That night he got out of step with the gliding ghosts as they danced in the empty cafeteria.
He does it every night just after he gets done changing the toilet tissue and before the lights are off. His own personal sock hop.
He's got a bad leg and he limps and sometimes he'll mumble things to himself and, during the day, the kids, they make fun of him for it. Call him Captain Hook and to the staff, he's the totem pole's bottom, the man with the mop; it's in their eyes, a drooping pacification.
But in the dim cafeteria, still reeking of leftover mash potatoes and too hard of meatloaf, he plays Little Richard and Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis and dances like tomorrow is an unpromised mirage. Sometimes he'll recognize one, a friend, maybe, who used to see-saw with him. The childlike voice, going up and down in an unmoving summer day. Or a girl from high school who sounds too old to be who he thinks she is.
The ghosts, they don't ask questions.
They just dance and for a song or two or three everything seems to slide over to a lone prayer's edge and he can look off that edge and see nothing at the bottom. One day, when he get the guts, he'll jump. But until then they dance.
submitted at 3:44am
31 July 2010