Whew, I finished what I think might be my favorite ghost story, about the Sunday School Publishing Board of the National Baptist Convention building downtown. This year I’ve been more aware of how weird it is to root fiction so firmly in non-fictional places. There are some places, like New York, where, by now, the city is just kind of instinctively a place and a fictional place. It’s a place you can visit and a place you hear stories about and a place that serves as a backdrop to fictional stories, some of which let a lot of the real leak into them.
And, certainly, parts of Nashville are already fictional places–the Ryman, the Grand Ole Opry, the Hall of Fame, WSM, WLAC. They are real things and they are also a part of our national dreamscape.
And last year I didn’t really fret about pulling a fictional blanket over some factual places. I kind of liked wondering if any of the stories would become true. This year, though, I do fret a little about it. Not enough to stop me, but just enough to give me something to wonder about as I reread.
I can’t remember how I was going to tie this into gardens, but I like the two “G” sounds there in the title of the post, so I’ll leave it.
Here’s how the story opens, at least the first draft:
Cities scar and bruise like people do. A wound opens and tissue builds around it when an interstate slices through a neighborhood. Folks will worry the loss of a beloved church like they worry the tender spot where a tooth has gone missing.
And then, in some cities, there are spots where the routine evil done there can make a place feel gangrenous. You turn your head from it. You catch your breath in your throat. You deliberately stop knowing what went on there. It was something that happened a long time ago. Something that doesn’t matter any more.
And you make your way past it like that city block is the shadow at the far end of a dark hallway. You will yourself to not look. You will yourself to not see. You close your eyes and dash past, and feel like you have just avoided having to know something about how the world works that you can’t explain.
Such was the case for the old hotel at the corner of Cedar and North Cherry. Patrons would complain about the loud cries and moans and wails. Other patrons would complain about the spectral men who stood outside their doors, engaged in casual discussion about selling people using words polite people now kept quiet.