Monday, July 26, 2021

IT WAS A REAL CHALLENGE TO PHOTOGRAPH A GHOST

 

There was a news show on TV the other night that was celebrating its 25th anniversary, and the newscasters were discussing some of the craziest stories they’d ever covered.

Their discussion made me think back to some of the wild stories I’d covered during my 20-something years as a newspaper correspondent.

Believe me, there were plenty of them…a cemetery tree that, according to legends, collected human souls; a mobile-home peeled open like a can of sardines by heaven only knows what kind of animal; and a guy who covered deer poop in acrylic sealer and then strung it like beads to make jewelry.

But the story that still stands out as the strangest to me is one about a ghost. I’ll never forget the day my editor called me.

“Seeing you were born on Halloween,” he said, “you’re the perfect one to cover this story. A woman called this morning to tell me that her house is being haunted by a ghost and she wants it photographed for the paper.”

I thought he was joking. 

He wasn’t. 

So on a sunny, early summer afternoon, I headed over to the woman’s house to photograph my very first ghost. Seeing I'd had no previous experience with ghost photography, I had to guess which speed of film I'd need for my trusty 35mm camera.

The house was a small ranch-style, not the big haunted-looking Addams Family mansion with bats circling it that I’d expected. The woman who answered the door was probably in her early 50s. She was wearing a long white nightgown.

“Quick! Come in!” she said in a hushed voice.

I followed her inside. The house was dark, mainly because all of the shades were pulled down. The ceilings were low and supported by big white posts. It was a claustrophobic kind of place. Still, I thought the darkness and limited space were to my advantage because the ghost would be more easy to spot when it appeared.

I sat down at the kitchen table, took out my pad of paper and pen, and asked the woman to tell me about the ghost.

“Well,” she said, “It was on the plane with me and followed me home.”

“Plane?” I asked.

“Yes. When I got back home two days ago from my vacation in Europe, I noticed that all of the clothes in my suitcase had been switched for identical clothes in a much smaller size! That’s how I knew that a ghost had been in my luggage!”

I just stared at her. I wanted to ask her if she might have indulged in a lot of rich, highly caloric European foods during her vacation and perhaps they were the reason why her clothes didn’t fit, but I held my tongue.  “And this ghost from the plane is here now…in your house?”

She nodded. “As I said, it stowed away in my luggage.”

I secretly wondered what nationality the ghost might be, seeing it had hopped the plane in Europe.

Before I could ask another question, a young woman about 20 with wild-looking hair and even wilder-looking eyes, peered out at me from behind one of the posts. When I glanced at her, she ducked back behind it.

“Is that the ghost?” I asked, reaching for my camera.

“No,” the woman said, frowning. “That’s just my weird daughter.” 

She then said, “Come with me. I want to show you something!”

I followed her into what looked like a den, where there were cardboard boxes everywhere and a stack of paintings lying on top of one of them. 

The woman held up one of the paintings. It was of a headless woman. She then held up another one that featured a headless farmer standing next to a headless cow.

"Did you paint these?" I asked her.

She nodded.

“Why doesn’t anyone have a head?” 

She whispered, “You’ll have to ask the ghost.”

At that point, the daughter appeared in the doorway and then disappeared just as quickly.

“So,” I said, feeling more and more uneasy. “Exactly what does your ghost look like?”

“I don’t know,” the woman said, shrugging. “It’s invisible.”

That did it. There was no way I was going to be able to photograph an invisible ghost. I thanked her for her time, put my camera back into its case and headed for the door. 

The minute I got home, I called my editor and told him there would be no ghost story to print. When I gave him the details, he apologized for sending me over there.

“But you never know,” he said, “it could have been a great photo opportunity if a ghost really had appeared. I mean, that’s the chance we have to take just in case, right?”

Not long after that, I dug out some of my summer clothes and tried them on. Nothing fit. 

There was only one logical explanation...the woman’s invisible, clothes-shrinking ghost must have followed me home.

 

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Sally Breslin is an award-winning syndicated humor columnist who has written regularly for newspapers and magazines all of her adult life. She is the author of several novels in a variety of genres, from humor and romance to science-fiction. Contact her at: sillysally@att.net



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Monday, July 19, 2021

THE "HOLE" TRUTH

 

My house seems to be sporting a lot of holes lately. My rottweiler has dug so many huge ones in the yard, a burglar wouldn’t have a chance of sneaking up to the house in the dark without breaking a leg. 

Same with the two back decks. They seem to have new holes popping up in the wood every day. I’m pretty sure carpenter ants are to blame because I saw a hefty-looking black ant pop up out of one of the holes.

I can’t help but think how ironic it is, because there was a time when I actually wanted someone to put holes in my house, back when it was being built, but I couldn’t get anyone to do it.

For example, the guy who installed the septic system brought the pipe up to the house’s concrete foundation and stopped there.

"I only go up to the wall," he said, "not through it."

So he left me with a septic pipe outdoors, connected to nothing indoors, which wasn't going to do me much good if I wanted to flush the toilet. I figured that the plumber must be the one who'd finish the job, so I called him.

I figured wrong.

"I go only as far as the inside wall," he said. "I don't make the hole through it."

So there sat the inside pipe and the outside pipe, separated only by a wall of concrete, with neither connected to the other because the septic guy and the plumber didn't have “hole-boring” in their job descriptions.

"What do you think I should do?" I asked my Uncle Lenny, a retired contractor.

"Well, I suppose I could rent a machine and put the hole through the foundation for you,” he said.

 I could tell by his tone, however, that he'd probably rather leap into shark-infested waters while wearing a swimsuit made of raw meat.

The plumber did mention someone he could get to do the job…for about the same price as a small used car.  I decided that for that price, I'd rather use a hammer and chisel and chip away at the wall myself. 

Luckily, Uncle Lenny did come to my rescue, otherwise I'd have ended up with a built-in swimming pool in the basement. 

Oddly enough, I ran into a similar problem with the bathroom vanities, when I called a countertop installer.

“No problem putting in the countertops,” he said, “But not the sinks.”

"Why not?" I asked him.

"I don't cut out holes," he said.

I was beginning to think that all contractors had an aversion to putting holes in anything.  Perhaps it stemmed from childhood nightmares about being attacked by a giant chunk of Swiss cheese or falling into the Grand Canyon.

And the final straw came when I asked the electrician if he could install 3 lampposts along the marathon-length driveway.

"I'll put them in," he said, "but only after you have someone dig a trench for the wiring first.  I don't pay my guys $45 an hour to dig holes."

Again, an aversion to holes…except in his body, judging from all of his piercings.

I remember thinking back then that a contractor could make a bundle if he specialized in nothing but making holes in stuff.  He could call his business something like "The Hole Shebang."

But now, 12 years later, I’m looking for just the opposite – someone to bury and/or patch all of the holes.

Which reminds me of that old riddle, “How much dirt is in a hole three feet wide and six feet deep?”

MY DOG FOUND THE SEPTIC PIPE!
None!  It wouldn’t be a hole if it had dirt in it!

My dog definitely could change that in about ten seconds. 


 

 

 

 


 

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Tuesday, July 13, 2021

WAS THE LITTLE BOY MY LOTTERY LUCKY-CHARM?

 

 

Ever since one of my good friends won $10,000 on a NH State Lottery scratch-ticket about 20 years ago, I have been buying a couple tickets every week. 

So far, my biggest prize has been $500…which I won about 15 years ago. Since then, the lottery's prizes have become bigger and more enticing, while my winnings have become, well…practically non-existent.

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but last week, I did something really dumb while buying my scratch tickets. 

Due to some rare alignment of the planets in the cosmos or whatever, I somehow managed to win $20 on a scratch-ticket, so I decided to cash it in and use half of the money to buy five assorted $2 tickets.  At first, I'd considered buying ten $1 tickets, to make my scratching pleasure last longer, but the payouts on the dollar tickets weren't very enticing…like a top prize of $1,000. I wanted to win big – at least $20,000.

The supermarket where I went has a lottery-ticket machine right next to the courtesy desk.  I prefer to use the machine because I can take my time studying and selecting just the right tickets. At the courtesy desk, if I stand there picking out "one of these" and "one of those," the employee usually gets this frozen smile on her face and keeps looking past me at the line of customers forming behind me, which really affects my ability to select winning tickets (not that I have any ability whatsoever to select them, but that's beside the point).

Anyway, I cashed in my $20 winning ticket and the employee handed me two $5 bills and a $10 bill.  I immediately took the few steps to the ticket machine and inserted one of the $5 bills.  The machine sucked it right in.

The second $5 bill, however, felt strange to me.  It seemed too thick and too stiff. I held it up toward the light.  It didn't have those little blue fibers running through it like authentic paper money usually has.  Still, I shoved it into the machine.

The machine spit it right back out.  I tried again.  The bill couldn't have been rejected more quickly if it had been covered with bubonic-plague bacteria.

Frustrated, I returned to the service desk.  "The machine won't accept this bill," I told the employee. "You know, it doesn't even look real to me.  Does it to you?"

She barely glanced at the bill as she tossed it back into the money drawer. "It's because it has one of those big faces on it," she said. "Here – try this one.  It has a smaller face."

I had no idea why the faces mattered, but I took the bill and turned back toward the machine. There, I came face to face with a woman and her little boy, who looked about six.  The woman was searching through her purse for something while the boy stood staring with fascination at all of the buttons on the lottery machine. 

That's when I remembered that I'd put $5 into the machine before my second bill was so rudely rejected…and the first $5 still was in there.

"Stop!" I shouted. "I have money in there!"

The woman glanced up from her purse and narrowed her eyes at me. 

Almost simultaneously, the boy pressed several buttons, then shouted, "Look, Mommy!  I got one!"  He grabbed the ticket out of the bottom of the machine and excitedly waved it at her.

He must have thought the ticket fairy had graced him with a special gift.

I didn't want to snatch the ticket out of the hand of a mere child, but I figured he was much too young to legally be playing the lottery anyway…and I wanted to save him from a future life of crime. 

"Give it to the lady," his mother told him, casting me a look that clearly told me she thought I'd purposely devised some sinister plot to destroy her child's excitement. 

He handed the ticket to me…a single $5 ticket. 

His mother then led him away.

I groaned.  My entire five dollars had been blown on just one ticket. My plan to buy five $2 tickets had been ruined.  Defeated, I decided not to even bother spending the other $5 bill…the one with the small face on it.

I hadn't been aware that the entire incident had been witnessed by a male clerk standing nearby until I noticed him smiling in amusement at me.

"I didn't even want a $5 ticket," I muttered at him. "Now I'm stuck with it."

"They say that everything happens for a reason," he said. "What if that kid accidentally got you a winning ticket?  You never know – he just might turn out to be your lucky charm."

I looked more closely at the ticket.  The grand prize was $100,000. 

As I headed back out to my car, the clerk's words made me think.  What if the little boy really had picked out a lucky ticket and I ended up winning thousands of dollars because of him?  Was it possible that fate actually had intervened in a very weird way?

I dug a quarter out of my purse and, holding my breath, scratched the ticket.

I won absolutely nothing. 

If everything does indeed happen for a reason, then I’m pretty sure the little boy was sent to me as my cue to stop spending money on scratch tickets.

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Sally Breslin is an award-winning syndicated humor columnist who has written regularly for newspapers and magazines all of her adult life. She is the author of several novels in a variety of genres, from humor and romance to science-fiction. Contact her at: sillysally@att.net.








Monday, July 5, 2021

I'M FAILING MISERABLY AT REMEMBERING ALL OF THIS "POLITICALLY CORRECT" STUFF

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m afraid to even open my mouth to speak any more because I just know I’ll utter something that’s not considered “politically correct.” So many things have changed in the past couple of years, I can’t even begin to keep up with them.

For example, I was in Walmart and couldn’t reach a box on a top shelf, so I asked the front-end manager if there might be a stock clerk around to help me. The woman I asked said, “You mean a merchandise replenisher?” That was a new one to me.

Then there are the medical terms that no longer are in existence. What used to be a spastic colon is now called “irritable bowel syndrome.”  Personally, I don’t think one is much better than the other when it comes to a description of one's innards. I mean, both “irritable” and “spastic” sound like something that’s in a really nasty mood gut-wise.

And Stein-Leventhol syndrome is now called PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). Poor doctors Stein and Leventhol have been banished from their own syndrome.

I’m also upset that the “powers that be” have done away with Aunt Jemima and renamed her brand of pancake mix, “Pearl Milling Company.” I’m upset that the pretty Native-American woman has disappeared from my Land O' Lakes butter and the package now has just a boring lake on it. And even Uncle Ben no longer will grace the rice box, which now will be called, ”Ben’s Original Rice” with no human on it. I grew up with these product icons, so I feel as if I’m losing some beloved friends.

What makes me the most ill at ease, however, is all of the new gender-neutral stuff. In book reviews, for example, the capital letter “H” always stood for the male hero in the novel, and the lower-case “h” stood for the female heroine. Someone, however complained about the abbreviations being sexist, so now it’s mostly just MC for "main character."

The news broadcasts also are confusing to me. When the gender of a person isn’t being revealed, the information is given as something like, “The driver of the car was transported by ambulance to the hospital, where they are listed in stable condition.”

They? Back in my day (when dinosaurs roamed the earth) it would have been “where he or she is listed in stable condition.”   The word “they” baffles me when the report claims the driver was the only person in the car.

But a few weeks ago, I received a quarterly newsletter from my insurance provider that made my mouth actually fall open. I thought I had heard everything, but this one took the proverbial cake. Instead of using the word “men” in the newsletter, it referred to them as “people with penises.”  I couldn’t believe my eyes. Here is an actual excerpt:


(I had to chuckle at the line - "people with penises approved by the FDA." I didn't know the FDA had to approve those things!).

Anyway, not in a million years can I ever picture myself saying something like, “I have a date tonight with a really nice person with a penis” instead of a really “nice guy.” Nope, I’m drawing the line, even if it means I'll be guilty of breaking the rules of political correctness.

I've also heard rumors that women now will be referred to as “birthing persons.”  I’ve never given birth, so I guess that means I’ll have to be referred to as a non-birthing person? Somehow, even being called an “old lady” sounds better to me.

I guess it’s difficult, as they say, to teach an old dog new tricks. I, for one, am beginning to realize I'm just too set in my ways.

And speaking of dogs, I’ll bet it's also politically incorrect for female dogs to be called “bitches” any more.

So if you'll excuse me, it’s time to go feed my “four-legged puppy-producer.”


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