The Old Man's Song

Short Stories and Poetry

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The Old Man's Song

Postby Celestial Dung » Sat Sep 15, 2007 9:55 pm

I suppose the beginning will have to suffice.

Me and Peter were married for 49 years when he died. Now isn't that something you say, died before the golden anniversary. I heard that line all the time during and after the funeral. People just seemed to think they were being real insightful when they said that. People who think they are being insightful are alway full of shit.

So before I go on let me just say out right now that I was doing fine. Yes I had my spells, times when I would roll over in bed and the old man wasn't there. I would wake up in the middle of the night telling him to stop snoring accept he wasn't their anymore. You know how bad that gets, when you spent your whole adult life sleeping with someone and then one day their not there anymore? And you know something else that's bad is when you catch yourself thinking that he's being awful quiet and then you realize why he's being so quiet.

So yeah I was all misery but I survived you see. I survived whole and well. The young folks think I'm all cute when I act out and get mad at something. They don't realize that sometimes you have to get made to avoid making a scene of yourself.

Enough of that. The trouble started when I heard the piano hit a few notes. Ok I think that's bad some raccoon or something has broken into the house. I walk over to the piano, just an old church piano Peter's father handed down to him, and nothings there. Nothing is there and yet it's playing like something horrible. Scared the hell out of me you know. I screamed so loud neighbors started to call over making sure I wasn't senile or something. Told them that the piano was playing on it's own. None of them believed me of course, they thought I had finally dropped the last marble. Henry came over to see me though. Henry is a big strapping of a man who works as a bouncer at one of the local clubs. he's always worried about me telling me to make sure I lock my doors every night. I'm not ashamed to admit I sort of like the attention, he is a good looking man after all and I've still got the things god gave me. He comes over and asks me if I'm ok and if I really heard what I said I heard.

"Henry" I says, "of course I heard what I said I heard. You know I'm not a liar and you know I'm not crazy. Now come over hear and listen to this."

So Henry follows me to the piano and sure enough he hears it to. What you thought this was going to be one of those stories where no one else hears the piano? Pah, your reading too man ghost stories. Listen Henry heard it just like I did. He searched that piano. He searched that piano up and down looking for some sort of recording device. He looked around the living room for wires and things. Finally he stopped fretting over and let out a heavy sigh."

"Mrs. Huxley" he said "I just don't know whats going on."

"That makes two of Henry" I said patting him on the back. That's me all over; I start to feeling better when I can comfort somebody else, that's a bad habit of mine I guess.

Things would have been just fine if Laura didn't decide to shop up right then. You know those relatives that you really can't wait for them to go even though you really do love them? Well Laura's mine. she's my niece through brother Bobby. She got born again at the age of sixteen when girls at that age should be partying. Got all serious about saving souls and doing a good work for the lord. Got married to a preacher when she was eighteen. and they started themselves a church on down the road. You know how annoying it is to have one of those hallelujah churches on down the road from you? Makes we wish a biker bar would show up just to drown out the noise. Anyway she comes in and she looks as Henry as if he was a dirt stain on her wedding dress. Henry had one of his rock and roll shirts on and well you know how well Baptists and Rock and Roll get along.

"Hello Aunt Huxley how are you doing today?"

"Well I'm just doing fine thank you as a matter of fact I was just about ready to get out and do some grocery shopping. Don't have any food in the kitchen you know so it might be time for me.."

"Ma'm Mrs. Huxley's piano is being haunted I think." Henry blurted out. Poor man hasn't got the good sense the lord gave a politician. He really needed a woman to help him out but we'll get to that later.

So naturally Laura's ears pick up as she heads over to the piano and notices that it's playing by itself. She gets all upset and starting screaming for Jesus. Then she gets out her cell phone and calls up her husband. The nerve of her you know I've got a phone she could have used. So her husband comes over and listens to the piano. He starts to pray really loud as if god almighty needed a hearing aide. When he shuts up he takes me aside a bit and start talking nonsense about a prayer meeting. I tell him I don't want to go to no prayer meeting. Prayer meetings are nothing but men gossiping. He says no he's going to bring his church to my house so he can have his prayer meeting and drive out the demon that's infested my piano. He said he was going to bring them over tonight. Him and Laura left me and Henry behind as they set out advise all their church members that Mrs. Betty Huxley needed some special prayers.

"I am really sorry Mrs. Huxley." Henry said sadly.

"Sorry about the ghost or about my kin?"

"Sorry about everything I guess. Look you want to stay over at my house tonight? I can arrange you a nice place to sleep."

"No thank you Henry. This is my house and I'm staying in it come Hell or Baptist Prayer Meetings. Your welcome to keep me company while they pray over my soul though."

So me and Henry gabbed about his work until the Baptists showed up. They brought along folding chairs and plates of food. Someone even showed up with some Long John Silvers. They started eating and drinking their Pepsi getting food crumbs and soda all over the floor I had just cleaned up. All the while they were eating and slopping the piano kept trying to play. Every now and again someone would go over their to take a peek but the good Reverend Ottinger would take them aside. Haunted pianos are dangerous you know. After they ate and used my bathroom to shit then the screaming started. Reverend Ottinger started to preach and started to pray and soon everyone in my living room was raising up a fuss. They was a screaming and praying then screaming some more. I don't remember much of anything they were saying because they was so loud and because momma taught me to mind my own business when other people were talking to god.

But I do remember what that good Reverend Billy Ottinger was saying. "Lord help this woman though she be a sinner, Lord help this woman even though she has strayed from you, Lord help this woman even though she's not of you sheep, Lord save this woman from the fires of hell,"

And then hell broke loose.

The piano keys started to bang louder and louder and everyone started to yell louder and louder. Soon chairs were being overturned and toupees were being thrown off and skin was being pinched. People started to get all upset and someone said that it might be a good idea to take me outside and burn the house down. This idea started to gain some ground until I pointed old Peters's rifle at people.

"Now look here first person that set flame to my home or tries to take me outside gets blown to kingdom come thy will be done."

"Mrs Huxley put down the rifle." Reverend Ottinger started to say.

"No. I'm not putting down this rifle until everyone leaves my home. Everyone except my and friend Henry. Henry's a big hoss and he ain't afraid of hurting people if they don't leave me alone." Right then and there Henry stood up and gave the Baptists the meaning look he could give. I swear their wasn't a car in my yard five minutes later.

"Thank you Henry I couldn't have cleared them without you." And then the piano started to play again. "Oh why don't you hush."

"Mrs. Huxley I was wondering."

"Bad thing to do Henry. Once you start wondering you might night find you way back again."

"Yeah but look. I have this friend Tracy. She's a really nice woman and knows a few things about ghosts and spells and the like. She's not a witch or anything it's just she's really good with spiritual things."

"She's a Wiccan Henry. Good lord I don't have a problem with Wiccans, at least their quiet."

"Oh."

"Good god Henry who do you think told her about the club you work at? And who do you think told her that their was a big strong man their who really could use a woman's attention? She's a cashier at the Food City I trade at. Real nice girl and real pretty. too. If Peter was alive I would have given him hell for looking at her."

"Ok."

"So you go ahead a get a hold of her. If nothing else maybe she can get the stench of Baptists out of here. Lord I've never seen such a mess. Oh and you can use my phone."

So then Tracy shows up. She's all dressed in black and has a star around her neck. Got glitter in her hair and red lipstick on. I swear the women find themselves new ways to look good. She bows to me like I'm a Japanese fighting master or something. Then she asks if we could sit down on the couch. I say sure if she doesn't mind the battered chicken crumbs.

"Betty when did the piano start to play?"

"About two this evening I guess."

"Hmmm. you remember when we first met and you were still grieving for Peter?"

"Honey I still grieve I just try not to act stupid."

"you told me then that Peter had died at two in the evening. You were upset because he never got to watch the History channel show that was coming on. It was going to be about Cades Cove wasn't it?"

"Yes he never got to watch that. He wanted to see what pictures they would come up with. Cades Cove was his home you know. It was his home a long time ago before the government took over." I admit I allowed myself to be a little stupid. "But I don't understand what that has to do with anything."

And while I cried like a baby Tracy puts her arm around me. "Betty don't you think Peter is trying to communicate with you?"

"Why? Why after a year would he talk to me now?"

"It's your anniversary this Friday isn't it?"

I was so ashamed that I had forgotten. Maybe I wanted to you know. Didn't want to act stupid. "It is."

"Tell you what Betty. Why don't me and Henry leave you two alone. I think all Peter wants to do is get your attention. Try talking to him."

"What am I supposed to say?"

"He's your love. You'll know what to say."

Henry wanted to stay behind of course, being that he was all scared for me. Tracy convinced him that I was going to be all right. When they left it was only me and that piano and damn it if it still wasn't hitting notes. It was only faint but when I listened really hard I could hear it. I walked over to the piano and started to talk to the mid air.

"Peter is that really you? Are you here to visit me or something? If you're here you should really start showing up you know. Are you here my little red rooster?"

In ghost stories the deceased slowly appear like a mist. You can see them but you can not touch them. That wasn't the case here I know because when I finally saw Peter I embraced him hard and fast before he had a chance to say anything. He looked like my Peter, my old man who left me over a year ago who was starting to forget if he took out the trash or not. I cried of course but I don't think I was acting stupid.

"I'm sorry Betty," he said his voice still as husky as a glass of Jack Daniels, "I'm sorry I made such a mess of things but I heard them talking bad about you and nobody says bad things about my Betty. Nobody better say a bad thing about my pretty girl or I'm going to bust them up."

"It's ok Peter I think you gave them a proper good scare. Maybe now they'll leave old women alone."

"Your as beautiful as the last day I saw you. Remember when I used to laugh at you for spending and hour for fixing yourself up every day. I miss that. I miss you fussin' at me for not washing the dishes. I miss you singing along to the radio in the evenings. I miss you so bad Betty."

"Is that why you're here Peter?"

"Kind of. After I died I started to become real busy you see. I came to this great field where I started seeing people that had died before me. You remember my old friend Johnny, the one that died by a snake bite over in Cades Cove?"

"Yes you always said that you were playing hide and seek."

"Right well there Johnny was, fresh and you like he had been. Well I apologized to him. I told that I was sorry that I didn't find him in time, that i always thought that it was my fault that he had died. He said that it was ok that it was never my fault. I felt lots better after that. And then I saw your parents and they were so happy to see me. I told them I was sorry that I was never able to give them a grandchild like they wanted. They told me that it was ok and I was as good as a son in law as they could have wished for. Well I felt better after that. I started going after everyone I knew in life, everyone from old friends to people I only saw less then a minute in my laugh. I remembered them all and I felt a compulsion to apologize to them for any wrong I felt I might have caused them. Great and small I felt like i needed to apologize for doing people. And when they forgave me I started to feel better. Sometimes it took a little while and sometimes it took a long time. It took me forever to apologize to the woman I cut off on the road five years ago. But finally I was done apologizing so then I could really enjoy this other life.

"Except i kept think of you. I kept thinking what you looked like and what you sounded like. What stuck in my head most was that last year I planned to sing a little song for you. Do you remember that song that came out over the radio a few years ago "Talk Dirty to Me"

I couldn't help but laugh. "Yes I remember that Peter, you were trying to sing that song for weeks after it came out. I thought then it was a silly song for a middle aged man to sing and now I think it's a silly song for an old man to sing."

"Silly or not I was wanting to sing it for you. I was wanting to play it on the piano for you and sing it to you. It was going to be my anniversary present for you. I practiced and practiced when you were out shopping hoping to surprise you. But before our anniversary I died and that stopped that I guess. Except I kept thinking about that. So I went away from all those people on the other side until there was nobody but me. I figured if there was something out there in control of all this it could hear me better away from all that noise. I begged whoever was listening to let me go back to you and sing my song. I was so lonely, I said, I needed one more time with you to show you how much I loved you and how much you had meant to me. Next thing I know I'm here next to the piano. That's when I scared you for the first time and I'm sorry. i thought I was playing softly.

"you silly old man. You never could be quiet. Why don't you sing that song you've been wanting to sing to me?"

"But our anniversary's three days away and I don't know the piano parts."

"it doesn't matter Peter, show me what you want to show me."

After a couple of deep breaths he started to sing. it was a silly song for an old man to sing, one of those hair band songs you know, but he made it sound so sweet and endearing. All he had wanted was to see me again and give me my present, nobody's ever had so sweet a husband. Once he stopped singing he started to fade. I guess the universe let him have his say and was telling him to leave now. I told him I loved him and he told me that he would wait for me. I believe him. I don't know about heaven and hell but I know that my Peter loves me and that somewhere in some strange land where we have to apologize to everyone he's waiting for me.

Well I'm not going to commit suicide I'll have you know. I think god or the universe will be pretty mad at me if I left this world before it was time for me to go. Besides, someone has to be around to make sure that Henry and Tracy don't get stupid about each other. And someone has got to worn that niece of mine to start mending her ways or there's going to be a lot of apologizing she's going to have to do. A whole shit load.
"Understand the procedure now? Just stop a few of their machines...throw them into darkness for a few hours and then sit back and watch the pattern. They pick the most dangerous enemy they can find and it's themselves."----Rod Serling
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