Kinsey was a little taken aback by Steve's answer. He hadn't figured it'd be some long involved tale...but, he sat there and let Steve explain. There was nothing else to do tonight, and Steve and Ghost loved to talk, and could spin some good stories out of not much of anything. So, he propped up his feet and leaned back, ready to hear what would become a rambling tale of sadness. Steve started at the beginning, as he always did. This time it went all the way back to their school days.
"Ya know when Ghost first came here?" he started. "Well, you know all that, but what you don't know, is that Ghost is super smart. Probably more than anyone I know. That's one reason kids didn't like him. And, you know about the feelings he gets and all that weird shit. Well, he was really good at schoolwork, except for math."
He stopped a minute and looked at Kinsey. "Yeah, he had that ADD stuff going on, too...it really bothered him that he couldn't get the math stuff."
Kinsey interrupted then, "You mean algebra, fractions, stuff like that? That's hard for lots of people."
"Well, that's true, but Ghost can't even add or subtract..even now. He never could...can't even recognize what number it is he's looking at. It's like he has a math blindness or something...a blank in his brain for it. He can't even count from one to ten, Kinsey." Steve was almost in tears at the thought of the pain it caused Ghost.
Kinsey looked at Steve like, maybe he was joking, but seeing the look on Steve's face, made him somehow believe that it was possible.
Steve continued. "He can say the words for numbers, ya know...one, two, three, and all, but doesn't get any sense of what they are." At that point, to lighten up the mood a bit, he chuckled at the thought he was having, and said, "You don't even know how it is when we try to play a game...bowling, cards, money...he can't figure out how many spaces to move, or how many pins he knocks down, or what cards he has, or what money adds up to. I mostly let him win, 'cause he really wants to play."
Steve was quiet, then. After a large sigh, he continued. "The school put him in the slow math classes, but nothing helped. The teachers gave up on him. Nothing will ever help him with a brain like that. That's what's so sad. He still thinks he'll get it one day.
When he left school that last day," Steve looked at Kinsey, who'd recently heard about Ghost's last day, "he had a book in his back pack, a math book. A very simple math book, like for kindergartner kids. He never brought it back. He still has it." Steve caught his breath with a choke. "Kinsey, he studies that book every single day...every single day that I've known him. He'll have pages of practice problems, but he can't even write the numbers. He'll work so hard, and bring me the pages to say if he did good.
Kinsey, he never, ever gets any better. It's mostly just scribbling. He writes words and songs like a genius, but not a number at all. I look at his papers, and say he did good. I know he knows I'm lying, but he goes on about how he's improving. It's heartbreaking. I think the main goal he's ever had in his life, is to do math...and he knows he'll never do it. What makes someone keep on trying, Kinsey, what?" Steve pleaded for an answer.
"I don't know, Steve. I had no idea Ghost had a problem like that. Hell, I never knew that stuff you told me the other day. And, I've lived here all my life...and, you know how it is with bartenders...we're supposed to hear all the gossip in a town. I'll tell ya, this town has secrets," Kinsey sighed. "I don't know why Ghost keeps on trying, but it shows he's a determined young man, Steve. Not a lot of people would keep on trying."
"Yeah, but I wish I could make it work for him," Steve said. "I've helped him out of lots of crazy things, and feel like I should be able to with this, but..." he shook his head.
"Well, you just keep on doing what you can, I guess," said Kinsey.
Kinsey figured it was time to get busy. He had some chores to tend to. Steve sat there sipping his beer. The club door opened, then, and two of the old guys from the hardware store came in. One was holding a book.
"Hey, Kinsey, you open?"
"No," Kinsey answered, "but, come on in, grab a beer."
They ambled over to the bar, then noticed Steve sitting there. He wasn't looking at them, just staring at the table, lost in his own thoughts.
The two guys nudged each other, saying in a low tone, "There he is. What a bastard. What should we do about it?"
"Well, Ghost said he wouldn't remember a thing, and sure enough, looks that way. He's working on another drunk, too. He has to be told what he did; he needs to be held accountable."
"Do you think Kinsey has any idea?"
"Doesn't look like it, or he'd have taken Steve down already."
"Well, I have to give Kinsey this book. We'll see what he knows."
They walked over to where Kinsey was counting supplies in the storeroom. "Hey, Kinsey, I think this is yours." He handed the book over, and said, "It's kinda messed up."
Kinsey took the book, saw that it was his, but turned it all around, looking at the cover, and tried to puzzle out what it was that was smeared on it. "What'd you do to it, guys...and why do you have it anyway?" he was confused. The last time he'd seen it, was when Ghost was looking at it, two days ago.
"Ahem," they started in, but were hesitant. They closed the door to the storeroom, so they could talk freely.
Next installment coming soon!
Peace, Love, & Writing!