Before I tell this story, I should probably make one thing clear.
I’m a ghost.
Not one of those translucent, floaty ones in Ghostbusters, or the cute little kid variation of Casper, but somewhere in between.
A completely invisible 20-something-year-old man. Well, I was twenty when I died. I’ve lost track of how many years it’s been. But that’s not relevant.
Now that we’ve got that important little tidbit taken care of, I can begin.
This one family has been showing up to my cemetery on December 30 of each year (the closest they can get to the year’s end without ruining their New Year’s Eve), and they always end up arguing and yelling at each other. Dysfunctional, if I’ve ever seen it, and believe me, I have.
Nick and Rachel. Late twenties, married, adorable couple. Rachel didn’t start coming here with Nick and his family until a few years ago and clearly had no idea what was going on.
Titus. Nick and Rachel’s 6-year-old. He doesn’t ever have much to say, especially at the strange family gatherings in the cemetery. I don’t blame him—if my family spent the 15-minute session of time fighting, I’d stay out of it, too.
April. Nick’s sister, Titus’s aunt, Rachel’s sister-in-law. You get the idea. A good deal older than Nick and thinks she runs the world. April typically ends up winning the arguments, which wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Evelyn.
Evelyn. Nick and April’s mother, Rachel’s mother-in-law, and Titus’s grandma. I don’t stereotype people often, but Evelyn is a unique case in more ways than one. Think crazy-grandma-type. That’s really all you need to know about her beforehand—her side of the story is pretty self-explanatory.
What story? And what are these arguments I keep talking about?
Well, this is where the story gets interesting.
December 30, 2019. It was an average, cold, snowy night. I’d wandered around the nearby neighborhood earlier, listened in on a few families’ conversations regarding fireworks and New Year’s Eve. When I returned to the cemetery, the Peters were already there.
“Why do we always come here?” Titus asked after an eternity of silence. Nick didn’t turn his eyes away from the gravestone.
“Why do we always come here? Why do we always come here?” Evelyn stood straighter. “Listen to me, little Titus. We come here because this gravestone is for your dear grandfather Arden.”
According to her family, this is among the many things that Evelyn has wrong, but I don’t mind her eclectic side of the story. She’ll be joining me someday soon, anyways.
“How did he die?” Titus asked.
There it was. The shot heard round the cemetery.
“Well, you see, your Aunt April—”
“Mom,” April cut in, glaring at her. “Let me explain.”
“I really don’t think—” Nick started in vain.
April cut him off. “It was a heart attack. Simple as that.”
Evelyn shook her head. “No, no, no, sweetie. We both know it was that little rascal you brought home with you. What was his name? Mill?”
“Mike,” April growled. “And it wasn’t Mike.”
You see, Evelyn’s “Arden” died young, before Nick and April knew him, and Evelyn...well. You’ve met Evelyn. So Titus’s question, one that had been repeated by Nick and April for years when they were young, had never been answered.
“Why don’t we just finish paying our respects and then go?” Nick suggested.
Rachel nodded in agreement, but said nothing. Even I, from my invisible place atop the headstone, could read the utter confusion in her eyes.
This was going to be fun.
I was tired of these five coming into my cemetery, ruining my December 30, just to fight. It was time for a party trick.
Not many people are aware of this, but when that one sock goes missing in the dryer and shows up under your bed sheets a week later? Well, that’s not coincidence. Ghosts like me have a knack for making things disappear. We can’t keep things lost, unfortunately—they always reappear in a place the owner will find them—but it’s fun to cause a little mischief once in a while.
And for what better purpose than to bring a dysfunctional family back together?
With that, everything in Nick’s, Rachel’s, and April’s pockets disappeared.
Don’t worry, they all materialized in Evelyn’s house at some point in the next week.
A few minutes of tense silence later, Nick fished in his pocket for his keys.
“Rach?” he whispered.
“Do you have the keys?”
“No. You have them.”
“I just checked.”
Rachel glanced at him as she reached for her purse.
“I don’t have them, either,” she said quietly after she searched.
“Titus, did you take Daddy’s keys?” Nick asked him.
He shook his head. “I don’t have pockets.”
He was right.
Nick’s eyes widened. “Maybe I left them in the car?”
“You’d better check.”
Nick jogged off toward the parking lot.
April had a similar experience. She reached in her purse and her hand came up empty. “Mom?”
Evelyn turned toward her. “What?”
“Have you seen my keys?”
“Why would I have seen your keys? April, honey, I’ve told you. You’ve got to be more responsible!”
“Mom, I’m not kidding."
“Neither am I! Ever since Mill-”
“Mike,” April grumbled. Evelyn ignored her.
“-you’ve been so irresponsible. If it were up to me, you would’ve stayed in my house until you learned how to take care of yourself!”
Nick interrupted them, returning from his useless parking lot trip. “They’re not there.”
“Your keys are missing too?” April demanded.
Nick nodded. “Evelyn, you have yours?”
“Of course I have my keys! I was just telling your sister how irresponsible she is—”
“Great. Listen, Mom, I don’t have my keys with me, either. Can you take me home?”
Evelyn rolled her eyes. “Sure, as long as you haven’t lost your house keys, too.”
Nick reached into his pocket again, glanced at Rachel, and sighed.
“Don’t tell me you forgot those, too,” Evelyn grumbled.
“I didn’t forget them! I swear, they were right here in my pocket!”
“And what, a ghost took them?” April smirked.
Nick glared at her.
I laughed harder.
“Don’t worry about it,” April continued. “You can stay at my house until you get this taken care of.”
“Great. Thanks, April.”
“No problem.” She reached into her purse and paused, then muttered a curse.
“What’s wrong, April? Ghost got your keys, too?”
Her eyes narrowed as she searched harder. “Not funny, Nick.”
“I know it’s not. That’s why I have to sleep at your house tonight.”
April huffed out a frustrated breath. “Nobody’s sleeping at my house tonight, either.”
All eyes turned to Evelyn, who groaned.
“Don’t you all have those fancy apps on your phones that can control your house or something? I’ll never get one of those, by the way. The government uses it to spy on you, you know.”
Nick sighed. “Yes, Mom, I know. I’ll take care of it in the morning, but can I spend the night with you?”
Evelyn hesitated. “Fine. And April, too, I’m assuming.”
April didn’t look too happy about it, but she nodded anyway.
“Alright. Get in the car.”
I won’t know what happened to that family until next December 30, when they’ll come back to the cemetery to visit Arden, but I can hope that my little prank had some good effects.
And that Nick and April found their keys.
Tradition, especially that of visiting a dead relative, is supposed to bring people closer together, not tear them apart. And now, I’ve taken it upon myself to make that happen, even if it requires a bit of ghostly intervention.
And the best part?
I’m not Evelyn’s ‘Arden,’ if that’s what his name was. I’m just a random witness to whatever you’re supposed to call this strange family.
But even though I’m invisible, I don’t want to just be a spectator. I want to make a difference.
Being dead and all, that’s a bit of a challenge, but I make it work.
So, that’s the first of my tales from beyond the grave. I might have more, I might not. Even in my current state, I can’t see the future. But my new mission is to keep doing things like this. Keep bringing people together. Keep making a difference, even if I have to snap my fingers and make some car keys vanish.
And keep making socks disappear in the dryer.