The Ghost Writer
Old Tom, a Mohican, and an ‘Italian’ Gentleman
Nearly eighty, old Tom struck up a conversation with the two men who sat in the same hospital room with him waiting to be discharged. I was one and a young man with a bright purple Mohawk haircut was the other. Tom had the floor and therefore did most of the talking. The three of us were drinking tea and eating sandwiches as we each re-collected our wits after being put under for an intrusive and somewhat degrading colonoscopy examination.
As Tom spoke, an elderly Italian gentleman was wheeled in – at least I think he had what I detected to be an Italian accent though he didn’t contribute much to the conversation, seeming content with the rest of us just to listen to Tom spruik. Tom’s full head of hair with his matching grey beard and the twinkle in his blues eyes set in his still handsome face made him a pleasant enough object upon which to fix one’s unsteady gaze. As the ghost gum tree smells of resin so Tom exuded bush-wisdom.
What tales did Tom enthral us with? He spoke of horses, ghostly apparitions, and a lost love. His ‘lost love’ came in the form of a beautiful blond woman. I got the impression that Tom’s lost love story was set in the 60’s on account of the beautiful woman’s blonde hair being in a giant bun. Mind you, Tom said that the woman never had her hair that way when he knew her. Let me explain.
Tom had fallen in love with a blond woman in the small bush town where they both had lived in the 1950’s. Somehow (as men sometimes do), Tom had got the impression that the woman was not interested in any of his advances. Anyway, Tom had moved on. But, as Tom began to weave his tale, the Mohican, the ‘Italian’ and I were to learn that Tom began to see apparitions of a blond lady. He knew they were apparitions, and though he noted that the appearance in the manifestations resembled his lost love, he didn’t think that it was because of the different hairdo.
Some years later Tom met a man from his old town. As you would, Tom enquired after his old flame. ‘She was really devastated when you left town. She never really got over you, Tom,’ was the reply. ‘Did she marry?’ Tom asked. ‘No, she died broken hearted.’ And what do you know, strange as it may seem, the man was able to show Tom some photographs of Tom’s lost love. You’ve guessed it. There she was with her hair in a beehive. As the Mohican and I shot a glance each other I was sure I could hear the theme music for the Twilight Zone playing in the background.
Old Tom knew he had us spellbound. The old ‘bushy’ knew how to tell a story. Next he told us about the time he saw an apparition of his dead father walking down the hallway of his old house. His ‘dad’ turned and looked at him. Tom wasn’t frightened in the least. He kept his ‘vision’ to himself. A few months later his wife said to him, ‘I didn’t want to say anything in case I upset you, but I saw your dad walking down the hallway a couple of months or so ago.’ Tom enquired, ‘Did he turn and look at you?’ ‘No,’ replied Tom’s wife, ‘He just kept walking until he disappeared at the end of the hallway.’ Again the Mohican and I looked askance at each other.
On a roll Tom introduced us to an old horse. This particular horse had the task of pulling Tom and his mate in a cart. Apparently the horse was getting ready for the ‘knacker’s yard.’ Tom said he was ‘old school’ and thought nothing of shooting animals that were done. By this I took it that Tom had grown up on a farm. Anyway, as the old horse struggled somewhat to haul the cart with Tom and his mate in it, Tom began to plan the time when he was going to shoot the elderly equine. Just as he began to think about it the horse ‘defying what horses are normally capable of,’ said Tom, turned its whole head around and glared down its rear at Tom. His mate said, ‘Tom, did you see the way that that horse looked at you?’ ‘Yeah,’ replied Tom, ‘He knows exactly what I’m thinking.’
I wanted to interject at this point with an anecdote about a mate of mine’s father who, while sitting having his lunch, looked at his fat old dog sleeping on the kitchen floor. He said he just thought to himself as he looked at the sleeping dog, ‘We’re going to have to have you put down soon.’ He had no sooner thought that thought than the dog turned round as if startled and looked directly at him!
Tom said he believed that there is more to reality than what we can see. He said there must be some ‘spiritual dimension.’ He had seen too many things he couldn’t explain – things that were confirmed to him by others seeing the same things he saw. The room became silent as we pondered these things. Tom seemed to be finished talking.
Thinking that I had deferred to Tom’s ‘age’ for the amount of time required to satisfy politeness I now felt that I was now in a safe position to contribute to the conversation. ‘Yes Tom, I too believe that there is another realm, a realm invisible to us – a spirit realm. I used to play at séances as a boy – “spirit-in-the-glass” and all of that. Too many weird things would happen, inexplicable things. In fact, it was through “playing” with Ouija boards that I came to believe that there truly was a spirit realm. This in turn led me to believe in the existence of God. If spirit beings exist then why wouldn’t God exist?’
Seeing I had now been given the floor I went on, ‘I started reading the Bible, and now I am positive that God exists, but you will need to have to make up your own minds. But, I also learned from the Bible that just as angels really exist, so also do fallen angels. The Bible calls these fallen angels “demons.” Therefore, I would be very careful – in fact I would recommend that you don’t try to contact dead people –as these demons are able to impersonate departed loved ones for their own evil ends.’
After the obligatory polite pause of silence the young man with the purple-crested cockatoo hairdo prefaced his speech with, ‘I am an Agnostic, but – but I believe in a spirit world.’ At that we all turned to look at the ‘Italian’ man, who with mouth full appeared to be trying to contribute something to our deep conversation. From what I could gather he was saying how much he was enjoying the tea and sandwiches! Ah well, we were all in that room recovering from our anaesthetically induced sleep.
At that the nurse came to discharge me to my awaiting (beautiful blonde) wife. Turning my head to look at Tom, as I began my walk along the hallway (still nursing my anaesthetic hangover) I said my goodbyes to him, the Mohican, and the ‘Italian’ gentleman.