Ghost of a Punk Band Past

Submitted into Contest #221 in response to: Write a story where ghosts and the living coexist.... view prompt

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Fiction Friendship

“I’ve booked your ticket on Delta, and a suite in the inn on St. Peter’s street that my family owns.  They always give me a deal. It is a lovely suite. It has a fridge, coffee maker, living room and dining space. My Aunt said she is happy to have you to dinner for home cooked meals. We will also give you a card for food and entertainment. If helping the new office to open takes a little longer than a month, are you willing to stay a little longer?”.

               “I am. It’s not like I have anything that would limit my time in New Orleans. I have a friend that lives there, so, it will be nice to see her”.

               “You really are a life saver, Reg. I was going to help with opening the new office and store, but Dad isn’t doing well.”

               “Don’t worry. I will make sure things run smoothly. Just take time to be with your dad”, I assured my boss, Sue. I never expected the field of books and publishing to take me to New Orleans. My company was much like a Scholastic, but smaller, so, we didn’t have multiple offices or stores. My job was to help with hiring, planning opening events, and marketing at the new locations. I would leave the week before Thanksgiving and be back before the new year. 

               “I should probably start to pack, shouldn’t I?”, I asked Sue.

               “Hey. I am a pack the night before person, so, I am not going to tell you what to do”.

               “I leave Thursday, so, I guess I’ll start tonight. My dinner date for tonight cancelled on me earlier”.

               “Same guy that cancelled before?”.

               “Yep. I don’t get it, I am smart. I have accomplished a thing or two for a 38-year-old. I’m not ugly.”

               “Honey, you are intelligent, and beautiful inside and out. I would kill for your aqua marine eyes, and that thick wavy hair of yours, not to mention those eye lashes that never need mascara. Some men just have a complex when it comes to women who are accomplished. You don’t need those men. You need a man who can be your partner and equal.”

               “I do!”.

               “Hey. Maybe you will meet him in New Orleans.”.

               “You never know. Well, I am headed out. Have a great weekend.  

               “You to Reggie”.

               “Thanks”. I left my office and walked to my favorite restaurant and bar The Hill Tavern. Had my date not cancelled a second time we were going to meet at Legal Sea Food, but I wanted a burger, and the Hill was an easy walk home. I walked in the door and was greeted by my friend Sal behind the bar.

               “Hey. What are you doing here tonight? Didn’t you have a date?”.

               “Yep. He cancelled. AGAIN.”

               “Man, Reg. I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine”.

“No it isn’t. You are a rad human. He doesn’t know what he is missing out on”.

“You are sweet. Thanks”. He poured me his famous green tea shot.

“Here. This is on me”.

“How did you know I needed this?”.

“I just figured”.

“Thank you”. 

“So what are you having tonight? Your usual?”.

“Tonight, I will start with clam chowder instead of nachos. I’ll do a burger, no raw onion but sauteed instead, with bleu cheese, bacon, and an egg on top and I’ll do a side of mashed potatoes but have an additional side of veggies please. I am starving. I didn’t eat lunch.”

“That sounds like the perfect meal for a chilly night.”

“That was my thought”. He put my order into the computer.

“Anything to drink?”.

“I’ll do a Sam Adam’s pumpkin please”. He poured it for me.

“So, are we still good for me staying at your place while you are gone to watch the cat? They are still doing the renovations to the building and apartment I am supposed to move into and I must be out before Thanksgiving. It is ridiculous”.

“We are. I leave on the 16th so you can get in then. I will bring you a copy of my key the night before. Even if by the time I get back you need a place, you can sleep on my pullout in my study. I’ll leave you what should be enough cat food for a month, and the key to my mailbox too if you are ok with getting the mail. I have some succulents too but they don’t require much care. They just need a periodic water.”

“I can do that”.

“Awesome”. As I sat drinking and eating, I enjoyed the punk type of playlist that Sal had playing. I ate as a song by a punk artist I liked who died of an OD sang about memories. Having lived in Brooklyn for a bit, I was a fan of NYC punk. When I was done eating and drinking, I paid my tab, and hugged Sal bye.

“Will you be in for brunch tomorrow?”.

“Maybe”.

“Ok. Have a good night!”.

“You too”. When I got home, I took a shower and got to packing. I packed a train case of books and a notebook and accessories. I packed my clothing and toiletries in a vintage suite case and filled an old army type backpack full of shoes and an overflow of clothing. When I was done, I sat watching TV in bed. There was an indie movie on about the punk singer whose song I had heard playing at The Hill. I fell asleep watching the movie. I had a dream in which he was the star of the dream. He walked up to me at a café in New Orleans. “I’ll see you soon”. 

               I woke up. Weird dream, I thought to myself. The time leading up to my trip was uneventful. I got things in order at work for the trip and took care of things around the house. I made sure my electricity was paid, put some food in the fridge for Sal.

               The night before leaving, I stopped at The Hill for a plate of nachos and a beer. I left him a copy of my key on a key chain with a plastic Celtics logo with a Ramones key chain attached. I took Sal in as I said bye. I wouldn’t see his face with deep brown eyes protected by glasses, his wavy bordering on curly black hair for a month. I gave him a hug. “Take care and call whenever with questions or whatever.”

               “I will. Leave me the address of the hotel and their number too. Just so I can have them, ok?”.

               “I’ll leave both on the kitchen table”.

               “Great!”. I left and had an early night, since my flight was leaving at 7:25am, so, I had to be at the airport an hour before that. At least my Friday didn’t include work. My boss told me to take the day to explore and report Monday to the office. I made sure my work computer was packed in my backpack and put my ukulele in my suitcase. I never travelled without it. I showered and went to bed.

               5:45AM came early. I made it to the airport and was able to grab a coffee and sandwich to eat on the plane. When I got on the plane, I took my seat and ate. I fell asleep after the stewardess did her announcement about exists and flotation devices. I awoke to make my connection in Austin and when boarded the plane to New Orleans, read a book and watched a movie attached to the seat in front of me. Once the plane landed, I called a Lyft and headed to the Inn. The Inn was exactly what I expected. It had the looks of an old French style New Orleans building. It was a brick red color with dark shutters, two stories, and had charm to it. I walked to the front desk for check in. I had to blink because standing next to me at the desk was what I could only describe as an apparition. A gauzy figure in a dress in the style of a southern belle.

               “I hope you enjoy your stay here. It’s a lovely hotel the apparition drawled. My eyes must have been as round as saucers.

               “That is Pearl”. She likes to welcome people every now and then.

               “So, I’m not going mad”.

               “No. You’re not. This inn is full of happy haunts. They don’t make themselves known to everyone.”

               “Oh. Interesting. I checked into my suite. I think you will enjoy your suite. It has a lot of character. If you do need anything during your stay, do not hesitate to call”.

               “Thank you.”

               I found my way to my room. Once in, I unpacked. In need of a pick me up, I made a cup of coffee. I sat for a while, strumming my ukulele, singing La Vie En Rose. Next, I moved to a punk song by Johnny T, the punk artist from my dream. Once I was ready to explore, I called my friend Retha. 

“Let’s meet for a walk and we can hit the voodoo museum, and then we can hit Vampire Apothecary for a meal and hit my favorite bar The Famous Door. We can catch a show later too at Bourbon Bar if you want”, Retha suggested.

               I will meet you at the museum”, I stated. I changed into a short sleave t-shirt as it was warm out. I put on a Ramones tee with the sleeves cut off and set off in my combat boots with a Vanity Fair canvas bag with my wallet and various beauty items.

               When I got to the museum, Retha was waiting for me outside. We hugged. “Let adventures begin!”, I exclaimed.

               “We are going to have fun while you are here”, Retha assured me.

               “I am so excited to be here”. We explored the museum, and some of Retha’s favorite haunts and ended the night in a vampire themed bar. In the crowd I saw a willowy gauzy figure. It was Johnny T. He looked at me.   I must have been tired. Sure, I had seen a ghost upon check in, but this was an apparition brought on by needing sleep.

               “I am tired. I think I am heading back to the hotel.”

               “I will head out too”. We each got Lyfts home, making plans to go grocery shopping at Whole foods, and to find me an air fryer, and hot plate, so I could prep myself simple meals in the room. When I got back to my room, I showered and fell promptly to sleep. In the early hours, I dreamt of Johnny T.

               “Play me some songs”.  He pointed to my ukelele with the hand he wasn’t holding a cigarette in.

               “It’s late.”

               “Come on”. Why did this dream feel so real? When I woke up, I could smell cigarette smoke. It smelled like it was in my room. I cracked open my door on my balcony. I wanted to grab a coffee and beignet and bring it back to my room. I stopped to Morning Call, grabbed some beignet and a chicory café au lait and headed back to my room. I sat at my kitchenette table and enjoyed coffee with my Spotify daylist playing on my phone.

               “Play me some more music would ya?”. The voice came from the door by the balcony. I froze. I slowly turned my head to look at the door. I blinked my eyes hard. I rubbed them. Green eyes wide open, I stared.

               “Didn’t your motha teach ya it’s not polite to stare?”.

               “You’re Johnny T and you’re dead.”

               “Yeah. I died in this room”.

               “Oh”. 

               “Don’t you know it’s not proper to be alone unsupervised with a lady in her room?”, A voice boomed.

               “Jesus Christ. What now”, I exclaimed. The voice belonged to a man in what I assumed to be an 1800’s army uniform. He had a southern accent. He was big and burly and had a bushy mustache. “Who are you?”.

               “I am Gaylord Beauregard the third, madam. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance”.  I smiled, holding back a laugh.

               “So, I’m living and he’s dead. I don’t think any laws of propriety have been broken here”.

               “Well then madam, I will take my leave of you, but do not hesitate to call upon me”.

               “Thanks, G”, I said.

               “See ya, Gay”, Johnny T waved at him.

               “So, you want me to play you some music?”.

               “Yes please”. He sat at the table with me. Well, he hovered more than sat. I played for him until Retha picked me up in her car. 

               My first few weeks in New Orleans were me going to work to help market, hire, and open the office and store, and exploring the city with Retha. She would show me the coolest bars, restaurants and Bourbon St. spots. Breakfast would be from Café Du Monde or Last Call-I loved them both, Johnny T would sit with me while I would have breakfast and dinner. We would talk, watch TV together. I would play music, he would sing. Retha, a tarot reader, and someone who was in tune to the spirit world met Johnny. It was strange having a friend I could only see. Sal also would text or call to give me updates, but we would just talk some nights until I was tired and ready for bed. I missed him. I missed his brown eyes framed by round frames, his wavy black hair, and talking face to face. I made sure to find him the perfect souvenirs in my travels around the city.

               Holidays came and went, and they were spent with Retha and Johnny. There was music and dancing, and laughter.

               Then one night, one of my male co-workers came over. We had been out to the movies on a date and I invited him over for dinner and a movie at my place. He sat with his arm over my shoulder as we watched TV in my sitting room. Johnny appeared.

               “This is usually our time. Who is this guy?”, Johnny asked almost as if he was jealous. I looked at him.  I mouthed the words not now. “Are you on a date?”. I looked at him with my eyes wide. I would look like an insane person if I started talking to someone that couldn’t be seen. My date coincidentally was also named John.

               “John, I hate to do this, but I have a headache that is just not going away. Would you be ok if we called it a night?”.

               “Sure. Do you need anything?”.

               “I am just going to take two extra strength Tylenol and take a hot shower, thanks”. He hugged me goodbye.

               “Text if you need anything”.

               “I will, thanks”. He left and I got ready for bed. “Ok Johnny. Come out come out wherever you are”. He appeared. “Let’s talk about boundaries”.

               “Do we have to do this?”.

               “Yes. We do. You can’t just interrupt my date.”

               “I’m usually your date”.

               “Johnny, I like having you around, and you are super smokin’, I have fun with you, but you’re not exactly living. We can’t exactly date.”

               “I know. I guess I got used to having your attention. Most of the people who stay here are not cool like you. I like the way you look at me, and that you fall asleep next to me. You make me feel alive again and if you are going to date, you need someone cool.”

               “Someone like you?”.

“Yeah”.

“I hear something nice from a guy and he is dead. I can’t even give you a hug.”

               “I hate it”. He said matter of factly.

               “Me too”, I said forlornly. 

               “Want to watch re-runs of Barney Miller?”, He asked. We got comfortable on the bed.

               “Sure”.

               My time in New Orleans passed and drew to a close. I had a ticket back to Boston. Sal would pick me up from the airport. He was going to be moving into his new apartment, so he was still at my place.

               The day I left New Orleans, I said my goodbye to Johnny T. It was sad.

               “Hey. I’ll see ya in your dreams”.

               “Don’t be a stranger”, I smiled.

               Retha dropped me at the airport early on a Friday. We hugged goodbye. I slept most of my flight home. I was met at the airport by Sal. He had a bouquet of roses.

               “Wow. Thank you”, I exclaimed. He drove me home. I got into the apartment with a table set and the aroma of spices wafting through the apartment. Jambalaya.

               “Jambalaya!”.

               “I figured you might miss the food”.

               “What a nice surprise”. I put my bags on top of my washer. I would get to them later.

               “Did you want to eat now or wait?”.

               “I am going to quick shower and change. Then I am ready to eat.”

               “Oh. I got you something”. He handed me a bag.

               “I got you something too”. I went to my train case and brought out a bag with coffee mugs from my coffee spots, and a crystal to add to his collection. We opened our gifts. He gave me a shirt of Johnny T.

               “You mentioned you were playing a lot of his music”.

               “This is great. Thank you!”. 

               “You are welcome. Thank you for the mugs and the crystal. I love them”. I found a pair of sweats and brought the new shirt to the bathroom. I took a good warm shower. We enjoyed a nice meal.

               “I am just going to unwind with some TV. You are welcome to join me.” I walked to my bedroom.

               “I changed your sheets and washed your comforter”.

               “Thank you!”. We got comfortable on the bed. I must have been extremely tired because I fell right to sleep. In my dream, I was visited by Johnny T. 

               “I approve of this guy”, He stated.

               “Yeah?”.

               “Yeah. You would be cute together”.

               “Ok”. We hugged.

               “Come back and visit me in our room though, ok?”.

               “Ok”. I smiled.

               

               

               


October 26, 2023 18:13

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2 comments

Shirley Medhurst
10:30 Nov 03, 2023

Great story! (The title grabbed me as I also used to love punk rock in the 70s) BTW, I picked up on a teeny typo: « short sleave t-shirt » - should be short sleeved The only other constructive suggestion I can make, would be to start the ‘ghostly’ bit of your story much nearer the beginning & then filter in any necessary backstory later on. (Of course that is just my personal opinion, so please feel free to ignore…😉)

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Laura Eliz
18:49 Nov 03, 2023

Thank you so much for your feedback!! I appreciate it.

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