★ ‘The Ghost’ by Marie Anderson

sc june 18

The ghost waves goodbye as I back down my driveway. She is standing on my front porch, her long curly hair dancing in the wind. Her hair looks freshly washed, so yellow, yellow and curly and clean as my girl’s hair was when she was 10.

The gravel complains under my tires as I back crookedly down my too-long driveway. (A bitch to shovel.) I’d rather not be driving anywhere today. Snow is predicted. My driveway is a bitch for a 66-year-old woman with grouchy knees to shovel.

But I’ve got to visit my girl. Her birthday is today. She’s 33, the age of Jesus dying on the cross. She’s waiting for me.

At the end of the driveway, I brake and wait for traffic to clear. I live on a busy highway. Cars and trucks all day, all night. I’d move, but this is the only house my girl knows. Plus who’d buy my old house, visited too often by drafts and mold and bugs and mice. And one ghost.

The ghost is giggling. I can’t hear her through the closed car windows, but I can see her dimples, her teeth white under gleaming braces, her crinkling eyes fresh as blue soap. Like my girl’s when I bought her red sparkle shoes and sang Happy Birthday to her when she was 10.

I roll down the window and toss the ghost a kiss, which she catches, and then she tosses her own kiss, stretching her ghost arms marked only with freckles, no punctures, only freckles, arms freckled clean like my girl’s when she was 10.

The kiss tossed by the ghost cracks, splat, on the windshield.

The ghost laughs. I laugh and wave one final wave before rolling up my window and driving off.

The highway whines under my tires, but I must visit my girl, caged in rehab, who will promise again and again and again to stay as clean as she was. When she was 10.

Marie Anderson has lived in the Chicago area all her life. She completed two years at The University of Chicago Law School before escaping without a law degree. Then she married, raised three children, and worked in offices and schools. To date, 35 of her stories have appeared in various publications, including LampLight, Brain Child, St. Anthony Messenger, Woman’s World, Downstate Story, Passager, and Persimmon Tree. In 2012, she was a finalist in the annual Great American Think-off essay/debate competition. For the last ten years, she’s headed her local public library’s writing critique group, an unpaid labor of love. In her daily life, she strives for tidiness, timeliness, and simplicity.