Ghost Mall

Where is the Black River?

Where is the Black River?

I took the bus into the city on Saturdays in the autumn of my sophomore year in high school. I didn’t want to be home when the kids I played Dungeons and Dragons came around to ask if I could play. The thing about dungeon master was that I had to pay careful attention for hours a time and I ended up the basement where I paid careful attention. I paid attention until the dice smelled blue and the soda tasted furry. In the bus, no one talked to me. I listened to the velvet murmur like a glove on my face. I dozed and looked Lake Washington out of Interstate 405s window. The water was flat like a record playing the same note over and over again, a droning groove. The bus provided a kind of drum line as it wobbled on the pavement pitted from weekday traffic. This is how my mother came home from Everett where they moved her recently, and now she was gone all of the time, and I spent most of my time in the basement of neighborhood boys tending to the fantasy life.

At the University District, I got off the bus and walked into the University Bookstore that smelled like coffee. I checked their fantasy section for any new books. It was coming up to the end the summer and their kids section was festooned with autumn leaves and spiders, and sounded like a boiled egg taken from the fridge felt in our hand after you’ve peeled the skin off. The whiteness of the walls was so white that you thought you could see through the paint to the cinderblock underneath. I checked out the hardbound copy of the Hobbit. I didn’t own the book. I had read the hobbit in sixth grade after reading the Lord of the Rings, and I liked The Hobbit more than the obsessive, trudge of Lord of the Rings. I liked the maps better and the overall adventure. It seemed contained in a way and liked the grey overtones that were in the other books.

I wish I could walk around without shoes on like a Hobbit. I hate shoes. I cut my foot one summer when I wouldn’t wear any shoes. I cut my foot wandering in the fountain in the Renton Mall. The mall is not there, and I think it is probably not a large loss. I am the only one I know who laments the disappearance of that mall.

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