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Ghost Collecting

The Craig’s List ad read: For Sale or Trade. Rocking chair: vintage, lightweight, sturdy, haunted. Purchaser should feel comfortable with otherworldly companionship. Ghosts attached to chair do not appear to be hostile or dangerous. No warranty. Final sale. No return. Serious inquiry only. $25.

There was a photograph attached. The chair was ugly. Mud-colored roses with decaying green leaves on a dirt background.

There are only two reasons why anyone would answer an ad like that. One. They don’t believe in ghosts and they want to get a spectacular, maybe even collectible, vintage chair for cheap. (Nothing about this chair was spectacular or collectible.) Two. They collect ghosts.

Yes, there are people who collect ghosts. I happen to be one of them.

I responded to the ad with an inquiry. Would the owner permit me to interview the ghost before purchase?

The owner responded with an inquiry of her own. What would be the purpose of such an interview?

I answered truthfully, mostly. One. To determine compatibility with myself and my other ghosts. (Six of those.) Two. To inquire as to the ghost’s needs and ensure I could provide for them. Three. To assess for malicious intent.

There was another reason, which I chose not to share just yet. To recruit the owner as a ghost collector. Too few of those in the world. Too many ghosts.

The owner replied that she would grant an interview.

I thanked her and arranged a time of meeting.

On the appointed day, I arrived politely on time and announced my presence by ringing the bell. The chair sat on the front porch, rocking gently in anticipation. The owner must have told the ghost to expect me. Very kind of her. I nodded my respect to it. And I thought I felt a shudder of pleased surprise.

The owner was a young woman, newly independent, I guessed. I inquired as to how she had taken possession of the chair. She informed me that she had purchased it at a garage sale. She had been furnishing her very first apartment. The chair had been cheap. She had not been informed of the resident ghost, which wasn’t unusual, given that most people were oblivious to the presence of ghosts residing in mundane objects.

I asked how many days it took before she was aware of the ghost.

Days? She questioned. Try hours.

This was excellent news. The owner would be highly sensitive to ghosts then, and this spoke well of her ability to provide for them and form a bond.

I asked the owner what sort of luck she had been having since obtaining the chair. Any lucky coincidences? Ill-luck averted? Happy unexpected occurrences, though seemingly coincidental? She couldn’t recall anything, either way.

Finally, I asked her why she wanted to get rid of the chair. She didn’t like ghosts and didn’t want one in her house. I had to hope I could change her mind.

I asked if I could sit a moment with the ghost. The owner waved her permission. The ghost swayed hers.

The chair was cool, in a comforting iced tea on a hot day sort of way. She welcomed me with a companionable creak of her rockers. There was no malice in her. A curiosity. A hint of cheekiness. A touch of stubborn. She was securely attached to the object itself and wasn’t at all inclined to wander. She liked to sit in the sun. She wanted a porch from which to watch children play and lovers walk hand in hand. She would be perfect to add to my collection. And a perfect first ghost for a new collector.

I told her about my other ghosts, out loud, so the owner could hear. The mischievous boy in the toy soldier, who was rather fond of rolling off the table and under the sofa in a game of hide-and-seek. The Irish grandmother in the ceramic pitcher, who corrected me when I mis-measured a recipe. The musician in the wooden flute, who whistled when no one else was about. The impatient young man in the old rusting bicycle that leaned against my own porch. The sisters in their matched silver candlesticks.

The ghost rocked excitedly. I suggested she might come stay with me. She paused. Stopped rocking in mid-motion. I could not move her.

The owner stood warily in the doorway, watching. She reminded me the ad was still running and she was sure someone would buy the chair eventually. Then she shuddered and insisted ghosts were creepy.

I gave the chair a little reassuring pat on one of her arms and stood.

The idea of ghosts was indeed creepy. I had thought so myself at some time in the past. But ghosts make wonderful companions. I told the owner so. I explained some of the little ways they brought luck or helped around the house and the way they comforted you when you least expected it.

I told her I wouldn’t be able to take the chair, not today. She seemed disappointed before I told her why. She wants to stay with you.

The owner glanced at the chair, which remained rigidly motionless, as though holding her breath.

Then the owner told me quietly, eyes wide with wonder, that she had suddenly remembered to check the pockets of an old pair jeans before she donated them and found a ring she thought she had lost. And last week, inexplicably, she decided to check the wiring of the used TV she had bought, and it was frayed and bare.

I smiled.

I turned and left, the money still in my pocket. I was disappointed myself, for it was a very pleasant ghost to leave behind. Until I turned back and saw the owner, companion now, there on the porch, looking at the chair, intently, as though trying to say something or hear something. And then she sat and smiled the faintest of smiles. And the chair rocked.

Sheila Massie

Sheila Massie writes speculative fiction, both dark and hopeful, so she can play with monsters, ghosts, beasts, and magic.  She also holds a 3rd-degree black belt in Taekwon-Do and teaches people how to defend themselves against real-life monsters of the human variety. She lives in Victoria, BC with her husband and two beast-sized dogs. Find out more about Sheila at sheilamassie.com.

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