Jeff Baker: The Night in Question

Here’s another nice sweet (okay, maybe even mushy!) romantic story, this time with added ghosts, to get you in the mood for Valentine’s Day. As Jeff explains, the story was inspired by his local store: “The convenience store down the street from the College I went to was a real place (still is!) and I really did wander down there with my friends for beer, snacks and comic books just over forty years ago. Don’t know about romantic ghosts but it’s a possibility!


Pic credit: Jeff Baker

            He had been named after the sylvan glade of mysteries and after Merlin Sylvestris, the sorcerer. But the old convenience store with its pocked pavement and peeling paint was hardly anything pastoral. Nonetheless, something he sensed caused Silveria to stop the car (no traffic in the early evening, thankfully!) and take a second look at the young man standing at the corner of the building where the payphones had once been.

            At first glance, he seemed a young man of Silveria’s age; his early twenties. But his clothes were subtly out of date; bell bottom jeans and a button down shirt with an owl stenciled on the side. Silveria realized the man was not of this world.

            The man had no shadow.

            “Hello,” Silveria said, walking from where he parked the car. “I know who, or rather, what you are.” Silveria realized he could see through the young man, who looked up startled.

            “Connecting with spirits is my family’s gift. We help spirits move on.” Silveria said.

            “Uh, that really isn’t necessary,” the ghost said.

            “I am Silveria, and I…”

            “Look, I’m Johnny and I’m sure you mean well, but I don’t really need that,” the ghost said interrupting. “I’m okay, I’m just waiting for someone,”

            “I don’t think you realize what happened to you.” Silveria said. “I can help you.”

            Johnny started to say something when another young man came around the corner, seemingly not paying attention and bumped right into Johnny. The newcomer was wearing plaid knit pants and a worn brown jacket over a blue t-shirt with the old name of the college that was a few blocks away.

            Both men were slightly transparent.

            “Oh, my gosh!” the new ghost said, taking no notice of Silveria. “I’m sorry! I wasn’t watching where I was going! I was just…”

            Johnny was shaking his head and pointing at Silveria. “Ralph, this guy can see us.”

            “Wha?” the second ghost said looking up open mouthed.

            “I am Silveria,” he said. “I am here to give you passage. I can open up the way to the realm beyond for you.”

            “We already have that,” Johnny said. “He thinks we need help,” he said to Ralph, the second ghost.

            “Ohhhhhhh,” Ralph said. “Look, we’d better explain.”

            “My name is Johnny Cole,” the first ghost said. “This is Ralph Mayhew. We were going to Millington College back in January of 1976…”

            “It’s the University of Millington, now.” Silveria said.

            “Wow.” Ralph said.

            “Anyway,” Johnny said. “One January evening, right after school started back up after Christmas Break, I drove down here to get some munchies.”

            “And I bumped into him, literally when he was standing here making a phone call.” Ralph said.

            “I asked him if he needed a ride back to the dorm and he said yeah…” Johnny said.

            “Then we went into the store to get some snacks…” Ralph said.

            “And a six-pack of beer!” Johnny said, grinning at the memory.

            “This place never checked I. D.” Ralph said.

            “I don’t think they even make that beer anymore,” Johnny said.

            “Yeah, it’s too cheap.” Ralph said.

            The two ghosts laughed.

            “We went back to his dorm room and drank the beer,” Johnny said.

            “And I got a little tipsy and I said a couple of things I shouldn’t have.” Ralph said.

            “Like telling me you liked what I was sitting on, and you didn’t mean the chair.” Johnny said.

            This time all three men laughed.

            “To make a long story short, we realized we were…” Ralph said.

            “Simpatico.” Johnny said with a grin,

            “We moved into our own apartment the Summer of our Junior year.” Ralph said. “Discreetly.”

            “We were together for what? Thirty-two years?” Johnny said looking at Ralph.

            “Then all those cigarettes caught up to him.” Ralph said.

            “Yeah,” Johnny said, glancing down at his feet for a moment.

            “I joined him a few years later,” Ralph said. “And when we found out we could, we came back here on the date we met to re-enact how we first met.” The two ghosts grinned at each other, not looking creepy in the least.

            “We do it every year,” Johnny said. “And afterwards we go back. Of our own volition.”

            “What? No beer?” Silveria asked. The three of them laughed again.

            “One year we went into the store,” Ralph said. “Y’know, for old time’s sake? But the lights are too bright for us now.”

            “Okay,” Silveria said. “Sorry to bother you. Look, happy anniversary.”

            “Thanks,” the two ghosts said grinning.

            They waved as Silveria walked back to his car. As he drove away, he could somehow still hear the ghostly voices:

            “I wasn’t watching where I was going! I was just…well, I’m sorry!”

            “That’s okay. Hey, haven’t I seen you up at school? I’m Johnny Cole…”