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Ghost Stories

The Question of Wind

The question of wind had come up once again, as we were sitting in the small living room of our friend, winds we had known—and, strangely enough, one of our first reminiscences blew in from the pages of a book. Our elderly poet reminded us of the winds of Marquez, swirling winds that picked up wayward goats, depositing them miles away on top of unexploited mountains, winds carrying the imperishable secrets of sold-out towns. From this literary highpoint we began to catalogue winds we had known: winds howling down tunnels and off the oceans, New York winds whipping around our legs as we made our way down Riverside Drive, winds that blew our dog’s ears straight up and winds that kept planes from landing. Winds that blew in from the mountains or the desert and over the farm lands but seldom winds that blew in from the cities. Winds that covered cemeteries and sports arenas with primal red sand, the grit of old failed earth, the corrosive grit of dreams dried up like another poet’s raisins. Wind, it turned out, was a hotbed of sensations, and how we made the winds fly in that cramped room where we waited lifetimes for our friend to die. Wind and turbulence whooshing through our hearts to end up the old-fashioned kind, deep in the gut, roaring to get out. Can’t keep a good wind down, one of us said, reaching for another slice of rye with marmalade.

And then we heard a mighty roar from our friend’s bedroom. What now, we thought—another less pervasive passage of air and then the words, loud and clear, “Who are these characters?” We shook our heads at each other. Because of our friend’s afflictions, gases rumbled around in her mortal frame and, every once in a while, would be expelled in mighty eruptions of wind, wind that threatened the stability of her pile of books and that made the little black dog huddle lower to the ground, hoping that like the angel of death, the wind would pass over him and find the golden retriever next door. Golden was the antithesis of the little black dog, it was all he knew he would never be. Sometimes we could see his dreams and there he was mounting a golden dog with a diamond choker somewhere on the exclusive beaches of Long Island. But if we tried to reassure him, to bend over him and tell him he too could find dazzling romance if he only took his black self to more appropriate national places, he would snap off our fingers. Not one for easy consolation was he.

“Who are these characters,” boomed out once again. She sounds good today, something is giving her the energy of righteous indignation, a little like righteous indigestion in our friend’s stomachless case, we said. One of her old lovers decided to risk peeking into the sickroom. Since our friend had told us she wanted to be cremated with her beloved TV clicker in her hand, we were used to the constant sound of TV news murmuring from under her bedroom’s door. By now she clicked in an unconscious state, a spastic reflex of her times, always changing the subject. Our spy could make out some gray-suited men trying to hold onto their hats in a high wet wind but not much more. “Let’s just listen,” she said, stepping over the dog, and resuming her seat with the other gathered conversationalists.

“Now look,” our friend was saying, “you mean to tell me that wind is an enemy plot, that somehow you found the money to divert it from the Capital where you all live high to a low-lying patch of land where nobody lives, at least no one that means anything. That you were just flying over when curiosity got the better of you. Now Brownie!” She sometimes did this, speaking to personages as if she knew them. “How did you get involved in all of this? The last time I saw you, you were mucking out the stable of some white knight—the source of your moniker, I always thought—looking forward to a few cold beers with the boys. Now you are pushing winds around! From shit to power over the universe—not a bad ride. Who are these characters—I saw some old white woman with rightly done hair, talking about her son, saying it hurt her feelings when people called him stupid—that this boy of hers really cared when thousands of poor folk had no more levee to protect them—that’s why he spends so much time in Texas where it is nice and flat and dry. Now, Brownie, I thought this is just some disappointed mother trying to keep some bad wind off her child but I was sure surprised when I discovered this much maligned child was the President of the United States. You know, Brownie, I lie here half in this world, half in the next and I got one question—can ghosts vote, Brownie? I mean do we still have a say, Brownie, we really do have a unique perspective or are we like the prisoners, locked away from family and their democratic rights—come on, Brownie, for old time’s sake, let the dead folk vote.” Brownie must have given her a hard time, because after a while she continued: “Okay, every time a ghost votes, a small wind will blow, shaking the leaves on the trees, the babies in their cradles, the hair on the heads of the boards of directors, rustling the dollar bills in the vaults and the pages of all kinds of bibles.” We realized in her delirium our friend was recreating a sentimental film favorite. Sentiment and failure of policy, she had often said, went hand in hand. No national days of prayer, she would say, just a good week of redistributing the wealth. Now that would change the direction of the wind. We laughed at her, knowing her days were numbered.

As darkness fell over our little group and silence returned to our friend’s room, we imagined we felt a small gust of wind, the kind a child would make when seeking some great lost thing.

Ghost Stories: Previous Entries

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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