Ghost Stories | By Phebe Jewell
None of the neighbors know the boy who was killed in the park. They say his name because it was in the papers. Walking their dogs through the park’s meadow, they stay away from the tree. Today someone has filled a bucket with roses and carnations and placed it at the base of the oak. The dogs don’t know better. Unleashed, leaping through unmown grass, they rush toward the new scents. The neighbors call their dogs, take them down to the lakeshore, away from old blood.
Looking for ghosts on a warm spring night, the boy sits under an oak. Next week he and his friends will graduate, and the boy will leave home. More kids show up with arguments and guns. Pushing and shoving. A shot. He dies under the oak. For days the police patrol the scene. There are no leads. After a few weeks they remove the tape and leave. The boys’ friends wrap the oak with balloons and messages. They light candles and tell stories about the boy’s laugh, his terrible singing. They gather in silence, in tears. The balloons sag. The rain comes, and the candles fill with water.
The shooter knows he can never walk in the lakeside park again. He drives by, slowing at the hill above, surveying the meadow, the oak trees, the rocky beach. He follows the wake of speedboats ripple to the shore, and imagines disappearing into the lake, swimming to the other side, with no one watching.
Phebe Jewell's recent flash appears or is forthcoming in Crack the Spine, After the Pause, Sky Island Journal, Literally Stories, and Door = A Jar. A teacher at Seattle Central College, she also volunteers for the Freedom Education Project Puget Sound, a nonprofit providing college courses for women in prison. Read more of her work at https://phebejewellwrites.com.