Sunday, February 12, 2012

Brian Wolcott and the Court of Unrequited Love (PART 5 of 5)

If you need to catch up, you can read Part 1 over here.

We just came here to talk and you start throwing crap,” Mrs. Bernman was yelling. “Why do you always have to act a fool?”

Clarice, I'm bored. I've been haunting an empty racquetball for the last thirty years, remember?” the thin figure was yelling back. “Plus, I'm dead, so really I can act any way I want.”

Ali shook herself and tried to understand what was taking place around her. The hazy figure was gradually becoming more solid until it looked like a young, rodent-faced man dressed in dated racquetball clothes.

Wait Wait Wait!” Ali screamed holding her hands up for silence.

Mrs. Bernman and the young man paused mid-argument and looked at Ali.

You know him?” Ali asked Mrs. Bernman.

I'm sorry to day I do,” Mrs. Bernman answered in disgust. “Malcolm here took racquetball lessons from me a long time ago.”

And you're dead?” Ali demanded.

Yes, indeed,” Malcolm replied. “And she killed me!”

The court erupted into more arguing and Ali had to yell again.

Now wait,” she said after everything had quieted down. “So you're a ghost, then?”

That's one way to put it,” Malcolm shrugged. “I prefer 'poltergeist' or 'life challenged spirit,' if you don't mind.”

Ali looked puzzled and Mrs. Bernman stood with her arms crossed. Malcolm laughed icily. Mrs. Bernman sighed loudly and turned to Ali.

Here's what happened: Thirty years ago I had just moved in and I was giving Malcolm there racquetball lessons. He never was very good.”

Malcolm looked scandalized.

Yes I was!” he cried. “I was getting better. I was going to go pro.”

Mrs. Bernman caught Ali's eye, shook her head and mouthed, No he wasn't. Ali smiled, in spite of herself

Anyway,” Mrs. Bernman said, rolling her eyes. “Fred in D14 was having an affair with Mary Ellen in G19. They would always meet in the racquetball court at eight, play a few games and then go back to Mary Ellen's apartment afterward.”

Only Fred's wife Susan found out...” Malcolm interjected.

Mrs. Bernman fixed Malcolm with a withering look and he shrank back.

Getting to it,” she said slowly. “Now if I may finish...”

Malcolm held up his hands in surrender. Ali looked at the odd couple quizzically.

Susan found out about the racquetball thing and waited for Fred in the racquetball court with a bat.”

Hammer,” Malcolm interrupted. “It was a hammer.”

Mrs. Bernman shot him an evil old lady look but he remained firm.

It was my death, Clarice” he said defensively. “I want you to at least get the details right.”

Mrs. Bernman dismissed him with a wave of her hand.

So Susan was waiting for Fred with a hammer,” she said, looking over at Malcolm. “Only that particular night Fred and Mary Ellen skipped their normal racquetball time and poor Malcolm decided to practice his serve. Wrong place, wrong time. Pretty soon after Susan went to prison, strange things started happening in the racquetball court and they closed it down.”

Mrs. Bernman looked sad and Malcolm looked at Ali with a big grin.

What did you think?” he asked eagerly.

Of your death story?” Ali asked. “It was tragic!”

Malcolm smiled even bigger. “Wasn't it?”

But you said Mrs. Bernman killed you,” Ali said.

Malcolm's smile disappeared and he turned to Mrs. Bernman and pointed at her accusingly.

That right!” he exclaimed. “Convenient how she left that out!”

Mrs. Bernman looked ashamed and wrung her hands. Ali waited in the awkward silence and looked from Mrs. Bernman to Malcolm in puzzlement Malcolm looked smug.

I lived in D15, next to Fred and Susan,” Mrs. Bernman said finally. “And Susan told me all about the affair when she found out. She told me she was going to kill Fred, only I didn't think she was serious. And how was I to know he wouldn't be there and...”

Mrs. Bernman was looking up at Malcolm, whose expression had changed from self-satisfied to slightly embarrassed. Ali looked at the floor awkwardly. Mrs. Bernman shook her finger in Malcolm's face.

I'll have you know I never forgave myself,” she said in a choking voice. “And now I've told you and I'm sorry and I don't know what else there is to say.”

The two women and one ghost stood in awkward silence for a few moments. Ali waited for Mrs. Bernman or Malcolm to speak but neither did. Ali coughed awkwardly.

That must be good for you to hear, Malcolm,” Ali ventured uncertainly. “That must feel like some kind of closure, doesn't it? Maybe you can move on now and stop haunting the court?”

Malcolm was smiling again. He put a slightly transparent arm around Ali and Mrs. Bernman and started walking them toward the door.

That's a popular myth about us life challenged spirits,” he said. “That we all want to get 'closure' and 'move on.'”

Don't you?” Ali asked.

Some do,” Malcolm shrugged. “Like that guy who drowned in the pool. He moved on last summer. Lame.

Ali and Mrs. Bernman looked intently at him.

I'm perfectly happy here,” he said. “And I have no intention of leaving. Ever.”

But maybe you can stop haunting the court? Just let people play?” Ali asked. “You really scared those guys.”

They had reached the door now Malcolm stood apart from the two women.

Most fun I've had in years,” he laughed. “But maybe we can make a deal. I've been dying to play racquetball again. I can stop bothering people if you can find me someone to play with...”


Brian's knees knocked together but he stayed put, knowing this was the only way to make it up to Ali for his earlier cowardice. He shivered as the ghost stood at the serving line and bounced a racquetball menacingly.

You think you can return my serve? I've had thirty years to perfect it.”

Brian shuddered. “I'll sure try.”

Good,” Malcolm laughed and prepared to serve. “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Please tell me what you thought of the story! Leave a comment or suggestions for the second draft, if you please. If you really want to endear yourself to me, you could post a link to this on your Facebook or Twitter.