"Ok, Steve," Ghost said, as he went back to sleep.
The next time the medic came in, Ghost was more alert, and checked out ok to leave. He said he'd sure like to hear them sing and play, someday. Steve told him he'd send him a copy of their "Lost Souls?" tape, when they got home.
So that Ghost wouldn't have to walk all the way to the entrance, the airport workers gave them a ride on the little golf cart vehicle, then left them there at the door. After making their way through the parking lot, they just sat in the car a little while, exhausted from their trip...even though they never really went anywhere.
Steve shook his head, then said, "Some fancy jet-set travelers we are, Ghost...can't even get off the ground...got lost in the freaking airport," then he started laughing.
"I know," Ghost said, laughing at how ridiculous it all was. "Just a couple of freaks, freaking out at the freaking airport."
They were still laughing, as Steve pulled out onto the highway.
On the way out of town, they stopped for fast food and ate on the way.. Feeling much better, they made good time, on the road. By nightfall, they'd gone up the mountain again, and were back at the Smoky Mountain restaurant and visitor center. They were greeted warmly by the employees, and they spent the night in one of the little cabins.
The night was still and dark, as Ghost went out to look at the stars. He was glad they could just relax for awhile. Steve came up behind him, giving him a hug. Ghost leaned back, and sighed.
"So, do you think we've had a good trip, I mean, all together, and all we've seen and done?" Steve asked.
"Yeah, I liked it, most of it anyway, but guess I am ready to go home now."
"Me, too," Steve said. "I've had enough adventure for awhile. We can put our pictures together now, and you can write some stuff for it."
"And we can see our friends, and play at the club...and our house, Steve...we can see our house again," Ghost said, then yawned.
Steve wanted to get an early start, the next morning, so he and Ghost went back inside. It was getting chilly out, and there was a feeling in the air of fall weather coming soon. There were plenty of blankets and pillows on the bed, and they snuggled down in them.
"So, are you feeling ok, now?" Steve asked.
"Yeah...when they shot me, it helped me feel better. It made me all sleepy and drifty. I kinda don't remember it all, though."
"Well, you don't have to, it's over, now."
"Guess so, but Steve, I remember hearing people talking about me, and I've heard other people say things, too...things that make me feel bad. Probably, I'm not supposed to hear, but I do," Ghost went on.
"Don't pay any attention to that, Ghost. Try to block out stuff like that, if you can. It don't mean anything anyway. I think things about people too, but they don't hear me...everybody does that. Don't you?" Steve asked.
"Guess so, but I don't say bad things out loud."
"Yeah, some people are just rude and mean and don't care what they say. Just ignore them."
"But, I can't! What if I am dirty, what if I am retarded, what if I just don't know it? You'd tell me, wouldn't you, Steve?"
"What are you getting at, Ghost? Is that what you hear people saying?" Steve asked.
"Yeah, I hear it a lot. Sometimes out loud, sometimes just hearing what they're thinking, but hearing it a lot, maybe it's true. But, I don't think I'm dirty...and I wash myself all the time. So, why do they say that, Steve? And what does retarded mean, anyway? Is it something bad...about me? And how would I know, except people say I am. I want to know, Steve. Will you tell me? Or, do you think so, too, and don't want me to know?"
Steve wasn't sure what he should say to ease Ghost's mind on all this. He got quiet for a few minutes, kind of hoping Ghost would just go on to sleep and forget about it. But, then...
"Steve...are you gonna tell me?"
Steve cleared his throat. "Ghost, what people say don't mean nothing when they're being mean or saying bad things, ya know?"
"You already said that, I get it," Ghost said. "I try not to let it bother me, but I want to know if it's true."
"Ghost, please, just drop it, ok?"
"No, Steve, I want to know...what do those words mean when they say them about me?"
"Look, I can't explain it right," Steve said.
"Well, try, ok? I'm not gonna get mad at you. I just need to know."
"Ok, then...all I know is some people are born with problems. Maybe they can't talk, or walk very good, or learn things easy...so people call them retarded, which just means they're slower at doing things than other people. That's all. Everybody has things they can't do, or have a hard time trying to do...that they're slower at...so I suppose everyone is retarded in some ways. Like you can't do numbers, so what? Maybe somebody else can't sing good. But, you can.
You've had a hard time, ever since you were born. Then you had those head injuries, that made your brain hurt, and maybe made you be confused about some things. But, you overcame things like that by finding another way to do them. If you have trouble in one thing, try another way. Everyone has something they're good at, and some things they're not good at. You're a genius when it comes to writing and singing. Most people couldn't do that, no matter how hard they tried.
Well, anyway, does that help you any? That's all I know how to explain it," Steve said.
Ghost thought for a minute. "So, are people calling me a bad word? It makes me feel bad. I don't understand it, yet."
"Well, I guess it's not really a bad word, but the way they use it is meant in a bad way...to hurt your feelings, to make you feel bad. They use it to explain to themselves something they don't understand. People should just keep their mouths shut, and not say stuff like that, you know." Steve said.
"Yeah, I don't like to hear it, but I do," Ghost said.
"You shouldn't worry about a stupid word, said by people who don't know any better than to be mean and rude," said Steve.
"Ok, guess I'll try not to hear it, then," sighed Ghost.
After a few minutes, when he was sure Ghost was asleep, Steve couldn't hold back silent tears for his friend and lover.
The next morning, Ghost woke Steve for a change. He was ready to go and get breakfast. He tickled, and kissed, and jiggled Steve, until he woke up. Steve swatted him away a couple of times, but finally opened his eyes. He'd lain awake most of the night, and now Ghost noticed Steve's swollen, red rimmed eyes, and the tiredness on his face.
"What's the matter, Steve?" Ghost asked, worried now.
"Nothing, just couldn't get to sleep, that's all. I'll be up in a minute."
Ghost looked hard at Steve, and caught fragments of his not well hidden thoughts of the night before. "Ok, Steve, but hurry up, I'm hungry," he said, not very happily, and his shoulders drooped. He got up and left the room entirely, going outside.
"Crap, I've done it again, without even saying a word," Steve thought. All he could do now, was get up and get ready to go. As he came outside, he saw Ghost across the way, at the overlook area. He was holding his arms up, and turning in a slow circle, eyes closed, and saying something.
Steve watched for awhile, not wanting to interrupt whatever it was Ghost was doing. Finally, he walked on over. "What was that all abut?" he asked.
Ghost grinned, and said, "Just saying hey to the mountains, and trees, and sun, and saying thank you for a beautiful day."
"That's nice...are you done now?"
"I am, but you're not...you have to do it too, Steve."
"Like hell! I'd feel stupid doing that. That's your speciality, saying morning to nature."
"But, I want you to. It makes you feel good, and I want you to feel good, Steve."
Steve gave a little put-upon growl, "What ever...how do you do it, then?"
Ghost showed him, then sat back and watched. Steve stumbled around in a circle, almost losing his balance, and said a few words..."Hey mountain, hey tree...I see you, do you see me?"
Ghost snickered. Steve opened his eyes and glared. "You better start running, Ghost, 'cause if I catch ya, you'll regret making me do that."
So, Ghost took off for the restaurant. Steve followed, smiling and shaking his head.
Next installment coming soon!
Peace, Love, & Writing