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Mr. John Goodman

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John Goodman came home from work that day weary, but glad to finally get away from the mountainous pile of paperwork that had sat on his desk for the past week. He also wanted to get away from his co-workers, who had ignored him all day and looked very upset. But every time he would ask what was wrong, he received no response. John stepped through the bright blue door that he and his wife Clarissa had painted and hung up his old, worn jacket onto the peg he’d installed in the wall of the entrance room. There was a rather large hole in it; John guessed that since he had owned this jacket for quite a few years, it must have happened a while ago. He had a slight headache, too, and a dull pain in his chest. He set his key down on the end table and noticed a slightly torn piece of paper that lay next to it. It had many large splotches of it; perhaps Clarissa had spilt tea on it earlier. When he looked closer, he realized what the splotches were: tears.

Dear Mrs. Goodman,

I am sad to inform you that exactly 8:00 a.m. this morning, John was pronounced dead by Doctor Wanswith. There was not anything that she could have done to save him, unfortunately. His heart gave out after that fatal car crash on his way to work. I understand that you were very close. I am sorry for your loss. Please stop by at the hospital to fill out some paperwork.
Abe Donnel
Chief of Medicine

For a moment, John stood there, shocked. Then he realized: he couldn’t possibly be dead! A sinking feeling in his stomach reminded him that Clarissa’s father was named John as well.

“Claire?” he said timidly, stepping into the kitchen. Curled up in one of the chairs was his wife, sobbing her heart out. John walked over and enfolded her into a hug. He kissed the top of her head and muttered, “I’m so sorry, Claire.” Clarissa did not respond, but continued her crying, shuddering with grief. He stroked her soft, blonde hair. She suddenly lifted her head, and John saw that her eyes looked distant, as if she were looking right through him. Clarissa looked down at her shoulder where John’s hand had paused and placed her own hand there.

“John?” she whispered. For a second, he thought he saw his hand flicker away and vanish, but he blinked and it was still there. “Is-is that you?”

“I’m right here, Claire. Your father…he was a great man.” Clarissa merely blinked at her shoulder and wiped away a stray tear. Just then, a medley of clangs rang out from the front door and she rushed to answer it. John stood where he was, slightly confused on Clarissa’s behavior with him.

“Mom!” he heard his wife exclaim. The sight of her mother apparently set off another round of fresh tears, because John heard his mother-in-law reply, “There, there, sweetie.”

He quickly walked into the entrance room where the two women were embracing. “I’m so sorry for your loss, Helen.” But Helen didn’t respond; she was too busy comforting her daughter.

“I found out this morning about the car crash,” Clarissa sobbed. “That letter came an hour ago…Oh, mom! He was so young! Only 32-years-old!” Just as Clarissa said this, her father walked in and said solemnly, “I am sorry about John, Clarissa.”

“Now what’s going on here?” John Goodman said loudly. “Are you talking about me? I’m not dead, I’m standing right here in the flesh-“

“Can we-can we talk about him?” Clarissa said tentatively. John stepped forward.

“LISTEN TO ME!” he shouted. The lights flickered and the trio looked up at the chandelier curiously. “There is proof I’m alive! My jacket’s right there, my key’s here…” But John looked at the peg. There was no jacket. And he looked at the end table. There was no key. And he looked into the mirror above the fireplace. There was no John Goodman.

“My husband is dead,” Clarissa said quietly.

“I’m dead,” John echoed dully.

“Remember when…”Helen began, but John tuned her out. The hole in his jacket, the headache, and the pain in his chest: all souvenirs of the car crash that apparently killed him. Maybe he had a heart attack or hit his head badly? It didn’t really matter to John, because no matter how the incident happened, he was dead.
“But you knew I was there,” John whispered to Clarissa. “In the kitchen.” She didn’t react. He sighed, a gust a wind that sent the curtains swishing and paintings rattle. Helen shivered.
“I feel like there’s a draft in here,” she said, and checked the windows to make sure that they were closed. She looked up right at John and stared. He stared back. Helen shook her head and mumbled something that sounded like, “Snap out of it, Helen, are you that old? You did not just see him, you imagined it.”
“You don’t look right, Helen,” her husband told her. He walked over to where she was standing, passing right through John. John felt as though he had been filled with air until his father-in-law was gone. Now they were just ignoring the fact that he’d died and had actually started talking about what Clarissa had done with the house. How tactless! Rage boiled up under John’s ghostly skin and he felt the ground shake a bit as his anger grew. He lifted his hand and extended it towards the front door; a flower vase crashed right into the mail slot and papers in the study whirled around like a tornado. John’s breathing (not that he needed to, but after 32 years of it, breathing was came naturally) grew louder and louder until it could actually heard by Helen, Clarissa and her father. John knew this because they started screaming and covering their ears. He found that he could make himself appear solid for a few seconds and tried this out so that his family could get a glimpse of him. Helen fainted, but John could sense that she would be fine. He was just preparing for a grand finale when something stopped him.
It was Clarissa, who pleaded, “John, please stop this! You would never do this to us! It’s me, Claire!” He let the papers stop flying, lights stop flickering and plates stop rattling. He felt ashamed. Clarissa was right; John was not behaving like a good ghost should.
“I’m sorry, Claire,” he whispered. He couldn’t stand seeing Clarissa look so scared and weak. He had to leave. And as John thought this, the world had turned upside down, he was getting colder and colder and the hysterics of his family were getting more and more distant. John Goodman closed his eyes and let darkness take him away.

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