Friday, October 27, 2006

A Ghost Story

Having, as a free service of The Daily Duck, already provided shopping tips to make this Halloween memorable, if a bit drafty for some participants, it is time to provide an equally free, completely true, ghost story.

How do I know? I witnessed it myself.

Once upon another life, I lived near Boise, Idaho. In the middle of my second summer there, my next door neighbor invited me to join him and several of his friends on a motorcycle trip east, then north to Missoula, MT, before heading southwest back home.

On the third day we were headed south on Highway 95, past Pollock (for those who want to take advantage of Mapquest's satellite imagery feature to help set the scene).

It was a cloudless day; warm, falling just short of hot: perfect for a ride. The road, winding through a valley alongside a river, was perfectly suited for a motorcycle. Plenty of curves for entertainment, virtually no traffic.

A dark and stormy night this wasn't.

Unfortunately, our mechanized conga line was brought up short by one of the other riders suffering a flat tire. On gathering by the side of road, we discovered some very lopsided contingency planning. Patches galore, but not an air pump to be found.

There are places where humanity is inescapable. Idaho is not one of them. We stood around scratching our helmets for a few minutes. Other than the road and us, there were no signs of humanity, and no corner gas stations for miles in either direction. In mid-ponder, I suddenly recalled seeing, but scarcely noting at the time, a ranch house several miles back.

Not having a whole lot of options, a few minutes later I was wheeling up the gravel driveway, and parked in front of a fair-sized, white clapboard house in the shade of some aspen trees.

Walking up the porch, the initial signs were not promising, and the results did not surprise: my knock produced only silence.

Clomping back down the steps, I noticed some hundred yards distant a much smaller house. It, too, was white, but looking like it might be grateful for another coat of paint.

As I walked up, I could see through the screen door a single overstuffed chair in the center of an otherwise bare wood floored room. No pictures, shelves, or furniture, just a curtainless window on each wall. A man of indeterminate age between 70 and 95, weather beaten, with gray hair heroically, but not quite successfully, fighting off baldness, sat in the overstuffed chair facing me.

As he was staring right at me, but without any sign of surprise, there was no need to knock.

"Hello, sir, how are you?" I asked in the vocal equivalent of a dog showing his belly.

In a voice gravelly with age, but nonetheless strong, he said "Well, I'm just fine. Come in. What brings you this way?"

A couple things occurred to me, as the door swung shut behind me. First, it didn't appear he was overwhelmed with company, and, consequently, it would be unseemly to cut right to the chase. Manners almost always approach the goal elliptically; it simply wouldn't do to directly explain my presence without some conversation along the way.

"I'm with some friends. We are on motorcycles, headed back to Mountain Home from Missoula. I can't get over how beautiful it is around here."

Whereupon followed a decent interval of talk about the weather, and where I was from; how long he had lived here. The niceties. After what seemed like ten minutes, although I really don't know, because there was no way to surreptitiously glance at my watch, I figured it was time to find out if there was a pump to be had.

So, still standing six feet from him, in a single room house, completely empty except for this elderly man, his chair, and me, I said "I'd love to talk some more, but one of my friends got a flat tire a few miles from here, and we all cleverly managed to not have a way to put any air in the tire."

"Would you happen to have a bicycle pump I could borrow for a few minutes?"

Without a word he half turned to his left, reached behind the chair, then turned back towards me.

With a brand new, silver, bike pump in his hand.

8 Comments:

Blogger Duck said...

Skipper, you're starting to worry me!

October 27, 2006 8:22 PM  
Blogger Bret said...

So let me guess. He had shot out the tire - that's why it was flat - and he was going to charge you $500 to use the pump.

October 27, 2006 10:43 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Oh no, Bret. This is a true Duckian horror story. He is obviously a member of ...ta-da...The Crux Project. He captures Skipper and uses his secret powers and selective scriptural quotes to convince him to leave his family, give over all his money and recant his belief in rationalism and the meritocracy. In the end, Duck and Brit beat down the door with a crowbar and snatch him, leaving the man tied to a chair and bellowing in incoherent rage. They form a two-man deprogramming team, lock Skipper in a cheap motel room for days and take turns screaming quotes from The Selfless Gene at him 24/7. It's a near thing, but in the end he emerges safely, although exhausted and somewhat wistful.

October 28, 2006 2:29 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Duck:

Well, it happened.

Bret:

Nope, he just handed it to me.

Peter:

I don't care how good a lawyer you are, you missed your calling. Drop whatever you are doing then don't walk, run, to Hollywood and start pitching script ideas.

FYI -- I have been sitting in a cheap hotel room. Not for days, though, weeks.

October 28, 2006 6:19 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Well, sex deprivation has been known to cause hallucinations.

Your story sounds like something from a David Lynch production.

October 28, 2006 1:51 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

I can beat Peter on this. Unbeknownst to Skipper, future scientists living in a dystopian world run by the "Crux", an unholy alliance of Christian Reconstructionists, Wahhabi Islamic fundamentalists and the Mary Kay corporation have pinpointed a historical inflection point in the past where, if events could be changed, the rise of the Crux could be thwarted and secular scientific rationalism and world freedom could be restored. Their sophisticated time regression calculations indicated that an obscure Air Force pilot by the name of Jeff Guinn, who had died on a dirt road in the outback of Montana when, after being stranded by a flat tire, he an his party were captured by white supremacist survivalists and, being mistaken for UN helicopter pilots, were forced to drink bootlegged Canadian moonshine until they confessed. Tragically they all died from acute tastebud hemorraghing.

This Captain Guinn, though of no notable historical accomplishment, was demonstrated by the historical revisioning software program to have been a prime candidate to debunk, by his uncannily prodigious abilities of logical argumentation and irony detection, the growing Crux menace which would become operational on Oct 26, 2006. Within 6 months, the Crux continuum will have brainwashed the whole future generation of secular materialists. Within a year Crux merged with Mary Kay, thus gaining a worldwide distribution network of immense reach. Within two years Crux-Kay merged with Al Quaeda and soon thereafter the third Dark Age of Man descended upon the planet.

The time travelling agent for the scientific resistance narrowly escaped an ambush by the survivalists, and managed to disguise himself as a local hillbilly in time to hand Capt Guinn the critical tool for his escape - an advanced air pump made of unobtanium, the only inorganic material that could survive the time jump. Tragically, the agent could not return to the future to enjoy the fruits of his efforts - a materialist paradise free from superstition and religion, ruled by benevolent scientist-kings.

The agent lived out his remaining days in 21st century America. His true name was never known, but he was known to many by his code name: AOG.

October 28, 2006 2:20 PM  
Blogger David said...

I think you meant Missoula Montana, not Missoula Minnesota. There is a nice mnemonic for remembering the Montana postal abbreviation: Montana is eMpTy.

October 28, 2006 2:40 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

David:

I knew that. Really, I did.

October 29, 2006 9:56 AM  

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