‘The council started turning the light off after twelve,’ she tells me, head tipped back as she squints towards the spot above us where a bulb should be blazing. The dark means we can’t see chewing gum stuck to the pavement beneath us, or worse the dog shit stains clinging to the concrete slabs.
She’s continues staring upwards, but tips her head to the leg slightly, angling herself my way.
‘He’s dating again. Met her at the village green when he went to try his hand at bowls. He’s crap, but on Wednesdays she’s always there to make him a cup of tea and sneak him a bourbon from the club tin.’
The street light splutters into life and we both frown.
‘Strange…’ she hums. ‘I was sure the papers said… oh well never mind.’ She drops her head and her neat, grey perm stays exactly as it should. ‘Are you busy these days?’
‘Busy?’ I repeat. I think about it for a moment, then shrug. ‘I suppose I’m busier than I was, but I’ve been working on getting some help to handle the bigger cases. That makes things easier.’
She hums again, and nods her head.
Across the road a light comes on in the bungalow with a gravel driveway. The curtains twitch, then settle, and the light goes out.
‘Her name’s Edith, or Edna I think. Not many of those left these days, though I hear the old names are coming back into fashion.’ She brushes her hands down her trousers and fiddles with a loose thread. ‘He might even love her.’
‘That’s good isn’t it?’ I ask, and know it’s a mistake as soon as the words are out. She shivers and closes her eyes.
‘It’s good,’ she replies eventually, but her voice quivers. ‘It will cut me-‘
‘Free?’ I suggest.
‘Loose,’ she finishes. ‘There will be no more anchor for me here.’
‘There’s no such thing as un-tethered souls,’ I remind her. ‘Once he moves on you will find your place.’
She laughs and the bulb above us hisses and flickers.
‘The stories always tell us that it’s the dead who move on to another place and leave the living behind. I didn’t think it would be the other way round.’
‘Life is often back to front and upside down,’ I say. ‘Why should death be anything different?’
‘Why indeed.’ She bites her lip and presses the back of her hand to her mouth.
‘I hate all this watching,’ she admits and scowls at the little bungalow with the gravel drive. ‘I hope she gets him to weed a bit more often, the place is starting to look like a jungle.’
I squint at the single dandelion near the drive’s edge, then feel her take my hand in her own.
‘Thank you,’ she says, squeezing my palm. Her’s are warm, and soft, mine not so much but she holds onto it anyway.
‘It’s no trouble,’ I tell her. ‘You are my responsibility after all.’
She smiles and pats our hands with her spare one.
‘Soon,’ she promises. ‘You will take me home soon.’
Ghosts don’t haunt us. That’s not how it works. They’re present among us because we won’t let go of them.
I stumbled onto the quote above on Paul Vincent Cannon’s site. He’s written a lovely poem bases on it, and after I read the poem I went back to the quote and thought ‘there’s a story here.’ So I decided it was time for some Friday Flash Fiction. It’s mostly free-write, with the odd tweak and typo fix here and there, but it was a fun little exercise sparked by a fantastic quote.
Who says inspiration is a myth.