Mort’s first day waking up as a ghost was not as disconcerting as one might think. He knew who and where he was, and grasped the circumstances, instantly, and was glad of it. What fun would it be to start your day off thinking you were a normal 15 year old boy waking up in your bed, waiting to smell what dad was making for breakfast, and then realizing you were dead, a ghost, now living in a graveyard where the smell of bacon drifting up the stairs and dancing in your nostrils was nothing but a teasing flight of fancy.
I think that we have spent enough time with Mort by now that there is no need to continue to come up with fancy ways to say that he didn’t really do the things he did – when it is said that he rubbed his eyes as he stretched, we understand that he didn’t, in fact, do anything of the sort. At least not on the corporeal plane that we are accustomed to. He did stretch, and he did rub his eyes as he woke, he just did these things in a ghostly manner.
He floated the rest of himself all the way up out of his grave, where he had chosen to lay his head and, despite Shmitty’s prediction, dream. The watery sunlight accentuated the translucence of Mort’s form, creating a hazy miasma of flotsam and particles that were his outline. As he gazed around the waking graveyard, he observed the same glittery shapes rising here and there, some already ambulatory at this early hour. There, shining outlines of an old couple, holding shimmery hands that were barely there until they passed through the shadow of a large tree, taking a morning constitutional ritualized more than a hundred years before. And there, there he saw to his delighted surprise ghostly kittens romping and rolling in the clipped grass on the bank of a small pond.
Feeling that this warranted further investigation, and possibly scratches or snuggles, who knew, Mort rose and wandered over. Happy mewing and mewling greeted him as he walked closer, the kittens abandoning their play to rub flanks against his ankles and purr in happy anticipation. As he bent to give the nearest one, a tiny little bruiser missing an eye and half of one ear, a pat on the head, the others, three or four he couldn’t tell, they moved around too damn much, all darted forward into a furry pile over his feet. Laughing, he sat on the ground and let them clamber and claw and climb all over him. Well, this certainly wasn’t the worst way to start his first full day as an officially dead guy.
As the kittens curled up, one by one, in his lap to take a ghosty little cat nap, Mort let his eyes drift from ghost to tree to sky without really noticing many details; his brain wasn’t in first gear, just idling, waiting for a thing to catch his attention, or demand it. Until then, he was oddly content in the moment. He could still feel a version of sunlight striking his flux of gathered bits and pieces, and for that he could only be grateful. He mimicked the act of breathing in deeply, exhaling slowly, just because it delivered a sense of comfort.
* * *
Sneed sat like a stranger-than-usual gargoyle, perched on the crumbling headstone of one Patrice Michaela Snodgrass, eyeballing Mort’s recumbent form. A woman’s bouffant topped head rose from the earth and passed through Sneed’s boot, to their mutual chagrin. “Damn it, Sneed, what in the hell?” Patrice pulled her head forward, causing particles making up Sneed’s boots to jump ship and vice versa with her hair becoming part of his footwear. “I thought we’d been through this. The last thing I want to see as soon as I wake up is the bottom of your filthy hobnails. Especially not when they abscond with my hair.” She huffed huffily and set about re-arranging her coif, an act that intrigued Sneed despite himself. After a few final flourishes she directed her full attention to the little man above her. He nodded towards the boy, and she swiveled around. “Oh,” she sighed, out loud and in her heart. So young.
“Name’s Mort. New arrival, just got in last night. Tell you what though, boy slept like one of the old timers, just went right down and didn’t see him ‘gain til just a few minutes ago.” He chuckled. “Went right for the kittens.”
Shoving Sneed over to make room for herself, in a very un-ladylike manner to his way of thinking, Patrice scooted up next to him. For all their cantankerous verbal jousting, she and Sneed had been very close for a very long time. She leaned into his shoulder a little and asked him for Mort’s story. She had left a son behind when she had died; ten years old, her Benjamin, sweet and smart, and as devilishly handsome as his bastard of a father had been.
Sneed shrugged his shoulders, a sack of potatoes shifting. “Don’t know much, really. I caught his mom talking to the old codger when they were picking his spot, something about a hit and run accident.” He shrugged again, this time with an agitated edge that betrayed a flair of temper he hadn’t felt in years. “He’s special, that one. Can’t quite put my finger on why, but he’s just slipped right into his life here so far without complaint. Suppose that’s enough to make one stand out around here.”
“Will you take me to meet him, Sneed?” She hopped off the stone and held out a hand to him. “Oh! Do you think we could get everyone together in time to do a show tonight?” He snorted. “What,” she bristled. “I know it’s been a while, and I suppose they’re not always cooperative…” She trailed off under the weight of his cocked eyebrow.
“Cooperative. Really, woman? Trying to get these ghouls to agree on a single damn thing is well nigh impossible, let alone getting them cooperate with each other for an extended period of time.” They walked towards Mort, who had opened his eyes and turned his head to watch them approach, careful not to jostle the sleeping litter in his lap. As his face split into a grin and his eyes warmed, Patrice felt the strings around her heart sing a lilting little melody. There really was something about this boy, she thought. She could see it from here.
As they reached him, Sneed pulled his hat off his head and bowed with a flourish whose affect was only slightly marred by the sunken shape of one side of his skull. “Boyo,” he said. “You are in for one hell of a treat as soon the sun goes down.”
* * *
Stay tuned for the next episode, ladies and gents ~snicker~ the ghosts in Mort’s graveyard cooperate to put on a show after all. This is episode 4 (I think..?! I’m pretty sure) in Mort’s Graveyard Tales. On the odd chance that you’d like to read them all, there’s a handy little link over on the left hand side…