To boldly glow where no ghost has glowed before.
“Harry! Give me one of those low-fat organic berry surprise bars!” I yelled out, straightening my perfect white t-shirt accessorized with green beads, a green belt and green shoes.
“Here ya go,” Harry said.
I glowered at him. “What the hell is this?”
“It’s that awful energy bar you love so much, but I don’t have to throw away what’s left over after you’ve only taken 2 bites. You do want to save the environment, don’t you?” he snickered.
I took my 2 bites and held it carefully between perfectly coiffured nails, thankful his filthy hands didn’t want to touch me, either. “Tell me again why I’m standing in Arlington Cemetery?”
“To pay your respects to those who died in battle. You remember, the people who gave up their lives so that you could waste food and trash the constitution.”
“Hateful bastard,” I mumbled. “Why were you assigned to me?”
“You claimed mental trauma sustained on the job after you saw a ghost,” Harry grumbled. “I’m the only person left who can survive you.”
“We’ll see about that,” I whispered.
He smiled amiably. “This will take 5 minutes of your time and you’ll be at Dan’s barbecue extravaganza before everyone else has a chance to eat all the spare ribs.”
“He’s promised me a ride on his ATV so I can watch him run over snakes,” I said. “That’s why I’m wearing $200 jeans instead of a $2000 dress.”
“He lives on undeveloped county roads,” Harry informed me. “Did you look it up to see if there’s an ordinance against terrorizing your neighborhood with those things?”
“Why would the illiterate savages who live there care?” I asked.
“I live a few blocks from Dan,” he chuckled. “You’ll be on air in 3…2…”
Holding the microphone with nails accented in forest green, I began my report.
“I’m Shirley A. Moronass coming to you live from Arlington Cemetery. Today we celebrate the sacrifices of men and women who gave their lives so that we may live free.”
I have to admit, the way I read the words off the teleprompter had most of my crew mesmerized. Harry continued to record my fluff piece while the rest of the crew ran down the road as hard as their legs could carry them.
“Shirley,” a voice said behind me, followed by an ice-cold hand on my shoulder.
I looked down where a hand should be, seeing only a white shirt. “Harry?”
“He’s about 6 foot 2, grey hair…translucent,” Harry said.
“Why do ghosts seem to haunt me?” I whined.
“Because you can see us,” the ghost said. “You’ve grown to be a shallow, shrill, shrew of a woman.”
“Who are you to…” I began, turning to face my accuser. “Dad?”
“Dear God, even your dad doesn’t like you?” Harry chuckled.
“He doesn’t know me,” I replied with great umbrage. “He died in the gulf war before I was born, leaving my mother to raise me and my 10-year-old brothers alone.”
“You had twin brothers?”
“Don’t remind me,” I said, rolling my eyes. “They enlisted in the military at 18.”
“Unlike my ungrateful daughter, they served their country well,” the ghost said.
“They lived in the San Francisco’s Presidio as career military for 20 years. They were middle-management bureaucrats working in food service. I am a world-renown reporter!”
“Someone has to feed the troops. It’s an honorable profession, one that doesn’t require being dressed like a prostitute.”
“I…don’t know if I can continue,’ Harry said, convulsing with laughter. “I mean no disrespect.”
“None taken,” the ghost replied.
“I enlisted in 2005, sir,” Harry said.
“I didn’t know you were in the military,” I said with just a hint of laughter. “Were you in food service, too?”
“Don’t be disrespectful,” Harry ordered. “I was one of the ground troops in Afghanistan.”
“He saved 2 men during a raid,” the ghost just had to say.
“May I ask your name, sir?” Harry said, as if a ghost deserved his respect.
“Heeza Moronass,” he replied. “Don’t ask, strange names are a family tradition and my wife loved all those old airplane movies. Shirley, you remember?”
“That’s why my brothers changed their name to Sonofa Smith and Cuzeeza Smith!”
“So then…the name isn’t pronounced “Morehonest?” Harry asked. “What does her middle initial stand for.”
“Another,” the ghost chuckled.
“Shirley…Another…Moronass?” Harry laughed.
By this time, the crew started meandering back. After all, Harry and I weren’t dead from our encounter.
“I can’t stay,” the ghost said. “I have to remain vigilant and keep watching for the minions of evil. It’s my job to run them off until I finish my penance.”
“You died in an attack,” I said. “You were awarded a silver star for defending villagers against 4 terrorists. You were buried here with a 21 gun salute, and my mother got a flag. What could you possibly have to do penance for?”
The ghost hung down his head. “I was in a brothel in the midst of…shall we say…the deepest part of my pleasure when 4 men broke inside to kill the Americans. Fortunately, I never went anywhere without a side arm. The last one got a bullet through my head right after I’d fired the shot, but my shot took another minute to kill him.”
“How long do you have to serve penance.”
“Until Roger dies and takes my place.”
“When is the best time to visit you?” I asked.
“Sunday morning around 9.”
“Good. We’ll finish this conversation later,” I said, watching as his form dissipated into the air. I yelled out to Harry, “Pack it up! We have a barbecue to attend.”
“Some old lady terrifies you but that man doesn’t?” Harry asked.
“He didn’t throw 2000 pounds of machinery into a tree, nor did he make me think I was sitting on a couch instead of rat poop,” I said.
“But he was your father…”
“…and my mother married the man who fought side-by-side with my father to defend a bunch of prostitutes while my mother was giving birth to me,” I said. “Furthermore, the bullet that killed him was friendly fire. But I suspect there’s more to it than that. Mom and the bastard are living on the beach in a condo. She took out an insurance policy on my father for a million dollars, and I found out later my step dad had taken one out on my father, too.”
“That can’t be the only reason you’re mad as hell,” Harry said.
Did it matter if he knew? “I look more like my stepfather, Roger Smith.”
“You’re going after them with a vengeance,” Harry said. “Better them than me.”
“Mom had one more daughter, a year after I was born. I found out they left the bulk of their estate to her in their will.”
“What did they leave you?” Harry asked.
“All the freestanding mirrors in the house,” I grumbled. “By the time I’m through with them…”
“Tell me after it’s over with,” Harry said, rushing to the truck.