(part 5 on Monday)
Noreen came with me. In part, I wanted her moral support. A ghost turning up was no good sign for how long Grandma had. I also wanted her in the hall with me so people walking by might assume I was talking to her and not to someone they couldn’t see. I think also I wanted to show her off to Greenray, in case he was disappointed in me.
He was still there when we got back. He was sitting on the ground with his eyes closed, and he’d taken his rifle apart. “Do you have a watch?” he asked. I told him yes. “Does it have a sweep hand?” It did. “When I say ‘go!’ start timing.” He took a breath, said “Go!” and began putting his rifle back together. It took him 76 seconds. He shook his head and said “It used to be under a minute.”
I told Nory what was happening. “Why would a ghost carry a rifle? Ask him if he shot anyone.”
“This your sister? Tell her I can hear her fine. I never shot anyone.” I repeated what he said. It would be boring to have to write in all the repeats; if you want verisimilitude, just imagine an adult American’s voice being echoed by a nine year old English girl’s. The American’s voice is deep but, to my disappointment, doesn’t drop g’s or use slang.
“Ask him if he has to wear his uniform because he died wearing it.”
“What sense does that make? Besides, I was just wearing my underwear when I died. I’m in uniform because Annie liked my uniform. Tell you the truth, she hasn’t seen me for a long while; I’m counting on the uniform to help her recognize me.”
“Do you love Grandma?”
There was a thoughtful pause, as if he was trying to pick the exact words for what he wanted to say. “I was in love with an 18 year old girl named Annie Wilk. She had green eyes and freckles and short, curly hair. She was white, and that bothered me; I didn’t like white people, as a rule. I had a hard time believing she didn’t care I was colored.”
“Black, girl; black. I knew her for just under three months, and I never heard her lie, or even come close. She and I were a good fit; if I’d’ve lived I think, despite all the white-black problems, we might have made a good life. I still think about her. But do I know the old woman in there? Does she remember me, or just my uniform, and being young?”