The hole measured two and a half feet wide by eight feet long and six feet deep. St. Simon’s verger had been at the site since daybreak digging. He finished as the funeral home staff arrived to set up chairs in four neat rows of five, and erect a white canopy over the gravesite. A light rain had begun to fall.
Standing off to the side, Goodwood Duxford watched the workers scrambling to get everything ready for the services before the full deluge of the pending storm was unleashed on the hapless funeral attendants.
Lilith Trotter, the dearly departed, stood beside Goody, a sour look on her face.
“Is that all the chairs they’re putting out? That won’t be enough.” Lilith, her hands on her hips, spat the words out. “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.”
Goody shook his head, knowing Lilith’s temper tantrum would not end well.
Barking orders, Lilith charged into the center of activity, demanding chairs be moved and the canopy turned 90 degrees.
The more they ignored her directives, the louder and shriller Lilith became.
Goody flipped up the hood of his oilskin drover and went to rein in his new charge.
When Lilith tried to push people out of the way in her frustration, her hands passed through them as if they was mere fog,
Sitting in one of the chairs, Goody gestured for Lilith to take a seat beside him.
“I’m not accustomed to being disregarded,” Lilith said as she plopped down in the chair, seemingly unaware of the insubstantial nature of the people around her.
“They aren’t being rude or disrespectful, Mrs. Trotter,” Goody said. “They can’t hear you.”
“How could they not hear me?” Lilith looked at Goody like he was addled. “I’m literally screaming at them.”
“Lilith,” Goody began. “May I call you, Lilith?”
When she waved at him to continue, Goody scooted his chair closer to hers.
“I’ve found that it’s better to be straight with new residents,” Goody said. “The simple truth is that they can’t hear you because you’re dead.”
Lilith began to laugh.
“Bless your heart,” Lilith said between chuckles. “Young man, what did you say your name was again?”
“I didn’t,” Goody said. “My name is Goodwood Duxford, and I am the current caretaker and ghost wrangler here at Gramberly Cemetery.”
The name Duxford was currency in Pepperidge Township. Everyone knew the history of the family, and whether someone believed in ghosts or not, they respected the Duxford reputation.
Goody watched Lilith’s face, her amusement shifting to confusion, to realization to finally anger.
“Dead!” She stood up and began to frantically pace up and down the row of chairs.
“Dead,” Goody said.
“If I’m dead, then why am I still here.” she said, sweeping her arms to indicate the upcoming funeral.
“You are being interred in Gramberly,” Goody said. “It is a singular place of interment. There are very few here who are laid to final rest.”
“I don’t understand,” Lilith sat down again.
“Simply put, most of the residents of Gramberly roam, wander away from the cemetery,” Goody said. “A few are bound to the garden, unable to pass beyond the gates, others have gone outside of the Township, but never travel very far. It is my job to bring them back.”
“They’re all ghosts? Like ‘woo… woo’?” Lilith wiggled her fingers around in an attempt to imitate a ghost.
“They are lingering spirits,” Goody said. “Some have unfinished business in the earthly realm, several are unaware they are deceased, a dozen or so simply don’t want to cross over. A rare few are vengeful spirits, and I’ve been able to bind them to their crypts or graves.”
“What am I?”
“I’m not sure yet,” Goody said. “You’ve only recently passed.”
“Can I leave the cemetery?”
“Again, I’m not sure, but unless you intend to hurt someone, usually after your service, you can move around freely.”
“Can anyone see or hear me?” Lilith asked.
“There are small things you can do to make your presence known,” Goody said.
“As long as I mean no harm, you won’t confine me to the cemetery or my grave?”
“That’s typically how it works.”
“So, I could inflict a little timid torture on my greedy beneficiaries and I’d be okay?”
Goody smiled. Lilith would assimilate nicely, he thought.
“Some ‘woo-wooing,’ some flickering lights and slamming doors are all within acceptable perimeters.”
Lilith relaxed for the first time since arriving at Gramberly. The mourners had started to arrive. As the chairs filled up, and the crying began, Lilith stood by her closed coffin, wanting to have a front row seat for the eulogy.
Goody left Lilith and returned to his ivy-covered cabin. He would see her again later for orientation. The others would also want to meet their new neighbor, and help make her feel welcome.