14. The Sylvan Heights Soldier

Sylvan Park has properly gentrified and West End has had a fancy streak for as long as anyone can remember, but Sylvan Heights, wedged between the two of them, laying along the railroad tracks is still waiting for its neighbors’ good fortune to spread through it.

So, a person cannot be blamed for not noticing at first that the neighborhood is haunted by Union soldiers.

After all, it’s easy enough to assume, when you catch a figure skulking along the railroad tracks, that it’s one of the hobos who lives in the camp on the other side of 440.  And if you should be sitting in your living room and you hear the storm door open, see the door knob shake as if someone is trying a locked door, and you bound across the room to see if it is your loved one, home from work, and you throw open the door and find no one there, might not it have been just the wind?

It’s harder to explain the mornings when you are out walking your dog down Park Circle, when you cross Acklen Park and you look down towards the curve and you see a man standing there, a plain wool blanket over his shoulders like a cape, and a strange hat.  In the early dawn light, you cannot make out much more than that, just a man in a blanket. You keep walking and when you get to the next block, you look downWrenwood towards the train overpass and you see a man–surely not that same man–hunched down in the middle of the intersection, watching you.

You should probably be afraid, but you have a big dog and a cell phone and you’ve spent most of your time in the city convincing yourself that those are all the tools a girl needs to ward off danger.

So, you stand there, in your overalls and your winter coat, your pajamas still on under it all.  Your breath making an icy cloud in the cold morning. If he has a breath, he’s been holding it a long time.

Suddenly, right behind you, you hear “Ma’am?” and you turn towards the clipped Yankee accent.

There’s no one there.

And when you turn back around, there’s no one there either.

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8 thoughts on “14. The Sylvan Heights Soldier

  1. This is another one that makes me have to check that I really am alone in my house with the cats (The Mathlete is out with friends).

    Spooky as it is I can’t resist thinking he meant to say, “Ma’am, we’re sorry about the can opener.”

    I know we’ve been joking about them for a long time but I love how these guys got to become a haunting story.

  2. To second SuperGenius’s comment – a helicopter flew overhead and distracted me (I’m outside) when I had just gotten to “hunched down in the middle of the intersection, watching you.” And I was kind of grateful for a second to have been pulled out of the story, because before that, I was about to have to look behind me. And to look behind me could only mean to look through the window straight into my apartment, and if the ghost is sitting in my apartment watching me, well…

    Ha. Great. Now I’m back to square one and all freaked out. I’m loving all of these stories.

  3. SuperGenius, you know I couldn’t leave my guys out of this. Once you steal a girl’s can opener, you’ve pretty much garnered a mention in any fake ghost stories she writes later.

    I don’t know if you’d really call this part of town Sylvan Heights or if it has no name, but when we lived there, it could be damn spooky.

  4. I am inordinately proud, and certainly not surprised, that the soldiers made your list.

    I also am inordinately giddy with delight over all these stories. It’s becoming difficult to wait for each installment. Thank goodness for the interwebs, or we’d all be standing outside your door every morning, petting Mrs. W and the cats and waiting for you and the Butcher to hand out the latest set of foolscap/parchment/mimeographed pages.

    Shall we start calling you Aunt Boz?

    Hee.

  5. Was that one of the previous places you lived? I liked that place a lot when I visited but your neighborhood did have a lot of that you aren’t here by yourself feeling to it. Which might have had a little bit to do with why I liked it!

  6. I’m going to be sad when this series ends! I love how you’ve run the gamut of emotions, and such a variety of characters. I’ll echo others’ hope that you’ll put these together into a book when you’re done.

  7. Aw, y’all are making me blush. I’m glad you’re enjoying them, because I really, really have enjoyed writing them and, holy shit, I’ve enjoyed seeing them go up and reading your reactions to them. I don’t quite know how to go about making them into a book, but I promise to try.

    Supergenius, yes, this was the neighborhood we last lived in.

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