Richard found Laurie cleaning up the kitchen in her usual haphazard manner. He grinned and shook his head. She just would never be his Violet no matter how hard she tried. The strange thing was Laurie tried at all. She didn’t have to be a domestic diva like Violet and yet she so wanted to be. Laurie had talents all her own. She was a great artist so why did she want to be called a great housewife, too? Wasn’t that contrary to everything the Women’s lib crowd stood for? It simply baffled Richard.
He looked around and marveled that anyone could make this much mess for just a dozen muffins. While Violet was a “clean-as-you-go” kind of cook and consequently had a virtually spotless kitchen at all times no matter what extravaganza she was cooking up Laurie was more like, “What-after-all-this-cooking-I gotta-clean-too?”.
He laughed out loud when he saw her sticking all manner of baking implements into the dishwasher. He knew Violet would never do that even if she did have a dishwasher. Richard’s smile suddenly vanished. He recalled saying he would get one for her one day but that day never came. There were many things he didn’t get to do for Violet, many things he had denied her. Perhaps that was why he was still earthbound?
“I’m surprised she doesn’t try putting the batter-splattered mixer in too,” he whispered.
Much to his surprise Laurie turned around, looked at the mixer for a few seconds, frowned then shook her head mumbling, “It won’t fit or I would.” She then turned back to chisel some baked-on batter off the baking pan.
Richard stared in amazement. Had she heard him? “Laurie! Can you hear me?” he said both excited and loud.
She merely continued with her task muttering mutinously, “Martha Fricken Steward should come over and do this crap since she likes it so much. I could spend her millions on clay and oils and watercolors and canvases and... I wanna paint! Not do this.”
Disappointed Richard slumped against the counter staring at her. “You should paint more. Better use of your time. Nobody ever dies from having instant cereals, you know,” he said angrily. It was just coincidence and that ticked him off. She didn’t hear him at all. Just then shouting came from the hall.
“You can’t name a dog that. It’s stupid,” Jimmy yelled.
“It’s not stupid! It’s my dog so I can call him whatever I want,” Molly shrieked back. She suddenly burst into the kitchen, Jimmy right behind her rolling his eyes to the ceiling, in perfect big brother fashion.
“The dog is for all of us, not just you, Molly,” he said glowering at her. For good measure and possibly because he couldn’t help himself he mumbled, “Stupid head.”
“Jimmy, I heard that,” Laurie muttered between clenched teeth. It wasn’t clear, however, if it was Jimmy or the muffin tin which angered her most.
“But, Mom, she wants to name the dog Kitty,” Jimmy said in a plaintive whine. Laurie stared at them both for a second then burst out laughing.
“See, even Mom thinks it’s a stupid name,” Jimmy declared, triumphant.
Molly sticking her bottom lip out looked ready to cry.
“No, it’s not a stupid name, Molly,” Laurie said forcing herself to stop laughing. “For a cat. We should have a family vote what to name the puppy, okay?”
“I vote for Kitty,” Molly promptly stated.
Jimmy scoffed, rolled his eyes again and muttered, “And you’ll lose. I wanna call him Gepetto.”
Laurie gaped. “Like in Pinnochio’s father?” she asked, incredulous.
“Maybe that’s stupid,” Molly said watching her mother’s astonished face. “What do you wanna name him, Mommy?”
“I...uh...I hadn’t thought of it before,” Laurie said looking suddenly pensive. “ Let me see... its Mommy is named Hunny-pot and she’s a nice gold colored Labrador...hmm...”
“Goldie would be good if it’s a girl but...” Richard had muttered under his breath.
“Goldie would be a great name,” Laurie said as if struck by inspiration. Richard’s jaw dropped. She must’ve heard him!
Molly giggled and jumped excitedly on her toes. “Like Goldie-locks and the three bears! I like it!”
Jimmy made a face that clearly said otherwise. “Goldie? Ugh! Who wants a dog named Goldie?”
“It’s just an idea,” Laurie countered calmly. “ I know what you should do. Both of you grab pen and paper and make a list. No, make two lists. Names you like for the puppy and names you don’t like. Then we’ll see what we should name it.”
“But should we have names for boys or girls? We don’t know what it’ll be,” Jimmy asked, already rummaging in the junk drawer for the pens and paper.
“Then split the lists in half. One half boy names and the other girl names. Go on! That’s your assignment for the day. The first to finish their list can help me clean up,” Laurie said with a little smirk.
Jimmy, an expression of abject horror on his face, looked around him at the messy counters, the sink piled high with dishes and bowls, measuring cups, spoons, spatulas, mixing bowls and blueberry stained paper towels everywhere. Heck no! He’d make the list a mile long first.
“Come on, Molly. Let’s go in the family room,” he said shoving her out ahead of him.
Richard chuckled. “Oh, Laurie, you are something,” he said quietly.
“Thank you kindly. I thought it was good, too,” she seemed to answer him.
Richard’s eyes widened in shock. “Laurie, you... you do hear me!” he shouted going to grab her by the arms but his grip went right through her, as if he were.... what? Gas, vapor, mist? But he was merely... whatever and she couldn’t really hear him. Or could she? He was almost positive she had heard some of what he said. But why only sometimes? What was the secret?
He watched her finish finally with the baking pan and she started up the dishwasher. He followed her making suggestions, telling her how Violet would do things but she couldn’t hear any of it. Or at least she made no indication of hearing.
“What the hell am I doing wrong?’ he muttered softly.
Laurie snorted derisively. “I ask that every day and I still don’t know the answer.”
Richard gaped open mouthed. “See! There it is again,” he shouted excitedly. He frowned when she didn’t even flinch. “But you heard me that time. I know you did. What the...oh...” He stopped, finally getting it. He hit his head with the palm of his hand and hooted with laughter. “You can only hear me when I talk soft. That’s it, isn’t it?”he said in a normal speaking voice, she obviously didn’t hear. “How the hell does that make sense?” he said, this time speaking quietly.
“It doesn’t really,” she replied as she wiped the crumbs off the table and onto the floor.
He laughed and leaning very close to her ear softly said, “Laurie, you’re perfect the way you are.”
She suddenly straightened up, rag in hand and looked around her, a tiny crease between her fine, arched brows. “Glad to know someone thinks so,” she mumbled nervously.
“Forget this Martha Steward stuff and go back to your art, painting and sculpting,” Richard said again in a whisper he was certain she heard. Her eyes had glazed over then became over-bright as if she might cry. He added, “Play to your strengths, Laurie, and the world will follow you.”
“My strengths? I’m not so sure about that. But it’s nice to know someone thinks I have some even if it is my own Jiminy Cricket saying it,”she mumbled to herself. She went back to her cleaning looking a tad more happy now humming a bit off-key, “When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are....”
Richard, grinning like a fool, decided to try this new discovery on the kids. He went into the family room and found them sitting on the floor on opposite sides of the coffee table diligently writing on their papers.
“Howda ya spell Monkey?” Molly asked.
“Like it sounds, stupid. Stop asking me how to spell everything. I’m busy,”Jimmy retorted still writing.
Richard sat beside little Molly and whispered, “M...o...n...k...e...y spells monkey.”
“Oh, okay, Uncle Richie, thanks,” she said smiling, as she slowly wrote on her sheet.
Richard blinked at her astounded. How could she know it was him? Did she recognize the voice? Could she feel him near her perhaps?
“What did you say about Uncle Richie?” Jimmy asked absently, his head still bent down over his paper.
“He’s helping me spell so I don’t need you,” she replied sticking her tongue out at him.
“Really? Wish he’d help me. I dunno how to spell Sassafras,”Jimmy said screwing his face in concentration.
Richard obliged by whispering in his ear the correct spelling. Jimmy nodded saying, “That’s what I thought. Thanks, Uncle Richie. It sure is cool having a ghost. Dontcha think, Molly?”
“Uh-huh. I dunno how to spell Brooklyn,” Molly said looking straight at Richard. “Do you, Uncle Richie?”
Richards jaw dropped. “Molly, can you see me?” he asked positively amazed.
She blinked those huge blue-gray eyes at him looking all innocence. “Course I can. I saw you last night too, ‘member?”she replied, as if talking to ghosts was an everyday sort of thing.
“Can you see me, too, Jimmy?”
Jimmy finally looked up from his paper and grinned. “Sure.”
Richard stared from one to the other his mouth hanging open. “Well, if you can see me...why can you and your mom can’t?” he asked.
Jimmy shrugged but Molly said with as much authority as a five year old can muster, “It’s cuz we’re little kids.”
“That makes sense,” Jimmy agreed. “ Like we can see fairies and goblins and leprechauns and grownups can’t.”
“And monsters in da closet,” Molly whispered behind her hand so only Richard could hear.
He chuckled and whispered back, “I think there won’t be anymore monsters in the closet or under the bed or anywhere, Molly. Not with me around.”
Her face shone like a beacon. “Oh, Uncle Richie, can you really scare dem away? Thank you! It's gonna be so great having you back. I love you, Uncle Richie!”
“I love you too, Baby,” he replied feeling his whole being swell with joy.
“Howda ya spell, Pinocle? It’s not Pea and then Knuckle, is it?” Jimmy asked.
“Uh... you should get the dictionary for that one, Buddy. I gotta go see Violet now. Now that I know how to get her to hear me,” Richard said growing more excited by the minute.
“You will come back, wontcha?” Jimmy asked.
“You betcha. I’ll be all over the place now that I’m getting the hang of this ghost thing. See you later!” And with that they watched him fly through the large picture window.
“That’s so wicked cool!” Jimmy said envy in his voice.
Molly just shrugged and said, “I dunno how to spell ghost.”