Reviewed July 1, 2020
“Good afternoon,” Henry yelled out to a few customers passing his till. He sighed heavily looking past them, he read the clock, quarter past two. Henry felt the weight of time passing, he still had three hours left on shift. Nothings worse than feeling bored, wasting time at a menial job that will not amount to anything. His thoughts drifted to how the job was better than moving boxes around in a Conex container in 144 F. weather, while worrying about a wife and baby at home. Shaking off the memories he decided to do a little front facing, starting with the Snickers, and moving to the drinks he noticed a lady step in line and moved to help her.
“Hello, did you find everything okay,” Henry asked? “Oh, yes…” she paused looking away from him and down a far aisle. “I thought I just saw something,” the customer said, her face askew in a curious gaze.
“I hear the place is haunted, the owner tells stories about it from time to time to customers,” Henry explained. “I haven’t seen anything myself, mind; but the other day I had a customer say the exact thing about aisle seven, I presume.”
She scrunched her nose and moved her lips about to say something but decided against it. “Interesting, but I don’t believe in such nonsense.” She stood quietly while Henry scanned the rest of her items. When Henry was done placing her bags in the carriage she smiled and said, “have a nice day,” and pushed her carriage towards the exit.
Henry laughed inwardly as his friend glided down aisle seven towards him. “I always love it when Muggles almost see me,” said Ghost. “One day I’ll have to knock a whole shelf over and give one of them a real scare.”
“Don’t you dare Ghost.” Sighing, “you know Mr. McFreenie will only make me restock and face the entire store should he see a mess like that.”
Laughing and twisting about in the air over the checkout lane light Ghost twisted so he was face down inches from Henry’s face. “Don’t encourage me, you know you could use a little overtime to afford a better place for us.”
Anger spurned inside Henry as he held back his response, embarrassed that his life had been reduced to poverty. He was never well off, but he had more than the essentials a few years back before losing everything. “You know, I don’t particularly like being reminded of my downfalls, thank you very much,” with as much sarcasm as he could produce.
“Oh… I’m sorry Henry,” Ghost replied with a tense and reduced sarcasm.
“Let’s drop this and talk about some happier things.”
“Like,” Henry replied tersely?
“Well Lizzy did spend a lot of extra time looking at you while we attended theater last evening.”
Pausing briefly, Henry pursed his lips and straightened his blue apron, retying it around his front. “Lizzy likes Abram.”
“I think she really likes you and only pursues Abram because he shows her affection, unlike you who sits fiddling with his wand because he’s too cowardly to ask a question,” Ghost starkly replied.
“And I guess you have a lot of dating experience being a spirit for over two hundred years?”
“A little more than you I dare say,” Ghost spat back, globs of ectoplasm spewed over the checkout counter as he said, ‘say.’
Henry picked up a nearby newspaper and began to read making a show at ignoring Ghost.
“Let me see that,” Ghost said while making a wild grab at the newspaper in Henry’s hands. Henry snatched it away as Ghosts hand slipped through the paper leaving Henry with a cold chill through his body. “Don’t do that,” chided Henry. “Well you know I like muggle hockey, and there are some sticks on the classifieds,” Ghost replied.
“You never cease to amaze me Ghost.”
Ghost forgot what they had been talking about and drifted away toward the milk. Henry watched his friend leave while images of his past drifted through his mind’s eye. His gaze fixated into a thousand-yard stare and he saw the jungles of Ethiopia pass under him, while a weight pressed on his shoulders, a burden he still had not relinquished. He knew Ghost awareness of his plight, but how could he forgive himself over the death of the three muggle Airmen who had been with him on that deadly night. A cave drifted into his view, a branching of roots in the shape of a cross above on the cliffside overhanging him and his team. He saw himself pressing his wand up against the stones blocking passage and they rumbled and moved effortlessly to either side of the entrance.
A dark gaping hole that seemed driven into the Earth loomed ahead and as his team moved closer to look down the shaft an earsplitting scream roared out of the cavern. Hundreds of spirits thrashed their way out of the exit, bottlenecking and squeezing past each other. Henry fell back as one of the spirits, different than the rest approached and reached out its hand towards Henry’s face. Screaming, Henry covered his ears as a sinister voice pierced his brain, stabbing pain moving southward past his neck into his chest. Overwhelmed, Henry only crawled backwards by primal instinct. The whisperings became coherent as the pain sank away into the earth, “We are the Craven, justice will be swift.” A pause of silence, neither nature or human mechanism could be heard, and then the voice threatened, “you will be the first to meet it.” A flash of green light flung out and the men with Henry fell dead. Trying to scream Henry kept scooting backwards towards the tree line but could not escape the vengeful spirit. With a blast of energy, the spirit flew airward and roared as it zipped away.
As a customer coughed Henry snapped back to his senses, “my apologies.” Henry began to scan the items while inwardly berating himself for getting carried away by those memories. After finishing up he realized his shift was nearing an end and started to clean up the checkout line. Business had slowed and Henry sighed, he did not feel like being alone with his memories and went to seek out Ghost and make sure he had not hidden in a gallon of milk to scare unsuspecting children.
Walking home Ghost flew around Henry and made funny faces at pedestrians. What caught Henry’s attention was a Muggle staring at Ghost and following him with their eyes. She put her hand in her jacket, gripping something and reflexively Henry let his wand drop from his sleeve and readied himself.
She looked up and down the street, satisfied that her, the ghost, and mysterious man were alone she smartly snapped her wand and made the spell sign, shouting, “stupefy.” Ghost went ridged and the man aimed his wand towards her and yelled, “expelliarmus.” She reflected the spell by moving her wand defensively much like one would a bat mitten paddle.
“Who are you,” Henry yelled!
“A concerned citizen.”
“Concerned?” Now intensely angry Henry pointed at Ghost, “you stupefied my friend.”
“Well I was concerned you were both scoping victims.”
“What do you mean, victims?”
“Well you do resemble a notorious pickpocket on the Post Office posters.”
Starting to size him up again, “well your hair, but… I am sorry, no, he has a tattoo on his right arm. I’m sorry, may I buy you a coffee?”
“That’s a random way to find a date,” he chuckled attempting to show a bit of humor, “yes I’d like a cup after the shift I just had.”
She murmured a spell Henry could not hear and Ghost snapped too. Turning to the woman, “I never, how dare you,” Ghost seethed. Turning to Henry, “do you know her, some lovers feud I don’t know about?”
Shaking his head Henry replied, “Never met her, but were about to get to know her, she is buying us coffee.”
Ghost turned to face her, “I’m, well I can’t remember my name and this one here calls me Ghost much to my sorrow.”
“I only call him that because it gets under his ectoplasm, my name is Henry.”
“My name is Betsy and believe me this is not a date.”
“I didn’t think it was,” but dropped his attempt to explain his humor and with a gentleman like arm pointed down the street directing the group towards a close by coffee shop he knew.
“There is a coffee shop this way,” Betsy asked?
“The Crispy Bean,” Ghost replied.
“They have great entertainment on Tuesday nights, so were in luck,” Henry said adding a friendly smile.
Ghost floated next to them passing through vehicles and street signs and an unfortunate elderly lady who gasped and shivered while looking behind her sensing something ghastly had just happened. Seeing a scene exceeding normal expectations of an ally she hurried her pace forward clutching her shawl close.
Turning to the right out of the alley Henry opened the door to the spacious coffee shop and they filed in and took a table off center to the room on the left, closer to the empty stage. An older woman appeared by the table, her bright blue hair and curious clothing giving hint to her magical heritage. She wore a green hand spun silk dress with paisley patterns embroidered around the hems. “Nice to see ya Henry,” she spoke through a wad of bubble gum, twirling her wand enchanted to look like a pen with daisies sprouting out the opposite end.
“Nice to see you too Dottie, this is my new friend’s first time here I believe?”
Betsy smiled and politely said, “It is and I’m quite impressed, I can’t believe I never heard of this place.”
“Well were hidden away well down here, just south of Downtown, not many things happen that appear in the news. Speaking of news Henry, I saw Lizzy last night and she said that her and Abram would be by tonight for the show. I hear she has a new poem.” Turning towards Betsy, “I do hope you can stay; we have a great line up for tonight, and Lizzy is downright talented.”
“I don’t have any other plans. How do we order?”
“Forgive my manners, here are the menus, specials are a cinnamon bun with a French press coffee for $5.99 or the chefs’ special soup for $6.99. Though, I’d recommend the first one if you were looking for something tasty.”
A man with a chef’s hat peeked his head from around the coffee bar, “I heard that Dottie.”
“Never you mind Ted, I’m with customers.” Ted ducked back behind the counter and Dottie continued, “I’d recommend the hot chocolate off the menu if you’re a chocolate lover.”
“I will try the hot chocolate then.”
“I will have the cinnamon roll special please Dottie.”
“Coming right up, oh I never caught your name dear?”
“Pleasure, order will be up in a few.” Dottie walked behind the counter and a bit of friendly bickering could be heard between her and Ted.