Some women have husbands or jobs or tweens that drive them crazy, but I have a ghost living in my house that drives me up a wall. I am close to blowing the butt off of my ghost for sure! My shotgun loaded, hibernating underneath my bed and sleeping on top of rolls of Christmas wrapping paper.
Lord give me Cain’s coffee ‘n Advil or a vodka tonic, my ghost pinches me when I’m naked in my showe or fully clothed and watering house plants, even pinches me when doing housework after slaving all day at Arvest Bank.
Take just last night. “Lookit ghost!” I yelled, “Ya stop pinchin’ my ass when I’m Hooverin’ my shag den, ya get it? Or I’ll blow yer butt off!”
He pinched my right butt cheek a second then third time.
The ghost wheezed a snotty little laugh that fluttered my chenille taupe den curtains.
I was barefoot ‘n had on purple cargo capris, a color that must get him going.
Billy, Billy Craig’s my ghost’s name. Billy lived here as a human thirty-two year old at 1821 N. Park Street, where I live now, until three months ago. He was killed while driving home from Firelake Grand Casino, Larry the Cable Turd doing a show. ( I say “turd”cuz if you notice, Larry is not slim but he’s always ragging on plus size gals. Not that I am a cow or anything close to it. Still, I support my Big Sassy Sisters. Larry, he’s a sexist man, hence “turd” in my book, picking on the fatties even though he’s a whole wad of flesh himself).
Anyhow, Arvest Bank had the house up for sale two days after Billy’s passing and I snapped like an ole Sugar Creek turtle at that price. Bought it for $58,900; asking price: $83,400.
“Yee haw!” I screamed! “I’m a home owner! Who cares if people on Park Street ‘n all of Shawnee say there’s a ghost living here? It’s not like the foundation cracked or there’s lead or asbestos; just a silly ole rumor about some ghost that jumped the price down.”
Linda the Century 21 gal feeling a man’s eyes on her privates as she peed. Patti Ruth from Prudential reporting a pair of hands on her chest and privates and so forth.
“Oh Foo ‘n Poo,” I said, “N Piggly Wiggly has a naked ghost haunting the milk aisle just as much as there’s a naughty ghost on Park Street.”
1821’s a real cute house. Taupe vinyl siding ‘n pine green shutters, two big pine trees in the front yard ‘n a front porch big enough to shell pecans on in Fall. A big enough porch to house a church pew ‘n some pots of red geraniums-- Heck, a big enough porch to sit on a wicker swing ‘n read about Brad and Angelina Jolie’s latest baby or Euro-escapade. Inside: Big white crown molding ‘n hardwood floors. Glass door knobs ‘n a claw foot tub to boot.
First time I saw 1821 with realtor Patti Ann, I fell in love. Outside in the backyard, I was staring at the pink English rose garden encased in white lattice squares, five by five. I said to myself, “Jo Lene Wilkerson, honey, you are home, woman! You are going to know peace here, in this home.”
I decided right then to name my backyard garden “The Serenity Garden.” I put in eleven more pink English rose bushes and planted a little two foot flagpole and hung my pink breast cancer flag in front of my garden. I can see it each morning from my bedroom window. Then I say the Serenity Prayer.
“I’ll buy this house, this property,” I said all pre-qualified and totally proud. Realtor Patti Ann blinked. I didn’t even need to see the others on the list. Nope, 1821 N. Park Avenue was home.
Married, I was a renter. Before married, we Wilkersons was renters. As a kid, we did white ‘n pink single-wides. Married, rented a red brick duplex twelve years. My Ex-husband Nolen, a bigamist, it turns out, telling me, “Jo Lene, we’ll save up for our own home,” ‘n we never did on account he was married to three other Mrs. Nolen Knowles ‘n now his ass is parked on account of me, myself, and I in the McAlester Penitentiary Big House. I pressed bigamy charges in the State of Oklahoma. Maybe you seen us on A & E? A special on modern day bigamists? Well, Lord give me strength’n Cain’s Coffee,’n a lil’ Zin, he is behind me.
Twelve years with that sorry excuse for a man ‘n no house for real. Nolen had three other wives, along with me: Texas, Arkansas, another one in Ada, Oklahoma, a fiancé in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. That Mississippi Missy with Nolen’s bun in the oven to boot. Shoot, I think I had breast cancer cuz of stressin’ over him. A renter with breast cancer and a cheatin’ husband. That was me. But not now. I’m an independent woman, and a home owner with some baggage, a ghost- man of all the crazy- ass things a woman can encounter. Lord, how did this happen to me, Jolene Wilkerson?
Billy is not just any ghost. He is a special needs ghost. Who the hell (Sorry Jesus, slipping out a curse word), but who has a ghost let alone a special needs ghost? Lord have mercy ‘n chocolate raspberry cheesecake, Billy pinches ass with fingers tight as Granny’s clothespins on the line cuz he tipples. He tipples on my Lambrusco mostly, though Billy isn’t a stranger to my Lime Sherbert Rasberry wine coolers, lo-cal kind. And he is partially deaf . I have to yell in my softball playing voice before he responds to anything I say. I can’t just say in my normal bank teller voice, “Leave my’ ass alone ya dufus!” No, I have to yell, “LEAVE MY ASS ALONE YA DUFUS!”
Okay, the tippling part, the other ‘special needs’ part. I come home from work, look in my lil’ole granny’s sewing machine hutch, an old treadle type style with a teeny trunk where the pedal part used to be. Hooch in the trunk stashed for Christmas and when I need a break from being good ‘n Jesus isn’t looking, well, I take a hit ‘n notice a bottle of Lambrusco, yeah, twist off type, gone. Poof. Guzzled by my free-loading ghost.
Wednesday night, I come home from my teller supervisory job at downtown Arvest to a tipsy ghost; Billy weaving into an oak end table ‘n my adorable table top teeny glass schnauzer with a broken leg lays shattered on my living room shag green rug.
Then wind streams up my skirt crooked. Heck, Billy, he can’t even blow air up my fanny straight let alone walk a straight line. Crashes his dufus drunk ghost- self into a framed photograph ‘n it crashes no matter I had it screw gunned into the wall with a molybolt. Then his laugh like a demented Minnie Pearl on laughin’ gas, “Hee Hee Haaaaw!”
“Dufus ghost! Leave me alone!” I yelled.
Inside the house, an hour later while soaking in my tub, “Call me Billy, please, “ a soft little whisper-man voice outside the bathroom from the dusk of my living room as only the one lamp was on.
“Okay Billy, ugh buddy, lemme grab a robe ‘n grab us some hooch. I’ll pour us each a glass. Tell me your story Bubba. Ya be civil ‘n I will be gracious right back.” I threw on a pink terry cloth robe.
I can never see Billy; I just hear him ‘n feel him looking at me, ‘n pinching me. Still, I know from newspaper pictures what Billy looks like. Five seven, a scrawny red head wearing his hair in a burr, a blue SHS Wolves baseball cap worn backwards. Lots of freckles on his face and arms. Age thirty-two. The rumor is he drove a fire red Mustang with the plate, “BCRocks.” That night, that car ‘n Billy crumpling Dixie cup fast.
Dried off, my pjs and robe secure, I tell Billy in the living room, “Okay Bud, ground rules: No ass pinchin’ or I ‘m callin’ the Pott County Paranormal Detectives to sweep the house, ya git it Billy? I’ll pay that $300. 00 fee in no time. Ya git it, Bubba-Boy? ”
“Yeah, I got it, “ he said all respectful, as if a middle school boy finally understanding that the seventh grade teacher is in charge.
I got us some pink tulip wine glasses I’d found out at Big Lots! I fill the glasses lady-like to the mid-point of each goblet.
“Okay Billy, let’s set our asses out on the back yard deck in chairs by the new bug zapper. I’ll turn the zapper juice down a notch. Now, tell me your story. I’m tired of us fighting like two pigs under a wet blanket.”
That’s been going on for two months now.
“I don’t want it this way neither,” Billy whispered, a little shy tone in his shaky voice. Oh my lands, a shy ghost, I thought to myself. I felt I could pat him on the head and give him a lil’ ole hug. That must be Jesus working in my life, me wanting to be nice to Billy. He was staring at my left hand with the big monarch butterfly ring.
“My Granma Clasby give me her house when she passed, this house, now your house,” Billy said, even pulling out the chair on the deck for me to sit down.
“Yes Mam, I was studying to be a certified taxidermist up in Midwest City, T.J.’s School of Taxidermy. I did two tours of Iraq, decided to get home,” he offered.
“Yeah, I’m listenin’,” I replied.
“I wuz gonna marry Lynette, we dated five years, but she run off with Wayne from second base on the YMCA Adult Baseball team. They run off to get hitched in Guthrie. The night I found out, I went out to Firelake Grand Casino to get hooched up ‘n play some slots ‘n hear Larry the Cable Guy so I could forget her for awhile. I got plowed by an Expedition doin’ 90 ‘n I was doin’ 85 ‘n we banged up head on. Stupid ass me, I was playin’ chicken with my lights out on I-40.”
“Go on Billy, tell me more,” I yell on account of his near deafness.
“ Well next day, I come back home all invisible. My body got hauled off in an ambulance but I just walked back here from the highway to Park Street. Been here ever since I died. I don’t shower no more but I sit in Granma’s house I was gonna share with Lynette ‘n think, “Where’s my bride? My family? Why does this Jo Lene Wilkerson live in my house when I’m supposed to be married to Lynette ‘n livin’ here with her? Then I get bored ‘n sad ‘n drink your hooch ‘n pinch ya on the rear end, sorry,” Billy whispers in the way a sad ghost whispers.
“Well Billy, not that I, Jo Lene Wilkerson is any expert, ” I offer, tearing up a little, “But life is hard, ‘n I guess passing is hard too, honey buns. Four years back, I had breast cancer. Almost died. Stage three. I know I’ve thought a lot about dying and what being dead would be like. Not to change the subject though, but since you are residing here, can ya’ not guzzle my hooch ‘n leave my ass alone? Wanna pray about it? Joyce Meyer on T.V. in a little bit.”
The bug zapper is working over some moths ‘n flies real good tonight. They sound like A.M. radio static. My giant magnolia tree perfumes the whole back yard.
Billy sniffles, “Yeah, I um, drink too much, but ghosts can’t go to A.A., or get an A.A. sponsor; I used to have an AA sponsor, his name was Big John. I seen him riding his Harley to a meeting cuz sometimes I walk to Kickapoo Street and stand across from A.A.; it’s in the outta business Taco Tico ‘n yeah, okay, I’ll leave yer ass alone, I will pray.”
Holding his invisible hands at the table underneath the bug zapper in the back yard, I say, “Lord, help Mr. Billy’s soul settle down ‘n help Mr. Billy get off the hooch. Lord and Great Maker, help Billy settle where he’s supposed to root even if that’s right here in this house; we look to your guidance Oh Lord of the Heavens. Amen.”
“Billy, “ I say, “ya live here ‘n protect me from spooks who are burglars ‘n don’t touch my ass or blow up my fanny and we’re good to go. A little hooch, well, Jesus drank wine, just don’t hooch every darn day, okay?”
“Billy,” I add, “I’m sorry you died just trying to fight your pain over Lynette. Lord knows, I felt like dying when I found out my Nolen was a bigamist.”
Billy raises his glass in a toast, “We’re good,” he says, “N I’d like to stay under your roof unless Jesus wants to move my soul. He gives me a Brother-Sis hug.
Come 11:00 p.m., Billy and me still rooted to the deck, sitting at the card table I have planted to my deck. I feel Billy staring at my left boob, the one that’s still a part of me, the real boob; the right one gone, cut off due to the cancer. A curiosity I guess, one boob bigger than the flat space where the other one lived, me not wearing the fake boob in the bra after a shower this late at night.
Billy tells me about visiting his Granma Clasby in this house when he was a kid. “Grams used to have my birthday parties here. She’d smush tube socks from Dollar store inside a Pringles can wrapped in birthday paper. She’d pretend that’s all I’d get then we’d cut chocolate cake with M&M’s on top. Right out here on the deck I’d blow all the candles out,” Billy says. Lotsa cousins and kids from school. “Then Granma’d say, ‘Oh Look Billy! Is that a train set? Willie, the Black handy-man, he’d bring out a train set or a bike with a banana seat or whatever she’d saved those Green Stamps for.”
Billy smiles and stares at the crepe myrtle tree, a mountain of a pink tree in the backyard; his Granma must’ve planted it way back when.
We sit in silence for about ten minutes then Billy farts ‘n asks, “More wine please, Miss Jo Lene?”
I get the jar of hooch ‘n say, “Okay Mister, just one more half-glass.”
Billy downs his hooch in a quiet way and does not burp or touch my ass, at least not this night.
Amy Wilson has recently published in Westview, Crosstimbers, Red River Review, Southern Women's Reivew, Columbia: A Magazine of Poetry and Prose, and other journals. Her chapbook, Honk if you Love Billy Ray: Poems from Potawatomie. County is forthcoming from Pudding House Publications. Amy holds an M.F.A. from Columbia University. When not working or writing, she volunteers with several animal rescue organizations in rural Central Oklahoma. She lives in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Her novel, The Fine Life of Mrs. Delbert L. Smith is represented by Betsy Lerner Agency, New York, New York