Present Ghost

Telling stories





The driver’s side door of the limousine burst open. In tuxedo and top hat, the driver exited the car and stood on 5th Avenue facing his employer still in the back seat.

“You never give me the Christmas, or the vacacion,” he said. He never raised his voice above cool resolve; he stated facts. Then he slammed the door, leaving his post and the car running as he walked north toward the New York Public Library.

For a few minutes, the limousine idled on the street as traffic passed. When the back door finally opened, a man in a trench coat stepped out. He was beyond middle-age, balding, and stunned. Without his chauffeur, he returned to the car, this time — and maybe for the first time in a long while — to drive and not to ride.

What I found in a crack in the sidewalk

photo by Christian Widell

“If it hadn’t been for that crack in the sidewalk in Basel, you wouldn’t be here,” I will tell her.

Broken stones in front of the Swiss toy store made wide gaps, but I wanted her so badly that I almost missed finding her there in one of those spaces. I was looking in the windows, wishing I had a reason to enter and buy a toy souvenir. Just when I thought I might get one anyway, I saw the sign: Gesschlossen.

I didn’t have to say anything, and your father grabbed my hand, waiting for me to cry. But I didn’t cry because I was distracted by a little green plant sprouted from a half-inch space in the cobblestones in front of me. There you were, a tiny, delicate, and strange little strawberry about the size of my fingernail, blushing in the evening sun. You were the only one there, hanging off that singular stem busting through the sidewalk. Continue reading “What I found in a crack in the sidewalk”


If I hadn’t gone to a small, private Catholic school full of quirky teachers, I wouldn’t have had the encouragement I had to write.

Maybe I would make more money if I’d gone to public school. I don’t know.

I do know that I wouldn’t have had bizarre memories of a principal who, nearing the end of his tenure as head of the school, would surprise the teachers by walking into our rooms to teach us lessons that seemed very disconnected to anything at the moment.

One day, we were supposed to learn how to make gravy. We were in sixth grade. It might have had to do with measurements, but we were already in pre-algebra by then. Mr. Mark probably wanted to share something useful with us.

Despite liking gravy at the time, I found it much more interesting when he popped in our room to tell us about the severest of all bad words. He wrote the abbreviation on the chalkboard.

I was surprised that the word didn’t begin with an “F.”  Continue reading “Cussing, swearing, cursing”

It was their childhood

Image may contain: one or more people and child

Her wonder is my joy. Every time she gasps at an airplane overhead or the rumble of a passing train, I smile and doubt the name I’ve given her.

My hopes for her were strength and humility; I named her accordingly, yet she surprised me with her wonderment and easy but long, hard laughs. I never expected anything from me to act like that, so I am never quick to claim its genesis in me.

I am happy to blame it on my husband. He made me laugh.

On the sidewalk yesterday, a woman named Margaret caught up with our family. I was putting mittens on my daughter’s freezing hands that were clinging to a sugar cookie she wasn’t ready to surrender. Margaret smiled at us, pushing a cart half-full of plastic sacks containing her groceries that weren’t wet from the rain yet. Everything about her was classically stylish, from her long, fashionable coat belted at the waist to her mauve knitted winter hat capping her silver, wavy bob.

Observing our daughter and eyeing my hair, she asked, “What color is the child’s hair under that hat?”

“It’s blonde.”

Continue reading “It was their childhood”

Music from the Fifth Dimension

Dominic Francisco makes music as Space Monkey Death Sequence. The name came to him one night when he couldn’t sleep.

“It’s dark, a bit abstract, and a little stupid — exactly how I’ve been approaching music for this project.”

He describes his recent release People Are Alike All Over as a 1960s sci-fi adventure, but elements of his sound collage come off more like possible backdrop music for a near-present film rendering of cyberpunk novel Neuromancer.

The album, at times, sounds like muffled dirty metal parts scraping in a belching echo chamber. That sounds bad, but it’s all part of an attempt to capture what it might be like to take a journey to Mars via “The Twilight Zone.” Continue reading “Music from the Fifth Dimension”

Maryville residents look for way through violence during tense times

Starting conversation

MARYVILLE, Mo. — With every act of violence committed against law enforcement officers and every video circulated of a person in a minority group killed at the hands of a police officer, tensions multiply and divide.

Now Maryville residents face the fallout, searching for the best way forward.

Nodaway County Prosecuting Attorney Bob Rice held a press conference Wednesday morning to make a public statement of support for law enforcement officials. Rice said he was motivated to do so by violence against law enforcement officers over the past three weeks in Dallas, Baton Rouge, and recently Kansas City.

“As I monitor the events throughout the nation, it seems to me that there are organized calls for violence against police,” his written statement reads.

These “organized calls,” Rice said, come from “certain groups” operating to create chaos.

Although Rice never mentioned the Black Lives Matter movement specifically, other officials around the country blame the group’s rhetoric for increasing anti-police sentiment.

In an interview with CNN on Sunday, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke attributed the violence against law enforcement to the movement. Clarke said that since the movement began two years ago, the anti-police sentiment has “fueled this rage against the American police officer.”

Supporters of the movement counter these statements online, in nonviolent demonstrations, and in public statements that Black Lives Matter doesn’t condone violence to anyone. On the movement’s official website, it states, “it is not an anti-police-officer movement” and is not an “anti-white proposition.”

The website does specify that the movement rejects the idea that disrespect is criminal, and that it questions giving officers the “benefit of the doubt when it comes to policing black communities” due to broken trust with law enforcement. Continue reading “Maryville residents look for way through violence during tense times”

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