Ghost: 100 Stories to read with the lights on

International Fiction

My grandmother and I live among strangers. The house does not seem big enough to hold all the people who keep appearing in it at different times. They sit down to dinner as though they had been expected—and indeed there is always a place laid for them – or come into the drawing room out of the cold, rubbing their hands and exclaiming over the weather, settle by the fire and take up a book I had not noticed before, continuing to read from a place they had marked with a worn paper bookmark. As would be quite natural, some of them are bright and agreeable, while others are unpleasant -peevish or sly. I form immediate friendships with some -we understand each other perfectly from the moment we meet -and look forward to seeing them again at breakfast. But when I go down to breakfast they are not there; often I never see them again. All this is very unsettling. My grandmother and I never mention this coming and going of strangers in the house. But I watch her delicate pink face as she enters the dining room leaning on her cane and stops in surprise -she moves so slowly that this is barely perceptible. A young man rises from his place, clutching his napkin at his belt, and goes to help her into her chair. She adjusts to his presence with a nervous smile and a gracious nod, though I know she is as dismayed as I am that he was not here this morning and will not be here tomorrow and yet behaves as though this were all very natural. But often enough, of course, the person at the table is not a polite young man but a thin spinster who eats silently and quickly and leaves before we are done, or an old woman who scowls at the rest of us and spits the skin of her baked apple onto the edge of her plate. There is nothing we can do about this. How can we get rid of people we never invited who leave of their own accord anyway, sooner or later? Though we are of dif­ferent generations, we were both brought up never to ask questions and only to smile at things we did not understand.

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International Fiction

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