Sometimes he wakes deep in the night, old Shrimpbox, and wonders what noise woke him, but the only sound is his tinitus blaring and he wonders, did my tinitus truly wake me up just now? Will it just get worse and worse until I die?
Already, he reminds himself of – or he has entirely become – his father, shut off from those he loves by his deafness, close by but behind a wall.
When he’s alone in the house, wife away on business, kid on a field trip or something, he realizes it’s not solitude he wants. He wants his loved ones near, just in the other room.
He wants to be a ghost.
Does he want to be a ghost?
It’s what his father wanted. And when his father died, halfway around the world, Shrimpbox was playing dice with his daughters at home, rolling handfulls of dice on green felt. The dice all stood on their corners, balanced there, throw after throw.
Never have since.
His father was an actual ghost. His father visited upon his death and made the dice stand on their corners. For Shrimpbox this is an unassailable fact.
Shrimpbox sits this morning and drinks his coffee and writes into a journal and looks around his room at paintings on the wall, by himself or given to him by friends. A glass of quills, electronics, tools, instruments, obituaries and postcards. He listens to the sounds of morning rising – the central heating coming on with its hum of warmth, the bell-like hiss of the radiators, footsteps two floors up, plumbing doing its thing, and drowning it all out, tinitus and the scratching of his pen.
If all a ghost can do is balance dice upon their corners, he has been insufficiently rewarded for spending a lifetime hiding in another room. Not even if you could stand silent, Shrimpbox thinks, stand silent in the corner and watch them always at their happiness, those you love.
He shuts his journal and goes upstairs.