Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Benny Bo

Benny Bo seen another ghost last night. Told everyone in town. He sat in the diner tellin waitresses and cops, eyes watered down and his hands a shakin, but he’d stop bout halfway in the story, reach into his coat pocket for a pack of Marlboros and head outside for a smoke. His chin was doubled and his brow was crumbled and his sentences were chopped with sharp coughin noises while his crazed eyes wandered all around the room. Soon as his eyes hit yours, it was like he was staring straight at your soul.

People thought Benny Bo gone dumb. All that liquor runnin round under his skin, and he looked half dead, weathered like an old garbage can. But when he said he saw somethin, whatever it be, kids would stop in wonder, women would get all shook up, lookin to the old man like he had some kind of a sense. Somethin he could find below the chatter of local folk. Like a prophesy to tell.

Truth was, he never told much anything of value. Never said what might come to pass, rather was somethin that had passed the night before. Somethin no one saw but him. Always the same damn thing he seen.

He’d said last night, he was sittin at his home, scratchin his head and workin a bit on a carvin he’s been makin. He made carvins out of oakwood, and the owners of the diner agreed to let him sell em. Last night, he was makin a carvin of an owl, when he heard a woman talk in the other room where his bedroom sat. He got all still and quiet, put the owl on the table and went creepin into the room. There was only a clock tickin and the moon was shinin in from the only window in the house.

When he got in the room, the ghost was a young woman runnin round the room naked, talkin about the end of this and the beginnin of that and some kind of other talk Benny Bo never heard. She looked at Benny Bo and stopped and dropped on the floor and grabbed Benny Bo’s ankle and started screamin loud. On her back was some tattoo in another language. Bout that time, he got so scared he was bout to jump out the window but then right there she was gone already. And when he got back in the kitchen, he couldn’t keep carvin his owl, cause his hands were all shaky.

Next morning when he woke up, said he’d found scratches on the floor like some wild animal been there. No one been to his house, so they didn’t quite believe him much. But they still listened cause he always had somethin to tell. Said he saw that girl every night, like it was the first time. You think there’d be a house full of scratches by the number of times he said that story, but it was always the same.

Folk come in the diner though, look in that glass box and see all his animal carvins and sometimes even buy one. He only did animals he’d seen in the town like coyotes and deer.

What locals knew, after sheriff gone to his home a number of years ago, was Benny Bo got no wood floor for scratches in his home. He lived in a trailer over by the church. He got his carvin wood from the trees in those backwoods near there.

What no one knew cause Benny ain’t lived here long was who that woman was. You seen it in his eyes, like she’s real, or she was real, some passerby, some love dropped from his life like a swat fly. He got that sense that he’s lived — and without talking, he’ll make you feel like we all got ghosts somewhere waiting to say something, waiting to scratch at the floors.

He sits in that kitchen each night carvin a mallard or a squirrel and sooner or later a ghost gonna be in the other room and you can bet your life he’s gonna tell you all about it.

Written by: James Smith, Delaware

James Adams Smith is a student of English literature at the University of Delaware, where he is an editor for the UD Review. He grew up in Texas and Louisiana, where most of his fiction takes place. He is currently working on an anthology of literary nonfiction and memoirs.