The elementary school is haunted but no one knows it. The kids would be so excited if they did! The ghosts stroke the children’s necks and thighs and breathe into their ears. Being stroked is not why the kids would be excited. They would be excited just to know that ghosts are real.
The school janitor scrubs the backs of ghosts. He thinks he is scrubbing lockers, but the ghosts are pressed against them. It is not that the ghosts are dirty. They just like being touched.
The ghosts could intervene in the lives of the children, but they don’t. They could alter their test scores, usurp their bullies, visit their parents at night and remind them what is at stake. They could do all of those things and more, but they stack themselves in huge invisible pyramids on the floor of the school gym instead.
The teachers and students are not at war with each other, but they often pretend to be. It is a part of their training that no one talks about except for the ghosts, who like to gossip in the lunchroom. They like to pull pranks too. They lick the children’s sandwich meat with their dead tongues. Some children eat their sandwiches and smile at each other. Other children just poke at their food as if it were still alive.
The school’s mascot is a knight in shining armor. The children wear tee shirts with the knight on their chests when they are forced to wrestle and race each other in gym class. They carry banners with the knight on them at graduation. The knight doesn’t have a face. He is only a suit of armor with an empty black space inside.
The teachers pretend to care about the knight but most of them forget he exists as soon as they get in their cars.
Some of the teachers wouldn’t believe in ghosts if they saw them. They would just think, “Oh. Another student. Take a seat.”
The children will never be prepared for life and the ghosts understand this. It is obvious to them. The teachers will never be prepared either. There is no such thing as being prepared.
During Pep Rallies, the ghosts sing the school’s alma mater. The song is like a prayer to them and very solemn, although they do not pronounce the words. They sing long vowel sounds instead. The words are not important.
There is one teacher who is always asking, “What is wrong with the world today?” as if the children should know the answer. They have no idea. They have not seen much of the world yet and the teacher knows this but he asks them anyway. He asks his wife the same question at home and she doesn’t know either. The ghosts know the answer though. They whisper it to each other on the swing set at night. “There is nothing wrong with the world,” they say. “This is the way it is supposed to be.”
Timmy Reed is a writer from Baltimore, Maryland. He has recently published or has work forthcoming from a number of places including Akashic Books, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Greying Ghost Press, and Alice Blue Review. He edits the What Lit section of What Weekly magazine and recently published a collection of stories, Tell God I Don't Exist. Learn more here.
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