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Flo Fitzpatrick

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A Gentle Ghost Story
10/9/2011 2:32:39 PM

The story behind "Melody's Follies"!
A Gentle Ghost Story

A few years ago I was living in New York City in an area between Washington Heights and Inwood in Upper Manhattan. Very near the Cloisters Museum. The post office branch was called Fort George and I suppose that was the actual name of the ‘hood’. It was an interesting place. Like most New York neighborhoods it was a mix of ethnicities and ages. Rents were cheaper than throughout most of Manhattan so it was also getting artsy.

The building I lived in was “pre-war” which meant it had been built sometime in the early 1930s. I had to admit I often wondered which war since the plumbing seemed as if it hadn’t been replaced since Colonial days. I lived on the second floor, surrounded by mostly elderly ladies who had either been lucky enough to escape to America just before Germany’s Holocaust - or blessedly survived the camps and arrived in New York in the late 1940s. My next-door neighbor was one of those wonderful women. She kind of adopted me as a substitute daughter and fed me great kosher delicacies and tea in her cozy apartment.

The first month living in Apt. 2D was pretty eventful. Some guys in a street gang shot out the front window about one in the morning second week there and I got my first experience ever in calling 9-1-1. The officers were speedy in their arrival and very nice and reassuring. They knew the neighborhood and explained that the gang were actually going after Joey who lived upstairs with his grandfather. Apparently Joey had left the gang and the gang was ticked.
I asked the cops if it might help if I painted a large arrow on the outside of the building pointing up with perhaps a note stating, “Joey’s in 3D you idiots!” but while they said they appreciated my humor they said that might not be the best plan. They said they’d take of things. Which they did. No more bullet holes in the window.

A few weeks later I was awakened at five am, my bathroom ceiling caved in when Joey’s granddad left the water running in his tub and it overflowed - a lot. Fortunately, Grandpa hadn’t gotten in the tub at the time so I didn’t have to make the acquaintance of a naked ex-gangbanger’s elderly relative. But, since the plumbing was left over from Colonial days (see above) it took awhile to resolve having a hole in the ceiling. I just made sure I never looked up in the weeks I dealt with an airy bathroom.

All was peaceful for the next few years. Then came the summer of the ghost.

First indication that a little para-activity was afoot came with the office lamp. It was a small lamp with a Tiffany shade and it began turning itself on and off without any help. No seismic disturbances anywhere that might be shaking it. I changed the bulb, thinking that might be doing it. Nope. Still on and off at odd hours.

Next up was the front door lock. Clicking. At precisely 11:45 every night. I’d check to see if one of the neighbors might be standing outside. Nothing. I’d check to see if large rodents might be playing stick ball. (It’s Manhattan. Rodents can do anything.) Nothing. I wondered if either of my two Border Collie wannabes might be jumping up and knocking against the door. But at 11:45 pm both pups were always sacked out on the bed. There simply was no living breathing presence of any kind rattling that lock as if to test for security purposes.

Okay. Both occurrences could possible be explained. The lamp might have had an odd short in the wiring (although it seemed fine.) And the door lock might have been loose and just clicked the way old houses sometimes creak. Although why at 11:45 pm precisely?

Then came the incident of the plants.

I’d gone away for about three weeks. Before leaving, I asked my upstairs neighbor (not Joey’s granddad!) to gather mail from downstairs in the lobby and just keep it in her place. When I returned, the apartment was as I left it. No footprints in the light coating of dust on the floor. The windows were still shut and locked. It was obvious no one had entered the place for three weeks. I was going through the business of opening those windows and airing out and starting the water in the sinks again when I realized I had plants - and - I hadn’t given my mail-gathering friend Laura my key. Fearing the worst for my shrubbery, I went to inspect the schefflera in the living room. It was wet. All the plants were wet.

Then came the time at two-thirty am when I was wandering around the apartment and I saw what I can only describe as a white shadow flitting across my bookcases in the hall. No cars were passing in the street (and the hall was too far from the windows facing the street to pick up any light anyway.)

I was sure there was a ghost in Apartment 2D.

I asked Mrs. Stern if she knew of any unexplained deaths in the apartment over the years she’d lived there - since the mid-1940s. She couldn’t think of any. Didn’t even know of any “explained” deaths. That made sense to me - it always seemed that this presence came from an earlier time. For some reason I imagined my ghost as having lived and died in early part of the 20th Century.

She seemed gentle but there was a sense of emotional pain in my office every time it rained. I somehow felt she was in there, staring out the window, watching.

I called her Julia.

I never found out who she might have been or if the whole thing was just my imagination working overtime. I do know that when I started writing what became Melody’s Follies, the sadness seemed to go away. Maybe “Julia” (who became Melody) liked being made into a time-traveling teenage chorus girl in the Ziegfeld Follies?
Whatever the reason, she left.
I moved not long after. But I still wonder who was “Julia” - and why she visited for those few months one summer.

PS. For anyone interested in reading what became Melody's Follies, this month on Amazon it's on sale for .99 as an 'e-read.'!

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More Blogs by Flo Fitzpatrick
• Writers Who Care - Tuesday, December 20, 2011
• A WRiters Work - Monday, December 05, 2011
• Tell Me a Story! - Tuesday, October 25, 2011
•  A Gentle Ghost Story - Sunday, October 09, 2011  

• I Got a Name - Part Two - Saturday, April 16, 2011
• Self- E and POD versus Trad - Wednesday, March 23, 2011
• More Dialogue Tips for Writers - Friday, March 18, 2011
• How I Spent Spring Break (A Cautionary Tale) - Wednesday, March 16, 2011
• I got a Name - Friday, March 11, 2011
• Want to help name a book? - Tuesday, March 08, 2011
• Spring Break - Break! - Saturday, March 05, 2011
• Dialogue Tips for Writers - Wednesday, February 23, 2011
• Writing Tip - Singing -Keep it OFF the Page - Tuesday, February 15, 2011
• Respect - A Writing Nudge - Friday, February 11, 2011
• To Stupid to Live? Ouch - Wednesday, February 09, 2011
• Writer's Tip - Know Thyself - Tuesday, February 08, 2011
• "Risky" Business - Sunday, February 06, 2011

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