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Trace of a Ghost Excerpt

“Our feet are planted in the real world, but we dance with angels and ghosts.”

—John Cameron Mitchell


     We’re late and we’re hauling down the long hallway of the New Orleans Convention Center through the throngs of dark suits and briefcases, thanks to the national intellectual property law convention being in town.

     “Wow, I think I see a pink shirt on that woman,” I say to my traveling buddies. “She’ll be black-balled by noon.”

      Carmine ignores my humor; he’s not in a good mood. TB doesn’t get it, stares off into the crowd searching out said infraction with a frown, a clueless state which unfortunately happens way too often with my ex-husband who’s not really my ex.

     “Wait.” I pause and point. “Is that person wearing Mardi Gras beads? Call the cops.”

     Neither man stops walking at break-neck speed or looks around so I rush to catch up.

     “Are you two still alive? And can we please slow down?”

     I’m goofy today and I admit it. It’s my first SCANC convention and I’m excited as hell. So far, I’m the only one.

     Carmine doesn’t diminish his sprint nor look my way. “You’re the one who wanted to make the keynote address.”

     “True,” I manage to utter through my accelerated heart rate. I’m starting to have trouble speaking through the exercise, these boys are going that fast. Okay, yes, I’m out of shape, but I’m a travel writer and currently working as a restaurant reviewer for so I have an excuse.

     “You must admit that attending a lecture titled ‘Living the SCANCy Life’ is pretty intriguing,” I add.

     Carmine and I are SCANCs, a stupid abbreviation for mediums who see specific types of hauntings due to trauma. It stands for Specific Communication with Apparitions, Non-Entities and the Comatose and I received my ghostly talent after Hurricane Katrina sent me to the roof of my home and my government left me there for two days. Ever since Aug. 29, 2005, I’ve seen ghosts who have died by water.

     SCANCs are not new to speaking with the Other World. Usually, our types are psychic at birth but we repressed the talent due to society’s acceptance of such gifts (note sarcasm). Trauma opens the door in a big way and our gift suddenly re-emerges, but we see ghosts only within a specific sense. For me, it’s water. Mostly drownings but I’ve once helped a girl cross over who choked on Kool-Aid.

     I’m new at this ghost hunting business, been at it for three years now, so even though Carmine calls this organization a group of mystic nerds who have nothing better to do than dream up ridiculous acronyms and get drunk — the convention theme this year is “Which Boos is Yous?” — I’m anxious to meet my fellow SCANCs.

     We finally reach the far corner of the Convention Center, somewhere near the Texas border, and three men in Ghostbusters attire are seated at a table by the door. Carmine slams on the brakes and I plow into his back.

     “Viola Valentine, Thibault Boudreaux,” Carmine tells one of the men and I take the moment to resurrect my nose from the impact and peer around. Sure enough, these guys are really into their costumes, looking as if they walked off the movie set. The resemblance is uncanny and I wonder about the bucks that went into acquiring these outfits.

     “Tie-bolt,” the man announces, slurping something crimson out of a long tube that’s attached to his backpack.

     “TB,” my ex-husband replies with an over-enthusiastic smile and I cringe.

     I get it, I really do. Thibault, pronounced Tee-bow, isn’t exactly a name you embrace, no matter that it followed generations of Cajuns going back as far as France. It’s why his dad, Thibault Senior, was known as Bubba, and yes, that’s how we get around difficult names in the South. The problem began when TB was born as Thibault Junior and everyone called him “Little Bubba,” which in Cajun French turns into “Petite Bubba,” shortened to “T-Bubba.” My ex-husband thought to shorten it further because he thought it’d be funny.

     It’s not. And most often, as in the case of this Bill Murray wannabe, no one gets it.

     “Viola Valentine?” I ask, stepping forward, hoping to move this conversation along.

     “Ah yes,” says a man closer in looks to Dan Aykroyd, sans the convenient tube sporting alcohol from the backpack. Instead, he cradles a plastic highball glass that announces, “Give the devil his due” on the side with little red horns tapped to the rim of the glass. He smiles when he notices me examining the creamy white drink with smoke rising from the top.

     “My recipe,” he says with pride. “Vodka, simple syrup, cream soda, and a secret ingredient. There are several competitors this year and this one’s the winner.”

     “You get to vote on your favorite cocktail,” Bill Murray adds, “but I recommend my ‘Let’s Get Sheet-faced.’” He nods to the tube resting on his shoulder.

     Carmine huffs and whispers to me, “Told you so.”

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