I am a ghost. It’s best to get that out in the open, right away, for the benefit of those persons who still support the notion that the dead cannot possibly communicate with the quick. I am neither the walking nor the talking dead; but I am of the writing dead, whom living “literary types” resent for they feel that they have enough competition in their field as it is.
For the record, my name is Judge Jasper P. Montague. I was born in the village of Hanged Crone, Massachusetts, on 15 February 1810 and met my demise on 1 July 1902, at Charleston, Washington. I spent sixty of my ninety-two years as a circuit judge, travelling a route which included Hanged Crone, Stringwitch, Pillory, and the entirety of Wiccanfire County. I dispensed, in accordance with my 17th century ancestors’ beliefs, a stern, Puritanical interpretation of the law. Upon my retirement, several colleagues presented me with a small yet hefty gold-gilt lead gavel, into which the following sentiment was engraved: “Versatur Circa Quid”–roughly “what comes around goes around.” No one at the presentation could explain precisely what that was supposed to mean, but I assumed that it had to be flattering, and I vowed to always keep my ceremonial gavel close to my person and heart.
On my ninety-second birthday, my great granddaughter, Leila, was shocked to discover that in all my years I had never been farther west than Flaming Hag Valley. She suggested that I ought to chaperone her (at my expense) on a train trip to the Pacific Northwest. Although I was as spry as a man half my age (which is how Leila put it, “Why, Great Grandfather, you’re as spry as a man half your age”), I also knew that even “half my age” still exceeded the average lifespan of the day. Although I was ninety-two, Leila wholeheartedly insisted that I still nurtured unfulfilled dreams of youthful wanderlust (that’s how she put it “Dearest Great Grandfather, in my breast I believe you still nurture unfulfilled dreams of youthful wanderlust). The truth be told, I had never thought much about wanderlust at anytime of life, but Montague women do have their charming ways, so, come spring, I agreed to fund our adventure.
Back then there was no such thing as an “express” from coast to coast. Our journey took about six weeks, and every new train we boarded seemingly extolled its own infectious disease, as though the highlighted illness were a candidate for office. Some trains promoted diphtheria, others backed typhoid, cholera had plentiful support, and nearly all carried tuberculosis and amoebic dysentery. Fortunately, both Leila and I had the benefit of the hardy and spry Montague constitution (aided in no small measure by the Montague family axiom : “If a pint of applejack a day keeps the sexton away, then a quart is all the better”). While the others among us dropped like overtaxed plough horses, we (and Leila’s eerie black cat, “Rebecca Nurse”) gazed out the windows at the endless prairies, tippled ‘jack and dined on room temperature chicken and undercooked pork.
Ironically or tragically or howeverly you want it, I died the instant we arrived at our final destination. The latch to an overhead storage compartment gave way in my sleeping quarters (which I reluctantly shared with Rebecca Nurse, whom I had caught glimpse of during the final seconds of my mortal existence), and the satchel which contained my inscribed gold-gilt presentation gavel landed squarely on the only place a Montague is vulnerable, the skull. Everyone surmised that I was dead before I hit the floor. (That’s how Leila put it: “I know in my breast that my dearest great grandfather was gone before he hit the floor.”)
Leila decided to remain in Charleston, and had me buried in a local cemetery so she could lovingly tend to her dear great grandfather’s grave (that’s how she put it “So I may lovingly tend to my dear great grandfather’s grave”). Since my demise netted her an ample inheritance (she had beguilingly convinced me that my will required some serious editing while we were in St. Louis), and since there were persons back in Hanged Crone who would have many questions about that, Leila decided that the width of a continent was space enough between her and our nosy relations. After a brief marriage, which produced yet another female Montague named Leila, the original wound up living ninety-nine years and was in the habit of collecting black cats and sleeping on a bed with an upside-down crucifix hanging on the wall behind the head. In the ornament she had “Versatur Circa Quid!” inscribed. I have yet to meet her on the otherside, yet I look forward to it, although I anticipate the meeting with no special sense of hurry.
I’m forbidden by the statutes of the Afterlife to tell the living what happens to a person upon death. Let’s just say there is a certain amount of “Versatur Circa Quid!” levied by a Higher Power then let it go at that. On the seventh anniversary of my passing, I was returned to Earth as a ghost–a state in which I remain to this very day. Although I have a certain amount of freedom to explore, I cannot travel no more than ten paces from my ceremonial gavel–which still remains in the possession of my kin.
Every generation of Montagues, no matter which new surname the child is born under, has at least one Leila in it. Like the consumption of applejack, the passing down of my presentation gavel from Leila to Leila is a family tradition. I, too, have become a part of the family tradition; each new Leila who springs from the Montague line inherits me along with my gavel. And now, nearly a hundred and twenty years after I had shed my mortal coil, and over two-hundred since my birth, I am going to Mexico with my great great great great granddaughter, Leila Allison, who so much reminds me of the Leila who stood in her place three greats ago.
Before I go to Mexico, I find it necessary to clarify matters pertaining to the “talking dead” versus the “writing dead.” A great deal of slander fills the air on the subject, an amount rivaled only by the reams of libel printed on the topic. For example:
Q: “If you’re dead, as you claim, how can you produce a document?”
A: Thermal dynamics.
I caught you unawares with that reply, didn’t I? I suppose you thought I was going to weave a tapestry of nonsense from threads of mumbo jumbo, did you not? Versatur Circa Quid! Without giving away too much, although we are most certainly ethereal, we ghosts are physical objects. Within microscopic areas we may create both a cold spot and a hot spot, mix them up, then produce a tiny vortexes. Although heat rises, the tiny,”confused” vortex drops, just for a millisecond, before it goes up and dwindles to nothing. The micro-bursts of energy are just enough to move a larger physical object, like, say, a
character on a keyboard. I am able to do this hundreds of times per second, and I can produce a document (as long as I am no more than ten paces away from the device) in no time at all.
Of course if my modern Leila was a bit more diligent in regard to powering down or even signing out of her various devices, my task would be harder. She is aware, in a foggy sort of way, that I often seep into her Chromebook, and sometimes she speaks and cackles to herself as she invents new passwords as to thwart my creation of new documents (that’s how she puts it “‘Igglesniff@ixydewlap#22 will surely thwart dearest Great Great Great Great Grandfather’s entry into this device”). She says that even though my gavel (thus I) sits atop her writing desk. Alas, some will say that Miss Leila Allison, by any surname, is still most definitely a Montague. Versatur Circa Quid!
The Mexican adventure sprung up last week from that beloved, traditional wellspring of Montague Big Ideas–namely, alcohol. I watched her pour three fingers of a well known Tennessee potent potable into a tumbler then add something called “Moxie” to it. Like all Montagues, she disdains the addition of ice to her drinks for it takes up space better filled by potent potables. She finished the creation off with a splash of grenadine and slowly stirred the potion counterclockwise with a cinnamon stick. After uttering “Versatur Circa Quid!,” she knocked it all down in one shot. After experiencing some type of seizure, in which her face seemingly imploded and her arms and legs began to involuntarily flail about, she recovered and wound up repeating the original procedure three more times, then, as it is her yearly, custom, she produced a metal tipped dart, which she shakily aimed at the world map she had earlier affixed to the wall.
“Auh-rythe, grat-gran-dath, squared, lessee where weez goin’ dis yar.”
It took three tries before she hit the map. But with the aid of my hotspot/coldspot technology, I managed to urge the thing into Mexico. This is how she selects the location for our yearly holiday.
Leila also has a large poster of the solar system affixed to a different wall in the same room. After hearing the dart hit home she staggered toward it, and said, “Auh-rythe, Marz it iz,” before she slumped onto the couch for a siesta. Upon awakening, hours later, she glanced at the correct poster and muttered “Ariba.”
I’m certain that we will have no trouble getting my presentation gavel in and out of ol’ Medico. I’m overjoyed to know we will be travelling by rail. I’m eager to find out if my hotspot/coldspot technology will be as effective as Rebecca Nurse’s paw (oh, I’ve always known) when it comes to undoing the overhead compartment latch in dearest Great Great Great Great Granddaughter’s sleeping berth. Versatur Circa Quid!
Dearest not so Great Grandfather squared,
Although I seldom proof what I write, I always take a peek at those strange little files in docs that I do not recall creating. For your information, beloved sir, the inclusion of the Allison blood to that of the Montague has provided me with a skull so thick that you could toss an anvil at it from, say, ten paces, and not win as much as a flinch from Yours Truly. Regardless, heed this warning: although taking you everywhere I go is a family tradition, if any funny business should occur on our vacation, I’ll hock you at a Tijuana pawn shop, burn the ticket and blow town on the next train out. I suppose you might be able to apply that “hotspot/coldspot technology” of yours and move that awkward, heavy-ass weight north; but the way I see it it’ll take you ten-thousand years to push the goddam thing across the Mojave, alone (that’s just how she put it “ten-thousand years to push the goddam thing across the Mojave, alone”). As we both know, ten-thousand years is one hell of a lot of Leila’s from now. Versatur Circa Quid! Rat bastard.
Hugs and kisses,
Leila the 4th
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