Thursday, October 24, 2013

Day 7: The Postmaster by Ann Hogsett


Of all the more colorful ghosts in my small West Virginia hometown—the woman who shot her mother, the man who killed one, or was it both, of his parents with an axe—my phantom, the one who came calling that night in Apple Alley, was merely the Postmaster. Unremarkable in life. Doggedly persistent in death. Vengeful to the depths of his sorry soul.

We should never assume that the unpretentious apparition is not the one to be reckoned with. A ghost is a ghost is a ghost.

The Postmaster lived with Mrs. Postmaster, who was also The Postmistress, in a pretty cottage on the main street of town. Whatever else might have gone awry in his life, the house must have been his refuge, his satisfaction, his place of pride. At some point he told someone—someone who remembered and entered it into the saga of the town—that he was NEVER going to leave that house.

Then he died. There was a funeral. There was a burial. After that, he headed on home. His wife was still there for company but then she died, too. And when they drove her over to the IOOF cemetery, she stayed where she was planted. The Postmaster had the house all to himself.

For awhile.

Then an enterprising young couple with two lovely children and a cat named Olive Jones converted it into a bed and breakfast. Now there were guests. Things got crowded. And that’s when we showed up—for a class reunion weekend—in the room at the top of the stairs under the peak of the single gable, in the old bed that “came with the house” courtesy of the man who still preferred to sleep there. Alone.

They told us about their ghost. I knew him by name, of course. Remembered his face and his wife’s, both of them staid and efficient, managing our mail. The young innkeepers were quite merry about how he was still around. He was good for business now. The frisson of dread was entertaining at breakfast.

3 o’clock in the morning? No.

I remember moonlight filtered through lace. The silence everywhere. City people forget how still the night world can be in a lightly inhabited town. Still, still, still. Except, of course, for the sound of footsteps on the stair. Slow. Heavy. Closer and closer, as I rifled my mind for a reasonable explanation. Here’s what I came up with: The Postmaster is now standing right outside the bedroom door. 

I slipped out of bed, shivering in the sultry August dark. I stopped at the door. Now what? We were facing each other with two inches of old oak between us. I put my palm on the wood. He laid his on the other side. Palm to palm, me and The Postmaster’s ghost. I know this because my sweaty hand bonded to the door as flesh always does when it touches frozen iron. And I know because our minds froze together, too, and he showed me exactly what it was like to be dead.

It was not what I expected. 

Ghosts are realer than you. Truer than a Monday. More forever than a Sunday afternoon. 

And here. We are right here.

(Tag, Maryanne Stahl, you're next!)
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Ann Hogsett is a mom, wife, and novelist who lives ten yards -- ten! -- from the shores of Lake Erie, which she describes as "beautiful, compelling, threatening, raging by turns. Always impossible to ignore." You can share her adventures at her blog: Lake E.


5 comments:

Tina said...

I am sitting in a warm chair with sunshine in my face and hot coffee and even a guard-ish dog, and this still freaks me out.

Laura Valeri said...

That is pretty freaky. I'd love to hear what he showed you.

Maryanne Stahl said...

I too want to hear about what it's like to be dead. I think.

Susanna Ives said...

Me, too. Tell us!

Lynn said...

Ok, now I'm not going to be able to sleep. Thanks a lot. (Awesome!)