Thursday, March 7, 2013

ready or not ready or not

This night the fire cracked and the dog, restless, ran out into the orchard, and the mice in the walls ran and ran and ran, preparing their nests for winter, and I was awake. There was no reason for me to be awake, but in the cold light of the moon I could hear the mice in the walls and I could hear the dog in the orchard and I could hear the ashes of the woodstove settling and I saw the ghost sleeping in my bed. She was very old, very, very old. This surprised me the most, for I did not know anyone as old as the woman sleeping in my bed. She had grey hair braided in two braids, neat long braids, and she slept in a pointy hat which I thought might be red, the moon was so bright it looked like a red hat, and grey braids, and hands wrinkled, wrinkled, skin so translucent and papery white that it glowed in the moonlight.

It was her glowing that made me wonder if maybe she was a ghost, and then I looked at my hands in the white white moonlight and saw that they glowed, too, except my hands didn't have wrinkles, they had cuts and scratches and dirt under the nails that I was supposed to wash away but always forgot to. Then I wondered if the old woman was maybe a ghost because she glowed so bright, and if I also glowed so bright, was I a ghost, too? I didn't want to be a ghost.  I didn't want to be a child, and I didn't want to be a grown-up, but there were lots of things I wanted to do that ghosts couldn't do, like jump in piles of leaves and swing up higher than the roof of the house and turn somersaults underwater in the lake and raise tadpoles into baby frogs in jars in my bedroom and watch their tails disappear and eat chocolate cake. I was pretty sure ghosts didn't eat chocolate cake, although maybe I was wrong. I didn't really know, it wasn't the type of question grown-ups liked me asking and I hadn't met any other ghosts before.