To Pay the Ferryman

“Goodnight, Thomas! See you at the party!”

“Goodnight, Ma’am. I wouldn’t miss it!” He waved, watching the curator through the glass doors as she descended the steps to the parking lot. Hers was the last car in the lot, everyone else having left for the day.

When Thomas saw her drive off, he turned to continue his rounds.

“I wish I could miss it,” Thomas muttered as he poked his head inside the Science exhibit. His retirement party…. after 35 years of doing the night rounds. No option to stay on as the museum was switching over to new electronic surveillance. Retirement… no more staying up all night, no more sore ankles, no more smells of dust, of wood. No more uniform, no more time sheets, no more health coverage…

Just days before, his doctor had told him he needed surgery for his heart condition. How could he possibly afford to have surgery when he’ll no longer have insurance?

Thomas entered the Greek mythology exhibit which had always been his favourite. Only 3 more days before he would no longer be able to visit it at his leisure anymore. The old grandfather clock in the main hall started to strike the hour. That can’t be right. Fiddling for his pocket watch, Thomas’ wallet fell out and a couple of coins rolled towards the statue of Charon. Thomas picked up his wallet then glared at his watch. The grandfather clock was definitely off. He’d let maintenance know in the morning. Now, where did his coins go? Thomas went for his flashlight but then stopped. From the skylight above the moon appeared from behind some clouds and its light shone brightly down, casting a beam that fell right upon Charon’s open hand.

Thomas stuck his finger in his ear and gave it a good shake. He could have sworn he heard voices… familiar ones. Then he squinted. Something shiny reflected in Charon’s now open hand. What the… his coins? Thomas reached out and the moment he touched Charon’s hand a hatch opened at the base of the statue from which he could now distinctly hear familiar voices. Mom? Dad? Jimmy and Bobby? His parents and his two older brothers who’d been dead for years were all laughing. Thomas could hear the old turntable playing and the smell of his mother’s casserole made his mouth water. Standing over the hatch, Thomas could see the carpeted stairs of his childhood home leading down.

“Hey Tommy! What are you waiting for? Dinner’s getting cold!” Jimmy hollered. With a spring in his step, Thomas started down the stairs, but just before he went in all the way, he looked over and glimpsed himself sprawled on his back with his hand over his chest. His wallet and pocket watch lay beside him.

“C’mon honey! I made your favourite chocolate cake for dessert!” his mother called. With a smile, Thomas raced down and the hatch disappeared just as the coins did from Charon’s hand.

Copyright © Elisabeth Long, 2020

Read the ongoing collection of Elisabeth’s short works in A Compendium of Imagination over on Wattpad:

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