JOIN THE GHOST GUARD
THE DEN — I am looking out the rear window at a work crew from RotoRobber because I have a stopped-up drain. The tub wouldn’t empty, then the toilet overflowed and the sink started making gurgling sounds. Now the workers are digging a trench to get to the sewer pipe. “It’ll cost two hundred and forty-two dollars,” says the head guy. That was an unplanned expense and means I’ll have to postpone my round-the-world trip on the QE II, but $242 will solve my problem.
The front doorbell rings. “We’re from Clean Your Clock, come to steam clean your carpet and couch and two chairs,” says a workman, reading from his clipboard. I forgot about making that appointment. Bad timing. Soon a crew is moving furniture out of the den, then they pull long hoses through the front entrance which also lets in the Polar Vortex. Now the back doorbell is ringing. “Where do you want me to start?” My slack-jawed look requires the fellow in the haz-mat suit to explain. “Pest control.” I forgot about that task — a rabid rabbit is prowling the neighborhood.
Looking around my house and yard I see an army of workmen doing things that cost money. Suddenly the dishwasher stops and I smell smoke. All of these problems coming at once can only mean one thing. Lawrence of Suburbia is back in town. You don’t have to live in a Scottish castle or a crumbling New Orleans antebellum mansion to have a ghost wandering around your house creating havoc. No doubt you have also had a day when the kids came down with the flu and you planned to take them to the doctor but the car wouldn’t start and the market crashed just as the icemaker broke. All these catastrophes at once are no coincidence. They are the work of that evil anti-angel, Lawrence.
“Come out, come out from wherever you are destroying,” I say. A translucent aspiration appears in the east parlor, sitting in my La-Z-Boy recliner and sipping my vodka. “Hi, guy,” he says, puffing on one of my best Havana cigars. “Glad to see me? I thought not.”
“I won’t ask where you’ve been since your last visit,” I reply. “That was when the water heater blew up and the dog died. Don’t forget the air condition unit went out and someone stole my credit cards.”
“You didn’t mention the kitchen fire and the malfunctioning extinguisher. As for me, I’ve been busy. Most recently I was in charge of the Denver Broncos’ game plan, and I was late-night program advisor to NBC. Sure, Jay Leno has been in first place since the Truman administration, but Conan didn’t do enough damage so I stepped in. Nielsen predicts Fallon will die in the ratings — buy stock in Letterman. Oh, that reminds me, did you ever get anything back from Enron? I meant to say for you to buy Exxon, but must have gotten them mixed up. And sorry about Madoff. He seemed very straight forward.”
There is a slight knock at the back door. Now what, a Comanche atttack? It’s the guy from RotoRobber. “The pipe is busted, all right. We’re gonna have to dig a longer pit. It’ll run you more. Like five hundred. We’ll put a camera down there and see if there’s any more stuff. ”
Lawrence is still sitting in the parlor. “Did you hear about the roll-out of Obamacare?” he asks without waiting for me to answer. “The computer screw-up was so bad. For that I won a Larry, named for me. That’s the house ghosts’ equivalent of Grammy or Emmy. Let’s see, what else has been going on? I managed the Houston Astros and the Texans this past year, but you probably guessed that since they both were the very worst in the nation. Then I worked in the Sahara Forest.”
“You mean the Sahara Desert.”
“Yeah, now it is. I advised Disney to make ‘The Lone Ranger.’ So it lost a hundred and fifteen million. Walt wouldn’t make that mistake again because he’d clear house and fire the lot of them, including Tonto. I ran the Bill O’Reilly Charm School until a mob destroyed the place, then Putin hired me to run insecurity at the Sochi Olympics. Anybody can run security. It takes my talent to run insecurity and make everyone at the games feel terror the entire time. I served as a health inspector on several cruise ships. I worked briefly as a fact-checker for Wendy Davis’ autobiography. She fired me after discovering I had the same job with Dan Patrick’s speechwriters. Both accused me of exaggerations, distortions and outright lies. I called it ‘poetic license.’ ”
A knock at the back door and the sewer digger appears. “Our camera spotted roots, lots of roots, in the pipe. We’ll have to extend the trench. That’ll run seven hundred and seventy bucks. Oh, while we were taking a lunch break some guy in a haz-mat suit fell into the trench. He said you’ll be hearing from his lawyer.” I look out the rear window to see a trench about 3 feet wide, six feet deep and 15 feet long. It looks like a grave site for Yao Ming. The bill is now — honest — close to 2K. I feel Porta Johns are greatly underappreciated. Just then there is a scream from the den. Oh, good. Maybe something dreadful happened to Lawrence. “I’m dying!” cries a worker from Clean Your Clock. “I’ve just been bitten by a rabid rabbit! I hope you’ve lots of insurance.”
Lawrence rises and heads for the door. “Got to go. There’s work to be done. Hillary thinks she’s inevitable. That’s what she thought in 2008. Speaking of candidates, Christie put me in charge of lane closings on the George Washington Bridge. Wonder how that turned out?” He leaves. The next day I’m attacked by Comanches.
Ashby is haunted at firstname.lastname@example.org