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Entitled to enforcing squatter’s rights at the doctor’s office, my mind went off on a tangent catapulting to Spin City. Even the Christmas tree as enchanting as it was with festive blinking lights, didn’t put me in mistletoe mania. My predisposition is identical to the Grinch who stole Christmas. This has been a terrible year and the drama plays on.
Frolicking with my emotional quandaries, sometimes we pity-party with Ben and Jerry and the Three Musketeers, the threat of losing my job still hangs over my head like a razor-sharp guillotine. Half the mortgage offices have vacated nationwide and our multicultural international corporation is anticipating more closures over the next two months. They keep telling us the future is looking sunnier but stock prices are dreary.
Job-hunting via the web is my daily morning ritual but there are no positions available for an over-the-hill mortgage broker. With the strangulation of the economy, real estate is barely breathing. In some states, there is still a faint pulse. North Carolina flat lined when the factories shutdown venturing to Mexico and China. Balloon clowns have opportunities for employment at the local pizzerias and all you can eat mom and pop eateries.
My livelihood depends on real estate sales and my commissions are a fraction of what was deposited into my checking account. The refinance customer has stifled. Keeping up with the Joneses, driving iconic metal, layered and accessorized in diva-wear, has never been my ambition or goal. Right now, happiness is black ink, not red carbon at month’s end.
Two years prior, I heroically plowed through a heart-numbing divorce. I buttoned up my power-suit and vowed this setback was not going to bring me down. All was going as planned until my youngest son tied the knot this past February leaving me with the huge-empty nest. Here I stand at the threshold of another brand new year still juggling the aftermath of a broken marriage, supporting myself, paying on student loans, a plethora of unexpected out-of-pocket expenses, and I can’t sell the damn house, which I call the financial house of doom and gloom.
Fatigued from juggling and disgusted with my ill-fitting unrealistic armor of fortitude, persistence, and optimism, I gladly dropped the balls and came to terms with my real inner-self reality. First on my list, I can’t juggle – totally uncoordinated. Second, I am not in control of everything. Saint Francis of Assisi requested courage from God to change the things he could change but accept the circumstances he had no control over. This has become my prayer. Third, it’s okay to cry. Jesus wept for Lazarus when he found out his good friend was dead. So, the Four Seasons were wrong, big girls can and do cry.
After the emotional meltdown, I put on my big-girl pants and found a second job to fill in the financial gaps and to keep myself busy. If I’m busy, I can’t dwell on problems. I decided to pray more and fret-less. During the weekdays, I leave the house at seven-thirty in the morning and head for the office. Clocking out, I rush to the second job and get home after midnight. On weekends, I’m at the daily paper from mid-afternoon, until two in the morning. I sneak in an hour for Mass. The one gem, stacking bundles of newspapers on pallets has kept me in great shape. I don’t need to spend time at the fitness center.
There is light at the end of my dismal boring tunnel - my new boyfriend. I did the bar scene a couple of times with the twenty-something single females from work and felt like a used 1960 Chevy Nova on a brand-spanking new car lot. Yeah, I stuck out like a sore thumb. I met Steve on the second visit. He was strong-armed by his younger co-workers.
We spotted each other’s expression on the dance floor, as our partners who were half our age were getting jiggy with it. The man signaled with his blue eyes and I met him at the bar. Ditching the romper room scene, we ended up at a greasy spoon ordering sandwiches and coffee. We were in our comfort zone spending the rest of the evening sharing our life’s history. Since then, we’ve enjoyed verbal contact with an occasional night out, when I’m not working and Steve’s in town. At the moment, Steve is still living in California. North Carolina is one of his stops.
The man was never married, no kids, and like me, he’s a workaholic. He sells commercial real estate. We talk more on the phone due to contrasting work schedules. Steve is always flying in and out of North Carolina, travels all over the United States, and Germany. I guess you could say we’re exclusive.
Just recently, another conundrum has been added to my daily deluge of drama, a repetitive dream. To most people, this would not be an item of concern but for me, it raises my blood pressure. I’ve always been a little nut-so, eccentric for the astute readers. Mom said I have the same heteromorphic perspicacity as my great-grandmother, Sarah O’Brien who saw the dead.
Yes, I’ve had my share of cadaverous clandestine one-on-ones commencing early in my youth. I was transported into the Supernatural Galaxy in Bellport, New York on my fifth birthday. Leaving the City, Mom, Janie, and I moved into a small apartment out on the Island. Several life-changing events happened in that sleepy-little town known for its phantasm awakenings.
The first traumatic experience, our cat pooped on me as I held her while blowing out my birthday candles. Second, I started kindergarten but never finished. Third, my mother dressed me in a potato sack for Halloween.
From the cat-crap situation, I quickly learned if an animal or human squirms - I should let them go. Did I mention the cat had diarrhea? Yep, all over my new school shoes, black and white oxfords. The grimalkin, which we fed for two weeks, hence making her our cat, never came back. Yes, the black kitty was a goner.
The potato sack marred my psyche for life. I love fashion but not crazy about certain shades of brown or anything made out of burlap. On the flipside of being a clotheshorse, the purchases have to be bargains, at least ninety-percent off. My Scotch-Irish bloodline squeezes the penny until Abe Lincoln curses.
Although I never graduated kindergarten, I’m a good student attending the University of Bad Things happen to good people. I can’t seem to get off the school roster. At least I’m on the dean’s list.
What unforgettable memory do I have of Supernatural Bellport other than the mysterious ebony malkin? I met the brownies. Wait a second, not the cute little girls in ponytails, with pink bows who sell the to-die-for Thin Mints but the dreaded imps that come from the dark corners of a child’s emerging imagination.
The brownies are from Irish folklore, my grandfather was well aware of their presence. Other ancient cultures have similarities but with diverse names. I told Mom about my bedtime fan club and she called them the wee people. These little fictitious characters marched all over my bed warning me there was an ogre in the closet. Bedtime became monster mayhem.
How many five-year olds claim to see little people? Every night - ritualistically, Mom would open the closet to prove there were no bugbears, just clothes and toys tucked away on the shelves. Together we looked under the bed, nothing there but my oxfords. Yes, the brownie episode opened the floodgates of the paranormal for me and I didn’t keep it a secret. I thought what I saw was everyday normal.
You would think the tiny gnomes would be my only association with the supernatural world. Hey, this is me we’re talking about; quintessential behavior is not in my dictionary. A week after my birthday, I started kindergarten. Mom had her reasons for the late enrollment. Halloween was right around the corner.
We strolled down the sidewalk on the way to school and Mom detailed all the books in the library. There were tales about cats, dogs, ghosts, and funny stories about clowns. Mom knew I cherished books. Gaining my favor, she moved on to the obvious, all the new boys and girls I would meet. The sunny day, the delightful promenade was a perfect introduction to my new challenges of school. After the bell, I would have to deal with the Italian babysitter who didn’t speak English. Mom’s next appointment was her new job. The icing on the proverbial cake, Janie would be with me in the afternoon. I took it all in and was happy to put on my big girl pants. I wanted to bring home books from the library.
Janie, my older sister attended school on a full-day schedule. She was four grades ahead of me. Kindergartners had a half-day itinerary. Our day began at nine in the morning. Tomorrow, the neighbor would be driving me to school, while Mom takes the rail into Brentwood. I was excited about learning, meeting the kids - not so much. I had friends and they visited me at night. I would tell stories to the brownies and they listened.
Mom and I came to a white-clapboard house with a whitewashed-picket fence. This would be the first and only time we would approach this cottage. I told Mom that was my grandmother’s house. We should stop to have tea. Mom smiled and said no, we’ll be late for school. I went into a temper-tantrum hoping to change Mom’s mind. I really wanted to see my grandmother. I was quite sure my grandmother would watch me after school.
Newsflash - the figure staring out the window wasn’t my granny. More headline news, my grandmother died on Christmas Day decades ago. My paternal grandmother was alive and kicking but she was based in Queens, New York. Come to find out, the house had been vacant for years.
We didn’t stay long in Bellport. By Easter, we moved into a quaint home located in Brentwood on Lukens Avenue, closer to Mom’s work. Thank goodness, the brownies disappeared. Their yakking was getting on my nerves. All was well and I even made a new friend. I called him Dopey; the boy didn’t care. He wore blue jeans and a vertical-striped shirt, primary colors. What was odd, he only came out to play when I was swinging on the backyard swing. The scallywag said it was his swing. I reminded Dopey; I lived there, so it was not his swing but my swing. Do you see why I called him Dopey? We argued over everything. I never told my mother about my new acquaintance.
In my older years, I figured my fair-weather pal was an imaginary friend. Using fingertip resources, I did some research and found out most invisible friends are gender specific - girl for girl and boy for boy. Thirty years after-the-fact, Mom and I took a walk down Memory Lane turning right onto Lukens Avenue. I told Mom about Dopey. I described his physical appearance, clothing, and how we fought over the ownership of the playground equipment.
Mom gently reminded me; “Bobby, you know you have your great-grandmother’s sixth-sense. Your grandmother was also gifted.”
An eighteen-wheeler jumped the curb and ran me over, splattering my guts on the pavement. Mom continued to read the obituary. Your friend Kevin and his mother left New York and were on their way to Arizona. The young woman arrived with broken bones, cuts, and bruises but Kevin died in the car accident; end of story. My imaginary friend was real but for all intents and purposes, when I met him, he was dead all over like Rover. It wasn’t a total shocker to find out Dopey was a specter.
There were other eerie synchronisms, which I verbally shrugged off, but my sixth sense filtered all the paranormal events into my back-up data bank. In my day, children were seen but not heard. If I did say anything strange to my schoolmates, I got the deer in the headlights look. Mom wasn’t a big fan of my supernatural fairytales. Figuring something was wrong with me; I kept my mouth shut.
As an adult, I discussed my visions with other believers. Let me tell you, I stopped that because those people - were weirdoes. I say visions because the sprites never spoke to me. I only saw their appearance. With one blink, they were present and accounted for and the next, they disappeared into nothingness.
Flashing back to my childhood, after Lukens we moved to a house near Crooked Hill Road, also in Brentwood. There I came in contact with this old woman. The elder was tiny, white hair pulled back into a bun. Her dress was navy blue and she wore a heavy-black sweater even in the summer. What really stood out were her eyes - dark and beady. She’d stare at me munching away on pretzel sticks. I even remember the box; they were Mr. Salty Pretzels. I saw them at the A & P.
Joey and his sister walked right by their grandmother who sat on the porch rocking back and forth or on the sofa in the living room. I was curious as to why they would ignore her as if she didn’t exist, too small to see. One day I questioned their lack of affection. Why didn’t they give their grandma hugs and kisses? From their facial expressions, obviously the matriarch wasn’t there. I wondered why the octogenarian didn’t offer me a pretzel.
The next brush with the dead of the worst kind was the man who hung himself in the closet. He kindly welcomed me at my step-grandmother’s house in Salem, West Virginia. Not too much to say about the man with the noose, other then I saw him looking through the bedroom window.
Let me clarify, the plated glass was on the third floor of the 1890s home. The sighting happened around four in the morning. I heard a noise, woke up from a dead-sleep (pardon the pun), and intercepted a face in the mirror. Yeah, I know the ghost aficionados will have a field day with this, you can’t see a ghost in the mirror. Well, I did, get over it. The dresser faced the casement and there he was - his reflection larger than life. I pulled the covers over my head. Inquisitiveness gave me the courage to glance back into the mirror. The apparition was gone.
A couple of years later, ditto; I saw a little boy in a cellar. My in-laws-to-be were preparing to move into a temporary house in Hauppauge, New York. We were cleaning the place up, so they could take ownership while their new sprawling ranch was being constructed. There were several wood structures dating back to the turn of the century on the property. None of the dilapidated bungalows warranted restoring but the land was in a prime location. Long story short, from general conversation after-the-fact, I heard about this four-year old who once lived there but went missing from his home. The child’s mother went crazy.
Something tells me the boy could have been buried in that cellar. I saw him as clear as day standing on the bottom step. I was looking for a broom. Not familiar with the layout, I opened the door thinking it was a closet. I searched for a light switch but there was none.
Out of nowhere, a little boy brazenly beckoned me to come down and continued to wave his hand admonishing me with his eyes. Was the apparition trying to communicate with me? Was there something I was supposed to do? Fear took over and I closed the portal to hell.
All my life I’ve had strange dreams, not once or twice but they repeat themselves over and over during the night. Trust me; the reruns are not pretty. This time, it’s been almost a month, the same scene redundantly playing. Mom and I talked on the phone about my dilemma. Mom reminded me about great-grandma Sarah O’Brien.
Mom recalls stories from her mother, who spoke about her mamia. It seems while mamia was on her deathbed all her children gathered, even her eldest son came to call. D’Arcy was an Irish Merchant Seaman who left the sea to be with his ailing mum. They said her Irish blue eyes were a smilin’ when he entered the room. The woman sat up in bed, reached out her arms, and sung his name. “D’Arcy O’Brien, my boy, you’ve come home. Lad, it’s so good to see ya.”
Mom using her Irish brogue recited the ailing mamai’s prose.
“Ah, my child, a leanbh and my star, a thaisce; you’ve come to visit your mathair on her deathbed. Boy, not a tear for me you shed? D’Arcy O’Brien to the sea you went, years a Merchant Seaman spent. Never have ye minded your ma’s God-fearing words; the devil’s voice was what you heard.
“Your mamia goes to her resting sleep, my soul you’ve come to claim and keep. I will not let you be nor shall you take me. Under the sea, I command your spirit to go. I see the waves they toss you fro. Entwined in seaweed before Satan you stand with your pirate sinned-stained hands. Go back to your dark domain and live forever in endless flame.
“I love you D’Arcy O’Brien but we are set apart. God’s mercy has washed me purer than snow, and to Heaven’s dominion, my soul shall go. Glorious Jesus embraces me now, and to my Savior, I shall bow. My son, our mortal lives will end and I shall never see your face, again.”
My great-grandmother spoke these words, closed her eyes, and checked out. Her children found traces of water and seaweed outside her bedroom door. A couple of hours later a Constable came and said D’Arcy O’Brien had died at sea. His body was not found. The crew was ambushed by another pirate ship. Not one soul survived their blades.
Mom believes my dream means something but what?