It Was Good of You to Come
“I’ve never seen anyone quite this dead,” our family doctor, Doctor Scholls (no relation), concluded in the hospital later that day. “I wouldn’t even insult a doornail by calling it as dead as whatever this state is. I thought I knew death, but I was wrong — this is death!”
I told him I got the idea, but he was still in awe by how very dead my parents were. He was explaining to me how the whole ordeal made him want to check out religion again when Chuck burst through the doors and rushed to our parents’ side.
He tried all his new-age life-saving techniques on them (putting bicycle pump in nose and inflating to 40 psi). He massaged hearts, depressed tongues, put cucumber slices on their eyelids. He walked out hours later, a failure for the first time in his professional life, in an exhausted daze.
I put my hand on his tense shoulder. I tried to think of the right words.
“This is your fault,” I said.
In truth, looking back now, it was actually a little bit my fault. I didn’t want the wad of stolen cash to get too wet when I hid it in my parents’ toilet tank, so I’d replaced all the water in the tank with gasoline. It’s a gas, so one would naturally think it would make things less wet than water. This was incorrect.
Pouring gas in the toilet wouldn’t have been that big of a deal if I hadn’t also hidden some fireworks in there. My parents never let me have them in the apartment, despite the fact that I was a full grown man and old enough to buy them without their help. So, I’d indulge myself with a few sparklers once in a while and hide them in the tank. But I must have forgot one at the bottom of the tank, and it somehow got hooked on the ballcock. When it flushed, well, kablooie.
But I know now that pointing fingers is wrong, even though Chuck was distracting me on the phone when I was fishing stolen money out of my parents’ toilet. I decided to let bygones be bygones. Chuck wasn’t so mature, however.
The funeral a week later was a wash. Everyone was dressed nicer than me, and I kept falling in the grave. Doctor Scholls, newly ordained, led the service.
Chuck didn’t speak word one to me the entire funeral, not even when I got in his face and said, “Chuck? Chuck? Chuck? Chuck? Chuck?”
Only when the funeral finally ended and we convinced Doctor Scholls to finish the rest of “Amazing Grace” in his car did Chuck confront me.
“You need to start taking some responsibility in your life,” he scolded.
I’d fallen in the grave again and was struggling to climb out.
“There’s no one more responsible than me! Not even the president of General Motors!”
“All I ever did was work to make them proud, and to make them see that there was a future beyond that stupid old house,” Chuck continued, whine-ily. “And what do I get for my efforts? A cease and desist notice for sending them birthday cards.”
“Yeah, but you chose ones with so much glitter. And then ones that played music? You had to have seen that coming.”
“Oh, I’ve seen a lot of things coming, Dennis,” he said, growing ominous. “I’ve seen you mooch off of them and manipulate them to feed your own selfish wants. I’ve seen you been handed everything you have while I busted my butt to thrive in a world that doesn’t exactly take kindly to people with heads on backward. Do you know I’ve competed in three New York City Marathons?”
“Yeah, maybe, but that Lithuanian guy makes you look like an idiot every year.”
“And what do you look like? A man who can’t muster the energy to climb out of a grave.”
“I could if I wanted to! This is the form my grief has taken. Plus, I’ve got dirt in my eye.”
“You’ve been a dirt in my eye long enough,” said Chuck. “With them gone, there’s no tether connecting us anymore. We’re done.”
“What about the house?”
“You’re the only one who cares about that house, Dennis! Fuck the house! And fuck the demons who wanted to live there! And fuck the neighbors for inviting the demons to all the barbeques they never invited us to! Why waste your life chasing something that doesn’t want to be caught? I’m done with it.”
“Then you’re a fool, Chuck. Haven’t you ever seen Property Brothers? Maybe we could flip it and sell it at a huge profit!”
“Goodbye, Dennis,” Chuck said — and this time I felt he meant it.
“Well, good riddance,” I said. “I’m rich too now and I can get the house back myself. And you can forget about being invited to the house warming. Only true friends are invited to those! Chuck? Chuck?”
He’d gone, clearly calling my bluff about the house warming. Who else would I invite? I couldn’t take out Berger and Freys — they’d left the country by now. I suddenly felt very alone, despite the corpses I was sitting on. Despair crept in and I wondered if maybe Chuck was right about me wasting my life. At least he’d been driven by a doomed desire to impress parents who couldn’t care less about him. That was something. What was driving me?
Just as I was about to pretend to cry to make any passersby feel bad for me, a hand appeared above me.
I took it, and when I was hoisted out of the hole I found myself face-to-face with Mrs. Moleskein, my parents’ hairdresser.
“Oh, hi, Mrs. Moleskein,” I said. “I thought you were my brother.” But as I looked closer at her distorted face and slumping shoulders, I realized it wasn’t Mrs. Moleskein, either — at least, not really. The swarm of hornets that few out of her mouth gave it away — it was Halifax, the arch demon who ruined our lives.
“Bet you weren’t expecting me to show up,” the dark, guttural demon voice grumbled from Mrs. Moleskein’s petite body.
“Hello, Halifax,” I sighed. “It was good of you to come.”
The story of Ghost Law will continue after these brief messages: