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Ghosts on the Ohio
Tales of the Supernatural
By Steven E. Winters
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2016 Steven E. Winters
All rights reserved.
Just Wait and See
Donnie Price awoke to total darkness. He could hear a humming sound somewhere in the distance, but as to where it was coming from or what it was, he could not determine. He wasn't sure if his eyes were open or closed, but he knew he was conscious. His thoughts were blurred and slow to respond. After a moment, he tried opening his eyes. Nothing happened. He concentrated harder and tried to blink, but there was something wrong. He could not feel his eyes. In fact, he could not feel anything at all.
His first reaction was one of sheer terror. Was he dead? Or was this one of those nightmares where you awoke soaked in sweat, only to realize that you had fallen asleep on your arm, and it had simply gone numb? Wake up, Donnie! Damnit, wake up! He tried to scream, but nothing came out. His mind began racing as he desperately searched for an answer to his current condition. Chill out, dude! Calm down. Easy now. Just think!
He slowly regained control of his thoughts and tried to focus on what he could remember. What was I doing before I woke up just now? Then he had a flash of memory. Then another. Like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, the flashes formed a jumbled heap in his mind. Slowly, he tried placing the pieces together until a picture began to take shape.
As Donnie tried to focus on the picture that his mind was slowly forming, a dim light suddenly appeared. It flickered left, then right, and then left again. Then it was gone. Donnie was ecstatic. At last! Someone was here to help him. Then a muffled voice called out his name. He tried to answer but could not speak. The voice sounded close, yet far off at the same time. Still, someone knew he was here! A cave! I must have fallen into a cave. Yes, of course! This seemed a logical explanation to Donnie. He must have been knocked out by the fall, and now someone was searching for him.
But his excitement was muted when the puzzle pieces quickly regained their foothold in his thoughts. The picture that was forming had nothing to do with caves. It was true that he had explored caves as a child, but he had not set foot in one in over twenty years. He knew that his subconscious had recalled that memory out of convenience.
Then a tiny voice whispered, "Always looking for the easy way out, eh, Donnie boy?"
Donnie was pleased to hear that voice inside his head. Ever since he had been a little boy, the voice had been there to comfort him. It whispered in his ear when times were tough, and it gave him advice whenever life was too stressful. It was his invisible friend, Mr. Id.
"I've really done it this time, Mr. Id. Do you see what I did? Can you see it?"
"You shot a man, Donnie. Shot him in cold blood. And yes, I can see it. I'm right here in your head!"
"Where am I? I can't see. I can't talk. I can't move!"
"Oh Donnie, you worry so! Why fret? We're alive. Isn't that the aim of the arrow?"
"What? Do you mean the name of the game?"
"No, silly boy. We shoot from the hip. We go where we aim to go, and that's why we have so much fun."
But Donnie wasn't having much fun. He pushed Mr. Id aside and began to focus on the horrid picture that had pieced together in his head. He had shot a man in the chest, he saw that clearly. But why? How had he gotten to that point? He needed to remember, and something inside his clouded mind understood that he needed to do that quickly. Donnie knew he was dying.
Donnie Price grew up along the banks of the Ohio River on the east side of New Matamoras, Ohio. His mother was a high-school English teacher and his father a supervisor at the aluminum plant up the river in Hannibal. They were an upper-middle-class family and were quite popular because of their charitable donations to area causes.
But even the most respected families were not immune to gossip, and, as was the case in most small towns, their problems were openly discussed by the very people they considered to be close friends. One of those problems was Donnie. Although he was never diagnosed with a learning disability, he struggled in elementary school. Some teachers felt that his behavior was due to a lack of discipline at home, concluding that the only child of a well-to-do couple was simply spoiled.
It was around this time that Mr. Id emerged from deep within Donnie's troubled mind. One afternoon, Donnie overheard his psychiatrist talking to his parents about the ego, id, and super ego. The doctor felt that Donnie was holding onto the id part of his behavioral development. Donnie liked the word "id," so when the little voice first began to speak, Donnie dubbed him "Mr. Id." With everyone around him being critical and accusing him of not trying, Mr. Id encouraged him to ignore everyone and just have fun.
When Donnie entered high school, he began to excel in sports. The rumors and whisperings soon turned to loud cheers as he led the football and baseball teams to winning records as a freshman, and when he was announced as the starting quarterback prior to his sophomore year, no one was talking about his lack of attention to academics. At the end of his junior year, he had led the football team to a state title. Incredibly, he maintained a "C" average in school, despite not showing up for class half the time or even trying when he did.
But during the summer between his junior and senior years, right around the time he turned eighteen, Mr. Id returned from a long hiatus and questioned why Donnie was working so hard lifting weights and running. After all, this was his big year! He had proven himself athletically. Why all the work when there was fun afoot? Those scholarships to college were virtually in the bag, Mr. Id whispered. And Donnie listened.
So, Donnie began to party away the last few weeks of summer. Mr. Id was in his ear the entire way, constantly coaxing him on. "It's all about fun, Donnie! You only live once!"
Part of that fun culminated in a drunken sexual tryst beneath the football bleachers with a fourteen-year-old freshman. Suddenly, Donnie Price was not only in trouble with the law, but he was also about to become a father. The parents of the young girl did not press charges, but they did insist that Donnie marry her. Faced with the impending marriage, and stressed beyond anything his young mind could handle, Donnie once again turned to Mr. Id.
"Let's get out of here, Donnie. Things will get better. Just wait and see."
That evening, eighteen-year-old Donnie Price abandoned his child bride-to-be and their unborn baby, packing all he could stuff into the trunk of his Chrysler. He then drove south on Route 7 into the night, fleeing from the chains of responsibility, with Mr. Id whispering in his ear as he drove away.
For the next two years, Donnie bounced around southern Ohio, picking up odd jobs until he tired of them and then simply moved on. Although he seldom drank anymore, he frequented strip clubs for fun. At these clubs, he would invariably spend his entire pay check in one night, all based on the sage advice of Mr. Id, of course. "It's fun, eh Donnie boy ? You can't take it with ya!"
Occasionally, when a holiday was approaching, he would phone his parents. Although the conversations were strained, they always began politely but soon dissolved into arguments over Donnie's baby boy, whom he had yet to meet. He would insist that he would be home soon and that he would make up for the lost time with his son. "I'll be home soon, Mom. I promise. Just wait and see."
Two years became four, and Donnie soon stopped calling home altogether. He had found good work in the coalfields of southern West Virginia, earning more money in a single day than he had earned in a week at his other jobs. He enjoyed the comradery of his coworkers in the mines, and for the first time since he had run away from home, he was truly happy. That happiness was doubled when he met a young girl at the company picnic six months later. He fell in love the moment he laid eyes on Tiffany Lewis. Tall, slender, and with golden-blonde hair that cascaded down her back in waves of curls, she was the belle of the ball for sure. Every man there looked upon her with lust, while the women gazed at her with spiteful envy.
It took an entire year of courtship, but Donnie finally won the heart of the southern belle, and a June wedding was planned. After the nuptials, they purchased a home, and life was wonderful. Then, one year later, his bride fell ill. The diagnosis was grim: she had cancer, and it was aggressive. The doctors immediately began treatment, but poor Tiffany was fighting a losing battle. Donnie came home from shift one morning to find her lying on the bathroom floor, vomiting, too weak to even pull herself up to the commode. Donnie looked at his once-beautiful wife, now a skinny skeleton of what she once was, and gently helped her onto her feet. He walked her over to their bed and laid her down.
"Honey, just rest. I'm going to run to the store for some ginger ale. It always makes you feel better."
Tiffany looked at him and said in a weak voice, "But Donnie, you just got home. You must be tired. I can wait."
"Nonsense. I don't mind one bit. I'll be back before you know it. Just wait and see."
He got into his car and turned the ignition on. As he sat there with the engine idling, a small voice whispered in his ear, "So where are we off to now, Donnie boy?"
Tiffany never saw him again. She died three weeks later.
Donnie stopped at the bank on the way out of town and emptied out his savings and checking accounts. Tiffany, being a loving and trusting wife, had never asked for joint accounts. With over fifteen thousand dollars in his pocket, he and Mr. Id would be able to drive anywhere they pleased. Six years after leaving Ohio, Donnie Price was on the run again. But his freedom would be short-lived, because Donnie was driving too fast and never saw the young boy on the moped until it was too late. He swerved at the last second but clipped the moped with his right front fender.
Donnie slid to a stop on the side of the road. He looked in his rearview mirror and saw the sprawled teen lying beside the guardrail. "Damnit!" He smacked the steering wheel hard with his hand and then opened his car door and strode back to the boy, who was moaning and writhing on the ground.
"Dude! Hey, dude! You okay? Damn, son, I didn't see you! Shit. Are you okay?"
The teen moaned but didn't respond.
But Mr. Id had something to say: "He's alive. No worries, Donnie boy! Let's get out of here."
Donnie agreed silently and jumped back into his car. Without even a glance back, he sped away. He drove for an hour and then began to yawn. He'd need sleep soon. After working the overnight twelve-hour shift at the mine and coming home to find Tiffany on the floor this morning, he'd not slept in close to twenty hours. He saw the motel sign and took the next exit. After paying cash for the room, he drifted off to sleep the moment his head hit the pillow.
Unfortunately for Donnie Price, he had struck a teen in Fayette County, West Virginia. The local law enforcement officers were a proactive group and were well known for their tenacity when it came to investigating crimes in their area. Within three hours after the first squad car arrived at the scene of the hit-and-run, four muscular deputies were beating on Donnie Price's motel room door. He was too tired to resist when they kicked the door in.
There was a trial, and Donnie opted to plead guilty to several misdemeanor charges, which meant he would only have to serve time in the county jail. His lawyer got the sentence reduced to six months, and as a settlement, the teen's family accepted the fifteen thousand in cash that Donnie had taken from his bank accounts. Now all he had to do was the time.
For the most part, he was a model inmate. The only complaints were from the other inmates, who didn't appreciate the fact that Donnie enjoyed talking to himself late at night, sometimes bursting into laughter. The cause of these conversations stemmed from the hour-long recreation period Donnie enjoyed each evening. The county jail television was tuned to an oldies station, and it just so happened that the sitcom Mr. Ed aired at that time. Donnie enjoyed the show, but Mr. Id enjoyed it even more. Donnie would be lying on his cot at night, and suddenly Mr. Id would whisper in his ear, "Hello, Wilbur.!" This always caused Donnie to laugh loudly. Then the two of them would sing the theme song:
"A horse is a horse, of course, of course, and no one can talk to a horse of course, unless of course the name of the horse is the famous Mr. Ed!"
Mr. Id would insert his name in place of Mr. Ed's in the song, and this kept them both entertained for hours.
It seemed natural that Donnie would relate to an old TV show about a horse who could talk, because in the show, no one could hear Mr. Ed talk except his owner, Wilbur. Mr. Ed was always getting Wilbur into sticky situations, but you could tell they had a special bond and love for each other. Donnie loved Mr. Id. He always had. It never occurred to him that his inner voice was imaginary. To Donnie, Mr. Id was as real as the sun in the sky.
After being released from jail, Donnie pondered his immediate future. His car had been towed and impounded, and he had no cash. He was wearing the clothes he'd had on when he had been arrested; the rest were in the trunk of his car. The only option seemed to be to call his parents and ask them to wire him some money. That idea quickly dissipated. He had no options and nowhere to go. He walked down the street and waited for Mr. Id to help him.
As darkness descended upon the small West Virginia town, Donnie began to panic. He was hungry. Where in the hell was Mr. Id? As the moon rose higher in the night sky, the lights in the little town began to blink out one by one as businesses closed for the day. Donnie walked over to a fast-food joint and hid behind the dumpster out back. He was cold. His stomach lurched and grumbled. Suddenly, the back door opened, and a young man carrying a trash bag walked over and emptied the contents inside the dumpster. The smell of food was overpowering, and Donnie anxiously waited for the youngster to go back inside.
As soon as the back door clicked shut, Donnie was foraging through the dumpster, plucking out any item that still felt warm. He knew that he stood less chance of getting food poisoning that way. He greedily stuffed a still-warm hamburger into his mouth.
"You want fries with that? Damn, Donnie boy, slow down! Chew, then swallow!"
Donnie didn't respond to Mr. Id. He was too hungry. He found six more hamburgers, still warm, in foil wrapping. He slowed his eating, satisfied that he would not starve tonight. He spied an empty soda cup, scooped it from the dumpster, and then walked carefully to the water hose at the back of the building. He filled the cup, drank it down, and then filled it again. A calmness overcame him. He knew that for now he would be okay. He returned to the dumpster and fished out three apple pies. They would keep until the morning, and that promised him a breakfast. He was relaxing more now.
"So you got your belly full, eh, fool? What about tomorrow? How you getting out of this hick town?"
"Well, now, if it isn't the famous Mr. Id! Where were you earlier when I needed you?"
"Donnie boy, I've been right here. While you have been flitting about like an injured butterfly, I have returned to show you an opportunity for freedom."
"Oh? Well, I'm all ears! This place sucks. I'm ready to go!" "That youngster who brought you this swill ... he did not lock the door when he went back inside."
"So, he is the night manager, and what is one of the main duties of a night manager?"
Donnie thought back to his earlier jobs in southern Ohio when he had worked closing time at various restaurants just like this. "One of his main duties is to make the nightly bank deposit."
"Bravo, Donnie boy! At this moment, a pimple-faced teen is inside counting hundreds of dollars for deposit in a local bank. And he has left the back door unlocked."
Donnie smiled. Fate was on his side.
"When he comes out, just take the money. You're stronger than him. Tomorrow is going to be a great day for us, Donnie boy! Just wait and see!
Excerpted from Ghosts on the Ohio by Steven E. Winters. Copyright © 2016 Steven E. Winters. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsJust Wait and See,
The Long Reach,
A Matter of Perspective,
Never Judge a Book ...,
The Best Seller,