42 comments

Funny

Of all the strange things that had happened in Eddie Dent’s life - and death - the incident involving Julia Garcia was perhaps the strangest.

The night had started normally enough. The politics reporter had slammed down her phone, cursed and raced out of the office, late for the city council meeting. The sports reporter had filed on the tennis tournament and also raced out, late for the high school football game. The crime reporter had stayed hunched over his keyboard clicking and clacking, occasionally swearing, until midnight when his wife called. He slammed the office door behind him with a bang.

The darkened newsroom stayed still for a moment or two. Then, a fat cloud erupted from the pencil holder in the managing editor’s office, much like ash spewing from a volcano. That was Eddie. A moment later, silvery sparks fired out of the mass of cables under the desk of the politics reporter. That was Sylvia Sheridan. Then a smoke ring wafted up from the pack of Marlboros the crime reporter hid the back of his file drawer. That was Mr. Wright. And finally, a puff of steam from the coffee maker, accompanied by an “Oh bloody hell.” That was Kurt Haxall. 

It was, in fact, a most ordinary night at the Hamilton Courier-News.

And, as happened on every ordinary night, Eddie’s cloud shouted out to Haxall’s steam, “What’s the deal, Mac?” The cloud shifted, pushed, pulled and jiggled a little until the filmy shape of a stocky man appeared. He wore a derby perched at an angle over his right eye. He’d shoved his press card in the hat band, tucked a pencil behind his ear and held an eternal cigarette in his mouth. He wore a suit vest over a tie and rumpled dress shirt with sleeves that had been long ago rolled past his elbows. 

Eddied floated over to the coffee maker where a wiry young man in baggy cargo pants and a stained t-shirt had flung it against the wall. A keffiyeh hung loosely around his neck and a battered reporter’s notebook stuck out from his back pocket.  He pushed tousled hair back from his forehead and turned angry eyes onto the dregs of coffee splattered against the wall. It was a coffee shortage that had caused Haxall’s untimely death. A rebel blockade had prevented supplies from getting through, including the valued coffee bean. Which meant Haxall was deep in the throes of a brain-crawling hangover when he’d left the Green Zone that morning. Which meant that he’d registered the direction of the gunfire a split second too late.

“You gotta stop doin’ that, Mac,” Eddie said.

“Shut the fuck up.”

“They’re gonna start wondering what’s goin’ on here at night.”

“Stop worrying, Ed. They’ll just think it’s Gary,” said a smooth voice.

The silvery sparks had arranged themselves into the elegant figure of Ms. Syliva Sheridan, the first woman White House Correspondent and the first female network news anchor. Breast cancer had taken her at 67, but not her will to work. She arranged herself at the crime reporter’s (the aforementioned Gary) computer, restacking his papers and settling in for a long night of fact-checking…and fact-fixing.

“C’mon, doll,” Eddie said. “Cantcha just take a night off?”

She turned a hard stare on him.

“Ed. Again. You can’t call women ‘dolls’ anymore.”

“Ok, doll,” he said winking at her. She let the slightest smile escape as she turned back to the computer.

“DENT! HAXALL!” Mr. Wright’s voice boomed through the newsroom and beyond.

Eddie and Haxall flew over to the managing editor’s office where Mr. Wright had taken form, tie askew, sleeves rolled up. He was standing at the desk shaking his head over a stack of papers.

“Get to work, boys. Haxall, you’re on rewrite, clean up the online version too. These kids don’t know how to spell, they can’t put a sentence together.  Dent, story development. This paper…,”  Mr. Wright muttered, forehead wrinkles deepening. The Courier-News was just a small-town weekly, but the falling subscription numbers were just as likely to give him a fatal heart attack as they had when he ran the National Times.

They were all thus engaged when the office door banged open.

Eddie dropped his notebook. Sylvia gasped. Haxall spun around in his chair. And Mr. Wright shot out of the managing editor’s office.  A young woman, arms wrapped awkwardly around a large box overflowing with papers and folders lurched into the newsroom.  Suddenly, the box slipped out of her grip, dumping documents all over the floor.

“Shit,” she said, surveying the mess and pulling her thick hair into a ponytail

The others stared. 

“Who’s the dame?” whispered Eddie.

“Edward.” That was Syliva.

“The girl. Who’s the girl?”

“It’s 1:30,” whispered Haxall. “What’s she even doing here?”

“Who is she?”

“We should help her,” murmured Eddie.

“No,” whispered Mr. Wright a little too loudly. “She can’t know we’re here.”

The young woman looked directly at them, brown eyes unflinching.

“Can she hear us?” whispered Haxall.

“Yes, I can hear you,” she said, irritation unmistakable. “And I can see you. I can see through you too. Who are you? Ghosts?” 

She took a step toward them and they drifted back, unable to speak.

“So now you’re not talking. My God, what a day.” She started gathering up the papers as the group huddled together watching. After a moment, she rocked back on her heels and looked up.

“Some help here? Can’t you put this all back together with a mind trick or something? Don’t you have ghost powers?”

Eddie drifted toward her with a grin.

“No powers, Miss, but I am at your service. Eddie Dent.”

“Julia. Julia Garcia,” she answered.

Eddie joined her in moving the papers back into the box. 

“What are you doing here, Miss Julia?”

She paused and stared at him.

“ME? What are YOU – all of you – doing here? You’re dressed kind of funny,” she said, taking in his hat and vest.

“Not for 1918, Miss.” 

She stood up, put her hands on her hips and faced Eddie and the others, who were still bunched together.

“Ok,” she said. “I don’t have a lot of time here. Let’s sort this out. I’m Julia Garcia. I’m 23-years-old. I’m Cuban-American. I started working here three days ago. I already have an exclusive and I intend to have many more,” she said gesturing to the box.

She pointed to Eddie.

“You, Eddie Dent. What’s your story?”

He just stared at her, for once in his life – and death – at a loss for words.

“Who did you work for?” she asked.

“Er…The Boston Post,” he said.

“How and when did you die?” she asked.

“We don’t talk about that, Miss Garcia,” Sylvia interjected.

“No, it’s ok, Slys,” Eddie said, facing Julia. “I died on January 15, 1919 in Boston. I was on the street. I’d just finished an interview. The ground started shaking. There was a loud noise, like thunder. People were screaming and wind knocked me down. And then there was this great rush of hot molasses down the street and it came over me. That’s all I remember.”

Julia stared at him.

“You drowned in molasses?”

“You said it.”

“Do you know how crazy that sounds?”

“21 people died that day. They called it the Great Molasses Flood. A molasses tank collapsed.”

Julia grabbed her phone and Googled the Great Molasses Flood.

When she looked up at him, her gaze had softened ever so slightly.

“Huh. Well I’m sorry, Eddie. Hell of a way to go,” she said.

“No sweat, doll. But I would’ve loved to cover it,” he said. “What a story! Damn sorry I missed it.”

He turned to the others and pointed one by one.

“Hallax, war correspondent, shot last year. Sylvia, ace reporter, first woman everything, cancer, 1980s. Mr. Wright, executive editor, heart attack at his desk, 1965. Now, I got one for you. Why aren’t you afraid of us?”

Julia smirked.

“Are you going to hurt me?” she asked.

“Not a dame with drumsticks like yours,” Eddie said winking.

“Eddie!” Sylvia admonished.

“She don’t like how I talk to girls,” Eddie whispered to Julia. And for the first time that night, Julia giggled.

“It’s kind of funny,” she said. “You sound like someone in a movie.”

“So why are you guys here?” she asked. “Did something terrible happen in this office or something? Are you restless spirits? Do you have to resolve something before moving on?”

Mr. Wright drifted toward her.

“We are journalists, young lady. We hold the Fourth Estate and the pursuit of truth as the most noble of vocations and even death could not part us,” he stated imperiously.

“We’re adrenaline junkies, man. Love the rush,” Haxall said.

“This newspaper is failing and needed our help. Even if they don’t know it,” said Sylvia.

“This job – it’s aces,” said Eddie.

Julia looked from the group to her box and back to the group.

“So you can read?”

Outraged exclamations from the group. 

“Ok, ok – I didn’t know,” Julia said. “So listen. I have a story. The representative for this district – his name’s Dan Morton….so I have a source who told me he’s embezzling campaign donations and spending on crazy stuff – like, luxury vacations, boats, gifts. All of this –“ she gestured to the papers in the box. “That’s the proof. Records on everything. I just picked it up from my source a little while ago. But here’s the thing. It’s going to take me forever to go through all that and write a really solid story. I’m afraid the other papers around here, the bigger ones, the TV stations – they’ll get this and scoop me. But –"

“We’ll help!” Eddie flew to the box and started throwing papers in.

Mr. Wright started handing out assignments.

“Sheridan, Haxall – fact-checking! Dent, you and I will work through those records. Garcia, you start drafting your story. Deadline: sunrise. Go!”

They worked quickly and through the night. The next day, The Hamilton Courier-News broke the story: Representative Dan Morton Accused of Misusing Campaign Funds. A few days later: Dan Morton, Wife Admit to Stealing Campaign Funds. And some time after that: Dan Morton, Wife Sentenced to One Year in Jail. The national papers and networks piled on after the big scoop, crediting the Courier-News and giving the paper a shot of life.

And that’s how it all started for Julia, Eddie, Sylvia, Haxall and Mr. Wright. Julia quickly jumped to the Charlotte Observer and then to the New York Times. The group floated along with her, hovering in the shadows, emerging at night to work. The years passed and their reporting got an innocent man off Death Row, helped a Muslim refugee start a new life, saved one presidency and brought down another. They covered wars and coups, triumphs and tragedies.

These days, the newsrooms are busier through the night, but the group moves furtively and remains undetected. Eddie erupts as a cloud from Julia’s pencil holder. Syliva sparks out of Julia’s computer cables. Mr. Wright drifts out of Julia’s Pulitzer because he can’t find any hidden cigarettes. Hallax steams out of Julia’s desktop Keurig and throws it against the wall. Julia enters her office and they gather around her desk for their nightly meeting. It’s an ordinary night in the newsroom.

And they get to work.   

August 28, 2020 16:59

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42 comments

Rhondalise Mitza
01:50 Aug 30, 2020

Oh, this was inventive AND well written! I love it when people manage to pull that off. It was funny and witty and I could tell you enjoyed writing it. :) Love your stories, Kristin. Your voice always stays true even with changing narratives.

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Kristin Neubauer
16:25 Aug 30, 2020

Thanks so much Rhondalise! I've played around with some other voices in drafts - trying to imitate many of the fantastic writers I read on here. But I never quite seem to get it right and tend to revert back to my old style. Maybe that all comes with practice and writing consistency. I really appreciate your kind words and encouragement - keeps me motivated!

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Sam Kirk
17:44 Sep 03, 2020

This was so creative. It was an entertaining read for sure. The only question I have it why the new girl can see/ hear them. Is there something special about her?

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Kristin Neubauer
22:14 Sep 03, 2020

Thanks so much, Sam! That is a great question and I have no idea why Julia can see them. I never thought about it! I don't plan on doing anything else with this story, but if for some reason I ever do, I will be sure to find a reason for why she can see them. Thanks for the observation!

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Arvind Kashyap
08:17 Sep 03, 2020

You have aptly dealt with a complicated plot. Great

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Kristin Neubauer
22:07 Sep 03, 2020

Thank you, Arvind!

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Gavino Garay
05:53 Sep 03, 2020

What a distinct, witty, and truly creative writing style! Some great symbolism behind the characters.

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Kristin Neubauer
13:49 Sep 03, 2020

Thanks Gavino! There are so many times in the newsroom when I think a little supernatural help would be most welcome 🤣

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C. Jay Loren
02:56 Sep 03, 2020

Love it! Such creativity! I liked how in a fairly short story you managed to establish the characters well and even managed a few chuckles. Good job! :)

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Kristin Neubauer
22:01 Sep 03, 2020

Thanks so much, C. Jay....I was giggling as I wrote it 😊

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Thom Brodkin
23:44 Sep 02, 2020

Fantastic. It was funny but it’s so much more. It’s a great story. I could see it as a movie or even potentially a series. You have such a talent for description and dialogue. This was top notch. Great job.

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Kristin Neubauer
23:48 Sep 02, 2020

Thanks so much, Thom! That means a lot after reading YOUR fantastic writing. I'm actually at work right now with a pile of edits to do and wishing I had some supernatural help!

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C.J 🤍
20:07 Sep 02, 2020

Hilarious! it was funny !!!! Keep writing. Could you please read my story?

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Kristin Neubauer
22:49 Sep 02, 2020

Thanks so much, Elizabeth. Yes, I'm heading over to your story right now!

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Doubra Akika
07:53 Sep 02, 2020

I loved this, Kristin! All the little bits of humour in-between was amazing! Your writing is honestly so fantastic and you characters were so amazing as well. I feel like if I ever heard them talk today, I'd be able to predict who said what, like Eddie. I love your writing Kristin and I always learn something new. I'm so glad I read this. Hope you're having a blessed day and staying safe!

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Kristin Neubauer
22:24 Sep 02, 2020

Oh Doubra....your feedback always makes me smile and glow. 😊Thank you thank you. I learn something too when I'm writing because I usually have to do some bit of research - like for this one, I'd never heard of the Great Molasses Flood...but now I know! Thanks again and you stay safe as well!

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Doubra Akika
22:45 Sep 02, 2020

I'm so happy my feedback makes you pleased! Whenever you have something new just let me know! I'd never heard of it either until I read your story! That was something I learned. And thanks as well!

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S. M
00:32 Sep 01, 2020

Beautifully written!

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Kristin Neubauer
15:32 Sep 01, 2020

Thank you so much!

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Skyler Woods
17:09 Aug 30, 2020

This was so delightfully funny! It was like Casper meets The Office. I felt sorry for Eddie, Sylvia, Mr. Wright and Hallax! At least they get to enjoy their jobs again with Julia! No unemployment in the afterlife! 😆

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Kristin Neubauer
17:10 Aug 30, 2020

Hah! Thanks so much, Sklyer! I had lots of fun writing it and I appreciate your kind words!

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Vanessa Marczan
09:14 Aug 30, 2020

Hey Kristin, this is just brilliant! I really loved it. Such awesome characters, really solid dialogue. Thank you 🙏

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Kristin Neubauer
16:34 Aug 30, 2020

Thank you so much, Vanessa - your kind words mean a lot, especially after reading your remarkable story!

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M Daly
07:23 Aug 29, 2020

Brilliant story, so engaging and entertaining. I loved the how distinct each character was. Also, I could certainly do with some ghostly assistance at work!!

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Kristin Neubauer
17:29 Aug 29, 2020

Thank you so much! I appreciate the kind words, especially after seeing how brilliantly you write .... and yes to ghostly assistance at work! We are all so short-staffed these days.

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Rayhan Hidayat
07:08 Aug 29, 2020

I LOVE this! The humor was spot on, that guy drowning in molasses got a good chuckle out of me. A lot of people seem to be doing the paranormal for this contest and this might be my favorite take on the genre so far, friendly ghosts are just so fun haha. The opening with them materializing all over the newsroom was so well done, good job on that. Keep at it, this was an awesome read! 😙

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Kristin Neubauer
17:26 Aug 29, 2020

Thank you so much! It means a lot to hear your feedback, Rayhan...especially after just reading your amazing story. Writing about ghosts is generally way outside my structured lines, but I'm trying hard to be more creative and loose, so I figured this was worth a try 😊

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Jonathan Blaauw
07:03 Aug 29, 2020

I can’t believe that even in a crazy week in the news world, in what’s been a crazy year, you still found time to write not just a story, but a great story! Ghosts have been done to death (ha ha) but there’s life in them yet with new perspectives, just like you’ve done. I recently read and commented on a story where there were too many characters which caused a bit of confusion for the reader. Or me, at least. You’ve also got lots of characters, but it’s crystal clear who’s who in the zoo because you ground them each in their own, individua...

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Kristin Neubauer
17:23 Aug 29, 2020

Thanks so much, Jonathan! As always, I have learned from your comment .... in this case, keeping the characters limited and grounded in their traits. One of the reasons it takes me so much longer to write than many others on Reedsy is that my go at my stories often result in something really complex that goes on and on and on. And then I go through the process of simplify, simplify, simplify. I am hoping that as I write more, I get more of a handle on it and start figuring out how to simplify right from the start. I had fun with this sto...

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05:23 Aug 29, 2020

This is absolutely brilliant. I've always loved your stories although it took me a while to write it. So, a ghost story? I imagined going into my editor's office at night and finding working ghosts. God! I think I might have a heart attack. This is crazy. I'm a journalist too so it was understandable.

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Kristin Neubauer
16:39 Aug 29, 2020

Thanks, Abigail! Given how short-staffed we are these days versus the unending news cycle....I would take any help we could get....otherwordly or not! It's great to meet another journo - who do you work for?

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00:08 Aug 30, 2020

The Nigerian Observer - that's where I work. And it's great, your story.

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Kristin Neubauer
00:42 Aug 30, 2020

I just looked it up online - it looks like you are doing some high quality and important journalism. A friend of mine, Paul Carsten, is the Reuters correspondent in Nigeria - he's based in Lagos. Such an interesting community Reedsy brings together!

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08:23 Aug 30, 2020

I couldn't agree more. It's really nice to see someone here who perfectly understands you.

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Yolanda Wu
23:56 Aug 28, 2020

This was such a fun and interesting story, filled with twists and turns and such fun dialogue that really gave me a good laugh, especially Eddie and his remarks to women. The language you used was just genius, I enjoyed the whole ghost aspect, that really added a lot, taking a new perspective on ghosts in such an intriguing way. It's great that you incorporated parts of your real experiences into this story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading, Kristin!

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Kristin Neubauer
00:29 Aug 29, 2020

Thanks so much, Yolanda! I appreciate that - I had fun writing it 😊

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Kristin Neubauer
17:04 Aug 28, 2020

Author's Note: Many of you already know that I'm a journalist - I'm a video news producer for Reuters in DC. This job involves many overnight shifts which most of us hate because they are busy nights and the overnight producer is completely alone in this huge newsroom. Which can start feeling creepy around 2 or 3 am when the random noises all seem quite loud and strange. I often had the thought that if some ghost showed up during my overnight, I'd put him to work and take a nap. So this story indulged that little fantasy.

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Daniel Hayes
05:52 Apr 05, 2021

Hi Kristin! I thought this story was very creative and full of imagination. I can see some of your background shine through in this one :) I liked how you wrote the dialog in this story. I think it really made it shine and come to life. I also think it's really cool how you added the supernatural element with the ghosts in the newsroom. I'm so glad I read this story, I loved it! Thank you for sharing it ;)

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Kristin Neubauer
13:48 Apr 05, 2021

Thanks so much! I had lots of fun writing it. Every so often, I think about bringing these characters back in another story. Maybe someday!

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Daniel Hayes
15:48 Apr 05, 2021

That would be super cool if you did :)

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The Cold Ice
02:25 Aug 30, 2020

Hilarious story.Great job 👍keep it up.I enjoyed the story. Well written. Would you mind to read my story “The dragon warrior?”

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Kristin Neubauer
16:26 Aug 30, 2020

You bet - I'm going to head over to your page and read it right now. Thanks so much for your kind words!

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