A little update: I keep getting emails from people asking to post more astrology and then I get emails from people asking where part 7 of my crazy novel is. . .whatever you came here looking for. . . a HUGE THANK YOU for your interest!! My website stats are through the roof, my consultation app’ts slots are almost completely full and I just love hearing from you all via my contact page. Probably like everyone else, I had a few rough days of staying in bed, playing games and watching movies. But I’m feeling re-energised these past few weeks and I’m motivated to make the most of a difficult time. I hope you and yours are keeping well too.
Since being on furlough, I’ve had lots of time to catch up things I had completely forgotten about. . .like the 3 books I’m supposed to be writing. But this past week, it’s been all about a VERY special surprise and preparation for my upcoming webinar with MISPA on 10th May 2020 on working ethically with children’s charts. The books are coming along nicely too.
It looks increasingly like all gatherings will be online for the foreseeable future. The next BIG online event (with ISAR and Northern Stars still planning on going ahead with a live event if it can be managed) is Breaking Down the Borders. My talk is here. and the rest of my lecture schedule is here.
In between writing stuff like a mad woman about astrology, I’ve been forgetting about posting the next installment of my crazy novel. So here you go–and thanks for asking!
“I wish I could still smoke,” said Ivan wearily. “I used to love smoking. Everyone said it would kill me. My kids used to show me pictures of all these tumours and things but I used to always think everyone had to die of something so I might as well enjoy what was going to kill me.”
“What did kill you?” Alfie asked. Persephone had jumped up next to him on the bench and had half disappeared into his leg.
“I don’t want to talk about it. But I didn’t fall down no stairs.”
Alfie rolled his eyes in the dawn light. Beside him Persephone ‘s whiskers twitched.
“Let me guess,” Alfie teased.
“No,” said Ivan.
“No. Hey, Pers, how did you die?” Ivan asked the cat.
Persephone only purred loudly.
Alfie decided to go with his line of questioning as if Ivan hadn’t spoken. “Execution?” Secretly Alfie thought this was the most plausible.
“Shut up, I don’t want to talk about it, Mr Two Left Feet.”
It was getting brighter now and Alfie had no idea why three ghosts were sitting on a park bench.
“It’s nearly time,” Persephone said.
“I know, cat. Keep your fur on.”
Alfie began twiddling his thumbs. What he really wanted to do was go back to the hospital and save some more lives. Maybe, he thought, he should just leave Ivan and Persephone to it.
“You’re going to miss it,” Ivan said.
Alfie was just about to say he wasn’t even expecting anything when he felt as if he were being squeezed through a very tight tube. There was a great sucking noise and Alfie found himself in a familiar environment. He was in his son Elliot’s home.
It was quiet as if everyone were still in bed so Alfie took advantage of his ghostly tendencies and had a good snoop around. It had always annoyed him that Elliot had never sought his advice or come to him to ask for something. He had always been so damn self-sufficient and so brutally critical of his old man. The rejection stung him.
Alfie didn’t think news of his death would have reached Elliot because, after all, his body would not have been found yet. He wasn’t expecting any visitors until Sunday when the girl came around with his Sunday roast. Or until he got good and rotten and stunk the neighbours out. The thought depressed him deeply. Here he was dead and out of second chances to make anything right ever again.
Somewhere deep in the house, an alarm clock rang. Alfie parked himself at the kitchen table as if expecting a nice cup of tea. He imagined he missed tea just as much as Ivan missed cigarettes or as much as Persephone missed whatever cats missed. He had no idea that far, far away Ivan had found a quiet place to smoke a ghostly cigarette that was almost as good as it had when he was alive and that two mice were joyfully urinating and defecating all over a kitchen counter when Persephone sprang out of nowhere and had herself a delightful new toy to torture. With a single claw, she held one of the little mice and jumped back down to the kitchen floor to slowly disembowel it.
“Oh my God,” squeaked the little mouse to his friend. “I didn’t even see her coming!” Persephone’s eyes glinted with killer glee.
Now there were footsteps in Elliot’s household and Alfie thought that soon Elliot’s perfect family would be coming down to have the perfect breakfasts and then kiss their perfect father good bye. He propped up his depressive head on one elbow.
One at a time, the family began to emerge.
Marvin (after Marvin Gaye), the eldest grandson was the first to the table. Alfie could see he was getting to be a little too much like his mother: he had a notable double chin and a well-developed beer belly going on. He dumped his school books onto the table and opened the fridge. To Alfie’s surprise, the lad popped open a beer and guzzled the whole thing in a matter of seconds. When he had drained the can, he burped loudly and then took a microwavable burger from the freezer. Opening the wrapper, he added a huge handful of cheese and a few slices of pre-cooked streaky bacon to the bun and popped it in the oven.
Alfie’s jaw dropped: Marvin’s homework folders said he was in the 9th grade.
When the ping from the microwave sounded, Marvin slid the burger out by the wrappers and reached in the fridge again. This time he brought an industrial sized container of mayonnaise, took a spoon and pulled out a heaping pile of cholesterol and flicked it on his burger. Then he slapped the top bun on, wrapped it back in the wrapper and was on his way.
Caroline (after “Sweet Caroline”), Elliot’s daughter came down. She had always been the friendliest of his grandchildren and seemed to hold no resentment towards Alfie. She had never been exactly overjoyed to see him but she would play a game of cards or at least say a few words when he was around. From what little Elliot said about her, she was popular at school and smart too. When she dropped her books on the table and turned so she was facing him, Alfie hardly recognised her: all the womanly curves were just about there and her face was thickly smeared with makeup. He barely recognised her. Her books said she was in the 8th grade.
What the hell was the matter with Elliot? Alfie wondered. Why wasn’t he getting down here to see what his kids were up to?
Above him a portal was forming only he was too troubled to see it. There was another great sucking noise and when Alfie opened his eyes, he was back on the park bench with Ivan and Persephone. Both of them looked like they had had either a large meal or the best sex of their lives. Or maybe both. Ivan’s head was leaned back against the back of the bench and his great long legs were stretched out in front of him. Persephone had rolled onto her back as if expecting Alfie to stroke her belly.
“I’d say I almost feel human again but that would be a bit of a stretch,” said Ivan.
Alfie sat down on the bench as if traumatised.
“What’s wrong with you?” asked Ivan.
Alfie stood up again and began to pace in front of the bench.
Ivan and Persephone exchanged glances.
“What did you do?” Ivan asked. “Did you use your physical force?”
“Why not?” Ivan sat up and turned so he could see Alfie more clearly.
“I don’t know how,” Alfie said glumly.
“Sure you do, you used it with the window,” Ivan told him. “You know you could have had that bit of tea you’ve been mooching around after—if you could find one already made that is.”
Alfie thought of Marvin’s beer. Maybe he needed that more than a stupid cup of tea. He sat back down on the bench. “Where did you guys go?” Perhaps, he thought, there was choice. If there was, he would not go to his son’s house again.
“As far as I know, it’s a bit of a circuit,” Ivan told him. “Sometimes you go one place, sometimes to another and still other times to somewhere completely different. Sometimes you can make a decision to help someone and sometimes you can’t. Sometimes–”
“I get it,” Alfie interrupted. “It’s kind of random.”
“Yeah, I’ll go with that. It’s random.”
The three of them spent the day people watching and generally hanging out in the park. Ivan dragged Alfie to the women’s changing rooms just in time for early morning dip. It raised Alfie’s spirits but not a whole lot else and he was soon bored.
“Look, you see one pair and you commit it to memory,” Alfie complained.
“Shush!” Ivan said so menacingly, for a second, he had frightened Alfie. When Alfie dared to look at him again, Ivan pointed to young woman who was busily in process of putting on her bathing suit. Christ, Alfie thought, if men could see women and how they put on bathing suits, they’d go right off of them. The same went for panty hose. An absolutely graceless exercise.
To keep air circulating in the changing room, there was a narrow, windowless slit between the walls and ceiling and another slit between the wall and floor. Alfie suspected they were there to keep out vagrants during the winter to prevent them from taking up residence in the warmth.
The woman finished dressing and grabbed her towel to have a swim.
“Recognise her?” Ivan asked.
“No,” Alfie snorted. “Why would I?”
“Because,” Persephone said, irritated, “She brings you your dinner every Sunday afternoon.”
Without saying another word, Alfie followed her.
She walked straight for the beach, dropped her towel in the sand and headed straight into the surf. Ivan, Alfie and Persephone gasped when she hit the water.
“I don’t think that girl is sane,” said Alfie with a shudder.
“Probably not as she kept feeding you,” Ivan said. One of the great things about this particular beach was that the river was quite big and deep. It was so big and deep, huge ocean liners passed through it. For any observer, the sight of a swimmer splashing against the backdrop of an ocean liner was a startling one. So Alfie nearly missed the fact that just beyond the young girl that brought him his lunch, someone else was starting to struggle.
Persephone hissed in alarm.
“Oh my God,” murmured Alfie. He did not want to bear witness to someone drowning. His hands flew to his eyes.
“I’ve got this!” shouted Ivan. He picked up a good sized stone and hurled it so it landed with a modest splash just behind Alfie’s dinner girl. Surprised, she turned and saw the swimmer in trouble.
“Oh my God!”Alfie screamed this time. “Are you nuts!! What if she can’t swim and you’ve just caused a double drowning!?” Alfie was overwhelmed with the thought of his body remaining undiscovered for the next thousand years.
“Relax,” said Ivan. “Remember how you felt last night when you saved that baby and his mother? Well, this girl needs the same boost. Trust me.”
And sure enough, Alfie’s dinner girl saw the sinking swimmer and, with very strong strokes, approached the drowning victim, stopping just short of him being able to grab her and pull her under. She dove beneath the waves, disappearing. Seconds later, she had him in a half nelson and was doing the lifesaving stroke to shallower waters.
Alfie, Ivan and Persephone went nearer to see what was happening.
Once she reached shore, she released the swimmer. The girl’s breath was ragged and she had to lean over her knees to catch her breath as the waves continued to crash and break relentlessly at her feet. The swimmer was resting in the shallow water, dazed, violently bobbing horizontally with each wave. Even though he was standing a good distance away, Alfie could see her shiver, goose pimpled from cold and the shock of the situation. And the swimmer too was breathing heavily.
“Nice one,” said Persephone.
“Thanks,” Ivan flexed his throwing arm. “I still got it.”
Alfie’s dinner girl reached down to touch the swimmer she had just saved. He was sitting, propped up on his elbows, coughing. She knelt down to look him in the face.
And just like that, Alfie understood her life had changed forever. It was if the world had completely stilled and was leaning in to see what was going to happen next. The Swimmer put his hand over hers and got awkwardly to his feet. He was saying something to her and she was smiling in a kind of awwww it was nothing, will you ask me to coffee kind of way. She led him to where her towel was waiting, bent to pick it up and not at all to Alfie’s surprise, offered to share it with him.
“And that,” said Ivan with pride, “Is why they call me the Love Doctor.”
“Break it down Ivan,” Persephone scolded him, “She still has a long way to go.”
Had Alfie ever cared to find out, the girl who brought him his Sunday roast dinner was called Clarice and as Ivan knew, she needed a little happiness in her life.
In the life of a ghost, time had a strange way of moving, as Alfie had discovered. Sometimes it was straight forward but seemed to slow down, other times, it sped forward and still, at others, it moved backward. The only thing that remained the same was that he could not interfere. He could only watch helplessly from the side lines.
But Ivan and Persephone had both managed to do things ghosts could not do in what had been his limited understanding. Ivan had picked up a stone and threw it, Persephone had rubbed herself against his legs and Alfie had opened a window without even thinking twice about whether or not he actually could.
There had to be some weird rule or some sort of clause that allowed them to do something extraordinary for a ghost. Of course, Alfie had heard of poltergeists but had discounted them as something of fairy tales and nonsense. He remembered his grandfather from England telling him about his experience at a séance his wife had dragged him to. Cupboards opened and closed but grandfather had seen the strings pulling them. There were thumps around them but he had remained unconvinced they were anything other than a restless human in the next room. Breath on the back of his neck had been dismissed as a draughty room. His wife of course had been angry to have been taken in as a fool and she would never speak of it again. Grandfather, on the other hand, never stopped teasing her. It was how he got the Great Scar on the side of his face: he had teased his wife so much and so often that one day she had hurled a pan of hot bacon grease at him. Mercifully, most of it had missed but what had caught him, left a burn scar that ran from his right ear and fanned all the way across his face. He stopped teasing her of course—but only if she was in hearing distance.