A blown-up tintype covers one library wall. This is what the school looked like in 1885, I say, that year in history when—
“Creepy,” students in ripped jeans and Nikes call it. “They’re all ghosts now.”
Maybe…but think how much like you they really were. Look at the doe-eyed girl in gingham and the boy with the New York striped-neck jacket –.
The bell rings. Kids cram books in neon backpacks, exit fast. As if the stench of corruption lingers in half-tone sepia. As if the undeniable rigor mortis of long-ago children is contagious.
Later, alone, I watch ruffled collars fade and disintegrate. Rain turns to night and sun and rain again. Cold rain. You can tell by steel gray windows. Panes dissolve. The stove glows white. Pale hands trace ruled grammar across blackboards. Cursive names blur—Sally Porter, Michael William Baxter. The Victorian teacher stands vigilant in her apron. Her flesh melts from the neck down. Thirty eye sockets glare black, bones splinter to dust. I blink; they all freeze back in place.
(Featured photo on this post is a photo of a one-hundred-year-old photo taken by Richard Manly Heiman.)
Richard Manly Heiman lives in a shack in the pines on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada. He works as a substitute teacher and writes when the kids are at recess. Richard is a two time Pushcart Prize nominee, his website is www.poetrick.com, and he has been published by Rattle, Prole, Vestal Review, Into the Void, and others.