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For the Word Hunt Challenge: claws, shell, lightning

By Dana CrandellPublished 4 months ago Updated 4 months ago 4 min read
Top Story - June 2023
"Joyride" Self-portrait, ©Dana O. Crandell

*** Content Warning: Although humorous, this is a ghost story. Contains descriptions of after-death experiences.

The aged leather of the barely-padded seat felt welcoming and familiar, or at least it would have, if he had any feeling in his spectral buttocks. Phil sighed, or would have, if anything existed in his translucent chest to hold the air it would require. The memories of his senses would have to suffice. His cold, unfeeling hands curled lovingly around the cracked bakelite rim of the narrow steering wheel.

“It's been a long time, old girl.” The raspy hiss of his own voice was a shock, not because it didn't sound like him, but because he shouldn't be able to hear it at all. Perhaps that was his imagination, too. This “ghost” thing was going to take some getting used to.

Only a few minutes ago, he'd suddenly found himself floating, looking down at the shell of himself. His useless body lay silently in that tiny bed, in the room he shared with George, the guy he'd finally come to regard as a friend, rather than a fellow prisoner. Neither of them had been placed in the Shady Grove Retirement Home voluntarily. George had been committed by his family. Phil had been placed there by the State, because he had no family. He would miss George.

A wave of bitterness surged through Phil as he recalled the shame and resentment he'd felt that day, his 66th birthday. They had taken the keys to his “baby” and told him he was being retired. No discussion. No plan. Just a half-assed apology, followed by a cab ride home.

The very next day, strangers had arrived and started going through his belongings. Sheriff Keats had been there, too, showing him some piece of paper full of legal jargon and the words, “mentally incompetent.” The Good Sheriff was “awful sorry” but “had to do his job.” Within the next 2 days, Phil's home was no longer his home. A nice man from the State had explained that the estate sale would fund his stay in a “lovely new home with new friends.”

How many years had passed since that day? Five? Ten? Time had become a muddy river in the home and Phil had no idea. As far as he was concerned, his life had ended on the day he turned 66. The friendly staff at the home brought him a decorated cupcake with a candle every year. That year, he'd offered them a polite suggestion regarding where to place said cupcake.

Day blended into endless day and he and George often discussed which of them would escape first. Phil had always known he'd win the race to “check out.” He could see the spark still lived in George every time his kids and grandkids visited. They were always polite and kind to Phil, too, but eventually he had begun wandering down to the community TV room on visiting days, to sit with the other society rejects. George understood.

Tonight, Phil had officially won the race. He had drifted off to sleep and the next thing he knew he was up here, looking down. George snored quietly, completely unaware of him, or the specter he now was. Yeah, he'd miss George. This newfound freedom, however, meant it was time to move on, but not before he'd made one little stop.

Just the thought of his old truck had instantaneously transported him to the old gas station where she'd been put on display, and now, here he was, with his ghostly, ragged hands gently gripping the wheel like claws. He remembered the purr of her old straight six and magically, the engine came to life. Less than a second later, her headlights pierced the fog that was settling in.

“Well, this is a pleasant surprise, old girl,” Phil thought. “What now?”

He'd known the answer before he “asked” the question. It was time to visit some old friends, starting with some corporate bosses. Tonight, the citizens of this town would remember the day that Phil Ups, 66, was forced to retire. Lightning flashed in the distance as he released the emergency brake.

Phil grinned. “One last ride, old girl!”


Author's Note: The image at the top of this article is the only self-portrait I've ever done. (I'm not a fan of looking at myself.) I'm a Historic Route 66 supporter and have taken a plethora of photos of the attractions along the route in our area. This image started as a rather mundane photo of an old fuel delivery truck at a historic Phillips 66 gas station in Mclean, Texas:

Copyright ©Dana O. Crandell - All rights reserved.

Yes, I Photoshopped the whole thing from this, including putting "ghost me" in the cab. All in all, a fun project and I've always wanted to create a story for this image. I hope you find it entertaining!

urban legendsupernaturalfictionCONTENT WARNING

About the Creator

Dana Crandell

Dad, Stedpad, Grandpa, Husband, lover of Nature and dogs.

Poet, Writer, Editor, Photographer, Artist and Tech/Internet nerd. Content writer by trade. Vocal Creator by choice.

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  1. Expert insights and opinions

    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

  2. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  3. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  4. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

  5. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (47)

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  • Sariah3 months ago

    I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while, finally got around to it today. This was a great short story! I really loved Phil’s personality. The way you tied in how he got to the retirement home was also really seamless. Great work, Dana!

  • Mackenzie Davis3 months ago

    A unique ghost story! Really enjoyed how gentle Phil was, and his wholesome desire to ride in his truck again. I almost wish for another installment, perhaps one with Phil and George together, adventuring... Your photoshopped image is too cool!

  • Kelly Sibley 4 months ago

    I really enjoyed reading your story, and your photo looks amazing.

  • Roy Stevens4 months ago

    That was fabulous Dana. I suspected you were channeling Route 66 with Phil's 'retirement' age fiasco. For some reason, the image is all the more eerie for knowing it's you. Couldn't tell you why though... 😨😁

  • Incredible story and a really nice image you created!! Can't believe it's a last ride. Maybe the sequel will be "One more time around the block." Loved it. 💙 Anneliese

  • Ann Obasi4 months ago

    The picture is so lovely.😍 Great piece as well

  • Gina C.4 months ago

    Amazing Top Story, Dana! Congratulations! The picture is so good 😅 I really enjoyed the build/up suspense in this! Awesome work with this!

  • Heather Hubler4 months ago

    Loved the photo!!! Too funny you photoshopped yourself in :) I enjoyed the perspective and bit of mischief, but the reality of the situation was so sad. Wonderful work weaving this story. Congratulations on Top Story!

  • HotTime4 months ago

    Bast good

  • Stephanie Downard4 months ago

    This was an excellent read! Even with 5 kids buzzing in my ear, I never lost my focus, haha. 😂 I loved the Photoshop you did. That's a bada$$ picture! Also, congrats on you're top story! 🎉

  • Ranjan Baral4 months ago

    Down-pouring of creativity

  • Nobody4 months ago

    spooky and fun

  • Sagar Karn4 months ago


  • R. J. Rani4 months ago

    Another brilliantly written piece by you, Dana! And an excellent photo (and photoshop) as well! I somehow knew that I was in safe hands, even though this was in the horror category, because it was written by you. Thanks for that and bravo!

  • Phil Flannery4 months ago

    That was great. What a great concept. I'm glad Phil got some revenge.

  • Melissa Ingoldsby4 months ago

    Excellent work here I really felt the dread of taking a man’s keys away from him because he’s declared mentally incompetent and the anger of feeling such a terrible rejection … and the rejuvenating joy of reuniting with his baby! Well done 👍😅☺️🤩congratulations on top story

  • River Joy4 months ago

    What a great story! I'm still chuckling at "spectral buttocks". Congrats on the top story!

  • Hannah E. Aaron4 months ago

    This is a great story! I’m happy that Phil was able to reunite with his “old girl”! Also, the word hunt words, especially the use of “claws,” worked so well for the story! Awesome job!

  • Tiffany Gordon 4 months ago

    Beautiful writing Dana! Loved the artwork too!

  • Donna Fox4 months ago

    Dana, you had me laughing by “spectacular buttocks”! I love the bitter old man, Phil, as the ghostly narrator! I found so much humour in is commentary and sassy remark. I loved the line about him suggesting where the staff could place that cupcake! Lol 😂 Love this story! Best thing I've read all week!

  • A great tale and a well deserved Top Story

  • Gerald Holmes4 months ago

    Great read and I love the artwork. Very well done. Congrats on the Top Story.

  • Babs Iverson4 months ago

    Wow!!! This is an awesome & entertaining ghost story. From the "Joyride" self portrait to the story's last line, the read and ride were amazing!!! Love this!!!💖💖💕

  • Ifeoluwa Ajayi4 months ago

    https://vocal.media/education/the-digital-nexus-l9sv0w7j The future of technologies and electronic Click the link for the fascinating evolution of technologies and electronic

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