Greetings, WYMOP readers!
I listen to audiobooks. Lots of ’em. Podcasts too, but some of them are also audiobooks, just released in episodic form. Chances are, if you see me at work, I’ve got at least one earbud plugged into my head. And chances are, if that earbud is in there, that I’m having private story time within the confines of my own little skull.
Some days, it’s the only thing that keeps me from going postal.
So the other day I was listening to Peter Straub’s Ghost Story. I thought perhaps I had read the novel as a kid, but as I listened I found none of it familiar. Not in the slightest. So I settled in for what I’ve heard touted as one of the greatest ghost stories of all time, confident that I would enjoy it. And I did. I enjoyed it all morning in the office, and then while I was out on the road, straight on ’til lunch.
Even at lunch, when I usually pull out the chromebook and work on something writerly, I left the buds plugged in and listened. When lunch was over, I stayed plugged in while I crawled into the back of the truck and pulled some mail and packages up into the cab for me to deliver in the second half of my day; the whole time the narrator was telling me Straub’s Ghost Story.
If you haven’t ever read Ghost Story (or seen the film, I suppose), there are scenes where the individual characters are having nightmares. This was what was playing in my ears as I drove away from my lunch spot: one of the characters dreaming is in a building he doesn’t recognize, and there is something in there with him—something that has come to get him. He’s trapped in a room, listening to the thing work its way through the house, thumping and bumping along. The thing, whatever it is (he doesn’t know until the end of the dream) is brushing against walls, and thudding against the floor, and he can hear it getting closer . . . and closer . . .
This was the scene running through my head as I approached my first park point after lunch, and it’s a tense and detailed scene, I can assure you. So I was not in what one might call the best frame of mind when, just as I touched the brakes to pull over, a tremendous, truck-shaking THUD came from the back of my mail truck. And I did what any sane, sensible person would do in a situation like that: I felt my eyes bug out of my head as I shouted “Holy duck!”
Okay, I didn’t actually shout duck, but that D is only a couple of letters off, and come on, my mom reads this thing!
So I bellowed some fowl language (haw-haw) and pulled to the side of the road. It only took me that long to realize what had happened, but it also took that long for my heart to start up again—and when it did, it was rapping along at triple its usual pace as if trying to make up for lost time.
When I’d pulled that mail up to the front of the truck, I’d had to move some other things around in the back to make room for me to work: I needed some space to shift the trays. One of the things that had been in my way was a long, wide, flat package, heavy enough that someone at the beginning of the mailing process had been so concerned as to actually plaster a few HEAVY warning stickers on it, and those stickers weren’t lying—the thing was damn heavy. Rather than lift it and shift it (I was kneeling back there, not in the best position to gain any real leverage) I had simply pried it up and stood it on end, freeing up some floor space to work in.
And then I forgot to lay it back down.
So, when I touched the brakes and my truck began to slow, the HEAVY package overbalanced and toppled, landing flat again with an immense, truck-jolting whap. This entire sequence of events ran through my head as I pulled into my usual parking spot for that point in my route, and I took a while to just sit, listening to my heart smash around in my chest and laughing fit to bust, both fueled by the metric-butt-ton of adrenaline that had just been dumped into my bloodstream.
Why didn’t that package tip when I accelerated away from my lunch spot, to fall quietly backward atop the trays of mail behind it? How did it come to fall right at the point in the story where a loud thud had potential to make me soil myself? I can’t say for sure, but I have a theory: God has a wicked sense of humor, and, occasionally, I provide great entertainment for Him.
Good one, God.
Talk to you later!