S. Harry Zade explains madness

I can tell, dear Reader, that the one problem you’re going to have with my story is that you don’t understand why the Lisping Barista would run out of the house in the middle of the night, with no shoes, no jacket, and no three-hundred-thousand dollars she had risked so much to take. You might be more inclined to believe the neighbors’ account of the event: that the Lisping Barista had been hanging around the haunted house too long, came under the spell of the Witch, and became frightened by the headless ghosts of her parents. The simplest theory is often the best, except when it must resort to supernatural beings to explain things away.

I am in possession of a bit of backstory that may spread light on her behavior. Where did I get this backstory, you want to know? What you are really asking is, have I pulled it out of my ass? No, it didn’t come from that part of my anatomy. It’s elementary, my dear Reader. I got it from a process of deduction. It all came from the operations of my mind.

Let’s start with what we know. The Lisping Barista caught the Geeky Guy red handed in bed with his sister. That, by itself, is horrifying. Few people, who have discovered this about folks they were visiting, would want to stay. No, they’d be getting a hotel room as soon as possible. If both guests and hosts are like fish, reeking after three days; coming across incest is like tripping over a skunk. The stink is immediate.

Despite the Geeky Guy’s protestations, it really doesn’t matter whether he and his sister’s embedded embrace was as chaste as he claimed. We do not know whether the Geeky Guy was naked in that bed, but he was nude enough to need a sheet to cover himself up. That’s coming pretty close to the act of incest, whether they took it all the way, or not. If you get that close to something that unthinkable, your disgust detecting device needs an adjustment. We residents of Kenilworth have always known that there was something strange about those two.

As off putting as incest may be, it’s still no reason to run out of the house in the middle of the night, without shoes, jacket, and lacking three-hundred-thousand dollars that you took the time to count each day. The jacket is easy to explain. The Lisping Barista had no jacket when she entered the house, days before, having been shot by the Geeky Guy, so she had no jacket when she left. Leaving in the middle of the night is to be expected of someone on the run, as she was from the Drug Dealer. She would cherish the cover of darkness. As for the three-hundred-thousand dollars and the lack of shoes? Gathering them up before she left would have involved the Lisping Barista going back up the stairs and cornering herself in the attic. No, she had a clear route to the door, so she took it.

After she hit the street, I did my best to catch up. I had shoes, but was no match for her. The Geeky Guy broke off his chase after about three blocks because his feet hurt. It took about the same distance before I stopped, hands on my knees, blowing my guts out. After I caught my breath, I continued at a walking pace. I couldn’t see to follow her, but I had an idea where she would go. She would head out of town, by the most direct route possible.

When you encounter seemingly inexplicable behavior, like being in such a hurry to depart that an otherwise rational person leaves three-hundred-thousand dollars behind, it helps to start with the assumption that you can explain it and then try to imagine what would. Aside from ghosts, the first thing that came to my mind was that the Lisping Barista was a victim of childhood sexual abuse from her own brother. Such a thing, I’m told, is far more common than realized, it being always on the hush-hush. The thought is riveting and repugnant. It sheds a light on so much, yet raises so many questions.

Let’s imagine that the Lisping Barista was the youngest of many children, born to parents more interested in making babies than watching over them. Competition was fierce among the Lisping Barista’s siblings, a dog-eat-dog nursery in which she was the runt. All punishments were passed down, like clothing that no longer fits, from eldest to youngest. Any favors received by the youngest were bitterly resented by those ahead in line. Elder siblings were given parental responsibilities, with none of the authority, which they tried to make up for by force. The normal inhibitions that govern interactions between close relations, namely, that one does not have sex with them, was overcome by increments; for here is nothing so grand, or atrocious, that can’t be accomplished bit by bit. The urge to have sex was introduced to the elder siblings, perhaps in the natural way or the unnatural; but, at any rate, they had the desire, but no legitimate means to carry it out. Small transgressions were overlooked or rationalized away, paving the way for larger transgressions. Small children were silenced by prohibitions against tattling, or they simply lacked the words to describe what was going on. Innocence was exploited, and cooperation harnessed by small gifts. Then the younger sibling’s shame was put into play. She blamed herself for what happened, just so she could feel more in control. If she did speak up, she was disbelieved because the cure, which would involve the dissolution and public shame of the family, was perceived to be worse than the disease. Things went on like this for years, the little sister pushing her dresser in front of her door every night, until the big brother went on to others, or she moved out, went mad, or drew a knife.

Now let’s imagine that she grew older and left home. She put these memories into an inaccessible filing cabinet and hid the key. She developed a fondness for tattoos, cutting up her body, and grew dreadlocks incongruent on a blond, white woman; showing an eagerness to change whatever she was given. The Lisping Barista developed a certain, shall we say, enthusiasm for initiating sex, together with an indifference about following through. A victim of sexual abuse might be expected to either disavow all interest in sex, with men, at least; or to advertise her appetite for the activity, as a way of compensation; sort of like whistling in the dark. However, once she initiated sex, all the memories would return, and she’d freeze; sort of like someone whistling in the dark, until she realizes her whistling tells the lurkers where she is.

As the Weather-Beaten Man with a Cowboy Hat would say, her brother’s ghost accompanied her wherever she went. As the Reverend Abraham Pierson would say, she had a demon. As the Therapist Emeritus would say, she had flashbacks and all the indications of a post-traumatic stress disorder. As the rest of us would say, she was bat-shit crazy, but we loved her anyway.

If she was crazy, her craziness had a reason. It was too much for her to see the Geeky Guy in bed with his sister. It brought up all the memories of not having any choices. She was a kid when it happened to her, after all; but, she had choices now. She could run out of the house in the middle of the night, leaving behind three-hundred-thousand-dollars, and nowhere to go if she wanted to. It may not be the most sane thing she ever did, but she was taking a step, if not running headlong, towards sanity.

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The Lisping Barista loses her shit

“It’s not the way it looks. She was going to tell.”

That’s all I heard before the cat took off. The High Street Witch’s black cat, which had my listening device slipped under her collar, reckoned hollering was about to start. Humans would begin to yell, flail their arms and stamp their feet. Things would be thrown, and objects would be broken. Cats would be kicked, their tails stepped on, and their feline feelings miffed. Therefore, the cat took off, tail high, until it found a place to hide, and waited out the storm, its shining eyes looking out from underneath, witnessing the human equivalent to a cat fight.

The cat, with my listening device, was not so far away, or hidden, that I could not hear the voice repeat himself, “It’s not the way it looks. She was going to tell. Honest. You’ve got to believe me.”

It was clearly, without doubt, the Geeky Guy whom the Lisping Barista caught in bed with his sister. He could have explained that, since their parents died, this was how they comforted each other. The world is a lonely place when you’re an orphan, you have no one to hug you or to hold you. Yes, we were sleeping together, he might’ve said, but we were actually asleep. He could have said his sister was jealous of her, resentful of her, and threatened to tell the Drug Dealer where she was hiding. He was doing it all for her.

If the Geeky Guy had said all that, and the Lisping Barista believed him, we’d have a different story to tell; but all the Geeky Guy could do was repeat what he had already said, ineffectively, over and over, again.

“It’s not the way it looks. She was going to tell.”

I could not hear what the Lisping Barista said back. I pictured her standing and staring, with the same inertia that she had that night in the bus; the immobility she had in the cave with the Weather-Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat; the fixity of a person whose mind wasn’t there. It had already gone somewhere else, and she wasn’t listening to anything he had to say.

The sister, for her part, was already out of bed and had left the room, abandoning her brother to his futile explanation.

If Lisping Barista’s mind was not there, where had it gone? I have a theory that, when the Lisping Barista saw the Geeky Guy in bed with his sister, her mind excused itself and went into a back room of the brain, where the files are kept. It fingered through the cabinets until it found something that could help in this situation. It took a long time searching, for the folder was hidden away, where it could not be found unless she was really sure she wanted it. When she pulled the file, and opened it, she found documentation that everything that was happening now, had happened before in a similar way. No, it wasn’t a perfect match, but it was a close analogue to it. The file told her what she had done then and how it turned out. She was determined to do things differently.

By the time the Lisping Barista’s mind returned, she had a plan. It wasn’t a very well thought out plan, but it was a plan that had to be executed immediately, decisively, before she changed her mind. I could tell this was happening from my post in the lilacs because the activity inside the house seemed to have paused for a long caesura, as if it had held its breath, waiting to see what she would do. Then, when the Lisping Barista’s mind returned with an ill-conceived, but definitive plan, the house sprang into activity. I could hear feet pattering and stomping on the floor. Lights were turned on. Doors were slammed shut. The hollering, as the cat predicted, began. Nothing was said that illuminated anything. Just more, it’s not the way it looks, fuck you, she was going to tell, and when you’re done thcrewing your thister, go thcrew yourthelf.

A scuffle could be heard. Towers of papers were toppled. The cat abandoned one hiding place, to find another. Something broke. The sister grabbed her broom to clean it up. The Lisping Barista emerged, none too well dressed for the outdoors, without shoes, without jacket, and without a bag that might have contained three-hundred-thousand dollars. A foot fell through the soft spot on the porch, and she was launched out into the yard. The Lisping Barista tumbled a single summersault, sprang to her feet, and ran down the road. The screen door flung open, again. The Geeky Guy emerged, wearing a bedsheet over his head, like a hood. “No!” he said, “Nooooo! Don’t gooooo!” The screen door banged shut and he followed her down the street, as best he could, unaccustomed to bare feet. The screen door opened again, and the High Street Witch emerged, still carrying her broom. The cat made its escape. The door banged shut. The Witch began to laugh.

When the commotion had begun, I could see that the neighbors heard. Their lights switched on and they peered out their windows to see if they needed to worry. When the screen door began to bang, they came out, just in time to see the Lisping Barista running barefoot down the street, a headless ghost, chasing after her, wailing, “Ooooo! Ooooo! Ooooo!”, and the High Street Witch, cackling to herself, with her broom and her cat. Any suspicions they had about the haunted house of High Street, were confirmed that night. They had a story they would tell for a long, long time.

S. Harry Zade fudges a little

With the Epiphany Café closed, I had to go somewhere else to find my stories. Therefore, your intrepid reporter has been lurking in the lilacs outside the Geeky Guy’s house. This location does not have the advantages I enjoyed in Kenilworth’s finest coffee establishment. I could sip the take-out from Dunkin Donuts and sit quite comfortably on the ground, with my back against a trunk, but the rain could get me wet and spiders liked to size me up for their web. However, a fictional character need not fret about the weather if his author doesn’t mention it and he will never get bit unless it advances the plot, so I was happy to spend hours in the lilacs gathering information to share with you.

I’m sorry to say I had little to go on. I could not directly witness the proceedings inside the house. I had planted a bug by catching the witch’s black cat when it was let out, slipping it under her collar, and waiting till it was let back in. She now was purring at the foot of the witch’s bed, along with whomever her companion might be, while I sat outside with a set of earphones on and a receiver tucked underneath my jacket. I could just make out the creeps and groans of the floor as the Lisping Barista came down from the attic to go on her exploration. I could see shadows cast to the inside of the curtains, and I could use everything I knew about the characters involved to assemble a reasonable narrative of what was going on. However, I must confess that most of what I have already told you about what happened in that house is constructed from the little bit of data I have gathered.

Some more meticulous readers may object to my rendering scenes I did not observe. Wait just one cotton pickin’ minute here, they might say; although I’d doubt it, few people say cotton pickin’ any more, if they ever did. Wait a minute, they would repeat, you mean to say that everything we just read as written by the Lisping Barista was made up?

Yes, that’s right, I would answer. Everything since she left the Epiphany Café is entirely my own creation. I have learned to mimic both her patterns of thought and her writing style by studying her closely. Then, I used my imagination to present to you what is, strictly speaking, a story that blurs the lines between what you call truth and fiction.

Don’t get me started on what you call truth. You know my beliefs about fictional characters and the ones who are said to be real. I shouldn’t need to repeat them here. I can summarize them by saying everyone is fictional, anyway. The same goes for events. Every bona fide event, even those reported by the Associated Press, or some other highly respected source, is fiction. That is to say, the event as it occurred was cut and pasted, photoshopped, proofread, and edited for your consumption. You see, events don’t come with a narrative; we create a narrative for them. There is no beginning, no end, and no context. The things world leaders utter in their own language are nicely translated for you. News photos are framed to exclude extraneous distractions. Soundbites are fashioned to get right to the point. There’s nothing between the lines, for there are no lines. It’s all just blooming, buzzing confusion until us storytellers nicely package it for you.

What I have done is akin to an archeologist who finds an ancient manuscript with four out of five words missing. He fills in what he supposes is there. It’s like an astronomer who takes a reading of a star one day, another reading a week later, and traces the line between them as the path the star had traveled. It’s no different than Darwin studying the birds and beasts of the Galapagos and constructing a tale of how they got to be so different. It takes imagination to see the truth, so I should not have to apologize for using my imagination.

I was in the lilac bushes, explaining this to you; explaining it to myself, really, for you, dear reader weren’t there, except in my imagination; when a passerby, walking home from the bar, stopped because he thought he heard someone who sounded like a professor of literature lecturing in the lilacs. He listened for a while and peered through the bushes, to see if he could make out a classroom, a podium, and a tweedy, self-absorbed instructor, surrounded by sleepy students, staring at their phones. I halted my hectoring, sat very still, and counted on incongruity to hide me better than the bushes ever could. In the end, he pulled his eyes away, shuddered his head, and staggered on, carrying an amusing anecdote to tell his wife when he got home. She wouldn’t smile at the story, but she would renew her efforts to get him to stop drinking.

Returning to our imaginary conversation, the meticulous readers might ask, how is it possible to tell truth from falsehood? Is it all fake news anyway?

I believe stories can be tested for truth. Truth is not correspondence to things in themselves, for the things in themselves can never, ever be adequately represented on a page. You know truth by a different test. It has a ring.

For instance, the story the passerby would tell his wife, that he’d heard a literature professor lecturing in the lilacs on High Street, did not have the ring of truth for her. The story that his wife would tell herself, that he’d heard voices because he was drinking too much, did. If only he had said he found a homeless man, camping out on High Street, talking to himself, then that would’ve been a story that could be believed; but it would’ve been a story so unremarkable that it would not have been worth telling.

The ring of truth is not something that can be explained; you know it when you come across it. When a story has that ring, all the parts harmonize together. The characters sound like human beings you might have heard speak and the plot flows out of things they might have done. You can trace their history up to their present situation and their conflicts are something you would care about, if you were them. The setting has enough details to make it seem like an actual place and the conclusion is not dropped out of the sky, but it emerges as a natural consequence of what has happened.

Let me tell you what happened next with the Lisping Barista, so you can see the ring of truth in action. You will read a work of imagination, constructed from few actual facts. Then you tell me if it has that ring I’m talking about.

The Lisping Barista goes exploring and finds something she wasn’t supposed to see

I’ve been in this attic for, like a week or two and I’m going crazy. Boooooring. Yea, I’ve got the oxies, all the stuff in the attic, three-hundred-thousand useless dollars, no place to spend it, and my gratitudes for company, but that’s not going keep a girl like me happy for long. I’m used to doing things, seeing people, going places, and doing my little part in bringing peace, love, and understanding into the world. Sitting around, waiting for my guy to come to in, just for nothing to happen when he does, seems like something my grandmother might think was a good idea and she had her cooking, sewing, and bridge parties to keep her company. All I have is a bunch of old stuff no one wants, or I can’t use, and a guy who doesn’t seem to want me.

Yea, that’s right. He doesn’t want me. Most guys are all over me; but we’re like an old married couple, never having sex. He just wants to cuddle, but I push him away because it’s too aggravating. He complains as much about that as I complain about not fucking. There’s something unusual about that man.

So, it’s the middle of the night when I wake up and he’s not there. I haven’t been too good with time and there’s no clock anywhere in this attic. There’s no noises in the house. All there is, is traffic outside. It must be no one’s home. It’s the perfect time to go exploring.

I’ve got this reoccurring dream where I’m walking around in someone else’s house uninvited. There’s always some weird things about the house that seem perfectly normal in the dream, like there’s a giant hole in the roof over the living room that looks like it belongs there. Something unexpected always happens and I’m always worried I’m about to be caught. Walking around this house is a lot like that. In this case, every room is jammed to the ceiling with junk and there’s only one path I can take, and I have to walk sideways to get through. None of the doors can open all the way and the windows might as well not be there, they’re blocked by heaps of stuff.

If you’ve ever been in an antique shop, filled to the ceiling so you can’t move around or even see what’s there, you might have an idea of what the inside of the house looks like. Only it’s mostly electronics and piles of old newspapers. Not anything that anyone would ever buy, so it keeps piling up and up. I wouldn’t know how people could live in a place like this, except that I’ve been doing it for the past week or two, maybe three.

I’m feeling on edge as I creep from room to room. I’m not supposed to be here, which is strange, because I came into the house invited and the guy hasn’t wanted me to leave. He sets me up in the attic and tells me his sister wouldn’t want me around, so don’t go down and be really quiet. It was all good to me because I need to be hiding out from Chai Latte anyway and don’t want the witch getting pissed at me and telling him. He brings me everything I need and keeps me as content as a caged bird.

So, I’ve been having lots of time to think. You know how I’ve been changing my mind about love? You remember, I decided love wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Well, I’ve been thinking that way about peace, too. I’ve had nothing but peace up here in this attic.

There’s no weed, but I get all the oxies I want. There’s no sex, but there’s plenty of cuddling. For once in my life, I don’t have to work. I can’t do everything I want, but there’s nothing much I want and, if I wanted anything, I’ve got three-hundred-thousand dollars to buy it. There is the fact that Chai Latte would be wanting to kill me for taking the money, but, if he hasn’t found me yet in this attic, I don’t think he will. I may be kidding myself, I did read Anne Frank’s diary, a chick I can now relate to, and I know how it ends; but, if she can fight with her parents, fall in love, and believe in the hidden goodness of mankind, I can find peace when I know someone is looking to kill me.

Here’s the thing though, once you get peace, you’re not going to want it anymore. It’s fucking boring. You’re going to want to stir some shit up once and a while. You’re going to be compelled to explore a haunted house, poke around through someone’s belongings, and maybe get caught. You’re going to want some danger.

So, that’s why I’m creeping downstairs, looking for what I might see when I think they’re not home.

I get into one room and it’s so dark I run into the bed. When I reach down to stop from falling, I touch something, and it moves. It’s a body. Then it wakes up. I can tell it has long dark hair. It’s that witch, the sister. Then she says something, loud and clear. Too loud to be said in the middle of the night.

“So, now you know.”

Only, I don’t know anything. All I know was that I got caught creeping around the house I’m hiding in. Hiding from her. Really, she’s the one who knows now. She knows I’m here. What am I supposed to know?

Then there’s movement in the bed beside her. It’s a small bed, just big enough for one person. The sister must have someone she’s fucking. That’s it. That must be what I know. But who would want to be fucking that witch?

The person sits up suddenly. I can’t see who it is. Then he says something.

When I hear the voice that says it, that’s when I know. Knowing, and understanding, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, either. There’s some things you don’t want to know. So, now I’m three for three. Peace, love, and understanding, all gone to shit.

The Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat talks with Abraham Pierson

The Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat took his time going through Kenilworth’s ancient burial ground, daring the ghosts to come out and talk with him. He looked confident to me, from where I was, tailing him from the shadows, until he tapped on the light on his phone. Then I could see how much it shook. He examined all the tombstones in turn, reading what he could of the moss-sown inscriptions, pulling up his head from time to time to listen to every sound coming from the darkness.

The tombstones by the entrance to the cemetery were upwards of four hundred years old. They possessed ghoulish visages, frightening in themselves, at the tops. Maelstroms, eddies, and spirals fell along the margins. The inscriptions proclaimed the more grim aspects of God, in keeping with Puritan sensibilities, quite out of touch the the kumbayas of the present. The weather had weathered away most of the etchings. The markers tipped this way and that; some had fallen to the ground, as if they, themselves, were going the way of their owners; proof that stone was scarcely more mortal than flesh and could not be counted on to provide immortality.

For all the trembling revealed by the light, any other man would have decided to return at day, to have a word with the ghosts on his own terms; but the Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat was determined to keep at it. He was made of stern stuff. He would face down his fears if it killed him.

His light seemed to linger over one longer than the rest. Later, when the encounter was finished, I returned to read the inscription.

There lieth the body of ye Revd Mr. Abrah. Pierson the first rector of Yale Colledge in Conecticut who deceased March ye 5th 1706/7 aged 61 years.

I couldn’t tell you why this one marker held more interest for the Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat than the rest. It was no grander than the rest, although it might be supposed the Reverend Abraham Pierson was important in his day, being the rector of Yale, and all. In fact, the tombstone was far less grand than many others elsewhere in the cemetery, in newer parts, of merchants, financiers, and industrialists. Maybe it was the humility of the marker that interested the Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat as much as its great age or anything the inscription proclaimed.

At any rate, in time, the Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat turned away to examine the other markers. It was then that he thought he heard a noise. Someone speaking King James English. Someone talking as if he had something important to say.

The Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat whipped the light back to the Reverend Pierson’s stone, but there was no one there. He listened. My heart was beating so strong I was afraid he would hear me, so I can imagine how hard his heart might have been going and could not imagine how he could have heard anything over it. He stayed steady though, and scanned his light slowly around the grave till he was satisfied no one was there. He turned away, triumphant he had scared a ghost away.

That was when the voice spoke again, loud enough so I could hear it, too. The Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat was a brave, brave man and stood his ground. His phone, though, which was then functioning as his flashlight, took flight from his hand as he spun around, dashed itself upon a monument, and was smashed to bits. We were all three, the Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat, the apparition, and me, in complete darkness, for the moon had already gone to bed and the nearest streetlights were far beyond the spire of the Reverend Abraham Pierson’s old church.

“If ye seek a specter, ye may happen on an evil angel in its stead.”

“Say what?” said the Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat, with sincere surprise. Then, after remembering his purpose, he added, more deliberately, “Come on out and let me see you.”

Oddly enough, the man from whom the voice came could be seen more clearly in the dark than he could when he had the light. He stood behind the grave of Reverend Pierson, and might be supposed to be the spirit of the godly man, himself, for he placed his hand upon his tombstone as one would a pulpit, and paused, with no urgency to speak, as one finds with people of self assurance and authority. He was dressed queerly, like a pilgrim in a school play, in an archaic cap and cape. Although his expression was not full of kindness, it was not full of threat, either. He addressed the Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat as he would any member of his congregation who he thought was becoming lost in the ways of sin.

“The Devil and his minions have been known to impose the shapes of innocent persons in their spectral exhibitions.”

“Speak plainly,” said the Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat, who had clearly lost patience with the dead and believed that fewer words said more. But the ghost was accustomed to his congregation devoting their entire Sunday mornings to him, back before kickoffs were invented and the need to get home before them. The ghost began a long dissertation on New England history.

“We people of God settled in what was once the Devil’s territory. The Devil was exceedingly disturbed, as he perceived the people accomplishing the promise of old made unto our blessed Jesus that He should have the utmost parts of the Earth for his possession. Thus irritated, the Devil hath tried all sorts of methods to overturn this plantation. Never were more satanical devices used for the unsettling of any people than have been employed towards the extirpation of the vine which God had here planted…”

“I don’t need a whole history lesson. I just want to know why you speak to me and what will make you go away.”

The ghost continued, as if he had what he was going to say all worked out and couldn’t read off the script.

“All those attempts of Hell have hitherto been abortive. Having obtained help from God, we continue to this day. The Devil is now making one attempt upon us through you, an attempt more difficult, more surprising, more snarled with unintelligible circumstances than any we have hitherto encountered, an attempt so critical, that, if we get well through, we shall soon enjoy halcyon days with all the vultures of Hell trodden under our feet…”

“So, you’re here to warn me of the Devil. Well, I thank you, rightly, sir, but I got it under control. You may go back into your grave and get some more of that, there, dirt sleep.”

“Thou poor afflicted neighbor. Thou art infested and infected with demons. If thou art provided by grace, thou may arrive at a capacity to discern the shape of thy troubler. The Devil stands ready to fall upon thee, and seize thee as his own, at what moment God shall permit him…”

“I get it. I’m fucked. Fire and brimstone and all that. I’ve heard that from plenty of preachers before you. I suppose you want me to stop swearing, stop drinking, come to church, and stop chasing after women.”

“In a bad way, the inclinations and resolutions of thy wickedness grow stronger and stronger. Thy sin gains strength by being persisted. At first, thy heart smites thee for a lesser transgression. Thou conquers, smothers, keeps under, and gets over, the reluctancies and goeth on to greater and greater degrees of impiety. At length, thou mocks at fear, and like an horse rushing into the battle, thou rushes upon the grossest abominations.”

“OK, so, I’m sorry. I repent.”

“Some uncommon dispensation of God, it may be, awakens ye to consider His ways. Now, thou begins to wish to lead a better Life! Thou bewail thy follies. Thou cry out of them as cursed follies. Thou resolve that thou will no more abandon thyself to such follies. Thou make vows to God, and say, I will no more transgress! But thy vices get head again. Thou quickly become as vicious as thou was before.”

The ghost was really getting into it. He pounded on the tombstone with his hand. He would’ve hurt himself had he been able to feel pain.

“So, what do you want from me? What am I supposed to do? You don’t want me to say I’m sorry. What do you want me to say?”

The ghost of Reverend Abraham Pierson, the first rector of Yale College in Connecticut, fell silent and scrutinized the Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat till he seemed to know everything about him, including all the things the the Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat had not yet told us. I don’t know what powers gave this ghost the ability to do that; whether he was sent by God and had been thoroughly briefed, or whether, as the ghost, himself, warned, he was a representative of none other than Satan. It may be that the Reverend Abraham Pierson, in his life, had uncommon talents as a pastoral counselor, the therapist emeritus of his day, and could discern guilt, repression, and projection. It may be that the ghost just made a lucky guess. When he was done scrutinizing the Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat, the Reverend Abraham Pierson, delivered his message with all the power a puritan preacher, endowed with talents, and allied with supernatural powers of an unknown origin could command.

“Thou flatters thyself that thou can keep an secret eternal. But thy wicked crime is not concealed from God. The glorious God has astonishing ways to bring out the secret wickedness in which thou indulge thyself.”

Here the Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat turned white, whiter than when he first saw the ghost; as white as a ghost when he heard the ghost proclaim:

”Be sure, thy secret Sin shall find ye out.”

The Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat goes for a walk

The Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat had to stop talking sometime. He could not have talked forever. The night was getting on and it was time to close the Epiphany Cafe. Epiphanies can’t come constantly, twenty-four hours a day, you know. The Therapist Emeritus had to stop listening sometime, also. She couldn’t be a therapeutic instrument twenty-four hours a day, either. In fact, she had already stopped listening and it was time to make her not listening official.

Perhaps you noticed that, just as soon as the Therapist Emeritus told him the ghosts he saw were his own ghosts, not those of others, the Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat stopped talking about ghosts and started talking about more corporal experiences, like aspiring to be a town drunk and almost getting crucified by New Mexican Penetantes. This was an indication to the Therapist Emeritus that she had struck truth, for the truth is shy and vanishes when found. The Therapist Emeritus would not be a therapist emeritus if she did not notice what the Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat was not saying, as well as the things he was. The Therapist Emeritus would not be a therapist emeritus if she did not return the conversation back to where the truth last showed, speak to it directly, and address it as if she knew it well.

“If you want to get rid of ghosts, you’ve got to go looking for them.”

This didn’t seem to make sense to the Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat. He screwed up his mouth and shook his head; but paradoxes are not easily forgotten. He let the conversation rest with that, followed her out the door, and turned the closed sign behind her. I lingered over my coffee until the Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat locked up. Then we went out together and I lingered in the shadows to see where he would go.

He pensively walked all over Kenilworth for hours. He seemed to think, as he walked: To get rid of ghosts, you have to look for them. You have to look for ghosts to get rid of them. He may have been ready to dismiss the idea when he came upon a barking dog. The dog followed him as long as he walked away, but the moment the Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat turned and approached the dog, it backed off. Perhaps ghosts were like that, too. Ghosts don’t like to be confronted, they prefer to take you by surprise.

The Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat stopped for a few slices of pizza to think it over. I thought he was going to call it a night, but he went straight to the old town center. In the spirit of looking for spirits that he didn’t want to find, the Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat entered Kenilworth’s ancient burial ground, over by the Collegiate Museum, behind the whitewashed Congregational Church.

The bells of the church chimed twelve times. It was midnight.

An Update for All of Harry’s Fans

While we all await the publication of Intersections, Harry has been busy complying with the narrative imperative. He is preparing to fill this blog with all his madcap meanderings once again.

Watch this address. Next week, Harry, the Lisping Barista, Cowboy Tom, Chai Latte, and many others, will return to the Epiphany Cafe in a new form for new adventures. You should, too.

Tell stories or die.