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SHORT STORY: After High Tea, a Taste of Ghost

October 23, 2013

 

NOTE:  The following short story appeared in the spring/summer issue of the online publication Magnets and Ladders.  The current issue and past issues of Magnets and Ladders is easily accessible at http://www.magnetsandladders.org.  In the issue posted on September 29, you can find a column and an essay of mine—as well as many other essays, stories, and poems by other writers.

 

 

After High Tea, a Taste of Ghost

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

            After enjoying the special treat of high tea at Hotel Blanford, my sister Meagan and I, with my beautiful guide dog at my lead, strolled around the massive lobby of the hotel while we awaited the 5:15 Ghost Tour of the 107-year-old hotel.  For a half hour longer, we could relax to the soothing music of the pianist who superbly played the hotel’s grand piano.

 

            At the designated meeting place for the “Ghost Tour,” a few people had already gathered near the grand staircase which was almost heart-shaped.  When my guide dog promptly sat beside me, I praised her; then, someone asked, “Is she a black lab?”.

 

            “Her mother is a black lab, and her father is a golden retriever.”

 

            “Beautiful dog,” replied the man.

 

            “She is so calm and well-behaved,” added a woman.

 

            As soon as I thanked both of them, the tour guide interrupted with effusive greetings for all.  Then, as an aside to me, Mrs. Boone welcomed my guide dog and me as the first guide-dog team to tour the Hotel Blanford—as far as she and the current employees knew.

 

            “What a lovely dog!  What is her name?”  Mrs. Boone asked in a flourish.

 

            “She thanks you for the compliment.  Her name is Jazz.  Of course, her

puppy-raiser named her, but I like the name.”

 

            “Jazz!  How appropriate!  Oh!  How perfect for the story in the Presidential Suite.  I remember your name from the reservation—Amanda.  Well, Amanda, I do hope that you will not mind my speaking just a bit about …well, …vision loss when we are in the Presidential Suite.”

 

            “Please do not be concerned, Mrs. Boone.  We should only be concerned about the ghosts.  Right?”  My sister slightly laughed, but tugged at my elbow as only an older sister would do.

 

            After Mrs. Boone took a count to determine that all twenty tourists were present, she quickly jumped from the warm welcome to a brief history of Hotel Blanford.  Then, most of us ascended the stunning stairway to the mezzanine where we met a few individuals who had taken the elevator to our second meeting point where we heard more of the first family who established the hotel—the British Blanfords who had come to the Midwest during the turn of the century. 

 

            Since my sister and I had been teachers for many years, we appreciated Mrs. Boone’s enthusiastic and articulate presentation:  a history instructor at the local community college, Mrs. Boone not only seemed totally comfortable before an audience, she relished her little stage.  The lady who had spoken to me earlier whispered to my sister and me:  “I bet Mrs. Boone has been an actress with a local theatre company.”

 

            Our third stop was the ballroom—the Vermillion Room—filled with echoes of the past and one ghost who, apparently, could never get enough dancing.  The floral shop, room 313, the passageway to the 1968 annex, as well as the board room atop the 1984 annex brought forth ghost stories told splendidly and spiritedly by Mrs. Boone.  Next, we returned to the original structure and paused in front of the Presidential Suite.  While Mrs. Boone dangled the hotel keys, she stated:  “When I open the double oak doors of the Presidential Suite, you will first see, in the expansive parlor, the marble fireplace, over which is the captivating oil painting of the Jazz-Age bedecked Mrs. Blanford with her most trusted friend who had full access to Hotel Blanford.  The remarkable canvas is five feet tall and four feet wide.”  As soon as Mrs. Boone opened the heavy doors, her audience simultaneously gasped and chuckled.  While our tour guide closed the double doors after all guests had entered, she quipped, “Yes, Mrs. Blanford had experienced some vision loss; and her faithful companion and guide was that gorgeous, white German Shepherd—Lily.  Guests in this room have frequently reported hearing the whimpering of a dog—Lily, perhaps.”

 

            Suddenly, the white dog seemed to step out of the painting and walk toward Jazz.  Noticeably unsettled, Mrs. Boone tried to open the oak doors; but she could not do so.  Standing near the doors, two men tried unsuccessfully to open the doors.  Meanwhile, frozen in place, the other tourists watched the ghost of a dog nuzzle very affectionately the guide dog.  Then, Lily turned, took a few steps, and jumped back into the portrait.  For several seconds, the parlor was absolutely quiet.  Nervously, Mrs. Boone stammered, “Now, I will have a new ghost story to tell.  Uh…I will just use my cell phone to call maintenance to open the doors for us—not to worry.”  However, Mrs. Boone’s cell phone did not work in the Presidential Suite; neither would anyone else’s.

 

            While we waited, I gently stroked Jazz.

 

 

Happy Halloween!

Alice

 

October 23, 2013, Wednesday

 

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