My name is Princess, and I see ghosts.
Okay, well, my real name, the one on my birth certificate, isn’t really Princess. But Princess is what Granpy calls me, so Princess is good enough.
I told Granpy that I see ghosts, and he told me there isn’t any such thing as ghosts, and I Just Use Fantasy To Flesh Out My Simplistic View Of The World.
Granpy is a scientist. He used to be a university scientist, but now he’s a retired scientist. That means he does all his science at home now. He has a big office full of boxes that say Fragile on them, which means I’m not allowed to touch them. And there’s a big table with lots of weird stuff on it, lots of shapes of metal and glass. It smells strange in there, like burning medicine. I’m not supposed to go in there because It’s Dangerous and I Wouldn’t Understand It Anyway. But sometimes when I’m playing secret agent, I get really close to the door and peek inside and watch Granpy work. He’s doing chemistry. I know that because I asked him once, and asking questions is the best way to learn.
That’s how I know that chemistry is a kind of science, and it’s about The Building Blocks Of Life, and Just Because The University Doesn’t See The Value Of My Work Doesn’t Mean They Can Stop Me. That’s more stuff that I Wouldn’t Understand Anyway, but that doesn’t stop Granpy from talking about it. I don’t mind, really. Granpy and I understand different things, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk to each other. I don’t know anything about The Building Blocks Of Life. I had some building blocks when I was a little kid, but I don’t play with them anymore, and Granpy says it’s not the same thing. But he goes on and on about them anyway, and then I can go on and on about the ghosts, which he doesn’t know anything about. It’s a deal we have.
Granpy needs someone to talk to anyway. At least, he thinks he does. Because he doesn’t know about ghosts, he thinks he’s alone all the time, and he has only me to talk to. He can’t see Granmy standing there watching him wash the dishes and complaining when he doesn’t dry them off properly. He thinks he talks to himself a lot, but really that’s almost never true. Only every once in a while, Granmy gets sick of hearing about The Building Blocks Of Life and goes off to play with the cat.
The cat’s name is Simon. He’s not a ghost. He likes Granmy a lot. Granmy likes to take naps in her big cozy chair, and Simon likes to sleep on her lap. He always purrs when he sits with her.
I have more than just Granpy and Granmy to talk too, though. There’s the teachers at school, and sometimes the other kids. But I don’t like the kids very much because they don’t make a lot of sense. They say I’m stupid, even though I get better grades than them and I can do some chemistry because Granpy taught me. Maybe they are so stupid that they don’t know what stupid means, and that’s why they say it wrong.
My favorite place in the school is the library. It’s full of books and it smells like old paper and ink and it’s so quiet you can hear every page turn and there’s lots and lots of shelves and I can hide in the corner and nobody bothers me. One time I got in trouble because I was hiding in the corner and reading a book, and then the lights went off and I got scared so I yelled for help. That’s when I met Mrs. Kinney. She stepped in front of me with an angry face, all gray hair and shorter even than me, and told me to keep it down because this was Her Time and she didn’t want to be bothered. And when she talked about herself she said “Mrs. Kinney” instead of “I,” so I knew what her name was. Then the lights came back on and the school security guard came in to see what the noise was about and grabbed me and called Granpy and told him I was Disrupting The Peace Of The School and Playing Malicious Pranks by hiding in the library after closing time, even though that wasn’t true at all, I just got lost in a book and didn’t know how late it was. I didn’t tell him that Mrs. Kinney was in there because she didn’t want to be bothered. Granpy wasn’t mad though, but I did have to listen to him tell a story about when he was lost in his work and when he tried to leave his office all the doors were locked. Granmy laughed, so I figured I should laugh too, even though it sounded scary to me.
The next day I went back to the same spot in the library and there was Mrs. Kinney, holding an armload of books and looking just as angry as she had the night before. She was moving all the books around and grumbling that the kids kept putting them in the wrong places. I followed her and looked at the book she had put down and the Library of Congress Classification number was definitely wrong for this shelf. I didn’t move it, though, because Mrs. Kinney looked pretty angry, and I didn’t want to make it worse. I just followed her and watched the books that she moved so I could put them back later. After a few minutes she stopped and turned around and glared at me for a moment without saying anything. Then she put one hand on her hip while the other arm was holding all those books, and asked me if she could help me with something. That’s a nice thing to ask, but her face didn’t look very nice at all, so I thought maybe she was being sarcastic, which is another one of those things that the kids do a lot which I don’t quite understand.
I wanted to be helpful, so I tried to tell her that she was putting the books in the wrong place, but she said, “Now you listen to me, child, Mrs. Kinney’s been looking after these books for more years than you’ve been alive, and if you’re too simple to learn the Dewey Decimal System, then you can walk right outta this library.” Of course I saw right away what the problem was: the library switched from Dewey Decimal to Library of Congress two years back because the Administration decided it would Better Prepare The Students For The Future, which seemed funny to me because most of the students never even went into the library. Mrs. Kinney was angry because of a misunderstanding, which I’ve found is usually the reason why people get angry.
I tried to tell Mrs. Kinney about the Library of Congress Classification system, but she Wasn’t Having Any Of It. She kept moving the books around, and I kept following her, and I listened to her talk about how all the White People needed to stop messing around with things that were working just fine on their own. Not everyone in the Administration was white, so that was another misunderstanding, but I had already learned that Mrs. Kinney wasn’t the type of person who wanted someone to tell her when she was having a misunderstanding, so I just let her talk. I thought I would put all the books back when she was gone, but after a while the librarian came and found me and told me I had to leave before they locked the doors, so I went home.
I wanted to tell Granpy about Mrs. Kinney, but he was busy with his retired science. I thought I would tell Granmy, but she was having a nap with Simon, so I thought maybe I would take a nap too. When I woke up, I met the little boy.
He thought he was being quiet, but he bumped his knee on the table and it woke me up. Also I wasn’t really asleep, just closing my eyes and dreaming, so it was easy to hear him. He was trying to take my glasses off the table. Before he saw me looking at him he had a big smile on his face. I think he was trying to play a joke by moving my glasses somewhere else, so when I woke up I wouldn’t be able to find them and I’d start to think I was Losing My Marbles. That’s what Granpy says when he loses his glasses, or his keys, or his pencil, or anything else. It happens all the time. I used to think it was because Granpy was Absent-Minded like me, but then I met the little boy.
When the boy saw me looking at him, his eyes turned into great big circles. He stopped moving for a few seconds, and if he was alive, I bet he would have been hyperventilating, but of course ghosts don’t need to breathe. Then he turned around and ran away. I saw him plenty of times after that, usually sneaking off with a pen or a watch or a set of keys, but he never talked to me. I guess a lot of ghosts don’t like to talk. Or maybe they don’t remember how. Whenever Granpy couldn’t find something he had just put down, I knew that the little boy was close by, but usually I didn’t see him. He must have practiced moving more quietly after I caught him. I think that, probably, he was being sloppy about his secret agent game, because he wasn’t used to people being able to see him at all. You have to practice a lot to get good at it.
I got in trouble at school again a few days later. It was almost Halloween and the teacher was reading us some ghost stories for fun. But in all the stories, they got it all wrong. The ghosts were all invisible, or white, or blue, or they looked like floating sheets, and most of them had Unfinished Business on earth and that’s why they were still here. I raised my hand and waved it around until the teacher finally rolled her eyes and called on me, and I told her that the stories were all wrong, and that it was all very silly. Why would they say that ghosts were white? And what was that nonsense about Unfinished Business? The teacher took a deep breath like she always does before she answers my questions, and then she said that they were only stories because ghosts weren’t real, and that it was a common story to say that ghosts had Unfinished Business, and if you could help them finish it, you would set their spirit free so they could go to the afterlife. I got a little angry then, because the teacher was saying things that just weren’t true, and I told everyone so. I told them that I see ghosts all the time, and that none of them ever said anything about Unfinished Business, and that they looked just like normal people and you wouldn’t even know they were ghosts most of the time. Then one of the boys started to cry, and two of the other boys started to laugh at him, and then the teacher got very angry and the school called Granpy again to remind him about my Disruptive Behavior.
As soon as I had a chance, I went to the library and found Mrs. Kinney, and I asked her about Unfinished Business. She laughed and said that she couldn’t imagine a person dying without at least some of their business unfinished, and she couldn’t imagine what it would even mean to have all your business finished, because there’s always more to do in the world. And that’s how I realized that everyone gets a ghost, and they never go anywhere else, because the business of the world is never finished.
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