Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Daily Story 146: It's a Living

It's kind of a depressing job, but it pays well. You charge for the mileage too, driving from the home office out to whatever little town they need you in - it's almost never in the city even though more people live there. There's more business in the fall, with the dying leaves and grey skies a natural metaphor and Halloween on people's minds, so you find yourself driving down silent leaf-strewn roads a lot. You can go early to enjoy the flavor of the town, the little mom-and-pop cafes and antique stores and roadside stands. Don't do that afterwards though, there's an expectation that you leave when you're done since they know what's in your car.

When it's time for your appointment you can't be overly direct. Most people want you to act like an old friend of the family, they want to show you pictures and tell you way more back-story than you need. This is hard for a lot of people, and if you push they'll change their mind. Sit and have tea with them if they offer, listen to the boring tale of how Uncle Alfie made his fortune or how Grandma saved a bag of kittens from the river. It's a healing thing, for them to talk about it. Sooner or later this will naturally lead to business, and they'll take you to the ghost. It's very, very important that you politely insist on being alone.

When I first started, I would try to talk to them. I wouldn't recommend it. Ghosts rarely make any sense, and even if they try to tell you who killed them and how to prove it there's a good chance they're thinking of a movie they watched once. It's better to ignore them altogether and just do the task at hand. Open the container first, positioning it on the floor as close to the ghost as possible. After that slide the gloves on, and then assess the situation to make sure you're not likely to break anything. When you're ready, seize the ghost by the shoulders and shove them downwards into the container - always downwards by the shoulders, and always directly towards the jar. If you miss the open top the ghost is likely to drop through the floor into the basement.

You don't need to worry about the container being too small since the ghost can compact; the strange slippery feeling through the gloves can be disturbing at first as can the look on their faces as you fold stray arms or legs over so you can seal the lid, but these are things you adjust to with time. The lid to the container should always be attached, so that it isn't out of reach when you need it. The outside is coated in black fabric for appearances, but also to muffle noises if it's knocked over during the struggle; the illusion your clients pay for is that of a peaceful departure. Another way you cater to this image is to take a moment and compose yourself before seeing the client again - often hair and clothes are pulled askew on difficult jobs.

Most clients will have payment ready. If they do not, it is generally not taken as rude to mention that you are eager to escort the ghost to its final rest. For the most part they take the hint. Some clients will want to address the container for a final farewell, which can take some time but is worth it for customer satisfaction. When you return to your car I suggest turning the heater on; if the drive back to the home office takes longer than an hour you will start to notice a drop in temperature.

Back at the office you can remove the fabric and place the container in the cellar with the others. The brochure says that ghosts are taken to a place where the veil between worlds is thin and they can cross over to their reward, so it's important that you not release them where there is a possibility that the ghost will be seen and recognized or find its way back home. Being caught in the lie simply isn't worth the potential repeat business. The cellar works nicely, although with almost two hundred canned ghosts it seems to have developed an odd sound. There are whispers, and moans, and the sounds of crying. Together it sounds like a crowded train station in the distance. The cold keeps you from spending much time down there, but for a few minutes you can close your eyes and feel buoyed up by the rise and fall of voices, the indistinct waves of pleas for freedom.