FOOTPRINT OF A GHOST

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Chapter 9

My mother would fall through the ceiling of that house.

The incident would ultimately become the last brick that broke the camel’s back... to use a malaphor: the closed door that let the dogs out; the icing on the clock.

She had always been sort of a tomboy. She heard something up in the attic. She figured it was either rats, or a cat, or a cat catching the rats, and she was pregnant. Apparently pregnant women obsess over stuff like ‘tidying up’ and ‘nesting’ and ‘getting everything ready’. It is their instinct- or at least that is what I would read somewhere years later- to ‘protect and prepare’... their ‘inner cave-woman’. And she could certainly be a cave-woman, my mom, when necessary. And necessity as they say, after all, is the mother of intervention... and et al whatnot.

I was outside the house, in the dirt lot that we called our ‘backyard’. I’d found the carcass of a cat out near the trash cans in the alley. Its eyes were glazed over and sort of milky and its mouth was slightly open and there was a dribble of dried blood out one nostril and I could see its tongue. It was a black cat mostly with some brown markings, not quite a calico or tortoise shell. Its gut was ripped open and its intestines were hanging out, at least what was left of them. I’d picked up a stick about ten inches long and was poking the cat with it, moving it around mostly so that I could get a better look inside the thing. Enough of its entrails had been removed or eaten that it was sort of hollowed out like a melon maybe and I had never seen anything quite like it. I’d seen cats that had been killed and eviscerated by dogs before, back on the farm, but none that looked quite like this. I flashed back on the black dog that I’d seen out there some days prior, the one with the gleaming red eyes and the Thylacine Chupacabra Vampire mouth full of teeth when it yawned- the mutt had been slinking around, at least in and out of my dreams anyway since I first laid eyes on it. I wondered if it had killed this cat. No! I was sure of it! As sure as hell freezes over and eggs is eggs!

I was at least 30 feet away from the backdoor of the house but still heard her crash through and land on the kitchen table. It was a small, sort of flimsy metal table with a sort of floral Formica looking top and in the kitchen because we didn’t have a dining room. It folded beneath her like a cheep suit when she landed and if I remember it correctly, I did hear the crash... but mostly her screaming.

“Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!”

It’s weird, you know, retrospect and looking back and remembering. From what I’ve read and heard, a memory is reconstructed each and every time we recall it. So by its very nature, a past event can’t be exactly the same each time we memorialize it. It was just the night before... or maybe the night before the night before... I‘d ask my mother if could I could put my hand on her stomach and feel the baby kick or listen to its heartbeat.

“It’s too early for that” she said.

“But you can feel it move.” I said. “Right?”

“I’m not sure” she said. “What I feel is more like twinges and bubbles. It may be gas.”

“You mean like a fart?!” I said a bit surprised. “My future brother or sister is a poot?”

“I hope not” she said.“Well that would surely stink!” I said.

My mother knew almost immediately the consequence of her actions.

“I have to get to the hospital...” she said attempting to hide her panic from me. “Go next door and ask the neighbor to call an ambulance.”

My father had taken the Fairlane to a job interview. There were no cell phones back then of course, and we didn’t have a landline. There was blood on my mother’s fingertips on her right hand. I didn’t know how to react at first.

“Go!” she said, making certain to be emphatic without yelling at me.

I ran out of the house and managed to trip on some red brick that a previous tenant had halfheartedly, buried partially in the yard in a weak effort to create the boundary of a flower bed. I skinned the heel of my left hand when I put it down to break the fall. I think I was rubbing it against my shirt when the neighbor’s door opened.

I freaked out.

It was Scruffy Magoo! Sort of.

“My m...m... mother...” I stammered at the sight of the evil dream cartoon in the flesh.

“What?” the Scruffmeister said.

How was this possible? I was certain that it was a ghost or demon or some other form of boogerman that had been bloodying up my calves and ankles in my sleep, not a living being and certainly not my next door neighbor.

“She said to call an ambulance.” I said tensely. “We don’t have a phone and my father is not home.”

The man stared at me through eyelids so squinted they were slits. His nose was bulbous and his head was large and round and bald. He really did look like the demonic Magoo who had been in bedroom late at night... but then I realized he wasn’t.

“Go on...” he said after a few seconds, and waved his hand at me as if he was waving off a fly or gnat, “...back to your mother. I’ll call ’em.”

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