The Extractor

Posted on: April 1, 2013

Anna lost both her parents at an early age, her mother of illness and her father of mortified suicide. Haunted by their sudden departure, she became a ward of the state, hopping from one foster home to the next until she pleaded her case before a judge at age seventeen with her GED in one hand and pay stubs in the other. He granted her early liberty and she was able to look after herself, work full-time washing dishes, and keeping her own apartment. She would brush past the pretty college girls on her way home from work late at night, smelling the perfume caught in their hair and listening to their laughter erupt across the sidewalk. Anna decided to go back to school.

She did not want to go to a four-year institution. Instead, she enrolled in an entrepreneurial certificate program at the community college that would only take three semesters for her to complete. Anna ordered her books and met each of her teachers before the first semester began in order to state her intentions for the program and explain that she has a hard time listening for extended periods of time, which is why she takes copious notes. They found her both odd and delightful.

The semesters flew by and Anna inhaled every bit of information from her courses. Her teachers were very impressed and encouraged her to pursue a business degree at the university level, but she staunchly disregarded their recommendations. One of her courses in the final semester required a research project on a topic regarding current business trends and what that means for small business owners. Anna presented the idea that in order to obtain business, you have to relieve pain, otherwise your product or service becomes obsolete. She received her certificate in the summer with a 4.0 GPA.

Anna put an ad in the paper for her business:


When the ghost of someone you love
   or someone you don’t even know
            can’t seem to let go.
        Call for an appointment.

The ad printed in the Sunday paper and she received a call at 8:30 AM. The woman was a widow named Shirley and she was both nervous and eager to meet with Anna regarding her services. They met an hour later at Shirley’s home in a suburb on the west side of town. They sat together at the kitchen table with only the sun filtering in through the window over the sink to illuminate the room.

“My husband died three years ago, “Shirley began. “He was a pastor with a congregation of over two thousand people. He had a heart attack and passed, but he is still here.”

Anna ran her thumb and index finger down the handle of the coffee mug in front of her as she watched Shirley’s face.

“I don’t mind him being around,” Shirley continued, “but it becomes quite difficult to distinguish reality and fantasy. I go on about my life as if he is still really here. I talk to him, read with him, go to the grocery store with him. Sometimes it slips into my conversations with others and they think I’m losing it.”

Anna took a sip of her coffee before stating, “And that bothers you.”

A look of shame flashed across Shirley’s face before she looked down at her hands in her lap and said, “I just need for him to go away. I don’t want to feel crazy anymore. He’s dead and it should seem that way.”

Anna nodded, trying to convey sympathy and understanding. “Shirley, if you could please ask your husband to reveal himself to me, then we can get started.” The widow looked up, a question on her wrinkled forehead before Anna explained, “A ghost chooses whom it haunts. Essentially, he has to haunt me in order for me to see him.”

Unsure of herself, Shirley turned to her right and asked, “Frank, dear. Would you please introduce yourself to Anna?”

His appearance was like wind blowing pollen off trees in the spring, a smokey arrival before full manifestation as a middle-aged man with a receding hairline and a pleasant smile. Anna smiled in return.

“Hi Frank. As you know, your wife is interested in carrying on her life in as normal a way as possible. I need to know if you’re okay with that.”

Frank nodded.

“Good. That makes this much easier. To tell you a little bit about me, I’ve had the pleasure of conversing with ghosts ever since my parents died. It was easy because I was always looking for them. I’m not special really. I think anyone can see ghosts. I’m just a little more open to it than others. So, this is how it works. I want you to tell me the name of a place you’ve always wanted to visit, but never could.”

Frank twiddled his thumbs a moment, examining a table leg. “India. There is a shrine there that is claimed to be the burial place of Jesus after he rose from the dead.”

“What city?” asked Anna as she leaned back in her seat and reached into her coat pocket, pulling out a handful of stamps.


Anna leaned forward, picking through the stamps with the tip of her index finger before selecting one. “Even ghosts need a mode of transportation.” She placed the stamp on the table and looked up at Frank, smiling. “Take a look at that and then close your eyes.”

Shirley gasped, reaching for the space that Frank once occupied. “Oh, my God. Did you send him to India?”

“Good grief, no. He’s haunting the stamp. I’ll write a letter to the shrine in India, put this stamp on it, and he’ll be on his way.”

“I didn’t get to say goodbye,” Shirley whimpered.

Anna pulled out an invoice and filled in the necessary information before sliding it across the table. “You didn’t get to when he died. Some things should stay as they are.”

Photograph by: Whitney Ott
Written by: Natasha Akery

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