(With apologies to Dickens)
Stave 1: Farley’s Ghost
Everything was in place for Christmas morning. Wife was going to bed. I wanted to finish my drink before following her. There wasn’t much left, so I wouldn’t be long. I sat on the couch admiring the tree and all of its ornate glory. The decorations on the bottom of the tree came from The Boy, who was the smallest of the family and could only reach so high. Ornaments were hung here and there, almost haphazardly. Anyone who met The Boy wouldn’t be surprised by this display of roughshod decorating.
I took my last sip of Holiday Cheer. I needed to get to bed. It was after midnight. It wouldn’t be long before wife and I would be met with the giddy screams of children who live for nothing else but to ruin our peaceful slumber. Children who would come crashing into our bedroom and use our bed for some type of trampoline or gymnastics mat. I stood up and made my way to the Christmas tree. I turned it off. I was about to leave the room and head upstairs when I saw a car pull up to my house and stop with a lurch. It was an old car whose door creaked open and a silhouetted figure stepped out of the car. I couldn’t make out the person but I had an eerie feeling they could see me in the dark room and they knew I could see them.
The figure made its way up my driveway. As it came closer to my house, the tree lights somehow turned back on. They were dim at first but got brighter with every step the figure took towards my house. I couldn’t move. I stood there looking out the window, unable to take my eyes off of it as if it was silently commanding me to watch him.
Soon it was at my doorstep. It’s arms didn’t move, but I could see the door unlocking, like Wife had installed one of those early-adopter apps she likes to use and she was using such a thing to remotely lock and unlock doors. The door opened and the figure I saw leaving its car and approaching my house presented itself to me. It was a ghostly figure in the form of a man.
“Who are you?” I asked him, or it, not even sure he could understand me.
“Ask me who I was,” he answered.
“Okay,” I said. “Who you was?”
“In life, I was your high school teacher, Jack Farley.”
Mr. Farley? I remembered him. He was my Psychology teacher in senior year. I remembered hearing he had passed away years ago. I was tired, but he just got here and I didn’t want to be rude.
“What brings you here, Mr. Farley?” I asked him.
“It is required of every teacher that they should walk the earth and see that the students they taught are doing well with their lives,” Mr. Farley said. “That they are leading good lives and setting good examples for the children they raise and the children they meet.
“I’ve been out of high school for over twenty five years, and you decide to look in on me now?” I asked.
“You weren’t my only student,” Mr. Farley reminded me. “I have other students to check on and it’s not like they gave me a new car to do this.”
I looked outside. I could see the outlines of Mr. Farley’s car. It looked well-used when I was in high school, and that was a long time ago.
“Well,” I said, “I can tell you that I have five children under this roof. Each and every one of them could use a dope slap every now and then, but for the most part, I think Wife and I have them on the straight and narrow. Look, Mr. Farley, I don’t mean to be rude, but it’s getting late and my kids, especially The Boy are going to be up long before the sun with tomorrow being Christmas, and all. I appreciate you looking in on me. Things are going alright for us. I can tell you I’m doing well and things are good.”
That wasn’t good enough for Mr. Farley. I could tell by the look on his face he had more to tell me. Honestly, I was hoping he would save it for another day (a day. Like daylight when I was up and awake and didn’t need to go to sleep) and let me go upstairs to bed.
“Tonight, you will be visited by three ghosts,” he said.
“Tonight?” I asked. “Halloween was two months ago. Why do I need to see ghosts tonight?”
“Expect the first tonight when the bell tolls one.”
We were really doing this. I could see it didn’t matter to Farley how tired I was or what I had going on tomorrow.
“Bell tolls?” I asked him. “Look, Hemingway, we don’t exactly toll bells around here. Even phones ‘ringing’ don’t sound like ringing bells anymore. No bell, no tolling, no ghosts. Sorry Mr. Marley – I mean – Farley, but this house isn’t going to be able to accommodate that.
Expect the second when the bell tolls two.
Again with the bell tolling. What is it with this guy – ghost?
“The third will visit when the bell tolls three.”
“One, two, three,” I said. “Simple enough.”
“I tried to keep it simple for you, Gregory. Math wasn’t your strong suit.”
“Gregory?” I asked. “And when did you become a math teacher?”
He wasn’t listening. He had already turned and walked through the door. At least I didn’t have to worry about him closing it, like I do with my kids. He walked down the driveway. The lights on the tree dimmed with each step he took toward his car. He looked at me one last time as he opened the door and got in. I’m wondering when and why he chooses to open some doors and walk through others. His car started and drove off. I stood there alone in the dark room, trying to figure out if what I thought I had witnessed had actually happened. Whether or not it did, it was a good enough reason for me to pour a quick one and process the supernatural events that had occurred. Once again, it had happened with no one else around, so if I decided to tell Wife about it. She would just tell me that I had interesting stories. My kids might believe me. Then again, they might not.
Next: The Ghost of Daddy Past