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"Ghosts" - By Lt. Tim Cotton

They aren’t there anymore, but he is. While other folks pass the homes and apartment buildings, the stores and the laundromats and see nothing more than the shells which shelter, employ, and cleanse, he sees the ghosts.

At the white house with green shutters, he recalls the returning of a bicycle to a kid that forgot it after he leaned the bicycle on the guard rail on the dead end street. 

The frog catching expedition in the pond which forms there in the late spring went a little too late and well after dark. The boy ran home instead of grabbing the Huffy. The mac and cheese mustache on the kid’s face couldn’t hide the smile. The smirk on the chief cook’s face was priceless when she called her son to the door to speak to the officer. 

He gave the boy a badge sticker and a shoulder squeeze when he told him it’s always better to bring the bicycle home yourself, only to make sure that someone else won’t be riding it for the rest of the summer.

He thinks the boy went to the University of Maine. He had seen him a few times in the years since. He caught him “parking” with a lady friend over on the Kenduskeag Stream in the summer after his junior year of high school. The kids were embarrassed and “just talking.” They weren’t drinking but the music on the radio was not music he would have chosen when “talking” to a girl on the riverbank. 

CD quality music was great, but the kids were missing out on the required static which Amplitude Modulation can add to the voice of Benny Mardones. He didn’t tell them that. Mainly because they had no idea about Benny Mardones and they sure never listened to Z-62. He checked the dash radio to see if AM was still an option in the new Ford. It was. He switched it over to a talk station. It faded in and out nicely. Like the ebb and flow of life.

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He passed the raised ranch where the tan and rusted out Dodge Dart sat idle beside the garage.

He arrested the driver of the Dart for operating under the influence. He remembered it so clearly for several reasons. The fellow actually fell down when he tried to get out of the car. Since the inebriated driver forgot to put it in park before getting out, he recalled his leap to jump over the man to get to the column shifter in order to push the lever up into park.

The tick, tick, tick of the 225 slant six (the worst sounding motor ever created, but it was solid) was joined with the staccato clickity-click of the parking pin trying to find the slot. It was loud when it finally found it’s home hole, but the car stopped. The man went to jail and later sold the car to a teenager who lived at the raised ranch. 

He wondered if the motor would still run. 

For a midnight in September the air was warm on his face and slow nights made the coffee taste better and allowed him the ability to drink the entire cup while it was still warm.

He told one of the younger officers that he actually invented iced coffee, now the rage, back in 1989. 

Simply because he was out of the car all night working a fatal accident, his cruiser had run out of gas. This in turn allowed the coffee in the paper cup to become a slushy of coffee and cream. He sipped it while he waited for someone from the station come out with a a couple of gallons of gas from motor pool. 

The kid laughed but looked at him funny and left the locker room after grabbing the wrong gear bag. The poor lad probably hadn’t ever had the experience of a car running out of gas. Right up until last year his parents had paid for every single tank of fuel. He wondered if the kid ever had a Huffy.

He remembers switching to black coffee after drinking that mess. 

He figured he had been in at least one house on every street in town, and on some streets he felt like he had been at all of them. 

He wondered about the people who had lived there and moved on. He missed the old dog that used to be on the corner of Grove and Stillwater. He would stop with a piece of a ham sandwich every now and then. 

He could still hear the dog’s tail rattling against the porch rail. The dog was 13 when he passed. He was a really good dog. 

They aren’t there anymore. But he is.


Keep your hands to yourself, leave other people’s things alone, and be kind to one another.

TC (

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