It is in August when the rains fall thickly and your ghost disappears. I am seated on the porch swing, my feet dusting the floorboards, our farm fields overrun and expansive in the distance. I am work-weary, grief-stricken, manifesting moisture of any sort. Our son joins me, his hair tousled by the day, his feet a soft padding down the hallway. I saw Peter’s ghost, he says, pausing to shovel blueberries into his mouth. I saw Peter’s ghost on my bed when I woke, and I wish I could see you like he does: Peter’s ghost sat next to me on the bus, Peter’s ghost did a cannonball off the diving board and soaked my whole class, Peter’s ghost rubbed my back while I barfed in the bathroom.
But I don’t see you at all.
You mean Dad, I whisper in our son’s ear, pulling him closer, he was your dad.
Our son cries and I rock us back and forth. The air is unmoving, stale.
You used to join me here at dusk, when the falling light made it dangerous to flail blackberries along the ditches, when you couldn’t hold the steering wheel or shovel a fence post any longer. You’d rub my feet, I’d rub your hands. We’d light a fire, watch our son marvel at the magic surrounding him.
Tonight, our son will wake next to me on the porch swing sobbing. He will say: I saw Peter’s ghost at the barn, at the barn, at the barn, and, for the hundredth time, I will wish he hadn’t followed me there that night. That I hadn’t told you I was worried about the rains. The run-off from the river. The momentum that builds when water has nowhere to go.
Jennifer Todhunter’s stories have appeared in The Forge, Hobart, Monkeybicycle, and elsewhere. Her work has been selected for Best Small Fictions, Best Microfictions and Wigleaf´s Top 50 Very Short Fictions. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Pidgeonholes and founder of Trash Mag. Find her at www.foxbane.ca or @JenTod_.
Once in a while a short piece just makes me go “Oh.My.” Thanks. I grew up in Iowa. This made good deep sense.