Search

"Two-Ghost Job," short story excerpt

Thursday 1/6/22

A girl asked his father if there had ever been a man who was the father to an entire town. All of the people who lived there were his children. When someone had a problem that they could not solve on their own, they knocked on the man’s door and asked him for help.


“Well,” the father said, “he’d be a very busy man. People don’t ever stop having problems.”

The child seemed frightened. That wasn’t the answer she expected.


“Even when they’re happy?” the girl asked.

“Even then.”


“Gee,” she said. “I bet sometimes the man would pretend he wasn’t home. Or he could put a note on the door, saying he could only help people that day if it was a huge emergency. So he could have a break.”


“People don’t always know what an emergency is.”

The girl had to think about that.


“I’ll probably know when I’m older,” she concluded. “But you’ll answer the door when I knock just in case, right?”


“I’ll answer the door.”


***


A girl couldn’t sleep and she asked her mother to play her a story. That’s how she always said it.


“Play me a story?”


Her mother opened the door to the girl’s bedroom so she could hear the piano music from downstairs where she played.


The girl missed her father and when she heard the music she could hear her father talking to her and see him baiting a hook from another time which he had taught her to do because they were buddies who’d gone fishing, which is what her father said and she adopted as her own. She remembered books and how she always said her favorite parts aloud in her head. They were music as well, but only when she took them out of her mouth and got them in her thoughts. Words really weren’t anything in the open. They were just words.


***


A lonely kid walked the same path every day in the woods, but one day it was different. There was a house that didn’t come up any higher than halfway to her knee on a side of the path in front of a pine tree. The house had a little front lawn no bigger than a piece of paper and two elves that didn’t appear to be boys or girls were having a picnic. They didn’t see the kid at all and she didn’t want to bother them because she was curious to see what they might be up to the next day and she wanted to try and keep it going. When she passed again the following afternoon the elves were playing croquet on the lawn that was the size of a piece of paper. Another day they were kissing and hugging. Another day a baby elf was coming out of one of the bigger elves right there in the open. One morning they had a pool put in and were swimming with another elf that was smaller than they were and also the one that had been born before. They splashed each other a lot and laughed but they didn’t look at the lonely kid who would sometimes get on her belly and put her head in her hands and watch the elves. Finally, one day she said, “hey,” and the elves—they were a family of six or seven now—stopped laughing and talking to each other and all looked at the lonely kid who they had never noticed before. One of them turned to another with some instructions and the latter went off somewhere inside the house and came back carrying a trumpet, which the bigger elf who had given the instructions held up to its mouth and tried to talk through, but the girl couldn’t hear what it was saying. The sound was just too faint. The elves waved, and the lonely kid waved back. She stayed in the next day.


***


A man killed a girl but it wasn’t his fault. He knew when he killed her but he went to the hospital all the same. She was an angry girl. He’d learned about her from her family. The way she was. Down deep. The real way she was. They didn’t say she was angry. Not her true self. They even took the man into their home. He had dinner with them. They didn’t hate him. She wasn’t always going to be angry. Kids were cruel and her boyfriend at school broke up with her and she didn’t play sports anymore and smoked and cut her knuckles with a razor blade. They were getting her help. The man remembered when he’d gone through a patch like that in his own life. The girl rode away from her house on her bike, music blaring in her ears, and it was like she drove right into the man’s car, or made it so that he couldn’t miss her. He ran from the vehicle and raced to the girl, who was thirty feet away, which seemed more than was possible. He’d never seen anyone look so scared in his life. “Be still,” he said. “The ambulance is coming.” Having the man at their house seemed to make the family feel closer to the girl because he had been with her last, so that was why he went because he would have paid them anything, given them anything. And he was destroyed, too. “Fuck you,” the girl had mouthed, looking back up at the man. Then she cried. “I’m sorry,” she said, and he could barely make out her voice.