Saturday, July 9, 2011

Don't tell Ruth

A couple of weekends ago, four of us went to the Crescent Hotel for a weekend of escape and celebration.  Ruth Burkett Weeks was signing copies of her wonderful book Soldiers from the Mist on Sunday.  Claire Croxton had just signed a deal to have three of her books published. (That woman is SUCH a showoff) Jan Morrill had signed a contract with an agent who is delighted with her novel Broken Dolls.  And me, well, as you know, I am thrilled to have Redneck Goddess published.

Well, so we go up to Eureka Springs and stay overnight in this haunted hotel.  I mean, plaques  everywhere you look telling about ghost sightings, newspaper articles about hauntings, statues of the visiting dead, ghost tours on the half hour.  Seriously the place is old, gorgeous and slightly scary.  Now, I lean toward the prove-it-to-me side of the paranormal discussion.  However, Ruth is a true believer and I do think that she has a deeper connection with the mystical than most of us.  Plus, I love the woman and I'd never do or say anything to disrespect her.

That night we sit on the balcony under the stars and listen to the clop clop of horses hooves on cobblestone streets.  Ok, maybe it wasn't cobblestone, but it's my story and that's what it sounded like to me. Basically we're transported into the past while Ruth tells us about her encounters with ghosts while staying at the Crescent.

"That rocking chair right there, it moves sometimes with no wind and no living person in it."
"I felt something like a cold breeze pass through me when I turned the corner."

You get the idea.  So, between the atmosphere and Ruth's stories, I'm a teeny bit spooked when we go to the room.  So we laugh and talk and have us a grand ole time until we fall asleep.  Next day is Ruth's book signing.  I'm sitting in one of the high backed velvet chairs in the lobby, tickled to be part of Ruth's posse, feeling smug that I've not succumbed to fear of ghosts.  Right about then is when I have to pee. 

Now, here's the thing.  Ruth has told us a half dozen times NOT to use the bathroom in the basement.  Where the morgue used to be.  Where they found bodies walled up in the concrete.  Where ghosts walk freely.  Well, no problem, I'll use the bathroom on the lobby floor.  So off I go.  Except, when I get there, both stalls are locked.  No sound.  No breathing.  No tinkling of pee.  Nothing.  I stand way back and do that deal where you nonchalantly peek under the door of the stall to check for feet.  No feet.  I wait.  And wait.  And now I really do have to pee.

A sentence jumps fully formed into my head.

"The ghosts are chasing you downstairs.  To the morgue."

Well, too bad for them.  I raised three boys as a single mom.  What damage could a ghost do me? 

So, down I go.  The old morgue is now a fancy spa.  History's a funny thing, ain't it?  Anyway, the shop's open and filled with fancy soaps and oils, but there's no one there for me to wave a cheery 'Hello.  I'm going into this bathroom now.  Come looking if you don't see me come back out soon, eh?'  So I open the door and step inside.

And, just at the moment I open the door, the window air conditioner kicks on and billows the white lace curtain away from the window.  A funny coincidence.  Couldn't be anything more.  No reason for my heart to do a line dance in my chest.  Both stalls are empty and I go inside and do my thing.  A basement toilet in a very old building - when I flush the thing it sounds like a ghost is jumping up out of the swirling water and into my...well, the sound scared me is what it did.  Still, nothing has happened that can't be explained rationally. 

I wash my hands.  Admittedly it didn't take me long to finish this task, but still, no big deal.  It's those darned stories of Ruth's that have got me skiddish.  I hurry to the door and pull the handle.  It won't open.  Now.  It's humid and the wood has swollen.  No way it could be anything else.  Nonetheless, I struggle with the door for a good three seconds before it budges and during that tiny little lifetime, a chill like someone running an ice cube down my spine reminds me that we are soooo much deeper and complicated than rationality can explain.

I did not tell Ruth any of this.  I mean, that woman will twist and turn these perfectly logical events until she's convinced me that ghosts chased me downstairs and then ran a bony finger up my spine.  You know she will.

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