Stop Boring the Ghost Who Might Haunt You

Do the crossword out loud. Read two-minute mysteries into the air, but put down the book and take a bath so she has time to solve them. Play Scrabble against yourself, over days, on an actual board. Bring home dull men and ask them to talk dirty. Scroll slowly through shoe-shopping websites. Dress the cats in fancy superhero capes and feed them catnip. Drunk-dial a phone psychic on speaker. Tape maps and the periodic table of elements to the wall; quiz her later on the noble gases and routes north. Plant pepper seeds in Dixie cups. Leave your browser open to weather cams aimed at snow squalls and super cells. Invite neighborhood children inside so she can hear their language: we went swimming the day under this one. Teach the kids knock-knocks. Cash who?
Narrate your body’s anxieties so she can diagnose. Ask her: what is this violent flutter in my belly sometimes? Why are my breasts so much warmer than my shoulders all the time? What about the lump in my throat, my period every five weeks, the ten-year-old scar from a tiny scratch that never even bled? What does it mean that I can feel my left fourth toe all the time, that my toe feels?
Your ghost may not know medicine. She may have been a bookkeeper at the bread factory before she died, or swept cuttings at a flower shop. Maybe she’s from an age far, far under this one and spent all day doing everybody else’s laundry. But she knows you didn’t fall over dead when she left. She might even think you’re lucky. Your puzzling body can still touch objects, and your mouth can make noise and eat food, and your feet— if you finally let them—could take you out into the world.

Jennifer A. Howard teaches and edits Passages North at Northern Michigan University, in Michigan’s upper peninsula. Her collection of short-short stories, How to End Up, was published by New Delta Review.