All Stories, General Fiction

Gunter Garth by Tom Sheehan

A spirit was upon the land and within the house and only one person was aware of it. Gunter Garth was connected with that spirit right from the first notice, drew it to him, set it on his soul, knowing the visitation was other-worldly. had its own destiny .. and only Time could play a part in two beings so enjoined.

Time would announce the juncture, bring it to light.

Gunter Garth, mortal creature, was dead to rights on many issues and encounters in his life. Dead right! His most valuable asset was an inherent and near-infallible belief and vision of the way ideas, choices and actions would be advanced by his energies. His vision was prime, select, ahead of others in the small town just a dozen miles north of Boston, areas wide enough for thought, expansion, and neatly split by a river dominated by lobster men’s craft. He was the town’s measuring stick. Its advance, its influence, were simmering in mediocrity while he approached manhood … but did not stay simmering for long.

And now, his advice and direction still sought by younger activist factions, he was dying, as those about him had been advised by the primary doctor and that prognosis was accepted by the staff of a prominent Boston hospital, by his wife Grace, by his children (all but one who was caught up in a distant death), by the remains of his dozen siblings, and by a score of relatives and friends come along with others, a highway of visitors.

Gunter Garth was sick in a room of a premier Boston  hospital, but he didn’t want to lose control of where and when to die, not now, not ever when that ever came around. Those conditions had earlier been expressed to his family, by a man now unable to converse, move, help himself

The hospital room was crowded; it was difficult to breathe. And he wanted to go home. He wanted to die at home. His mind and body had made the demand. There was no place like home; he’d depended on that dictate his entire thinking life, reiterated it so many times it came to the family as an echo at odd moments of each day. Indeed, many of those moments were memorable, an iron grip on the soft flesh, an image coming alive in their thinking.

Home, for him always, was where love first hangs its hat in the front hall, on the back of the front door, on a neat rack on the wall, on the rail post of the first stairway to nighttime skies, heaven so often waiting at the top of stairs, what makes the world go round.

Gunter knew his home from the first-positioned building block to the lost shingle at an eave’s turn on the roof, the sun losing itself on some days. Closets, corners, and the softest shadows in the house he knew were shared on occasion with family only by alluded reference, off-hand mentions of things about us.

But he never outright told them about spirits or specters he was familiar with, knew of their shaded hideouts, caught messages from those other world messengers as if they were at his feet in these rooms he had put in place, but held at bay from the others.

During his life there had been trial, tribulation, theory on what he had dared, done, deeded in his time here. Control was second nature to him, in the first order … as long as he was at home or could work from home. The house, right from day one, had an energy of its own, touched him with some literal reality, let him know things. Now it offered reflection, especially about its energy, a phase change that he’d long been aware of, called it, in a separate voice, energy in its own space and place.

 The event, the rupture in reality and conjectured thought, the art of changing things, had come with a vague shaking, oddest vibration, a heaviness plunging into air, an allocation of space, a demand for separation and union at the same time, the advance of impossibilities, getting things done in quick time. He was a do-er, had accomplished things in short order.

Thus it was that the family insisted to the highly surprised hospital staff that Gunter, at his choice, wanted to go home … wanted to go home to die, not die in the hospital.

“You can’t do that.” they were told.

“We’re doing that,” they were told.

None of them knew that Gunter had touched the other side, an unworldly side… and that other side would show up soon, in aces, as they say around town, in the Tumble Inn Diner, at the Town Hall on ordinary days, at The Hammersmith Restaurant, at O’Brien’s Bar at East Saugus, out on the Turnpike where traffic runs at high speed, spaces he knew like tightened handshakes.

The reverse passage of the ambulance was completed, delivery made to the front door, a special room set up for new occupancy, a man facing death right in spring’s blooming path.

April came a few days later upon the house … as well as a new atmosphere, a new dread, a hidden specter, often sitting in the shadows. Somber, still as a battery gone its way from a charge of charges, an air of a kinetic kind sat at edges of the house, being somewhat known by inhabitants, visitors, on the path taken from the first day the front door swung open to company.

Gunter, head comforted by pillow, neck free of pain and strain he had known in the hospital, seemed sorely relieved of the tempest he was in the midst of, the undeniable act of dying, of having to let go, wanting control of things, a hand in things, to manage things … regardless of what sat in the shadows, in the corners, in what he could not see but knew were there They were in his presence, in the presence of family and visitors, at hand … in his house where he knew the sounds mortals fear all too soon, as if life itself has been taken by what mortals cannot yet put a name to, find a known facial image, make the delirious connection, the kinetic phase stirring in the alteration. It was as simple as seeing a different person in the mirror one is looking directly upon, at, deeply into.

Nights, even late evenings, telling nobody, he’d observed the visitations from elsewhere, saw the shadows evolve, make motions to impart signals, seek a reception, let dawn push them back into their coming. Even the dearest of the family might not understand the outlandish behaviors, the unintelligent fears sprouting unseen wings, understand the portents imparted from bodiless beings, “things,” ghosts, witches, new world enemies or friends. Whatever one might make of them, they become more than those whatevers.

He had told none of the family about the early incident, when the absolute first stone was placed down on a chalk line on a cement pouring promising to last the millennium and two more. There had come, from out of the earth, a shaking. It was minute at first, then full of promise, and followed by a sudden cessation.

But it was signal enough for him that another thing was present, exerted energy, made way a shady, shadowy existence. The secret was his to control; that’s why he had come home to die, to direct this other power, to let it be, to let it speak on its own way, to pass on into the light or dark forever that he was facing.

The little room set up for him had its own small bathroom jutting back from one wall, but close enough to serve him or aides with their ministries. It was equipped with all normal assets … shower, tub, sink, toilet bowl, cabinet, several lights of various powers, locations, intentions. Neatness squared it into sections, alluded to habits and customs, said there was daylight at one end, night time at the other end, duties in between.

The time for death approached, pain rising and subsiding in turns, discomfit coming and going, momentary, displeasures signaling changes serious enough to prompt bedside questions.

When he was asked, “Do you need anything, dear?” Grace’s hand touching his hand, he smiled and nodded, “No,” with a weakly manipulated smile, but knowing the arrival of the exact moment of parting. With that smile Gunter Garth left this world, and the lights in the bathroom flicked on, once, twice, and then stayed on as if a message was transmitted, the glow falling across Gunter’s face.

His eyes were closed, possibly on another vision, possibly a note of his soul’s transfer. The soft twist of one lip was visible, perhaps of a single pain. The spans of his cheeks were tighter than mere minutes earlier, a sign few of the family caught in observation.

There entered a moment of silence, of wonder.

“Please,” said Grace, “whoever put those lights on, shut them off.”

No one moved in the small crowded room where Gunter Garth had just passed from this world into the forever he had expected.

“Please,” Grace repeated, displeasure coming just ahead of the absolute pain of pains.

Again, not a person stirred in the room.

She pointed to Gunter’s youngest brother, “Garret, please shut off those lights.”

The slim brother, allowing indecision to shape his movement, flipped the light switch. The myriad lights in the small bathroom did not go out … not a single one. He flipped it up and down many times, before he shrugged a helpless gesture, looking up in doubt, mystery, wonder, suddenly aware that the family was experiencing another-world demonstration for their benefit, or one ordered up by his brother.

“Don’t touch the switch,” another brother said from a corner of the room. “It might be a sign.” The look on his face also expressed wonder and doubt, as if those feelings were in a tussle with each other.

Another brother found a roll of tape and placed it over the switch … for sure, no could now shut the lights off with the switch; the sign preserved.

The lights in that bathroom stayed lit for four and a half months, until the only child not present at her father’s death, Martha, came home from Oklahoma after a death in her other family.

When Martha stepped into the room where her father died, yet in the grasp of the fully unknown, the lights in the bathroom went out … nobody had touched the switch in all that time, and all souls were now accounted for, as it appeared.

They gather sometimes, the family, to discuss what had happened, what thoughts come to them at all hours, what memories linger, assuring them that a spirited undertaking had slipped into their lives, illustrating where enlightenment and ghostly possibilities play about them.

For some years now, Gunter Garth contends with lights of a different glow and his family and home handle with grace their earthly pursuits.


Tom Sheehan

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2 thoughts on “Gunter Garth by Tom Sheehan”

  1. Some people try to stop a clock the moment they cross over, but they discover that it is impossible to do without use of their hands. Many Spirits would weild a hammer if they could, so it’s for the best. Nice touches here. Right atmosphere.


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