The Sighing Man
I can hear him in the basement through the vent in the living room. I've never seen him, but I know he's there.
He lives in the furnace. Perhaps "live" isn't the right word. At night when the central air conditioning turns off (which it currently doesn't due to the heat wave), I hear him sigh. I imagine he's used to the heat of the furnace. Just weeks ago we had the unit checked because the air wasn't working properly (it's still struggling with the extreme temperatures). After it was fixed, I started hearing the man. He doesn't speak; he only sighs or makes other breathing noises. His movements rattle the insides of the furnace. He's definitely in the furnace and not the A/C unit, because that is located outside, and I hear him very close to me. The vent is only a few feet away from my favorite chair.
I don't know how he got there, how long he's been there, or who he is. He could be Howard Lane, the elderly man who lived in our house with his wife before his death many years ago. We still receive an occasional piece of his mail. Why he's chosen to spend his afterlife in our furnace (we had it newly installed when we moved in) is beyond me.
When we first moved into the little yellow bungalow five years ago, it was immaculate. The Lanes kept a tidy house. Off-white walls with off-white wall-to-wal carpeting connecting the living room, dining room and the two bedrooms. There were plastic coverings on the living room furniture, though it looked as if no one was allowed to sit on it or possibly even breathe on it. According to the realtor, a neighbor lady who assisted Mrs. Lane after Mr. Lane's passing said the elderly lady spent almost all of her time in the kitchen.
The day the realtor showed us the house, my husband and I looked at each other and knew instinctively that between the two of us and our two cats (which have since become three) that the house's pristineness stood no chance. By this time we had already decided that we wanted the house. We knew within the first five minutes of being inside. We were going to buy the house, ghosts and all. Of course at the time we didn't know there would be ghosts.
I say "ghosts" because there is more than just the man in the furnace. The other ghost is smaller, if it's possible to measure a ghost. I've encountered it off and on since the first month we moved in. I've felt it move past me and have barely seen it out of the corner of my eye. At first I assumed it was one of our cats speeding around, but then I would find them in another room sleeping. I couldn't imagine what it could be since there was no way the Lanes had had a pet. The house was too immaculate for pets. At least that's what I thought until I inspected the basement more closely.
While going through the left-over artifacts in the basement, I came across a nearly full bottle of dog shampoo. I thought it couldn't really belong there and that someone else had left it at the house. It really didn't make much sense, but it's what I figured. Upon asking a neighborhood boy, though, he told me that, yes, the Lanes did have a dog. A small one. Apparently the dog was as much of a neat freak as its owners. He probably sat in the kitchen--and only in the kitchen--with Mrs. Lane and wiped his paws anytime he came in from outside.
The dog still appears from time to time. Usually when I am standing in front of the sink in the bathroom. Our cats often take turns rubbing against my legs while I'm in there (they actually get quite upset if I--heaven forbid--shut the door without allowing them to join me), but there are times when no cat is around. I have a distinct feeling that the dog was a he. While I have no idea what type of dog he was--aside from small--I picture him as a small terrier. Like Benji. That's only because that is the type of dog that was pictured on the shampoo bottle I found.
My husband isn't quite sure what to think about all this. I asked him if he ever heard the man in the furnace the other night. Instead of giving me "the look" (that says "what weirdness are you spouting now?"), he flippantly said that it could be Mr. Lane. But I could tell he didn't really believe it. He's open-minded, but he's kind of a "show-me state" kind of guy. Perhaps he'll hear the man in the furnace the next time it's cool enough for the air to shut off.
Until then I go about my usual days of watching TV, making jewelry, reading, writing occasionally, telling the cats to knock off whatever antics they are doing, and any number of other things I do at home. I say hi to the dog when I sense him and move along. There are no threatening feelings here. We can all co-exist in peace.
Right now I hope for a break in the heat so that the air can take a well-deserved break and Mr. Lane can breathe easy again.
7/25/06 - 8/2/06