Cain Crocker was down on his luck. The love of his life, Tiffany Gates, had just dumped him, his latest enterprise: Stuffing by Numbers had been dealt a fatal blow. The future of his successful business: Rent a Ghost, now seems in jeopardy. After a late night visit to a cafe, he returns home alone to his modest mansion. He falls asleep on the sofa and is woken by a spirit from the past. Will this spiritual awakening make him see the error of his ways or will it be business as usual for this former stuffing billionaire? 

Warning: This short story could seriously damage your sense of humour.

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It was a moist night in the City of London. The rain hammered against the windows of Rent-a-Ghost. Cain Crocker wiped the condensation from the glass and stared out into the darkness. By now, most offices had closed for the festive holiday, but Cain remained working late into the night. He leaned his furrowed forehead against the icy-cold pane and sighed.

Cain’s world had been perfect, a self-made billionaire with the world at his size thirteen feet. He had built his turkey stuffing empire from scratch and his latest enterprise, Stuffing by Numbers— not the turkey kind— had begun to take off. He had recently moved into a Mayfair townhouse and met the trophy fiancé of his dreams. Cain Crocker had big plans for their future. He was ready to own the world and then… his world came crashing down.

Three weeks previously, the first blow came. Tiffany Gates, the love of his life, dumped him. He returned home to find all her belongings gone, apart from her three-carat diamond engagement ring and the following note:  We R finished. It’s not me, it’s U. Don’t ring me. I’ve blocked your numbers.

The windowpane vibrated as Cain’s fist rammed against the glass. “Screw you”, he spat, the spit running down his chin. “I’m Cain Crocker, nobody and no frickin stock market is gonna keep me down for long.” Wiping the saliva off his face with his manly fingers, he glanced at them for a moment. “These fingers were made for stuffing,” he muttered.

The recent crash of Stuffo PLC shares was bad news for him. The marketing company his personal assistant hired blamed it on too many people turning vegetarian or vegan. Sure, vegans and vegetarians could eat his stuffing, but they had the marketing all wrong by only targeting turkey gobblers. When the share prices started to fall, Cain went from billionaire to not quite a millionaire.

If that wasn’t bad enough, his trademark application for the word virgin had recently been rejected. He vowed from now on never to use their trains. His reflection stared back at him in the glass. Running his hand through his short cropped ginger hair. He prided himself on his full head of hair. Many of his peers had started to bald or showed signs of greying. After examining his perfect chiselled features and the way past five ‘o’clock shadow on his chin, he blew himself a kiss. He turned his back on the bright lights of the city, picked up his jacket from the back of his chair and flicked off the light switch. The fluorescent lights spluttered and then turned the room to darkness. Cain usually hated the dark and even slept with a night light on. He blamed his fear on his older sister, Candy. When they were kids, she had locked him in a wardrobe, to ‘cure’ him of his obsession with finding Narnia. However, this fear of darkness never stopped him from wearing shades, even in winter.

As he fumbled his way to the door, he realised that he’d left his keys on his ex PA’s desk. He’d just fired her, even though it was Christmas Eve. Slamming his hand against the light switch, the fluorescent ceiling lights flickered. As made his way back, he tripped over his untied left shoelace, fell forwards, and crushed his nuts on the edge of his mahogany-style, Ekea desk. Thrusting a hand into his jeans pocket, he pulled out a paper bag. He peered inside the bag of chestnuts. He shouted aloud, “Shit, they’re no good for roasting now.” After tossing them in the waste paper basket, Cain snatched his keys from the desk, banged the Rent-a-Ghost door shut, locked it, and ran down the stairs. Once outside, he braved the downpour and headed towards a nearby Costalot Coffee. A taxi drove by at speed, spraying the pooled water in the roadside up and outward, soaking Cain’s jeans from the knees down. He spun around and caught a glimpse of the passenger in the backseat of the taxi. He couldn’t be certain, but she looked very much like Alexa Siri, his ex PA. Cursing, he yanked open the door of the deserted coffee shop. 

Cain ordered a large cappuccino. The barista ran her eyes over his sodden clothing and hair. “Is it raining outside?” she asked, with a grin.

However, he wasn’t in the mood for flirting. “No,” he snapped. Taking his coffee from the counter, he seated himself in the farthest corner, facing the wall. The girl scowled, lifted her middle finger aloft, and muttered under her breath, “I bet his carpet matches his curtains.”

Cain scanned the free newspapers for customers. He pushed aside his usual, The Grimes and picked up The Daily Stir. As he flicked through the pages of the tabloid scandal sheet, the sixteen-point, double-spaced paragraphs played havoc on his weary eyes. His gaze eventually came to rest on the gossip column. The reporter droned on about #Cackygate and the recent scandal of publishing millionaire and Z list celebrity, Lance Parker, a former Rent-a-Ghost client who recently had his imprints banned from every retailer for stuffing misdemeanours. Cain took a deep intake of breath and speed-read the column. Nobody at Rent-a-Ghost knew what Lance Parker looked like, as he conducted all his business by email or phone. His photograph surprised Cain, as he imagined him to be so much younger. The guy in the picture would never see sixty again, despite attempting to look younger by dressing like a gangster rapper. On reaching the end of the gossip article, Cain sighed with relief, no mention of his name or him helping Parker with his stuffing. Tossing the paper aside, he took a sip of his cooled coffee. 

©Paula M. Hunter 

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