The following story appeared here, weekly, from Jan. 4 through April 5. Here it is, again, this time in its entirety.
Fenwick: A Ghost Story
By C.J. Carter
“Now what? Where I am I? What is that sound? Oh dear, not again!” said Fenwick.
This happened to Fenwick frequently. He would be comfortably settled in one place; the people there would have grown used to him so that they longer screamed hysterically when he appeared, then – Poof! – just like that, he would find himself in a new environment.
And that is what had just occurred. Fenwick slowly rose up from his position on the ground (for that is where he always landed and not always comfortably). He had no idea where he was, but he could see that he wasn’t dressed properly.
Most recently, he had been located in Florida and that accounted for his flip-flops, cut-off jeans and Hawaiian shirt. The people here, in this new place, were dressed in jeans and t-shirts. Oh, geez, he would have to find some appropriate clothes. But that would come later, First Fenwick had to somehow make himself blend in then figure out what was his new purpose.
The life of a ghost was often very confusing.
Fenwick usually drew attention to himself even though he tried not to. You see, Fenwick was exceptionally tall. He didn’t know how tall because he didn’t own a yard stick or a tape measure, but he knew he was tall because people always stared at him. Well, that, and he knew from just walking around that he was a whole lot taller than everybody else.
Plus, he had really red hair that stood up all spikey all over his head. He didn’t know how to make it lay down, so he didn’t worry about it, but he supposed the combination of the attention-grabbing hair color plus his height accounted for the fact that people always noticed him.
Oh, and he had a high-pitched voice that didn’t exactly match his height. When he squeaked out a sentence, people were shocked as they always expected a booming bass or baritone to flow from his lips. His voice was more like a soprano’s.
Anyway, Fenwick got up and began to walk around in this new place where he guessed he would stay for a while. He never knew when he would wake up in a new locale.
All he knew to do was what he always did when he was relocated. First, he tried to understand his new environment. Then he had to figure out what his purpose was in being there. Usually, that wasn’t easy.
The first thing Fenwick noticed upon standing up and sort of gathering himself was that it was incredibly noisy here in this new place.
Then something caught his eye. It was a little boy, standing beside some kind of a vehicle that must have come from outer space. It was low to the ground and shaped like a triangle that came to a point in the front. And it was painted in bright colors.
The little boy was sobbing. Fenwick didn’t know why, but suddenly he knew that this little boy was why he had landed here in this strange place.
“Here we go,” Fenwick said, starting toward the boy.
The Rag Acer
Fenwick got as close to the boy as he could without calling attention to himself. A woman – the boy’s Mother? – was trying to comfort him, but it wasn’t working. The boy was wailing.
In between sobs, Fenwick could here, “I,” gulp gulp, “can’t do it.” Snort snort. “I’m no good.” Sniff sniff. “I’ll never be a rag acer.”
“A rag acer?” Fenwick thought. “What is a rag acer?”
Fenwick was stumped. Before he could help this boy, he would have to figure out what a rag acer was.
Fenwick looked around and headed toward the incessant loud noise he heard.
In the bleachers, overlooking what looked like a couple of roads, Fenwick wished he had ear plugs because this place was incredibly loud. Weird-looking vehicles were flying at break-neck speeds down the two roads.
There was a loud speaker, but Fenwick couldn’t make sense of what the announcer was saying. He didn’t see anything that looked like the outer space vehicle where he saw the little boy crying.
“What’s a rag acer?” Fenwick asked two people sitting nearby.
They looked at him like he was crazy, then they got up and moved.
He tried some teenagers. “What a rag acer?” he asked.
The teens broke into laughter, snorting as they walked away, never answering Fenwick.
Poof! “Need help?” asked girl who appeared right in front of him, seemingly out of nowhere.
“Huh?” said Fenwick. “Uh, no.”
“Well,” she said. “I know what a rag acer is.”
“Where’d you come from?” he asked. “You just appeared out of nowhere.”
“No kidding,” she said. “I’m a ghost, just like you.”
Fenwick smiled so hard his ears moved. Never! Not once, had another ghost come to help him.
“I think I love you,” he said.
“You have GOT to be kidding me,” Fenwick said. “I’ve been doing this for I don’t know how long, and I’ve always been on my own. I can’t believe you’re here. I can’t believe you are a ghost like me. I can’t believe you’re going to help me; that I don’t have to do this alone.”
She looked at him, then she said two words. “Drag racer.”
“What?” Fenwick asked. “What does that mean?”
“Think about it,” she said then scurried off.
Fenwick took off after her.
When he caught up, he repeated, “Drag racer?”
“C’mon, Fenwick,” she said. “Think about it.”
“Hey, how’d you know my name anyway?” he asked. “What’s yours?”
She pointed to a big sign.
He read the words: “Drag Racing Today.”
Next, she turned her hand so that the palm was facing up, stuck out her index finger and curled it toward herself in a summons to Fenwick.
“Follow me,” she said.
He followed her outside the bleachers to the big parking lot. There were trailers and RVs and lots of people fiddling with engines on strange- looking vehicles.
She pointed at this one and that one and another one and one back there and one over there.
“Drag racers. Drag racing,” she said. “We are at a drag race. Do you know what that is?”
Fenwick shook his head to indicate that no, he did not know.
She stuck out her bottom lip and blew upward, causing her bangs to fly up a bit.
“My name is Paisley,” she said. “We’ve got work to do.”
Paisley and Fenwick had been hanging out as close to the little boy as possible. His dad had been telling him that he could drag race as well as anyone, but the little boy didn’t believe it.
“How can we help him?” Fenwick whispered to Paisley. “We don’t know anything about drag racing.”
“Don’t you see,” Paisley said. “Drag racing isn’t the problem. Confidence. That’s the problem.”
Fenwick understood. And, indeed, she was right. The boy’s father had told him his car was running perfectly; that he had good reaction time, whatever that was. But the boy didn’t believe it.
Fenwick and Paisley had to figure out a way to give this boy confidence.
What they heard next made them realize they didn’t have much time.
“Next race is coming up soon,” the dad said to the boy. “Are you going to race or shall we just go home?”
Bone Healer. Not!
“OK,” Paisley said to Fenwick, “have you studied bone healing?”
“Sure thing,” Fenwick said.
“Then get ready to show your stuff,”
“But, what . . .”
Paisley was already moving ahead with her plan. Before Fenwick could add that he had only studied bone healing, but hadn’t exactly exceled in it, he saw her trip over the boys’ funny-looking little car, then reach down and break her own ankle. Ghosts don’t feel pain, so she faked it, crying out as loudly as she could.
The boy appeared, looking shell shocked.
“Help me. Help me,” cried Paisley. “I think I’ve broken my ankle.”
“My parents aren’t here,” the boy said. “They’ve gone to get something to eat. I don’t think I can help you.”
Fenwick was staring at the two of them, not sure what Paisley expected and knowing that he couldn’t heal bones. He’d only just started the class when he got sent down to earth to solve problems.
“Oh, dear,” he said.
Oh Yes You Can
“Oh, oh, oh,” Paisley said. “You look like a smart boy. Help me, help me.”
The boy dashed inside a big trailer parked next to his junior dragster.
“Paisley,” Fenwick whispered. “You didn’t let me finish. I really can’t heal bones yet. I. . .”
“Ma’am.” It was the boy returning. “I brought a plastic bag full of ice. It’s something we learned in Boy Scouts. I think it helps, but I’m not sure how.”
“Ouch,” Paisley said, continuing to pretend she was in pain. “What do I do with the ice?”
(All the while she was wondering if she could heal her own bone because even though her ankle didn’t hurt, she wouldn’t be able to walk on it.)
“Um,” the boy said, “you just hold it where you hurt yourself. Here, I’ll do it.”
Paisley gasped when the cold ice touched her leg.
“I’m sorry,” the boy said.
“No, no,” you’re doing fine, she said, still perplexed as to whether she could fix her ankle and make it look like the boy had really helped.
Fenwick was sitting on the ground near Paisley, his eyes closed, his lips moving as he tried to remember anything at all about bone healing. He looked a little strange, so the boy said to Paisley, in a whisper, “Do you know him?”
“He’s, uh, my brother,” Paisley said, “but he’s not very smart. He won’t be able to help me. You’ve got to do it.”
The boy’s bottom lip shot out as he fought to hold back tears. “I can’t. I just can’t.”
“Well,” Paisley said, “I think you can.”
“I’ve got to get ready to go,” the little boy said.
“Why? Where are you going?” Paisley, still on the ground with the ice pack on her ankle, asked.
“They just called the junior racers. I have to go line up to race,” the boy said, “but I don’t know why. I’m no good.”
“What do you mean?” Paisley asked. “Why are you no good?”
“I always lose,” the boy said. “I’m not a good racer.”
Fenwick stepped in. “What does it take to be good?” he asked.
“Not sure,” the boy said, then he looked up.
A man was hurrying across the asphalt toward the three of them. “Dustin, we need to get going. Are you going to do this or not?”
Tears fell down Dustin’s cheeks.
“Help me up,” Paisley said.
“But what about your ankle?” the boy asked.
“Just give me a hand,” Paisley said to the boy, then to Fenwick in a whisper, “Abracadabra, Marcus Welby, Doc Holiday, arcusMay elbyWay, ocDa olidayHa, Paisley, Paisley Bo Baisley, Banana Fana. . .”
“OK, OK,” I remember, then I have to turn a cartwheel, right?”
“Three cartwheels, while you’re saying it, as he helps me up.”
“Oh, good thief, I’ll probably get kicked out of here,” Fenwick said.
“You mean good grief,” Paisley noted.
“Oh yeah. Well, let’s do it.”
“Wow,” Paisley said to Dustin. “Your ice did the trick. My ankle is OK.”
“It is?” Dustin said. “Really? I fixed it?”
“You sure did,” Paisley said as Dustin’s father showed up.
“C’mon, Dustin, this is the last practice round before the eliminations begin. Let’s go,” the father said.
Dustin hesitated, then he looked at Paisley, who gave him a thumbs up and pointed to her ankle.
“OK, Dad, let’s go.”
Paisley and Fenwick followed, but not too closely. They got close enough to watch how this racing, or practice round, shaped up. They saw the young racers donning their firesuits, helmets and gloves and sliding down into their little cars. They watched as their parents pushed them up to the staging area. And they watched the Christmas Tree, as little car after little car left the starting line and sped down the lane.
“So, what do we do?” Fenwick asked Paisley.
“Here’s what I think,” she said.
After she finished explaining, both Fenwick and Paisley disappeared into thin air.
‘Great Wads of Cotton Candy’
Paisley’s plan was for the two of them – Paisley and Fenwick – to remain invisible and to push Dustin down the track once he cleared the starting line. The problem was, they didn’t know everything about junior drag racing.
Invisibly, the two ghosts stood by as Dustin’s parents pushed him up to the staging area then started his junior dragster. They watched him perform his burnout then move up to pre-stage. They watched as the Christmas Tree lights moved from pre-stage to stage to amber, amber, amber, green.
And at the exact second the light turned green, Dustin shot off the starting line. His reaction time was perfect.
“Let’s go,” Paisley yelled.
She took her place on one side of the car. Fenwick took the other side.
Inside the car, Dustin had been apprehensive when he left the starting line. “I know I’ll lose,” he whispered to himself.
But all of a sudden, Dustin was flying – FLYING! – down the lane.
“Great wads of cotton candy,” Dustin screamed, though nobody could hear him. “I’m doing it. I’m doing it.”
But, of course, there was one little problem.
The “little problem” was that neither Paisley nor Fenwick understood that in junior drag racing there is such a thing as “breaking out,” which means the racer goes too fast for the speed allowed for his or her age group. When a junior drag racer breaks out, that racer is disqualified.
Thus, if this had been an actual race instead of a practice round, Dustin would have been disqualified.
“Oh, we let him down,” Paisley said to Fenwick.
But Fenwick was distracted. “Wait,” he told Paisley. “Listen to Dustin.”
The two ghosts were still invisible, so neither Dustin nor his family could see them standing right in their little family circle.
Dustin was about to bust he was so excited.
“I did it, Dad. I did it! Did you see me? I did it!”
Dustin’s dad ruffled Dustin’s hair. “I did see, Son, and I am so proud of you. But you know that you broke out, right?”
“I know,” Dustin said. “That’s OK. I know I can win now. I’ll be more careful about going too fast next time.”
“OK,” Dustin’s dad said. “Remember, the next one is a real race.”
“I’ve got this,” Dustin said.
Fenwick gave Paisley a high five.
It’s a Kid Thing
Fenwick and Paisley were nervous as two mice who had just run headlong into cats. But Dustin seemed cool as, hmmm, cool as a junior racer who knew he had the stuff it takes to win.
“Should we help him this time?” Paisley asked Fenwick.
“I think he’s OK,” Fenwick answered. “I mean, look at him. The kid has confidence.”
Paisley agreed, though she said she thought they should stand by just in case. If he faltered, they could step in and push him down the lane.
“Only this time, we won’t move quite so fast,” she said.
Fenwick gave her a high five just as they heard Dustin’s dad tell him it was time for the first round.
“Yikes,” Paisley said, “this time the race counts.”
“He can do it,” Fenwick said. With that, they moved, invisibly, over to the starting line.
Several junior racers made their passes, and soon it was time for Dustin to move up for his burnout.
Paisley grabbed Fenwick’s hand and squeezed.
Right after that, Dustin’s bright gold junior dragster moved up into the staging lane.
“I can’t watch,” Paisley said.
Before Fenwick could respond, the amber pre-stage lights were lit, then the staging lights. And, blink, blink, blink – the amber lights had gone off and there went the green light. Dustin was off.
The green dragster in the other lane was keeping pace. In fact, the two junior racers seemed to be neck and neck.
Four seconds passed. Five seconds. Six. Seven.
7.90 for Dustin.
He had won!
Paisley hopped into Fenwick’s arms. They were jumping up and down, screaming, and they didn’t realize that something had gone awry. They were no longer invisible.
Dustin’s Mother noticed them. Why were these two strangers so thrilled for her son?
Before she could make her way over to inquire, Dustin showed up and ran to thank Fenwick and Paisley.
Seeing the look on his mom’s face, Dustin started to introduce the two ghosts, then just as quickly, they disappeared.
“Who were they?” Dustin’s mom asked. “Where did they go?”
“I don’t know,” answered a beaming Dustin. “They were sort of like angels or ghosts or something. They just showed up out of nowhere. They were so nice, and they helped me.”
“How?” his mom asked.
Dustin started to explain, but then something caught his eye, off in the distance. He didn’t understand it, but he was sure it was Fenwick and Paisley. It looked as if they were flying away.
And maybe they were. There are some things that only kids can see and only kids can understand. And sometimes it just takes a little magic to give a kid the confidence he (or she) needs to make his dreams come true.