Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Mom Mom's Ghost vs. The Friendly Friends

Since it is Halloween and all that, here's another true scary story, much like the one with poor Mr. Scampers, Ph.D.

FFJewbacca: So. I don’t really believe in ghosts.

But since it’s Halloween, allow me and my fellow Friendly Friends to throw down The Official Ghost Story ™ of the Friendly Friends.

It’s a late summer night approaching 15 years ago and FFMatt is watching his parents’ house in suburban Philly while they’re at the Shore. The house is located on a green leafy, quiet suburban street. FFMatt is living in the city at the time, but was staying there to keep an eye on things.

Sweaty and I are bored.

FFSweaty: Incredibly bored.

FFJewbacca: We decide it would be a wonderful idea to head over to FFMatt’s parents’ house and wait for him to get back from work.

Me and Sweaty get there and we shoot hoops in the driveway for a little while. Since we’re both large, unathletic white men it’s not pretty and we tire of it quickly.

We realize at this point that there is no electricity in the neighborhood, due to a prior storm. It’s getting dark so we do what only true Friendly Friends would do:

Sweaty had a key to FFMatt’s parents’ house so we went in to lie in wait in the dark for his arrival.

As darkness had completely set in by this point we feel our way through the house and decide to sit on the sofa in the living room. Of course we didn’t bother to grab flashlights or anything like that. We sit in the dark. Me, Sweaty and Peeper the Cat. It was so dark so quiet and so hot. You could hear Sweaty audibly sweating. It was the most unsettling noise we had ever heard to that point, more on that later. We sit there, giggling at the devious duplicitous and divinely juvenile plan in store for FFMatt.

As a brief aside, FFMatt is almost a ninja. In real life. He knows a lot about killing people with his bare hands and has taken a lot of ju-jitsu and kung-fu and some other Asian sounding stuff. If not for his cowardice and oafish stupidity Sweaty would have died at his hand many different times growing up.

This fact is important, because as the sitting on the couch in the dark, waiting to scare the living crap out of FFMatt drags on, me and Sweaty start to debate the sanity of scaring a trained ninja assassin on his entry into a pitch black house. Images of one of us looking at their beating heart while the other stammers an excuse start to fill our heads. Another possibility we considered was that FFMatt would deftly launch the closest thing available to him (most likely the cat) at the sound of our childish attempt at a good-natured scare and in the same motion leap himself towards the sound of danger. He would then meet the cat in midair; high five it, and then turn their attention to the two idiots cackling in the darkness. This possibility was enhanced by the fact that the cat was freaking us out. To paraphrase Brian Fellows, That cat had devil eyes!

So me and Sweaty sit there a bit longer, describing in great detail how FFMatt would probably make us ex-Friendly Friends (and we were calling ourselves that 15 years ago so it story for another time) when we hear it.

It being: BANG (pause) BANG (pause) BANG.

FFSweaty: From the room directly above the living room in which we were sitting.

FFJewbacca: To reset, me and Sweaty and Peepers the cat all in the living room of an electricity-free, pitch black house, waiting for the next coming of Bruce Lee to get home and give us what-for. We both wondered what the noise was and almost simultaneously come to the conclusion that it was Peeper who must have gone up stairs. Sensing our lame attempt to sooth our nerves, Peeper promptly meows at our feet in an “It wasn’t me bitches!” kind of tone.

Then there it is again.

BANG (pause) BANG (pause) BANG.

Exactly the same as before.

I could actually see Sweaty turn pale in the darkness. He said “Get up. Follow me. We need to get out of here NOW.”

I figure this is another Sweaty joke (like the time he sent me for aspirin for his asthma or when he grabbed the lighter out of my car to “show that Trooper” why he shouldn’t write me a ticket) and I just kind of laugh and say “Ok. And by the way, what was that sound?”

We actually run out of the front door of the house, leaving a very bewildered Peeper sitting there.

I keep asking what’s the matter. We get in the car, Sweaty won’t answer. We get about two miles from the house, Sweaty shaking and visibly upset. He finally turns and says:

“That banging was coming from the room where my grandmother died. She used to bang her cane on the floor three times when she wanted someone to come up and get her something.”

I don’t think we spoke again that night.

So there you have it Friends. A true story. My only encounter with a ghost.

FFMatt: So I had a long night running a synagogue (true, no lie) and I headed to my parents house to feed my awesome cat Peeper. I noted that the power is out in the neighborhood again. Peeper is cool with that, he kicked ass and fears no darkness. I pull in the driveway, come in through the back door…

… memories are memorable when an emotional charge burns what you experience with your senses into that monkey brain you rent. Here’s what I felt:

I remember a bank of moonlight coming through the back kitchen window into my face and against the wall. I remember seeing dust motes swimming through that moonlight, glowing against the blue-black interior rooms behind it like a bedsheet rippling on black water. I remember my inner monologue parsing things like, “stirred air” and “something not Peeper here.” Also, the lack of the cat coming to greet me… well, that was it. In that one second of time I ran over eleventy seven scenarios that all involved "somebody not a cat in the house" or "somebody had just been there." I still had my hand on the half-open door. I was standing still in mid-step. Unblinking, I calmly but urgently backed out of the door, drove to the end of the driveway and watched the dark house for a few minutes.

Pure instinct. I drove home to Philly. WTF.

I think it was two days later Sweaty got ahold of me and once he said he was at the house that night we barked over each other to say what happened next.

I think I knew somebody was just in the place and I reacted well enough but when Sweaty and Jewbacca added the wrinkle about Mom Mom and her cane I lost it.

I was there when she died, when she came home to die in our care with loved ones. I got her ice when she banged her cane on the floor because she had stroked and couldn’t speak anymore.

Hearing that of all things broke something inside me for good.

Peeper was fine.

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