Susan Nordmark: “Last Ghosts,” two flash fictions for Haunted Passages

Haunted Passages: Susan Nordmark


It’s not even a rag. It would be a good idea to visit. What the doctor cooked up is not at all sustainable, I’m wanting to say.

The hip replacement seemed to go well. I relied on it for a long time. We had a dull finish and dents from inappropriate handling, and some significant splitting. Eventually I stuck a large safety pin in the elastic. You indicated that her first ten years are unknown to you, and she seems to have lived primarily outside on the street. I made an accidental cut five years ago when I was snipping paper, but I hid it with a fabric appliqué from a craft store. However, she keeps jerking it out.

I observe weight loss, aversion to touch except lightly on the top of the head, diminished agility twisting her spine to clean herself, and disinclination to eat or drink. The splits run down the grain nearly from end to end. You reported that the other office found all but eight teeth were rotten and required removal. There were mites, though that was only a superficial problem. That extended life for a few years afterward.

Before, she only needed help using the toilet. So I had to carry my purse in front of me for the rest of the day. Multi-organ failure is difficult to manage. Treatment of choice is daily IV hydration with Ringer’s. We’ve already gone through seven aides.

We now know that most commercial food damages the kidneys. You indicated you have sufficient family support. You mentioned a concern with toxic solvents, but we can work that out. I do take into account your report that she still climbs your back fence. As if it were an expensive sheer stocking.

Recently, significant thinning appeared on the back side. The base consists of four pieces of 3/4-inch lumber, so I can remove the split board, rip it to a narrower width that removes the damaged area, then glue on a replacement. The problem is that her gastrointestinal system is already under stress from ammonia generated by her failing kidneys. Moreover, a few weeks ago the right leg pulled out a hole.

Now, did they decide the stroke caused her to fall, or the other way around? I checked the hinges for nicks and rust, and examined the base for stability. I have quite a few tunic sweaters that extend nicely over the threadbare seat. If you slide the piece, they allow it to move across the floor without damage.

Anyhow, being as the stroke knocked out her swallow, she has the G-tube. I’d reinstall that, possibly upside down to hide the new strip in the middle.

I recommend we hammer some floor glides to the bottom. But with her throwing the tubing on the floor, it’s making it hard to keep the home health contract—you realize this means the system has to be re-sterilized fifty times a day?

Lycra knit is useless for drying dishes or dusting blinds. It can irritate the stomach. I did get a wicked rash, but a naturopath ended up giving me some herbal ointment, and that did the trick.

I think it’s time for the family to get together. It could last a good hundred more years. However small. One or two people can manage that. An opiate may be the best solution.


Her dyslexia grew up. Letters still flashed, numbers bobbed side to side. And when she spoke, words found their opposites and pushed them ahead of her first burst. She thought Left, but said Right. When she said, Isn’t, she meant, Is. ‘Not’ belonged to a different dimension, her neural net pot-holed here and there, a rutted road. A word led to its shadow self. Then the shadow overwhelmed the initial thought. People said, What you say makes no sense. But it did if you knew her language. She didn’t know it—she heard only the whisper she intended, not the one her mouth sounded aloud, the raw scramble others tried to take in. Her husband carried a machine to record and play back her voice to her. I never said that, she said. You found a ghostly mirror-me. Our brains are coy with crannies, he said. Maybe there’s a brain fold where ghosts nestle. What if one of these shades talks back? What if three of them argue? I don’t know, she said. But someone’s shaking the alphabet. Look, he said, there are drugs to push voices away. No, if there are ghosts in my brain, she said, I shouldn’t try to make them leave. Exorcisms only silence spirits, but they still live, and become resentful. I’ve got to let them speak. They will listen to each other, dispute, find a new way to say it. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis—you know, Hegel and those guys. What—you could read him? he said. I couldn’t understand that stuff myself. Oh, don’t read, she said. Just watch a video. Easy.

Susan Nordmark’s fiction and essays have appeared in New World Writing, Long Island Literary Journal, Sin Fronteras: Writers Without Borders, Entropy, Peacock Journal, Draft: The Journal of Process, Porter Gulch Review, Roar Feminist, and elsewhere. She lives in Oakland, California.


Check out HFR’s book catalog, publicity list, submission manager, and buy merch from our Spring store. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.