06 August, 2014

Ghost Story

The son of the sister of my teenage best friend died in a car wreck at twelve. All over the news I never watch because my hometown is a pale memory, pictures of the little guy, blond and smiley, came up against mugshots of his killer. Then there was video of the man’s family crying for mercy. It was the PCP, they said; he had a problem. That, plus (somehow) four prior DUI convictions for which he never did time.

I saw this and recalled 1998, making fun of the boy’s enormous baby head, and his mother’s face contorting with indignance at such sidelong allusions to her vagina as we sat around their living room, eating pizza. Her expression outside the courthouse, ten years after my own sentencing there, was stoic: I know how ineffective our system is (I’m paraphrasing, but she was eloquent); I wish he could get treatment instead of time.

Her son was dead. Dead. The man pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter for a somewhat lighter sentence. Just like that, it was over. I sent her a pretty card expressing profound condolences. Four years on, she still teaches grade-school English and he picks up the dirty sheets set outside my cell door every Wednesday — empirical proof for all who doubt that specters haunt the living.

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