Fast Fiction

The Things We Give — by JSP Jacobs

When I sleep, the ghost of me leaves my body and haunts my childhood home.

The new owner was at first frightened, then grateful for the company. She’s old, alone, hair white and wild as milkweed seed. She wears soft fabrics I want to rub between my fingers.

She has given me a key to let myself in if she’s gone, tells me to empty my pockets on her bureau so she’ll know I’ve been there. I keep the key tucked in my sock for safekeeping.

If she’s home, she makes us butter sandwiches and we sit, side by side, watching Frasier reruns, the light of the television shining through my transparent skin, bluing the highways of my veins. My sadness is a gray lump in my stomach. An x-ray. I can’t hide it.

One night, I show her the spot in my mother’s old bedroom where she gave birth to me and later died. “I came so quickly, she didn’t even have time to grab her purse.”

“Oh, this is where I would’ve picked to have a baby,” says the old woman, “Where I would have had a dozen, just like you. Do you have children?”

“No,” I answer, “I’m quite alone, too.”

She puts her hands inside my ghost belly, waves them around like a magic trick. She tips her head back; her mouth falls open lightly, breath peppermint and tea. She counts to nine.

“There,” she says. “Now you’ll give birth to a baby girl in spring. You can name her after me– Griselda. And if she is a real girl, she can have this house. And if she is a ghost girl, she can have this house.”

Griselda hugs me. Her arms pass through my body and back around to embrace herself. I hold very still, though, so she can feel me near, maybe hear me breathing, my lips at her ear.

JSP JacobsJSP Jacobs is a graduate of the Boise State University Creative Writing program and Tin House Workshop. She lives and writes between Boise, Idaho and Huntington Beach, California. Her fiction, flash fiction, narrative non-fiction, and poetry have appeared in numerous publications including Nano Fiction, Hawaii Pacific Review, Parent Map, and Litbreak. She is also former host of The Writers’ Block on Radio Boise.