Tales From The Crypt
Published: September 5, 2012
It was a night much like tonight, dry and comfortable, in the upper 60s and filled with the sound of half a million crickets. I had not yet moved into the infamous “shed” and was bouncing around from place to place to place, depending on the weather, where I was when it got dark, and bus schedules. The sleeping accommodations varied from the room-sized cedar closet in the basement of the apartment building I used to live in with my family, to the occasional couch of a friend, to the cots at the MCVET shelter in cold weather, to the sidewalk of the parking lot under the overhang of the Enoch Pratt Free Library on Reisterstown Road, to the secluded grounds of a well-known suburban cemetery in warmer weather.
This graveyard is between two major roads and adjacent to an expressway, but there is a surprisingly well-hidden dell on the property on a piece of hilly terrain off the main lanes and pathways. I was introduced to this site by one of the few homeless guys I actually ran with at the time. But on this particular night I was alone, except for the quietest and least annoying set of roommates anyone could ask for—or so I thought.
Across the dell and through the trees I saw a flicker of light, which at first I thought was only some freak reflection of car headlights. I looked up a few minutes later, and it had become several distinct globes of light and was coming my way. As a matter of prudence and caution I gathered, my things and climbed up on the top of the flat-roofed mausoleum and lay below the level of the low-carved facade that went across the front and both sides, and peered through the gaps between the angels, doves, and cherubs. Soon after, a group of nine women in their mid-30s, dressed for a night on the town and carrying their high heels, candle lanterns, blankets, and bottles of champagne came into view. They were at that giggly stage of moderately drunk where they kept “shsshing” each other while getting progressive louder and then breaking into laughter.
I grinned and made myself comfortable as they spread their blankets and began talking and reminiscing. It turned out that they were sorority sisters gathered for a reunion, and this dell had been one of the sites of their initiation rituals. As they drank, talked, laughed, and drank, their tales became bawdier and their inhibitions lesser, and I could barely hold in my laughter as stories of who slept with who and the recitations of various “walks of shame” were recalled. As much as I was enjoying the scene—especially when some of them related tales of their own and others “experimentation” with dorm-mates and sorority sisters—but between the couple of Big Gulps of Diet Coke I had consumed prior to their arrival, the diuretic in my blood pressure meds, the sympathetic reaction to the numerous bottles of bubbly they were passing around, and being in a position to watch and hear every time one of the ladies went off to the side, out of sight of her friends, to squat up against a tree—hey, we all have our kinks—I had to get down off of the roof and find my own tree before my bladder burst!
Hoping to draw their attention away from the immediate area, I felt around on the roof beside me for some of the larger, heavier fragments of broken branches that had accumulated. Finding a few that were suitable, I heaved one in the opposite direction from which they came. Only a couple of the ladies seemed to notice it so I threw a few more closer and harder. This caused them to start “shhhhshing” each other again, accomplishing nothing but more noise and laughter. I let fly with another larger chunk of wood and aimed for one of the crypts on the hillside. This caused them all to become silent, so I gently tossed another stick onto the dried leaves in the bushes. This time they all gathered up their belongings and started headed back the way they came to the entrance way. As soon as I judged they were far enough out of earshot, I slipped off the back of my perch, turned around, took four steps towards the nearest tree, and began my imitation of a firehose.
As I stood there, reveling in the blessed relief, alone except for the dearly departed and the crickets, a female voice said, “Feels good doesn’t it?” I nearly jumped out of my skin as I spun around, still spraying down the underbrush. “Hey! Watch where you point that thing!” she said, laughing the whole time. As I quickly finished and zipped up, she said “I knew you were up there, I saw you when I went to pee. I saw you watching me too,” she said with a sly grin. “Turnabout’s fair play!”
Just then, her friends started calling for her, some of them sounding scared and frantic. She came over, kissed me on the cheek, and said, “See ya,” and that was the last I ever saw of her as she took off, up and over the rim of the dell and through the woods, calling out to her buddies. I headed back to my rooftop perch to watch the annual Perseid meteor shower and review some of the stories I had overheard and then get a couple hours sleep so I could be off the property by first light, to avoid any confrontation. As I came around the back of the mausoleum, I saw something glinting in the moonlight. I reached down and found an opened but still chilled bottle of Veuve Clicquot with a note rolled up and tucked into the neck of the bottle, with the message, “I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost,” a drawn Pac Man-style ghost, a heart, a winking smiley face, and “Love, Jan.”
Dave blogs about life on the street at homlesscide.blogspot.com
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