When I opened the door to the auditorium, I accidentally let out a rush of murmuring, just as one might let out a determined indoor cat. I was at the 422nd Annual Wraiths for Writing Conference and was shuffling around the suddenly silent room trying to find a good seat from which to hear the first speaker. Invisible attendees and the incessant flickering of the numbers on the arms of the seats made it an awkward process. When I finally landed in an empty chair, Algernon Dogwood, professor of ghost-o-logy emeritus had already begun speaking. Professor Dogwood was one of a handful of non-wraith invitees, and is well-respected on both banks of the River Styx. He was lecturing on the soothsaying properties of the backyard potato:
“ … buried deep and planted in the heart of winter, any unremarkable brown potato can offer sage advice in the summer. By the light of the waning June moon, dig up your potato and tenderly rub the dirt out of its eyes with your thumbs. Wait a breathless moment for the eyes to commence opening. One eye open predicts a fallow autumn, two eyes luck in love, three eyes signify weird fecundity, four eyes mean watch out for false auguries, five eyes … [I confess at this point, dear reader, to have lost track of the revelations afforded by the opening eyes, but I do recall his last point] … and if every eye of your unearthed potato blinks and rolls spasmodically altogether, you ought to wish you’d never been born. ‘Run for the hills!’ comme on dit,” Professor Dogwood chuckled.
“But what I’m most interested in sharing with you is a lesson I had the good fortune to learn recently. My parapsychological studies often lead me abroad, and this past December I found myself staying at the Kunstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin, pursuing elusive answers. Now let me start my story by asking you this: Have you ever seen someone drown in the floorboards?”
(A previous installment of Notes for the 422nd Annual Wraiths for Writing Conference can be found here.)