Friday, October 8, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Ghost Dancer

“Come on!” Anne called, waving her sister over. “Lawrence’s sweethearting with a ghost.”

Patricia and Anne crept under his window. They hid behind the shadow of his flatscreen monitor. Outside it was pitch black, contrasting against his lit bedroom.

All he had were the computer and the bed, but you’d look at Lawrence no matter what else was around. He was 6’4” at 17 years old, and puberty still hadn’t given him enough fat or muscle to carry the height. He was a scrawny giant, with long legs and fingers. A human scarecrow. There was something wrong with his right knee, such that he couldn’t help but walk awkward. It was like God left a KICK-ME sign on his back.

But there was something more to look at tonight. His bed was pushed to one corner, leaving the floor empty. He stood the straightest they’d ever seen him, hands extended in front of him, holding nothing. One was low, where a woman’s hip might be, while the other was high, as though on a shoulder. His bad leg led him two steps here, then pivoting and taking two steps there.

Anne canted her head. “I think he’s waltzing with her.”

Patricia looked from Lawrence to Anne and back again, like this would share whatever the other two were seeing.

“Waltzing with who? I think he’s going mad.”

“No.” Anne rested her elbows on the windowsill, watching Lawrence dreamily. “He’s dancing with a ghost girl.”

Patricia scrunched up her forehead. “There’s nobody there.”

“Dunce, she’s transcendent.” Anne waggled her nose in the air, glorying in this bit of vocabulary. “Can’t you see her gown? It’s frilly, like Nana’s curtains. He keeps almost stepping on it.”

Patricia focused on her brother’s feet. They shuffled deliberately – either he was neurotic, or was trying to avoid somebody’s feet. She glanced up and saw his lips moving.

“Is he whispering to himself?”

“Poor Lawrence.” Anne sighed at the sky. It was nighttime in Heaven. “He was so lonely that he found a girl from beyond the grave.”

“That’s crazy.” Patricia pushed her. “Crazy’s what he’s doing. Dancing all alone.”

Lawrence looked at the window and both of them ducked behind the monitor. They were grateful that Dad had gotten him a widescreen for Christmas. The two girls stayed down, not even breathing for fear it would give them away. When the window didn’t clatter open, the sisters peered at each other.

Patricia pinched Anne on the shoulder. “Tell me you didn’t really see anyone.”

“I did, too.” Anne sucked her lips inward, turning her mouth into an angry line. “She’s ravishing. I’m happy for him.”

“There’s nobody there. Come on.”

They rose just high enough for their eyes to peek over the sill. Lawrence was still dancing in an ugly square with his invisible bride. His hands were stable, even if his right leg kept trembling for position. He was definitely mouthing something.

“I’m looking,” said Anne. “I see the prettiest girl in the world. She’s got blonde hair, braided like Mom won’t let me do mine. And her eyes are like the moon. I think he’s talking to her.”

“He’s talking to himself. Besides, ghosts wouldn’t look like that. They’re dead.”

“Well what do they look like?”

Patricia folded her arms. “Like nothing.”

“If you don’t see anything, and ghosts look like nothing, then how isn’t she a ghost?”

Patricia was a year older, but that only made her eleven. It didn’t give her a good answer. She watched the nothing-girl in her brother’s arms. The absence of a bosom pressed to his chest, and the absence of legs matching his steps. The nothingness that hesitated just as long as his bad knee did, matching his strides and following his lead. Even if she wasn’t there, she was more elegant than he was. It was nice for him to get such a dance partner.

She squeezed her eyes closed.

“Maybe I’m crazier than he is.”

She opened them to find Anne glaring at her with pure ethereal intensity. It was like Anne saw ghosts in her now.

“Don’t you call him crazy. He found love.”

“I’ll call you crazy. And so what?” she said with the conviction of the convert. “You think he’s got a ghost girlfriend. Either he’s gone mad or gone wizard.”

“Necromancy? Oh, that’s unnatural. I thought maybe she came to him.” Anne’s fire was doused. Her eyes blinked and flickered in worry. “What are we going to do with him?”

“Maybe we can ask to meet her, and talk it out.”

“You can’t ask to meet your brother’s ghost girlfriend.” Anne shook her head so rapidly it almost gave away their location. “It might break the spell.”

“Or get you committed.”

Lawrence’s great shadow approached the window. This time they darted away altogether, not wanting to be caught by his phantom lover or whatever virus was eating his brain stem. They hid under the porch and prayed he wasn’t an evil wizard now.

“One, two, three,” he repeated to himself. “One, two, three.”

He didn’t even notice them. Lawrence bent over the monitor and clicked a Related Video, starting up the next Waltz practice on Youtube. He’d get this eventually. He was glad nobody ever saw him practice this. He couldn’t imagine what it looked like.


  1. Nothing beats the imagination of a young girl. Except maybe 2 young girls.

  2. Sweet. The video link was a nice touch.

  3. Nothing like a furtive imagination. I used to drive myself crazy with the things I imagined as a kid. Love this because it feels completely authentic. I would have come up with something like that at the same age.

  4. great description of the physical akwardness of Lawrence

    marc nash

  5. I had no idea YouTube videos were a means of demonic possession and necromancy!

    Better spread the word, eh?

  6. “If you don’t see anything, and ghosts look like nothing, then how isn’t she a ghost?”

    Hard to argue with that logic. Fun piece John!

  7. Very sweet; I love the relationships between the girls and their brother, the tenderness towards him. Tender stuff, John. Peace...

  8. Sweet story. I like the bond between the sisters, and the obvious affection they have for their brother. The twist at the end was very good.

  9. I was kind of hoping he did have a ghost girlfriend :-) Sweet little picture of siblings and growing up.

  10. I wish it had really been their version. Waltz lessons on YouTube is far too tame. :) Great story!

  11. I was hoping for a ghost girlfriend, too, but I think you went with the better option. Too funny.

  12. This is amazing, John! Brilliantly done. Fantastic.

  13. Aw, this is so sweet John. What's the matter with you? Just kidding. ;)
    This was truly fun. If you hadn't had the wide screen and YouTube in there I would've thought this was set in the early 1900s, given their names and language. Great story.

  14. Enjoyed this the whole way through, and the ending got me to laugh out loud. Loved the imagination the girls possessed. And I think my favorite line has to be: “If you don’t see anything, and ghosts look like nothing, then how isn’t she a ghost?” That's great reasoning there. Good story!

  15. Cute! Young girls have such imagination.

  16. Aww. That made my laugh out loud too! I love your description of Lawrence, I really saw him.

  17. There are some nice touches in this very pleasant story, I too liked the logic of the sentence " If you don't see anything... etc"

    I was pretty sure there was a twist coming, but wasn't sure what it would be. :)

  18. And here I was awwing over his relationship with a ghost girl, and you had to go and ruin my little daydream. I laughed at the last line, though.

    And then spent ten minutes watching youtube videos of waltz lessons :-P

  19. It was quite cute but no bad thing, was a really great punchline.

  20. Got to love the imagination! :)
    I liked the ghost girl idea!

    What a great story!

  21. Just got home from a day with Mom. Gave her a good birthday, but it was exhausting. So nice to read all these responses.

    This story actually came about when I was teaching myself to waltz via Youtube. Had to give my "instructor" the shout out. Though I live on the second floor, I wondered what I'd look like.

  22. I just loved the descriptions of Lawrence. The girls had me laughing, how true of sisters, and their brother. What a fantastic story. Thank you.

  23. This was just beautiful. You have captured the ungainliness of adolescence so well and the conspiratorial nature of little sisters. And a wonderful warmth between the siblings.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  24. This was a nifty read, John... Trying to teach yourself the waltz, eh?

    I'd say your summary line worked...

  25. This is great! How deceiving looks can be...

  26. This was a great read, i really enjoyed peeping with the two younger sisters at their brother dancing the awkward dance. Is he preparing for a prom partner he'll never have or has yet to pluck up the courage to ask?
    I also love the way the girls flex their growing language ability.

  27. You do such a cool job with these little shorts. The end was a cute reveal, I figured the one girl was right and he was dancing with Mary Jane....

  28. Lovely ... I could see Lawrence and had a sense of the girls; I kind of agree with whoever said that if it wasn't for the computer, etc., it could have been a story set in an earlier time.

  29. You destroyed my fantasy too, although you did it remarkably well. Smooth and funny transition from dreamland to real life.

    I'd like to see how you'd look like practicing. Maybe in tattered purple pants? hehhe :P

  30. The creative minds of little girls. Mine is 11 - I know these things. LOL I loved the story, John. I really wished he had a ghost lover, but you got a smile out of me at the end. And for the record, I'm sure you looked like a crazy person. :) But did the lessons work?

  31. Lovely premise. I really liked the opening line. However, their initial comments that he's taking two steps here and two steps there made me think he was dancing a rumba instead of a waltz (three steps)... but since he says this at the end, I guess he's still working on that coordination thing. I wish him luck.

  32. I absolutely loved this one, John. The dialog between the two girls was terrific. I loved how the one girl even managed to convince herself that she actually saw his dance partner. :)

    One little typo...
    with longs legs and fingers

    Otherwise, just perfect.

  33. Several have asked about my dancing. For multiple health reasons I hadn't been to a dance until my mid-twenties, and didn't participate there. One night I decided to figure out some of the dances with help from Youtube. It did not work very well, but you can only teach a rhino so fine a step.

    Aidan, that's part my ineptitude and part theirs. I know very little about dance as I just admitted above. Lawrence is trying to waltz but can't with his clumsy body, much as I (with a better leg) can't do the 1-2 motion without a second step trying to compensate with what I'm doing.

    Jon, thanks for catching that typo.

  34. In a short time you made Lawrence a very believable sympathetic character. An inspired story..:)

  35. Lovely story. What I want to know is, who is he learning to waltz for, eh?

  36. Maybe he doesn't know he has a ghost girlfriend ;-)

    Very sweet tale. Reminds me of my sister and our conversations as kids.


  37. This is a lovely & sweet story. The girls' imagination is so typical.

  38. The dialogue of the two young girls is spot-on. I enjoyed it. With such an imagination, I'd say the one girl is poised to be a writer some day.

  39. Really enjoyed that. It sums up the imaginations of young girls pefectly.


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