Topic: Ghost Story | Taboo Words: ghosts, specters, creepy, haunting, fear.
The Seating Chart
Rudy was old. It seems he had been old forever, but he loved his job as a night custodian at Independence Hall and would continue as long as they would let him.
Independence Hall is not a dirty place, so his custodial duties occupied little of his 10 PM to 6 AM eight-hour shift. He slowed his routine to a crawl when in the Assembly Room, letting the spell of the room seep into him. He spent his days in the nearby National Constitution Center library reading about the 56 men who gathered here in July 1776 to change the world. Eight of them returned in 1787 as part of the second group that wrote our Constitution. He read their biographies and studied their portraits to the point where he felt he knew each one personally.
The Assembly Room was sacred to Rudy; unhooking the rope to walk among the desks and chairs seemed like strolling the aisles of the grandest cathedral ever built. On many nights, he sensed a presence. Usually, it was weak, and he dismissed it. Occasionally it was so strong that he had to call out. "Hello, who's there!" Never an answer.
Though seating at the Continental Congress has never been determined, Rudy, who knew the names of all 56 attendees, began a seating chart of his own. From studying the portraits, he had an excellent mental picture of everyone, so he could place an imaginary figure in each chair. He had his own Continental Congress and greeted them all each night on entering the Assembly Room.
Rudy’s life changed dramatically one night as he went about dusting the desks and chairs. He reached the desk he had assigned to George Wythe of Virginia. Something pushed his hand away as he reached out to move the ink well, and the chair held fast when he tried to move it.
“Who are you, and what are you doing?” The voice was barely a whisper, but still authoritative and demanding.
“I’m Rudy ... the custodian ... I clean this place every night.”
“Why do you clean it? It’s not dirty. It never gets used,” the voice continued.
Rudy bristled. “I love this room. Every day hundreds of people pass through and think for a moment about what these men did. I want this room to be spotlessly clean, bright and shiny to reflect the glory of the event — not a dreary musty museum piece.”
“ I was one of them.” A figure began to take shape, seated in Wythe’s chair.
“You’re Roger Sherman of Connecticut,” said Rudy, “and you’re in the wrong chair.”
“How do you know that?” asked Sherman.
“I’ve studied all your biographies and portraits.”
"You've studied all our portraits? My man, you need to get a life."
“This room is my life,” balked Rudy.
“... and what do you mean I’m in the wrong chair?”
"Not really. I mean, no one knows where each of you sat, so I made up my own seating chart. Hancock is the only one we know for sure. Your seat is over there. I can change it if you like."
The booming laugh shook the chandelier. "You've studied our biographies and portraits and assigned seating. Rudy, you're something else. I'll have to tell the others about you."
Rudy thought he was too old to blush. Not so. “Will they be angry?”
"Oh, no. They will think this the best joke in ... well, since we died. I'll get them to show themselves to you, and they can tell you where they really sat."
Over the next few months, all of the signers showed up – sometimes in groups of two or three, but mostly alone. Some were jolly; some were brooding and reflective. Rudy recognized everyone. They all chatted freely with him, filling in the details of that summer.
And they all told Rudy where they sat. Now, Rudy is the only person who knows where each of these 56 patriots sat on the day that made history.
But, of course, no one believes him.
Word Count: 675