At the top of the attic, hanging from the rafters out of the reach of the wintery wind, the token waits for me. It’s just a few plastic alphabet beads, cheap ones picked out of the bin at the dollar store, arranged on a bit of red yarn, spelling out a name. My name. I remember the store, the flourescent lights buzzing overhead, my baby brother screaming from Mom’s arms that he wanted a lollipop NOW, and Mom said if you want the beads, get them NOW, and I couldn’t find an M so I got a W and figured I could just turn it upside down.
But I can’t remember the other letters, and I can’t remember the order. I don’t know my name.
That is why I am stuck here in this tree, sharing my ghost-space with squirrels and finches and one impatient crow. We gaze up at that window. Unable to get in.
It’s not my fault I died. It was an accident, a truck losing its brakes at the top of the hill, careening down into the tree where I was playing. I didn’t feel a thing. I watched Mom screaming and baby brother silent, understanding more than he should. I wondered why everyone was so upset.
The crow told me. “You died, ghost-sister.”
“Oh. Can I tell them I’m OK?” Then I realized I really wasn’t OK, but I felt fine, and that’s what I wanted to say.
The crow clicked his beak. “Get your name and you’ll fade out. It’s time.”
“My name? I know my name. It’s….” and I realized I didn’t know. The crow told me this was normal.
He said, “Just go and get it. Don’t you have a passport? Or even an art project on the fridge? It’s best if it’s written down on something.”
I tried to go, I really did. I floated over the paramedics and past the ambulance, but when I got to the house, he was there.
“Not so fast. This is my ghost-space, loser.”
He was about my age, but at least three times heavier. He blocked my way with pudgy arms and stuck out his tongue. I could see he’d been eating something orange, then saw the cheetohs bag sticking out of his pocket.
“Excuse me. This is my house and I need my name.”
He wouldn’t budge. I found out later that he didn’t know his name, either, and he’d been stuck a ghost for over fifty years, so he wasn’t about to let some new ghost fade out in his house.
And he was always there, no matter how I tried to get in. I tried all the windows, the basement bulkhead, even the drain pipe.
And the rest of the time I watched from the tree as my family packed up and moved out. They didn’t want to stay at the base of such a dangerous hill. And they took all my things with me, all the papers and art projects and report cards.
But I knew my bracelet was still in the attic, where I’d hidden it playing pirates and treasure the day before I died.
Maybe, if I could help Cheetohs-boy find his name, he’d let me get mine.