Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the fifty-ninth piece in this series. This week’s is a 900-worder by multi-genre author Donald E Schwarz.
Faulkner’s Ghost by Donald Schwarz
I’ve always considered myself too cynical, but you can forget about Roger Corman. They look just like they did in life, the only way you know it’s a ghost is because they can’t possibly be where you see them. They are always totally unaware of their surroundings, so absorbed by their own thoughts that they have lost their place in time. Come to think of it a lot of ‘living’ people are like that too, just to confuse things even further I suppose.
We were in the park it must have been about 11:30. I was seeing this Earth Mother cannonball. Not usually my type but she was smart enough so I got involved. We were sauntering along a sun-speckled path lined with daisies. We were having one of those deep conversations, the kind that she would later tell me were actually lectures. It was all very metaphysical we were passing through shafts of light that penetrated the foliage of the trees, surrounding us in gold dust before plunging us back into shadow.
She dejectedly paused to pick a daisy. She had this unhealthy need to constantly compare her work to the dark Russian masters of literature; there is no better way to prevent one’s self from ever writing anything. She was so paralyzed by it that I felt compelled to give her a Tolstoy-ectomy.
She settled herself down on a bench and began to pluck the petals… “To be a writer… Or not to be a writer…”
I took the partially plucked flower from her and stuck it behind my ear for emphasis. “If you have a choice, then why torture yourself? Joys of creation… BARF! Do something fun, like advertising.”
Her voice grew wistful… “I don’t have a choice. It’s just each time I start writing something I read it and say ‘it’s not War and Peace’ and I give up.”
“You are aware that War and Peace is not scripture, right? Tolstoy did what he had to do to reflect the time in which he lived. Stop obsessing. Why not try Faulkner? He’s free and easy, might loosen you up.”
She mulled over the possibility. Her eyes became sort of glazed and her lips moved ever so slightly as if she were reading something. Suddenly her eyes grew wide and she shook her head. “I know he’s a great writer, but I can’t stand to read him. More than any other writer I always hear his voice when I’m reading and he’s speaking this private language of men that no woman can possibly understand, that no woman even has the right to listen to. It’s like walking into an old time Memphis bar, the kind that has a sign saying: ‘Booths for Ladies’ and hearing someone telling the most wonderful stories in this slow drawling voice. And then everything stops and they all turn to look at you and wonder what the hell you’re doing there so there is nothing to do except leave. Utter disappointment…”
Her paralyses began to return so I nudged her gently. “Think of it this way: imagine a baseball pitcher who didn’t have a catchy name like “Vida Blue” or “Catfish Hunter” but the pedestrian moniker Irving Kolodna. This guy had so little charisma that his own wife couldn’t remember what he looked like. He had broken every pitching record in the book yet no one even noticed. Anyone in their right mind would have given up, but he genuinely loved the game. To keep himself interested he started doing things like getting 3 and 0 behind the batter, just to show that he could retire the side on 9 consecutive strikes.”
She just stared at me until I stopped talking. “That is exactly what I mean, man patois, just like Faulkner!” Her attention was then suddenly drawn by something and her face lit up as she pointed, “Look!”
She was gazing off down the path behind me and there he was. Faulkner. All 5’2″ of him with a Faulkner-esque iron grey haircut and a Faulkner-esque iron grey moustache, walking along in a Faulkner-esque pose, eyes down, hands clasped behind his back, intensely preoccupied, totally unaware of his surroundings with his two hound dogs. Even they looked preoccupied.
I grabbed her hand. “Don’t let go, no matter what happens…”
I pulled her onto a side path at a brisk pace; when we turned back of course he and the hounds were gone.
Another strange thing about ghosts, they only appear in the exact center of your field of vision. There is also that folklore that they always appear at noon…
Earth Mother stopped walking and began to giggle. I was concerned that perhaps she had actually snapped, but when she spoke her observation seemed utterly sensible…
“When you stop to think about it, if you get to take your dogs along, how bad can it be?”
Just then an angel, with stiff terracotta robes, floated past us on an updraft. Her face was an unhealthy yellow and her wings news-print grey. She held a stone tower cradled in her arms.
My companion was flabbergasted, “What on Earth!”
I raised my eyebrows, “That was Saint Barbara of the Thunder, she was de-canonized and her cult suppressed. I guess you can’t blame her for being pissed…”
I squeezed Earth mother’s hand and we double-timed it out of the park. It was five past twelve…
Normally here I would ask the author what prompted this piece by Don sadly passed away in August and his writing colleague Victoria King-Voreadi said…
Although it may sound as crazy as a box of frogs, Don insisted it was an actual occurrence. He and the young lady in question were both grad students, both living in Greenwich Village in NYC in the early 70’s. Perhaps his was a shared hallucination, a lot of wild things were going on at that time. Generally Donald was the most superstitious person I have ever known to date. It seems odd that anyone with a double Masters in mathematics would believe in ghosts, the I Ching or Tarot cards but that was Donald – a fascinating amalgam of contradictions.
Thank you, Victoria… and to Donald for writing such a great story.
Donald E. Schwarz was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and lived his entire adult life in New York City with a brief hiatus working at Technion in Israel developing an irrigation project for Mexico.
He studied mathematics at CUNY before going to Israel. Upon returning to Manhattan he worked for an ad agency designing computer models until changes in the industry made his position obsolete. After that he drove a cab to support his writing habit, spending most of his time ‘holed up’ in the New York Public library.
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