Two spirits sat on tombstones in the graveyard. Buzz had chosen a large cross for his perch, and Ivy lounged on a rectangular sarcophagus with a heavy copper lid. The ocean air had cooled with the setting of the sun, and fog snaked between the tombstones in stringy clouds like milk in water. They were alone. All the other spirits had gone to welcome newcomers from a burning tenement complex in Long Beach. Someone had been moving when the fire started, and the stairs were blocked with furniture. Several families died. A party had been planned for them and by midnight the yard would be in full swing with unearthly dancing, joking, and libations. In the meantime, Buzz and Ivy entertained each other. They didn’t want to walk all the way to Long Beach, and they would not be missed. Besides, they had not wanted to stop their flirtatious conversation.
“Say, what were the girls like in 1952?” said Ivy, swinging her leg over the side of the sarcophagus. “I heard they were a buncha’ sticks in the mud.”
Buzz tugged at the front of his spectral letterman sweater and arranged the collar of his translucent polo shirt. It glowed more blue than white under the moon, as did his trousers and blonde flat top. White was always fashionable because it showed up well in the afterlife. Ivy smiled at him.
“My girl was a little square,” he said, “on account of her bein’ a Catholic and all. She got hot when she wanted to. I guess her friends were bigger goody-goods than she was. Or is.”
“Oh! She’s still alive?”
“Sure,” said Buzz. “She’s at an old folks’ home in Seal Beach, suckin’ down tapioca. I dunno if she ever got laid in her life.”
“Well,” said Ivy, sitting up, “aincha’ ever watched her?”
“What? You mean spy? I ain’t no peepin’ Tom, sister.”
Ivy looked away and bit her smile.
“You don’t peep on your exes, ever?”
“Heck, no!” said Buzz. “I ain’t no peepin’ Tom. “Besides, that could make a cat pretty sad, lookin’ at his old girls makin’ it with other guys all the time.”
Ivy crossed her legs. Her stockings gleamed and shimmered.
“I used ta watch my exes,” she said. “I liked to see ‘em get all clumsy like they used to, fumbling and stuttering and useless. . . Well, mostly useless.”
“I guess the girls in 1920 were a little looser than the girls I knew.”
Ivy laughed. “Loosey goosey! But we weren’t tramps, if that’s what you mean. Girl’s gotta have her dignity, don’t she? We weren’t no icebergs, either, me n’ my friends; and neither were the boys in Gravesend to tell the truth.”
“Grave’s what? You pullin’ my leg?” said Buzz.
“Naw, sweetie, Gravesend’s in Brooklyn. It had the hottest fellas in town. Mostly wops. Golly, they sure could dance.”
Buzz imagined her dancing the Charleston amidst scores of flappers and mustachioed men in sharp suits.
“Yeah, well, I never knew a wop that danced the Charleston. Can’t imagine what you wanted with him.”
“Well, Mr. Smartypants, they did Charleston, and I don’t care if they were wops. Those boys used to put carnations in their lapels, just to put ‘em in my hair when they liked me. Pink ones! Pink ones and white ones, and blue ones-”
“There’s no such thing as a blue carnation.”
“Of course there isn’t,” said Ivy. “They’d put the stems in dye to get ‘em that color. Nothing you greaseheads would do.”
“Grease-ers,” said Buzz. “And I ain’t no grease. I ain’t no wop, either. You should’a seen our girls; maybe they didn’t have blue carnations in their hair, but they sure knew how to make a cat sweat.”
Ivy jumped down from the sarcophagus and walked over the wet grass to him. A flower resting on a plaque turned silently as she passed.
“Aww,” crooned Ivy, patting her pincurls and then his knee, “do you miss those cold, dead, dried-up fifties girls?”
“I miss everything,” said Buzz. “I miss steaks, and dances, and records. . . I miss my records more than anything.”
Ivy caressed his cheek.
“Sweetie,” she said, “you can listen to those old records anytime. Just go to San Francisco and hang around the record stores. They play all the new stuff, Glenn Miller, Buddy Rich, Artie Shaw, Gene Krupa, the Dorsey Brothers. . .”
“Baby, that ain’t new stuff, first of all; and second, well-”
He kept looking at her beads. They must have been a yard long, hanging from the shelf of her bust like rock climbers over Mt. Rushmore.
“Well?” she antagonized, moving her hand up his thigh.
“Well, nuthin’!” he said, leaping off the concrete cross. “Sure, I miss it,” he said. “Doesn’t everyone in the yard miss it?”
Ivy floated higher. She absent-mindedly grasped the branches of a Eucalyptus overhead.
“Nope. Not everyone. You ever heard of Tamelson Buelty?” she said.
“Nah. Who the heck is Tamelson Buelty?”
“Nobody knows,” she said. “He’s been dead since Huntington was first founded. And in a hundred years, that fuddy duddy’s never bothered to party with us.”
“So, he’s a square. Forget about him. He’d want it that way.”
‘That’s just the thing, Buzz!” Ivy said. “Is that how you want it?”
“Who, me?” said Buzz, straightening his pantleg over his Jack Purcells. “Do I look like a fuddy duddy to you?”
Ivy floated over to him. He had no choice but to take her up in his arms. The crabgrass beneath them twisted and writhed.
“Do I look all right to you, Mr. Campbell?” she said. “Do I look – nice?”
Buzz felt the small of her back through lace. The lace felt like the fragile surface of a wood-carving.
“You feel nice,” he said.
“Then why don’t we go downtown and possess some kids, Buzz? Why don’t we go down there and meet under the pier, see what 1920 can do to 1950 after all these years. We can go to a college campus, or a skating rink, or anywhere. Let’s get us a couple bodies to rub together.”
Buzz fell away from her. Part of him drifted underground.
“You mean, really make it?”
Ivy laughed, clutched his shoulders. Her satin gown tickled his nose.
“I mean warm, mushy, sweaty flesh, Mr. Campbell. But I guess your generation doesn’t see things quite the same.”
“Eh,” he said, “we see things, okay. I mean, we see things okay, just the same as you.”
“The same as me?” She giggled. “Oh, I doubt that very much, Mr. Buzzy. Let’s go, whaddya say? Let’s go and get us a couple bodies! Let’s go and really see what the difference of thirty years is.”
Buzz stepped back. Ivy stepped forward. Dandelions withered and died, then stiffened and flowered with a rustle.
“You really want to get bodies?” he said. “I dunno, Ivy. That’s against the rules. What if somebody notices?” he said.
“What if who notices? Come on. I’m gonna get inside one of those pretty rock and roll girls and show a modern boy how we do things downtown. You wanna be inside him, or should he just wonder for the rest of his life where Ivy came from, and where Ivy went?”
Buzz flickered in and out of view.
“I’m not used to that kind of talk,” he said. “But if anybody’s gonna make it with you, well — it’s gonna be me.”
Ivy’s light pulsated, beamed and sparkled.
“Good!” she said, and pulled him off down a cobblestone path.
“Where we goin’?”
“Let’s go somewhere new,” Ivy said. “Let’s get some rich kids from the college. They won’t never know what hit ‘em. Find me a real swell one, Buzz!”
Buzz walked with her to the nearest intersection, where cars were stopped at the signal. He looked around as if for policemen and slipped inside the driver of the nearest car. Ivy inhabited the passenger, who was presumably the daughter. She snickered with the natural impishness of a teenager.
“Oh, cold!” she said, shivering. “You should clothe me better.”
“Say, this gearshift’s wacky. It don’t move.”
“You don’t haveta, sweetie, they’re all robots, now.”
The light changed.
“Just go, you’ll see. Doncha know nothin’?”
The car went smoothly forward much more gradually than Buzz liked. The traffic on Beach Boulevard slept along as though the cars drove themselves.
“Robots,” he said. “Well this isn’t any fun.”
“There used to be a real ritzy college up in Clairmont,” said Ivy in a voice even squeakier than her own, though far less nasally. “Just keep goin’ North.”
The drive took less than an hour, and Buzz grew more and more excited as they went. He tried to coach Ivy in his taste in women – no blondes, no nerds, no this and that – but Ivy would have none of it. He’d just have to wait and see.
“So what do we do when we get there?” he said. “What if there aren’t any dances goin’ on?”
Ivy laughed at his naïveté.
“Kids don’t dance anymore,” she said. “They just drink and act stupid together, like the people my parents used to entertain but without the cigars and moustaches. Don’t worry, there’ll be parties.”
As it turned out, Ivy was right. They stepped out of their mortal hosts in front of a dormitory. Electronic-sounding music poured from somewhere within, thumping in thuds and waves. The driver in the car screamed, and the daughter erupted in thrashing, teenage terror before the car peeled off over the newly-paved street.
“See, Ivy? That sort of thing’s gonna get us in trouble. Somebody’s gonna notice.”
“Oh, pish posh,” she said. “Let’s go!”
They made their way to the source of the music. They passed through stucco walls and through earth, through pipes and foundation and various roots, bricks, and concrete, and found themselves in a shoebox-shaped basement crowded with mingling students. None of them looked old enough to drink, and none of them looked sober. Some of them were dancing, but they danced alone and in place, a strange, careless, nameless dance that they performed simply for themselves without regard. Some kids danced in a circle, but still always apart, still always in place. They occasionally watched each other. For the most part, they kept their eyes on the floor. The music came from a DJ at the head of the hall, and Buzz went over to him to see what he was playing. The music wasn’t anything he recognized, but he was delighted to find the albums printed on vinyl. The DJ stood transfixed as his albums rifled through themselves. Buzz’s face shined as he noted several of his favorite records in the box. Rock n’ roll was not dead. When he looked up again, Ivy had vanished into the crowd.
“Oh, geez,” he said.
He moved through the kids, searching for her, slowly at first and then faster as he saw people shudder and clutch themselves whenever he paused to look around. Ivy was nowhere to be seen.
“Shoot,” he said to himself. “She must’ve gotten into one of them already. Guess I oughta start lookin’.”
His first instinct was to take a scholarly-looking young man, sharply dressed in a three-button suit and wearing wire frame glasses, but thought better of it when he imagined the boy naked. Ivy’d appreciate it if he picked someone more athletic. A ball-player, or something. His next choice, a muscular kid wearing tank top and sweatpants, would have sufficed, but Buzz couldn’t stomach the idea of going around in a tank top. The young mortal would not do. Then he saw a broad-chested Italian kid with a pompadour. The kid wore a black turtleneck and sport coat, and held his red plastic cup as though it were a martini glass. Having heard Ivy talk about the wops in her neighborhood, his choice seemed obvious. Buzz stepped inside him. The kid’s arms wriggled for a moment and then were still. His eyes narrowed. Buzz peered out of them. He felt the turtleneck tug on stubble at his Adam’s apple and reveled. He let out a quiet yelp of glee. With a wide young hand he turned the first girl he saw by her shoulder. She smiled familiarly at him.
“Say! Tonight sure is gonna be swell,” he said, raising his glass.
“Hoo-hoo!” said the girl, clashing her cup against his and drinking. “Look at you, alla’ sudden!” she said. “I thought you’d never wake up.”
“Yeah? Well I guess I did.”
“Good,” said the girl, brushing blonde hair away from her eyes. “Maybe I’ll make you dance with me, later.”
The idea of dancing with her made him chuckle. If she started doing that goofy standing-in-place dance in front of him, he wouldn’t be able to keep from laughing, and he sure wouldn’t know how to dance with her.
“Well, alright, then!” said Buzz, and he wondered if he were drunk or not. It was impossible to tell. He could read the time on the kid’s watch okay, and he could talk without slurring, but he didn’t remember the driver of the car feeling so warm and tingly. But where was Ivy? Damned succubus, she could be any one of those kids, bouncing and laughing and drinking and kissing. She could be any of them. Probably a blonde. He didn’t like blondes and Ivy knew it, so a blonde was very likely. She’d want to show him something he didn’t want to see, feel someone he didn’t want to feel. That was the way she was. She could even be this girl that had just raised her glass to him. Heh. She could do worse. He put his hand on the girl’s shoulder again and she turned around.
Then suddenly as she did, out of the monotony of thumps and tweets that the DJ had been playing came seven great blasts of brass that awoke Buzz as if from a dream. He took the little blonde girl’s hand automatically and jerked her toward him. Her eyes were wide with astonishment but he didn’t notice. She was barely there. This was Glenn Miller! “In the Mood!” It seemed to him that even this bizarre party could not help itself but jump. Movements took beats and conversations yielded to the hot, pounding sounds that once got their grandparents in trouble. It was in the air. It was in the blood. When the rolling, humping swing began in earnest, Buzz took the blonde in his hands and started stepping.
Kids were spinning and stepping around them, dancing in clumsy, cute imitations of the three-step that was so natural to Buzz. They laughed when they missed steps, and laughed harder when they accidentally fell into the rhythm. There were even a handful of couples that seemed to know what they were doing, but they were stiffest of all.
Buzz kicked in time with his borrowed body and waited for the next crescendo, guiding the little blonde with a hand on her back. She giggled constantly as though the dance had overcome her. When the first apex came he brought his hands together, spread his legs and slid her between, kicking out with one leg then popping her up, face-to-face with him. She cracked up. Applaud sounded all around, and Buzz found himself in the center of a large circle with just one other couple, spinning and side-stepping and turning with style and finesse.
Ivy, also the center of attention and garbed in the body of a brunette pixie, found herself leading her boy, a scholarly-looking twig with a jacket, tie, and wire-rimmed glasses.
“Hoist me up!” she said.
On the next pass he found his hands acting as a platform and she vaulted over his head. People shouted with delight. She tapped him on the shoulder and resumed swinging.
“Say, they’re pretty alright,” said Buzz to his partner, who looked and danced like a rag doll.
Buzz straightened his arms with her hands in his and brought her cheek-to-cheek with him on the left, then on the right, and then picked her up under her knees and swung her behind his back upside down, and set her on her feet in one smooth arc. The crowd cheered.
Ivy slid between the wiry kid’s legs and pulled herself upright, then jumped into his arms and flipped over, pulled him between her own. They ended up apart, and she took her skirt in her hands and swished it side-to-side in time. Then she gestured with her finger – come here. Glenn Miller had turned the shoebox basement into a ballroom.
Buzz moved classically, turning his hips against his partner left, right, then ducked the girl under his arm with a hand on her waist to spin her and caught her lightly with the same hand. Ivy moved her boy with her eyes. Back, back, inward; she raised her arm and twirled once, then twirled again, twirled herself and him with a flick of the wrist.
When the song ended, both girls were dipped and brought to rest, and the crowd cheered with hoots and whistles and uproarious applause.
“Not bad,” said Buzz to the little blonde.
Ivy looked up at her wiry intellectual. “You big kidder! You can dance.”
The DJ called for more applause and the room roared for the two couples, who clutched and hugged each other as though they’d known each other for decades. The electronic music resumed. Conversations picked up where they had been dropped. They exited the circle, and other students filled the empty space with apathy like congressmen herded into a hall, as though all the dancing had been done and no more was needed. Buzz and Ivy agreed.
“Listen, Ivy,” said Buzz.
“It’s Becky!” the little blonde said.
“Becky, then,” he laughed. “Let’s get out of here.”
She sipped her drink. “Okay,” she said, and led him out.
Ivy likewise entreated her partner.
“Buzz, let’s go.”
“I’m buzzed, too. My place?”
“Oh, certainly,” she said, “if you know where it is.”
So Buzz and Ivy went separately to the dorm rooms of two elated young students who had become instant celebrities on the dance floor, and had previously never heard the name Glenn Miller.
Ivy did not let her boy get to the bed. The dorm room’s door closed with a heavy sound and they fell to the tile floor. She literally tore clothes away from him, exposing a frame more like a scarecrow’s than an Olympian’s. A button ricocheted off the wall. Others clattered on the floor.
“You coulda’ been a little more choosy,” she said.
“Yeah,” said the kid, “but you got a nice ass and you can-” she ripped off his trousers- “you can really fuckin’ dance.”
“Is that right?” said Ivy, descending.
Buzz felt sick deep in his guts the way alcohol can do, and he wondered if his mortal host had been ready to leave the party just before Buzz took him. He looked at the girl he’d gone home with.
“Figures you’d be blonde,” he said as she knelt before him. He felt his zipper tugged.
“Yeah it does,” she said, and he felt himself disappear in a wave of warmth and wet that even in natural life he had never known.
To heck with the fifties, he thought. And brunettes can jump in the lake, too.
He felt her arms around his legs, and she toppled him over with a hand on his stomach. He hit the tile hard enough to wind him. She laughed and tugged his pants around his ankles without unbuckling his belt.
“Oh, jeeze,” he said.
“Mm-hmm,” laughed the girl in hums.
Buzz forgot to remember he’d been nervous.
Across the campus, Ivy took a fistful of her victim’s hair and tried to pull him to the bed, but he seized her tiny neck and pinned her to the wall.
“Goodness!” she said as he licked her décolleté and up her throat. When he French-kissed her, she took his tongue in her teeth, the rest of him in her fist, and led him that way to the bed. He retaliated by thrusting his hand into her jeans. She slowly began to kneel, her eyes squeezed tightly shut. He did not know that while this gorgeous, gasping body was far from virginal, the woman inside it had not been penetrated for the better part of a century. She ground her hips. Her eyes snapped open. She pounced. The boy crawled backwards on his hands into the corner, where she clawed and bit, kissed and devoured him. Moments later he gripped her hair, shuddered, then lay breathing in a heap like a spent maniac in a rubber room. Ivy grinned and huffed.
“Cherries,” she said. “Now doncha’ fight me no more. I’m gonna show ya how we do things downtown.”
“Wha-what?” he said, and she pulled him up by his jaw and threw him by the arm onto the bed. “Who the fuck are you all a’sudden, Donna?”
“Ivy Vivencourt,” she said in exhales behind his ear. “An angel, baby, an angel. Now shhh.”
His spirit yielded to hers like a cloud parted by wind. His hands made useless fists behind her back. His legs kicked like a man crushed beneath unbearable weight, and his toes curled. He heard himself muttering. He made an effort to remember it all, but this attempt would be the last thing he remembered; Ivy took him inside herself then, and she did not let him go until she collapsed like a deflated doll over his body and knew no more.
During all this Buzz had found his inner sinner. His choice in hosts had been good – he discovered muscle in the lithe young body and used it. He picked her up and crushed her against the wall, entering her with what seemed like his whole body. She moved up and down like an oil pump as he rotated his hips. She raked his back. He relished the sensation of pain. She bit his earlobe, hard. He yelped and she laughed over his shoulder. Then she spit in his face. His hand shot up as if to slap her, but instead he dug his fingers into her small breast and squeezed until he felt the soft flesh strained between each digit.
“Ow! Motherfucker,” she hissed. “Come on. Fuck me. Come on.”
Time stood still for him. He could not believe he’d spent fifty years without borrowing a body for even a moment. Had Ivy done this before? She must have, to take him so forcefully. He felt sure this kind of sex was rare in her time.
“You’ve done this before, Ivy,” he said.
She slapped him. Her name was Becky. He slapped her back. She called him an asshole and began to squeal in short bursts of treble like a tropical bird.
“Come, come, come, come, come inside me, Brian, come inside me. Come, Brian. Come, Brian.”
Brian! His mind thrilled and spun. Ivy was not inside her. He had seduced an honest-to-God mortal girl, and she had no inkling of what was happening to her, no reason in the world to believe she was making love to the dead. If there was sin, he was committing it in the highest degree. His body flamed with wickedness. His lip curled. He snarled at his tiny living lover.
“Oh, God!” he said. “You little bitch. If there’s a hell you’ve damned me forever.”
His form solidified. A hammer could not have broken him. He bit her lower lip hard, tasted salt and copper. She shrieked. He pressed his mouth to her neck just below the jaw and exploded inside her, shoving her up the wall higher and higher, until he stood on tiptoe to hold her up. She was pinned to the wall by her armpits. When he dropped to his heels his dick left her body. She dangled there on the wall with her head hanging, slick with saliva and sweat. A smear of blood on her chin glistened from her bitten mouth. He stepped forward and hugged her to him. He carried her motionless, heaving form to the bed. He curled next to her and felt himself blacking out. Her breathing changed instantly. She was asleep. Buzz was glad for it. He tried in vain to keep his eyes open, but it was impossible. The body was too worn out, too drunk, though his mind raced and his borrowed blood pulsed and slammed in his veins. He kissed her eyelids. He kissed her swelling lip. He kissed her forehead.
“I love you, Becky,” he heard himself say.
The nearly-imperceptible smile that enlivened her face was the last thing he saw.
Mist and blur. Time and motion.
It is well-known that the soul leaves the body of its own accord when the body sleeps. Ivy and Buzz, therefore, found themselves ejected from their hosts and flung some forty miles away to the graveyard in Huntington Beach, where, for the first time in scores they rested, peacefully enfolded in their respective tombs. The other specters noted their absence and presumed that they had finally gotten away together to consummate in the manner of spirits their inevitable ghostly romance. The truth being unthinkably taboo, it never occurred to them; Buzz and Ivy’s crime passed unnoticed. Buzz continued to fret about it for several days, though, until Ivy convinced him with a nudge of effort to try the experiment again because they had “missed,” and still had to make it with each other. Having related their stories of the fated night to one another in dripping detail, Buzz was easily swayed, and they again went out to sexually terrorize the modern youth, this time beneath the Huntington pier as Ivy had originally suggested.
The mortals Becky and Brian arose from their sleep the day following their possession in a bewildered stupor. To their amazement, they found that the occupants of their beds had immediate and superhuman sexual demands of them upon waking, and were also startlingly and thoroughly in love with them. Whether they had changed into new, deadly passionate versions of themselves on their own or were transformed by their demons, no one can say, but these couples proved unbreakable and married against the bewilderment of their closest friends in short time. The only surprise they admitted to themselves was that they’d not noticed one another sooner.
When Buzz next admonished Ivy for having made him an accomplice to what he considered a serious form of rape, she mocked him.
“Isn’t everybody happier, sweetie? Isn’t everyone we took living like characters in a fairy tale after we took ‘em and made ‘em make it with each other? And you did it even when you thought we’d go to hell. What’s more saintly than that?”
Buzz had no answer for her. He only shook his head and gave her a wan smile, which she returned with a sparkle in her eye. Mortal time passed, and their lascivious carnal misadventures went unmarked but for a blitzkrieg of sudden romance across Orange County. From the Huntington Beach pier to the San Bernardino Mountains, people were falling in love overnight and rushing out to be married. Often the lovers were from disparate and incomparable lifestyles. Often, their friends and families had no idea who the other party was. The eight-o’clock news reported it as a fad, concluding that spur-of-the-moment matrimony was back in fashion and likely to spread throughout Southern California. What it could not do was explain the pattern, why kids were struck by Cupid on the route from Huntington to the old college in Pomona, and it also failed to account for the bliss and passion of their marriages. The phenomenon was a happy mystery, but not the only one.
The old graveyard at Talbert and Beach Boulevard is foggy all night, every night, and twice as foggy in the morning. The grass is always slightly wild, and very new stones stand amidst very old ones as though related to them. Some of them are. In a corner near a gnarled, healthy tree an uncanny warm breeze wafts through the chain-link fence and ousts the hazy mist. Visitors sometimes shiver as they pass, but not for fright or cold. Rather, they feel an unnatural urgency in their blood, a low burn that tingles beneath the muscle and makes the lips purse. The undertaker there often finds lovers lying on the soil together, often finds them undressed and entwined as is the case with all graveyards, because people can be very morbid. Why he began to find them always in that corner, which was less discreet than other places in the yard, he could not fathom. He also began to discover artifacts left there under the tree beside two specific graves. Some seemed to be offerings, such as a cup of coffee, a rosary, or wine splashed across the grave marker. Others were more ominous. Once he found an exorcism rite written on notebook paper in ballpoint pen, partially burnt and caught in some crabgrass nearby. He also found a circle of black candles, little more than stubs on the ground. He even came upon a chicken’s foot, tied with string and hanging from the lowest branch of the twisted tree. It had taken some courage to cut down. It was as if two factions were gathering there, one in worship and another in fear. But undertakers are never superstitious men, and all he wanted to know was what dead person or people there had confused the public so contrarily. Was the departed antagonist a good man, or a heinous one? Perhaps he had been both. Perhaps, decided the undertaker, it depended on who one asked. The puzzle didn’t keep him from visiting the warmer corner when the ocean wind blew wet and chill on January nights. Whether Buzz and Ivy were wicked in their goals or saintly in their results is left for future generations to decide.