Tag Archives: ghosts


The most cracks I’ve ever gotten out of my knuckles is twenty-seven. The woman at the next table (who was doing something with technical pens and graph paper, and I probably would have made her explain it to me eventually) was cringing with each pop (which probably reduced my chances of hearing about her work) when a ten- or eleven-year-old boy sat down across from me. “Let’s go,” he said.

I pushed my chair back and half-stood, cracked my neck and stood the rest of the way. “What’s your name?” I asked.

“Loot,” he said. “We’re going to see my aunt.”

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It’s getting dark.

“Trains,” she says. “You can’t trust ’em.” She drops sticks on the pile and slowly begins to pace, eyes on the ground. “Just when you think you’re gettin’ somewhere, you end up stranded for half a day.” She sees a stick, and picks it up. “And your feet get tired.” Another stick. “And your legs get tired.” And another. “At least it ain’t rainin’.”

She carries the sticks back, kneels, and sets them on the pile. The crickets seem extra-loud tonight. And the trees. She pauses for a few moments, listening to the dark.

A quarter-inch of cool red flame hunches in the tinder. She purses her lips and blows out a stream of air, and the flame turns orange, and yellow, and begins to spread. “You there?” she asks. She looks around at the empty clearing. Maybe they won’t come.

The fire snaps and a wet branch begins to hiss. A circle of wan light begins to expand. At its edge, a wrecked leather shoe begins to appear, and a sock with a hole, and a toe. “Evenin’, Harry,” she says.

Another shoe appears, and filthy cuffs, and a pair of boots, and ruined overalls, and another pair of shoes—freshly shined—and neatly-patched trousers, and a jacket and a shirt, and a coat and a shirt, and a shiny blazer and a faded white shirt. Three noses. Six eyes. A pair of glasses. Thirty fingers, five of which are holding out a flask. She takes it and raises it. “Seems like forever,” she says, and takes a long drink.