"The Floating Mickey Mouse T-Shirt" by Brian Alan Ellis

Olivia and I, God bless us, are sitting on a curb out­side of Village Inn, the two of us, passing a bottle of red wine back and forth as if it were the last left on earth.

The scenery isn’t much: street lamps; automobiles; buildings that have somehow stood the sadness of time; weeping palm fronds; shad­owy nightmare things leaping about in the night.

I ask Olivia if she wants me to tell her any ghost stories.

She starts grunting and moaning.

“Okay, fine,” I say, “forget the damn ghost stories.”

I ask her what she aspires to be in life.

She thinks about it. “A corpse,” she says finally.

“Good answer,” I say. “Good, good answer.”

Olivia holds the bottle to her lips using both hands, like an infant.

I go, “Hey, once your dreams come true and you make it as a big-time corpse, am I permitted to fuck whatever’s left of you?”

Olivia spits a mouthful of wine at the concrete.

Then I see it, an object approaching from out of the darkness, some­thing spooky.

“Hey, do you see that?”

“See what?”

I point to it. “That,” I say. “It looks like—it’s a t-shirt. It’s floating towards us.”

“A floating t-shirt? Fuck you!”

The t-shirt, which I think is floating towards us, comes into the light—faded blue, the likeness of Mickey Mouse printed on the front of it—and it looks like it’s bringing a person along with it.

Funny. A shirt wearing a person.

The man being worn by the blue Mickey Mouse t-shirt stops in front of us.

We greet him kindly, drunkenly.

I offer him wine.    

He yanks the bottle from Olivia’s grasp, drinks, and keeps drinking.

Olivia says, “Take it easy, buster!”

The man wipes his smiling mouth with the sleeve of the Mickey Mouse t-shirt.

“She’s had enough,” I tell him. “Feel free.”

The man points a gnarled finger at Olivia. “She your lady?”

I go, “Yeah, she’s one of my main bitches.” I nudge Olivia. “Now suck the man’s dick, ho!”

She makes a disgusted-ass face and then shoves me off the curb.

The man starts laughing and howling so hard that his large, glassy eyeballs look as though they’re about to burst from his skull and bounce across the street.

In fact, I’ve never seen eyes quite like his.

So I ask him if he’s a ghost.

“Shit yeah!” he says, and I know he’s lying because instead of telling us about haunting houses and being dead, he goes on and on about typical human things—like being broke; like knowing there isn’t a chance; like feeling as though you are being brushed away like some repetitious gnat forced to feed off the corn embedded in society’s turd.

Makes me think that actual ghosts, if they really opened up more, would make much better conversa­tionalists than humans generally are.

“You work, Mr. Ghost?” Olivia wants to know.

“Sometimes.” He motions to a warehouse down the street.

Olivia and I shudder at the thought of having to work there.

Not that our jobs at Village Inn are any better.

Or any worse.

“I got a job,” he says, “but no money. The money I do make, it all goes to child support. Got kids to feed, you know?”

Olivia chimes in with a pitying “Aww, poor Ghost Dad” bit, which is rude, and the man says to me, “Now whatever you do, my man—don’t go gettin’ this bitch impregnated. You’ll regret that shit.”

I can’t help but laugh.

Olivia, God bless her, just sits there scowling at the man, as if she wants to claw him to pieces.

I want to tell her it’s too late, that he’s already been through the ringer a few times.

But I don’t.

Instead, I ask the man how many kids he has.

“Two,” he says. “Age nine and twelve.”

“Ghost kids?” I ask.

“Seems like it,” he says.

Then he takes one last drink, hands the bottle back to Olivia, and says, “Best be on my way. Ghost Dad’s gotta find ’im somewhere to crash for the night. The lady done thrown him out again. He thanks you for the spirits.”

And as the faded blue Mickey Mouse t-shirt floats passed, taking the man with it, I call out, “Good luck, Mr. Ghost!” then wait, hoping for a response.

Finally a voice from out of the dark hollers back: “Ghosts don’t need no luck, my man!”

I smile. “Wasn’t that nice?”

Olivia smirks as she goes to have a drink of wine.

“What the hell?” she says, pouring the empty bottle sideways. “Motherfucker! Now what?”

It’s a noble question.

I figure, now that all the wine is gone, God bless us, I can start tell­ing Olivia those ghost stories she doesn’t want to hear, knowing she will grunt and moan the whole time, which is a shame.

I’ve got some good ones.

*previously published in something good, something bad, something dirty 

(house of vlad productions, 2014)