John Martin relaxed in his armchair near the left of the open fireplace, where a log fire roared.He puffed at the stem of a blackwood pipe, filling the air around himself with
a pungent smoke.On his right, David Farrar sat sipping tawny port and pondering over the chess board that sat between the two men upon a squat, white marble coffee table.
The chess game had once been a weekly ritual between the two men, however, they had not played a game together in twenty years, before tonight.
Farrar had just made up his mind to take Martin’s rook with his own bishop, when the silence was broken by an ominous howling, “Wooooooooo!”It appeared to have originated from
close by, yet Farrar was unable to locate its source after twisting around to the left, then to the right.
“Imagination,” he had just conceded to himself when, “Wooooooooo!” came the noise again, as though to assert its reality.
“What was that?” he asked Martin.
“What was what?”
“That howling noise, didn’t you hear it?”
“Oh, the howling ... You know, I’ve become so used to it that I hardly notice any more.”
“Well then, what was it?”
“Don’t worry, it’s only Pete.”
“Who in the world is Pete?”
“Peter Wilson, the house ghost.”
“The house...?Oh come on now, John, nobody believes in ghosts anymore.”
“Perhaps not, but try telling Pete he doesn’t exist, and see how far you get.”
“Wooooooooo!” came the howling again.
“Well, he certainly wants to put his two cents’ worth in,” remarked Farrar taking Martin’s rook with his bishop, only to see his bishop taken by Martin’s queen, placing him into
check.“It’s a pity he can’t talk.”
“Check!Oh, he can talk all right.”
“Then why does he only howl?” shifting his knight between Martin’s queen and his own king, hoping that Martin would take the knight so that he in turn could take Martin’s queen with his
rook.“I suppose he’s one of those distressed ghosts ... the misplaced person in life, who, lost in limbo after death, howls to let the world know of his sorrow.And
continues to do so until some great wrong has been righted.”
“You don’t really expect me to be taken in by such an obvious ploy?” shifting his queen to the safety of his own half of the board.“No, he wasn’t a misplaced person in
life.In fact he had a great life, he was Vice President at a major computer firm and was earning a packet.Far more than you or I could ever dream of bringing
“Then it must be out of loneliness!He was starved of love in life, or else had a great love stolen from him!”
“No, he was never alone, let alone lonely, he was the life of the party wherever he went.Pete was one of that rare breed who manage to be both a man’s man and a lady’s man at
the same time.As for his love life, I’ve never seen a healthier one,” leaning over to prod at the fire with a poker that stood near the hearth.“While most men struggle to
pick up women, Pete had his pick of the crop: brains or beauty; blonde, brunette, or redhead, tall, medium, or short ... you name it.”
“Ah!” cried Farrar, certain at last that he had the answer.“Now I’ve got it, he had such a great life that he’s upset at his death and is in self-mourning.”
“No,” moving bishop to check.“Pete always did have a very macabre sense of humour, he simply loves being a ghost.”
“I see,” moving his rook in front of his king to get out of check.“In other words, he haunts just for the sheer love of haunting.”
“No, not quite,” moving up his queen to take bishop and checkmate.“Checkmate.Care for another game.”
“Not until you’ve told me why Pete is haunting you,” insisted Farrar, “and why he howls instead of talking.”
“Oh very well, I suppose I’ll have to tell you all about it.”But first he stopped to clean out his pipe, tapping the bowl lightly upon the hearth.Then, taking a
small pouch of tobacco from his pocket, he refilled the pipe and relit it, before beginning his story -- all to the obvious annoyance of David Farrar.
“It wasn’t mere chance that Pete chose to haunt me.We’ve known each other all our lives, and since then in Pete’s case.We were raised in the same district and our
mothers were second-cousins, so we were continually being thrown together whether we liked it or not.And we most certainly did not.
“We were bitter enemies right throughout our school days, then, when we left school we went to work for the same firm.Pete left school a year earlier than I, after doing year
eleven.I went on to Matriculate with first honours in four out of five subjects.
“Having started a year after Pete, you would naturally expect him to have been promoted ahead of me.However, when the first promotion came up it went my way.
Apparently the bosses thought education counted for more than on-the-job training.Other promotions followed and within six years I was head of the section, while Pete was still a lowly
clerical-assistant, not even a full clerk.
“By studying at night school, however, he managed to Matriculate, then obtained a degree in computer science.This was back in the days when computers were very new
in Australia and anyone with training on them was guaranteed a bright future.So, he was offered a large promotion into the computing section of
the company, however, he turned it down and moved to another firm.He soon achieved rapid promotions and after a decade or so was made Vice President.But he never forgave
me for my early successes ahead of him.
“Pete died nearly thirteen years ago and first appeared here as a ghost two days after his funeral.”
“And he’s never said anything as a ghost, except, “Wooooooooo!”
“Wooooooooo!” came an echo from behind him.
“I don’t think he likes you mimicking him ... Actually, when he first turned up as a ghost he talked at great length, telling me over and over again that he intended to haunt me for the
rest of my natural life.Later, he would creep up behind me and shout ‘Boo!’ in a particularly melodramatic way -- he always was a bit of a ham.That continued for more than
two years.When he finally became tired of ‘Boo!’ he tried rattling chains throughout the night for a few years.”
“I see what you mean about him being a ham.”
“After the chains bit fell out of vogue, he started letting out the most blood-curdling screams for about eighteen months.Once he grew tired of the screaming routine there was
a woman’s low sobbing.He always was a great mimic.Finally he got around to the current ‘Wooooooooo!’ kick.”
“Wooooooooo!” came the echo.
“It seems he doesn’t appreciate me imitating him either ... He’s been on this latest kick for fifteen months or so, so by the next time you’re over here he’ll probably be up to something
new ... Care for a refill?”
“Thanks ... I don’t know how you can stay here with all his antics going on around you?”
“What, be driven out of my own home?” asked Martin, refilling his friend’s port glass.“Oh, it’s not that bad really, and, as I said, I’ve reached the point where I hardly even
notice him any more.Though in the early days it used to really get to me.I used to wear earmuffs and cram great wads of cotton wool into my cars.At one stage
I even considered having him exorcised.”
“But you didn’t?”
“No.Before I could get around to doing anything definite about it, his antics stopped getting to me.Besides, he’s a great party gimmick, he can really get the
“Not to mention more than a few of the guests, I’ll wager!”
“He’s also very good for chasing away bill collectors and other unwanted pests.Far more effective than a watchdog, since there’s no chance of him being given a bait, or
getting stolen.And I don’t have the expense of having to feed him.Besides, why should I spoil his fun?I’ll have my turn when I die, and who knows, I might
even decide to come back to haunt you!”
© Copyright 2011
© Copyright 2016 Philip Roberts. All rights reserved.