“Ghosts and the Show” by Dan Vierck

             It’s easy, it’s nice. Gideon lives not far from the store, six city blocks. The pizza place red, the thread place bluish, the bong place black, green, the video store purple, the leather place black, red. Seeing himself in the windows, hunched looking mysterious and cool, brooding – the young man. Hoodie, hat, Zune, shoes and out. Hands in his pockets, looking cool. Walking and brooding, easy and nice.
             The woman begins to sing. That’s how “I Remember” begins. Damien Rice’s “I Remember” from O. He remembers Liz. Lost now, but when he found her it was in the bowling alley. Love for the first time, at Varsity Lanes. Both are sirens, sound and sight. Both are bewitching and irresistible, go ahead and try. Walking, listening, he’s trying to avoid even this, this thing like a trap, the ambush of how he remembers things. Maybe if he skips ahead before, no, it’s too late already. Tricked. Memory strong enough here to distract him from walking in a straight line.
             Gideon to his friend at Varsity Lanes: Is she a model?
             Gideon undoes his flashy dragon shirt. Ditches it. Ditches the funny hat, the ironic him. She was so put together, Liz. Black felt coat and a boyfriend, that awkward accessory. The coat was in fashion but you wouldn’t have known. She wore it like that. Out of fashion, in permanence. He breathes before he bowls and he aims, less yabba dabba do. Less Fred Flinstone. Bowling to impress, here now.
             Patrick, Gideon’s friend, to Gideon: No. And he laughed.
             In the song when she’s singing “taxied out of a storm to watch you perform” Gideon imagines that it’s an analogy or metaphor for how she affected his life. Every song applies to him, but this one absolutely and concretely. She was the taxi. Yellow, black, checked, clean, pristine exactness of the concept of taxi cab. Liz let him in, picked him up. Delivered him from the slump he was in, taxi becomes salvation and deliverance. Delivered him unto a Zen happy existence. She wrote carpe diem on his calendar. Everyday of all of his calendars, with her presence in his Zen happy contentedness.
             When the lady sings, she keeps singing, when she sings “And my ships were sailing,” he likes to, loves to, has to, just does, anyway, thinks “my juices were flowing.” Damien Rice songs get sexy. He and Liz never got sexy. Soul close but not body close. He’s in front of the bong store. She sings: “I want you here tonight / ‘cause I can’t believe what I found.” Gideon in his one, white one bedroom apartment, in his four dour coupe, under the sky, above the ground, doesn’t need to imagine that. He wants her like she was when they were next to the river. Her profile is best, he knows, when the sky is behind it. He wants her like she was at movie parties, tossing wet candy around. He wants her like in her basement, except, this time no one goes home. Home is here, home is here, right here, with him. Him is how he wants it.
             Damien’s lyrics for “I Remember” are strange. There’s one verse. Odd verse. Another he doesn’t sing. On the floor, standing still, driving, Gideon is listening to it as the world is crumbling around him, as Jesus risen is picking teams he is listening to it. With his good headphones, his Bose headphones. It goes: “I want to hear / what you have to say about me / I want to hear / are you gonna live without me.”
             So he passes the hardware store, he’s walking quickly, catch it on the flipside. Lightbulbs, trash bags and paper plates. Hands in his pocket with the Zune on shuffle, and it jumps delightfully, some days, from the Hives to Johnny Horton to Farewell to Twilight to Elvis Perkins Sondre Lerche Nirvana Beck Margot Fiona Regina Joanna Styx, to some fun pop band he doesn’t remember uploading. And then “I Remember” comes on and it’s not like it is when he’s laying on the floor, with his headphones on and the moon getting an eyeful, the window is always open so his head can Peter Pan. It’s not like that, but his headphones walking are okay, so it’s kinda like that. Today he repeats the song. The muscles in his neck collapse and he goes bobble-headed, arrhythmic. His hands go slack in his pockets and his shoes skid across the gravel. Which he doesn’t hear, even low volume. His ears get blinders, they’re focus kings. Well trained, dedicated clung, swore, a sense of purpose.
             Ghosts sing the songs – they are a choir inside him. He’s stopped to think about it. No, still in motion but absent. Diverted, swept up and away. Aloof, less cool, it’s okay though – he doesn’t notice. There are those first high little strums, that sound, it’s a ghost call to arms, a memory call to arms and a choir of ghouls is assembled. The music comes through the little machine, the little computer, he knows, but that’s only literally, one part. That’s dead echoes. Plastic machines. No. Ghosts are alive inside him singing. These ghosts live somewhere, inside him of course, otherwise – they wouldn’t be close enough to assemble like that. So quickly. Between his layers of skin, maybe, or in some corridor, some artery, when the machine cues it they do their thing. It’s a cue, is all, a switch. Flick, he imagines the plastic, the dead thing laughing, consciously the catalyst of wickedness. They, the ghosts, race through him, soar through him, howling, until his whole body is somewhere between numb, Neptune blue cold and seared, white bright star raw.
              There is a pocket of ghosts, they’re little ghosts with round tops and ragged bottoms, playing little ghost instruments in each of Gideon’s appendages. Skinny worm ghost arms no boney joints, just, wafting like boiled spaghetti. Ghost violins, a ghost double stand up bass, ghost drums and some violent ghost guitar. I mean, the ghost is playing it with animalistic rage. Gideon’s right wrist is twitching, just a little, that must be where the ghostarist is. Gideon falls out of the stupor, reflecting, surprised the guitar is still there after all the beatings but then he remembers, oh, it’s a ghost guitar. The ghost guitar will always be there forever. The ghost will. He lulls back into his ghost apocalypse.
             The singer singing ghosts, they bug their eyes and race through him like they have gills and air passing through the gills is how they sing. They are so fast. This all might be true, very true. It might be very true. Blood cells dragging caskets through the streets, the blushing rotting bodies that used to be full of sensations decay, break down into their elements, elements mingle with elements, become revelations. The gastrointestinal enterprise. It’s gastrointestinal confabulation.
             The jackass ghosts, there are some, and they’re putting on a show. A whole big production circus show. A puppet act, wardrobe in spades, perfect spades. Crowned perfect clothes. An Italian kissing his fingers, rolling his mustache with his tear, one tear. One puppet, silly ear flopping puppet, the foil – you can tell he’s dressed like Goofy. A dog in overalls. Success’s Lex Luther is a dog in overalls. She’s dressed as if and it must be Liz – like Jessica Rabbit. Audrey Hepburn cast, perfectly, playing Jessica Rabbit. This beguiling powerhouse. This mustang in chartreuse. He must be Goofy. She must be her. A ghost is exactly who should play her ‘cause she didn’t move she floated, he knows. He’s a clod and his body is out of control and that American male voice that taught Goofy how to ski – isn’t there. A dog. In a vest and jeans, bumble-umbling around and gravely mistaking civility for something else. Something else entirely.
             At the end of the show at the end of the song in le grande denouncement, Goofy takes one knee and tries to pass off a piece of string with some glitter, a little glitter, as something else. Earnestly, something else entirely.
             The silence at the end of the song is crushing. He winces like feedback. And it’s noticeable on the sidewalk, he’s not alone. Well, kind of. It’s needles and dry heaves. Electrocution just enough to know it’s there growling. It is the inability to make a sound in a situation, in a dream, where you need to speak – to escape. Whatever comes after that song, Bob Dylan or Mary Oliver, doesn’t matter, it pales. Nintendo sounds farted by a toddler. He should delete the song. Just delete the song. Delete. Delete her? And the ghost that plays her plays her so well – red dressed ideal and iconic Jessica Rabbit. Played by Audrey Hepburn? The mustang in chartreuse. Live without color – life is too easy without this – to live outside of the circus? Why – here he can see her! Living here he can see her.
Dan Vierck recently graduated from Southwest Minnesota State University and will be pursuing his MFA at Vermont College of the Fine Arts. He is the co-editor of Title Fights, a prompt-centric e-journal found at titlefights.blogspot.com. He is solidly Midwestern and has been reading Gogol’s Dead Souls, Barthelme’s Not-Knowing and Bible Stories for Young Readers.

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