The Haunting

I always believed in blind dates, especially when arranged by my kid brother. He's the tall, good-looking one surrounded by beautiful people in the ad agency where he runs their biggest accounts. Then there's me, the bookworm—the divorced woman with two young boys holding down a job while juggling joint custody rules. You can image how little time I had to meet men. 

When my brother called to fix me up, I didn't ask the usual questions—how old, ever married, kids, career, pets. I was not too fond of dogs so I always asked about pets. This time I just shouted, "Yes!" Soon after, the phone rang. 

"Hello," said a deep voice. "I'm Ron, Jerry's friend. Haven't seen him in years. Bumped into each other at a marketing meeting. Looks good. Always did. He insisted we meet."

"Hi," I said. "I'd love to meet."

"So, you have a 631 number," he said. 

I knew what he meant. I knew a 212 number usually thought a 631 number was geographically inconvenient. 

"Yes, I live on Long Island," I said. "Good schools for my kids," I added, getting that detail out of the way. "But I prefer to meet in New York."

We set a date for the following Saturday evening when my boys would be with their dad. 

On Saturday afternoon the phone rang as I was deciding whether to wear a black sweater or a black blouse. 

"Hello," said Ron. "I have an idea for tonight. I bought two steaks, made a salad and opened a bottle of red. Why not come to my place for dinner?"

"I really prefer to meet in a restaurant on the first date," I said. I had already learned about the assumptions a man makes when you go to his apartment. "Maybe next time."

"Oh come on. I'm your brother's buddy. I'm not going to try anything. It'll be just you, me and Tramp."


"Yeah, my sheep dog. A puppy. Very friendly."

"No," I said again. "I'm afraid of dogs. Let's meet in a restaurant."

"But I already made the salad and seasoned the steak."

"Freeze the steak. Eat the salad tomorrow."

"Oh for God's sake, just make it easy and come here."





"No. I have a better idea. I'm not coming into the city. Call me a bitch but I'm not going to meet you," I said, convinced I'd live alone forever.

"Your brother left out how ridiculous you are," he said. "This will haunt you one day. I know it will."

Ten years later on a rainy Thanksgiving I cooked a big meal in my new house in the Hamptons with my new husband and his two sons. My ex, his new wife and daughter also were there. My boys' girlfriends were in the kitchen helping to keep the turkey moist and putting marshmallows on the sweet potato pie. I had stopped thinking about custody rules, blind dates, and Ron. 

My brother arrived a little late. In his arms was a sixty-pound sheep dog wearing four rubber boots and a yellow raincoat. Evidently Ron had passed away and left his dog, Tramp, to Jerry. The haunting had begun. 

"The Haunting" originally appeared in Spring 2011 (Vol. V, No. 1).

Marilyn Gottlieb, who has published widely in magazines and literary journals, began her writing career as a columnist for Dan’s Papers on Long Island, New York. President of The Crescendo Group, a full-service public relations firm, she was a VP and SVP at two multi-billion dollar international advertising agencies and was an adjunct professor at the New School University. Inducted into the YWCA’s prestigious Academy of Women Achievers, she also was a member of the Board of Advertising Women of New York.  She attended Skidmore College and earned an MA from New York University and an MFA in Writing and Literature from Stony Brook Southampton. Her first book was Life with an Accent (2013), an historical biography. The young adult version came out in early 2016 and was published in Israel in December 2016. Dance me Younger is Ms. Gottlieb’s first novel.