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Home » Stories, True and Otherwise

The Famous Ghost Monologues, No. 19: Roman Steighton Charles

Submitted by on March 15, 2004 – 8:41 AMNo Comment

I used to be quite a handsome fellow, if you'll forgive me for saying so, I had the sharpest part in town, the girls liked that about me — and I kept my fingernails tidy, too, the girls liked that, not raggedy, squared off and neat, in fact I was vain about them and I kept a little file in my breast pocket to tend them with, but I never let anyone see it. I had a little brush, too, that I kept in a drawer, to mind my pants legs with if they got splashed with mud, I liked to look nice and orderly, in the same drawer where I had my brilliantine and my kerchiefs and the clip I devised to hold a boutonniere straight — clever thing, I thought, I used a spring from a clothespin and two bits of tire, nobody could see it and I never lost a flower with my little clip, and once when we'd fetched up at a farmhouse — we'd been under a driving rain all day and got lost a few times, and Wharton sent word back, that's it, gents, let's go in for the night.

The four of us found a little barn while it was still light and rounded up some supper, and Upham popped some corn in a shovel, and Collins said he wouldn't mind a mug of beer to go with it, first thing when he got home, he'd find himself a mug of beer. Upham said he'd ask his girl to marry him, and no, he didn't have a girl to ask just now, but by God, he'd get one and he'd marry her, and to hell with the rain and all of it, and he asked Tate what he'd do at home, and Tate said, why, nothing at all, and Collins asked him why he couldn't just play along now and then to pass the time, Upham said don't get sore, Collins said he wasn't sore and he wasn't talking to Upham anyway, and just then Tate said, I was playing along all right, I mean to say I'd do nothing because I wouldn't know what to do first, kiss a girl, eat pie, toss a ball to my dog or sit on the porch. Collins said, well, and Tate said, I'm not through, you get on a man for not speaking up and then I can't finish, and after Collins apologized Tate said, I'd have so many things that I could do, I wouldn't do a thing right away. I'd just enjoy the choosing.

Collins said he'd probably do the same thing, now that he thought of it. Upham said sure you would, while you ate pie, and Collins said a big decision like that, he'd need food in his stomach, and he passed me the shovel and said, Charles, I think you'll kiss a girl first, and I said, I think I would, and if she brings me a pie I think I would kiss her twice, and Collins said if the Kaiser walks in that barn door with a peach cobbler we're all going to see something we'll never forget. He'd better hop to it, I said, it's getting dark, and it was, the grey outside was getting darker, and it was quiet for a minute, and then I said, I'd get a patent. The others stared, and Collins would have to say something snide, and so he did, told me some other fine gentlemen already invented kissing and pie so what did I want a patent for. And I said, you let Tate say his piece, didn't you. And Collins said, all right.

I said that I'd do other things first, kiss a girl perhaps, certainly eat pie, and bacon too, and apples, and I'd drink a glass of bourbon and smoke a cigar. I'd walk all around Sheridan and get a nice sunburn on my face. But then after I'd done all of that, I'd sit down and draw my boutonniere clip and send the drawing off to the patent office, and when I got the patent, I'd be rich, and don't tease me, Collins, I know it's a dandy thing but I think it's a fine idea anyway, you've never seen a clip like it before, works like a charm.

Collins said, I'd thought to tease you, but I can't get a carnation to stay straight to save my life, show us how it works. I put together a little version using hay, to demonstrate, and I showed them how it lay down flat and you couldn't see it, and Upham thought he'd buy one, and Tate said, well, I wouldn't buy one myself, but I'll bet my sister will buy one for me and I'll bet I'd use it then, and I said, go ahead, Collins, make fun and let's have that over with, and Collins said, it's a dandy thing, all right. Upham said, but there's a lot of dandies in the world. Collins said, that's right, and they've got money to spend. Charles could make a mint. It's a fine idea.

And I tell you, I was proud, you could count the ideas Collins didn't think were damn-fool on one hand, so for him to say the clip was fine, it was quite a feeling.

Upham looked out the window and said, you'd be fastening that clip of yours right now, Charles, wouldn't you, going to call on a girl back at home, and I looked out the window and I said yes, it's just that time. End of dusk, Tate said, and I said yes, but it doesn't look the same here, and Tate said where he was from, around Augusta if I recall correctly, night fell like a door slamming, not like here where it drifts down. Then he talked about stars for a while, but I must say I didn't listen closely, I was remembering how it used to be on a Saturday night when I'd come in, how it hadn't seemed too dark to see when I'd been outside but then, in my room, it was night already, and I'd light a lamp to dress by and the yellow of the light would seem sad in a way, and I would feel a little sad myself, getting dressed, listening to my sisters through the walls, the chirps and knocks they made, after the day had ended but before the evening had begun. And I attended to my hair and my fingernails, checked my cuffs, chewed some mint, and when I put on my clip, I was finished, and by then that sad between feeling would have passed. It always passed, but then, it always came, too, and it still does, that quiet, each of us in his room, fixing himself, straightening away, before going into the evening, thinking about things that happened and things that would happen.

If you'll forgive me for saying so, I never thought it would happen that my face would go all black and coming down in parts, and my teeth…all the little things I used to do to look just so, and now, to look like…like…I don't look like anything, I don't suppose, I'm a dead man and that's what I look like, of course, and of course a girl never brought me pie and I never kissed her twice or otherwise.

My name is Roman Charles. I died of asphyxiation May 4, 1918.

March 15, 2004

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