Ghost Stories III: The Gold Coin

Indecisive? Flip a coin. Heads or Tails? Or neither?

My wife and I are empty nesters. We have been for some 15 years. Our boys all left almost at the same time, the twins flew away to Manchester together, and not long after that, their elder brother emptied the nest and flew to Perth. The abrupt change to a quiet, grey and empty household was difficult for me to accept, it took almost an eternity for me to adjust. Life before they left home was packed with excitement, fun, laughter, joy. Seinfeld was the resident comedian in our home, rarely absent before dinner time. Their thunderous hearty guffaws may be how they worked up a hearty appetite for their mother’s Hakka food. Their maternal grandparents also occupied the same nest. Their grandma died from emphysema, a relief that her suffering did not drag on. Grandpa followed her five years later after breaking his hip from a fall. We had trouble getting the local stone mason to carve a head stone for him in Chinese characters , but did not think there was any urgency to hurry them. After all, the departed by definition are deceased and as such, would have ceased to care about earthly possessions such as head stones.

One late summer’s night, after a few episodes of Seinfeld, I hollered at the hungry boys to set the table for dinner. Typically, they argued with defective memories as to whose turn it was, each claiming to have complied with the request most recently. “QUIET! Can we have dinner without the din?” I demanded, successfully. As I was about to bite into a chunky piece of sticky pig trotter, we all heard it! The room froze, all five of us looked at one another, eyes wide open, mouths left even wider. The sound came from upstairs. Checking our recollections later, we all heard the same sound. It was that of a coin, rolling on the glass surface of my desk, and then landing on the Tassie oak floor with a definite singular clink before continuing its journey towards the staircase.

I put down my cutlery, hesitated fleetingly before raising myself from my seat. My three sons were quick to follow, but I slowed them down with my uncertainty about going upstairs. My synapses were working overtime, my brain rationalising the futility of bravery and curiosity. But the man of the house has to lead by example. Deliberately with nonchalance, I strode up the stairs but before I stepped on the final tread, I literally froze. We all heard it. Now we all saw it, together. A two dollar coin was resting on its edge on the landing just above the last tread. Not on its head, and neither on its tail. We were flipped over by the coin, but who flipped it?

As I write this, I imagine how frightful I would have been to the ghost upstairs. I stood there with one foot on the last tread and the other frozen in the air, unwilling to plonk itself down on the “Twilight Zone”. Both twins’ heads peering out from my right side, and the eldest’s head on my left. Yeah, a monster with 3 heads attached to its waist. A real urghhling.

The next morning, my wife hurriedly rang the stone mason, and insisted the head stone be delivered to the rightful address to the rightful owner with the correct carvings, without further delay. Decidedly, decisive. Coin flipping works.

Coin resting on its edge

2 thoughts on “Ghost Stories III: The Gold Coin

  1. A Malay colleague once told me that some kampong folks in the hey days kept or reared little spirits in their abode. These spirits were either passed down from generation to generation or transferred from neighbors who had no down line to pass on anymore. The thing is, these spirits called little ghosts must be owned by masters and they mustn’t be left unguarded because they will misbehave and roamed the neighborhood. They are capable of destroying properties, disturbing humans and peace and creating havoc if left unchecked. Little ghosts came in handy because they could perform any task commanded by their master. And once given a task, they would toil day and night without rest, not that they needed any, until the task is done. Only then would they return to their master’s abode and awaits for the next instructions. Land owners would utilize the little ghosts for difficult jobs like tilling of land, getting rid of weeds, plant transplanting, watering, picking fruits, collecting honey and the like, even pollinating flowers. But because they work fast, the jobs would be done in no time and before the master knew it, the ghosts are back and ready for more jobs. So to keep them busy, the master would sometimes send them back to do repeat work on the pretext that the job was not satisfactorily executed. If for some reason the master need to be away from his land for a long while he will send the little ghosts away on guaranteed time consuming tasks like counting every pebble or sand or cleaning every leaf and straw from the land till the hills. For sure the ghosts will be away for quite a while or they might even not return because of the impossibility of these tasks.

    I couldn’t remember nor recall what the little ghosts were fed for food, it could be sugar stuff or fermented liquids or things like that. Now, because these little ghosts needed to be constantly kept in check, the master would keep them close by and usually that would be in the attic or above ceiling spaces of his dwelling. In time, these little ghosts could be left unattended if they were not duly passed to new caretakers, say the sudden demise of the master and the reluctance of others to accept ownership. So the little ghosts could well be left where they were for a very long long time.

    Sometimes, if one were to stay in olden houses, especially those with upper floors or attic spaces, and especially late at night, one might hear noises of rolling objects, bouncing marbles or dropping pebbles or sand, and these objects might even be seen on investigation. It’s could well be nothing out of the ordinary, but just play things of little ghosts.

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