by mary Ardery
This One Had A Sweet Tooth
It was late. I was driving aimless loops in my hometown when I saw her: the ghost
of the girl who went missing. She was standing at the stoplight where you head east
out of town her translucent thumb pulsing white in front of her. I couldn’t tell
if she was trying to make her way home or get the hell out but she buckled in
when I offered her a ride. She gestured toward town without speaking
which was fine by me because I drive to avoid conversation. I steered us past
the abandoned Kmart through the oak-lined college campus and then by the high school
we’d both attended. She looked bored until I pulled into the Dairy Queen
across the street. The cashier gave me a cookie dough blizzard without even noticing
my passenger. They were closing down and cleaning up. I asked for two spoons
because I wasn’t sure if death was contagious. I’d never seen a ghost eat before.
This one had a sweet tooth. The cookie dough chunks traveled her throat and settled
in her stomach like a bowl of marbles. We continued cruising windows down.
She loved the round-about it’d been built after she disappeared so I drove us around it
four times in a row then parked and we laid in the grassy circle like a work of living
art. I said I was embarrassed that the only constellations I knew were the Big
and Little Dippers and when I turned to see her reaction she was gone. In the grass
beside me just a handful of cookie dough chunks that I took home and baked.
The next night I found her hitchhiking again and offered her the chocolate chip
cookies in a tupperware container that I assured her she didn’t need to worry
about returning. She took them shyly but I had a feeling she’d been waiting for them
expecting them. I had a feeling she’d known I was someone willing to bake cookies
for any missing girl.
Mary Ardery is from Bloomington, IN. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Kettle Blue Review, The McNeese Review's Boudin, RHINO, and other journals. She is currently pursuing an MFA at Southern Illinois University. Visit her at maryardery.com.