Ghosting is an art for the strong at heart. Morals and principles aside, it is accomplished on the wrong side of deading, fun in jest and games, dreadful in fact. Other than Halloween, funerals and nightmares, there’s really no place for it unless you’re like Henry and that is all you are.
“I ain’ no patient,” Henry mumbled as his head withdrew from the curtain.
Judy returned her attention to the little girl. “Loreli, that’s a beautiful name,” Judy mused. She touched the child’s face and her eyes popped open. “Oh my!” Judy exclaimed. Henry was wrong about this one. She was full of energy and definitely aware of Judy’s presence.
Loreli’s lips moved but no sound came from her. “I know, I know,” Judy said. “Don’t try to talk, Sweetheart. I’ll just sit here with you for a while so we can get to know one another. I know what you’re feeling. You don’t have to speak.”
Henry’s head popped through the curtain again. “Oh no you didn’t! I knew it. I toldja don’ go messin’ butchu did it anyways. You better c’mon out o’ there. I gotta tell ya some stuff.”
Judy touched her lips with her free hand, a gesture meant to tell Henry to wait. She assumed he understood because his head backed out through the fabric of the curtain. Loreli’s eyes slowly shut and Judy whispered to her, “Hush little baby; don’t say a word.” There was most definitely a connection here. Judy was filled with a sense of peace as Loreli drifted off to sleep.
Judy arose and melted through the curtain. She found Henry standing by a boy’s bed across the way. “I thought you said they wouldn’t feel us,” she said to him. “That little girl definitely knew I was there. She spoke to me and I sang her to sleep.”
“You one goofy ghost,” Henry said, “I toldja to leave that one alone. But, oh no, you gotta go an’ do exac’ly what I tell you not to do, then you act like I lied to ya or somethin’. That l’il girl is ready to go over, I tell ya.”
“Let’s don’t argue,” Judy said. “I didn’t mean to imply that you were a liar. I thought you meant all of the children wouldn’t be aware of us. I still don’t understand why you prefer that I ignore Loreli.”
“That’s it!” Henry exclaimed. “That’s jus’ it. You don’ wanna make no bonds with live people, ‘specially ones like that l’il girl who ain’ gonna be alive too long. You shouldna learnt her name. An’ I am a liar, so there! I jus’ don’ like nobody accusin’ me o’ lyin’ when I ain’t.” He stepped closer to the boy’s bed. “C’mere an’ touch this boy’s hand.”
Judy did so and shook her head. “I don’t feel anything. It’s like pressing my hand against a brick wall.”
“There ya go,” Henry laughed. “Now yer gettin’ it. Jus’ tell this boy he’s gonna have a fine time Halloween night. Say that to him three or four times.”
Judy felt silly as she did Henry’s bidding. “Now what?” she asked.
“Now go ’round the room. There’s nine kids, not countin’ that l’il girl. Jus’ tell ’em all they’re gonna have a real good time come Halloween night. You tell ’em Henry said so an’ yer his bestest friend in the whole wide world.”
Judy went from bed to bed. She found it difficult to convey Henry’s message to these poor sick children. When she came to Loreli’s curtained space she felt compelled to go in but found Henry blocking her way. He stood in front of her, shaking his head. She went around him to the next bed and finished the round. “Now what?” she said to Henry.
“Yeah, now what,” Henry parroted. “Now what is this: Us spirits, we got lotsa energy. We can save it up, then use it to make stuff happen for us. That’s why we hadda tell all these kids ’bout tomorrow. That way they’ll be ready to have some fun.”
“Henry, what’re you going to do,” Judy asked softly, “These children are very ill. You have to be careful with them.”
“You jus’ gotta wait ‘n see,” Henry grinned. ” We jus’ checked ’em out, you ‘n me. We gotta rest now. Tomorrow night, nine o’ clock, we gon’ rock this joint!”
“So we have to sleep at night just like when we were alive?”
“Nah, nothin’ like that. We don’ need to sleep. We gotta save energy when we’re plannin’ somethin’ big. I save up all year an’ you’ll see what that means tomorrow night. Right now I’m gonna rest in the lady’s restroom.” He chuckled. “Get it… rest in the restroom?” Henry wiggled his eyebrows. “Wanna go with me?”
“No thank-you,” Judy replied. “As exciting as that sounds, I think I’ll go sit with Loreli.”
“You ain’ gon’ be in no mood to party ya go messin’ with that l’il girl. I keep on tellin’ ya an’ tellin’ ya,” Henry warned.
Judy drifted toward Loreli’s bed. ‘I’m drifting,’ she thought, ‘Just like Henry. He doesn’t really walk. He drifts from one place to another.’ “I’ll be okay,” she said to Henry. “Tomorrow’s my birthday. I’ll spend it with you.”
“You know that,” Henry chortled. “You’ll be one day old an’ we got us a date!” He had his ogle face on as he dissolved into thin air.
A couple of nurses were making their rounds in the Children’s Room, dispensing meds and good cheer. Judy couldn’t help but feel that they would, in some way, be able to detect her presence. On a whim, she followed a maintenance man down the hall to the elevators. She had a bit of luck as the man pulled out a key and opened the ‘Hospital Staff Only’ door. She went right in with him then realized her mistake as he punched a button for the sixteenth floor.
Judy was frantic to visit her old room. The maintenance man stepped out and Judy watched the floor indicator lights on the wall of the elevator. When ten lit up, she took a breath and walked through the door. ‘Thwop’ and there she was, standing in the hallway a couple of doors down the hall from her room. The door was ajar so Judy peeked in. “Oh God,” she moaned. There was her father holding her mother. An empty box sat on the bed. They must be here for her things.
Judy’s father rocked his wife gently back and forth, speaking all the time, almost a chant. “Our Jellybean is with God now. She is no longer in pain. Don’t cry, don’t cry. Our Jellybean is…”
Judy began to sing in a voice they were unable to hear. “Nights in white satin.” They began to dance as Judy sang the words. She didn’t think she knew them all but they came on their own, each and every one of them. She hummed the lead notes in the instrumental bridge of the song. When she reached the end, her mother had stopped crying. She was kissing tears from a face Judy had never seen cry. Judy walked into them, felt the incredible strength and love each had for the other and both for her. Judy sobbed as only a ghost can sob, “There is only one of them.” They gathered her belongings quickly. Judy went with them to the elevator. She rode it to the first floor and, just before they reached the doors to the hospital, a man entered. A gust of wind carried a host of leaves in his wake.
‘I’ll be blown away,’ Judy thought. She watched her parents go out the door. She held them in her sight until they were taken by the night. Judy made her way, entranced, through the lobby to the stairs. She felt them passing through her, thwop, thwop-thwop, pedestrian traffic. She was too sad to care.