I’m upstairs in my room.  I’ve worked at The Frolic for a few months.  Earned the respect of the boss and the rest of the staff.  It’s late.  Micah leaves after cleaning up.  No one is here at this hour.  I swing down into the restaurant through a trap door I found in the floor of my room.  I don’t think anyone knows about it.  Dark spaces frighten some people, but not me.  Anyway, it isn’t pitch-dark.  The pilot lights from the Wolf ranges radiate an eerie glow.  A surreal visibility scatters around the kitchen.

 

In the dining room, moonlight filters in through the windows, front and back.  I sit in the middle, away from the light and wait.  This is an experiment.  Rafan told me ghosts inhabit the building.  I don’t think there is such a thing as ghosts, but I’m curious.  I guess it depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is.

 

A few weeks earlier, I tried the same experiment in the coffee shop.  A big round Prince Albert advertising tin sits above the front door to the restaurant.  Micah said the ghost of Prince Albert floats around that area of the coffee shop at night.   He told me he’d seen it when he was cleaning.  He laughed when he saw my reaction.  I didn’t see anything the night I waited.

 

The boss told me Shirley Martin spoke about a poltergeist that haunts the area between the bathroom, kitchen, and living room of the house next door.  Hawley and Shirley Martin were the previous owners and they lived there.  Shirley told the boss objects move around in strange ways and make odd noises late at night.  I think she was pulling his leg.  She loves to joke around.  He dismissed the whole thing.  Just like me.  The boss and I get along well.  Rafan was wrong about Brin.  The boss doesn’t mind that I talk with her.  She likes me too.  I appreciate what the boss and Brin have done for me—the job, the room and the trust.

 

There are ghost stories all over this town.  Something odd supposedly happened at the barn on the corner of Lansing and Main streets, the place locals call the Ex-Lax building because of a commercial painted on the building for a movie.  At one time a blacksmith worked there named Dave McDougall.  McDougall helped Hawley build the Cellar Bar.  He told Hawley the story.  The phone jumped off the hook, hovered in the air and rang.  At the same time the fire siren went off.  This happened several times.  McDougall was so bothered by this that he eventually left town.  He didn’t even take his tools.  A retired schoolteacher named Laing Chambers lived in the apartment above the barbershop across the street from The Frolic.  They say that whenever she stood at the window, the fire siren went off.  There is something weird about that fire siren.  I can vouch for that.  I sleep only a few yards away from it.  Laing Chambers loved Graveyard Stew—buttered toast in a bowl with cinnamon and sugar drenched in milk.  Graveyard Stew isn’t on the menu but the cooks made it for her anyway.  They did put a Laing Special on the menu.  That’s a plain hamburger patty with cottage cheese and vegetables.  There are a lot of menu items named after locals.

 

I don’t believe the ghost stories, but here I am in my chair in the dark waiting for something I don’t think exists.  Sometimes you go a bit crazy around here.

 

Wide awake.  Senses on high alert.  As my eyes adjust to the darkness, I see the outlines of the tables and chairs around me.  The room is empty.  At least I think it is.

 

Then I see it above the corner table, the one the waitresses call the “L”.  It is the head of an Indian glowing on the wall.  He has a large nose, a narrow forehead and eyes that are barely visible under some odd cap.  A feather sticks out the back.  The wall lights up like a psychedelic sunrise.  I rub my eyes and look again.  Yep, I see him all right.

 

“Hello?”  I nervously say.

 

He doesn’t move.  At first I think it’s a holograph.  I look around the room to see what might be the cause, but there is nothing.  I feel foolish but I speak again anyway.

 

“Who are you?  What are you?  What are you doing here?”  I am afraid he will disappear if I move closer.

 

“Why are you here?” he asks.  He’s hard to hear as if he’s far away.

 

What kind of deception is this? I wonder.  I put my hands over my eyes.  All I see are blobs and patterns on a dark background.  Yet even with my eyes closed, I can make out the outlines of his head on the wall.

 

He speaks again.  I have no doubt this time.  I hear him.

 

“I have come out of the wood where I have been a prisoner.  What about you?”

 

I am shocked, frightened.  Still, my curiosity gets the best of me.

 

“What kind of prisoner?”

 

“My spirit was locked in the wood.  So was yours long ago.  You escaped.  Your visit here has released my spirit.”

 

“What are you?”

 

“I am what I am.”

 

“How were you trapped in the wall?”

 

“My people called me Chief Thunderbolt.”

 

“I don’t understand?”

 

“My people were slaughtered along with the trees and the animals.  My angry shouting became the thunder.  The howling of my people against the injustices of the world became the rain.  The lightening that preceded me on my journey home started a fire.  I got lost in the smoke and was absorbed into the wood used to make this wall.”

 

He disappears.  I see only chairs and a table.  I have no idea what  happened.  I’m not convinced I saw and heard what I think I did.  Something happened but it’s a mystery.  I think I was hallucinating.  I climb back up to my room and go to sleep.  When I wake up I decide I was probably dreaming but I need to make sure.

 

I dress and climb downstairs determined to figure it out.  Dawn breaks.  Dark clouds form in the sky.  Soon the employees will arrive.  The smells and sounds of the restaurant will change everything.  I hurry to get to the bottom of what happened before it’s too late.  I return to where I saw whatever it was that I saw.  I see only chairs and a table.

 

It grows dark in the dining room.  There is a flash.  Thunder arrives with great force followed by sheets of rain.  I shake.  I shiver.  There is the sound of wood snapping, water rushing.  Then silence.  Then calm.  My stomach growls.  I’m hungry.

 

Later that day I’m still thinking about what happened.  I need to tell someone.  I decide to tell Rafan when he comes in to work.

 

“I think I saw a ghost or a spirit of some kind Rafan,” I say.  “Of course, I don’t think there is such a thing, but I saw something.”

 

“Once I met an old man while hiking in the woods,” says Rafan.  “He said something strange then bounded away into the thick underbrush.”

 

“What are you telling me Rafan, that you saw a ghost?”

 

“The Wood Sprite,” he says with that look he gets on his face when he knows he’s got me.

 

“What,” I say.

 

“Nabokov.”

 

“What?”  I’m confused by the strange name.

 

“You know,” he says.  “The Russian author.”

 

“One of his stories?”

 

“His first,” he says with a smile.  “And one of his most important in my opinion.”

 

“So, the old man you saw was a wood sprite, a spirit?”

 

“Maybe,” says Rafan.

 

“You’re not serious?” I say.

 

“Quite serious,” he says.

 

“You believe in wood sprites?”

 

Rafan laughs. “That’s just the name Nabokov gave the character in his story.  So, you saw one too, huh?  What did yours say?”

 

I am incredulous at Rafan’s response.  I’m wary of saying too much.  “You first, what did yours say to you?”

 

“It was unsettling,” says Rafan.  “I took it as a kind of warning, two lines from a poem.”

 

And how the sprites of injured men shriek upward from the sod.

 

“He was gone before I could quiz him.  I think it was some kind of warning that the sins of the past will catch up to us one day.  Nabokov’s Wood Sprite carried the same message.  His Wood Sprite spoke about beautiful forests destroyed, a field of dead people, and a river of blood.  Nabokov was lamenting the changes to his native Russia.”

 

I feel uneasy.  I know Rafan sees it.

 

“I shouldn’t tell you this, Mac, but they say if you are visited by a wood sprite, your life is about to change.”

 

“How can you believe such nonsense?  Did your life change?”

 

“People believe strange things man.  Look,” says Rafan, “I don’t have time to discuss this now.  Let’s talk later.  I have to go to work.”

 

“Okay,” I say.  Now I’m even more ill at ease.  I wish I hadn’t told him.  Whatever happened today, it was just my imagination out of control.  That’s what I think.