Curse of the Wereghost
Like any other great story ever told, it started off like any other night. I was sitting at the Laundromat watching my clothes spin round and round in the dryer. Wishing there was some way that I could expedite the whole process so I could go home and get back to a busy evening of doing nothing at all.
As per usual, I was there alone. One thing that has always baffled me about the Laundromat is that I always seem to be the only one there who is alone. Whether it’s a couple, a mother with her kids, or a group of roommates, people always seem to travel to the Laundromat in packs. Not me though. I wouldn’t even know how to go about asking someone to come to the Laundromat with me. I’ve always assumed that most people have the same feelings towards the place that I do. It’s something to be avoided at all cost.
After all, can you imagine any place more depressing than a Laundromat? I know what you’re thinking; a funeral. I beg to differ. At least at a funeral you’re surrounded by friends and family. Everybody’s grieving, but at least they’re together. I never feel more alone than I do at the Laundromat. I fucking hate the Laundromat, but I digress.
As I was saying before, I was sitting in the Laundromat by myself watching my clothes spin in their seemingly endless cycle of boredom when a peculiar man shuffled in the door. He looked to be about fifty. He was around five foot five, dressed in a dirty pair of jeans and an old flannel jacket. He kind of looked like Ed Gein, only with more of a sad-sack demeanor to him and a large bump on his forehead that made it seem like he was about to sprout a horn. He made a B-Line straight towards me and sat down.
I’ve always had issues with personal space and with this serial killer lookalike sitting uncomfortably close to me my anxiety levels were at full tilt. I reached into my pocket and grabbed my Zippo. I started flicking it incessantly, a nervous habit I picked up some years ago. Mind you, this is something that I do without realizing. I know it’s annoying to those around me and when I catch myself doing it I usually stop right away, but I didn’t catch it this time.
After a few moments of the clickity-clack sound of the Zippo’s metal hinge the man turned to me. It was at this time I realized what I had been doing and I assumed he was going to ask me to stop. I started feeling defensive. Who was this old douche bag to sit down next to me uninvited and then have the nerve to ask me to stop doing something, even if I was being annoying? However, to my surprise that was not what he was about to say.
Instead, he asked me a simple question. “Is that a Zippo lighter?” he mumbled in a slightly raspy voice. In my head my response was “Of course it is, what the Hell else would it be?”, but my actual response was a simple affirmation that I was indeed holding a Zippo. I think my exact words were something along the lines of “Yes”. The man then got a nostalgic look in his face and I knew this was going to turn into a story I didn’t want to hear. He took a deep breath as if he didn’t intend to stop speaking anytime soon and began his tale of things that I had no interest in.
“When I was a young boy, my father had a Zippo just like that one…”
I found this doubtful as my Zippo portrayed a picture of a character named Purgatory from the comic series “Lady Death.” I had acquired it while employed at a comic shop in spite of the fact I was not a fan of the series. I don’t know why I felt that was important to include.
“…I used to sit on his knee while he smoked his pipe for hours...”
Once again I must call bullshit on this story. Nobody uses a Zippo to light a pipe. Real pipe-smokers use matches. Also, how long have they been making Zippos? I’ll have to check on that later.
“…I just loved the smell of the fluid. Even to this day it makes me light-headed with memories of my childhood…”
Sorry bro, but that’s not the memories making you light-headed. Unless those teenagers huffing Elmer’s Glue in their parents’ basements all over the country have really fond memories of making macaroni pictures when they were younger.
“…He always told me that the lighter would be mine after he passed away, but that was before Julia…”
Oh god, here we go. This story was about to go from way too boring to way too personal in record time. I had to get out of there. At this point I apologized to the old man and told him that he had reminded me that I needed to call my mother (I didn’t). I grabbed my coat and went outside for a smoke. The Laundromat had glass windows from floor to ceiling so I was forced to hold my cell phone to my ear while pretending to have a conversation because he was still able to see me. Now that I think of it, I probably should have actually called my mom. It had been a while since we had last spoke, but hindsight is 20/20 as they say.
I finished my cigarette and walked back into the Laundromat. My clothes had finished drying so I grabbed one of those Laundromat cart things and wheeled it over to the dryer. I’ve always wondered if there is some sort of industry term for those cart things. Most people probably assume that they’re just called carts, but I like to think that there is a specific name for those particular carts. Otherwise how would we distinguish them from shopping carts when talking about them in casual conversation? I guess “laundry cart” would probably be descriptive enough. If not, I apologize because it will be what I refer to them as from here on out.
I opened the dryer and started unloading my clothes into the laundry cart, being extra careful not to drop any socks onto the floor. I was unsuccessful. When I grabbed my second handful of clothes a sock and a pair of boxers fell from my grasp and landed on the tile below. I hoped that nobody had been witness to my carelessness. They might assume that I had never done laundry before.
I wheeled the laundry cart over to a folding table and went to work folding my laundry. It was at this point that the man approached me once again. It was also at this point that I noticed that he was not doing any laundry. I came to the conclusion that he was probably a homeless man trying to get out of the cold for a while. I started to feel bad for him, but I still had no desire to hear the rest of his story. He looked at me inquisitively and began to speak once again.
“I don’t like to press my beliefs on other people, but I have to ask. Have you given your life over to Jesus Christ?”
Oh shit. I suddenly wished he would go back to talking about Julia and the Zippo that got away.
“…I wouldn’t normally ask, but I can see the Heavenly Spirit glowing in you…”
I can assure you that the only glow I may have been emitting at the time was an afterglow. For those of you not in the know, afterglow is a term used to describe the awkward transition between being high and sober. I had smoked a little reefer before I left the house. Don’t act like you’ve never done it before.
I am not what you would call a religious person, but I also was not in the mood to get lectured by this guy about fire and brimstone so I lied. I told him that I was totally keen on Jesus.
“…I just knew it! I hate to ask, but from one saved soul to another, can you spare some change so I can get something to eat tonight?”
I gave him a couple of crumbled up ones that I had in my pocket. I told him it was all I had although that was not true. It occurred to me that I had done nothing except lie to this man since meeting him moments earlier. I assumed that he was lying to me about needing the money for food so I figured we were even.
It’s been my experience that beggars generally leave you alone once you give them money so I figured it was a bargain. According to the hobo code he should have then given me an overly gracious “thank you” and then scuttle off into the night, never to be seen again.
However, much to my dismay he didn’t go away. He provided the “thanks” that I was expecting, but after that he did the worst thing I could possibly imagine at that particular moment. He just kept on talking. What more could he want from me? I already gave him money. Our transaction should be over… Also, upon review of the first sentence of this paragraph I realized that it rhymes. I’d go back and reword it so it didn’t sound so ridiculous in my head, but then the last two sentences of the paragraph wouldn’t make any sense.
He continued to go on and on about what life was like before color TV and why newspaper are a better source of information than the Internet, but he never returned to the subject of Julia and the Zippo. Please bear in mind that I really didn’t care about the matter but it seemed unusual for him to bring it up in the first place if he wasn’t planning to elaborate. Maybe he forgot about it. Why couldn’t I?