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  • Everyone around me has the same self-depth of a ghost. You might hear one, you might even talk to one, but you never, ever really know one. Pain and desire are equally present. Physical attributions are easy to see. But you don’t ever know one, really.

    *

    Edifices, or stacks of mirror glass, shake the hands of the gods they honor, if they are not merely testaments to human achievement. I am buried below, stuck in boiling tar, begging the claustrophobic alleyways between business buildings to widen.

    *

    A sensation of sandpaper grinding my neck overwhelms me. I wish I could burn this shirt, or rip off the collar and use it as the fuse of a Molotov cocktail.

    *

    Cold sweat floods my face, which is illuminated by a strange blue sundown.

    *

    I had this dream that my boss was on all fours, gasping for air, reaching for his neck. The collar tightens, tightens. The thought of asphyxiation scares him. Yanking back on his shirt, one foot brushing the center of his back, I smile. I smile, knowing he feels the sandpaper burn. I had this dream.

    *

    “I don’t really know how you’re supposed to get it done,” my fat-ass boss says. A pool of sweat appears in the thin patch of hair upon the ball of his head—a bush hidden in the swamp. “That’s why I hired you,” he says. “If I could do both your job and mine, than I wouldn’t need you, would I?” he asks.

    Words elude me with the same massaging comfort of sword swallowing. All I can mutter is, “Sir, I just don’t think I can handle any more reports.”

    My job is real simple. I carry bank rolls. I file papers. No, I am a CEO. No, I flip hamburgers. I solicit sex. It doesn’t matter what I do, just that I do it too much. We all do.

    *

    Three hours after we close shop my face is illuminated golden rod by a small desk lamp in my cubicle. I am searching for fitting demographics. I am distributing interest rates. I am talking dirty on the phone at $1.99 per minute. It doesn’t matter. My job has very little value. In fact, I should be considered legally obscene.

    Nonetheless, I sit in the empty building, shuffling, typing, talking smut. Alone. Fearing that I might die in this cubicle one day. In this meeting room. In this grocery store. In this familiar hotel bedroom.

    And there’s a wretched stank of cat piss circulating around in cyclones. Cyclones of piss stench smacking my face. Touching my lips with its dirty little finger.

    Felma stomps down the hallway in her pale pink, tulip dress—red hair puffed up and all, waving a fucking pink slip. Although I know very little about her, I hate her, All the long hours I spent staring at her, judging. She looked like the kind of person that I could hate. So I did.

    She floors it two miles per decade past my office door. She darts her heads back to stare at me. I think her neck finally forfeited. She slides back. And pivots. Pivots her jiggly cankles.

    A wide smile forms with her narrow lips. More joy exists within her quarter-dollar grin than has existed in my entire collection of best moments.

    “I didn’t really wanna work so late,” her nasally voice honks, “but when he said I could give this to you myself . . .”

    He, being my boss.

    Felma says, “. . . when he said I could be one to do it, oh my god, I just couldn’t resist!”

    Pink slip slapped into my palms. Her wide ass jiggling; a vertical smile chuckling all the way home.

    The cage door is left unlocked.

    *

    A tall glass of golden brown whiskey rests on my fake oak mantle. The fireplace is electric and therefore also fake. However, most of these things are worth more than me. No one stays on a sex-hotline more than two minutes, anyway.

    Through hazy vision, I stare at the robotic flames. They don’t look that real, but they are still aesthetically pleasing to me.

    That hazel glass on the mantle is not my first. Or fourth.

    *

    It crept out the door, that ghost, and I chased its ass back inside the office.

    *

    A crack runs down along the right side of the mirror. A thunderbolt stream of blood runs down the center of my hand.

    I am left staring into the mirror.

    On the television downstairs, I can hear the echo of the meteorologist making guesses about the wind. “Sunny. Seventy degrees all day long.”

    Good weather will certainly make things easy.

    *

    Day in and day out for a week, I am a clerk, an undertaker, a pornographer. It’s rainy. The sun is out. The world’s frozen, and then it’s on fire.

    It doesn’t matter. It’s all over now.

    The only constant is the sweat on cold steel, the greatest investment in the shape of an L. And it plays with the darkness of my filing cabinet’s bottom drawer. Of my brassiere.

    My arm reaches over towards the cabinet, and a swift gust brushes my knuckle hair. Snatch my Styrofoam cup of water and turn slowly towards the owner of a pair of black dress pants and those strong legs that redirected the hair just moments ago. The source of the gust.

    “Hey, hey!” a chubby thirty-year-old with thick, red, square-framed glasses says. A dime smile contracts under the poor brown caterpillar above the chubby man’s chapped lips.

    *

    A problem with ghosts is that they always want to tell you their story. Why their lives were so terrible. How their death came to be. But they never know when to let you speak. And they never really get to know you, really. Not even when they’re still alive.


    www.cmhumphries.com

    Thanks for reading!
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