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Ghost busted


The ghost is back.
Long time readers of this column know I have history with the other-worldly dating back to the 1990s when I lived in one of the half-dozen, 100-year-old, two-story brick buildings that make up downtown Solon. My loft apartment was originally the meeting place for the local Masonic Lodge, a mystical, civic service organization with roots in the Middle Ages.
The large, high-ceilinged room doubled as a dance floor. Sometime in the 1950s, Old Joe opened a grocery on the ground floor and put in partitions to turn the room above the store into his three-bedroom domicile, where he lived until his death.
By virtue of being the “newspaper man” with an office in the small, wood-frame building at the end of the block, I got first dibs on his apartment.
But first, I had to wait until workers cleaned it out; the place was filled with stacks of old magazines reaching to the ceiling like stalagmites in a dank cave. It took two workers a week to empty the place.
Joe was quite the hoarder and, a decade later, I’d learn he was also a miser who kept a small fortune behind a loose brick. One dark and stormy night, his spirit led me to the spot and I became wildly wealthy, but that’s another story already told.
So when I say the ghost is back, I’m not talking about Old Joe.
The origin of the new spirit is unknown, but I suspect she’s an impish young girl who likes to play tricks on people, especially me, by making things disappear.
Her work showed up the first day we moved into our house in Iowa City.
We brainstormed extensively to facilitate the transfer to our new digs. Instead of one big truck to ply the eight miles from our old house to new, we decided to rent two smaller ones. The plan was to have a crew of friends at both locations and two drivers shuttling back and forth. We felt this approach would be efficient but we never got to find out. The night before the big move, I ferried both trucks to our new home, parking one directly in front of both the front and garage doors (our house is L-shaped). The other van was parked alongside.
The next morning we got up early to drive both trucks to the old home but discovered, to our dismay, the key to one of the vehicles went AWOL. As if losing half our fleet wasn’t enough, the truck with the missing key was the one blocking the doors.
If I ever forget the exact November day this happened it’s easy enough to figure out. The Iowa Hawkeye football team hosted the Wisconsin Badgers, and the public byways were filled with the red and white and the black and gold. We muddled through the best we could, and then mid-morning, at the urging of friends, I called a local locksmith. With it being a game day Saturday, I really wasn’t expecting much help, but to my surprise a serviceman showed up almost instantly. Faster than you can say Herky or Bucky, he had the door open and a replacement ignition key in my hand.
I thanked him and mentioned how surprised and happy I was at the quick service, considering everything going on that weekend.
He replied, “Are you kidding? When ‘sconsin’s in town, it’s our busiest day of the year. All those cheeseheads come down here, get drunk and lock their keys in the car.”
The missing set of keys never did show up, and over the years many things have mysteriously disappeared. Sometimes I use this to my advantage. I’m fairly forgetful– okay, I’m very forgetful– and, when my wallet or eyeglasses disappear, I blame it on the imp. Just recently, for example, Sabra spent a week in Colorado with her family. While she was gone, I absent-mindedly tossed the lid to some medication our dog Pearl was taking in the garbage. I started to fish it out, but soon realized it sifted to the bottom of the smelly bag. Rather than dig further, I decided to blame it on the ghost and fashioned a new lid out of aluminum foil.
When Sabra returned, she immediately discovered the errant cap. She didn’t buy my “the ghost did it” alibi. She’s like that; I call her my forensic housekeeper. She pressed for more details and I confessed to what I did. She immediately spread some newspaper on the garage floor, dumped the contents of the bag out and began searching for the missing cap. She didn’t find it, but there mucked up with some coffee grounds was the missing key to the truck.
You tell me you don’t believe in no ghosts. As for me, I believe.