I’m pretty sure I saw a ghost the other day. Well, I don’t know if I saw it exactly, but I definitely felt its presence. I was at work and this guy I work with came up to me and asked me if I hadn’t noticed anything strange lately in the restaurant. “Like what are you talking about?” I asked him. And he said, “You know, like ghosts or anything.” And whenever a ghost conversation comes up, I always get really excited, like the same excitement I used to feel when I read those Goosebumps books as a little kid. Even though Goosebumps, when you think about it, was a pretty lame series, none of the stories were really scary. Spooky, at best, all with really lackluster endings and gaping plot holes. Whatever, they were a bunch of little kids’ books. I remember one time my brother wrote a letter to R.L. Stine, the author of those books, asking him all sorts of questions, like, “How do you write your books so fast?” and not to be outdone by my little brother, I wrote a letter too, with even stupider questions, like, “What do you think would have happened if Spider-Man never got rid of his alien costume?” We both got letters back from R.L. Stine on the same exact day, and both of our letters were identical, photocopied, some bullshit about how he appreciates letters from the fans, and how he reads each one individually, and shares them with his wife and daughter. Even as a little kid I could tell he was lying, just from being in a family myself. Really? He reads every letter? Come on. I imagined my own dad coming home from work with a stack of correspondence and saying to us, “All right, everyone in the living room. It’s time for me to share all of my letters with you.” And besides, Mr. Stine, if you’re spending all of that time sharing our letters, why couldn’t you spend a second or two writing out a custom note? I mean, you are a writer right? And you write those Goosebumps books so fast, fast enough that you have enough free time to bore your wife and daughter by reading all of these out loud, each stupid fan letter you get in the mail every day.
Anyway, this guy at work starts talking about ghosts. And I’m like, shit, I have to come up with something, because I so want this to be a cool ghost conversation. Every time I think a ghost conversation is getting good, it always winds up disappointing, it’s the same feeling you get when you have a really great sneeze coming, and right as you open your mouth and tilt your head back and crunch up your face it just goes away, no sneeze, and you’re like, what the hell, it was right there. I was worried, mostly because I thought that if I didn’t come up with something cool to tell him, he wouldn’t feel at all pressured to tell me something cool in return. So I basically lied, and told him that one time I saw something out of the corner in my eye in the basement. Pretty lame, yeah, but I didn’t have a lot of time to think. “What about you?” I asked him. And he said, “One time I thought I saw something move past me, upstairs, towards the top of the staircase, but it was also out of the corner of me eye.” And I just kind of stared at him for a second before saying, “Oh, OK. Cool.” And that was it. Someone else overheard our conversation and chimed in, uninvited about how, “Well I saw a ghost one time!” but by this point I was already super bored with fake ghost stories and couldn’t bear the thought of being let down by any more disappointing make-believe.
But then later in the day, I was pouring hot water out of the giant coffee machine. There are three nozzles, one for regular, one for decaf, and one for insta-hot hot water. I was using the insta-hot. While I was holding the lever down for the hot water, my hand was directly under the regular coffee nozzle. And while I’m waiting for this teapot to fill up with water, I mean, it takes forever, such a long time. It might as well be called eterna-hot instead of insta-hot because, let’s face it, if you want a cup of hot water, it’s not coming out instantly. There’s some sort of mechanism inside that machine that’s heating up that water, and it’s taking a little while. Sure, maybe it’s a lot faster than boiling a pot of water on the stove. But insta? Like insantly? Hardly.
Well like I was saying, my hand is right under the regular coffee nozzle, and out of nowhere, hot coffee starts pouring out of it right onto my hand. It came out for maybe two seconds, just long enough to give me a nice scalding burn. Also, I got surprised by the shock of the coffee and I spazzed out and threw the half-filled pot of hot water, and guess who was walking by just as the pot flew out of my grip? That’s right, it was that other guy that told me that totally made up ghost story. And he got burned too. He jumped and turned to me and said, “What the hell man?” and I just said, “Sorry! The coffee machine went off by itself and burned me!” And he said, “That’s impossible! You need to pull the lever for coffee to come out!”
And it was true. This is a really old machine with a really big handle that you had to pull. There’s no way that it could have pulled itself. And even if it did pull itself, it would have stayed in the pulled position, not just switched itself back off. Plus, like I said, it’s a big lever, so I would have heard it making a big chnk sound as it switched on. And I would have heard it again when it switched off. But there was nothing. No sounds. And I told all of this to the guy who got burned. And he got it, like he totally got it. And then I got it. And both of our mouths hung open at the same time. And we were just staring at each other, and then we slowly turned, in unison, to the regular coffee nozzle. And we knew it. We said, “G-G-Ghost!” at the same time. It had to be true. We were both making up ghost stories and a real ghost must have overheard us and decided to teach us a lesson. And we both got spooked, big time.
I went home and wrote a letter to R.L. Stine about what had happened. I told him all about the haunted coffee machine. I told him, listen here’s the perfect story that we can use to reboot the Goosebumps franchise. This will put you back on the map! And I told him, if you’re too busy, I can ghost write it for you. Like not ghost like haunted, but like ghost like I’ll write it and it can still say R.L. Stine. Because I’m trying to be a writer, and I feel like I’m a natural storyteller. I didn’t hear anything for a while, but then my mom got a letter at her house from R.L. Stine addressed to me. It was the same exact photocopied note from fifteen years ago, all about how he shared my letter with his wife and daughter. Come on! You’re daughter’s got to be all grown up now! There’s no way she’s still living at home. What did you do, call her up and tell her about my letter? And what, did you share my idea with her? Are you going to steal my story? I’m just letting everyone know that if you ever read a book about a haunted coffee machine, it was all my idea and I was ripped off, because I came up with it first, and it really happened, it wasn’t a story, it’s true! I swear!