His mood had shifted dramatically. Ghoul was—not more than a few seconds ago—chipper and happy. We even entertained the thought of caroling later. But when he came face-to-face with the seasonal Bell Ringer, Ghoul instantly became rude and surly. He didn’t even need to say anything; his attitude was his aura. When I reached in my pocket to gather some loose change, Ghoul’s silent ire radiated, and I felt as if donating the coins in my hand would bring about deadly consequences.
“Thank you, young man. Merry Christmas,” said the friendly Bell Ringer.
The atmosphere was tense, and I could only nod and smile to the Bell Ringer, a red-faced gentleman who was stout and jolly. I imagined that he would be a suitable Santa Clause if he had a beard. Ghoul slowed his steps, then said with unnecessary volume, “I bet that money will be used to take jobs away from America. Anyone foolish enough to believe in corporate charities are sheep.”
“Happy Holidays, you prick,” said the Bell Ringer.
He made sure to hold his spit until Ghoul spun around. The phlegm that came from the Bell Ringer’s mouth landed on Ghoul’s prosthesis. It was angry and white.
“Just leave it alone, man,” I whispered to him.
Ghoul pushes my hand away from him, then stomps towards the Bell Ringer with wet slaps. His blades launched slush from his furious stride. A hefty glob covers a passerby’s overcoat. I stop and apologize over the continued rings of the bell.
“Sorry,” I say.
The women scoffs, mutters that her coat is authentic suede, and pushes her cart away. I wanted to tell her that authentic suede is as valuable as vintage plastic, but I didn’t know if that was accurate. I should look into this after I deal with Ghoul and the now shouting Bell Ringer.
“I bet you pocket all that money and get wasted from it, you phony,” said Ghoul.
The Bell Ringer returns with, “All of this money goes to good. But a penny-pinching-selfish-jackass like yourself wouldn’t know a thing about charity, huh?”
Ghoul shoves the collection tin—stand and all—over on its side. It hits the icy concrete with a clang. The lid slips off, releasing a flood of silver and copper coins over the walkway. The Bell Ringer stands in shock, still ringing his bell. Ghoul shoots down to a crouch and removes a half-drank pint of whiskey from inside the collection tin.
“And you’re drinking on the job. Shame on you.”
He dumps out the contents of the bottle, then throws it to the side. The Bell Ringer makes a move, bringing the bell around and connecting onto Ghoul’s head. My reaction time was slowed by my own doing, and I waited to intervene after Ghoul received a few more blows. Ghoul deserves this. I rushed between the two, pushing them away from one another.
“Hey! You both need to stop this,” the tone in my voice halted their actions. I pointed to Ghoul first, “You’re an asshole, one who needs to keep his conspiracy-theory-thoughts to himself. You–help him pick up this money.”
“Why should I help? He is the one who started this,” the Bell Ringer pointed out.
“I’ll tell you why: you assaulted my buddy with a weapon. Wouldn’t look good in court, would it?”
“Nope, guess not,” the Bell Ringer paused, then said to Ghoul, “Your friend is right: keep your thoughts to yourself. I am a Conspiracy Theorist myself, and I can say that it is improper etiquette to preach a theory recently debunked.”
Ghoul says, “What do you mean?”
Living with Ghoul—no—being around Ghoul for any length of time is mentally exhausting. The sporadic shifts of his unstable emotions, the confusing and random encounters, and constant twists throughout his daily nonsense is draining. However, my mind and patience are becoming tempered, allowing me to endure moments like this with minor embarrassment or stress.
Ghoul and the Bell Ringer talked more than they worked. They delved into a deep, ridiculous realm that I believe to be absolute horse shit. The Bell Ringer first explained how the only legitimate corporate charity organization is the Salvation Army, and that the money goes to a secretive order of supernatural demon hunters that operate in the shadows of mankind. Ghoul only nodded and promptly apologized for his abrupt aggression.
“I get so passionate sometimes. I just forget where I am and what I am doing, you know?”
“I know exactly what you mean. But you need to learn the right from wrong,” said the Bell Ringer.
Then the Bell Ringer explained that Christmas was now controlled by our government.
Ghoul asks, “You mean that online retailers control the White House? That means… America is run by corporate entities?”
“Yes! Isn’t it plain to see?”
He looks around to the nearby neon-lights of the corporate food chains and gas stations.
“Good God… what has happened to America.”
The Bell Ringer knew that Ghoul had come to a hard revelation. They finished scooping up the change, and Ghoul decided to add in some of his own.
“I would have never said those things to you if I would have known,” Ghoul said.
“All that matters now is that you now see the truth. Don’t ever stop asking questions.”
They shook hands and we parted. We walked to the car in silence. I felt that there should have been something in the ambient background of this night, but whatever it was slipped my mind.
“Something seems off, don’t you think?” I asked.
I repeated myself three times before Ghoul looked to me. I could tell that he was lost in a web of conspiracies.
My eyes went to the bell that was lodged deep into Ghoul’s soft, decaying forehead. I then peered to the front of Big Carlton’s Market, and saw that the Bell Ringer, and his donation tin, had vanished.
“Nothing, let’s just get home.”
© Copyright John Potts Jr 2016 – 2017