by Tobias Carroll
We were listening to this Icelandic postpunk band when we pulled up at the haunted donut shop just off Route 35. It was Christmas Day at around 10:30 in the pm, and we were en route to Atlantic City because we had nowhere better to be. The rumor about this donut shop was that it was haunted some of the time, that the ghosts of former employees could be summoned back to work a shift or two if you made the right sacrifice. It was the sort of thing that a friend’s brother had heard about for years and years, and it eventually made its way to us. Like I said, we were on our way to Atlantic City but we got off the Parkway because the donuts there were good and we didn’t really care if the people who served them were alive or dead. So we pulled into the parking lot and we silenced the Icelandic postpunk and we walked inside. The place was deserted except for us and the woman working behind the counter; it was 10:30 at night on Christmas Day, so we figured the best odds were on ghost. We placed our orders: three cups of coffee, six donuts, one cruller. She said she’d throw in some day-old croissants and we said that would be fine. All the while we were looking at her, trying to see if she was slightly translucent, wondering if some night-shift worker had pricked his finger and marked runes down in the break room and summoned this woman up to do his bidding. We weren’t really sure. I think everyone’s a ghost on Christmas Day at 10:30 pm, and for all I know she’d go back and tell friends and family about the trio of ghosts who showed up at the donut shop, her only customers all night, and who she successfully bribed with some day-old croissants and got to leave. I thought maybe that was where this was all heading. And then she looked at us and said, “So I hear you fellas like Icelandic postpunk,” and we all looked at her and apparently our expressions were quizzical enough that she said, “Oh, I’m good at hearing things,” and then she got a little translucent, or maybe we’d just been on the road for too long. We got back in the car fast after that and we sped off and got back on 35 and got back to the Parkway and took it the rest of the way to Atlantic City without stopping. We checked into the hotel and holed up there until the new year, and then we drove back north. We stopped for donuts again on the way back up, but the woman wasn’t working there. There was some other guy wearing a t-shirt from a doom metal band taking orders behind the counter. Definitely not a ghost. Or probably not a ghost. Who can tell these days?
Written for the WPRB 25-Hour Holiday Marathon. Thanks to Jon Solomon for asking me to take part again this year!