“My parents were terrible parents,” I say, and my therapist agrees.
“Your inner child is starving,” he says. “It is so hungry, it has wasted away. It’s a ghost now.”
And I feel it, haunting me.
It follows me home on the subway. I hear its black patent shoes clacking against the sidewalk. I hear the rustling of its green chiffon dress as it walks into my apartment—this little girl ghost with black pigtails.
“And who is this?” my husband says.
She is sitting at the kitchen table. “I am hungry,” she says. “I am so hungry.”
My husband looks at me, worried. “The girl needs something to eat.”
I pour cereal into a bowl.
“I am still hungry,” says the girl.
“More cereal!” yells my husband.
“That was a very large bowl,” I say, then pour another. I add extra milk.
“She is still hungry,” my husband says.
“She is not hungry,” I say.
“I am,” says the girl. “I am still hungry.”
I make her a peanut butter sandwich and add two layers of jelly. I hand it to her, and go to the couch. I lie down. I do not want this ghost.
My husband comes to the couch. “Where did you get her?” he whispers. “Is she ours?”
His enthusiasm annoys me. “No,” I say. “She is not. She is a ghost,” I say.
My husband pauses. “Did you have therapy today?”
“Yes,” I say. “That’s how this whole thing started.”
“Rest,” my husband says. “You’ve had a long day.”
“I am still hungry,” the girl calls from the kitchen.
My husband jumps up. “Should I give her more bread?”
“Yes,” I say.
I call my therapist. “Tell me,” I say. “How to get rid of this ghost.”
“Tell me,” my therapist says. “Why you want to get rid of her?”
“She is a ghost,” I say. “I do not want to be haunted.”
“Tell me,” my therapist says. “Who is haunting who?”
“There is only one ghost,” I say, “in this equation.”
The girl takes the phone from my hand. “I am so hungry,” she tells my therapist.
“I know,” he says. “You are so hungry, you are wasting away. You are a ghost.”
I go to the kitchen. There is a loaf of bread in the oven. It has risen.
I bring it to the girl.
I go to my room to look up exorcists on Yelp. I call the first name that I see.
The exorcist knocks on the door.
“Who is it?” my husband says. He is in the kitchen making pizza. The girl is still not full.
I open the door and let the exorcist in. She is wearing a yellow poncho and holding a yellow umbrella. It is not raining. She opens the umbrella in my face. “Shoo,” she says. “Be gone,” she says.
“I am not the ghost,” I say.
The exorcist blushes. “I know,” she says. “Of course. That was a test.” She throws the umbrella on the floor.
The girl comes to the door and shakes the exorcist’s hand. “I am so—
“Hungry?” says the exorcist.
“Yes,” says the girl.
The exorcist pulls a cheeseburger out of her poncho.
The exorcist pulls French fries out of her poncho.
The exorcist pulls June Cleaver out of her poncho.
“No junk food before dinner, Beaver,” June Cleaver says. She is pixelated in black and white.
“I am not Beaver,” says the girl.
June Cleaver pats the girl on the head. “Oh, Beaver,” she says. She gives the girl a hug. She pours her a glass of milk.
“June,” I say. “I loved Leave It to Beaver. I watched you every day after school.”
June Cleaver walks through me like I’m not even there. She is carrying a tray of Brussels sprouts.
The exorcist pulls spaghetti and meatballs out of her poncho. “Eat this,” she says, to the girl.
The exorcist pulls a honey-baked ham out of her poncho. “Eat this,” she says, to the girl.
The exorcist pulls filet mignon and scalloped potatoes out of her poncho. “Eat this,” she says, to the girl.
June Cleaver gives the girl the Brussels sprouts. “Eat your vegetables, Beaver.”
The girl looks sick, but keeps eating.
The exorcist feeds her a roast chicken and a red velvet cake. The girl has doubled in size. Her face is a moon. June Cleaver pushes a sprout into her mouth.
“That’s enough food,” I say. “She doesn’t want anymore food.”
“I’m just doing my job,” the exorcist says. She is boiling twelve hot dogs on the stove.
“Don’t give her any more food,” I say.
“Finish your vegetables, Beaver,” June Cleaver says. “Your vegetables, Beaver.”
The exorcist pours ketchup into the pot with the hot dogs. “Here you are,” she says to the girl.
The girl picks up a hot dog. It is slimy and anemic.
“Don’t eat that,” I say. “You don’t have to eat that.”
The girl pauses. She looks at me, then back at the hot dog.
I take it from her and throw it away.
“Stop,” the exorcist says. “I cannot exorcise your ghost if you keep getting in the way.”
“Stop,” I say to the exorcist. “Your services are no longer needed.”
“You cannot exorcise an exorcist,” says the exorcist.
“Your vegetables, Beaver,” June Cleaver says.
“Pizza’s ready!” my husband says. He hands a pepperoni slice to the girl.
“Get out,” I say, to them all.
June Cleaver hands my husband a napkin. She straightens the collar of his shirt. “Supper will be ready in a little while, Ward,” June Cleaver says.
“You’re quite the little mother, June,” my husband says. He puts his arm around her.
The exorcist puts them both into her poncho.
I pick up her umbrella and twirl it at her face. “Shoo,” I say. “Be gone,” I say.
“Do not use me against me!” the exorcist says. She grabs hold of the umbrella and twirls it back at me. She runs out of my fire escape.
I watch her yellow umbrella get smaller and smaller into the night.
When I return to the girl, she has quadrupled in size. The pot with the hot dogs is empty. Her face is a hot air balloon.
I pour her a glass of water. “I’m sorry,” I say. “I should never have called that woman. I am so sorry,” I say.
The girl’s head is getting bigger, bigger, bigger, floating up, up, up—through the ceiling of my apartment.
I grab onto her foot. “Don’t go,” I say. “I’m sorry,” I say.
“I am so hungry,” the girl says. “I am still so hungry.”
It is getting harder to hold onto the girl. I am losing my grip on her shoe. “Please,” I say. “Please stay. I will take care of you,” I say.
The girl looks at me with her giant hot air balloon face. She smiles with her massive mouth, the size of a cave. Her teeth shimmer like jewels and gold. She grabs the back of my neck and throws me into her mouth. I fall onto her tongue, but it is not her tongue. It is Aladdin’s flying carpet that has run away from Aladdin. It is soft and blinding with magic. It zooms through her oral cavity. I hold onto its fibers and scream. “Faster,” I yell, and it zooms faster. “Faster,” I yell, and we plunge over the edge of her throat. We zip past her tonsils and adenoids, which have not yet been removed. “Down, down, down,” I say. And down, down, down, we go. Down, down, down, into the belly of my ghost.