It is a bad time to be a ghost what with all the hunters out there. But they persevere living in the smallest of towns they can find. For some, it means going home. Too many give up their mansions or boughs, their smoke in favor of oiled boots and two pairs of socks. They float down the heavy asphalt highway from the bowling alley to the bar like they are on a booze cruise and they regale each other with stories of their living days. One reaches down and moves a pebble closer to the ditch to prove he is not useless. Company trucks parked in every driveway. The refinery is so far from the crude oil here it’s easy to forget what it becomes. Where it is from. Lilac steeps in the humidity curling the corner of a ghost’s former home. He remembers his wife planting it, waking to the taste in his mouth like syrup from a freezer pop. In life they were so poor they could only afford to open one door a day. What dim logic tied him to the pumpjacks of his youth? His son still leaves small piles of food in remembrance. He lost his arm before he died, and has spent years looking in every hole a pulling unit opens. He finds himself in the crow’s nest, on the pipe rack, atop the horse head of the pumpjack wishing he could feel the easy shade of a cloud covering the sun. They can’t afford to leave now, the ghosts back home. For them the street hovers an inch above the ground. For them, the low cool of the ground is distant as the moon. As morning approaches they retire dragging their chains back to the beds of their trucks. They might soon pull a man’s arm out of a well. The empty streets and closed-up shops and the séances rattling from the machines they were born feeling in their feet are kinda big with the ghosts back home. Their stories don’t scare anyone, but in the spare moment of twilight they still write.
Dustin Parsons an Assistant Professor of English at Fredonia State University. He served as nonfiction editor for Mid-American Review for five years and was the recipient of a NYFA Nonfiction grant and an Ohio State Arts Grant in nonfiction. He has work appearing or forthcoming in American Literary Review, Fourth River Review, Seneca Review, and I-70 Review. He lives in Western New York with his wife, poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil, and their two sons.
Asked what old thing he would be, he replied, “I’d be the castle rock formation in western Kansas—a limestone formation left over from the glacial retreat, I’d look like craggly twenty-foot-tall fingers rising up out of the hard pan in the valley of Gove County, Kansas. I’d have been subject to the winds and the elements, blowing small breath-fulls of my self away, for nearly 700,000 years.”
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