The old school was haunted.
No classes had been taught there since the flood, nearly two years ago now; most of the town had packed up and left, not enthused enough about the town to tough it through, not rich enough to just pour money on the problem to fix things, not picturesque enough to get the TV crews and the charity money they brought with them.
Macy’s family had been one of only a couple that had stayed – Macy’s, and Joe’s, and Fidel’s. Their fathers split the town between them, salvaging what they could and selling it at flea markets on the weekends. Their mothers grew what they could, and canned and preserved and made do the way their grandmothers and great-grandmothers did. The electric company still sent them power, as long as they paid, and the water company still sent them water, and if that was all they had, well, it was better than a lot of people did, or at least that’s what Macy’s mom had said.
Macy and Joe and Fidel, sometimes they helped their dads scavenge, or work on cleaning up or building up their homesteads, and sometimes they helped watched their little brothers and sisters, or helped their moms in the kitchen, though all of them would rather be pulling siding off a rotting building than turning the crank on the food mill. And when they could get away and do what they wanted, they went down to the old school.
Their dads wouldn’t touch it, so they’d done what they could, pulled the books that had survived up to the top floor and dried out the ones that were only a little damp, thrown everything else in the dumpsters so the whole place stopped smelling of damp and misery and sewage, run the janitor’s hoses and soap through the whole first floor until it gleamed. There was no-one to tell them to do it, but there was no-one to tell them not to, either, so it was their place, their fort. Their flooded-out swampy dreams.
Fidel said that’s what it was haunting the place – ghosts of finals they’d never get to take, and the ones they hadn’t cared as much about, ghosts of the dreams they’d had of scholarships, and college, and a better life, all washed away with the damn river. Joe said it was memories, their friends that had died, the ones that had just left with what they could take. They didn’t touch the lockers of those friends, and wouldn’t help their dads clean out those houses.
Macy thought they were both right, and both wrong. When she was alone there, in the third-floor room they’d made into a library, she could hear them. Mrs. Proctor, who’d made sure all the kids were out and safe and gotten hit by a floating road sign. Mr. Talbot, who’d had a heart attack and drowned in three inches of water. Mrs. Gonzalez, who’d been sobbing when she packed up and left. She could hear their lessons, the ones they’d already taught her and the ones they’d never gotten to. And as long as she could hear them teach her, she could still learn.
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