Act I, Scene V:  Elsinore.  A platform before the castle.

I used to insist that my house was haunted.  Once, while going into the basement, I swore I saw a blue figure walk from wall-to-wall, passing through them as if they were open doors.  It was a tall gentleman, wearing a top hat and Victorian clothing.  He seemed in an awful hurry.

Granted, at the time, I read as many books on supernatural phenomena as I could.  Well-worn books with black-and-white photographs of famous monsters:  Patterson’s shot of Bigfoot, Surgeon’s shot of Nessie.  And ghosts — so many pictures of ghosts!  Perhaps they were just double-exposures and fissures in the emulsion, but to me, they may have well have been rips in the mortal veil.  There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. 

My brother played a trick on me.  He knew I had this fascination with ghosts, so he waited until I was headed down to the basement.  And there, at the bottom of the stairs, he had draped a bedsheet over himself, with holes cut out for eyes.  It was the cheapest, most generic ghost you could imagine, and yet, when I saw him, he yelled, “Boo!” and I screamed and ran back upstairs.  I later learned from my sister that our mother was mighty angry that he had ruined a perfectly good sheet.

Act I, Scene II:  A room of state in the castle.

The basement is now my father’s domain.  My mother banished him there ages ago, because no one could sleep once he started snoring.  We lived directly under the flight path of Stapleton Airport, so we should have been used to the noise, but even a floor away from the rest of the family, we heard his nighttime rumble crawling through the air vents, his restless spirit taking revenge on the rest of us.

But he prefers it down there.  He has his computer and his home theater.  He reads in his waterbed or blasts his Vietnamese pop music through the surround sound until my mother complains that it’s rattling the upstairs windows.  He also runs a one-man Vietnamese media service, burning compilation CDs for his friends or ripping movies borrowed from the library into his own library.  He makes custom covers for them, has them stacked nicely by the fireplace.  He even rips movies from my collection.

But, Dad, I tell him, I own them.  You don’t need another copy.

Just in case, he says.  Just in case.

In case of what? I wonder.  He’s in his mid-70s now, and I worry that the stairs bother him.  He gets cortisone shots in his back for a fused disc, my mother reports, but now his knees have been acting up.  But, you must know, your father lost a father; that father lost, lost his, and the survivor bound in filial obligation for some term to do obsequious sorrow.  I know the time will come — perhaps soon — when he can no longer live in the basement with the ghosts.

Advertisements