Helen lives alone in a small town and hears ghosts all the time. The ghosts are everywhere. She’s sure there are more ghosts than living people. Helping the ghosts move on has become her job.
She and three other people have formed a group. They an LLC and t-shirts that read “Michigamua Paranormal Society.” The townspeople call them “ghost-hunters” and snicker, but that’s not what they are.
One day, her phone rings. She knows it’s the call she’s been expecting. Is she up for this? This isn’t a job.
The ending is not a surprise, but the t-shirts and the LLC are nice touches.
Offsetting this is the mood of the piece: sad and dreamy. After recounting some of the odd places she’s found ghosts—“an out-of-order tanning salon, a family restaurant, some of the too-many churches”—Helen asks, “Why are there so many there, at the high school?”
The author paints a picture of departed loved ones all around us, just beyond our ability to see and hear. A few sensitive people can reach them. At the same time, something keeps the departed from reaching their final destination. They need help to move on. This makes for a lot of tension and sadness beneath the workaday world.
A sense of isolation also runs through the piece. Everyone is on their own. They may cooperate with other people, but only for mutual benefit for the moment.
Having said all that, I have to admit that I didn’t quite get on the train with Helen. I understood what she was doing—and by the end, understood why—but felt I was watching her rather than I was with her.
This is not a bad story. I wish I’d made a better connection to it.
According to his blurb, author Christopher Cosmos was raised in the Midwest and attended the University of Michigan as the recipient of a Chick Evans Scholarship. He’s an author and Black List-screenwriter whose debut novel, Once We Were Here, is set to be published by Arcade and Simon & Schuster on October 28th, 2020. The book is currently available for pre-order, and more information can be found at http://www.christophercosmos.com.
“To Many Happy Returns” can be read here.
Title: “To Many Happy Returns”
Author: Christopher Cosmos
First published: Theme of Absence, September 25, 2020