Excerpt: 'The Ghost in Love'

The Ghost in Love
By Jonathan Carroll
Hardcover, 320 pages
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
List price: $25.00
Jonathan Carroll's 'The Ghost in Love'

ONE

The ghost was in love with a woman named German Landis. Just hearing that arresting, peculiar name would have made the ghost's heart flutter if it had had one. She was coming over in less than an hour, so it was hurrying now to make everything ready. The ghost was a very good cook, sometimes a great one. If it'd spent more time at it or had more interest in the subject, it would have been exceptional.

From its large bed in a corner of the kitchen a mixed-breed, black-and-oatmeal-colored dog watched with great interest as the ghost prepared the meal. This mutt was the only reason that German Landis was coming here today. His name was Pilot, after a poem the woman loved about a Seeing Eye dog.

Suddenly sensing something, the ghost stopped what it was doing and eyeballed the dog. Peevishly, it demanded "What?"

Pilot shook his head. "Nothing. I was only watching you work."

"Liar. That is not the only thing. I know what you were thinking: that I'm an idiot to be doing this."

Embarrassed, the dog turned away and began furiously biting one of its rear paws.

"Don't do that. Look at me. You think I'm nuts, don't you?"

Pilot said nothing and kept biting his foot.

"Don't you?"

"Yes, I think you're nuts, but I also think it's very sweet. I only wish she could see what you're doing for her."

Resigned, the ghost shrugged and sighed. "It helps when I cook. When my mind is focused, I don't get so frustrated."

"I understand."

"No, you do not. How could you? You're only a dog."

The dog rolled his eyes. "Idiot."

"Quadruped."

They had a cordial relationship. Like Icelandic or Finnish, "Dog" is spoken by very few. Only dogs and dead people understand the language. When Pilot wanted to talk, he either had to get in a quick chat with whatever canine he happened to meet on the street when he was taken out for a walk three times a day, or he spoke with this ghost—who, by attrition, knew more about Pilot now than any dog had ever known. There aren't that many human ghosts in the land of the living so this one was equally happy for the dog's company.

Pilot asked, "I kept meaning to ask: Where did you get your name?"

The cook purposely ignored the dog's question and continued preparing the meal. When it needed an ingredient, it closed its eyes and held out an open hand. A moment later the thing materialized in the middle of its palm: a jungle-green lime, a small pile of red cayenne pepper, or a particularly rare saffron from Sri Lanks. Pilot watched, absorbed, never tiring of this amazing feat.

"What if you imagined an elephant? Would it appear in your hand too?"

Dicing onions now almost faster than the eye could see, the ghost grinned. "If I had a big enough hand, yes."

Excerpted from The Ghost in Love by Jonathan Carroll. Copyright © 2008 by Jonathan Carroll. Published in October 2008 by Sarah Crichton Books, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.

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