Here, Everywhere, Ghosts
On his first day, the boy was scared. A roach crawled up his arm. An
older boy punched him in the chest. "Fuck you," the older boy said.
In the day room, the scared boy and his roommate, a boy his age, stood
at the wire screen window and watched the white-haired Sidewalk
Schizophrenic smack his own face. "Bug ghosts," the boy's roommate
said. "It's the spirit he's mashing. You believe in God?"
"Yes," the scared boy said.
Jeffers, a healthcare tech who'd promised to protect the scared boy
from the older boy, said the Sidewalk Schizophrenic had Grounds
Privileges and lived on the stucco adult ward across campus, up the
hill. "Vermin hallucination," Jeffers said. "A symptom."
On New Year's Eve, his second day, the boy was in the day room with his
roommate and two other boys who wanted to see the Sidewalk
Schizophrenic smack his own face. The older boy had run away.
"He'll be back," one of the boys said.
"They'll catch him," the second boy said.
There was a parade on TV and the sound of band whistles.
The scared boy's roommate banged the wire screen with a chess
checkerboard, and the Sidewalk Schizophrenic ran. The two other boys
"The spirit's chasing him," the scared boy's roommate said.
After supper, in the day room, Jeffers told Crybaby Lane, the ghost
story about a catholic orphanage burned to the ground. The TV flickered
Jerry Springer. Jeffers said you can still hear the orphan-ghosts cry
in the pines behind Crybaby Lane.
The scared boy stood with his back to the window and his roommate sat
Indian Style on the chess checkerboard and chewed a plastic pawn.
Lights Out: the scared boy prayed please don't catch the older boy. A
rat bit his roommate's lip: a scream, a tremor, and a nurse, Mrs.
French, who opened the door, jerked his roommate from bed, and dragged
him down the ward.
New Year's Day they took breakfast in the basement cafeteria. Jeffers
delivered the scared boy's tray, but he wasn't hungry because the older
boy sat at the next table with two burly techs brought in from the
adult ward. "Fuck you," the older boy said to no one. A table
of girl patients laughed.
"They found him," one of the boys said.
"He'll run again," the second boy said.
"Grace," Jeffers said, and offered the blessing—and the
scared boy secretly blessed the Sidewalk Schizophrenic, the older boy,
and his roommate's lip tremor.
"Amen," Jeffers said.
The scared boy's roommate lifted his head. "It were a rat ghost," he
said. "Here, everywhere, ghosts."
"Twitch, Twitch is your name!" the second boy said, and the other boy
laughed, and Twitch punched his own lip and asked the scared boy if he
believed in ghosts.
Michael Fischer's work has appeared recently in Beloit Fiction Journal
Mountains Review, and is
forthcoming in LITnIMAGE.
Detail of photo on main page courtesy
of Kevin Dooley.
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