Synopsis: A divorce lawyer with an eccentric collection finds himself immersed in odd events where he must face his past in order to find happiness and to hopefully reach retirement.
“How many more do I need?” I asked myself, looking at the mundane jars filled with little slips of remorse and heartache filling my shelves to the brim of despair of my career. I ask myself this question every morning as I pass my study, or my workplace of forty years. In my early morning necessary rituals, I start with the fine elixir of the morning, reading the paper at the kitchen table where my housekeeper has placed just so, separating each section and throwing out the community highlights. I get enough of gossip each time a new client comes in and confesses their accusatory story about their soon to be former spouse. Each day, I, Oliver Beasley, repetitively ponder why I chose this aspect of my profession in my journal. After I leave the kitchen, I return to my study, writing fervently, debating my torturous existence: waiting for clients to knock on my door wanting me to fix their current situation to remove the heavy, unwanted baggage of their life. In other words, removing their spouse.
After my daily journaling, I stare at my jars again, interesting décor, not for the hopeless romantic, because the jars represent every worse part of a marriage, the end. I am so loyal to rituals; I have been my entire life. Filling these jars just seemed natural and normal. I had no idea when I started my law practice forty years ago, I would take on so many divorces over the years. However, I made a name for myself where my clients always faired better than their spouse, so everyone in town came to me when they were ready to get rid of their husband or wife. Basically, I have made quite a life for myself on other people’s miseries.
After each case is over and the divorce is final, I take a little slip of paper, not just scraps, but bond paper, acid free, cut from a printer who specializes in stationery sized one inch squared in a shade of ivory, alabaster that is, representing the color of skin of the one woman I loved many years ago, and I write the case number on each one. “Oh, Josephine, how I miss you so. How I loved you and the trysts we used to have together will be burned in my memory forever. I owe everything to you. I feel you will always be with me in my heart…Ahhh, where was I, oh yes, my jars.” I place the slips in covered, canister style jars. The jars are clear glass, quart sized, and copper lids with faceted crystal handles tightly seal the tops keeping the air out. The lids keep the slips pristine in color and the ink from fading. I have owned my law practice from the very beginning, coming into a rather comfortable monetary gift early on providing this luxury. Starting my case numbers from the number one with consistency has made filing an elementary task. Whomever says they need a secretary is just lazy. Let’s see, this is my fortieth year in practice, and I’m sixty-four. “How many marriages have I ended in this not-so-small haven of a town?” Posing the question to myself as I walked over to my current jar and taking it over to my desk. Dumping the slips out spreading them just so to see the numbers, I finally found the most recent one: 6,499. “God Bless America!! That’s right!!” Sometimes I forget pacts I made with myself long ago, but this one came back to me as soon as I saw the slip with 6,499. I promised myself I would work until I was either 65, or I had settled 6,500 divorces at which time I would retire to the doldrums of monotonous existence or meet my demise of heart failure or stroke. Hmm, my birthday is this Friday…I would be 65. My latest client’s divorce is final that very day, I could meet both goals in one day. How did I not realize this before? “Mr. Beasley, I heard you yell. Are you okay?” My housekeeper asked concernedly as she entered my study.
“Oh posh, I am just fine. Don’t bother me right now. I am working and do not want to be disturbed.” Sometimes I even wonder why I even keep a housekeeper since I must dismiss her sternly all the time. She is such a busy body.
As I was gathering my parcels of drudgery and placing them in the jar, I walked over placing it back on the shelf where the crystal handle glistened with the sunlight streaming in through the window. Thud! I quickly turned with a jerk behind me to the other wall bracing my beautiful built-in bookcase holding my original jars ever so carefully. “Vera? Vera?! Are you down on the floor or something? What was that noise?” I felt as though I was asking the air because I knew I had sent her away. No replies came and I thought maybe she returned and was over behind my desk cleaning. Moving stealthily like a mysterious black cat, I sauntered over to my desk, but no Vera was on the floor, nothing was on the floor. I perused the room watching for anything that might move, nothing. Walking over to the other shelf where I heard the dull sound thunder in my ears, I looked down to find a jar had fallen off the shelf, the top shelf. Vera had not come back in, no pet laid claim on me in the house. How did the jar fall? Reluctantly, I bent down to grasp the jar in my hand to return it to its resting place when I noticed this was my very first jar. Odd? Vera must have been dusting earlier and placed it back haphazardly. This took my mind away from feeling a bit jittery since I was the only person in the room. This jar jumped madly to its near death on the floor. I placed it back in its rightful spot, reminding myself I had work in town. As I left the study, I looked back as I turned off the light and I felt as though the jar was staring at me with keen eyes piercing through me like daggers. At that moment, I went to town and didn’t give the jar a second thought.
Upon my return, Vera guided me into the kitchen where I dined on an Irish stew and corn bread. Sufficiently satisfied, I adjourned to my study after dinner to do some light reading before bed. As I began thumbing through my book to my last page, I pondered, why did Vera make stew tonight? It was a bit chilly outside, but she mostly saves stew for the much colder nights. “Vera! Would you come to the study?” I asked.
A few minutes passed and Vera entered, “Yes sir, did you need anything?”
“Not really, but I wanted to ask you, why did you make stew tonight? It is just a slight chilly.”
“I know you like it later in the winter, but I have been feeling very cold lately in this house, especially in this room. I was going to mention it; you might want to see about having the vents looked at in here. When you are away and I’m in here, I almost have to run out of here for how cold it gets.” Vera responded with a shudder.
“Oh, silly woman, it is not cold. It must be your imagination. I’m sorry I called you in here now. The stew was delicious.” I replied and sent her away.
Back to my reading! As I read, I began to feel a little sleepy and laid down on the sofa. Unusually, I started to feel a chill come over me and so I grabbed the blanket placed on the back of the couch. Thud! I leapt up with fear from a deep sleep wondering what awoke me still feeling very cold. Was I becoming ill? Vera was no where around and so I walked around the room, only my lamp illuminating in spots illustrating odd shadows in the corners of the room. Slowly walking over to my old shelf, I found my first jar on the floor again as if it were waiting for me.
Picking the jar up, inspecting it with detective eyes, I noticed that most of the slips seemed rather dull…except one. I moved over to my desk, feeling rather light footed from the fright, I sat down and opened the jar. This particular jar was where I started my collection of marking my cases. I dumped the papers out where they were wildly displayed in disarray as I began to look through the numbers. One slip caught my eye as if it were brand new, I just dropped in a jar. It shone brightly as just created from the paper cutter with sharp edges and clean as ivory soap. The paper drew me in as I grabbed it like it was candy, flipping it over to reveal the number one. I worriedly exclaimed, “Oh no, not this one. I can’t bear it!” Dropping the paper like it was a burning coal as I tightly shut my eyes to make it go away, an eerily cold chill ran across my body as I have never experienced. My eyes were forced open as if frozen fingers were prying them to look at the slip. As I warily looked down, the slip overturned with a flash, the number one blazoned in a crimson hue as if written in blood. What was going on?! Is death coming for me tonight?! I looked away towards the bookshelf feeling as though seeing a hallucination, seeing an ethereal being for a split second before vanishing into the night. Looking back at the slip, it was normal looking, and the room temperature rose several degrees. “What happened to me?” I must be dreaming and just awoke to a sanity I craved at that moment. Turning out the lights quickly, I glided up the stairs as fast as I could to bed and hoped to forget the nightmare that just took place.
My morning rituals occurred just as they do every day without even a second thought. After breakfast, I moved into the study to check my calendar for the day’s appointments. What I had forgotten the night before was the mess I left on my desk from the jar. I began to clean up the slips grabbing several and throwing them in as I came to the slip marked one. I stared at it thinking it would jump up and bite me. “I have to stop this nonsense. Pick it up Beasley, you old codger and get on with it.” Saying that to myself provided me some courage because I was acting like a schoolboy. Picking it up sent an energy through me as memories flooded my mind of this case I wanted to bury away forever. I felt a nudge, or urge, with the slip in my hand to turn it over. I threw it down when I saw the word scribed on it: Josephine. “Oh dear! Who is taunting me so? I can’t see this name! The pain is too great!” I was shaking savagely from the shock. I felt paralyzed. Josephine was my only true love and I wronged her so. “Josephine, could you be here…in this room…right now?” I must be crazy thinking her spirit would be here. Only fools and cowards believe in ghosts; yet, I can’t explain the madness of the past few days. Maybe, she is here. “Josephine, are you here? Oh, my love, my sweet love. I’m so sorry for what happened. I wish I could take it back. I should have never taken on your divorce, and I should have been disbarred for loving you, and living as a conflict of interest. What we did to Gordon was worse! We went behind his back and then took everything from him. Then the irony! Oh, the blasted irony!”
“Mr. Beasley, are you alright? You sound like you are in pain.” I heard Vera, but I didn’t hear the words she spoke.
“I’m fine…no, I’m horrible! I’ve been cold, and then hot, and you must be more careful when you dust. These jars just keep falling off the shelves constantly, disturbing my work. Can’t you be more careful?”
“Yes, Mr. Beasley, but I always place those jars just where you like them because I know how much they mean to you. I’m sorry if one broke.” Vera responded.
“Thank you, Vera. Have any of the lights been playing tricks when you are cleaning in here? What I mean to say is, have you noticed anything odd, or maybe a bulb burning out?” I asked her because I suddenly felt frightened thinking of what has taken place.
“The only odd thing I’ve noticed is how cold it is getting at some points. Remember, I told you about that just yesterday.” She added.
“Oh yes, I agree, it is odd.” Keeping my words short, hoping she would leave.
“You know what they say Mr. Beasley, in an old house if you have sudden chills, it just might be haunted.” Vera laughed as she was leaving.
“Yes, Vera, it just might be.” I replied nervously.
Oh, where was I before she interrupted my thoughts. The irony of Josephine! “Josephine, your death was so unfair. Dying leaving the courthouse being hit by that car was so harsh. We did some bad things to Gordon, but you didn’t deserve that. If you can hear me, I just want to say I love you and I have never loved anyone else, ever. I have remained a bachelor to honor you and cherish your love forever. I felt it was only the right thing to do since you left me everything…your fortune, your divorce settlement…everything. I know I was scared, but you frightened me knocking down my precious jars. Knowing you are here with me though makes me feel as I can still feel your presence. Come to me any time you like.”
Accepting Josephine was back in the house, her house, left me with a feeling of contentment and a warm heart. I decided to take up my nightly reading on the sofa as I always do. Vera crept in and said softly, “Mr. Beasley, don’t forget you have to be in court very early tomorrow morning. You might want to go to bed soon. I’ll have your favorite meal ready for you at 5:00 p.m. tomorrow night for your birthday.”
“Thank you, Vera, I’ll keep that in mind,” I replied cheerily. With Josephine’s return, I earned a spring in my step, so I was quite alert to stay up and read. Little did I know the excitement put me to sleep quite quickly. Thud! Thud! Almost unconscious, I woke up to my jars flying off the shelves like cannons and my slips spilling everywhere. As my eyes focused, a ghostly face was staring at me. “Oh Josephine!” With another look, I realized it wasn’t Josephine…it was Gordon. My heart raced, my face dripped with sweat, and my whole body ached miserably as he stared at me with hatred. “Gordon, please don’t hurt me! I’m so sorry! I never meant to hurt you.” I staggered my words as I felt my soul exiting my body with the last word I hear before my final breath…Josephine.