tagSci-Fi & FantasyHaunting Bob Ch. 01

Haunting Bob Ch. 01


This is the story of a man and a ghost.

Not the usual ghost story however.

This was a most unusual haunting...

Bob Johansen sat down wearily on his couch. The last of the boxes were unpacked. He was officially moved in. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes.

He couldn't really blame his ex-wife for looking for more excitement. But she should have been a little more discrete about it.

Bob winced as he remembered coming home to find his wife naked on the couch with her lover. The divorce had been quick and uncontested. He had given her the house and most of the things that they had collected together during the 20 ears they had been married. But the distraction and strain of the divorce had affected him at work and he had been laid off when the company downsized.

A new house. A new town. And a new start.

"Crap." he said aloud to himself. "I'm 42 fucking years old, and it's going to be a bitch starting all over again from scratch."

Bob stood up and stretched. At least he wouldn't have to worry about blizzards and snow down here in Tucson, he mused, just rattlesnakes and heatstroke. Bob snorted a laugh at his own whimsy. At least his sense of humor still functioned.

Bob looked at himself in the bathroom mirror. Time to shave off all that excess face fuzz, he thought. Then he paused. "No," he said, "time for another change. I wonder how I'll look with a beard?"

Bob shook his head. He was talking to himself more and more since the divorce. After 20 years of marriage, conversation was a hard habit to break.

"As long as I don't start answering myself, I'm OK." he said with a grin. Time to go try out the new stove. Beth just happened to be wandering past when Bob emerged into his back yard after his supper. She floated along above him a good 30 feet off the ground. This wasn't hard for her. After all she had been a ghost for over 100 years.

Somehow the man below her didn't seem to quite fit into the neighborhood. That scruffy beard for one thing, and he was dressed way too warmly for the desert. Beth decided to stick around for a bit. She was very bored, and anything unusual was a welcome break from the monotony.

She heard the phone ring inside the house and she phased through the walls to eavesdrop. Beth smiled to herself. Dead all these years and still an incurable snoop.

The man picked up the phone. "Hello?" "Yes this is Robert Johansen." "OF course I remember you. You came by our booth at the trade show in Chicago last year." "Sure, I'll come by for an interview." "Tomorrow at 2. Got it. Thank you. Goodbye."

Well, now she knew his name.

Bob turned around and jerked back in surprise. "Who are you and what are you doing in my house?"

Shocked beyond belief, Beth stumbled backwards, passing right through a wall. He had seen her!

For the first time since she died, someone had seen her and spoken directly to her! Confused, Beth fled, traveling by reflex to her favorite place, a mountain valley in the Rockies.

Sitting on the boulder where she would come to gaze out at the natural beauty of the valley, she propped her elbows on her knees and her chin in her hands. She had to think.

When Elizabeth Cook was 21 years old in 1898. It was her 21st birthday in fact, the 5th if July. She could remember riding into Omaha with her mother and father in their farm buggy.

Her next memory was standing out in the rain at the graveyard near her home. She remembered feeling confused and scared. She couldn't feel the wind or the rain, and there was no one with her. She ran all the way home, but couldn't open the door. When she tried, she passed though it. Once inside, none of her family could see or hear her. She tried for days, pleading and screaming to no avail, she could see and hear them, but they could not see or hear her. At last, she had left her home, never to return.

In all the years that followed, she had never found anyone who could see or hear her. She saw other ghosts, but they could not hear or see her either.

She had found her abilities by trial and error. She loved to read, but could not pick up a book or turn pages, so she would spend hours at libraries, reading unseen and unfelt over people's shoulders. She read anything and everything she could find. She attended college classes and lectures unseen, but adding to her store of knowledge.

She traveled to Europe on a steamship and wandered around, taking in the fashions and the cultures of the various peoples.

She had visited Asia and Africa, South America and Australia. And never once had anyone seen her.

While visiting Paris, she had envied the women in their fashionable clothes, when she looked at herself, she discovered that she was now wearing the outfits she had seen. Beth had long since figured out that she could see herself in a mirror, so she would practice for hours, changing outfits by just thinking about it and wishing. She even walked through Buckingham Palace stark naked just on a whim. All to no avail. No one had seen her, not even the 30 or so ghosts that she saw there.

Decade after decade of wandering, watching the new technologies emerge. When movies came out, Beth would go watch them, usually sitting in a vacant seat, or in the aisle. Television she watched by the hour. Music of all kinds, automobiles, anything new to relieve the boredom. But in all that time, no one had seen her.

And when someone finally did see her, she had fled like a scared kitten. She had to go back and find out if it was true, that he did see her.

Bob stared as the woman stepped back through the wall and vanished. He blinked, then waved his hand through the space where she had just been.

"I'm losing my mind." he muttered to himself.

Too much sun in the back yard, plus the phone call from the woman at the Motorola plant. That was it. A simple hallucination brought on by heat exhaustion.

He went back into the living room and sat down on the couch. "I think I'll take a nap." he said. Suiting actions to words, Bob kicked his shoes off and laid down on the couch. He put his arm over his eyes and sighed.

"Before you go to sleep, could you please talk to me?"

Bob sat bolt upright. "Who?"

He twisted around to stare at the girl sitting in his easy chair.

Red hair, green eyes, pale skin, nice figure.

"Umn, who are you?" Bob managed to say. "And how did you manage that stunt with the wall earlier?"

"Thank God you can see me! And hear me!" the girl exclaimed.

Bob swiveled around to slip his shoes back on. "And why shouldn't I see and hear you? You're right there. And I ain't deaf or blind."

"Well, that part is a little hard to explain. But first things first. My name is Elizabeth Cook. And I am a ghost."

"Riiiight." said Bob.

Beth pouted a bit. "I AM a ghost, at least I think I'm a ghost. I know I've been dead since 1898."

I can't believe I'm having this conversation, Bob thought to himself. "I don't think they had jeans and T-shirts with Nike logos back then."

Beth looked down at herself. "Oh," she said.

As Bob watched, her outline fuzzed from the neck down, then sharpened into focus. Now she wore a simple gingham dress and high buttoned shoes. "Is this better?"

"Wonderful, now I'm going nuts along with everything else." Bob said sadly.

Beth came quickly to sit next to Bob on the couch. She reached out and clasped his hands in hers. "You're not crazy, I'm real, I'm here." Beth said urgently.

"Your hands are cool and soft." Bob said dazedly.

Beth glanced down. She could feel him! She could touch again! Beth slumped against the back of the couch and toppled on through the couch and the wall behind.

Bob tugged on the hand he still held, helping her to sit up again.

Bob watched as her head and body emerged from the wall and couch until she was again sitting next to him. "Better be careful about that." Bob said.

Beth looked at Bob again. "You seem to be taking this all very well."

"Sooner or later, I'll wake up." answered Bob. "meantime, I am going to enjoy the dream."

"But your not sleeping..." Beth said.

"Then I'm gonna make some shrink very rich, 'cause I'm nuttier than a fruitcake." was the reply.

Beth giggled. "Nope." she said. "Not crazy, or hallucinating, or dreaming."

Bob leaned forward and held his head in his hands. "I really don't need this right now."

Beth stood up. "But I NEED you! No one had seen me or talked to me, or, or, touched me since I died. And I'm lonely!" She started to cry.

Bob stood up and put his arms around her. She felt quite solid to him. "Don't cry. I suppose you can stay around for a while."

Bob could never stand to see a woman crying, something his ex had used against him a lot.

Eventually her sobs turned to sniffles, and the sniffles ended too. Bob was still patiently standing there, holding her. "Sorry about that." she said, wiping her eyes with her fingers. "But it's been so LONG!"

Bob sat back down and drew her down to sit beside him. "If you're going to be here for a while, then you had best tell me the whole story."

Holding his hand tightly, Beth started talking. When she was through, it was near 2 AM.

"I need to think about all this." Bob said. But I have to sleep even if you don't. So we'll talk some more in the morning."

Bob stood and stretched muscles stiff from sitting in one place for too long. "Make yourself at home." Bob said.

Beth shifted from foot to foot with her hands behind her back, looking for all the world like a kid about to ask for a favor. "Could you please turn on the TV for me?"

Bob blinked, then shrugged. "Sure, what channel?"

"Do you have cable?" Beth asked eagerly.

"Of course." Bob said.

"Something silly then." Beth replied.

Bob turned on the TV and switched it to the cartoon channel. "This OK?" he asked.

"Perfect! Thank you!" Beth said. She gave Bob a kiss on the cheek and sat down on the couch to watch the TV.

"Good night Elizabeth." Bob said.

"Call me Beth. Good Night Robert."

"Call me Bob, But don't call me later for dinner."

Beth giggled as Bob went up to his bedroom.

Maybe everything would be normal again when he woke up.

Bob woke up in the morning feeling someone's hand holding his. He looked over and saw Beth, floating slightly above the bed, lying on her back. She was sound asleep.

As Bob moved, her fingers tightened in his. Bob tugged gently, but Beth refused to release his hand. Tugging harder finally woke her up .

"I didn't know ghosts slept." Bob remarked as Beth opened her eyes.

"Neither did I." Beth said as she tried to sit up.

She glanced down and realized that she was about 3 inches above the mattress. She drifted down to settle on the bed. "I just came in here to sit and hold your hand while you slept. I lay down next to you for a moment. Next thing I know, I'm waking up."

"When was the last time you slept or felt tired?" Bob asked.

"Not since I died, as best I can recall." Beth said. "I had forgotten how good sleep can feel!"

"Interesting." Bob said.

Bob got out of bed and went into the bathroom to take a shower. When he finally came back downstairs, Beth was already in the kitchen, sitting at the table. "I miss the domesticity, I used to be a pretty fair cook."

Bob just grinned. "I'm not too bad myself."

When breakfast was ready, Bob sat down across from Beth. "It is kinda nice to have someone to chat with over my bacon and eggs."

Beth looked wistful. "I can smell the food, but I can't taste anything." She looked downcast.

"I can't even pick up the food to try."

Bob stopped chewing while he thought. Then his face lit up and he swallowed the bite of eggs in his mouth.

"You can feel me, and I can feel you." He stated.

"Right." said Beth cautiously.

"Tell me, when you reach over and feel my arm, do you feel my shirt? Or does your touch go through to the skin?" Bob asked.

Beth sat up. "Why, Now that you mention it. I did feel your shirt." She reached over and stroked his arm. "Yes, I can feel the fabric, and the buttons on the cuffs."

Bob picked up a bit of bacon and scooped a little of his scrambled eggs on it like a chip with dip.

"Open wide." was all he said, extending his had to her face.

Beth reflexively opened her mouth. Bob put the bacon and eggs through her open lips. She closed her mouth around the food and fingers.

Her eyes lit up as Bob withdrew his fingers and left the food behind.

She gave an experimental chew and swallow. "Oh my God! That tastes WONDERFUL!" She exclaimed.

Bob sat back with a satisfied smile. "So you can touch and evidently taste something as long as it is in direct contact with me at the time."

Beth's gut rumbled audibly. "Uh oh," Beth said. "I think I'm hungry again!"

Bob laughed." We can fix that."

Beth watched as Bob made several bacon and scrambled egg sandwiches on toast. Bob sliced the sandwiches into triangles, then he fed them to Beth bite by bite.

They found that she could drink milk or coffee, but only if Bob held the glass or cup.

When Beth was full, Bob cleaned up the dishes.

Beth appeared to be wearing a nice summer weight frock. "You look great." Bob said.

"Well you are dressed way too heavy for the desert." Beth said.

She led the way back upstairs to his bedroom. "Open the closet and let's see what you've got." Beth said.

Bob shook his head and muttered something. But he opened the closet door.

Beth looked over the meager selection. "That shirt, and those pants." She said, pointing out the items.

Bob took the indicated items out of the closet and laid them on the bed.

Beth started out of the room. "I'll give you some privacy while you dress." She said. Then she poked her head back through the wall. "Oh, and I am not just like a wife without the fringe benefits." She said in a mock severe voice. "I may be dead, but I have great hearing."

Bob blushed, but Beth had pulled her head back through the wall and he could hear her laughter as she moved down the hall and down the stairs.

Once he dressed, Bob went downstairs again.

"You look fine." Beth told Bob, straightening his collar and looking at him critically. "The job interview should go well."

"I just wish I knew that they were really looking for." Bob said.

"Hmmm, maybe I can help with that." Beth said.

Before Bob could respond, Beth leaned forward and kissed him. Then she vanished.

Bob rubbed his lips musingly. "This is going to take a LOT of getting used to."

Then he grinned. At least he wouldn't be bored. Hell, if all this was a figment of a crazed brain, he might as well go along for the ride and enjoy the insanity while it lasted.

Bob checked his watch. Just enough time to make it to the Motorola plant on the other side of the city.

Bob turned into the parking lot at the Motorola plant, and nearly wrecked the car when Beth popped into view on the seat beside him.

"Oops, sorry about that." She said.

"Trying to give me a coronary?" Bob asked shakily. "Gimme some warning next time. Please?"

Beth sat back with a satisfied smile. "I listened in on the personnel manager's office. They want to pick your brains about your old company, then drop you when they have the information that they need."

"Those bastards." Bob said. "But that's kind of what I had figured."

Beth looked at Bob with a wicked grin. "Instead of going in an asking for a job, go in and tell them that you will act as an independent consultant. They were willing to pay you $20,000 per year. So you go in and tell them that you want $30,000 for a 6 month retainer, to be renegotiated at the end of the contract."

"Where the hell did you learn all that? Riiiight, a hundred years of reading, watching people, and going to movies." Said Bob, a slow grin spreading across his face.

Beth patted his knee. "You catch on fast."

"Don't ever patronize me like that again." Bob said quietly.

Beth was quiet for a moment. "Sorry."

Bob shook himself and found a parking spot, slipping the big Caddy into it. He turned off the ignition and turned slightly to face Beth. "I don't mean to snap, but I have always hated that 'good boy' crap from when I was a kid. You gave me good advice and I intend to follow it."

On a sudden impulse, he leaned over and kissed her on the lips. "Wish me luck."

Beth grabbed his head and kissed him hard before he could move. "That's a good luck kiss."

Then she vanished again.

Bob got out of the car and headed toward the plant offices.

Once inside, he asked the security guard at the front desk for directions to the personnel managers' office. He knocked on the appropriate door, and then entered.

"Hello, I'm Bob Johansen."

The man behind the desk stood up and leaned forward to shake Bob's hand. "Hi, I'm Al Donnelly."

Bob noticed for the first time that a woman was sitting just to the side of Donnelly's desk.

She stood up and held her hand out to shake. "Hi Bob, My name is Michelle Vitelli. I am VP of research and development here at this plant."

Bob shook her hand and nodded. Then he turned back to Donnelly. "I appreciate the offer of a salaried job. However I prefer to remain independent."

Donnelly looked surprised. "You don't want to work for us?"

"Oh I want to work for you." Bob said. "But as an independent consultant. I know what you want to know about my old company. Why else would you want to hire me?"

"Well, er, that is..." stammered Donnelly.

Bob chuckled. "I'm not offended. You want to hire me, pick my brains, then dump me when you have what you need. Instead, I'll take $30,000 for a 6-month retainer. At the end of the term, we can re-negotiate for the next 6 months."

Ms. Vitelli spoke up. "You'd have to work for us exclusively during the contract term."

"Of course," replied Bob.

Ms. Vitelli stood up "Get the contract drawn up." She said to Donnelly. Then she turned to Bob again. "Welcome to Motorola." Bob shook her hand and she left.

"I'll have the contract ready to sign in the morning." Donnelly said.

"Give me a call and I'll come down and review the terms. $30,000 for the 6-month contract paid in 6 equal monthly installments. I want a dedicated parking space, and my own office. Medical and dental, I will take care of myself." Bob said.

Donnelly nodded. "Got it. Welcome aboard."

Bob shook his hand again and left.

Back in the car, Beth was waiting for him. "Well?" She demanded. "How did it go?" Bob laughed. "As if you weren't sitting in there listening."

Beth blushed. How did you know?"

"Because you strike me as an incurable snoop." Bob said with a grin. Beth was trying not to laugh, "Guilty as charged."

Bob chuckled again and started the car. Beth scooted over and snuggled close to Bob's side. He put an arm around her and concentrated on his driving.

Back at his house, Bob was in a manic mood. "I can't believe I pulled it off!" he said over and over.

Beth said. "I think that Vitelli witch was going to vamp you during the salary negotiations. But you caught them off guard and got more than they probably would have given you if you had tried for just a regular employee's spot."

Bob glanced at Beth. "Do I detect a note of jealousy in that meow?"

Beth stuck her tongue out at Bob. "Note just a note, a whole damn symphony." Then she licked her lips, "But I have an advantage that she doesn't have."

"And what's that?" Bob asked as he busied himself with making a pizza for his lunch. Beth came up behind him and slid her arms around his body.

"I'm here and she's back there," she said in his ear as she hugged him.

"There is that." Bob replied.

Beth leg go of Bob and waltzed around the kitchen as Bob slid the pizza into the oven.

"You're in for a treat." Bob said. "I don't think that they had pizza in Omaha a hundred years ago."

"Nope." Beth said. "But it sure smells good."

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