The Terrible Old Mr. Roogs: Conclusion of a two-part Christmas ghost story

What’s news?

– Two more writer/blogger reviews of The ImaginingsI realize I won’t be able to post every review I get for my novel (or at least I hope it will get to that point where I can’t keep up :)) but until then, The Imaginings was reviewed at Jonathan D. Allen’s Shaggin’ the Muse and Jill-Elizabeth’s All Things Jill-Elizabeth.

Thanks so much to Jonathan and Jill.

– Speaking of thanks, I have to say thanks to Rainy over at Rainy of the Dark.  She just put out the second installment of her YouTube project, 100 Worlds Book Covers.  In her words, “… a series to depict 100 worlds via fantasy, sci-fi, horror, paranormal, or thriller book covers.”  The Imaginings (with a short tagline) is one of the featured covers in this installment.

What does the future hold?

Just before we ring in the New Year, I thought it fitting to post an interview with a writer I’d be pretty interested to hang out with at a party (or maybe in a bar in Wyoming, where he lives).  Next Friday, I’ll be posting “Seven Questions with Horror Writer Blaze McRob.”  Warning: This is not your grandmother’s horror, kiddies.

But without further ado…

If you missed Part One, click here.

[funny side note: Kids are great critics.  I read this story to my classes before Christmas break.  They enjoyed it, but one student whom I’m particularly fond of said to me, “Nobody says ‘scream-o’ anymore, Mr. Dail.”  Let it be so noted.]

If you read Part One, let me bring you back to speed.

“Seriously?” Mr. Roogs asked.  “An apple?  Isn’t that a little cliché?”

All of the cell phones began flashing and ringing in loud, peeling sounds, and Mr. Lamrey cried out “Benjamin Roogs!” with a voice so fearful, Mr. Roogs dropped to his knees, clutching his ears.  If this was a dream, Benjamin wanted to wake up.

“Okay, okay, I’ll eat it,” he said, and the room went silent.  He reached up, took the apple, and bit into it.  It was mealy and sour, but he swallowed the piece.  He started to take another bite, but noticed a black worm wriggling out of a hole where he had just bitten. 

Mr. Lamrey laughed.  “That should do it,” he said. 

And NOW without further ado…

The Terrible Old Mr. Roogs

Part 2

 

Mr. Roogs felt himself leaving the ground, floating up next to Mr. Lamrey, and he watched in amazement as the classroom changed.  On the walls, the block letter posters of grammar rules were replaced by colorful depictions of various pieces of literature.  Christmas lights appeared, draped from the ceiling, along with a decorated tree in the corner.

Mr. Roogs recognized his first classroom from 25 years earlier, but he barely recognized himself sitting behind the desk, wearing a Santa hat and grading papers.  The desk was covered with apples, oranges and other student gifts.  The younger Mr. Roogs graded with a green pen.  He spoke aloud as he wrote on one of the essays.

“Far from a perfect paper,” he said, “but an amazing improvement from the beginning of the semester.  ‘A’ plus.”   He wrote the grade on the essay, then took an apple from his desk, sat back in his chair with a smile and took a bite.  “That should make Nancy’s Christmas a little better.”

The old Mr. Roogs grumbled.  “What a fool I was,” he said.

“Back then you still cared,” Mr. Lamrey said.

“Again, what a fool I was,” he said.  “These kids don’t ever change.  I just finally realized it.  Every year they’re the same.  They just don’t care about anything, let alone their education.”

“That’s not always the case,” Mr. Lamrey said, and the classroom started to fade around them, the scene changing into the living room of an unfamiliar house.  The floor was strewn with unwrapped Christmas gifts.  Clothes, electronics, toys.

And books.  Mr. Roogs saw several classic titles, even some newer ones which he had to grudgingly admit were destined to be classics themselves.  He heard a voice from the doorway in the living room just before Robby Thatcher walked in.   The boy stopped and looked down at the gifts.

Mr. Roogs sneered.  “I knew they wouldn’t take Christmas away.”  Then he noticed the look on Robby’s face.  He looked miserable.  “Why is he so sad?  What, he didn’t get the newest video game?”

Then Robby took a piece of paper from his back pocket.  “Grade Report” was printed on the top.  A man’s voice came from through the door.  “Every last one, Robby.”

“But Dad,” Robby implored, “I worked really hard on my essay.”

“Apparently not hard enough,” the man’s voice said.  “Now that you’ve opened them, you can give them all back.  Your gifts are all going back to the store.”

“They actually did it,” Mr. Roogs said, his voice betraying a little guilt.  He hadn’t imagined this.

“There’s more,” Mr. Lamrey said, and Mr. Roogs was even more surprised when he saw Robby pick up only the books and take them out of the room.  A young girl came in and started playing with the gadgets.

“The books were his?” Mr. Roogs asked.

“That’s all he asked for,” Mr. Lamrey said.

Now the guilt was a little stronger.  “Well, I can change this, right?”

“You told him it was too late,” Mr. Lamrey said.  “And it is too late.  For you.”

The room changed again, growing darker, the living room fading away, the walls disappearing into darkness and fog, the carpet replaced by grass.  They were outside somewhere, and as the mist cleared, Mr. Roogs figured out where.  On the ground before them was a rectangular plot of freshly turned soil.  At the end of the plot was a headstone.  Written on the stone was:

Benjamin Roogs

October 12, 1961- December 20, 2011

Mr. Roogs gasped.  “That’s today,” he said.  “What is going to happen to me?” he asked.  “What lies in my future?  Is it the storm?  Do I die in an accident?  Is it Robby?  Does he come back to get revenge?  What can I do?  This is still the future, right?”

Mr. Roogs started drifting down toward the dirt.  When his feet touched the soil, he felt himself being pulled into the ground. “Wait, I can still change this, right?”

“It’s too late,” Mr. Lamrey said and started to laugh.  The cell phones lit up and started their loud jangling as Mr. Roogs sunk farther into the grave.  “It’s too late!”

Just as his head was about to go under, Benjamin Roogs awoke with a gasp.

He had fallen asleep with his head on his desk.  A bit of drool had escaped his mouth, and he sat up and wiped his face.  “Just a dream,” he said.  He took a deep breath.  “Just a dream.”  He looked down at his desk and saw the essay of Robby Thatcher.  He picked it up and started to read, and barely into the first paragraph, Mr. Roogs’s eyes widened.  By the second page his jaw had dropped.

He turned back to the first page and started to read it again.  On his computer, he opened up the internet, even though he didn’t believe it was plagiarized.  It sounded genuine.  After searching his favorite sites, Mr. Roogs convinced himself that Robby was actually the author of the breathtaking essay on Emily Dickinson.

With that in mind, he started reading the essay again.  Yes, it was brilliant.  Very well-written and thought out.  Mr. Roogs didn’t think he could write something so well, and Emily Dickinson was his favorite author.  Robby’s essay was passionate.  It was eloquent.  It was wonderful.

It was… missing a period.

At the end of the essay.  Mr. Roogs looked closer.  Sure enough.  He must’ve been too stunned to catch it the first time, but there it was.  Or rather, there it wasn’t.  There was no period at the end of the final sentence of the essay.

Mr. Roogs’s hand slid across the desk and clutched at the red pen.  “How can you forget a period?” he said with menace.  “It’s the ending.  It’s the last bit of punctuation.  The thing that says ‘This is the end.’  How can you not remember that?  Such a failure.  It is too late!”  Mr. Roogs stabbed his red pen down on the essay, breaking off the tip.  Ink started to spread out across the paper.

“Dammit!”  Mr. Roogs pushed himself back from the desk.  He swiveled around in his chair to grab a tissue, but when he turned back he froze, his hand poised over the paper where the red ink blot had formed a shape, the shape of an apple.  Somewhere in the hallways, Mr. Roogs heard the ringing of a cell phone.

Carol of the Bells.

He jumped up, his heart racing.  He grabbed his keys from the desk and bolted out of the classroom.  He ran through the darkened halls as the sound of the ringing grew louder and louder.  He came around the last corner, to the top of the flight of stairs and only had an instant to register that there was something red on the top stair before he stepped on it, rolling his ankle and sending him careening down the stairs.

Something cracked in his chest, followed by a stabbing pain, as he tumbled the rest of the way down, coming to a stop at the bottom.  He slowly turned his head and looked up to the top of the stairs.  As darkness closed in around Mr. Roogs, the apple teetered and dropped to the next step, then the next.

thunk, 

thunk,

thunk….

thunk.

The End.

What do I want from you?

Kind of lighter fare for me, but what did you think?

Also, if you’re not sold yet (or haven’t bought already), don’t forget to drop by All Things Jill-Elizabeth or Shaggin the Muse for a review of The Imaginings.  And be sure to peruse a little while you’re there.

If you’ve read The Imaginings, I’d love your opinion.  I’m getting a few different takes on the ending (especially the dual point of view) and would hope you would weigh in.  If you have a moment, I would appreciate your thoughts at pdail73@gmail.com.

Finally, don’t forget to check back next Friday for “Seven Questions with Horror Writer Blaze McRob.”

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15 responses to “The Terrible Old Mr. Roogs: Conclusion of a two-part Christmas ghost story

  1. Great story, Paul. The Imaginings is one of several books I plan to read while I’m on vacation pretty soon here. I look forward to reading it and will definitely let you know what I think about the ending 🙂 I wish you a most wonderful Christmas and New Year!

    Julie

    • Thanks so much, Julie. And for spreading the word about my blog around Facebook. I really appreciate it. And I welcome any comments on The Imaginings. I’ve loved finding such a great writing community. It’s been an amazing experience. Merry Christmas and New Year to you, as well.

  2. Paul Dail – You laid a trap and I got caught. I happily (and apparently blindly) followed you down the Dickensonian path to Mr. Roog’s joyful redemption when BAM ! He’s toast at the bottom of the stairs as the apple “thunks” out his final moments. NOW THAT’S HORROR !! Good job.
    Oh, and you remembered the period at the end.

  3. I really enjoy the toast! Sweet revenge! Gotta love it. Did anyone eat the apple later on? I just hate to see food wasted.

    In a way, I got my wish: consciously or not, Robby got his last licks in.

    Great story!

    I wonder what that rascal Blaze will come up with next week. Hmmn. 😀

    Blaze

    • As do I, my friend. As do I.

      Glad you liked the story. I figured you would be pleased that he got it in the end.

      And I’m not 100% sure on this one, but I think if a teacher dies before grades are submitted, the students all pass. I dunno. I could be making that up. And if any of my student are reading this, I am making that up.

  4. Ken Preston

    I liked it. I thought it I knew where it was headed, and then it swerved off round the coner (and fell down the stairs!) I must admit to feeling a little sad for old Mr Roogs, though. Just a little.
    Have a great Christmas, Paul.

    • Thanks, Ken. Glad you liked it, and glad it didn’t necessarily go where you thought.

      And you should feel a little bad for Mr. Roogs. He had to deal with teenagers for 25 years. ha ha.

  5. I’m with Mr Roogs – That lack of a period is like a knife in the gut!

    Seriously, Paul, a fine piece.

    • As a high school English teacher, there are several errors that get to me. None so far that would make me as cruel as Roogs, but perhaps ask me again in twenty years.

      Thanks for stopping by and the kind words. Hope you have a great weekend whatever you are doing.

  6. It made me sad when the boy had to return his books! It was also sad that Mr. Roogs used to grade in green and be a positive influence and that he lost that over the course of his life. Although this is ‘lighter fare’ for you, I think you’ve managed to highlight a true trend in many lives: the desiccation of spirit that can come with the sheer monotony of daily life. I sense the beginnings of it of some people I know; the light they exude is less bright now than it was in our twenties. It is one of the saddest diseases and one nearly unacknowledged. So, light fare or not, I think it’s got a lot of vitamins! This story is a good reminder to stop treating each day, each student, or each person we know as someone we have met before and to give everything a chance to amaze us. There is wonder in everything. We just have to notice it.

    Merry Christmas, Paul!

    • Nice comments, Aniko. I appreciate it. Glad you feel the story has nutritive value 🙂 I can agree. The kids got a pretty good laugh when I read the story to them. And I can agree. The day-to-day can kick one’s tail and make us forget the bigger things in life.

      And it can especially kick your tail if you’re working with 100+ teenagers every day. ha ha…. ha?

      Anyway, thanks again. Sorry it’s been a couple days. Still getting back in the swing of things.

      Merry Christmas to you, too. Hope the holidays have been treating you well.

  7. You’re a devil! Never expected that sort of ending!
    Excellent stuff, well done, Paul.
    Really enjoyed it!

    • Hey Carole, thanks for stopping by. Glad you liked the ending (and more importantly that it was unexpected). I had a good time writing it. Hope your holidays are treating you well (or at least better than Mr. Roogs 🙂 )

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