing for that stinking space marble that I came from. I thought when I left it that I’d be out of the desert and that I wouldn’t look back. My parents weren’t back there anymore, but I was beginning to realize they weren’t up here, either — for some reason, in the back of my mind, I’d held a vague hope that I’d bump into them somewhere beyond the Ozone, on their way to some mystical place, arguing over the directions.

Then I thought about my brother and our childhood home and I wondered how I could have ever thought I could escape from it. They were like a tether tied to my ankle, keeping me chained, but also saving me from flying out too far.

Scary asked me what I was thinking about but I caught myself and said I was thinking about the band Chumbawamba.

She nodded and I could tell she was now thinking of the band Chumbawamba, too.

Chapter 20

It was around dinner time now so we both lit up another ciggy and toasted to our mission, which she reminded me again would probably end with my brain in a jar. I just laughed and said she was “so random” and are we going to be one of those power couples that’s always talking about work?

We both blushed in the glow of our Marlboros. These gas fumes were really doing a number on me. I began to wonder if I was catching feelings for Scary.

I tried to change the subject.

“What’s with all these cigarettes anyway?” I said, lighting up three more and taking a puff.

Scary explained that Madam Twilge had been involved in some kind of importing/exporting scheme with extraterrestrials.

“Marlboros are apparently her largest export,” she said, exhaling a cloud almost as transparent and floaty as she was.

I pictured E.T. smoking and it made perfect sense.

Scary added that Madam Twilge’s main import to earth was Crocs.

I pictured George Clooney wearing Crocs and it make perfect sense.

There was a long silence while I was picturing George Clooney and Scary said she’d better go check the flight path again to make sure we were still on the right course.

When she got back, I asked her what she planned to do with her share of the gold once we got to our destination. She asked me what the hell I was talking about and I realized I must have mixed up my adventures. If there wasn’t gold, what the heck was I going to Mars for? Oh, right, my house. And oh, right, it was the moon I was going to, not Mars.

Scary watched me with a little concern as I talked myself through all the details again. She put the back of her hand on my forehead. Her hand was cold as a dead fish but I couldn’t help but swoon — it had been years since anyone had felt my forehead for a reason other than proving I’d lied about having a cool Harry Potter scar.

Of course, she regretted it, and quickly retracted her hand and wiped off all the peanut butter. I looked up at her and caught her eyes again. They were like two bowls of cream filled with oranges. And despite her annoyance about the peanut butter (Jiffy), she smiled. I tried to smile back but ended up just bleeding from my ears.

“I feel safe with you,” I whispered.

“I think you’re dying,” she said, her smile fading as she inspected me.

“What’s it like?” I asked.

“What’s what like?”


“Well, it’s kind of like living,” she sighed. “But a little less pressure about what restaurant to go to.”

“That sounds nice,” I said.

“Yeah. Look, I’m beat. Do you think you’re strong enough to watch the controls for a half an hour while I take a nap?”

“Of course! Strong as an ox. Go take a load off. I’ll keep us safe.”

She floated over to her quarters and took one last concerned glance back at me before closing her door.

I finally managed to smile and proceeded to drift peacefully off to sleep.

The next chapter of Ghost Law drops July 12. Catch up on past episodes here:



r.j. kushner

Dubbed by the New York Times as “all out of free articles this month.”