"I see dead people," said Mark.
One really couldn't blame Jack for laughing at the cliché. He was still laughing when Mark continued, "I'm serious! The other night, I got a little visit from the ghost of a whiny, depressed guy in his mid-forties named Marty."
"Or Matty. Something like that."
"It musta been a dream. Maybe somethin' you ate?"
"Stop being a jackass."
"It's Jack Mac, not Jack Ass."
"Why do I bother?" muttered Mark, walking away.
"Hey," Jack called after him, "How's the training coming?"
Mark stopped, and turned around. "Fine. I have to admit, you were right about my so-called 'talents' branching out with the proper..."
"Ta-daaaaa!" trumpeted a female voice. Jack and Mark both looked toward the doorway of Jack's study/library -- a room filled mostly with collectible comic books and magazines -- and saw Jack's daughter Shari, proudly displaying the home-made Halloween costume her daughter, Sierra, was wearing.
"Good Lord, honey, that's gruesome!" Jack said, enthusiastically... and approvingly.
"What is she?" asked Mark.
Jack shook his head disdainfully as Shari replied, "She's a zombie."
"She... She looks like a corpse!" said Mark.
Jack laughed. "No kidding. Zombies are dead, dummy!"
"Oh," said Mark. More dead people, he thought, making a mental note to revive the subject of his unnerving ghost sighting with Jack as soon as it was remotely convenient. Dealing with the matter at hand -- Sierra's costume -- Mark tried to conceal the fact that he thought the outfit was too macabre for a little girl who'd just turned three on October 20th. "Why is there fake blood all around her mouth... and on her chin... and on her dress?"
"Cuz zobbies eat peoples!" shouted Sierra gleefully.
"Okay, okay. Let's go trick-or-treating, baby!" Beaming with pride, Shari led her daughter away from the study.
"Speaking of costumes," said Jack, after closing the door, "Isn't it time you got into yours?"
"You didn't expect me to put it on here, did you? In front of your family?"
"Sure, why not? It's Halloween, ain't it?"
"Look," Jack interrupted, "I gotta drive you to see Howard -- and his cameraman -- as soon as you're ready. So get ready. You sure as heck won't get to change once we're on the move."
Reluctantly, Mark nodded, carrying a large paper bag with him as he exited the study and headed toward Jack's bathroom.
* * * * *
Two towns away, local TV commentator and features reporter Howard Enz waits for his colleague-of-sorts, Karen Magarian, to arrive with the mobile TV crew from her own station, based about an hour's drive away in Boston, Massachusetts. Howard's wondering whether he should have given up his agreed-upon "exclusive," even for a friend.
* * * * *
In a far-away state, an inmate in a psychiatric hospital ambles toward the Community Room, never suspecting that the TV program he's about to view will literally change his life.
* * * * *
On the western coast of California, one day earlier, two Jews are in a bar... (And that's not the beginning of an ethnic joke!)
* * * * *
Finally, on Halloween, in yet another bar, much closer to Jack Mac and his friend Mark, a pair of casual acquaintances with the unlikely names of "Don" and "Phil" are watching a syndicated sitcom on a wide-screen TV... although both are wishing they didn't have to put up with the drunk in the far corner of the bar, playing the damned piano...
* * * * *
To Be Continued... This little teaser intro -- incredibly brief by my standards -- is the beginning of the first multi-part story I've done in quite a while. And if you've been reading this blog for a considerable length of time, most of the above characters will be more than familiar as this story progresses.
(To learn more about Jack Mac and Mark Arthur, click here, fellow babies!)
Thanks for your time.