Sunday Stories: “The Beltline”

Beltline illustration

The Beltline
by Bobby Sauro

The spirits in the basement were increasing in number. There was a man, a woman, and now, an orphan child. The feeling of always being watched shredded my nerves. The father of my child said I was acting particularly crazy about all this.

My family and friends got tired of hearing about it, but I could always interest the strangers I waited on at Mary Mac’s Tea Room in the tumultuous world of the spirits.

“What do they look like?” the customers asked.

“The man is imposing, and mean. He lashes out at the woman. He ignores the orphan child.”

“You’d think he would help the child cross over,” some of the true-believers said, “being that they’re both spirits.”

A bus boy kicked open the kitchen door. I jumped but didn’t drop my tray.

“He’s there because something is left unresolved,” a middle-aged man said between bites of the Four-Vegetable Plate Special. “Give the man what he needs and he’ll leave you alone.”

On our first date, the father of my child told me: “It’s the two of us forever; that’s our battle cry.”

That sounded too good to be true, but I latched on to it because two of us against the world was double-ly better than just me against the world. We rented the lower floor and basement of a cute, three-story bungalow on Ponce; we had planned to make some improvements. 

Everyone raved about all the development there along the bike paths and greenways of the new Beltline that connected my birthplace, the Old Fourth Ward, to the revitalized neighborhoods of Midtown Atlanta. Steel skyscrapers rose above 14th Street like swords shooting up from the fertile soil of the soccer fields in Piedmont Park. 

For a few weeks, I followed the advice of the middle-aged man from Mary Mac’s, but the noises in the basement got louder. Things got worse; the man spirit even harnessed enough energy to tap my neck with two snapping fingers that crossed the dimensions like a karate chop.  

I got the young ghostbusters who had a show on local access to come over to film so I could finally prove the situation to my family. 

“You’re so lucky to have found a place on the Beltline,” the ghostbusters said when they arrived. “The Empire Cocktail Lounge in the old Sears Building has the best pumpkin beer and there’s always great jazz at Dellametri’s.” 

Moonlight breached the Georgia pines that surrounded the 2,000,000 square foot Food Hall and entertainment complex now known as “Ponce City Market” that seventy years before had housed the Sears Catalog Showroom. One block south, the last structure of the 1955 General Motors plant had been converted into the frilly Southern Sister of a famous Beverly Hills restaurant to cater to the visiting producers, managers, and directors who had set up shop in the Hollywood of the South to manufacture some new models.

The ghostbusters set up large cameras and captured grainy footage of the man spirit. He had put on the woman spirit’s flowing skirt and Panama hat, and playfully danced to Rihanna.

“What fun spirits you have!” the ghostbusters said. “Maybe they got displaced when they gutted the Sears Building?” adding another to all the weird theories people throw my way to explain why I always seem to be in a fix.

Weeks later, the ghostbusters came back late one night, unannounced, surprised the man spirit, and captured his true self with hidden cameras that diffused the dark light. They watched from another room on an iPad. It wasn’t some creepy Freddy Krueger or Slender Man thing, but more like black and white Kodak film of a grown ass man tossing household objects like bowling balls, and destroying the crooked frames of his own half-finished basement. 

Armed with that photographic evidence, I waited for justice, but it didn’t come. Turned out, the ghostbusters didn’t do any actual busting. They packed up their equipment and posted an anonymous description of what they had captured to their website. They said broadcasting the intense footage to the public would lead to more hits. 

They were right, and so it was, for many months to come.

When he decided it was time, the man spirit left the house in a huff, tearing up the place and dragging the woman’s spirit with him through the basement storm doors and back towards the Old Fourth Ward. That left just the orphaned child, her arms reaching out, and a hollowed-out me, stuck on the Beltline, not knowing how to cross the barrier and bring our worlds together.


Bobby Sauro‘s short fiction has appeared in elimae, Fiction Southeast, and Corium, among others. His story “Forgotten Flyers” was included in the anthology “Flash in the Attic 2: 44 Very Short Stories” from Fiction Attic Press. He lives in Atlanta but can be found online at

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