On Discovering a Ghost in the Five Star
by Peter M Ball
At first, I considered changing laundromats. I mean, sure, the Five Star was just two blocks from my apartment, but there's something 'bout the presence of a ghost girl by the dryers that kinda takes the thrill out of throwing your wet laundry in and settling into an ugly plastic chair to wait 'til the job is done. It got worse when there were four of us, 'cause no one wanted to be stuck using the last dryer on the left. The closer you got to the ghost girl, the weirder it felt. She'd stare at you and offer the pink balloon tied to her wrist, and it felt like your skin was trying to peel its way free and get the hell away.
I stayed because she fascinated me, even if I felt terrified.
Besides, the other laundromat was a good six blocks away.
The ghost used to be Ella Sabine. She was beaten to death, in the back of the Five Star, by these punk girls with a grudge against Ella's older sister. Three women were charged, two convicted. The third went to prison a few years later, after getting involved in another beat down. These kinds of things make the papers, so you can go and track the details down. Most people don't, though. We're too used to seeing ghosts. Too used to finding a way to work round them.
I got interested in her story 'cause of the balloon. I've seen plenty of ghosts, in my patch of town, but they don't usually manifest with accoutrements. There's the ghost of an old Highwayman, down on the corner of Sycamore, who can still manifest his horse and sword, and a women out by Starling Field who holds a ghostly lantern, but they're both ancient hauntings, the legacy of a time when we treated ghosts differently.
These days we're lucky if a ghost can manifest pants to cover themselves, let alone a full ensemble and accompanying accessories. ghosts, like everything else, are the victims of progress. We know too much about them, treat them like petulant toddlers throwing a tantrum in the market. Take away the one thing that makes their existence bearable.
There are more civilized ways of expressing anger than lingering, fueled by anger, for all eternity.
Yes, even now, after death.
We tell them this, over and over, until they start to look weak and blurry.
This one time, I went down there with my friend Maya and her girlfriend. I'd been telling them about the ghost girl and Maya wanted to see. Her girlfriend, Cassi Rollins, didn't seem to like her much. Cassi made jokes about Maya being eager to see other women, but they weren't really funny and didn't seem like jokes at all. I got the feeling, as we walked to the Five Star, that they'd been having problems.
It got worse, when we got there, 'cause she goaded Maya into going over and accepting the ghost girl's balloon. She knew it was stupid--we all knew it was stupid--but Maya did it anyway. She approached the ghost of Ella Sabine, wrapped her fingers around the length of pink ribbon. The ghost girl smiled, let go of the ribbon, and Maya went down immediately. Fell against the cracked tiles, twitching, until we dragged her out the door and into the warm sunshine.