“Excuse me miss? Miss?”
A cold prying hand gripped my shoulder, begging for attention.
The steaming April sun barreled down with its unforgiving rays; my long frizzy hair clinging to my face in the humid midday heat. I was extremely exhausted after pulling yet another 12 hour shift at my local 24 hour diner, and had started my long walk home through town.
My swollen legs hadn’t even found the energy to pick up a paycheck, much less the drive to stop and talk with a random ghost on the street.
“Miss? I need to get to the bus station. Please I know you’re in a hurry, but I have to get to my girls.”
Finally giving into the desperation in his voice, I spun around, and scrunched my nose is disgust. I was met with an unpleasant sight of a man who suffered an untimely fate 14 years prior. His soggy mud caked clothes, almost torn to shreds, hung loosely from wet skin. A gaping puss filled wound dripped from the man’s knee, turning his once white Adidas shoe a dreadful yellow.
“Oh dear. Katrina wasn’t a bit kind to you, was it sir?”
He shook his head in confusion, as water droplets fell off of his bloated body. Poor fella didn’t make it to the evacuation point in time, and like thousands of others he was swallowed by one of nature’s biggest mistakes.
Now he was forced to live out eternity in a never ending cycle, reliving his last moments as a mortal, forever. This torturous repetition is, for some reason, very common with Katrina victims. Unfortunately, living near the shores of Louisiana has made me come in contact with these lost souls a lot more than I’d like to.
“I…I just need to find the bus station. Help me please. It’s safe there, we have to get there. I-Holy shit do you see that?”
The man pointed towards a row of empty lots that once held thriving businesses, with a horrified look on his face. Other than a stray dog taking a nap in some unkempt grass, I saw nothing. But, I’m sure he was looking at the massive wave that took his life on that gruesome day in 2005.
“I don’t have time for this today. Good luck on finding your bus.”
Of course unsurprisingly, he gave no response, as his loop had run out and wouldn’t start over until the next day. He stood there frozen, with his finger stretched outwards towards a bright blue sky. I turned away, and continued my long walk home.
Don’t get me wrong, I love being a therapist for the dead, but it doesn’t pay my bills. I think it’s unfair really. I mean, a regular therapist gets paid 5 times more than I do, and they don’t have to deal with ridiculous requests. Tell me, when is the last time you saw a regular therapist digging up a time capsule, in a stranger’s backyard, at 3 a.m. in the morning?
The rusted wrought iron gate groaned in protest, as I pushed it open, getting caught on the uneven lawn. A bright blue Victorian beauty, with its chipping paint and loose boards, greeted my tired mind with open arms. Believe it or not, even though my house was in an almost deplorable condition, it had the best curb appeal in my less than ideal neighborhood.
I carefully climbed the stairs, avoiding weak spots that could send me through them.
A small piece of gravel flew through the air, smacking me in the back of my head. As my skull began to throb, I whirled around with a grimace.
“Damnit Rosemary! One of these days I’m gonna soak you in holy water!”
She doubled over cackling like a hyena. 1 black rotten tooth stuck out like a sore thumb among her other pearly whites, as tatted blonde hair fluttered over the bruises decorating her neck. Dental care really sucked 100 years ago.
Did I forget mention that I hate kids? Especially 12 year olds like Rosemary. Their petulance is never ending.
I shook my head, rummaging through my purse to find keys to the front door amongst tons of useless odds and ends.
“Aye Marisol, ain’t ya gonna say hi to me?”
Rosemary called out through her thick country twang. She stood on her tiptoes, smoothing down an unflattering dirty poofy pink church dress.
“Why should I show an ounce of kindness? You threw a rock at my head. If you ask me, that’s not polite at all.”
She put her hands on her hips, being a sass mouth little girl, as usual.
“Momma says be nice to folks, even if they was mean to ya.”
I leaned against my now wide open doorframe, as I placed a Marlboro Red to my lips, taking a deep breath to calm my nerves.
“I don’t know why you follow her advice. You’re aware that she’s the person who choked you to death right?”
Rosemary childishly stuck out her tongue, her young mind unable to think of a comeback. I slammed the door, knowing that she couldn’t come in and pester me, without being invited.
That basically sums up our interactions on a daily basis. How I wish I purchased a house without an annoying ghost haunting the front yard.
I sluggishly lugged my aching body into the living room, yearning for an evening of relaxation, Steve Harvey, and wine.
However, instead of shutter homes and family feud reruns, I was met with a pungent oder of sweet rot filling my nostrils, and a strange woman sitting on my sofa.
Although her face was almost hidden by patchy brittle black hair, I could clearly see that she was missing chunks of her cheek, as half of her jaw sagged appearing to be broken. A flowing night gown draped over her skeletal body, that was reduced to gooey rotting skin stretched over bones.
“Fucking hell. Not another one. Not today.”
I dropped my purse on the ground in anger, causing the woman to look up. Her sunken cloudy eyes gave a startled expression, as she raised her head, revealing a long gaping split running across her nose. She began to speak, the lopsided mouth swaying, and clicking unnaturally, with each word.
“Are you Marisol Lee?”
Her voice was that of a young and vibrant teeny bopper, it definitely didn’t match her ragged appearance. I smothered my cigarette out in the ashtray beside of me.
“Yes, but I’m currently all booked up. You’ll have to make an appointment, and come back-“
I was interrupted by a loud series of popping noises, as the woman made her way towards me. Her movements were jerky, resembling a marionette puppet, each step sounding as if she might collapse into a heap of bones at any second. When she finally stood in front of me, I noticed her skinny arm dangling to the side, out of its socket.
Grabbing my hand with the only good arm, her putrid breath escaped from thin withered lips.
“Please, I can’t wait that long. My children and I need peace, we’ll never pass on without you. This is our only chance, and we don’t have much time.”
I sighed, slumping down in my easy chair, and grabbing my notebook off the end table. I’ll admit, sometimes I give in to sad ghosts like her. It’s like my heart won’t let me refuse their decaying puppy dog eyes.
“Alright. Alright. I’ll help you. But first, I need your name, and your request. I’ll have you know though, if it’s crazy, I won’t do it.”
Her frail body barely made an indent on the couch. Wiping away decomposition fluid from her gown, she tucked greasy hair behind her ear, that was barely hanging on by a thread.
“My name is Gretta Greene. Spelled G-R-E-E-N-E, and I need you to bury my body.”
Simple enough. I get the “bury my body” request at least 20 times a year. I couldn’t tell you how many proper burials I’ve done.
“Ok. Easy peasy. Just give me the address, and I’ll be sure to put that on my to-do list.”
A smile spread across Gretta’s gum less teeth.
“Thank you so much! My children and I’s bodies are located underneath the old Parisville hotel downtown. You won’t regret helping us!”
I threw my hands up with a frown. In my book, breaking into a hotel basement was considered too extreme.
“Woah. Woah. Woah. I’m sorry, but I can’t retrieve 3 bodies from the basement of a hotel. Breaking and entering is where I draw the line sister.”
She fidgeted with what looked like a dented wedding ring, that rested on her protruding knuckle, as the beaming smile fell.
I got on my feet, pointing towards the front door.
“No ifs, ands, or buts about it. I can’t afford to get locked up. Now if you’ll please show your self out, I’d really appreciate it. I have other matters to attend to.”
Gretta shot up, her bones grinding against one another, causing pieces of dried skin to flake off.
“I have $1,000 cash. I’ll pay every single bit of it, if you get the job done.”
Now she was talking business.