Sunday, September 29, 2013

ghosts that haunt me

My in-laws had their annual "Open Sukkah" get-together and, as usual, my wife and I were going to a Phillies game. We've been season ticket holders since 1996 and, invariably, this yearly soirée celebrating the "Festival of Booths" falls on the final home game of the Phillies' season. Luckily (or unluckily, depending how you look at it), this year has been a washout for the recent World Series Champions., so Mrs. P and I were able to make an early exit from the anti-climatic drubbing our home team was receiving at the hands (and bats) of the New York Mets. Easily slipping out of the ballpark, we headed back to Elkins Park.

My wife pulled her car to the top of her parents' driveway. We could see a few people in the side yard milling around the gaily decorated, slightly tilted, wooden structure. Inside the house, more guests were gathered in several rooms, with the largest crowd gathered by the food-laden table in the dining room. My in-laws' friends, relatives and assorted acquaintances like seeing the sukkah, but — boy! — do they love free food.

As I prepared a plate with mini stuffed peppers and assorted vegetarian hors d'oeuvres (duly marked by my mother-in-law with little homemade flags proclaiming them to be "veggie", making them look like they had been discovered and annexed by a Lilliputian tribe of vegans), I saw my wife talking to Linda, one of those women that you only see at these sorts of functions. I was shoving a spinach-filled flaky pastry thing into my mouth when Linda turned to me and said, "What's with Josh Pincus?" I cocked my head to one side, and chuckled as I began to tell the tale:
Josh Pincus is a pseudonym. It is the name under which I post illustrations. It is an alter-ego; a sarcastic, opinionated, little smart-ass in the guise of my five-year-old, redheaded stepchild self. Josh Pincus actually grew out of a dinner conversation at a Mexican restaurant. After spending the day with my then two-year-old niece, my wife and I took her out to dinner before taking her home. During the meal, she yammered on about the mysterious Josh Pincus, explaining that he was sad and he was crying, until she attempted to cheer him with an encouraging "Don't cry, Josh Pincus." Later, when we arrived at her house, my wife questioned her sister-in-law about Josh Pincus — was he a neighbor? a friend? a boy from day care? Sis-in-law was baffled, having never heard the name before. It was laughed off and promptly forgotten. A week or so later at a family dinner at my in-laws' house, I was seated at the kitchen table talking on my cellphone. My niece toddled past and asked, "Are you talking to Josh Pincus?" Then, she giggled and left the room. It was weird. 
When I decided to plunge into the daunting world of blogging, I adopted the name "Josh Pincus" and ran with it. Nearly eight years later, a Google search of Josh Pincus will deliver me in eight of the first ten results.(The other two are guys really named "Josh Pincus." That's right, I come up before they do.) It's all part of my ongoing campaign to take over the internet.
Linda listened attentively. I've told this story many times (although this is the first time I've made "The Big Reveal" to an internet audience). She finally gathered her thoughts and asked me, "Did you search any obituaries for 'Josh Pincus'?" She was being sincere. I felt an involuntary smile spread across my lips.

"No," I replied, "I wasn't really that interested."

With a solemn tone in her voice, she looked at me over her glasses and said, "Maybe Josh Pincus is a ghost."

I held back a burst of laughter.

She told me a story of when her daughter was a little girl. On a visit to Linda's sister's house, Linda was asked if her daughter had an imaginary friend. It seems that she was playing in the attic and talked about two other children — Richard and Julia. On the way home, Linda asked her daughter about her curious playmates and would they like to come to their house to play.

Daughter replied, "Oh, no. Richard and Julia live at Aunt Patty's. They can't come to our house. They can't leave Aunt Patty's attic."

On a subsequent trip to Aunt Patty's, an elderly neighbor asked if Linda and her daughter were new to the block. "No," Linda answered, "we're here to see my sister. She lives there." Linda raised her hand and pointed.

The old neighbor grimaced. "Oh,", she said, "the house where those two poor children died."

I listened to her otherworldly account and, as diplomatically as possible, I called "bullshit." I told her that we obviously do not share the same beliefs about the so-called "spirit world." I firmly stated that everything — and I mean everything — has a logical, sensible, rational explanation. I may not have that explanation, but one does indeed exist. Linda did not seem offended, but she was also sticking by her story.

I maintain my misgivings for ghosts and the supernatural. I do, however, wholeheartedly believe in Josh Pincus.


  1. Isn't it in the realm of possibility that ghosts are "logical, sensible, and rational"? Just cuz you can't talk with them doesn't mean that your niece can't. Makes me smile to think your pseudonym is an on-going reminder that challenges your reality :)

    1. Isn't it in the realm of possibility that ghosts are "logical, sensible, and rational"?

      The answer is "No."