Misguided Ghosts

If I have one major shortcoming, it is that I often avoid the things I know I am bad at. Or that I can’t stand doing. I run with what I think I am good at, and what I enjoy, and end up with glaring holes in my abilities.

First person narratives and present tense narratives are good examples of this. I avoid them like the plague. So, in an attempt to face my demons, I’ve attempted something that is both! I don’t know what to make of it, but I hope you enjoy it.

What are your writing demons? My challenge to you: choose a couple of them, then write a couple of paragraphs using them. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself.

“We are just misguided ghosts,” crackles the radio, Hayley Williams’ distorted voice drifting across the coffee shop towards me. I smile to myself for a moment, as the lyrics tickle my ears. Bet she never thought it could be so literal. I glance around, but the place is pretty deserted at this hour: just one balding man slumped across the counter. I feel a bit sorry for the waitress. She’s brunette with long hair, maybe seventeen, and looks about ready to pour boiling milk over the guy’s head. Man I used to hate closing time, when I was alive. Always one asshole left to bug you.

“Excuse me sir,” she says. I watch her careful expression.

“H-uh?” Oh, this is gonna be fun.

“We’re about to close… did you need something else?”

The guy drags his head upwards a little, and stares at her. I can’t help smiling as she starts to look uncomfortable. These kinds of interactions are always the best. The most real. Fuck knows I don’t get to have conversations myself anymore, so I like to do it vicariously.

“I… I guess… more coffee.”

She sighs. “What kind?”

“I… just… anything, r-really. I don’t know.”

Right now? Me and waitress-girl are getting pretty ticked off. Man it feels good. I stand up and sidle closer, passing through my table unhindered.

“Sir, the cash register has to be closed in two minutes.”

“… what?”

“Unless you choose something, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” There’s an edge to her voice now, like she’s done with this bullshit for one night and wants out. Can’t say I blame her; the place is a dive.

The guy clenches his fists a little. Sounds like he’s gritted his teeth, too. “I just… want to fucking… sit here. OK?”

“No,” she says bluntly. Woah. Takes me and the guy a moment to register that. I hurry around to the side, so I can watch both faces more clearly. Never took this one for ballsy. “I’m sorry, it’s late, and we’re closing. You have to leave now. Before I call my supervisor.”

“What the fuck?” yells the guy. Now that I look closely, his eyes are a little unfocussed, his skin all clammy and pale. Drunken asshole maybe? Oh man, I hope so. That’s an extra special kind of customer.

“I’m really not in the mood for this,” spits waitress-girl, her eyes all scrunched up. “You’re here every night, and we always have this same fucking conversation. Go home.” I’m right there with her now, just itching to throw a doughnut at him.

“… bitch,” he says, with the dirtiest look I’ve seen in a long while, then hauls himself unsteadily to his feet, and shambles off towards the exit. He kicks the door open when he reaches it, and it bangs shut behind him.

“Jesus,” says waitress-girl, before grabbing some keys from a hook under the counter. I step back, and take in a big deep breath. Man that was good. Girls usually bore the crap out of me, talking about inconsequential things with fake smiles plastered across their faces. But waitress-girl? I almost felt real again, with this one. As she comes out from behind the counter, a tinny voice catches my attention.

“Someone care to classify broken hearts and twisted minds, so I can find someone to rely on,” sings Hayley, her voice scratching at my ears. I smile a little at the words, and go back to watching waitress-girl lock up.

Author’s note: There used to be a second part to this, but it has been bugging me ever since I posted it, so in the end I deleted it. I’m pretty sure this isn’t the last we’ll see of waitress-girl and the ghost, though. I enjoyed writing this far more than I thought I would.

  1. Dear Daniel,

    I was thinking about this story today and about how much I had enjoyed it. Then I thought about the fact it was a writing exercise and how it was meant to help you with first person, and I couldn’t help but notice that – wait for it – this is a third person story!!

    In every third person story we are looking through a ghosts eyes at the events occuring to other beings, a camera that doesn’t get involved in the proceedings and simply watches from the sidelines. Sometime’s there’s even a strong narrative prescence. I find it amusing that when you set out to write a first person story you simply personified the camera, as it were.

    Try again dear.

    As always, my love,

    • Jeannie
    • September 29th, 2010

    I think you should send me the second part, I really enjoyed this. And love how you put my favourite song (at the moment) in it. It made me smile.

      • Daniel
      • September 29th, 2010

      Why thank you! I might send you the second part, but I’m not at all happy with it – it’s not nearly as good, which is why I cut it. I might just pretend it never existed, and show you the new continuation after I’ve written it ;). Aaww, I love Paramore, though The Only Exception is my favourite at the moment.

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