I always thought the stepmom had no guts. Dry inside.
The way she cuts the pie the pie shivers: it is not a happy shiver.
As we are clearing up dinner one night a small ghost emerges from the kitchen.
Oh, sorry, that’s mine, the stepmom says. I call her Eric.
Can we give her a little bowl to suck on?
I don’t think we have enough for Eric, my father says.
Maybe we should give her some money? my brother says. She looks hard up. Why is she wearing make up? Maybe she’s on a date.
We don’t know what she’ll do with the money, my father says. What if she uses it for drugs or the GOP?
Eric is a socialist, our stepmom says. Look how she’s touching all the fish.
That’s because she’s hungry.
Well, we can’t just put her outside, our stepmom says. The weather is on fire.
How does weather work in a ghost sense? my brother asks.
Fractals, I say.
We digress, father says.
Lil B is a ghost, our stepmom says.
True, I say.
What if there’s a bigger version of her and it lays eggs? my brother says. I think we should get the shovel.
Eric continues her task of touching all things in a group.
Eric, do ghosts live inside of zeros? I ask.
Are we the weather or is Eric the weather?
Father appears with the cart but just stands with it, like it has made him more afraid.
Eric looks like she’s fruiting.
Hm, this is a new part of Eric, I have not seen this part of Eric, our stepmom says.
A spray of letters lands in father’s cart.
What does it say? we ask.
I don’t have time to read emails from dead people, our father says. This seems to unlock a series of stressful thoughts in him and he chases Eric with the cart, out to the lawn.
I’m mad. I’m mad at father, mostly I’m mad at me. Maybe I have no guts. I’m just air.
I follow Eric to the lawn.
Her face cringes as I come closer. A mixture of eagerness and fear. Somebody taught her that, I think.
She cups her hand and holds it to my mouth. It shines black and liquid like oil.
Oh, that’s ok, I say. I had something to drink earlier.
I watch Eric’s face. It moves because it’s alive, because everything is alive.
Her eyes inward spiral.
She does something I can only describe as the opposite of spray.
Eric, come back! Eric! Would you tell me who hurt you even if that somebody was me?
I want to cook the moon and the grass and shovel it dead over my house to make a bed for Eric.
She’s gone. There are black puddles on the lawn. I try to drink one, like she had wanted, but the water jumps back up my throat and runs away.
Our shovel is close by. I pick it up. It looks sharp and terrifying and so shiny I can see my face.
Zoe teaches English at CUNY. Her writing can be found in Entropy, PANK, Fanzine and in the garbage. Her favorite fruit is the pineapple.
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