A ghost story for any age
The Ghost In My Heart
Lenny was eighty-five. His wife had been dead for more than twenty years and his sons were somewhere in the west. He had no idea where.
Lenny liked the seashore and walked along the boardwalk every day at sun down. It was his late wife’s favorite time of day, he told me.
I hadn’t known Lenny long, I had just met him that summer. He was standing on a dock looking out at the sailboats that dotted the bay, waving to the sailors occasionally. His hair was starkly white, his skin wrinkled and nut brown from his sunshine walks, and his body was lean and bent. But, his blue eyes were aware and twinkled merrily as I stood along side him, leaning my elbows on the railing that kept observers from tumbling into the water.
“Nice day,” I said, and he agreed.
“Do you like the ocean?” Lenny asked me.
“Always have. My dad used to take me out fishing when I was a kid.”
“Uh-huh,” he said and looked over at me with a penetrating gaze.
“I come here to see my wife.”
“Oh, is she sailing out there?”
Lenny smiled and shook his head, “no, she’s sailing up there,” and he pointed heavenward.
I raised my eyes toward the sky and smiled at him.
“See out where the water becomes really dark? Out there, beyond the sailboats.”
I looked and said, “yes.”
“She sails down from heaven to that spot and someday, she’s going to come for me at sundown.”
Once again I smiled and we talked awhile longer.
Lenny became my habit. He was chock full of stories about the old days when the boardwalk was a “classy” place, as he put it. When Baby Faced Nelson and the boys would come down the shore for funnel cake and hot dogs, spending big bucks on pretty girls. When big stars like Myrna Loy and Gary Cooper would come to stay the weekend at the now sad and sorry Ritz Hotel. There had been a little Italian restaurant just off the boardwalk and the young folks had hung around there. Lenny told me of Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland coming to dine there and attracting crowds of onlookers. That was where he met his wife.
We would walk up the boardwalk Lenny and I, and watch the people streaming by. He loved to look at them and wonder aloud about their lives and where they were going.
So the summer passed and Lenny and I became fast friends.
Then, one day in early fall, Lenny came to the dock late. He was dressed in a fine black suit, white shirt and dark blue tie. He had combed his thinning hair flat against his head giving him an even thinner look than usual.
“Hey, Lenny, you look spiffy, what’s the occasion?”
“My wife is coming for me today.”
I looked at him and frowned. He had been telling me for a week that she was on her way, I humored him and thought he was having “senior moments”.
He looked away from me and out to sea. There were only a few people on the boardwalk; a woman walking her dog, a young couple hand in hand. Far out to sea a large ship rode the horizon but as I watched Lenny began to wave frantically.
“LOOK! Look can you see her?”
I strained my eyes and finally was able to make out the dim grey specter that was approaching. I thought it was a cloud come low down to the ocean, but it moved nearer and began to take on the shape of a sail boat.
Closer and closer it came until it pulled up alongside the dock.
Lenny began to move toward the boat, but I held his arm.
“Where are you going ?”
“There, don’t you see? My wife, my Marie come to take me sailing with her.”
On board the filmy grey boat stood the apparition of a lovely young woman. Her hair was black as coal, her skin a creamy white and she smiled with eyes of deep compassionate love.
She held out her ghostly hand and Lenny reached out in return.
“Lenny, don’t you’ll step off into the water!”
He smiled and said, “but the ghost in my heart has come for me. I must go now. Thanks for being a friend to an old and tired man.”
I reached out trying to grab his coat, but he was quicker than I gave him credit for. I saw him take a step forward and then . . . he was on board the boat.
I watched the pale form of the woman wrap her arms around his bent and withered shoulders and saw his body straighten and strengthen. He turned round and waved to me, his face full and young, his eyes exuding that same penetrating look. The boat began to drift off onto the outgoing tide.
I stood there, mouth opened, trying to make sense of what I had just seen. I looked around for someone, anyone who witnessed what I just saw. The boardwalk was empty.
“Le . . . Lenny . . .” I stammered. and saw the sailboat race away caught on a wind that was solely for their benefit. The boat lifted and rose and I watched awestruck. It faded away hidden by fluffy white clouds.
I walked slowly away from our dock and went into the coffee place that Lenny had introduced me to. The waiter was a friend of Lenny’s and his face was saddened this afternoon.
“Did you hear?” he asked me as I took a seat at our usual table, “they found Lenny dead this morning in his rooms. He was laying on the bed with his best suit on and a picture of his wife in his hands. Poor old guy, at last he’s with her.”
I shook my head and accepted a cup of coffee. What I had seen I had doubted until that time. The ghost in Lenny’s heart had made her final voyage.
Word Count 1019