once a year, police in the little city tied ribbons onto bikes that they suspected were abandoned.
if the ribbons hadn’t been removed a week later, they cut the bikes’ locks and took them away.
sam and I wanted bikes.
we waited until the night before they were to be taken to sneak across the field to the bike rack.
I selected a bike and untied its ribbon.
sam had a pair of bolt cutters zipped into a tennis racket cover hanging over his shoulder.
if any cops approach us after we’re done, we’ll say we’re on our way to play night tennis, he said.
with just one racket? I asked.
jesus, he said. do you even know how night tennis is played?
the lease specified that the carpet would be professionally cleaned before we moved in.
I called the landlady.
there is long red hair all over the carpet, I said.
no there isn’t, she said.
I thought about collecting strands in a plastic bag and walking the mile or so to her office, but decided against it.
it was 100 degrees fahrenheit.
I went into an empty bedroom on the second floor and set some of my things down.
when I opened the door to the closet, I saw that the word killer had been carved into the doorjamb, aligned as if it were the title of a book.
the speed with which I resigned myself to living in killer’s room was shocking even to me.
it was just too difficult to care and sweat at the same time.
he peeked past the doorframe and said hey. there’s a ghost in the room next to yours.
I said really?
he said yeah. it’s male, about seven feet tall with a stupid hat.
I said oh.
somehow I knew, though, that nobody had ever died inside the house.
sam wiped his palms on his work shirt and I started to follow him down the stairs.
there was a noticeable barrier in the stairwell between the hot air upstairs and the slightly cooler air downstairs.
stepping down through it, I felt as though it skimmed something off the top of my head, which then lay atop the barrier like oil on water.
this must be how the ghost was formed, I thought.
whatever skimmed off the tops of our heads collected into one mass.
that mass was carried by a network of drafts into the bedroom next to mine, where it joined whatever mass was already there.
assuming my theory was correct, the ghost should look like a grandchild of me, killer, sam, and the redheaded tenant.
how we were paired was irrelevant.
outside, sam started his car.