D.T. Robbins: Ghosts Undying (fiction)

Southern Legitimacy Statement: D.T. Robbins was born and raised in Hammond, Louisiana by two parents who barely tolerated one another and a village of Pentecostals. He also spent a few years in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He is Cajun-blooded and, contrary to popular belief, bourbon makes him light-hearted and congenial.

Ghosts Undying

San Diego, at the horse tracks.

His bright orange polo shirt was drenched from the Michelob Ultra he spilled earlier. Looking up from the phone he pretended to text on, he spotted me and walked over from the lone post using what was left of his sobriety. I hadn’t seen Mitch since eighth grade graduation twelve years ago, before my mom went to prison and my brother and I left Louisiana.

“Holy shit! Mitch!” I was taller than him now, though still a lot skinnier. He was muscular and broad-shouldered like a rugby player.

He grabbed my hand and hurled me in for a hug. “Hey, Jeff.”

“What are you doing in California?”

Mitch took off his shirt, rung out the beer, then tucked it into the front of his navy blue shorts, exposing the rug of red hair on his chest. “Bachelor party, dude.”

“Yours?”

“Naw, man. Buddy of mine.” He reached into his pocket and checked the blank screen of his phone. No one was missing him.

“Nice. You get to have all the fun and no…”

“How long you been livin’ out here,” he interrupted.

“Since I left. I’m in Pasadena, about two hours north of here.”

A half-assed grin broke out across Mitch’s blotched, pale face. “My girlfriend’s got a place in Pasadena.”

“Really? What’s her name? Maybe my wife and I know her.”

“Jennifer Kort. But she says everybody calls her Juney.”

“Yeah, I don’t think I know her,” I said. “How did you two…”

“I put up with so much shit, man, but I love her.” The words spilled from his mouth as if on accident.

I laughed uncomfortably. He didn’t notice. Or he didn’t care. “Can’t help who you love,” I shrugged.

“She’s forty-seven and has two kids.”

“That’s cool.”

He smacked his numbed lips as his bloodshot eyes followed passersby. “Hey, come to Ponchatoula and stay with me and we can go out and visit the guys, Jeff,” he shouted. A few people walking by turned their heads in our direction and the sound of his voice.

I fumbled for a polite way to answer no and settled on ignoring his request altogether.

He took a teenage girl by the arm and demanded she take a picture of us with his phone. We said goodbye and went back to the tracks.

An hour later, he sent me our picture and news of his mom’s passing earlier that morning.