Monday, August 30, 2010

The Legend of Larry

Have you ever told a ghost story to scare the wits out of the gullible? Who hasn't? Perhaps you pass on the legends of the spirits that roam a place you've lived or worked. In any case, I hope you get a buzz out of this piece. The Legend of Larry was published yesterday in Issue 94 of Shift Miner Magazine.

The Legend of Larry
It was Damon's first tour on the crew when, at smoko on the first night-shift, Wazza began to tell him the Legend of Larry.

"Who's Larry?" asked Damon as he took his crib from the microwave, wincing at the heat.

"Larry was a rigger," said Wazza, then took a sip of his tea. "He worked on the construction project for this plant, back in the eighties. He died on the job." Wazza took a bite of his toast.

Damon's eyebrows shot up, and he sat down eagerly across the table. "How'd he die?"

Wazza kept his face looking serious. The young bloke was taking the bait nicely. "He fell, from the top, to the bottom."

"No harness?"

"Not in those days, kid. No harnesses, lanyards, EWPs. Too expensive, and slowed the job down. Riggers walked straight out on the I-beams, 30 metres in the air, no problems."

"But he fell?"

"Yeah. They pushed poor Larry."

Damon's mouth opened. "They pushed him off a beam?"

Wazza chuckled. "No, they worked him too hard. The project was behind schedule and over budget. So, they started a night-shift, and gave everyone the hurry-up. Larry had already worked the whole day-shift, but they were short on blokes, and offered him double time. On top of that, the lighting on the job was terrible, because they hadn't planned for night-shift."

Wazza took another sip from his tea, drawing the story out, and shook his head slowly. "They found where Larry slipped. A patch of grease had been spilled on the beam. It was left there, because of all the rush."

"Wow," said Damon, who'd been so rapt in the story, he hadn't touched his crib. He took a mouthful, and swallowed. "I'd hate to be the one that left that grease!"

Wazza stared hard back at Damon.

Damon's eyes opened wide. "It wasn't … you, was it?"

Wazza shook his head. "No, but I knew him. He fell apart; became a real mess. Still in jail, I think."

Damon went back to eating his meal. Wazza studiously ignored him while he finished his toast and tried to finish a sudoku in the newspaper someone had left on the table.

"Thanks for telling me about all that," said Damon. "I've always been real careful with working at heights, but that's a real good safety share."

Wazza shook his head slowly. "It's not a work-at-heights safety share, kid. You need to respect Larry, and look out for him. You need to let him get to know you."

Damon looked confused.

Wazza said, "He knows the rest of us, but he'll come visit you soon. New blood."

"Didn't you say he's dead?"

"His body is dead; saw that myself. But, his spirit will never rest. Can't be sure why, but I think he stays around to look after us."

Damon laughed. "You're telling me Larry's a ghost? That this is a haunted wash-plant?"

"I don't use those words," said Wazza, keeping his tone serious. "But yes, Larry's spirit wanders around this plant – especially on night-shifts. There's no other way to explain some of the things that have happened here, over the years."

Wazza rinsed off his cup and plant and went back out into the plant.

At about three in the morning, when Damon was hosing in on the ground floor, Wazza set up Larry on the floor above, beside the reject conveyor. He could barely keep from laughing as he tied lengths of thin rope through holes in the shoulders of an old high-vis raincoat.

He got in position where he could see Damon, his head down, watching the spray of water from the hose. Wazza dangled the raincoat over the edge and lowered it on the ropes so it came up just behind Damon. He reached out and swung the rope so the raincoat brushed against Damon's back.

Damon turned slowly, and faced the raincoat. He stood dead still. Then he looked straight up at Wazza; but Wazza didn't see Damon's face. Instead, of Damon's face there was a ghostly-white skull.

Wazza dropped the ropes and ran.

Damon took the mask off and stuffed it in his jacket. He smiled contentedly as he went back to hosing.

Edit: Typos as per John Wiswell's comments. Thanks, John.


John Wiswell said...

Gullible people are my favorites. Never abuse them, but tease them. They've got the gift that keeps on giving to the entire party. "No, I really do have a pumpkin garden in my front yard that you've somehow missed for two years." And she bought it. And people who buy into Horror stories are the absolute masterclass.

Minor typos: paragraph 12: "They found were* Larry slipped."
Paragraph 24: "His body is head*; saw that myself."

Bernard S. Jansen said...

Thanks Mr Wiswell. I agree with your thoughts on gullibility. The problem is: after a while, you can't convince some people of the actual truth; though they continue to fall for baloney. It's as if fake sincerity becomes more believable than down-the-line truth-tellling.

Thanks also for the typos. Woops - that went to print like that.

AidanF said...

Bernard, I like how Wazza leads Damon on in the initial dialog and nice twist at the end.

It can sometimes be fun to blur the line between believability and unbelievability so that people have to think about what is being said and judge for themselves whether it's correct or not.

Laurita said...

Great ending. The buildup was especially well done.

Deanna Schrayer said...

What a meanie Wazza is! But a fun one - reminds me of my dad who does stuff like that all the time, especially to my sister. She's nearly 40 years old and still falls for his trickery.

I especially like Wazza's voice here. Great story, and welcome to #fridayflash!

vandamir said...

Good story. Love that Damon wasn't as gullible as he seemed. Nice when a prankster's joke backfires. Good name choice, too, with Damon.

Theres just life said...

I liked the way Wazza would up being the one to fall for his own ghost story. Really enjoyed this story. I debut last week and found their are a lot of really nice people on fridayflash. Welcome.

Bernard S. Jansen said...

Thanks to everyone for your comments, and for the welcome to #fridayflash. It's taken me too long to join up...

Eric J. Krause said...

Excellent buildup, and then a funny ending. Good story!

Alan W. Davidson said...

At first I thought "Damon" was actually the ghost of Larry but realized Damon was playing a joke back at them. I like your twist. Excellent dialogue throughout.

Bernard S. Jansen said...

Thanks Eric and Alan. It's especially great to hear peoples reactions to things like twists, and dialogue. It's so hard to judge these things objectively in your own writing without learning through this feedback process.