Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Ghost Town by Anita Moscoso

Domino Wilton can't drive passed those empty looking towns, or roads that branch off from the highway without thinking about her family's home in a little town called Bronson Bluffs.

They rented a house there so Domino's Dad could go back to school for a year and then he could become a teacher.

That choice meant a loss of income and her Parents decided the best way to economize was to live cheap and you could do that on the Bluffs because it was practically a ghost town and the houses were dirt cheap.

It meant an over an hours commute for her Dad to get to school and her Mom to get to work but it wasn't a hard choice to make in the end because Domino's Dad couldn't spend another hour working in the slaughter house at MacKay’s.

So one day they packed up and left for their new home on Bronson Bluffs.

For the rest of her life Domino was convinced they were the only people living on the Bluffs. No one could change her mind. Not her Parents not her Counselors or Doctors or later her husband could change her mind.

Bronson Bluffs wasn't practically a ghost town; it WAS a ghost town.

Domino remembered how the streets would be empty, the stores would be open, maybe a bag of groceries and a checkbook would be on the counter but there was no one in the store; Domino was sure of that.

Then she would turn around and look again and there was Mrs. Greene and her daughter Kirsten and a half dozen other people looking at the shelves, talking in front of the vegetable bins or buying a soda at the fountain. Domino could hear them talking as she'd walk away and their voices would fade to whispers and she knew if she turned around they'd be gone again.

Nothing on the Bluffs felt solid to Domino.

Domino and her brothers hadn't started school yet, which was not something Domino was anxious to do on the Bluffs even though she hated spending day and night with her brothers.

She hated the way her brothers were always crying or fighting and coughing and sneezing.

Her little brothers, Derek and Miles were 3 and 2 at the time. She was almost six at the time and after all these years she remembers the dark heavy circles around their eyes. How skinny they were.

" It's not their fault they're always sick, they have trouble sleeping " she heard her Mom telling her Father as they forced cough medicine down Mile's throat " they're run down. I don't know what to do. "

Domino would have gladly taken that purple spicy medicine and been sick herself all of the time then to go that school and have to sit next to those rotten smelling kids. She as much said so herself one day as they drove by the school.

" Domino! " her Mother had snapped " That's an awful thing to say! "

" Well, they do stink, they smell like rotten eggs and they talk to themselves and make those weird faces..."

Her Mother had given her a good scolding and a lecture about saying mean things and Domino refused to back down because of what she'd see from the Park.

Half a block up and just around the corner, Domino use to love to play at the Park until she started to notice the kids at the school across the street.

During recess the little kids would come out single file and head for the monkey bars or rings and tether ball pole and instead of playing together they'd wander off and talk to themselves, and Domino could see their faces twist into grimaces and she could hear their teeth chatter and click in their mouths and sometimes they knew Domino was looking and they'd fly to the fence and hiss at her in words she couldn't understand.

The last time she had gone to the Park a little girl had climbed up the fence at the school and she was saying something to Domino only Domino wasn’t listening because on her way up the fence the little girl's wrist had caught in between the links and snapped. She pulled it free with a grunt and continued up the fence and she reminded Domino of a spider inching it's way up a wall.

" Domino, Domino, Domino come here and listen to me Domino. "

Domino was fascinated by the girl’s wrist, which was now almost shaped like a "C". The little girl pulled angrily at the fence and Domino looked up, " let us out, let us out, open the gates and let us ALL out. "

" Why don't you just walk out? " Domino had asked the little girl with the dark brown eyes; so dark it looked like she didn't any eyes in her head at all. " Just walk out why don't you. "

" Let us out Domino, let us all out! "

" No! " Domino had yelled, " you stay in stay! " And as fast as she could Domino raced away from the school and the park. Why had she never noticed how dark that Park was? What were those things moving around in the trees? She kept looking over her shoulder at the school and she could hear the laughing and screeching that did sound like children playing, unless you really listened.

The sound was off key and wrong and it hurt Domino's ears just to listen to it for to long. Something wet was running down her neck and when she put her hand up to wipe it away she saw blood on her fingertips.

After that day Domino would cover her ears with her hands when she went by the school, even if she was in the car with her Parents.

There was a little Church; it looked like one that Domino had seen on a Christmas card once. It was white and had flowers out front and no windows. There was a heavy wooden beam nailed across the double doors and a little cemetery at it's back.

Domino’s family weren’t “ Church People “ and for the most part paid no attention to the sign out front inviting people to come and visit at 11:00 for Sunday Worship. In fact, it seemed that the entire town weren’t exactly “ Church People “ but Domino’s Mom did wonder why the door was nailed shut.

And why there were no windows.

They’d been living in the Bluffs for almost a month when Domino and her Dad had come home one day from a visit with Dad’s Mom, Grandma Carmen. There was a big Move-It truck in the front yard and her Mother was blindly throwing their things into the back of it.

Domino had never seen anything so wonderful in her life.

She ran around to the back of the truck and saw the bed was littered with furniture and pictures and pots and pans and if it was fragile it was broken because Domino’s Mom was tossing stuff in the back and she wasn’t obviously concerned with things like packing paper and boxes.

“ Jesus Katie, what are you doing? “ Domino’s Dad asked.

“ I’m moving us out Max, that’s what I’m doing. You can help or you can sit, but I suggest you help because if it’s not in this truck in the next 15 minutes it stays. That goes for you to by the way. “

“ Katie! Come on, why are you doing this? “

“ I went to sign Domino up for school today. “

“ Uh-oh “ Domino had said “ the Smelly kids? Did you see the smelly kids? “

Her Mom wasn’t listening, “ those things, those awful things were crawling up the walls…

“ Like Spiders? “ Domino asked.

Mom’s ears had been bleeding two little red lines ran down her neck and shoulders and she looked at Domino and said, “ just like Spiders. "

Domino's Dad was yelling now, yelling for Domino's Mom to stop it, stop this craziness of course they couldn't just take off and leave their house, leave everything behind.

" Oh yes we can, " Mom hissed, " Look behind you Max and tell me what you see. "

Domino could see it; Dad didn't want to turn around. " Why? " he asked

" You can feel it, can't you Max? So turn around, it's Mrs. Gunderson from across the street. Turn around Max and look at her. "

Domino looked around her Father's legs and then looked up at her Father and shook her head. There' were no words for her to describe Mrs. Gunderson because what Domino saw made no sense.

No sense at all.

" Don't turn around Daddy, " she said, " please don't turn around. "

But he did, Domino knew he would.

Mrs. Gunderson was walking by and she was smiling like the nice old lady she appeared to be. Only her feet weren't touching the ground and her head was lying over to one side. " Good afternoon " she said with a pleasant tight smile. Her eyes rolled back up into her head and she smiled brightly, " leaving us so soon? "

" Truck, " Domino's father said, " get in the truck Domino. "

Domino saw that Mrs. Gunderson's voice was coming out of her mouth, but her mouth wasn't moving her lips were parted slightly and Domino thought of a rag doll.

That's what Mrs. Gunderson looked like, a rag doll being shook and forced to move and makes sounds like a real girl.

Only of course a rag doll is just a doll and not a real girl.

And of course Mrs. Gunderson wasn't a real lady, she couldn't be.

Mrs. Gunderson crossed the street to her house and as she floated up the stairs to her front door Domino could hear the thump thump of her toes hitting against the steps.

The door opened for Mrs. Gunderson on it's own and slammed shut right after her.

" It's gets better Max, I drove by the Park on my way from the school and have you ever looked in the trees? "

" They're full of shoes. " Domino said with authority.

Her Mother looked down at her and her Mother asked her like she was a grown-up " Is that all you saw Domino? "

Domino nodded, " I played there a lot and I saw, the trees are full of shoes "

" The trees Max" Domino's Mom said to her father without taking her eyes away from Domino " are full of people and they're hanging from the trees by their necks. Your daughter only saw their shoes. She played there Max, almost every single day we've lived here. "

" They don't bother me, not like the kids at the school or the people in the library or that man in the attic..."

" I can't listen to this anymore, " Mom said " get in the truck."

They left town that night and on the way out they saw the School Kids playing in the schoolyard. Domino and her family watched as the Children ran and twitched and whirled, caught up in a windstorm only they could be part of.

Domino saw the shoes in the trees dancing and kicking and all the while she could hear gurgling sounds and cries and everytime the shoes dropped they were yanked back up into the dark tree tops again.

They ended up at Grandma's house and Domino heard her Parents and Grandparents talking until sunrise.

They never talked to each other about the Bluffs again, but for years later they knew the others were thinking about Bronson because Domino or her Brothers or Parents would sometimes scream themselves awake from terrible nightmares and everyone would pretend they hadn't heard a thing.

Now days Domino Wilton can't drive passed those empty looking towns, or roads that branch off from the highway without thinking about her family's home in a little town called Bronson Bluffs and when she does pass them she pushes down as hard on the gas pedal without realizing it and stares into her rearview mirror until she's sure those little towns or roads can't see her anymore.

At least she hopes they can't.
© anita marie moscoso 2005-text

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