When Patrick wraps himself in toilet paper from the bathroom stall, he says he’s a ghost, and the other kids laugh.
You look like a mummy, says Ellie Mae.
Patrick’s always doing stuff like that, getting into chalk dust from the erasers and covering himself with it, head to toe; wrecking Suzy Joy’s nice tablecloth that she’d brought for show and tell (my grandmother made it, she wept after Patrick cut out holes for eyes); showing up naked and saying no one could see him now because he was invisible (Harlan Big Hair flicked Patrick’s penis with his index finger and said teeny, and Patrick bit his calf).
Patrick spends a lot of time with the principal.
What do you have to say for yourself, young man?
Patrick ducks his head and mutters. My mom’s seen a ghost. She says it was a white person. She says all ghosts are white people. She says we can’t be ghosts ’cause our skin’s too dark.
The principal sends Patrick to the counselor, who frowns gently and takes notes in a book.
Do you want to be a ghost?
My daddy was a white man. My mom’s shown me his picture. He has blonde hair and glasses. My mom says he’s just waiting till later to come and see me.
The counselor calls Patrick’s mother. They have long discussions about him. They meet at the school, tucked into child-sized chairs, and Patrick climbs barefoot on the playground. The counselor chews the end of her pen, and Patrick’s mother gazes out the window.
It is decided that Patrick will be put into the special classes (the dummy classes, the other students call them), and the counselor has him come to the classroom to collect his things and say goodbye to his friends.
They’re not my friends, says Patrick, and runs off down the hall before the teacher or the counselor can stop him, and gets himself up on the roof — somehow, says the principal when he calls Patrick’s mother at work, somehow — and flaps his arms like a duck before he jumps.
For the moment before he lands, Patrick feels like he is split in two, the one half dark and falling to the ground, and the other half translucent pale, suspended in the air, like a ghost.
Did you see? he asks the counselor, who is the first to his side. Did you see?
I saw, says the counselor, and holds his hand till the ambulance comes.
Cathy's work has recently been featured in Spelk Fiction, Drunk Monkeys and Spry Literary Journal. Her humor writing can be found on her blog, Hollywood Hates Me.