Ghost Story, October 6, 2018

So . . . here’s my ghost story.

When I was little my dad would sometimes take me to work with him on teacher planning days. It was fun to see his classroom, and all the individual activity stations he’d set up for his students. While he was busy with lesson plans and department meetings I’d rummage through the old paperbacks he kept in the corner, for when his students had earned free time, or wander the halls with the promise I wouldn’t leave the building.

So I was maybe seven years old when this happened. I was walking down the hall a few doors down from my dad’s classroom, and I turned the corner to the library. It was an older campus, full of big wooden doors and heavy transoms, and the library double doors seemed grandiose compared to the plain steel doors I was used to.

The lights were off but sunlight poured through the windows, illuminating the entire space. I walked in, hoping maybe to find something interesting (preferably something about Greek or Roman mythology; one of my favorite movies back then was the original Clash of the Titans), but the books in the high school library were significantly denser the ones in my elementary school. After wandering around for a bit I walked up to the desk to ask the librarian if she had any “books about monsters.”

She had short brown hair highlighted with bits of gray, and gave a pleased grin that stretched wide and deep red when I asked her my question. I think the frames of her glasses were a similar shade of red, but I could just be misremembering.

“You know,” she said enthusiastically, walking out from behind the counter, “we sure do!” She walked quickly but easily, and I double-timed it to keep up. She took me to a stack near the center of the room, and pulled out a wide, heavy reference book and handed it to me. “That’s got every monster in the world in it! Not to heavy for ya, is it?”

I told her no and thanked her and sat down at a table. I was absorbed in the pictures and descriptions and folkloric history, and I didn’t keep track of time. I started to feel hungry, and remembering the sandwich my pop had in the staff fridge, I closed the book and looked up to tell the librarian I was heading out. I was a very important seven-year-old, you see. But she was gone, probably taking her lunch.

So I made my way back to my dad’s classroom and pestered him for grub, and as we walked down to the break room he asked me where I’d been. He hadn’t truly been worried (he knew I wasn’t one to wander where I shouldn’t go), but he joked that he was gonna call me on the intercom if I’d been gone any longer.

I told him where I’d been, who I met, and about the book I’d read. “Huh!” he said as he popped coins into the soda machine. “I didn’t think the librarians were coming in till tomorrow!” And then we ate and he let me talk about cartoons for a half hour.

Afterward while my pops got back to work, I walked back down to the library, wanting to read more of “the monster book,” but this time the doors didn’t open. The blinds were drawn across the windows now, and it was noticeably darker inside, but enough light came through the cracks that I could make out my book on its table. I looked over at the front desk, and behind it I could see several portraits. They hung in two neat rows, and some had little black ribbons tied around a corner.

In the top row, at the far end, I could barely make out a smiling face, with what seemed like red-rimmed glasses, and short hair that may have had streaks of gray. But I couldn’t quite make it out. It was dark, after all. But even in the dark I could make out a little black ribbon, tied tight around the corner of the frame.

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