Monday, April 7, 2014

GHOSTS OF THE JERSEY SHORE ... 4/7/14

Tiny, jewel-box 'lawns' begin to turn green. Daffodils live and die. Spidery tendrils of damp mold slowly reclaim dark corners and north facing walls. Spring comes to the Jersey Shore. The air is chill and moist. Streets are almost empty. Traffic lights blink, some red and some yellow. Seasons change. Small, white sand crabs re-claim the wet world close to the surf. And the occasional corpse stuffed under a boardwalk or pressed against the seawall begins to rot.

The ghosts are still in evidence. Summer heat and seasonal crowds weakens the 'resonance.' Spirits become thin and dilute. They freeze in place and fade away, til long, fall nights and a yellow, waxy moon calls them back. But there's still time. You might see some people at the local sundry store, or pizza place, or food market. A few restaurants draw crowds on Saturday night. But most streets are barren. A car door slams two blocks away and you hear it. Free hanging shop signs creak in the wind. 

If you're 'down.' If you've stolen a weekend to ready the house for later guests, step out at night. Unlock the door and go forth. Walk passed the houses with their empty driveways and timer-controlled lights snug behind closed draperies..The bacon and egg spot on the corner hibernates. And the mannikins in store windows two blocks down are ashamed of last year's swimsuits. But the suit-changing-lady is still in Florida, so they stare blankly and endure.

Some shadows, some fleeting bits of animation are quite natural... a tree branch... a night bird... a rabbit... two local kids mushing up on a twice-dark porch. But others are not. A face in an attic window... The 'man' walking toward you who suddenly disappears... Did he enter a house?.... Perhaps, but not through an opened door. A child's beach ball soundlessly bounces down the sidewalk, all blue and yellow and red. Then it fades, sinking through the concrete, replaced by a dark, ocher stain.

Go back before it's too late. Put the key in the lock. Shhh, who whispered? Who walked 'round toward the back of the house?... A cat?.. It might have been a cat.... maybe. Step inside. Turn the dead bolt. Lock the door. Click on the television. Get the Cheese Nips from the kitchen. Snuggle on the sofa under throw pillows and an afghan . HGTV is good... Real people... Live people... Buying condos in New York City and villas by The Sea of Cortez.  Relax. Breathe. Doze. You can go upstairs later. But the sand man comes and you drift off. 

Dawn comes, or almost dawn. You get up, peek through the drapes and look. The sky is still black, but it's five thirty... almost dawn, or at least false dawn. Infomercials shine from the screen. You click on the upstairs hall light... turn everything off and hurry up out of the blackness. You run into the hall bathroom, hit the switch and lock the door. Mercifully, the shower curtain is open. You pee and rinse your hands under a trickle. No loud noises when you're alone. Let the pee sit til daylight. Then you race into your room, lock the door (like a bedroom door lock's gonna save you) do a quick closet -and-under-the-bed check and jump under the covers

Silence... Pure silence... nothing, but an ever so slight, subliminal hissing in your ears. Maybe thirty minutes til daylight... Drift off...drift off... please, drift off ..... 

Then a noise... a loud noise.... It's the phone... the land-line  ringing downstairs. You jump, run out, skitter down the steps in the dark and click on the nearest lamp. You focus. You see it. The phone's not there. It's not on the table... and hasn't been since they took it out eighteen months ago. But a little clown figurine,sitting in its place, slowly pivots 'round and smiles... You feel breath on your neck just as the last ring fades......

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