Christine Zilka has kindly included me in a literary relay, where ten bloggers each write a 250-word post about a stranger coming into town, and must use the previous writer’s last line as the post’s first line. Because I’m first up and had nobody to steal a last/first line from, I stole the last line from a favorite novella: César Aira’s Ghosts.
The next person in the relay is Jamey Hatley.
Man and ghost stared at each other. They stood on the footpath leading to the crest of the mountain, their mutual home, though one lived on the east side of this crest and the other faced west, natural preferences for each, the one enjoying shimmering dawns and the other, velvet sunsets. For ten years, however, neither man nor ghost had encountered anything past his own shadow, the other’s existence having been mere rumor—and how unkind, both realized with regret, was unrelenting rumor, for a ghost, the man saw, was not a fire-breathing beast, and neither, conceded the ghost, was a man a thing of utter ugliness. In fact, one was indistinguishable from the other.
The man wiped a hand on his pants and held it out to the ghost. He had been swimming in the river below, he explained, taking a break from his farm work. The ghost looked down at his own hand, which was stained with poetry’s ink. He had once worked on a farm himself, long ago. Perhaps now was the time to share each other’s gifts. Who, he wondered, shall invite the other into the folds of his mountain, treating him no longer as stranger but, finally, as guest? For a moment, memories of life, rich with earthly scents, overwhelmed the ghost, and his eyes were blinded by the mountain’s sun pinned high above their heads. But when he could see again, really see, the man was gone. The river, he noted, had darkened.
[Other contenders for last/first lines, after the jump.]