(from Thunderstruck & Other Stories)
The soul is liquid, and slow to evaporate. The body’s a bucket and liable to slosh. Grieving, haunted, heartbroken, obsessed: your friends will tell you to cheer up. What they really mean is dry up. But it isn’t a matter of will. Only time and light will do the job.
Who wants to, anyhow?
Best keep in the dark and nurse the damp. Cover the mirrors, keep the radio switched off. Avoid the newspaper, the television, the whole outdoors, anywhere little girls congregate, though the world is manufacturing them hand over fist, though there are now, it seems, more little girls living in the world than any other variety of human being. Or middle-aged men whose pants don’t fit, or infant boys, or young women with wide, sympathetic, fretful foreheads. Whatever you have lost there are more of, just not yours. Sneeze. Itch. Gasp for breath. Seal the windows. Replace the sheets, then the mattresses. Pry the mercury from your teeth. Buy appliances to scrub the air.
Even so, the smell of the detergent from the sheets will fall into your nose. The chili your nice son cooks will visit you in the bedroom. The sweat from his clothes when he runs home from high school, the fog of his big yawping shoes, the awful smell of batteries loaded into a remote control, car exhaust, the plastic bristles on your toothbrush, the salt-air smell of baking soda once you give up toothpaste. Make your house as safe and airtight as possible. Filter the air, boil the water: the rashes stay, the wheezing gets worse.
What you are allergic to can walk through walls.
Is that too long an excerpt? Don’t care. I love the way Elizabeth McCracken writes. If I could link to this story for you, I would. I took the book out of the Philadelphia Free Library, so you might have to wait until I return it. This story is a strange one, as I expect they all are. It concerns an obstinate ghost named Missy Goodby who wears ectoplasmic dungarees and haunts her mother like an allergy. Her mom, Joyce, is going nuts. And there’s the two brothers, Santos the older, mean one and Mackers the young, impressionable one. They’re weird, and everybody in this story’s weird. All the sentences are tight and mysterious. You don’t know what’s going to happen next. Love it.