One of the most frequent questions asked about this year's Ghost Story Contest was, "does it have to be scary?" The answer was no--it just had to be under 1000 words and have a ghost in it. As it turns out, our grand prize winner took a very unconventional approach to the genre, deploying wit and lightness instead of gloom and chills (although there is some nudity). It's a great pleasure to publish this year's first-place ghost story, "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" -- the photograph is also by the author, Monica Groth Farrar.
Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain
I met Willie Nelson’s ghost while sitting on the toilet, reading People. Well, reading
might be wrong. I was looking at the photos of the young ladies—red-carpet champions, all of them—in their fancy dresses. I didn’t recognize any of them except for the one from the Harry Potter movies who went to college out east and good for her for getting an education, although what she ever did with her degree, who knew. They never told you that part, just that she was going. Still, she probably didn’t have any student loans to contend with, so why not? Let the girl explore.
I hated to see her looking so uncomfortable in her dress, an asymmetrical little number
with mesh. She had a frown on her face like she was wondering if she was so smart, how come her feet hurt so bad? Why all the girls had to wear such pointy-toed shoes I couldn’t fathom. Take care of your feet, girls. Take care! Then again the starlets probably had access to the best podiatrists in L.A. so why should I worry? Wear what you want, girls. As long as it was they who wanted and not some stylist wearing Dr. Scholl’s and comfy sweatpants making decisions they had to suffer the consequences for.
“Hermione! You’ve got an Ivy League degree and royalties out the wazoo—why the
long face? You’ll get marionette lines if you don’t watch it,” I was thinking when Willie
Nelson’s ghost stepped out of the shower.
His bandana was dripping and his old man privates were no more than an arm’s length
away from me sitting there on the toilet in my bra with my undies around my ankles. Just my luck! This was how I met a celebrity—sitting on the pot without my teeth even getting brushed yet. Eileen would never believe it.
“I didn’t know you were dead, Willie!” I said. “People’ll probably put you on their next cover. Your fans will enjoy a nice retrospective.”
“What?” my husband hollered from the kitchen. “You say something?”
“No, Len! Can’t I poop in peace?”
That man was always interrupting me in the bathroom even when the door was closed. Very needy, but there were worse problems to have in a marriage. Look at Eileen and her jackass of a husband. Mine didn’t drink. He just followed me around the house asking why I couldn’t stack the Tupperware so the lids didn’t fall out every time you opened the cabinet. A little more space would’ve been nice, but at least he wasn’t a carouser.
Willie Nelson’s ghost looked like he couldn’t speak—like his eyes had to do all his talking. It reminded me of a scene on television when one person was tied up with a gag in his mouth and someone else discovered him, but neither could speak because the kidnapper might hear them so they’re forced to communicate with nods and intense looks while they grappled with knots. That’s what it was like for me and Willie Nelson’s ghost in my bathroom. He had something he desperately needed to tell me, if he could just spit it out.
“What is it, Willie?” I whispered. “You having trouble crossing over? You stuck or something?”
Willie Nelson’s ghost eyes beamed into me hard. I felt an instant connection. I was very good at charades so he was lucky he’d wound up in my bathroom. I was fairly certain I could interpret wherever it was he needed to go.
“Close your eyes while I wipe, will you, Willie?”
I took care of my business on the pot, then grabbed my robe hanging on the back of the door. Thank goodness I’d locked it. Otherwise Len would’ve busted in asking where the decaf was or did I forget to buy some again and ruined my intimate moment assisting Willie Nelson’s ghost. Locked doors were a necessity in a marriage. Why Woman’s Day never mentioned that was a shame. Less crockpot recipes and more honest information would’ve been nice, but I wasn’t an editor, just a loyal subscriber.
As I soaped up at the sink I looked in the mirror. Talk about a horrible sensation! It was Hermione. Her tiny head with its slicked-back boy-cut and sad doe eyes didn’t look so hot on my flabby shoulders. I wanted my head back, my grays notwithstanding.
“You fall in or something?” Len hollered. “Your omelet’s almost set.”
“I’m flossing!” I lied.
Willie Nelson’s ghost looked sick to his stomach, like he really regretted dragging me into his mix-up. I have to say I was a little upset. Not that I minded trying to help a celebrity, especially one who aided farmers.
“Look, I don’t know what’s going on between you and Hermione—I’m guessing it’s a shame on you,” I whispered to Willie Nelson’s ghost. “but you have got to get my head back and move on over to the other side. I’ll be married 55 years this October! You think Len’s gonna appreciate having a Hermione-head for a bed partner? No sirree.”
The fridge door slammed and Len must’ve dropped something because I heard, “Oh, shit,” and then what does Willie Nelson’s ghost do, but start mouthing Blue Eyes Crying minus any sound whatsoever! Talk about eerie. There I am, standing face-to-face with a raggedy old country star lip-syncing with his dentures out while his gray braids dripped sticky stuff all over my bathmat. There was no way I’d ever get that stuff out either. That was one bathmat that was getting pitched whether or not we could afford a new one.
I unlocked the door. Len had come around eventually after I wrecked the Oldsmobile. Even though I just about liked to die this time, I’d simply have to trust that he’d forgive me. At least he’d get a younger wife with a terrific college education. Maybe I could convince Len to hang in with me thatta way.
Monica Groth Farrar first encountered the charms of flash fiction at the Washington University Summer Writers Institute. She's currently at work on her first novel The Big Let Go, an existential comedy about a late bloomer who finds her purpose fulfilling a great aunt's eccentric bucket list.