*** 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:
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!
About the Creator
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
Original narrative & well developed characters
Expert insights and opinions
Arguments were carefully researched and presented
Niche topic & fresh perspectives
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Zero grammar & spelling mistakes
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme