“Sharon? Sharon are you down there? Hello?” The voice floated down from the ceiling above. A translucent blob of white that might have been the last remnants of an early morning fog wriggled back and forth attempting to free itself.
Sharon, an elderly woman sporting a shocking blue perm with swatches of white hair streaking through it rolled slowly into the room her wheelchair squeaking pleasantly. Her thin frail arms pushed upon the spokes of her chair with a strength they did not show. “Esmerelda?” Her ancient voice cracked from disuse. She looked all about the room for the source of the first voice. “Esmerelda is that you again?” She called once more.
“Sharon? Sharon, can you see me? I think I’ve gotten stuck in the ceiling again!” Esmerelda's voice came down from above.
Sharon raised her bird thin neck upwards searching with her rheumy eyes until they fell on the strange, struggling, cloud-like spot. “Esmerelda!” She bellowed upwards as loud as her cracked voice allowed. “Esmerelda you’ve become lodged again!”
“Of course I have,” Esmerelda called back. “That’s what I’ve been saying!”
“Well, what have you gotten yourself stuck on this time?” Sharon rolled her chair past the small decorative tea table that took up most of the room to a wall phone that appeared to be as old as its owner, if not older.
“I think there’s still a residue of Ghost Away up here. That last tenant of yours mopped the floor with the filthy stuff so often I keep getting stuck in it. Sharon are you still there?”
“Of course I’m still here,” Sharon called as she plopped a thick dust covered phone book on her lap. “Where do you think I’m gonna go Esmerelda? Stuck in this chair as I am!” She began flipping as quickly as her fragile fingers would allow through the faded pages.
“Well, what are you doing down there?” Esmerelda demanded as her straining and struggling forced her down through the floor a few more inches so the translucent cloud appeared to be spreading downward and outward from its original spot.
“Calling the exorcist of course,” Sharon hollered up at her.
“Exorcist?” Esmerelda wailed in panic. “You trying to get rid of me Sharon? After all these years? I thought I was your best friend!”
“Oh shut up Esmerelda! Exorcists get ghosts out of places they don’t want to be!” Sharon explained loudly.
“By sending them to the beyond Sharon! Exorcist kill ghost!”
“No they don’t,” Sharon pushawed her friend. “Now let me find the number so we can get on with lunch. I haven’t eaten in ages!”
“You haven’t eaten in ages? I’ve been dead for six years! Do you have any idea how many times ghosts get to eat? Do you?” Esmerelda attempted once more to force herself free of the ceiling. “Never!” She called out as her attempt fell flat leaving her stuck half in and half out of the ceiling.
“Oh just calm down,” Sharon rumbled irritably. “I’m sure there is an exorcist in here somewhere!”
“I don’t want an exorcist!” Esmerelda insisted. “Can’t you just pull me down? Or come up here and push me through?”
“Have you finally,” Sharon rolled her eyes at the ceiling. “Lost what little mind you have left? How am I suppose to get this chair up the stairs?”
“Well, you should’ve replaced that awful tenant of yours by now. Then we wouldn’t be stuck in this mess!”
“We? I am not stuck anywhere! It’s your non-corporeal fanny that can’t seem to make it to tea without causing an upset!”
“Oh no,” Esmerelda hissed back, “you’re the one who allowed that absurdly superstitious man to douse the place in Ghost Away! How am I suppose to get around when the living are setting traps for me everywhere?”
“Traps?” Sharon called out mortified by the idea. “Gordon was hardly setting traps! The man simply could not stand you popping up in his shower one more time!”
“Once!” Esmerelda screeched from above. “Once I pop into the wrong room at the wrong time and he turns the whole place into an anti-ghost zone!”
“Oh it was more than once and you know it! The poor man saw your face in the bathroom mirror more than his own. Besides I’ve already advertised for a new tenant. She should be along any time now.”
“Really?” Esmerelda asked as her bottom half slid down minutely. Now it appeared as if the cloud was getting ready to fall from the ceiling like a loose droplet of water just waiting for a good shake.
“And when were you going to tell me about this new tenant?” Esmerelda continued.
“Well, if you,” Sharon raised her voice accusingly. “Had not gotten stuck in the floor again, or the ceiling, or whichever it is. I would have told you all about it over tea!”
“So tell me now.” Esmerelda insisted as she continued to struggle with the residual Ghost Away.
“But,” Sharon indicated the phone book on her lap. “I have to find the number for the Exorcist!”
“Here!” Her excitement rose as her fingers ran across the listing for Jay Reilly Exorcist. “I’ve found the listing! Just you wait they’ll have you out in no tie!”
“The listing for who? Don’t you call no exorcist on me!” There was a shudder as Esmerelda forced a thin whispy arm down through the floor. “You old bat just wait until you die! I’ll throttle you for this!”
“You’ll throttle me, will you?” Sharon slapped her finger down on Jay Reilly’s name. “Just wait until I get the exorcist over here you crazy pile of old bones! I’ll have him do more than get you out of the floor!”
“He is not going to get me out of the floor! He is going,” Esmerelda shrieked loudly. “To banish me!” She paused to see if this registered but Sharon gave no reply. “From your life! Is that what you want? You want me to go away forever Sharon?”
“Maybe Esmerelda,” Sharon taunted, “if you can’t stop getting stuck in the floor all the time.”
“I do not!” Esmerelda bellowed shaking the ceiling violently but remaining stuck none the less.
“And blaming me for it!” Sharon continued as if Esmerelda had not shaken the house.
“Who blames you?” Esmerelda's strained voice called.
“You do!” Sharon rolled her chair so that she was positioned directly below the apparition. “You hear me? You do!”
“No, I don’t!” Esmerelda raised her voice insistently.
“Oh,” Sharon felt herself calming as the memory of why she was angry began to fade as so many others often did. “Well then get down here and have some tea with me, dear.”
“I would,” Esmereldas’ second arm wriggled its way free of the ceiling. “If I could just get free!” Now both of her palms were straining against the ceiling to free herself from the shoulders up.
Suddenly a loud clanging sound echoed through the house. “Oh,” Sharon's’ face lit up excitedly, “she’s here!” She cried.
“Come along Esmerelda let’s meet her!” Sharon trundled along towards the door stopping long enough to settle the phone book onto the table.
“Sharon! Sharon don’t leave me stuck here alone! Sharon!” Esmerelda struggled valiantly. Her ghostly form went opaque as she strained against the Ghost Away to no avail. Somehow her chin was jammed between the top board of the floor above and the plaster mud of the ceiling below. “Come on now,” she pleaded not realizing the room below was empty. “I don’t want to meet people with my bottom hanging out at them! How rude do you think I am? Sharon? Sharon help me!”
“Come along in here dear,” Sharon's voice preceded her into the room as she rolled along accompanied by a young female college student. “We’ll have some tea while we talk over the details.”
“Oh that would be nice,” the girl replied as she settled herself into a chair.
“Sharon, are you entertaining without me?” Esmerelda demanded to know as she thrashed about wildly in her latest attempt to free her head.
“Esmerelda hush!” Sharon demanded looking up at her friend's lumpy bottom side struggling with the ceiling. “I’m trying to talk details with Toni!”
Following Sharon's gaze upward Toni started at the sight of the apparition poking down through the ceiling at them. “Whoa,” she laughed uncomfortably.
“Don’t worry about her dear,” Sharon instructed the young woman. “She is always getting stuck in the strangest of places.”
“Toni?” Esmerelda sounded confused. “I thought you said it was a young woman?”
“I am,” Toni replied for herself as she stared up at the bottom half of Esmerelda. “What,” she asked sounding concerned. “Are you stuck on?”
“The ceiling dear,” Esmerelda explained as if she were merely talking about being in the next room. “The last tenant coated the floor up here with Ghost Away and I’ve become stuck in the remnants of his bad wash job. Do you think you could help me? Sharon just can’t get out of her chair anymore.”
“Of course,” Toni looked around but saw nothing high enough to stand on save for the tea table. “Do you mind?” She asked Sharon indicating the table.
“Oh no dear,” Sharon smiled brightly glad for the afternoons' diversion. “Go ahead.” She watched as Toni climbed onto the table wrapped her fingers into the chilly, cosmic, ecto-plasma cloud that makes up the dead pulling down for all she was worth. For her part, Esmerelda went as solid as she could manage without solidifying her neck or head and thus lodging herself even worse.
With a wet, slimy, popping, gush of air Esmerelda came crashing free of the ceiling. Toni stumbled back her bum smacking against the table as she sat down hard. Esmerelda came loose whizzing about the room aerially shaking herself into solidity.
“Thank you, thank you!” She gushed as she joined them on the ground. Toni slid across the tea table until she could crawl back into her chair watching as Esmerelda floated about.
“No problem,” she gave a nervous smile as Sharon began to pour three cups of tea. “My Granny Stewart gets stuck in the kitchen wall all the time. If you want I can re-strip the floors up there to get rid of the Ghost Away.”
Esmerelda smiled her translucent smile as her fingers rested on the cup of hot tea she could not drink and her free hand lingered near the biscuits she could not eat.
Sharon too seemed content with the young woman as she kept smiling and dunking her biscuit into her tea while nodding approval.
“When can you move in?” Esmerelda asked politely.
“Now Esmerelda!” Sharon scolded. “This is my house!”
“Well,” Esmerelda sputtered angrily. “I live here too!”
“No, you don’t!” Sharon argued happily. “You are dead.” She said matter-of-factly.
“This is where I stay,” Esmerelda pointed emphatically at the floor. “What else would you call it but living here?”
“Haunting us?” Sharon offered. “More specifically you are haunting me.” She paused thoughtfully. “While I live here.”
“Oh well,” Esmerelda floated up from the table in agitation. “I’ve never been so insulted in all my death!”
“Good,” Sharon told her with an emphatic nod. “Everyone should be insulted from time to time it hones the sensibilities.”
“Well,” Esmerelda considered this as she settled back into her chair. “That is true.”
The three ladies sat in pleasant silence for a few moments munching biscuits and sipping tea. Finally, Sharon turned to Toni. “What says you then dearie?”
“The price is right,” Toni replied amiably. “But tell me truthfully. Are you really the only ghost that resides here?”
“Of course dearie,” Esmerelda swelled up proudly as she surveyed her surroundings.
“We would never have a strange ghost living in our home,” Sharon spoke up looking scandalized at the very thought of strange apparitions filling her home.
“Can you imagine strange dead people staying here?” Esmerelda asked Toni in a confidential whisper.
“But you rent out a room to the living?” Toni asked confused.
“Of course dear,” Sharon explained patiently as if talking to the students she once held spellbound with just her voice. “The living respect one another's privacy. Don’t they?”
“And what is that supposed to mean?” Esmerelda asked getting incensed once again. Toni laughed as Sharon began to retort back.
“Why don’t you go haunt up Gordon,” Sharon snapped almost gleefully at the prospect of having come up with the right come back at the right time in as long as she could remember. “Have him explain it to you?”
“How dare you!” Esmerelda hissed as Sharon scowled back at her.
“Ladies,” Toni held up her hand for attention. “Ladies, please.” They both turned their smiling faces at her as if nothing untoward had passed between them. “I’ll take the room,” she pulled out a wad of cash holding it up for them to see. “Here,” she placed it carefully in Sharon’s hand, closing the old woman's fingers firmly around it. “That’s first and last month. I’ll move in tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” Esmerelda placed a spectral hand to her chest. “Oh my what fun we will have decorating.”
Sharon clapped gleefully from her chair. “Oh, good. Do you like purple curtains?”
“No! No, no, no! Those curtains are so,” Esmerelda searched the heavens for a word to fit what she was feeling. “Ugly!” The word came out like an accusation so full of venom that she covered her mouth with both of her ghostly hands.
Sharon took in a great gulp of air giving Toni the in she needed. “Okay, ladies I’ve got some packing to do so,” she stood giving them both a beaming smile, “I’ll see you tomorrow.” She gave a clapping wave goodbye and stepped out of the room before the ladies could pull her into another quaint conversation.
“She seems like such a nice young woman,” she heard Esmerelda gushing to Sharon as she walked out the front door.
Outside Toni approached the little grey car sitting out front with its engine idling. A middle-aged woman whom Toni favored sat waiting for her behind the wheel.
“Hey, mom!” Toni called excitedly as she got into the car. “The place is great, lots of rooms, and there’s only one ghost! Isn’t that a trip!”
“Yeah,” her mom, Rose, smiled at the thought as she pulled the car away from the curb.
“Only one ghost?” A disembodied voice rose up from the back seat. “How can you trust someone who is only friendly enough to have one ghost hanging around?”
“Mother!” Rose scolded. “Don’t judge! Not everyone has a family as large as ours!”
“Don’t you mother her,” a masculine voice spoke up, “she knows what she’s talking about. How many people do you know that have only one ghost haunting them?”
“Not too many,” Rose said thoughtfully. “That old Mr. Rosen only had his wife haunting him.”
“And look how he turned out,” Granny said excitedly. “Haunting an empty house because his wife got tired of his nasty attitude.”
“Granny,” Toni explained to the emptiness of the back seat. “It’s just two really nice, lonely, old ladies who could use a hand around the house.”
“How do you know they’re lonely?” Rose asked curiously as to how her daughter had come to this conclusion in such a short time.
“You’ll just have to meet them, mom,” Toni shrugged.
“Oh well,” the male voice sighed heavily from the back seat. “You don’t go letting them get you involved in any strangeness or I’ll have to come a haunting.”
“Me too,” the female voice threatened.
Toni laughed as the car merged with the traffic of the street before the old three-story house she was soon to call home. “I won’t.” She promised.