Halloween Ghost Challenger: Unnamed story about... a ghost?
Marty’s new Corvette drove like… well… a new Corvette: it made a great sound, could reach absurd speeds in scant amounts of time and would carry no more than two people (in modest luxury), plus maybe a week’s worth of luggage.
It was his second one in the last three years, having accidently wrapped the first one around a tree at seventy miles-an-hour.
Michelle, for the most part, had always hated his cars. For her, they were nothing more than another in a long stream of bad (and expensive) choices and purchases that she didn’t understand. First it was the house re-model, which almost seemed reasonable (aside from the fact the house was only five years old).
Then came the boat. She almost liked the boat, but all these things kept Marty busy and made her lonely. She felt like she were competing for limited time and even less attention.
When Marty named the boat “Pour House” and started drinking heavily, Michelle quietly picked up an opiate addiction. Marty didn’t notice because he was busy staring at the beach bodies that always seemed to find their way onto the boat in the waning weeks of the summer.
Once he got bored on the water, and the eye candy had dried up, the cars started. It seemed like Marty would show up with a new toy – brand didn’t matter, as long as it had a V8 – about twice a year. The new Corvette, purchased in early September and delivered a few weeks later, was supposed to be the second (and final) car of that year.
Marty resented the fact that Michelle was getting vocal about his hobbies. After all, she was the one who told him he needed something to hold his attention outside of work. And now here she was, telling him what he should and shouldn’t be doing with his time and his money.
He didn’t tell her about the first Corvette until it showed up in August. Since it would likely be impossible to hide a shiny, black, thirty-two-hundred pound car from Michelle, Marty decided to come clean by simply showing up in it – maybe it would be a “ta-da!” moment? But no, that night, they fought like cats-and-dogs and he somehow wound up sleeping on the couch (in his house).
They split – “for good this time, Marty. I swear to God.” – just after Labor Day, when he showed up on a Wednesday afternoon driving an ostentatiously-blue BMW. That would be car number three for the year – but only the second that she knew about so far.
“You’ve gotta start parking your SUV on the street, hun.”
He wasn’t trying to be rude – he honestly figured she would understand that the four garage slots went to the most expensive cars. And her Tahoe was simply the cheapest thing in the stable at the moment.
“That’s sweet of you.”
The sarcasm dripped from her words like sap from Vermont Maples.
Now here he was, a few weeks before Halloween, bringing the second Corvette – this one a timely shade of orange with large black wheels - home under the cover of darkness. He felt like he was sneaking around like a child with something to hide.
Backing the car in, he caught her staring out the kitchen window. He paused and tried not to look. He didn’t know what would happen if they acknowledged each other. Instead, he finished parking then milled around the garage for another half hour, wiping bugs from the windshield and staring at the door to the house.
He finally worked up the courage to enter the house. Beer in his right hand, he turned the knob with his left and bumped the door with his shoulder – it always seemed to stick in early fall. He looked in and saw her still standing over the sink, back to him.
She glanced over her left shoulder and seemed to acknowledge him with a half-smile.
He wanted to play out the usual routine of their happier days: walk over, place a hand on the small of her back and kiss her cheek. Maybe wrap his arms around her waist and sway gently as she dried the dishes.
Instead he opened the fridge and grabbed another beer. After haphazardly discarding the cap on the counter, he scratched his face.
Jesus, you haven’t shaved like a week.
She didn’t turn around. She didn’t seem to notice, or care, about his presence. No comments about “another one? After what we just went through?” No questions of how he got everything sorted with the insurance company so fast. Not even a roll of her eyes when he tossed the keys on counter and they slid toward her.
He stood there, bathed in the fluorescent light from the un-shut garage door, just staring at her back.
Then he turned and headed to the bedroom. On his way, he kicked the garage door over. It shut with a noticeable whump.
Michelle remained quiet.
Marty shut the bedroom door and then took a few steps backwards, eventually bumping into the dresser. He stared at the door, waiting to see if the knob would turn. Seconds stretched on; he could hear his pulse banging away in his ears. Marty tilted the beer back and finished it in a few large gulps.
He noticed his hand was trembling when he aimed for the bathroom garbage can and missed, splashing backwash on the wall.
Reasons for the tremor flew through his mind: stress? drug combinations? withdrawal? nerve damage from the accident?
Calm down. It was an accident.
Marty took a deep breath, turned on the shower and then walked over to the closet to pick out his outfit for tomorrow. The navy suit, he thought. That one was always her favorite, with the trim lapels and polished black buttons.
A white shirt, with cuff links. He couldn’t remember if she preferred the sterling knots or the gold-and-black fleur-de-lis. He settled on one of each – the knot on his left sleeve, the fleur on his right. And a crimson tie, knotted with a Double Windsor.
He hung the whole outfit in the bathroom so the steam could relax the tightly starched creases and spent nearly twenty minutes standing under near-scalding water. By the time he was done, Marty’s fingers had pickled and the scabs on his right leg were water-logged and weeping blood. At least his back wasn’t as tight anymore, he thought.
In the morning, he drove the sixty four miles down Interstate 80 in complete silence. He wanted to talk, but she never seemed to acknowledge anything – the ride, the speed, him.
When he got to the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, he stuck the Corvette at the back on the queue and got out. Getting out was hard because his right left had stiffened up over the last hour, but he managed.
As he walked towards the usher intending to ask for one of those little purple flags that said “FUNERAL” in block letters, Tom caught him by the sleeve.
“What the fuck, man?”
The words were tinny and distant when they hit Marty’s ears. He turned and forced a smile, sweat beading up on his forehead.
“Are you serious?” Tom was angry. This much was obvious from the pressure of his grip on Marty’s upper arm.
“You really just rolled in here in that fuckin’ car? Four god-damned days after you killed her in the last one? How can that even…”
He trailed off and Marty shook his head: No… it’s not like that. I mean… It was an accident, Tom. And that thing… I bought it nearly a month ago.
“Jesus, Marty. You’re a piece of work, you know that?”
It just took a while to get shipping lined up and… the timing just worked out…
“A real class act.” Tom gave Marty’s arm a final, tight squeeze as he exhaled and finally turned around.
At least he let go of my arm.
Marty hoped he hadn’t said that last part out-loud as Tom walked towards the church.
After affixing the small flag to the left front fender, Marty entered the Cathedral.
The organist had begun playing “Nearer My God to Thee” as Marty took a program from the usher and found a seat on the left side of the main aisle, about four rows back from the nearest person.
A priest in full vestments welcomed the congregants while Marty stared blankly at the face of the program:
November 2, 1982
Last edited by IZA; 09-28-2015 at 05:20 AM..