Cookie Dough Bounce
by John L. Shea III
Click here to listen to this story on the Kaidankai Podcast.
Two in the morning is not the best time to wake up, but one of Irene Browermint’s sudden snorts from snoring woke up her husband Kevin. Not able to return to sleep, he wandered out to the kitchen for a drink of water, then, since he was wide awake, rummaged around in the freezer and found a pack of pre-prepared chocolate chip cookie balls, the kind that all you had to do was place on the cookie sheet and bake right away. His thoughts lingered on them for a moment, then he unzipped the plastic bag and took out several to eat. He savored the light brown sugar, crystalline crunchies in their icy sleep as he swallowed each bite. He knew he would regret it. The caffeine in the chocolate chips would soon give him a migraine headache which would keep him up the rest of the night, so he grabbed a couple of acetaminophen tablets from the bottle on top of the fridge. Then devoured a few more of the cookie balls, free of any guilt and pain forthcoming. One bite led to another and soon he had eaten about eight of the frozen delights.
Then, Kevin heard a voice.
“My wife Gabrielle usually has a bag of sugar cookie balls deep in the freezer. I really have to dig to find where she hides them from me.”
He turned around and faced the form of another pajama-clad man who was fading in and out, like somebody with a fake webcast background to hide their real surroundings. Not unlike a grainy hologram at first glance.
“I see we’re not that much alike. I couldn’t sleep either,” the man continued.
“Who the hell are you?” Kevin whispered, trying to contain his fright.
The other guy faded a bit then came into sharper focus. He was an older, bearded man with snowy white hair, a Santa Claus look-alike.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I’m Artie, Artie Laersen. I live next door, in a parallel universe. Or a different time. Haven’t been able to figure out which yet. I’ve been hearing your music off and on for the last few years and I thought I’d try to find out where it was coming from. By the way, I found one of your martini glasses two years ago. Somehow it must have crossed over the divide between us two. Probably rolled over and under.”
“You’re most likely a figment of my imagination, some by-product of indigestion—”
“’—A blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese? A fragment of an underdone potato?’—that ring a bell?” Artie said and continued, “’more gravy than of grave’? I know the quote. It’s from Dickens, of course. But I assure you, I am no ghost of any Christmas, past, present, or future.”
“Huh?” was all Kevin could say.
Artie grinned. “I’m a writer. I know these things.”
“Can you tell me how you got in my kitchen at 2:30 in the morning?”
“Apparently we’re in syncopated wavelengths now. Your wife snore?”
“What’s that got to do with it?”
“My Gabrielle saws wood like a lumbermill. She woke me up. I couldn’t sleep so I came to the kitchen for some water, thought about the sugar cookie dough balls in the deep freeze, and had a few—they are delightful, aren’t they? Then I saw you and your bag of what looks like chocolate chip cookie dough? Am I right?”
“On target. How did you know?”
“We’re in synch now, from the bounce. Finally. I’ve been waiting for this day. Or night as it seems. Everyone says I’m having audio hallucinations, but I knew there had to be an explanation for them. And here we are.”
“And here we are,” Kevin echoed.
“Well. It’s nice to know I’m not crazy,” Artie continued, “I should add I like your taste in music. Nice light jazz, a little Dave Brubeck now and then can’t be all that bad. But those late-night parties. Must you? The sizzling broiled steaks makes my mouth water just thinking about them.”
“You smell my steaks?”
“Yep. Smell and sound cross over nicely. This is the first time I’ve had a chance to get a visual on you. Seems little things like martini glasses can come over, too. Here, let me see if I can find it. I’ve kept it in the kitchen cabinet.” Artie reached beyond the scope of vision Kevin had and came back with a long-stemmed martini glass.
“Here, it’s yours again,” Artie tried handing it through the divide but it didn’t pass through. “Oh, well, it was worth a try. Don’t suppose we could shake hands either. Like looking through a foggy window. The clarity fades in and out,” Artie said as his image blurred a bit then came into focus again, with most of his forearm and elbow in the foreground and his face gnawed by the background as he leaned back.
They had an uneasy pause. Then Artie piped up. “Ever read that Martian Chronicles story where the Earthman meets up with a Martian in the middle of an old highway and neither one knows if they are the past or the future?”
Kevin shook his head. He’d heard of the book but never read it.
Artie continued, “It’s like us. We’ll just have to go our separate ways again. Although sooner or later, we’ll bump into each other again. Bound to happen, somehow. I’ll tell Gabrielle about this but she won’t believe me. Mind if I take a pic?”
Artie had his phone out and snapped a shot, then thumbed through its gallery to look what he’d taken. “Hmm, not too bad. The background’s out of focus. She would to have loved seeing what you did with your kitchen. But you came in sharp.” Artie pushed his camera up to the edge of the void and Kevin could see the photograph. Sure, enough, there he was surrounded by a fluffy blurred backdrop.
“Want to get one of me?” Artie asked. “Go get your camera. I’ll wait.”
Kevin shrugged then turned around to go to the master bathroom where his phone was charging. When he came back, Artie was gone. But there on the island was the martini glass. Somehow Artie had managed to push it through.
Irene would never believe him and the martini glass would never be proof enough he hadn’t hallucinated the visions. He made sure the freezer drawer was shut so the insides wouldn’t defrost and went back to bed, vowing no more 2 a.m. feedings of the chocolate chip cookie balls for him. Who knows where the next bounce would lead? One night of haunting was enough to convince him to go cold turkey, or cold cookie as it was.
* * *
Artie Laersen sighed as the martini glass faded from his view. He had gently nudged it and it slid over to the other side. Then the window closed. Maybe that was all it took, just a little nudge. He’d try it next time, if there were a next time. In any event it would make a nice sequel to his first encounter with the so-called hallucinatory events of the past two years. He’d write about it, maybe do another podcast, but in the end, it would be just another ghost story.
John Shea is a technical writer with a B.S. in Communications from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and an M.F.A. in Motion Picture and Television Production from the University of Southern California. He is extensively travelled and has been known to babble in French, Spanish, German, Russian, and Japanese. He dabbles in wordplay, palindromes, and is a part-time cruciverbalist and punster. He lives in the Dallas Fort Worth with his wife (a schoolteacher), two dogs of different age and disposition (exuberant and shyly playful), and a lawn that needs constant mowing, during which he contemplates plot lines and story ideas.
About the Host
Linda Gould hosts the Kaidankai, a weekly blog and podcast of fiction read out loud that explores the entire world of ghosts and the supernatural. The stories are touching, scary, gruesome, funny, and heartwarming. New episodes every Wednesday.