Satisfying the Ghost

by Martin Green


“Ever noticed anything odd about this place?”

The speaker was the previous tenant, a young guy in his twenties like myself, who’d come to collect a few items he’d left behind.

“No,” I answered. I’d been in the apartment only a few days. It was a one-bedroom, partially up a hill on Pacific Street in San Francisco. I liked it. It was fairly large, nicely furnished and, if you leaned out the window far enough, even had a view of the Bay.

“Well, just don’t ask any girls up,” he said.

Before I could ask him why not he’d turned and left, carrying an old toaster and coffee maker with him.

Naturally I was curious so the next day I asked my next-door neighbor about it; he was a middle-aged man who’d told me he edited a horror magazine. “Oh, that guy was a pain,” he said. “Played his TV loud all night. He was only here a few months.”

“What about the tenant before him?”

“An old-maid schoolteacher. Had been there for I don’t know how many years.”

“So, why’d she leave? Any unusual circumstances?”

“Nah, she had a bad heart. Died of natural causes. Bad heart was appropriate though. They said she’d had a fiancé when she was young. He jilted her and left her with a broken heart. But who knows, maybe the apartment is haunted.”

* * *

“Oh, this is a neat place,” said Carol. I’d taken her to dinner and invited her to see my apartment afterwards. She looked out the window. “It even has a view, sort of.”

“Would you like something to drink?” I asked. I’d gotten wine with our dinner and had kept her glass filled. I’d been seeing Carol for a month and decided it was time I made my move.

Not that I had anything long-term in mind. I was a bachelor, was on my own for the first time and wanted to have some fun. I’d really been after another girl, a fellow copy writer at the ad agency where I worked, Anita, but she was pretty sophisticated and I hadn’t gotten anywhere.

Carol was just a secretary in the agency, not sophisticated at all. She was from some small town in the Midwest and had only gone to community college. But she was pretty enough in her own way and she really went for me. I guess she was thrilled to be going out with an adman, as she called me.

“Just a small one,” Carol said.

I brought the drinks, not so small, then sat beside Carol on the sofa. It wasn’t long before we were kissing and doing other things. Everything, I thought, was going to plan. I was on the point of suggesting we move to the bedroom when the picture hanging over the sofa suddenly came down, nearly hitting me on the head, and crashed to the floor.

Carol jumped back and gave a little shriek. “Damn,” I said. “The picture wire must have come loose.” I picked it up and set it against the wall, then returned to the sofa.

But the moment had passed. “I’d better be getting home,” Carol said. I tried to persuade her to stay a little longer, but it was no use. That damned picture!

A few weeks later, this time in Carol’s small apartment, I finally achieved my objective. I’m afraid I had to tell her how much I loved her. She said she was crazy about me. My first thought was that I’d have to break this off sometime soon. I continued to see Carol. At the same time, I convinced Anita, the sophisticated girl, to go out with me and thought I was making progress with her.

I didn’t ask Anita to my place because a few odd things were happening there. My television kept going on and off, as did the new coffeemaker I’d bought. Then there was that damned picture, it fell down again, this time clipping me. I put it away in a closet.

I recalled my neighbor saying the apartment might be haunted, but he was a horror magazine editor so naturally he’d suggest that. I also recalled the previous tenant’s asking me if I’d noticed anything odd about the place. That old woman who’d lived there... no, that was nonsense! Or was it? Then something completely unexpected happened.

I was back in my apartment again. I turned on the TV, but the screen was a blank. I wanted to make myself some coffee but when I turned on the machine there was a big spark and it died.

Great, as if I wasn’t feeling terrible enough. The agency was cutting down, they told me, and I had to go. I immediately went to tell Anita, but as soon as she heard I was jobless, she turned icy. So I’d lost her, too. Then there was a knock on my door.

“Carol.”

“I heard about your job. Are you all right?”

“A little stunned.”

“That’s the ad business. Don’t worry, you’ll find another job. I’ve brought some things to cook for dinner.”

As I watched Carol in my kitchen, I thought, she really was pretty. She was also kind, considerate and loyal. Then it came to me: she was a treasure, and I’d almost thrown her away. What a fool I’d been! I was going to marry her.

Carol was right. I did find another job, although it took a while. Then we were married. Carol moved into my apartment. Nothing else odd happened — no pictures falling, no TV going blank, no appliances shorting out — during the time we were there. I’d done the right thing. The ghost, if there was one, was satisfied.


Copyright © 2010 by Martin Green

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