“Steven… can a ghost get laid?”
Steven’s loud laughter turned heads all around the bar. “What? How the hell would I know?”
“Well, your dad has that ghost tour thing in Savannah.”
He tried to look serious. “Mike, I thought I’d heard every possible off the wall question ever! Why the hell would you want to know?”
“My apartment’s haunted. The poltergeist wants some nookie. He swears he doesn’t watch us when Jean’s over, but hell, he could be lying.”
“Wait, your apartment—that one?” Steven’s mirth disappeared. “He didn’t chase you out?”
I smirked. “We both have a weird sense of humor. Jean, too. So we all get along. How did you think I could afford an apartment off-campus, by myself?”
“Wow. That must be a trip. Hey, can I come over? I’d like to meet him.”
“Uh-uh. He hates frat rats, and Tekes most of all. A frat hazing went way wrong, and it killed him. I don’t want him pissed off.”
Steven turned pale. “Jesus. And he wants nookie?” He thought about it. “There’s a girl in Pie, she’s really kinky. I’ve heard. Maybe… you want me to ask her?”
“I think he wants another ghost.”
Steven drained his beer, then waved for another. “I’ll call my dad. It’s quiet season, so he’ll let me borrow some equipment. But you gotta let me talk to him. That’s my price.”
The poltergeist didn’t want a Teke in his space, but I talked him into it. Steven wanted to help him, after all. The poltergeist insisted Jean be there, too. I guess he thought having both his friends nearby would keep him from getting too pissed off.
“So you want a girlfriend.” Steven shivered in the recliner, even with all his winter stuff on. His breath puffed fog. Just a few feet away, Jean and I were comfortably warm on the love seat. “Hey, can you turn down the freeze?” he finally asked. “I’m trying to help, after all.” No response, but Steven did stop shivering and his breath stopped fogging. “Thanks. You know, it won’t be easy. I don’t know if you’re tied to this apartment, but most of your prospects will be tied to their own places.”
The poltergeist sighed, a long wordless whisper that swirled through the living room and chilled us all.
“But it’s not impossible,” Steven went on. “Just difficult. Most of the time, we just hunt any ghost. This time, we have a pretty specific set of criteria: female, college-age, more than a residual, and preferably from less than fifty years ago.”
“A residual?” Jean asked.
Steven nodded. “Yeah. A ghost that does the same thing, over and over. Like walking up the stairs, or falling out a skyscraper window.”
Jean nodded, and I asked, “So where do you start?”
“With some research. Then I’ll look around campus, since that’s the most likely place we’ll find what he’s looking for. If I make contact, I’ll let you know.” Steven stood, then fell sprawling to the carpet. Jean and I gasped and jumped, then we all heard the snicker.
Steven sat up and looked at his feet. He pointed at his many-knotted shoelaces. “Dude! That’s lame!”
“I told you he had a weird sense of humor!” I laughed.
“Near Westwood Hall,” Steven told me, as we entered my apartment. He’d hunted all winter, as his classload allowed. Finals—and spring—were just a few weeks away.
“Who is she?” I asked.
“I’m pretty sure her name was Maria Fenton. If I’m right, it’s pretty sad.”
“Anyone dying at our age is pretty sad.”
“Yeah, but this… anyway. Maria was a sophomore, and the Poet-Laureate. She had a book of her poetry published when she was a freshman. The library has a copy.” Steven slipped his knapsack off his shoulder and showed us a thin book. “Some really downer stuff, but it holds up. Even after forty-five years.”
“What happened to her?”
“She threw herself in front of a car. March 14, 1966. The driver was someone she wanted, who ignored her. It messed him up pretty bad. He said he kept seeing her everywhere. He dropped out at the end of the school year, then he died in Vietnam. She’s been sighted, on and off, ever since.”
“How did you find all that out?”
He shrugged. “There’s archives of The Scholar going back to the 1920s. They digitized it all a few years ago.” He looked around the room. “You getting all this?” he asked the poltergeist. “You wanna spend your afterlife with a suicidal poet from the Sixties?”
We both heard the whisper: Why not?
Steven checked his gadget, looking satisfied. “Maria?” he called. “Will you show yourself, please?” He kept his voice down. A few lights still shone from Westwood Hall, night owls studying.
I felt a chill, then a weight on my heart. The depression was unbearable; I could hardly breathe around it. If a car had come down the street right then, I might have jumped in front of it.
“It’s not you, Mike,” said Steven. “Look.”
There she was: a shapeless girl, with long hair and a flowery silk dress. Her face reflected the sadness we felt. I grabbed my phone and called Jean. “Tell him to come on.”
Steven kept jabbering at Maria’s ghost, asking her to speak, until he jumped and dropped his gadget. “Whoa,” he gasped. “I guess your poltergeist isn’t tied to the apartment after all.”
Maria’s eyes went wide, then we heard her: Flawed, one cannot be loved / Proud, one cannot be moved / Is there reason to ask why? / Better ’tis mayhap to die.
To our surprise, the poltergeist answered: Are we not all flawed? / Together, two are greater. / We can haunt the world.
As the two spirits, drew together, I whispered, “I never knew he was into haiku.”
“This is amazing,” Steven murmured.
Sometimes, I’ll come in, and catch a whiff of incense.