The Ouija Board

We all live out in the country; me, the ex-wives, the kids, Squirrel, Fat Danny, Reggie, Stinkfinger, the ex-wives friends, everyone. Except Little Tony. He lives in a single room apartment over the only bar in {NAME REDACTED}. So we all got together in costumes with the kids and drove the 45 minutes towards the city and hit one of the big developments with a bunch of cul-de-sacs. There were about 50 of us, and we parked at the community house.

This neighborhood was something else. The houses were pretty big, but they probably ran in the $300K range, so these were working people who were doing well. Not a bunch of rich pricks. Almost half of the houses were decorated, and more than that giving out candy. Several of the cul-de-sacs had the whole group sitting around a fire-pit, like ten adults drinking beer and having a table covered with bowls of candy for the kids to pick from. At first, they were handing out candy and admiring the costumes. Later on they were sitting there, laughing and joking, only oohing and aahing over good costumes, or little kids. On the bigger streets, you’d have a few people doing the same in the driveway. Less than half the time did the kids have to actually walk up to a door to get candy. This was good for us, because with us we had some in strollers.

Best of all, some of the groups were passing out beer or jello shots to the adults. Those of us who weren’t driving had a bottle or Solo Cup in our hand pretty much the whole time. After the kids finished trick-or-treating, most of us went back to my armed compound to count the candy, let the kids watch movies, and let the adult party begin. There were blow-up mattresses strewn about, for when we all finally crashed, and Reggie had brought his RV for his family to sleep in.

It was a beautiful night, and once the kids were settled we sat on the screen porch with the outdoor fireplace roaring. We eventually fell to swapping ghost stories, and it seemed about half of us had some kind of unnatural ghostly or psychic experience to share. Reggie’s wife, LuAnn, shared one where her mother had an unnatural premonition of doom before a water-skiing trip back when her mother was in high-school, and begged out at the last minute. The boat ran into another one at high speed, and two of the five people on her friend’s boat were killed. Plus, one was paralyzed. Reggie used to work night shift at an old folks’ home as a janitor, and he saw no end of spectral old folks wandering around and sighing, wringing their hands and waiting for visitors who never came. I pulled out my stories of haunted hotels in Austria, and the band of Micmaw warriors who strode through my hunting camp years ago in Maine, their feet six inches off the ground. And on and on the stories went.

Fat Danny’s new girlfriend, named Laura like the wife he is now separated from, has never had any such experience. She is awful young for him, but she carries her buzz well and is a lot of fun. She also really wanted to have some kind of supernatural experience. So much so, that she brought a Ouija Board for us to consult. Squirrel really wanted to talk to his uncle, who had died the week before Squirrel graduated from high school, falling off a roof at a construction site. That was like 30 years ago, but they had been close, and Squirrel had some unfinished business to discuss.

The seance didn’t go well. Kids kept popping in and out, and the surroundings weren’t at all solemn or spooky. We tried my basement, but that has no real atmosphere. Just cast concrete with food stored in it and my close-combat pistol range. In the end, Fat Danny said, “You know, there’s an old church with a cemetery right up the street from my house. The stones go back like 200 years. There’s gotta be some spirits there.”

Well, no one was in any condition to drive, but just then Rebecca’s friends dropped her off in her Little Bo Peep costume. She’s a good kid, very studious, and most importantly, she can drive. So we saved her from baby-sitting duties and dragooned her into being our chauffeur. She balked a little when she found out what our destination was, but finally agreed once she had grabbed a Crucifix, strung a few cloves of garlic around a rosary and put it on her neck, and took my silver-plated Bowie knife out of it’s display case. She strapped that on her hip, and hung a ball peen hammer on the other hip. She checked her purse, and confirmed that her flashlight, bear spray and Tazer were in there. Like I said, she’s a good kid. No need to worry much about her taking care of herself.

We filled a cooler with a suitable mix of refreshments, piled into the 15-passenger van and headed out. The ex-wives weren’t having any of this non-sense, and agreed to be in charge of the brood back at the compound. Within ten minutes we were parked behind the church. We left our cell phones and any other battery-operated or electronic devices in the van, so as not to interfere with the spirit world. We had two propane camping lanterns to see by. As we filed through the cemetery gates, Rebecca said, “If anything goes down, I’m leaving as soon as I get the van started up. Anyone not with me can go to Mr. Dan’s house. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!”

We wandered a bit, looking at the old gravestones, remarking on the dates and inscriptions that were still legible. It was sobering. We finally settled on the ground in front of a mausoleum. LuAnn spread out a blanket, and we sat in a circle. It was a ridiculous assembly, as we were still in costume. Little Bo Peep was armed to the teeth. Reggie was in drag. LuAnn was a pirate. I was Wolverine. And so on.

It went downhill from there. Fat Danny tried to invoke the spirits, asking for their guidance and beneficence (yes, he actually said “beneficence”) in our inquiry. It all sounded like a really bad prayer. LuAnn dropped the Ouija board, and the contents spilled in the grass. None of this was adding to the solemnity of the occasion. In the end, Squirrel was obviously pushing the planchette around the board. We let it pass without comment, knowing it would make him feel better. Rebecca had long since stashed the Crucifix in her purse, and was looking bored.

We ended up sitting on the kerb of the mausoleum and the flagstones in front of it, letting Squirrel tell stories of his uncle while we drank in the gloom smoking cigars, and supported him. Once that died out, we reached back into the recesses of our minds for more ghost stories, to either recite long-forgotten tales, or just make them up.

Finally, Reggie asked, “Hey, does anyone know what the inside of a mausoleum is like?”

No one did.

“Well, there’s some kind of peep hole there. Anyone want to look?”

I shone the lantern on the door. He was right. The mausoleum had a red-painted steel door with a massive padlock, and a rectangular hole about 5 by 3 inches. I put my tumbler of Macallan down, stood up, and got close. “Hmmmm…” I said, an idea beginning to form in my mind, “You can’t really see anything. The light from the lantern hits your eye and blinds you.”

Everyone humphed in disappointment, and luckily no one mentioned going to the van to get a flashlight. I brightened as if suddenly having an idea, “Hey, I’ve got a lighter! If you put your arm in there and get the flame up, you should be able to see.”

Everyone kind of looked down or around, until Reggie finally said, “You first.”

So I stuck my arm in, glad there wasn’t enough light for anyone to see me snicker. I struck the flame and sighted down my arm. Pitch black. You couldn’t see anything.

“Oh, wow!” I said, “Holy sh1t! You should SEE this thing!”

“What?” “What is it?” “Let me see!” came bubbling up as they all crowded around, jostling for a turn.

“It’s…” I started to say, and then said, “What the hell?!?!” Then I jumped forward towards the door, sticking my arm in to the shoulder, and slapped the door with my left hand, making a loud booming noise as if my head had struck it. “Help! Help!” I screamed in a nicely feigned panic as I rammed myself over and over against the door, pretending that my arm was being torn from its socket by the Devil himself, “It’s got me! It’s got me! No! No! Let go! Let go! Help me! Help!!!!!”

Total pandemonium broke out. Everyone was screaming, yelling. Squirrel set off across the graveyard in the dark, and you could hear him banging into head stones and screaming. Fat Danny had his hands up over his ears, and he was running in place, wide-eyed and gibbering. Anna grabbed the lantern and made a bee-line for the car. Only Rebecca jumped in to save me, deftly pulling out the Crucifix and bear spray, jumping between me and the mausoleum and driving forward like a linebacker. She is only like 115 pounds, but she caught me unawares and ripped me free right away, the lighter getting knocked from my hand as it came out of the hole.

She dropped down to one knee and whipped around, the bear spray shooting in a straight and true line through this little hole until it ran dry. God, I love my children.

She dropped the pepper spray, and tried to pull me up by my arm as I lay there rolling on the ground, gasping for air as I laughed. “Dad! Dad! Get up! GET UP!!!!!!”

She tugged on my arms, but I was dead weight, lost to hysterical laughter, “Oh, oh, oh God!” I gasped, “You should have seen yourself. Sh1t! You took that son of a b1tch out! You… you…” My stomach was cramping from laughing so hard and tears were streaming from my eyes.

Rebecca slowly stopped tugging, and dropped my arms. The sounds of my laughter were the only thing to be heard, as Fat Danny and Reggie and LuAnn slowly calmed down. Some looked relieved, while others looked p1ssed.

Rebecca stood over me, hitting and slapping me about the head and shoulders, “Dad! You are such a b@stard! D@mn you!” She finally relented, and dropped down to her knees, crying as I gasped for air, “I was so scared! I thought I had lost you.”

I stopped laughing, and began to hate myself for being such a b@stard. Here I was, the worst father in the Daley family for probably the last 5 generations. Marrying women, impregnating them, then leaving them for overseas adventures and drinking bouts and whore-mongering and nights in Third-World lockups. Only to touch down stateside and start the cycle all over again. Having had a minor epiphany one lonely night-watch on a boat in the Caribbean, had finally come back into their lives and uprooted them all to move to some strange town in the American South, and here I was, abusing their trust and making a mockery of their feelings. A feeling of self-hatred and despair welled up inside me, and all positive feelings from the prank just dissolved in the terror of knowing that the well of poison within me was too deep, too broad, and too ancient to overcome. I was going to not only destroy my own life, but also the lives of everyone around me, anyone I touched.

I sat up and hugged Rebecca, who was kneeling with her eyes over her face, shaking with sobs and looking completely broken. “There, there,” I murmured to her, “I’m so sorry! I never should have done that. It was wrong. And thoughtless. And selfish, so selfish. Please, Rebecca, just forgive me. I’ll make it up to you somehow…” I struggled to think of how this could be made right, and was coming up with nothing. Nothing. “Look, I can’t think of anything now, but please give me a chance. I’m sorry, so sorry.”

Her sobs grew in intensity, but were silent, her body just shaking and shaking as if her soul were being shredded from the inside. Squirrel and Anna came back, looking mightily relieved, but then became concerned as they gazed down upon the spectacle. Rebecca bent over double, quivering as I held her, looking around helplessly at the faces of the friends around me. They were looking downcast and embarrassed, no one knowing what to say.

After minutes that seemed like hours, filled with self-loathing and silent recriminations, Rebecca finally rolled on her side, and gales of laughter began to break out of her, “Oh god! Oh god! You should hear yourself, Dad! Oh, sh1t! I had you going! You…you…” She looked up at me, dry eyes sparkling in the lamp light, and mimicked me in a high-tone, “Oooh, I’m sorry! Oooh, forgive me! Oooh, I’m a bad daddy!” She dissolved in laughter, “It hurts, it hurts! Oh my stomach. My stomach. Oh…oh…”

All our anxiety melted away, and everyone began laughing. Squirrel handed the Ouija board to LuAnn and folded the blanket by me, “Sorry I ran, Finnegan.”

“Squirrel, that was the smart thing to do. I’m sorry I played a joke on you.”

“That’s okay.”

Once Rebecca pulled herself together enough to stand up, we headed back to the car by lamplight, chattering excitedly about both pranks. We all agreed that Rebecca’s was better. Back at my place, we could barely get the story out to those who had stayed behind. We were talking over each other, and the story was told all out of sequence. We all agreed that it was a great experience, and we were glad we had gone.

Afterwards on the screen porch, Rebecca and I had a chance to talk alone. She admitted that she had been terrified at first, then enraged when she found it all a joke, but then she started laughing in relief. However, she ran with the thing when I thought she was crying. She said we were even, that we each got one over on the other. “And Dad,” she said seriously, “All those things you said, they show you care. And the reason I stayed to save you was because I’m just glad you’re here, glad you’re back with us. I didn’t want to lose you. Please promise to stick around this time, ok?”

“I promise,” I said solemnly, meaning it from the bottom of my heart, and thanking the powers that be silently for giving me the best family in the world, one much better than I deserve.