*A True Sailboat Haunting Told in Multiple Splashes*
Part IV- Pop-Eyed & Pale
” ‘Ghost,’ she said sharply, ‘who be you the ghost of? For I have heard of nary death close by.’ But there was no answer, only the ragged dancing in the wind.”– Eudora Welty, A Worn Path
I musta’ lived a thousand lives and a thousand deaths that night. Awoke all dazed and confused. My heart movin’ in jogs and jolts. My body feelin’ like I had just been in a tornado with a bunch of beehives and bears and bobcats.
I looked like somethin’ the cat drug in too- all pop-eyed and pale. And I was plain petrified to sleep. Sleepin’ made me a sittin’ duck. It allowed those dead people to just waltz in and rock my bones as if they were their own and into Out-of-Body Experiences, I was thrown.
But those ghosts loaded the wrong wagon, ‘cause I spent that morning pourin’ prayers and love and sage into all of Junipers’ nooks and crannies. I was determined to peel all the spirits off of Juniper- her former dead owner and otherwise.
Now, I know what y’all are thinkin. Y’all are thinkin, hell this gal is plumb crazy, she’s got fish rottin’ in her head, she’s straight out of the twilight zone! Lock her up! Feed her to the wolves! Call the priest, she needs an exorcist!
I can assure that I was of a sound and pure mind at the time. Was as sober then, as the day I was born. But even so, I was startin’ to think like y’all are thinkin’ now. Was fearin’ that my head had floated up out of reality, like a balloon with a short string, and gotten lost somewhere in space. I was worryin’ myself sick about it, until other people came ‘round Juniper gettin’ the bejesus scared out of them too. All kinds of people – strong people, soft people, big people, little people, brave people, fearful people, spiritual people, machine-like people.
If what was happenin’ was a figment, we were all experiencin’ the same figment, and that don’t really make much sense, now does it, babycakes?
Out of Junipers’ clocks, out of her lights, out of her cabinets, out of her sink, out of her wood, out of her stillness, and out of her engine; an invisible world was creepin’ and flowin’ like snakes in the grass. I think now, that there is more to fear in the unseen, than the seen. I think now, that a dead bee can still sting ya. I think now, that the world, as we know it, is just one layer of many layers, like a good cake or pie.
The next haunting took place on a California winter day that was hotter than blue blazes. Sittin’ inside the boat made me feel like a flower growin’ inside a greenhouse, and the air was so invitin’ I swear I coulda’ shot green shoots out of my fingertips, if I had wanted to.
My friends came over with their two-year old son, Shaun. He’s tiny and toe-headed and loves trucks.
We barely had enough time to sit down and say, “What’s new, honeydew,” when someone looked over and saw Shaun holding my hammer in his hand and starin’ at us with sparks of lunacy. My tool cabinet was wide open next to him. Which is odd, because my tool cabinet has an elbow latch and you gotta stick your finger in a hole and push on a release just so, in order to open it.
I reckoned that I forgot to shut it all the way. I grabbed the hammer, said, “Oopsy Daisy!” and plopped it back where it belongs. I made sure the cabinet was shut. I heard it click. I pulled and pushed and pulled. That thing was more closed than a nun’s legs.
A few laughs later, that cabinet was wide open and that hammer was in the kids hand again. I shut it and was more confused than a frog in saltwater. Shaun didn’t know a circle from a square and he sure as hell didn’t know how to open that cabinet!
Now you may think I’m callin’ an alligator a lizard, but the cabinet kept openin’ long after my friends left and it sure was spooky. I closed it, went to bed, woke up, that cabinet was open. I closed it, went to shower, came back, it was open. I closed it, went to work, came back, it was open. I tightened screws, I bent the latch, I even replaced the old one for a new one. Nothin’ worked until I turned into a dayglow firebreather and dissolved whatever darkness was in there into dust through prayer.
A few weeks of boring went by, then along came a cabinet that locked itself shut. I tried my darndest to open it. Everybody did. A boat builder from Mexico resorted to sawin’ the thing open. It came open hot- metal grindin’, wood flyin’. The builder inspected the inside, turned as white as snow, then got real quiet.
I said, “What? Has the cat got your tongue?”
He said, “No, it’s just that nothing mechanical was keeping that cabinet from opening, it is as if someone was inside holding it shut.”
That builder started making the sign of the cross and sayin “Padre nuestro, que estás en el cielo, santificado sea tu nombre;….” Then he left faster than green grass goes through a goose. He refuses to step back onboard Juniper, sends my calls straight to voicemail ever since.
Time aboard drifted on with unusual smells and small bumps and boos in the middle of the night, then the engine started stirrin’. I was workin’ on fixin’ a coolant leak with my buddy Jack. He is salty, works in a shipyard, and wears grease like a sweater. We worked long past the purple sunset and had to let the light of headlamps guide our way.
I went to use the head and while I was in there, Jack screamed so loud, I thought he was deaf in one ear and couldn’t hear out the other. I stopped my business short and ran out.
I said, “Jam and jelly, what’s the matter? Did Chevorlet stop makin’ trucks?”
He said, “No the head lamp light just started flickering a bunch. It’s creeping me out.”
I said, “You’re seein’ things, maybe you accidentally pressed the button, or maybe it’s just a trick of your tired mind.” Right as I said it, my headlamp started doin’ the same thing. Flashing; white, white, white, white, red, white, white. Then it turned itself off. I slapped it, and turned it back on. Our headlamps kept actin’ possessed, even after I changed the batteries in both of them. Jack stopped comin’ to work on Juniper after sunset. Said he didn’t believe in ghosts, but whatever was happenin’ on Juniper wasn’t natural and was givin’ him the willies.
I’ve bought every kind of headlamp under the sun. They all flicker, especially when I’m workin’ on fixin’ the engine or alone offshore. White, white, white, white, red, white white, white, off. There are times when I can’t get a lamp to turn back to the white light, so I will switch one headlamp out for another, and it will do the same damn thing, flash like a firefly, then stick on red. I mean I can explain it to y’all, but I can’t understand if for y’all.
Ding, ding, ding, ding.
Then there is clock. The clock on the cabin wall is supposed to chime every half-hour and hour, but it chimes whenever I walk by it. Ding, ding, ding. I can change it’s batteries ‘til the cows come home, but it won’t ever ding when it’s supposed to, only when it wants to. Ding, ding, ding, ding. Sometimes it dings when it likes what I write- like when I write about it dinging, it likes that, and it dings.
There is also a symphony of voices that come for me like rain when I’m sailing the ocean blue. There is the voice in the sink, that’s a nefarious old hag who tries to get me to do her evil deeds. And there is the voice of the merman, who pretends that he will help me, but never does. And the voice of the funk singer, who lives in my v-berth and says things like, “Clap your hands, hell yeah,” and then a thousand hands start clapping, including my very own. When these voices are all movin’ and groovin’ the boat can sound as noisy as two skeletons dancin’ on a tin roof.
You don’t have to take my word for it, lots of head-turnin’ voices have caught Junipers’ visitors by surprise. They say, “What was that? Did you hear that?” I always smile and tell them, “It must have been the wind.”
Anywho, Juniper’s got deeper depths that one can imagine. I mean, perhaps there is some logic that turns this puzzle of Juniper into a picture. Or some stranger that can scrub away the stench of it all with their ability to see behind the curtain and blast light on whoever is pulling all these supernatural strings?
Until then, I’m gonna keep right on believin’ in ghosts. But I don’t let the ghosts of Juniper give me the heebie-jeebies anymore. They can flash, they can clap, they can ding, they can chime- but if they try to lay one finger on my body ever again, I’m gonna send ‘em down to where the sun don’t shine!