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"Bed Curls," short story excerpt

Monday 1/31/22

The ghost sits on the end of my bed and sort of bounces, like it wants me to wake up. It’s agitated in the manner of someone who wishes to crack on. Ants in the pants, or the sectors of form where veins used to be.

“I’m up, I’m up,” I say, annoyed, I guess, because I have been up, looking straight at the ghost, but it can’t see my eyes. A flaw in its design.

I check the clock. Normally it’s somewhere around three. A little before or after. You’re still calling it night. I think about going downstairs to grab a beer. Drink it in bed.

“What are we drinking?” the ghost will ask, like it matters who brewed the thing. “I tell you, Chris,” it’ll start to say, “I am down today. Can’t shake this feeling I have.”

If I ask the ghost what it means, it will say it doesn’t matter, and I couldn’t understand anyway. The problems of the world beyond.

“You can go back to sleep,” it tells me, with an air of “It’s fine, don’t worry about me,” but that’s not what’s going to happen.

The night I suggested the ghost might find someone else to sit with and commiserate, it seemed hurt. I added that I was thinking about its well being, because there was something about me that might have been lacking. Someone else could better provide what was needed. The ghost made a few remarks about the rapport we had, and tolerance, how I never questioned its value, always took the time. I was accepting. Called it the bottom line.

“Is it just because I look like your dead child?” it asked. “Or that I am the life you wanted?”

I tell the ghost that has something to do with it, yes. I get the beer after all, because it’s still night. A farmer wouldn’t call it morning yet. I’ve never known what time farmers actually get up, but the way that time is referenced, as if it, too, is a ghost, makes it sound like farmers awake at an hour that doesn’t exist. There’s no time early enough, and none that wouldn’t be too late. I could have found faults with every hour that a farmer might have potentially arisen, and said, “No, that’s not it.”

“Your hair has started to curl like your mother’s,” I remark to the ghost on the edge of my bed. “Hers was straight for a long time, before it got that way. She predicted the curls. Called it a family trait.”

I’m relieved the ghost can’t see my eyes as I say these words. Doesn’t know how hard I am looking at it in the darkness. The darkness is physical. If I had shears I could cut away its top level, but I wouldn’t be able to perceive I had done so because the layers behind would be just as black, though I would also have a piece of darkness I could put in my pocket, or wallet.


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