16. A Quarter for Katie

Katie Campbell was eight years old when she died. She had just learned to ride her bike and she was making large loops around the park at the top of Love Hill when a car came tearing up the road and into the park and, like a bubble bursting in the hot summer air, she was gone.

People see Katie all the time, right at the entrance to the park, and they have no idea she’s a ghost. She looks just like a kid from the neighborhood, doing ordinary kid-from-the-neighborhood things. She looks happy.

But, in the morning, that’s different.

She’s not there every morning, but often enough, right at the break of day, as the first rays of light break across the horizon, she is sitting there, in the middle of the street, her knees drawn up to her chin and she is crying.

“I want my momma,” she says, so plain it forces your heart into your throat, even before she looks up at you, the way kids do when they still have full faith in adults. “Please, can I borrow a quarter to call my momma?”

Very few people can stand to not give her a quarter, if they have one. But, it is said, once she touches it, she disappears and the quarter clanks to the asphalt.

If you are at the top of Love Hill and you notice quarters just outside the entrance to the park, this is because it is considered especially good luck to leave quarters for Katie and especially terrible luck to remove them.

4 thoughts on “16. A Quarter for Katie

  1. This one breaks my heart, completely and consistently. I’m not even sure I want to read it right now. (whimper)

  2. In fact, may I please pretend that one of the nice, specially-trained folks from the Sunday School Publishing building visited Love Park right after this was written and helped Katie find her Mom? I’d very much like to believe that.

  3. The worst part is that this story is basically the same as “Laura” from last year, which was basically the same as the story set in the Hickory Hollow Mall, which I had sense enough to remove from the book because it was too similar to “Laura.”

    And yet, here this one is.

    Apparently, for some reason, I am particularly terrified by the thought of small children who can’t be with their parents.

  4. Oh, God, me too. I used to be such a bad-ass, and then I went a had a kid. Now even the slightest hint of suffering children, or really anyone in pain, in fiction makes me sob. Something about valuing life more, becoming a protector figure, blah blah blah.

    I meant to tell you I appreciate your stories because you don’t abuse the parental heart-strings reflex. Some writers default to that as shorthand to bump up the emotional content of what would otherwise be crap (see, i.e., every Hollywood movie with kids in it). But you used it sparingly and subtly in your work, and never just for effect. I’m grateful.

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