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Thread: Ghosts

  1. #1
    Squirrel Hunter Nighteyes5678's Avatar
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    Ghosts

    This is a little more autobiographical than I'm used to writing, but please don't let the personal nature of the piece stay your hand. I'd still like some constructive criticism as I'm not good at writing first person at all.

    Also, do you think that a switch into present tense would help the piece, or is it better as past tense?

    ~*~

    I got a call from my grandpa asking me to go to the home where my Nana is. Apparently, she was having an "episode" and, with him in pain and my mom out of town, I was next up to go sit by her bed. Left little choice, I agreed and headed there.

    I parked along the side of Dorchester and got out of my car. In front of me, an old man in a walker was hobbling as fast as he could towards me. Lift - drop - step; lift - drop - step. Behind him, a loud alarm wailed and he gave me a surprisingly roguish grin. "They won't catch me this time," he asserted.

    I smothered a laugh, but returned the grin. "Hang a left, sir. They won't think to look for you there." He gave me a conspirator wink and picked up the pace, rounding the corner.

    As he disappeared from sight, three men in uniforms burst out of the door. "A man in a walker, where did he go?" one of them demanded, looking around wildly.

    "I sent him up toward the ER's dead-end," I replied truthfully.

    "Thanks," one said as they continued the chase. I passed them and headed into the building. Up ahead at the main counter sat a woman reading a book - to her side, my Nana sat in a wheelchair, a tray of food in front of her. She was staring off into space, her mouth hanging open, a globe of something green on her chin.

    "She's not my resident," the woman behind the counter said, not bothering to glance up from her book. "But she was carrying on a fuss, terrified she was gonna die, saying Jesus was going to take her upstairs-" Rock me, rock me, rock me sexy Jesus... my brain supplied helpfully. "...so we gave her some drugs to calm her down. She hasn't eaten much, so we were hoping she'd do that now."

    "Did I give it to him?" Nana wanted to know, staring at a spot to her right.

    "Do you have a chair I can use?" I asked the woman.

    "Take mine," she said, standing to her feet and leaves, book in hand.

    I took the chair and sank into it, summoning a smile to my face as I take Nana's hand into mine - something wet spreads between our skin. "It's good to see you, Nana," I called out, my voice strangely loud in such a quiet place. She didn't look at me, still staring through me, her eyes vacant. Her hair was white and pulled back by a golden hair thingy. Her eyes were glassy and vacant, sunk so deep behind her eyebrows that the skin follows them, a small gab before her eyelids start. Her mouth was open, moving, forming words that die before becoming audible. Something was wrong about the way she was talking and it took me a little to realize that her top teeth aren't following her jaw. Instead, they bounced with their own rhythm, showing more gums than should be normal, giving her the look of a horse. I fought a shudder.

    Finally, she seemed to notice I was there, her mouth frowning, her chest heaving as if she had to fight for each breath. I could feel her pulse racing in her wrist - her wrinkled skin one of the softest things I've ever felt. She reached up with a bony hand, caught a handful of my hair and pulled me towards her lips with surprising strength. In my mind, I could see the slimy green food that coated her teeth and tongue, I could see how she would pull me close, her breath moist in my ear, could feel her teeth clamping down and tearing off a chunk of flesh. "I'm thirsty," she gasps instead. I make a note to write that scene down in a story and pull out of her grasp easily.

    "Here's water, Nana!" I call, holding a cup of water up to her lips. She ignored it, her eyes fixed on mine.

    "Jesus," she said finally, her features transforming from worry to terror. I blinked, then made a mental note to shave.

    "Not Jesus, Nana! I'm Erik, remember? I'm here to take care of you!" I press the glass up against her lips again. "Here's water, you're thirsty, right?"

    She looked down at the glass, her tongue trying in vain to wet her lips. "This is your blood," she whispered, her eyes meeting mine. "I drink it in remembrance of you." Then, she opened her mouth and closed her eyes. My stomach churned and I felt sick, seeing the Communion ritual from a new perspective. Still, I tipped the cup and gave her a few shaky swallows, the "blood" baptizing her chin and sweater front.

    I sat with her then as she slipped in and out of coherency. She would cry for her sister, Jeanie, or she would mumble something about killing "him". It was hard to be there next to her, to witness her in such a broken, humble state. This was, after all, my Nana. Some of my first memories were at her house in California and she had always been there. I remembered all of the times we had driven down to her house, all of the times we had hiked, or walked, or played. I remembered her in her garden, bent over rows of plants and flowers that she loved so much.

    "Why do you look so sad?" she asked, tears rolling down her cheeks. "I don't want you to be sad."

    "I'm not sad, Nana," I lied. I've always known I was a good liar - I get told it often enough - and I believe it to be a useful skill. Still, I'm not used to it being so hard, so difficult to erase the feelings from my face and replace them with something that will bring her peace. "I'm happy because I'm with you."

    Getting old sucks and, as my mom says, it's not for the faint of heart. Part of me wonders if it's even worth it, allowing the body to melt away, the mind deteriorate. As I sat there, I saw myself killing her, claiming she died of natural causes. They'd discover otherwise, of course, and I saw my mom's broken expression, heard me try to explain that it was better this way, felt the police drag me off, the judge sentence me. It was hard to sit there by her side, watch her shrink back in terror at things that weren't there.

    "You sold me out," a voice said and I turned to look at the man who had tried to escape earlier. He was at his walker again and he grinned at me. "But they won't catch me next time. I found the sensor that they keep on me, and I know the code to the door." He laughed and started to hobble away.

    I felt something wet on my hand and turned around to see my Nana smiling at me, a large glob of drool dripping out of her mouth, down her cheek and onto my hand. "I love you," she said. I smiled back and covertly wiped my hand on a napkin.

    "I love you too, Nana," I said, but she couldn't hear me and was already distracted by something else, the old fear creeping back onto her face. Finally, she calmed down enough to bring her back to bed - an orderly lifted her there and wrapped her up tightly. I sat by her bed and she was still, her eyes open, but motionless. Occasionally, she swatted at the air and I would take her hand, stroke her hair, and get her to lay still again. I wanted to tell her to go to sleep, but I didn't want her to stay asleep. Just yesterday she was at my house, completely alert and cogent. They're going to prescribe her more medicine, hopefully cutting back on this sort of thing.

    I thought about what kind of ghosts would haunt me in my old age, what sort of things I would see if I were to slip from reality, what sort of visions my mind would conjure up. There are some who believe that the world is alive with spirits and I wondered if senility was a way of breaking through the veil that separated the worlds, granting one the sight that was blessedly kept from them all their lives. I looked at her and imagined my future wife wrinkled, broken, unable to recognize most of the ones she loved. I wondered how I would feel if that were here there in the bed. Would I love her? Would I be sad, or scared, or angry? Would I visit her, or would I avoid the place like the plague, not wanting the memories that it would bring?

    Finally, I left her, unable to sit in the room with her any longer. The orderly caught me and thanked me for coming. It was sweet of me, she said. I grunted something and tried not to run down the corridor, unable to keep from seeing her in the bed, so small in the sheets.

    "I love you," an old woman moaned, her thin arms pushing at her wheelchair, propelling herself down the hallway. She had a full head of white curly hair and bright blue eyes that were locked onto the man in front of her who was hobbling away in his walker.

    "Go away," he growled, trying to keep ahead of her. "They won't get me to stay by throwing you at me!" He saw me and glared, obviously linking me together with his predicament.

    "Take me with you," she said, her mouth in a determined line. "I won't slow you down, Henry!"

    I punched in the code, though part of me was tempted to burst through the doors and send the alarm screaming, make the orderlies scramble, to make a break for my car and see if they would catch me, drag me back, throw me into a wheelchair and clip a sensor to me. My heart beat quickly as I left and I got into my car.

    I drove to Safeway. I bought 3 lbs of ginger and a pound of blueberries.

    I'm going to make a drink so strong that if ghosts of that place followed me, they will melt away when I unleash its fury.

    It's my only hope.

  2. #2
    i think changing it all to present tense is indeed a good idea. and i wonder if the story wouldn't become more intense if the sentences that verbalize the narrator's feelings and thoughts weren't there. the situation makes it pretty easy to feel with the narrator anyway, and having to read about his feelings sort of weakens the identification rather than supporting it. leave the emotional reaction (and reflection) to the reader—is what i'd suggest. it'll also make the story a little shorter, which would help maintain tension. while i'm not all implying that it's bad!
    Last edited by allesfliesst; 08-26-2008 at 01:33 PM.

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