Unfinished Business by John R. Canter

Appearing suddenly before her, the ghost grabbed the saleswoman by the shoulders. She began shaking her violently, shouting.

YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND! THE DRESS WAS 80% OFF AND ‘BUY ONE, GET ONE FREE’!” she shrieked, words reverberating with the voice of the damned, echoing from the afterlife. “THE POWER OF BOGO COMPELS ME!”

The store manager was unimpressed, standing there with a blank expression. “Please stop shaking her.”

She’s been haunting the store!” the saleswoman said. “If we just give her the discount, her ghostly Unfinished Business will be fulfilled, and she can finally pass on!”

The manager stared at the two of them, one superstitious, the other a superstition. It was too late at night deal with this nonsense, and it had been 30 minutes since her last cup of coffee. Sleepy, and not giving a damn about a haunted store, she considered her situation. Usually customers were not this persistent for discounts.

What do you even need a dress for?” she ventured. “You’re dead – a tragedy, I know – but even if we extended the limited-time sales discount, I can’t just go breaking franchise rules. Next thing I know, every shopper in the city will be crawling from the woodwork for an extra 10% here, a half-off there … it will be chaos. I won’t stand for it.”

Are you kidding me?!” the ghost said. “I died in the shopping stampede – my blood’s stain is still here on your tile floor!” she said, having teleported to the spot, pointing dramatically with a translucent finger.

It’s not about the dress, ma’am, it’s the about the shopping,” the saleswoman added. “It’s not about the having, but the feel from having saved money and bought something.”

Look, just give me the discount,” the ghost said. “I know the sale only comes once a year – do you want me haunting your store for the next twelve months?” The ghost made sure the spooky reverberation filled her voice.

The store manager hated to cave, but one night of this was bad enough. She’d rather deal with the demons in management than any ghosts in her store; it was the devil she knew. “Fine,” she said and waved a hand dismissively.

The ghost shrieked with shopper’s delight, and flew at great speed to hug them each in turn. She materialized her wallet (from somewhere, somehow …) and paid for the dresses. She rushed to the fitting room, and emerged a see-through woman wearing an opaque dress and carrying an opaque shopping bag. She was beaming with satisfaction as she walked to the door. The instant she stepped out, she passed on. What she bought fell to the ground.

The store manager went to pick them up, dug out the receipt from the bag, and walked over to a register.

You’re not returning the dresses, are you?!” the saleswoman objected.

The manager, tired and still not giving a damn, said, “You said so yourself – it was the buying, not the having. And obviously she couldn’t take it with her.”

I would like to hear from you! Do you like flash fiction? Do you have critiques or suggestions for future stories? I would love to read your feedback and criticisms – just enter your comment in the Leave a Reply section, and I’ll gladly consider them for future posts.

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