Night has fallen through the screen door out in the back yard. Bugs humming out there, batting themselves against the porchlight.

—Ghost be walkin everywhere. Here. There. Down by the river. River full of ghost.

Five children hunched over a kitchen table covered in newspapers. Eggs and egg dye in front of them. Some half-colored eggs in egg cartons, their dyed halves drying in the still kitchen air still smelling of spaghetti. Adults in the other room. Kids picking up uncolored eggs with wire hooks. Dipping them in bowls of dye; in the bottom of those bowls, little undissolved wafers of dye fizz.

—You ever hear of Pee River? continues RC.

—What? No, says Joe.

—Back up the canyon. Pee River’s where some bad shit went down.

RC and Joe are cousins. The other three kids at the table, all girls, and younger, giggle amongst themselves about the eggs and talk of chocolate bunnies, not really noticing the conversation between their two older cousins.

—Like what? asks Joe.

—There was a ghost back up in there. Would get inside ya. Make ya do things. To girls.

Joe shivers a little, dips his little wire hook into and out of a bowl of pink egg dye.

—Uh-huh.

RC goes on: —Yeah. Ghost has the run a the place back up in them woods. Right outta town. Still up there I heared. Ghost walkin everywhere.

The adults, three sets of parents and a grandmother are in the sitting room next door. Not really visible but their words drift under the swinging saloon-style kitchen doors:

—Right there in the church?

—Yep. Passed out. Cold.

—Christ. Did he hit his head or something. On the way down.

—Naw. He was OK.

—He hadn’t eaten anything. And it was the long Latin mass. And the incense.

—Those take forever. Poor lil Joey.

—Yeah. And he was close to her. A pallbearer. He’d never been to anything like that before.

—He said something. When he came to.

—Yeah? What?

—About the last thing he remembered hearing. Just before he fainted.

In the kitchen, the three little girls pick up their eggs and disappear out into the backyard, the screen door banging shut behind them. Joe looks across the table at RC. Who smiles underneath bangs bleached blonde by the summer sun.

—Shit, man, he mutters, shaking his head.

—What, asks Joe.

—Ghost, man. That’s all. Bad-ass, man. Ghost. Makin people do things they don’t wanna do.

—Yeah.

—That’s bad-ass.

Back in the sitting room, coming in from under the saloon-style kitchen doors:

—Uh-huh.

—It was about the Holy Ghost.

—In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti.

—No, something else.

—What then.

—He heard Veni, Sancte Spiritus. He knew it meant Come, Holy Ghost.

—Hmm. And so?

—Said he thought the Holy Ghost was coming to get him, coming to take him over, or take him away, or something.

—And that, ladies and gentleman, is why the Catholic—

—Shut up. No one wants to hear it, Lou.

The girls bolt back in from outside, slamming the screen door behind them and crashing through the saloon-style kitchen doors, past the adults, on their way to one of the bedrooms in the rear of the bungalow. They have colored eggs in their hands and flowers in their hair and are laughing.

RC pushes back from the kitchen table, egg dye on his fingers and newsprint smeared on his bare forearms.

—You got any money, he asks.

—Some, replies Joe.

—Cool. Let’s go get some candy.

Joe gulps, his adam’s apple bobbing up and down his skinny neck. Nods his head.

—Cool.

RC yells into the sitting room: —Ma! We’re goin down to Blackie’s.

The boys head for the screen door. RC pauses:

—Hey man.

—Yeah.

—What’s up with that fainting at Gram’s funeral?

Joe gulps again, then brushes past him, into the night, past the bugs and porchlight, sucking in huge draughts of nocturnal sea air and heading for the alley.

Advertisements