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The Ghost and Mrs. Forth

Posted in Uncategorized by cesco7 on January 7, 2018

When I was a kid I just assumed there was a ghost in our house, even though that made almost no sense for reasons other than the obvious. We lived in a new house on a new street in a new development with no backstory that ever caused anyone to scream. “You son of a bitch! You moved the cemetery, but you left the bodies, didn’t you?! You son of a bitch, you left the bodies and you only moved the headstones!” So even if there had been a ghost it would have been that of a frog, turtle, garden snake, or occasional quail, all sadly, eventually forced out by further building that—despite constant yanking and hiding of property markers by my friend Jeff and I—ultimately erased the pond and woods that now inform Ted’s childhood memories…

As for our supposed house ghost, I never thought it was watching me. I never imagined it was interacting with me in any fashion. Frankly, I thought it couldn’t give a damn what I was doing. All this would seem great for a pathologically shy child who one would assume wished more than anything also to be invisible. But for anyone who has ever suffered from severe shyness or studied it, that’s not how awkward apprehension works. Shy people don’t need solitude like introverts nor do they crave to be ignored. In fact, shy people often long for interaction but are so overwhelmed by the possibility others will intensely watch, judge, and summarily find them remarkably wanting that they can’t even take that first step to being social. In many ways it’s a remarkably ego-driven anxiety, one that presumes everyone has a vested interest in—and absolute focus on—what one is doing, born from a twisted version of self-importance that both cannot handle the very idea—not even the actual proffering—of criticism but greatly longs to be recognized and seen by all.

In short, it can be a self-involved, self-destructive mess. It also explains how someone can performs for hundreds on stage or millions on the screen but be remarkably hesitant or removed one-on-one. Ever since I was little I wanted to be a writer and cartoonist. I wanted people to see my work and hopefully enjoy it. And when I was extremely fortunate to achieve such, I was never felled by any public criticism, whether by letter or online. After all, once a work is out there it belongs to the reader as much as the creator. I got to have my say, so why shouldn’t someone get to have theirs? But only in the last ten or so years have I been able to talk about what I do in person, for the very fear that being seen would lead to comments regarding ugliness or awkwardness or how not everything has to end with a Simpsons reference.

And speaking of inflated egotism, weren’t we talking about ghosts and not me? So in short, maybe I didn’t think I was worth the ghost’s attention. But I do know it had a rapt audience in my childhood cat Bettina. Every so often I would see Bettina quietly, intensely staring at a wall, as if listening to a fascinating story, receiving commands from beyond or simply making a new friend…

And so now the Forths have their own cat-communicating specter. That said, the ghost will never be seen, even in transparent or dotted form. It will never interact with any family member save Kitty, and even then will remain unseen and mute. And it will never move any physical objects, disrupt any storylines or take on a “Not Me” quality, since we all know where that will eventually lead…

After all, the ghost has its own afterlife to live, and doesn’t have the time to simply watch and judge others.

6 Responses

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  1. maradanto said, on January 7, 2018 at 11:52 am

    With the squiggle on his forehead, “Not Me” looks like he could be the ghost of Charlie Brown.

    (And I always thought the real complaint in “Poltergeist” should be “You built the houses and only dug 5-and-a-half feet for the foundations! How could you?”

    • cesco7 said, on January 7, 2018 at 5:31 pm

      Wait, that IS a good point! How shallow were the foundations?!

  2. Allen Knutson said, on January 8, 2018 at 12:36 am

    It takes place in Orange County, where they don’t have to dig below a frostline, so AFAICT they don’t have to dig at all. It’s kind of amazing how these houses in these incredibly expensive areas (like La Jolla) have no basements, just because they were cheaper to build that way.

  3. oldskool said, on January 8, 2018 at 6:59 pm

    . . . Loved all the anecdotes, humour (as always), but gotta say, since you’ve stated your home was in North America, the line “even if there had been a ghost it would have been that of a frog, turtle, garden snake, or occasional quail” made me *cringe*, when considered historically…

    • Stevebri said, on January 13, 2018 at 11:09 am

      Interesting point. What is the likelihood of a person having died (or was buried) on a 400 square foot piece of land (saying the house is 20 ft by 20 ft) somewhere in North America. From Wikipedia: “While it is difficult to determine exactly how many Natives lived in North America before Columbus, estimates range from a low of 2.1 million to 7 million people to a high of 18 million.”

      7 million people spread across 9.5 million square miles. Most clustered together rather than spread randomly. Seems to be unlikely that someone was buried on so small a place. But I am not a statistician.

    • cesco7 said, on January 13, 2018 at 12:57 pm

      The fact I grew up on Long Island the chances of a Native American civilization living in my area is actually rather high. I’m going off the thought that given—unlike the neighborhood in “Poltergeist”—our homes all have deep basements, there would have more than likely been a discovery of a burial ground. Also, since the neighborhood was built in the early 70s there would be some record of such. Then again, it was the early 70s and such a fact could have been dismissed without a second thought. In short, this may come down on the side of hope. I certainly did not mean any disrespect and I apologize.

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