Charlie was one man who really lived up to his name sake. He personified both “good luck Charlie and “hard luck Charlie” in his life. However, What he lived the most was the song Good Time Charlie’s got the Blues. It wasn’t always like that though. At first, it seemed like he had it made right from birth.
Charlie was born to a wealthy investor and a woman who not only had a successful modeling career, but was often sought after to perform in various commercials. Even though most of them were over seas, they paid well. Both parents adored him. He lived in a beautiful, spacious home, was sent to the best schools where he was nearly always the most popular kid, and he got most everything he wanted.
That was the “good luck Charlie”, and it lasted into his early twenties. Naturally, he easily got into an Ivy League school where he excelled. It was there that he met his first serious love. Cindy was a beauty, and she, too, came from a wealthy family. It was as if fate had molded them for each other, and everyone on both sides of their families expected an engagement announcement at any time. The young couple talked about it, but they wisely decided it would be better if they waited until after they graduated before committing to each other.
It didn’t stop them from enjoying each other’s company though, and the two were nearly inseparable during their time in college. That was until the day when two federal agents met Charlie at his dorm. It seemed that his father was in serious trouble.
They used words like embezzlement, fraud and tax evasion. They told him that his home had been raided that afternoon, and that his father had been arrested. His mother, too, since she had been named an executive in one of the companies that only existed on paper.
It was obvious that Charlie was both bewildered and devastated by the news. An idiot could have seen that he didn’t have a clue to what was going on with his father’s dealings, but the two agents spent over an hour grilling him about his father’s affairs anyway. They also searched his dorm room, confiscated his computer and left him badly shaken.
The only thing that came out of it was that Charlie knew he couldn’t remain in school. “There’s no way for me to pay for it,” he explained.
Cindy couldn’t understand. Oh she’d heard about Bernie Madoff and others like him, but she was so far removed from such things that she had a difficult time comprehending what Charlie was telling her.
“But can’t you get some kind of scholarship or something?” she asked, worriedly.
“I never needed one before, and didn’t apply. Maybe I can for the next semester.”
Charlie tried to reassure her that he was certain he could work something out, but Cindy didn’t look very convinced. He ended up spending the rest of the evening trying to reassure her that everything would be all right.
That was the first indication that things weren’t what they should have been between Cindy and him. ‘She should have been trying to reassure ME,’ he thought.
Charlie’s life began to rapidly fall apart after that. The university was anxious to be rid of him, and the negative publicity that came with him. His friends quickly distanced themselves from him, and even Cindy seemed to keep him at arms length. It was clear that her father certainly didn’t want his daughter to be seen with him.
“Charlie and his family are bad news,” he’d told her. “I don’t want you to even be seen with him! There’s nothing you can do for him anyway. The only thing that could come out of your connection with him is have our family name dragged through the mud along with his.”
That of course ended Charlie’s hope of ever marrying Cindy. It wasn’t that she didn’t love him. She just loved her comfortable life, and the allowance her father was providing for her more.
Over the course of the next month, his family home had been confiscated by the federal government, his mother was forced to move back in with her own mother, and Charlie found himself destitute.
“Charlie, I want to see you.”
It was the last call he got before his phone was turned off. His father wanted to see him. He tried to explain that he had just moved in with his grandmother, and that he was trying to find a job, but his father insisted. A week later, Charlie found himself sitting across from his father with a glass panel between them.
“It’s really good to see you; I’m glad you came,” began his father. “I am so sorry I screwed everything up.”
“Dad, what happened? When are you going to get out of here? You have lawyers working on it right?”
“Didn’t your mother tell you anything?”
“She won’t talk about it. Whenever I ask, she just starts to cry and says she can’t talk about it. Grandma told me never to mention it again in her house, too.”
“I’m not getting out of here Charlie. I did everything I was accused of.”
Charlie was stunned. “But why, why did you do it?”
“Because Charlie, I wanted to give you and your mom the kind of life that we had. At first it was just a little here and there, and I knew that no one would ever know. It was easy Charlie--- too easy. Then I started taking a little bit more from different places.
“I was smart about it too, and I would have gotten away with it. But the money was good, and I liked spending it the way I did. Eventually, I took too much and got in too deep. By then, I couldn’t stop myself even if I wanted to.
“The thing is Charlie, I did it for you and your mother. I know it was wrong, but you have to understand, I didn’t do it for me. Now, it’s too late, and all I want from you is to be forgiven. I don’t care about the others and what everybody thinks of me. I only want you and your mother to forgive me.”
“Mom won’t come here, and she won’t talk about it.”
“I know, but maybe in time, you can talk to her. Make her understand Charlie. Make her understand that I did it for her and you. Maybe then, she’ll forgive me.”
Charlie was angry when he first came to the prison, but between actually seeing his father in the prison suit and the miserable, desperation on his pleading face, Charlie felt sorry for him. Hundreds of memories of his father flashed through his mind. Memories like when he taught him how to ride a bike, swim and fish were just a few, and in the end Charlie forgave him.”
“I have to go now,” was all he said, before leaving. He couldn’t tell his father that he just couldn’t stand to see him like that anymore---a broken man---in prison.
Two days later he learned that his father hanged himself during the night, and he knew that his father was only waiting for Charlie to forgive him before taking his own life. His mother suffered from a nervous breakdown that she never recovered from. It was as if she just gave up on living, and two months later, his grandmother had a heart attack and passed away in the hospital.
There was no money. His grandmother had mortgaged her house to pay for his mother’s legal expenses and the two funerals.
Charlie was alone. No money, no relatives, no friends, and no place to live.
The job market was tight. He was over educated for most places he applied for, and the jobs that he could have used his education to get weren’t there. He even thought about resorting to stealing, but it was a brief thought.
“There’s no way I’m going to do what my father did!” he told himself.
‘Maybe I’ll do better in California,’ he thought. ‘There certainly isn’t anything holding me here!’ and with that thought, Charlie began making his way west.
Charlie made money doing odd things here and there, and he worked at a few of those one day job agencies, one day’s pay for one day’s work. He used the money for food, and sometimes he had enough to buy a bus ticket to the next city, but mostly he used his thumb. He also did a lot of walking. Hitching a ride was a lot more difficult than it was in the sixties and seventies.
He spent a lot of nights at the shelters along the way too, and in this manner he slowly made his way across the country.
Eventually, he came to a little place called Elsinore by the Fishlake National Forest in Utah, just off from route 70. Charlie was tired when he got there. Actually, he was more than just tired. He was tired of traveling, tired of his life and generally just tired of living.
Elsinore was a tiny place where everyone knows everyone. In all, less than a thousand people lived there, but the climate at the time was warm, and the area was beautiful.
‘A good place to face whatever comes my way,’ he thought.
Charlie was a bit of an enigma to the people of Elsinore, but they were extraordinarily friendly towards him. Charlie went by another name so no one would connect him with his father. Naturally, just about everyone asked him questions about who he was and where he was from, but he managed to avoid answering most questions. Eventually they got used to seeing him around, and left him alone.
Everyone knew he needed a job since he asked just about everywhere for work. He found temporary jobs in the various establishments and surrounding farms. His home was nothing but a tent up on a deserted hill across the highway. It was a little away from the town, but that certainly didn’t bother him. It was actually in the National Forest, and he liked it there since no one ever ventured up the hill. He was alone, away from prying eyes and questions, and he preferred it that way.
That was until one evening, when he thought he saw someone moving about among the rocks and trees near his tent. It wasn’t quite dark yet, and though he didn’t actually HEAR anyone, he knew someone was there, and called out.
At first, there was no answer, but after calling out again, a strikingly beautiful woman came into the open near the front of the tent. She had a sad, but elegant face, long black hair, and was wearing a light colored dress that fit her very well. Because of the fading light, he couldn’t quite tell what color her dress was, but he could see how well it showed of her womanly curves.
“Hello, I haven’t seen you around before.”
Charlie thought it was funny that she should say that, since he was about to say the same thing to her.
“I’m not from around here.”
She laughed a light, cheerful laugh that Charlie thought could cure a rainy day. “That’s obvious.” She said it as lightly as she’d laughed.
That was only the beginning. She came to visit him several times over the next week, and Charlie found her so comfortable to be with that he ended up telling her everything about him. She felt for him. He could clearly see it in her face, but she didn’t pity him, and he could see that as well as hear it in her voice.
When he asked about her, all she would say was she couldn’t get out much, and that she’d longed for someone to talk to. Charlie guessed that it was a family thing with her, and he felt sorry that someone as pretty and as intelligent as she was wasn’t allowed to get out.
“Is it a religious thing?” He’d heard how strange some of the different sects of Mormons could be.
She laughed, and replied, “Something like that. My gosh, it feels good to be able to laugh like this!”
A month went by and Charlie could tell that he was falling in love with Caroline, and he knew that the twenty year old woman felt the same. But she was trapped in her own type of hell just as he’d been when he tried to run away from HIS troubles.
By then, fall was coming on, and the nights were growing colder. Charlie knew he couldn’t stay there much longer in his little tent.
‘When I go, I’m going to ask Caroline if she’ll go with me. After all, there’s nothing really holding her here,’ he thought.
First he needed to make some extra money, and since the harvest was coming in, work on the farms was easy to come by. Especially since everyone knew him by then. Even though no one really knew anything about him, he’d proven that he was a hard worker and they could trust him.
“This is a good time to make some money,” said a local youth. “They’ll be looking for workers everyday now until everything is in.”
“That’s good,” replied Charlie. “I need to make as much money as I can before winter comes.”
The teen laughed, and asked, “Don’t we all?”
“Yeah, but I need to move on before it gets cold. I’m leaving for California before first frost.” Since he was leaving anyway, Charlie didn’t mind talking a little about his plans. Besides, friendly talk helped the time go by faster, and he was anxious to see if Caroline could get away again that evening.
“Why’s that? You don’t like the cold?”
“Not while living in a tent!” laughed Charlie.
“Oh, I didn’t know. Sorry.”
“That’s okay; I never told anyone. Besides, I’m used to it.”
“Where’s your tent anyway? Most folks ‘round here wouldn’t take much to someone living on their property like that, especially strangers.”
When Charlie told him where his tent was, the youth’s face went ashen. “Why, what’s wrong?”
“Don’t you know?”
“Know what?” Charlie was perplexed, as well as angry with himself for letting his guard down. He knew he shouldn’t have told the teen where he was living.
“Man, I don’t know how to tell you this. No one goes up there. I’m surprised you’re still alive, or haven’t disappeared or something. That place is haunted big time!”
Charlie waved him off. He didn’t want to hear anymore nonsense, especially from some TEENAGER!
That night, Caroline DID come around again. Charlie laughed when he saw her and said, “You won’t believe what I heard today!”
Caroline saw him shaking his head, and smiling, she asked, “What? Tell me.”
“Some teenager told me that this hill is haunted.”
He expected Caroline to laugh, but she didn’t. In fact, her expression was outright sullen.
Caroline looked down and spoke softly. “It’s true. I hoped it wouldn’t come up. In fact, I’ve grown to love you Charlie, and I hoped it would never come up.”
“What do you mean? Have you ever seen a ghost up here or something? You don’t seem to be afraid of it anyway.”
“Oh Charlie, how can I explain it? I AM the ghost up here!”
Charlie was shocked, and she could see the disbelief in his face. “Haven’t you every wondered why we never touched?”
Charlie had to think about it for a moment. Hadn’t they? He was sure that they had. ‘We must have touched,’ he thought.
“Look, I’ll prove it to you,” and with that, Caroline reached out, and Charlie watched in both fear and amazement when her hand passed right through his!
Her face showed the pain she felt when she saw Charlie shrink away from her.
“Please,” she begged. “Don’t be afraid of me! No one EVER comes here. Everyone is afraid to, and I am so lonely. I know all about those terrible stories people tell about me, and none of them are true. I could NEVER hurt anyone.”
Charlie heard her pleading voice, and saw the awful hurt in her face, and it tore at his heart. Ghost or not, he found that he still loved her, and he told her so.
Caroline’s face instantly lit up. It was clear that she loved him too.
Overcome by the sudden rush of emotions, he blurted out, “Come with me Caroline. I don’t care what you are. I love you, and I don’t care if we can’t ever actually touch each other either.”
“Oh Charlie, you don’t understand. I can’t… I can’t leave this place! Oh how I’ve dreamed of leaving here. I’ve tried so many times. I can only get a couple of miles before falling asleep, and when I wake, up I’m back here where I started.”
Charlie thought for a few moments. He thought about Caroline spending what might be an eternity alone on that hilltop, and making up his mind, he said, “Then I’ll stay here with you.”
At first, Caroline’s face brightened in the way that only love could do, but then she looked sad again, and said, “You can’t Charlie. It’ll soon be getting too cold for you to stay here.”
I don’t care Caroline. I don’t want to leave you. I WON’T leave you. I love you too much, and I don’t want to be without you!”
Charlie spent his time over the next week building a makeshift shelter where he hoped to weather the harsh winter cold. Caroline stayed with him every night from dusk until dawn. She knew full well the hardship he was willing to endure for her sake.
Rumors began to spread around town about him, and people began shying away from him, but he didn’t care. He had Caroline, and she was all that he needed. She was all that he cared about.
By late December, it was so cold that he could barely stand it. But STILL, he would not leave the hilltop except to go into town for the things he needed to survive.
“What do you want for Christmas?” he asked, one December evening.
“Oh, I don’t need anything. Just tell me again that you love me.”
Charlie smiled and told her he loved her, and that he would continue to love her every day of his life.
On Christmas morning, he gave Caroline a carving he did of a daisy. She loved it, and longed to hold it in her hands, but of course, she couldn’t. Charlie put it on a tree stump outside of the shelter for her, and asked her to marry him.
“You know we can’t get married.”
“Yes we can. I know we can’t get any minister up here, and have a regular wedding, but we can still promise ourselves to each other. We can make up our own vows, and say them to each other on top of the hill.”
Caroline was never so happy in her life, or after life, and Charlie felt he’d never been so happy in his life either.
Two days later, Charlie went into town for supplies, but got caught in a drenching, icy rain. No matter what he did, he couldn’t get warm. Caroline never felt so helpless. There was nothing she could do except beg him to go back into town, and seek help there.
Charlie was afraid. He was afraid something would happen. He felt in his bones, and refused to go.
“I’m so cold,” he whispered, lying on the pile of blankets where he’d fallen.
Caroline desperately tried to cover him, but her hands could not grasp the material to pull it over him. She tried lying on top of him to warm him, but her spirit body gave no warmth.
The sound of her wailing cries could be heard all around the hill top when he died, and she felt like she too had died again. She didn’t know why she was stuck there on that hill, and she often wished she’d just died and gone away like everyone else, but never did she wish for that more than she did that night.
Caroline was sad beyond belief and stood before the carved daisy that Charlie had placed on the tree stump for her. She never felt so sad or so lonely. It was just after sunset, and she could barely see it through her tears when she suddenly felt a hand on her shoulder.
It was Charlie! And she could FEEL him!
“I told you I wouldn’t leave you.”
Still, no one ever goes up on that hill, especially now that there are two ghosts haunting it!