Fred’s Ghost

By Joan Axelrod-Contrada

Fred’s ghost circles the room. A gust of cold air hits me in the face, and I drop a new coral-colored bra I’m packing for Date #10 with The New Guy.

The shadowy apparition dips precariously close to my head.

“Stop dive-bombing me!” I yell.

“I need to get your attention.”

“You have it.” I toss a pair of flannel pajamas into my backpack.

“I’ve been watching you.” The ghost hangs in mid-air, unnervingly, in my line of vision. His voice lacks the warmth and good humor of the old Fred. “You didn’t waste any time, did you?”

“Well, it depends how you look at it—”

“Two months after I died, and you’re dating. My body wasn’t even cold.”

I clap my hands over my face. “I can’t deal with this right now.” I rifle through my underwear drawer, but my brain stays locked on five words. My body wasn’t even cold.

“The real Fred wouldn’t say that.” I slide my hands away from my face. “You must be some kind of imposter.”

“Imposter?” Peals of laughter erupt from the direction of the gauzy form. “You don’t know how this ghost thing works, do you?”

“Maybe not. Enlighten me.”

“We’re the outward manifestation of the inner spirit of someone left behind.”

“Sounds like New Age gobbledygook to me.”

“Deny all you want. It doesn’t change a thing.”

I dig through the bathrobes on the back of the door. No way can I bring the turquoise kimono Fred bought me in Provincetown.

I search my underwear drawer again and this time find the panties.

“Sorry, honey. I just got tired of being lonely and miserable.”

The gauzy shape hovers over the lamp by Fred’s night table.

“You could have at least waited a year.”

“Stop!” I scream. “I need to pack. I can’t deal with this right now.”

“So much for thinking I’m an imposter.”

“I don’t know what you are. I just want you to leave me alone.”

The shape clings to the wall behind the nightstand. “Don’t ask me to leave you alone. Ask yourself.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Look, I really need to pack.”

I turn to the shape. Maybe it’s just a shadow.

Sorry, honey. No one could ever take your place.

“Do you really think I’d say that thing about waiting a year?” It’s Fred’s voice. Loud and clear. No longer muffled like a ghost.

My throat chokes with tears. “I don’t know. I might want to think I was so important, you couldn’t stand the thought of being with someone else.”

“Even if I’d gone through two and a half years of losing you to dementia? You are your brain, you know.”

“I don’t know.”

“You know what I’d say about people who think widows shouldn’t date for a year?”

“Picture them as tiny gnats and stomp on ‘em?”

“You’ve got it!”

“Honey, you can lie down on the bed if you want.”

“You don’t want me to leave you alone?”


I flop onto the bed and take a break from my packing.

\"\"Joan Axelrod-Contrada is a former correspondent for The Boston Globe and the author of over 20 books for young people. She is also the founder and editor of WriteAngles Journal. She can be reached at


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