17. The Unfortunate Ghost

Dr. Dalton is a heart surgeon at Vanderbilt. Until moving into his home at the end of Park Ridge Drive in the nicest part of town he could afford, he considered himself to be a man of science, exclusively. Yes, of course, he would have agreed that there was a certain artistry to his profession, but artistry rooted firmly in the rational world.

Life is for the living; when you’re dead, you’re dead. Simple as that.

So, he was embarrassed just at that level to have to call the Davidson County Paranormal League. He asked them to please come in unmarked vehicles and not their ubiquitous black van with the lightning painted on it.

He was relieved when they asked him not to tell them anything about the history of the house. Their psychic, they said, would tell them everything they needed to know. He could just confirm it in the morning.

So, he went out onto the sleeping porch and tried to sleep while they investigated.

In the morning, he had a preliminary meeting with the group. They were tired and, bless their hearts, though they were trying, they were having a hard time stifling their giggles.

“So,” said the leader, “that’s unfortunate.” His sidekick began to snicker.

“What can I do? What did the psychic say?”

“Honestly, I’m not sure,” the leader said. “Joanne just sensed something, something friendly, but going about its own business. She thinks it’s been here longer than the house, even. Maybe a dog. Maybe a person. She can’t tell.”

Dr. Dalton sighed, “I have a dog. I certainly know the smell of dog farts.”

“Farts,” one of them burst out. “Your ghost farts!”

“Let’s keep it professional,” the leader snapped.

“So, what can I do?”

“You’ve tried having a priest bless the place?”

“I’m an atheist.”

“I don’t think the Unitarians care about that. Maybe they could help you?”

“I can’t have this getting out. I have patients who are Unitarians.”

“Well, then, I guess you could just keep your radio or TV on all the time.”

“Just learn to live with a farting ghost?”

“Yep, that’s about all we can recommend.”


I was going through the last boxes of books in the garage when I realized my grandma’s photos were not in there. I ended up throwing away all of my photos, which sucks more than I can tell you. But I found my grandma’s photos in my dresser drawer, where I swear I have looked a million times before.

As I get older, I have a more complicated relationship with the memory of my grandmother, but it is not outweighed by how unabashedly easy it was to love her as a child.

You look at a picture and you think it can tell you something, but usually, it doesn’t spill its secrets.

I felt bad about throwing out my pictures and then, for a second, I had the thought that it didn’t matter because there would never be a granddaughter to wish she had them to try to understand. And I felt like I had failed. It’s been a long time since I’ve had that particular feeling of failure.

But there it is.

Sometimes I wonder if the compulsion to view a husband and children as “winning” isn’t older than just this body. I wonder how that fits into those photos. And I don’t know, but I’m glad to have them back.