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Ghost Stories

There She Goes Again

There she goes again, dreaming of better days, said one of the gathered old friends. I know that moan anywhere and this time, it sure ain’t pain. “Oh, she sure did like her women papas, never thought she’d settle down but then there’s no telling what any of us would do once the days pile up.” Again the moan and this time the little black dog rolled over on his back and spread his legs. “Nothing to show off there,” one of us cracked. The night was long and our knees ached. We needed to change the subject. A voice from the back of the room contributed, “What she loved most of all was a good forearm.” Then another chimed in: “Yep, it was the promise of all that thrust, she sure did love that thrust.”

“You’re making her sound like Cape Canaveral.”

Then the Red Head twanged, “You know I come from a timber-milling family; for two generations we have hewn and stacked slabs of antipodean hardwoods, our hands are calloused and our noses large. That was what she saw in my arms, I believe, the veins made large by hauling big ideas around. The thrust of big ideas, I wore them on every knuckle and she took them all in. Pass the beer, will ya.”

“Thrust is an interesting thing in a woman,” said the Mid-Westerner. Like our friend, we were a mixed bag, geographically speaking. “I remember the afternoon she watched me whip up an angelfood cake, my arm bulging with the effort of pushing that forth into cream; she was sighing with every whip, worrying, I found out later, there would be nothing left for her.” And as we knew she would, the Mid-Westerner laughed low and with a false kind of Kansas modesty said, “Of course, she had nothing to worry about.” You see, thrusting is a two way street, it comes and it goes.

There must have been a good thirty of us packed into that small room, listening for changes in breathing, lapses in dreams. And here we were, filling the hours with our own special moments of remembered intrusions. A middle-aged auburn-haired friend, sitting with her long legs over the knees of the most patient of us all, who spoke with the soft drawl of the Louisiana delta country started to sing her Cajun song about cowboy boots treading the boards of a cowgirl bar in the lowlands. “As the moon came up,” she added once the song was finished and we were all sitting very still, “I kindly, with my red-nailed fingers and perfumed ways, made my way into her.”

Late into the night we told our stories, our tall tales of wanted intrusions. We had painted her walls, with hands dipped into our own vocations—printer’s hands, bookkeeper’s hands rough with calluses, child-carer hands, carpenter nails, low bitten because that is how we had all learned to do it. Horserider’s nails, poet’s ink-stained fingers and at the end, one of the oldest friends, though not around much anymore, told of her soldier’s hands, on a week-end leave, fleeing into our friend. “Oh, did she grip me, the best AWOL I ever did. I remember like it was yesterday, or maybe tomorrow, another war, but the same pull between one intrusion and another—how I wanted to stay, one hand buried in that warm place, my dog tags bouncing on her breasts, she whispering freedoms in my ear, but I had to go, had to be part of an invading army. She in there, she knew the difference between one kind of penetration and another.” Our heads nodded in the night, no oil wells in there, no prisons or medals or god’s will, no lands to own, no people to subjugate, no axes to grind, no profits, no nations wanting the world’s all without giving anything back, except that good old free market, no manifest destinies—wait, stop, stop, it’s just our dying friend’s sexual pleasure we are talking about—not the United Nations. All you needed was her open-door policy and a little thrust.

Maybe the little dog had heard the word “dog” but it had left its usual position outside the closed door and now stood on the threshold of our gathering. Hey, look at that—he’s got something for us. Knowing our fear of him, he dropped the small teeth-marked piece of paper at the foot of the most patient of us. “It’s from Her,” she said in a hushed voice. “I can live without god but not without Marx,” she read out. Well, there you go. She sure is going to need a lot of thrust to get where she is going.

What I'm Reading...
Sharon and My Mother-in-Law: Ramallah Diaries, by Suad Amiry

Sharon and My Mother-in-Law, by Suad Amiry (London: Granta Books, New York: Pantheon Books, 2005).
With humor, rage and irony, Amiry depicts the brutal absurdities of life in Ramalla under the Israeli occupation.

Ghost Stories: Previous Entries

11 September 2005The Question of Wind
30 August 2005The Death of a Ghost
21 August 2005On-Going Reflections about Grassroots Archiving
9 August 2005Dear friends, readers and Web explorers...
16 May 2005Aging in a Time of War

© 2005 Joan Nestle

It has been brought to my attention that because of my long silences, some concerned readers might think that “Ghost Stories” is about my death bed. I have been advised that, given the present climate about the need for clear literary categories, I should make clear I am still upright and making trouble in my own way. The irony of it all is that I have never felt so real as a writer as when I write my ghost stories. If you do read them, please let me know what you think. ~ Joan

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