This was written last year as a submission for an MPR contest. I never submitted it to the contest, because I was out of the country. Unfortunately MPR doesn’t seem to be doing this contest anymore…so figure I will publish it somewhere!
Radio Ghosts in the Diner
Minerva, named after the goddess of wisdom and arts, lives in the loft of an abandoned red barn. Minerva is known for mischief and an odd passion for learning the origins of words. In late mornings she trots to a diner on the outskirts of town. The building is strangely deserted around noon, although apparently a bustling breakfast joint.
The cook, Sam, still wears her apron and sits near a half opened window in the back room. She pours a mug of syrupy black coffee, but does not drink it. Sam re-ties her blue headscarf and turns on the radio. Sam increases the volume at twelve-thirty. “Greetings and welcome to Chrysti the Wordsmith…” This is the black cat’s favorite program on Montana Public Radio. Sam listens each weekday with the feral barn cat.
Minerva comes to the window just in time and hops on the windowsill. “Naughty is a close kin to the word naught…meaning nothing, as in ‘it all came to naught.’”
Chrysti the Wordsmith finishes, and Minerva swiftly jumps from the sill, never allowing Sam to pet her. Sam thinks the cat peculiar, but enjoys her company. Sam picks up a book and watches the cat disappear around the corner.
Minerva sprints toward home. She cuts through a nearby pasture with horses and mules. Several horses spook and Minerva laughs. The trickster mule, Slingshot, stops her abruptly.
“You, cat, will be stomped!” he snorts.
Minerva backs away from Slingshot, saying, “I’m careful, you old mule.”
He asks, “Why are you cutting through my pasture again? This is no place for a cat. Besides, where are you always going?”
Minerva replies, “A shortcut, Slingshot,” she pauses, “I go to the diner to listen to the radio.” She lies, “Nothing special.”
Slingshot stares at Minerva a moment, “What do you listen to there? Ghosts?” Slingshot breaks, “The place is haunted you know.”
Minerva laughs, “Public radio! And the place is certainly not haunted.”
“You don’t believe me? There are stories about ghosts. My owner doesn’t believe in ghosts, but he will not go near the diner.”
“I am not afraid of ghosts.” But she is secretly afraid for Sam, sitting there alone listening to the radio.
Minerva knows Slingshot is not reliable, but he seems serious in his assertion.
“Minerva, you are only a wild cat. I don’t believe the grandiose stories of your bravery. You’re smart to build a reputation for your survival. But, I can see through your façade.”
Minerva is quite impressed at Slingshot’s vocabulary, but annoyed at his allegations. He is testing her.
“I will go to the diner in the middle of the night. I will see about these so-called ‘ghosts” that you speak of.” Minerva replies.
“But you must bring proof of your escapade. Otherwise, this will only be another tricky story.”
Minerva nods. She cannot back down from this challenge.
She scampers away through the mud. Minerva thinks, “Slingshot is only trying to scare me, and my adventures have been far more dangerous than any supernatural myth. But how will I prove such a caper?”
That night, Minerva scurries to the diner without a clear plan. She has never been to the diner in the night. The place looks similarly deserted and worn. The window is still open in the back room. The radio is still on, which Minerva finds mildly strange.
Minerva is on a mission. She tiptoes under tables and chairs and waits in a crouched position. Her heart thumps. Has Slingshot again proved himself a trickster?
She holds her breath. Something is quite strange indeed. She listens, “Bug possibly derives from the Celtic word “bwg.” …
It is not time for Chrysti the Wordsmith. Minerva stands up so quickly she bumps her head on a chair. Sam appears in the doorway, looking directly at her. Minerva’s shadowy coat bristles.
“Why, cat, what are you doing here at this hour?”
Chrysti continues, “For centuries, bwg and related words…were associated with goblins, ghosts, and supernatural beings…”
The next morning, Minerva wakes early and sprints to the pasture. Slingshot stands tall, waiting with a grin.
Minerva drops a blue headscarf in front of him and dashes away.