Ghosted by Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall

Book: Ghosted by Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall Read Free Book Online
Authors: Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall
was subtle, brutal and seemingly unending—a string of scenes like the one she’d first described to him: young Sissy sobbing on the back of Venus, the Normal Six laughing with their mouths open.
    “But don’t write about that,” she said, without offering a reason. In fact, each time Mason mentioned some story she’d told him, she said the same thing: “But don’t write about that.” It reminded him of the more frustrating magazine assignments he’d been given: great sources who’d suddenly remember that this was going to be published, then start stammering and contradicting themselves. It seemed Sissy didn’t want to give any individual tormentor the credit. And neither was she interested in figuring out the cause and effect—the tricky equation of her misery. She wanted those who read her note to experience awe and responsibility and a guilty pain. She wanted her memory and her act to burn on people like a never-healing wound.
    Sissy’s Letter—Take One
    I’ve quit this world that treasures nothing so much as beauty (which I guess makes sense, considering all the ugliness out there). Sure,beauty’s a rare thing—but really, I think most of you are digging in the wrong spots.
    And that’s not just because of men like my father—who think striving for eloquence is somehow noble enough to make them
. For all his poetic pursuits, higher and lower—“a man of the people and graceful aspiration”—he never really could look his baby in the eye, especially when he said, “You’re beautiful.” He said it a lot, then finally stopped, because he couldn’t think of anything else to say. A real poet would have figured out the words, and how not to loathe his daughter.
    But really, Dad, it’s not just you.
    It’s Ms. Meir, who always singled me out (as if the rest of the class was paying attention): “Dreaming of pie again, Circe?” she’d say, then send me home because the safety pins I’d used to fasten the busted zipper on my jeans were “obscene.” When skinny Dylan asked what obscene meant, she wrote it on the board and we had to look it up in our dictionaries while waiting for the hall supervisor to come and take me away.
    It’s Alphonse Lader, who stopped me in the hall on Valentine’s Day my first year of high school, got down on his knee, and presented me with a large heart-shaped box tied with a red ribbon. I knew something was up. I wasn’t that stupid. His buddies were there too, and I just stood there holding the heart in the hall. “Open it!” they said. I shook my head and started to shiver. “Please,” said Alphonse Lader, “be my valentine.” I hesitated, then pulled off the heart-shaped cover—inside was a jar of diet pills surrounded by two dozen packets of NutraSweet.
    Crossing a street on the way home, I thought,
I can’t believe he went to all that trouble
, then almost got hit by a car with all my laughing and crying.

    “Tell me about your mother,” said Mason.
    Sissy laughed.
    Mason was kind of strung out, and although he’d brought them both coffees she’d said she didn’t drink the stuff, and then she’d started to sulk. But now a laugh—that was good, even if he was being serious.
    “I was being serious. I know your dad’s a famous poet….”
    “And a jerk.”
    “Right, but what about your mom?”
    Sissy couldn’t come up with much. Her mother had the makings of an apparition: a waif-thin woman with incandescent eyes who died when Sissy was ten years old. It seemed like she’d never been there at all—omnipresent but totally absent.
    “But it’s weird,” said Sissy. “I don’t really remember one thing about her. Not anything that ever happened—just that she was always there, looking at me. I don’t know how to explain it. I’m not even really sure what she died of. I guess you could say she was beautiful. And skinny, too. She got skinnier and skinnier until they put her in a coffin that was way too big. Maybe she had an eating

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