To celebrate Boise’s 150th year birthday, the Boise Department of Arts and History called for submissions of short stories and poems to be published in a commemorative book. I eagerly wrote what I thought was a witty tale about a ghost living along the Greenbelt. My story was rejected. So, here is a complimentary copy! Happy Birthday, Boise.
The Gregarious Ghost of the Greenbelt
Who knew I’d become a ghost living underneath the 8th Street Bridge along the Boise River Greenbelt? But that’s where I emerged after a lengthy debate of the Afterlife Assignment Association. I remember the verdict as if it were only 50 years ago.
“After reviewing your Final Files and watching the Verdict Videos of your human life, we have determined that you will be assigned to exist under a bridge in Boise, Idaho until you can prove yourself worthy of advancing to the next Regal Realm,” said Orpheus the Oracle, the ancient leader of the powerful assignment committee. “Your case will be reconsidered in 50 years.”
I raised my hand to ask for another opinion based upon the fact that I only committed a few of the seven deadly sins but Orpheus would have none of my impudent behavior. He hovered above his golden throne, spread his scarlet cloak, and raised the silver Sentencing Scepter as thunder crashed and lightening illuminated the marble chamber. First he pointed the scepter at my trembling Life Lawyer and with an instant zap the hapless attorney scampered off as an itinerant toad.
“The bridge sounds wonderful,” I whispered in response.
The Oracle waved his magic wand as he pronounced my assignment and suddenly I felt a rush of wind spinning me up and out of the assignment chamber. I glanced down at the long line of recently departed souls waiting to enter the chamber and noticed that very few were allowed to progress to the next realm. I concluded there must be millions of guilty ghosts trying to earn redemption, so I decided to savor the adventure with my spirited companions.
After the appropriate twirling and configuring, I appeared on the railing of the 8th Street Bridge. I initially gasped as five lanes of traffic careened beside me but then I realized it didn’t matter because I was invisible. I jumped into the street and giggled as a motorcycle blew threw me. I tapped the rider on the back and smirked when he almost lost control. Then I hopped into the path of a pickup truck and hollered with delight as the huge vehicle passed. Because I could, I grabbed a cooler out of the back and quickly arranged cold beer cans along the sidewalk. Students from nearby Boise State University scampered over to retrieve the beer. No more weeping and gashing of teeth for me! This was a fabulous assignment!
I played in traffic for a few more hours and then decided to make a new home. I found the perfect place on the west side of the bridge, still warm from the afternoon sun. I claimed my spot and settled in to watch people walking and riding bikes along the Boise River Greenbelt. For fun, I would jump up and sit on the handlebars of a bike and make it start to tip over. Good riders could catch their balance while bad riders would fall over and curse. Of course, I never allowed anyone to get hurt, just annoyed and puzzled.
Pestering people near the bridge was great sport for several years, but one warm sunny afternoon I decided to explore. I traveled east and danced with some children playing in Julia Davis Park. Some of the more intuitive ones saw me, and I smiled. Then I floated over to the Boise Zoo and sat on the head of a giraffe until he shook his neck and told me to go away. From there I sauntered over to Warm Springs Golf Course. If I liked a golfer, I nudged her wayward ball into the cup and bowed unnoticed while she squealed with delight. If a player was obnoxious, I grabbed the ball off the green and threw it into the water. During the spring runoff, I moved to Lucky Peak Dam and sat on the rooster tail of water shooting out from the reservoir. Sometimes people took photographs of the spray and an image of me would appear in their photos. No one could explain the apparition.
One day I joined a happy family boating at Lucky Peak. We stopped at a floating dock so they could enjoy a picnic lunch. I didn’t have much appetite, mainly because I was a ghost and didn’t need to eat. While the parents were distracted, the toddler slipped off the dock and sank in the water. I jumped in and lifted the baby to the surface just as the mother screamed and grabbed her. I noticed a group of young ghosts floating nearby and they saluted with appreciation of my good deed.
After several years of playing on the east side of Boise, I decided to go west. The Boise River Greenbelt stretched for 25 miles, and I had much to explore. I returned to my special spot under the 8th Street Bridge then skipped through traffic to The Cabin, a literary center next to the library. I enjoyed visiting workshops and watching aspiring writers craft their works. Sometimes I whispered inspirational words into their ears and they immediately reacted by writing in their notebooks or pecking on their laptops. I stayed there several years until some new apparitions appeared from the Afterlife Assignment Association. We nodded politely to each other and I resumed my travels.
Further along the Greenbelt, I enjoyed visiting Ann Morrison Park, especially during the hot air balloon shows. The balloonists never knew I joined several other ghosts sitting on top of the balloons as they sailed over the city. Then I would go over to Kathryn Albertson Park and bring beautiful little birds just for children to see. By then, I was becoming a Midlife Ghost and not so sassy. I often whispered encouragement to lonely people and hummed sweet music for the lovers walking hand in hand.
I watched spontaneous productions on the grass at Veterans Memorial State Park and guarded the busy street so children couldn’t dart into traffic. Once I caught a little boy falling out of a tree. He thanked me and ran off to tell his mother. She just nodded, smiled, and patted his head. He turned back to me and waved. It was our secret.
On long summer days, I preferred to hover near Willow Lane Park and Athletic Complex to hear the sounds of children playing. Jumping into a soccer game was great sport for me, and I enjoyed being part of the team. Occasionally I would assist a struggling player make just the right kick. Then I would fly to the net and make sure the ball went in for the score. Many times there were dozens of other ghosts playing on the field, and we would have our own invisible competition.
The decades flew by and then it was time for my review by the Afterlife Assignment Association. In a whirl of motion I was plucked from the 8th Street Bridge and transported back to the chamber where Orpheus the Oracle was waiting. I stood before the committee, respectful but fearless.
“You have done well,” Orpheus said. He seemed less of a jerk than he was during our initial meeting.
“Thank you,” I replied. “I enjoyed my half century along the Boise River Greenbelt.”
“You may not know the results of your deeds,” the Oracle said as he unrolled a piece of
parchment and began to read. “The toddler you saved from the water is now a world-famous musician. You inspired several bestselling books from the writers at The Cabin. The little boy who fell from the tree is now a national leader. Many of the young soccer players grew up to become community volunteers helping other children.”
I stood as tall as my ghostly spirit would allow and waited for the verdict.
“Based upon the success of your assignment, the committee has decided that you are eligible to progress to the Regal Realm. Congratulations.”
I knew I was expected to sincerely thank the committee and then silently pass through the golden doors. But I didn’t want to go.
“Thank you for your confidence in me,” I said. “But, I don’t want to leave the bridge. I’m requesting to return.”
Orpheus the Oracle was not pleased. He rose from his throne and glared at me. As he reached for the silver Sentencing Scepter I feared the worst: would I become an itinerant toad or a lowly house fly?
“You are hereby reassigned to the 8th Street Bridge in Boise,” he declared amid all the unnecessary but spectacular thunder and lightning. “And you will not be reviewed for another 100 years.”
I felt the familiar commotion as I traveled back to the bridge. I found my place and knew I was home, at least for another century. Just as I was settling in, I heard a frantic yell from a child in trouble. There was no time to waste so I flew over to assist. That ugly thug harassing the little girl never knew what hit him. My work here is not finished.