The Loman Family Ghost (re-spun)

14 Aug

She shows up in the strangest places now. She’s found a way to somehow step out of her dimension. Like Houdini promised. Only he never delivered in the end. In between the shelves of an old bookstore in Annapolis, Maryland:
“Hi.”
“Heya kid.”
“Still hunting for first editions?”
“I don’t have the money anymore. Now I just look and drool.”
“There’s a Hemingway back there.”
“I know. I’ve been eyeing it for months.”
She smiles.
“What happened?” I say.
“Nothing.”
“Why are you here?”
“I miss you.”
“I miss you too. I always do. What happened back in the fall? With the car?”
She smiles.
“You’re grey,” she says.
“No. I’m blue. Always blue.”
“Har, har. You’re still funny. In your way.”
She touches the sides of my head, at my temples. Then her hand moves down to my chin.
“You’re grey. You have grey hairs even in your stubble.”
I run my hand down to hers.
“Just don’t pull them silly,” she says.
“I won’t. But…”
“You look raggedy.”
“I’m sorry.”
“No. I like it.”
“I’m sorry.”
“Stop. I said I like it.”
“What happened, baby? Back there, with the car?”
But she doesn’t answer. Instead, she asks if I drink Sheffield and I say I drink just about anything. She smiles. She looks so much older now. She is a woman. She has hips. Her hair has turned jet black and she wears it tied in the back, off her face.
“You need to open the gates,” she says. “You’ve blocked everyone. No one can move without you, and you’ve shut yourself down. No one can do anything.”
She brushes something from her forehead. I cannot see what it is.
“Can you?”
“It’s not my fault.”
“It’s your fault that you’ve stopped it all. And you need to get going.”
“I don’t want to.”
She does that thing with her lips—that disappointed little curl—that used to melt me and make me give in to just about everything she demanded.
“I’m sorry,” I say, “I’m just being a self-pitying old bastard.”
She smiles.
“And stubborn. Just…promise me you’ll get moving?”
“I’ll try. What about that bottle of Sheffield now?”
She laughs. And then she turns and walks down the narrow aisle in between the musty-smelling bookshelves: “Mmmyea. I guess you’re allowed your vices…” she trails off. The laughs turn into giggles and as she walks away she becomes the fifth grader that I held by the hand on her first day at Taft Elementary in Lakewood, Ohio.
“Dad, d’ya think they’ll make fun of my last name?”
“Nah, baby. They won’t be able to pronounce it. They’ll make fun of something else.”
She giggles and she half-whines a long drawn: “maaaan,” and lightly hits my arm as we both walk up the wet concrete stairs into the school.

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