Alley Cat

Like the  Prose: Challenge #19 – Use an obituary to inspire a ghost story. (I used the obit of a random veteran who happened to share my birthday (8/17) about thirty years prior to my birth.)

Bugler silhouette via

If there was one thing that Catfish hated it was “Taps.”  He’d been a bugler in the army drum and bugle corps and switched to drums just to avoid ever having to play “Taps” again. He couldn’t help it. Every single time those first three notes rang out, every woman in a three-klick radius dissolved into tears.

And the thing is, he couldn’t hit on a woman at a funeral.

He just couldn’t.

Even if he knew she was single, and kinda into him (because he heard his buddy Frankie mention that her best friend was his girlfriend’s sister and they’d mentioned his name in the powder room at that dance o.c. the other weekend (not that he was attending the dance – oh, no! – he was enlisted – but the band was short a drummer and they knew he was good with the sticks as well as the horn so he was there).

And Pamela was the kind of woman that would make even a champion bowler like him throw all gutter balls just to make her look good, or just because she looked so good, he couldn’t concentrate.

He’d never been sure which it was. That first time.

But she’d laughed at him.

Laughed and called him Alley Cat, riffing on the nickname his buddies in the unit had given him. A nickname based on a nickname. Why not?

Of course, after the laughter came the kissing part and Catfish  – Alley Cat to his Pamela (and only to his Pamela, and god, she was gonna be so pissed at him for leaving her alone this way. So pissed. So lonely. So… STOP IT!)

The kissing part had been amazing. Forty-seven years of her kisses. Slightly fewer years of weekly trips to the Ocean View Lanes for bowling with their usual group. The group was just couples at first… then it was couples and kids, then the kids grew out of it, then they came back… then it was them and the grandkids and lately… well, lately the group had dwindled. These youngsters didn’t like bowling, The Lanes were gonna close next year, probably. Not enough business.

But that was the way of the world. Popular pastimes peaked when people needed them the most and then they waned in popularity and then maybe they spiked again, or maybe they didn’t. Roller rinks. Stick ball. Bowling. All the things he’d grown up with… they were fading.

He was fading.

He just wanted to make sure they didn’t play it. Cuz Pamela knew, but oh, god, there was the bugler standing by his grave.

And there was his Pamela, his Pammy. Her brilliant blonde hair was silvery gray now, but still as soft and silky as the first time he’d stroked it, just like the skin of her cheek,  and her skin, he knew still smelled like rose petals. God, Pam. How am I supposed to find peace without you? he wondered.

He didn’t precisely have ears anymore, but he remembered what they felt like, so he craned them to listen.

“If there was one thing Catfish hated it was ‘Taps.’  He made me promise, military funeral or not, that we wouldn’t play it for him. Said if we did, he’d haunt us all forever. As much as I might like the notion of my Alley Cat lingering nearby until I’m ready to join him, I can’t let him have unfinished business. So, my darling, wherever you are, this is for you…”

And the bugle played.

And Catfish laughed.

Well, he would’ve if he had a body that could laugh.

Because the guy with the horn played the opening from “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”

No, Catfish couldn’t laugh, because he was done with earthly things.

But everyone standing near his grave, everyone listening to the horn player… they would have sworn they heard his laughter anyway.





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