Ghosts at The Gate

Several times a boy, I think his name was Vernon, came over to our bus to get babysat. He was my age, we were the same size and he had hair just as blonde as mine. I thought he was my boyfriend. We took naps in the middle of the afternoon together in my bed wearing our diapers. He was always nice and fun, I adored him. I think we even held hands and whispered secrets. He must be my boyfriend because we look almost just like each other, he’s like a boy me!
(99% sure the boy on the far right is Vernon)
I can barely remember the huge, two story Visitors Tent up near The Store. I slightly recall the awe I felt from the green army canvas noisily slapping in the wind, making me want to hold my moms hand tighter and not get too near it. The outhouse in that area, next to a main path, was an opulent outhouse – it was made from concrete blocks instead of wood and actually painted, with a little white sink on the side and had private stalls with two separate doors, not shared stalls. But it was stinkier, with the poop piled high because more people used it. I only used it if I really had to because I felt like I was imposing on someone else’s first class outhouse and the poop mountain was so gross and intimidating.
Men with a big truck called “The Shitter” would come suck up the poop out of all the outhouses with a huge, fat tube, but I think they had trouble keeping up. Seeing The Shitter Truck go by was really exciting. The times it came to our neighborhood, all the kids would come running gathering around, like it was a big holiday event, to watch it suck the poop up. The Shitter is here! Yay!
shitter truck
The Gate was really far away from all the houses, way up past “The Pond” which was surrounded by trees that I suspected were way bigger than all the other trees because they had so much water to drink.
Being the main portal to the world outside, The Gate was very busy. There was an older gate, but this was the one everyone used now, no one used the old one anymore down by the distinguished white buildings where the grownups have important meetings and where The Bank Lady is. That gate was tiny and I couldn’t imagine how it could have handled all this serious gate action. While at The Gate, it was often like witnessing a parade, with long lines waiting to go in and out, an eccentric cast of all types of transportation apparatuses.
There always had to be people on Gate duty around the clock to record all the ins and outs, answer phone calls, talk to visitors, open and close the gate. When my mom worked there, she did not have time for me, she was always doing something so I kept myself busy. Sometimes there’d be other kids there and a place to play out in back of the gatehouse near a pretty outhouse that had a rainbow on it which made it one of my favorite outhouses. There were some special rooms that were always really clean which made me feel like I had to carefully creep through them. The kitchen was weird because it had no windows and was a more normal kitchen than our makeshift kitchens. The whole building was weird because it was made with bricks and had nice floors and windows and things, not like our makeshift houses… so being up there, ever so slightly brushing against the outside world, watching traffic and visitors, was peculiar and fascinating. There was a back room, it was narrow and long and I liked it because it was light and felt warm, not cold, dark and lonesome like the other rooms. But I didn’t get to go in there, the grownups would have meetings back there where they would laugh and smoke. They also liked to laugh in groups on the big porch.
When my mom would ask a driver of one of the many kinds of vehicles that came through – buses, vans, trucks, semi’s, cars, tractors, wagons – where they were going so she could jot it down in the log book, the one I remember, because I found it so amusing was, “Mount P”.  Mount Pee?  There was somewhere out there called Mount Pee? Too funny. Little did I know they were abbreviating a nearby town called Mt. Pleasant.
Sometimes I helped open and close the big metal gate when someone would need in or out, which we also liked to swing on. The nice grownups would let us get on it for a ride. I think I had to mop the floors in the special, weird rooms and special, weird kitchen. It had nice floors – contrasted to all the other house’s bare wood plywood floors with nails and cracks. I was relieved when I’d finally finish making sure I had dragged the wetness over every inch. Relieved that I could finally run away from those dark, empty, cold rooms that were even spookier than the upstairs attic-esque guestrooms. For some reason I thought The Gate was haunted.
Usually most grownups did not act very interested in what I had to say. They mostly just told me what to do and what not to do but one day at the gate I made friends with a visitor man. He was very interested in talking to me and wanted me to tell him stuff. While the other people were busy with other things; my mom working at the desk that lined the front windows, people talking on the porch, people going up and down the stairs, we sat on the couch talking about amazing things. I wouldn’t usually talk to a grownup like this but he acted like I was equal and what I had to say was truly important even though I was just a stupid little kid and he was a big, smart grownup; like we were real friends despite our massive age difference. The small couch was in the main room against the stairs, he sat reclining on the right side, I sat on the left side with my legs dangling and my hands in my lap. I told him about ghosts. I told him you couldn’t see them if you looked right at them but you could see them if you didn’t look right at them. He believed me. He said that was called “looking out of the corner of your eye”. Yes, I agreed. We looked out of the corner of our eyes. I think I saw a glob of light about the size of a person pass by! Yikes! I didn’t want to see the ghosts! But this was so provoking having such deep, stimulating banter with an adult who obviously not only liked, but respected me and my silly, childish wisdom. He was so nice, my friend.
When the bustle of the day would die down and the sky would start turning pink behind the trees, we would start the long, long walk home. I really hoped something would come by and give us a ride. But not until we passed by the neato pond with the gargantuan trees. We could stop there and get a drink from the water pump and I could relish this ethereal place for a few moments, staring at the dark pond under the trees, transfixed and enchanted by it’s watery secrets, mysteries that maybe the croaking frogs hiding in the grass had the answers to…
After passing the pond, we cross to the other side of the road to the little path in the grass hugging the fence of the horse pasture. Deborah likes to sing while we walk, she likes to sing all the time, she knows so many songs. If someone comes along this skinny path towards us, that I will have to shyly say hi to as we pass because everyone says hi, there won’t be enough room on this narrow path, who will move to the side? If it’s someone on a horse, we will, but if it’s someone else walking, who will it be? A person on a horse comes much faster and it’s over with quick, but another person walking; the process is slow, you can see them in the distance, making the agony of anticipating an awkward passing last and build…until you finally pass them and it really wasn’t bad at all. The passing actually went quite smoothly, even pleasant. Most people here are pretty nice.
We make our way around the horse pastures towards the important, superior white buildings and The Horse Barn. Hopefully we’ll get a ride before we get to  Band Land, The Laundromat and Motor Pool. If we don’t get a ride, we’ll definitely have a few more pass bys of other people walking. I must trot to keep up with my brisk mom. I wish I could ride in a baby backpack like my brother.
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3 thoughts on “Ghosts at The Gate

  1. Celeste,
    Please contact me about ways we can work together on some new story ideas.
    No politics..we need to collaborate on protecting your work, the pictures and new opportunities.
    I have seen parts of your work on over 4 internet sites with no attribution to you or the photos.
    Please email me.

    Thanks

    David Frohman
    use davidfrohman@aol.com please

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