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I Mean, It's No Extra Parked Vehicle

Jenna Katerin Moran has naturally curly hair and a compsci doctorate. You can find some of her other work at her website, afarandasunlessland.wordpress.com At the time of this writing, she lives in Portland with her cat, a ghost, and... uh... various other peculiar and astonishing eccentricities. She thinks you're cool.

Melanie is a ghost detective. She works for the HOA to catch undetectable violations of the rules. Today, for instance: the table rattles. The lights blast out. Who is it? It seems to be someone you lost? Maybe somebody whose name begins with J?
They will tell you whose cat has been messing up the garden.
Wham! You can catch them now and drag them off to HOA jail, thanks to Melanie... Ghost Detective!
People often wonder why Melanie polices HOA violations. "Why aren't you catching murderers?" they ask. "Digging up cold cases?"
Melanie mysteriously smiles. She does not explain. This is because the ghosts basically never finger the person the police would want arrested for the crime.
On Thursday there will be another mystery. Is there anyone whose kitchen shelves do not abide by HOA regulations?
Melanie summons up a ghost. The ghost's arms are long and clank with chains. Eerie ghost condensate drips down them. If you collected the condensate and mixed it with sugar and water you could make an excellent energy drink but the supply would be difficult to maintain without killing a lot more people than energy drink companies like to be noticed killing.
(Not a jab at energy drink companies in particular! We all have to compromise to survive in a capitalist society, after all, whether we're humans, kitchen cabinets, energy drink companies, or ghosts.)
Anyway, Melanie summons up a ghost. Melanie asks the ghost whether there is anyone whose kitchen shelves do not abide by HOA regulations. There is a brief discussion which we will not repeat here because it is in an ancient forbidden tongue ("blarblarbl," "glah! Blrarblarblgng" is what I would write if I were convinced that I had to show, not tell) but which amounts to Melanie clarifying that she, as an HOA Ghost Detective, is only interested in violations operating with the local neighborhood.
The ghost gives an eerie wail. It points its hand. The HOA Ghost Detective follows the pointing of the hand. Sure enough, after the HOA Enforcement Squad (Paranormal Division) has forced their way in, there is an erratic, nonconforming kitchen cabinet.
It's all in a day's work for a ghost detective!
Sometimes the ghost detective solves cases involving paint. Sometimes the ghost detective solves cases involving gardening. One time the ghost detective is called upon to determine whether anyone has failed to keep the inside of their mailboxes clean. The ghost is summoned. The kitchen cabinets rattle, becoming subtly misaligned. The flowers wither. Blood drips down the walls.
"I sense that the ghost is among us," says Melanie, HOA Ghost Detective.
"Ask them if they know the location of any treasure!" asks the secretary of the local HOA council, excitedly.
Melanie shakes her head. "I will not," she says, with the stern pride of an HOA Ghost Detective.
"Then," says the secretary, "ask them if there is anyone in the neighborhood who is failing to clean the inside of their mailboxes properly. Because I am pretty sure, you know, that those people down the street aren't keeping up!"
Pictures fly from the walls. The air goes cold. The air rings with a subtle, ghostly shriek.
"I got nothing," says Melanie, HOA Ghost Detective.
Melanie listens, puzzled, for a moment, and then she shrugs. "I dunno. Maybe they're all kept clean?"
This was not true, of course. Hardly anybody cleans the inside of their mailbox. At most they will occasionally remove their mail and shake off some of the dust and spiders. Once, Melanie, HOA Ghost Detective, swished some soapy water around and then squeegeed it out, which she regretted bitterly when a letter came and it got a little wet.
Some people think that the ghost was lying.
Some people think that the ghost was misinformed.
I heard a theory once that maybe the ghost wasn't even listening to the question, just trying and trying to tell the Ghost Detective about a serious local crime.
But I don't think it was any of those things. I think the ghost just didn't bother to check.
It's unclear to me why a ghost would even be interested in assisting in this matter.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, December 15th, 2021
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