Elizabeth Melton Parsons

Writing~Art~Life


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Tragedy in Willowtown – Story Poem

old house

Children scamper down the sidewalks,
Skipping stones and hopping over cracks.
Having a good time, in no hurry to get home.
Not so for one little child.
She hurries, head down against the chilly air.
Fingers point, voices whisper,
The seed of Satan, no good.
She hurries faster, trying not to notice.
Home at last_The old Victorian house,
Once a well-respected and stately home.
Her mother sits as usual, in front of the fire.
Mind blurred by alcohol and pills,
Never noticing how much need of her the little
child has.
Wishing for the laughing, happy mother from
before_
Before the tragedy of Willowtown.
The murders of two young girls_
She’d heard that horrible things had been done
to them before they died.
She’d been too young to understand,
But she remembered the townspeople looking
for someone to blame.
Turning their hatred to the young piano
teacher.
The man who gave private lessons in his home,
Her father.
The laughing young man who tossed her in the
air_
Who cuddled and read bedtime stories to her
until she fell asleep.
She remembered the rocks thrown through the
windows_
Her mother crying,
The crowed that gathered outside their house
with sticks and guns.
Her father going out to speak with them_
And never coming back.
Sixty years later, the old Victorian still stands,
crumbling and faded.
Fingers point, voices whisper_
That crazy old woman, never leaves her house,
A witch she is, in league with the devil.

ÓElizabeth Melton Parsons

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The Legend of Jack-O-Lantern ~ An Irish Folk tale

This is one of my favorite Irish folk tales. I know I must have posted it around somewhere before, but here it is for those who have never found it in the archives. Happy Halloween.

Jack-O-Lantern-public domain

Legend of Jack-O-Lantern

Jack was a lazy farmer and spent more time at the local pub drinking and betting than tending his crops. He was a prankster and all his mischief making did nothing to endear him to his friends and neighbors. Jack felt sure this was the devil’s doing and if Satan would stop putting so many temptations in his path, he could make a turn for the better.

Now Jack figured the devil was as fond of betting as he was and devised a plan to trap him. He’d met Satan at the pub on many a dark night and it was always the same, with the devil offering riches and fame in return for Jack’s soul. Jack of course refused such offers, not wanting riches and having no use for fame. He did, however, want to be less of a sorrowful burden to his family and stop all his evil shenanigans.

Although his wife argued vehemently against his scheme, Jack decided to proceed. He was confident the plan would succeed, not to mention, it allowed him to go to the pub every night with a legitimate excuse. He didn’t have long to wait. A few nights passed and Satan once again joined him at his table, buying him ale and making the usual offers in return for his soul.

“You truly want my soul, Devil?”

Satan laughed. “You know I’ll have you sooner or later, Jack. Why not take my offer and enjoy what’s left of your wretched life?”

“I’ll make a wager with you. There’s a tree on the south end of my land. It grows straight and tall with limbs only at the top. Now, many a man has tried to climb the tree, but none has made it to the top. Even with you being the devil and all, I don’t think you can do it. If you can climb to the top without slipping back down or falling, I’ll take your offer and you can have my soul.”

Satan loved a good bet, but he was slightly irritated that this miserable mortal doubted his ability to accomplish such a simple task. “I can climb your tree, Jack, never fear. Lead the way.”

The two left the pub and walked the short distance to the tree. Satan removed his hooded cape and shimmied up the tree without any problems at all. “I made it, Jack, and now you’re mine.” His laugh echoed hollowly from the top branches.

Jack hurriedly removed his hunting knife and carved a cross on the trunk, as high up as he could reach. “Think again, Devil. I’ve trapped you. You can’t come down unless I remove the cross.”

Satan howled in anger when realizing he’d been tricked. He was trapped in the blasted tree and would have to bargain with the man to gain his freedom. “What is it you want, Jack?”

“I’ll carve out the cross and set you free if you promise to never again set temptation before me.”

“Agreed! Let me down.”

Jack’s plan had worked. He could now go about his life without the danger of falling to temptation. Unfortunately he was never allowed to reap the benefits. The very next day, the same tree was felled in a storm and came crashing down on poor Jack, taking his life. Having been involved in more than a few evil misdeeds, Jack was denied entrance to Heaven. It would seem the devil would have his soul after all.

But Satan was still angry at having been tricked and would not allow him into Hell. Jack was doomed to walk the earth in the cold darkness for all eternity. He begged the devil to have pity and Satan relented by giving him a single glowing coal. Jack found a large turnip and carved out the middle and front. He placed the burning ember inside and used it to light his way.

Many have claimed to see the swaying of Jack’s lantern on dark nights and most especially on All Hollows Eve. Perhaps you will, too.

 


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Celia – Ghost Story

Halloween is fast approaching, so it’s time for a spook fest in honor of the season. I’ve always loved Halloween. Because of my dad’s religious beliefs we were not allowed to participate when I was a child. Although some cousins did dress me up and take me trick or treating once. It was great fun. So if you have beliefs against the spooky season, I’m sorry. All my posts until after Halloween will have some spooky aspect. The first will be an old story of mine (mainly because I’m busy or maybe just too lazy to find something else). This story is hiding behind the walls here somewhere, so you may have already read it. If not, I hope you enjoy this re-posting.

Celia

Celia

It was a long haul between Leavenworth and Casey. Tom knew if he didn’t fill up in Organ Springs he’d never get the cargo to Casey without running out of fuel. He’d been a trucker for over twenty years, but had never driven this particular route and wasn’t any too happy about doing it now. The narrow road wound itself like a snake through the mountain passes and the passing rain left just enough fog and mist behind to make seeing the dark road difficult. Tom couldn’t see the steep cliff to his right, but knew it was there and it made him nervous.

Turning the radio on, he settled for a station playing an old favorite about lost love. Listening to the old familiar tune, he could feel his anxiety slip away. He’d be in Organ Springs in less than twenty minutes and was looking forward to some hot coffee and a brief rest. Looking through the slapping wipers, he could just make out the Organ Springs road sign up a head at the crossroad. He geared the big truck down, preparing to stop.

Just as he was getting ready to turn right onto the road leading into town, he caught a glimpse of something white in the middle of the road to the left. He looked again, but didn’t see anything. Oh, boy, I’ve been on the road too long tonight. Now I’m seeing things that aren’t there.

Continuing on his way, he quickly put the incident from his mind. All he could think about was getting that much needed coffee to clear his head for the next leg of the trip. Hopefully, the mist would clear and he’d have smooth sailing the rest of the way. Tom had always been proud of getting his cargo where it was supposed to be and getting it there on time, but he never took unnecessary chances.  In his twenty plus years on the road, he’d never had an accident. A fact for which his company was grateful. Cora, Tom’s wife, felt they should have shown their gratitude in a more tangible way such as a raise in salary.

Tom smiled, as he thought of his wife of twenty years. An outspoken woman, Cora loved him with a fierceness he’d never thought possible before meeting her. And he loved her the same if not more. Cora had finally succeeded in convincing him to retire from the company in five years with a nice pension. Then they’d finally be able to move to the little house on the cost of Maine they’d bought years ago. Cora could paint all day and Tom could fish, something he never seemed to have time for now.

When his twenty-year retirement date came up, Cora had tried to convince him to take it. He thought they should wait another ten years, so there would be more money. Cora argued they’d spent too many years apart as it was. So they had compromised on the twenty-five year retirement.

Lost in thought, Tom never the less was paying attention to his surroundings and when the white thing appeared in the middle of the road, he was able to stop in time. Looking closer, Tom saw a lady in a long white dress. Jumping down from the cab, he hurried to her.

“Geesh, Miss. I could have run right over you. What are you doing out here in the middle of the road? Did you have an accident or something?”

“No, sir. I’d appreciate a ride into town. I was out walking and got caught in the rain.”

“I’ll be happy to oblige, I’m Thomas Withers. Call me Tom.”

“Thank you, Tom. I was afraid no one would come along and I’d have to walk all the way back, I’m Celia.”

Tom helped her into the cab and then climbed in himself. He looked over and realized she was shivering from wet and cold. Turning the heat on high, he reached behind the seat and pulled out a warm blanket to drape over her.

“Why, you poor little thing, you’re wet and freezing. Were you at a party? That’s a mighty pretty dress to be out walking in.”

“It’s my wedding dress. Do you like it?”

Tom was taken aback by this comment. Looking at the woman more closely, he saw a pale oval face and large dark eyes surrounded by purple smudges. She had an air of sadness about her that wrung his heart and he wondered if she’d gotten cold feet and run off from the wedding.

“It’s a beautiful dress, Hon. Are you getting warm now?”

“Yes, it’s nice and toasty under this blanket.”

“I’d better get you back to town then.” Tom put the big truck in gear and headed towards Organ Springs.

On their way to town, Tom tried to make polite conversation, hoping to get more of her story out of her, but she didn’t seem inclined to talk. She began to hum the tune to the same old love song he’d been listening to earlier and he softly sang the words. She turned her huge eyes his way and smiled, then continued to hum as he sang.

Right at the edge of Organ Springs sat a huge, old Queen Ann style house that had seen much better days. It was here, Celia asked Tom to let her out. Tom stopped the truck and eyed the old place dubiously. It was dark and there wasn’t a sign of a light inside the old place. The weeds growing in the yard were knee high and he couldn’t imagine anyone living there.

“Are you sure you want out here, Hon? I could take you on into town.”

“Oh, no. I live here. This is my home. Isn’t it just beautiful? Charles said we’d have lots of children to fill it up.”

Tom was worried about dropping the lady at this dilapidated old house. “So then, there’s someone waiting inside for you?”

“Of course, Charles is there waiting. He’s been waiting for such a long time. He’ll be so happy to see me.”

Tom glanced back at the old house, as he helped Celia from the cab of the truck. A small light came on in one of the front windows, easing his mind.

“There, you see? Charles has put the light in the window for me. He does that every night.” Happiness lit her eyes and her face seemed to glow as she said the words.

“Well, Celia, I’ll bid you goodnight then and I hope your wish of filling the house with children comes true.”

The glow left her face and she smiled sadly up at him before making her way through the weeds to the front door. Tom climbed back into his truck and drove to the truck stop on the other side of town. He was surprised that he was the only trucker around the place. He didn’t see how they could stay in business with so few customers. While the attendant filled his truck, he went inside to order coffee and a bite to eat.

He sat at the counter and an elderly man in a white apron came to take his order, shouting it to the cook in back as he filled Tom’s cup with hot coffee. Tom sighed, as he sipped the fragrant brew. “This is what I’ve been needing. Thank you.”

“Come from Clancy, did ya?” The man asked him.

“No, over the pass, I’m heading to Casey.”

The man’s eyes grew round in surprise. “Well, I’m mighty glad you made it safely. Guess you don’t know, but most truckers won’t come over the pass, they circle around through Clancy and take southbound 180 to Casey.”

“Yeah, I saw that route on the map, but that’s a good forty miles out of the way.”

“Most feel the forty miles are worth it. You didn’t see the ghost, then?”

Tom grinned. “What ghost might that be?” He’d heard these stories before in many small towns all over the country.

“The ghost of Celia Matheson.”

Tom choked on his coffee, coughing and sputtering. Once he’d got his breath back, he looked into the face of the old man and saw the knowing look in his eyes.

“You did see her then?”

Tom nodded, thinking the old man was pulling his leg, but wanting to hear more anyway. “Tell me about her.”

“Celia and Charles Matheson were childhood sweethearts. I went to school with both of them and they were in love from first grade on. Charles was going to law school when he and Celia decided to get married. A few months before the wedding they bought the old Queen Ann on the other side of town, course it was a beautiful place then. Celia loved that house.”

“What happened with him and Celia? They did get married, I guess.”

“Yes, sir, they did. Got married at the little church over on Walnut Street. They left for their honeymoon, but a big truck ran the stop sign over at the crossroad and rammed right into them. There wasn’t much left of the car and Celia didn’t make it.”

“That’s terrible. What about Charles?”

“He lived, still alive in fact. He’s lived in that big old house all alone for the past fifty years.”

“The house is in pretty bad shape. Hard to believe anyone lives there.”

“Yep. Charles is one of the good guys. He’s helped a lot of folks out with free legal advice over the years and has defended more than a few of his neighbors in court, never asking for a dime. So when his health began to fail, folks would get together and mow the lawn, do a few repairs. Charles thought it was charity and got so upset, everyone figured it was best to leave him be. He never did remarry and puts a light in the front window of that house every night, saying it’s for Celia to find her way to him when the time is right.”

Shivers crept along Tom’s spine. He didn’t believe in ghosts, but this was getting pretty spooky. “Right time for what?”

“For the two of them to be together again. They say Celia haunts the old crossroads. Before word got around, there was many a trucker come to town and swore they’d run over some lady in a white dress and then she’d just disappeared. Some said they stopped in time to miss her and actually spoke to her and offered her a lift, but she always said the same thing. ‘It’s not the right time’. So what’s your story, Mr.? Did ya run over her or offer her a lift?”

“I not only offered her a lift, but brought her to the old Queen Ann house and dropped her off. Now why don’t you tell me the real story behind all this nonsense. Is this some kind of way to draw in the tourists?”

“You say ya dropped her at the old house?”

“Yes, I did.”

The old man behind the counter rushed to the phone and dialed a number. “Hello, Sarah, let me talk to the sheriff.” He waited a moment and then spoke into the phone again. “Yeah, Pete, it’s me Hank. You better get a car over to the Matheson house. I think Charles might be ailing. Yeah, okay, let me know what happens, will ya? Thanks.” He hung up the phone and walked back to counter.

Tom finished his meal. He’d had enough of this silliness for one night and needed to get back on the road.

“Thanks for the meal, Hank, and for the entertainment.”

He left the truck stop and headed his big rig out of town towards Casey. He couldn’t get Hank’s story out of his mind and he kept seeing Celia’s lovely, pale face full of sadness.  “Darn it,” he whispered. He just had to see for himself what was going on at the old house.

Turning the truck around, he headed back to Organ Springs and drove to the old Queen Ann. There was an ambulance and a police car parked in front. As he watched, they wheeled a gurney out of the house, a body covered with a white sheet on top of it. An ache settled into his mid-section and Tom wondered if it were possible he’d actually had an encounter with the ghost of Celia Matheson. He climbed down from his truck and wandered over to a small group gathered in front of the house.

“What’s happening?” He asked one woman.

“Poor old Mr. Matheson passed away tonight. It’s a shame. He was a nice old man.”

Tom returned to his truck and began to turn it around to head back out of town, many questions running through his mind. As he started to pull away from the old house, a flash of something white caught his eye in the side mirror. Turning quickly, he saw Celia Matheson and a handsome young man in a dark suit walking hand in hand down the road.

As he stared open mouthed, Celia turned and looked at him. She smiled brightly before turning and continuing down the road, snuggled close against the side of the young man. As Tom watched, the two of them disappeared into the mist. Only there was no mist. It had cleared while he was having coffee. Tom shook his head and rubbed his eyes. Either he was going crazy or he’d actually just seen Celia and Charles Matheson’s ghosts.

Tom was quiet and thoughtful for the rest of the trip. After dropping his cargo, he found a phone and called Cora.

“Hello, Sweetheart, I’ll be home tomorrow. And, Cora, I’ve decided to take the twenty-year retirement. This is my last trip. Ah… Honey, don’t cry. Yes, I know. I’ll tell you all about it when I get home. I love you too. Bye, Darlin’.”

Tom walked back to his truck with a smile on his face. Ghost or not, Celia Matheson had shown him that spending time with his Cora was more important than a few extra dollars in retirement benefits.

Copyright Elizabeth Melton Parsons

This link was left in the comments by my lovely Aussie mate, Deb Stevens. It’s for another spooky ghost tale: http://www.unexplainedaustralia.com/e107_plugins/content/content.php?content.101

Check out Deb’s blog, She’s awesome. http://deliberatelydebbie.wordpress.com/


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A Father’s Gift of Love

This is a re-post of a story from a few years ago. I’m sure many of you have never seen it and with Father’s Day tomorrow I’m posting it in memory of my dad.

morning glories

A Father’s Gift

Straightening, I stretched my back and wiped the sweat from my brow. The seemingly endless rows of corn offered shade, but blocked any breeze that might offer relief from the sweltering mid summer heat. I longed for the shaded coolness of the creek bank—could almost feel the cold rush of water flowing over my feet, as I delved into the fantasy world of the book I’d began reading the night before. The image lasted no more than a moment before reality reasserted itself.

Grumbling, I once again bent to the task of removing the morning glory vines from the fully mature stalks. As I contemplated the insanity of the chore, anger moved over me the way a dark cloud covers the sun. It swelled in intensity with every vine I pulled. By the time I’d reached the end of the row, a raging storm had brewed within me and it’s fury begged for release.

Dad stood at the end of the field, leaning on the handle of his hoe. He watched me, as I pulled the vines from the last corn stalk. To my anger-shrouded mind, he seemed an evil overlord and I imagined he’d invented the chore simply to torment me.

“I could hear you mumbling all the way down that row.”

It was embarrassing to know he’d been listening to my grumbles and I had the most absurd feeling that he’d somehow invaded my privacy. This of course only added to my anger. “It’s too hot and I don’t know why we’re doing this. It’s crazy and useless.”

“If we don’t pull the vines, they’ll choke the corn.” He spoke reasonably, as though any idiot would know this.

“The stalks are fully grown. Those vines aren’t hurting it at all.”

“The ears aren’t fully set.”

“I don’t care. I love morning glories and I’d rather see their beautiful flowers blooming than this ugly corn.”

“Morning glory flowers won’t feed the pigs come winter.”

With every word of this argument, I could feel my peaceful afternoon of reading on the creek bank slipping farther and farther away. My anger wanted to shout out at him, but I pushed it back. I was only fifteen, but far from stupid. If I went so far as to scream at him the way I longed to do, he’d only think of some other way to torture me tomorrow. Glaring at him with an emotion very closely resembling hatred, I turned my back and started down another row. Maybe if I worked fast enough, I could still salvage part of the afternoon.

Unfortunately, the work continued till the sun began to set before we trudged wearily to the house when hearing Mom’s call to supper. Every day for the next five, my younger brother and I followed Dad to the field, pulling vines from dawn to dusk. My brother worked quietly while my complaints about pulling the colorful flowers grew louder and more frequent with each passing day. Dad never said anything. I suppose he figured as long as I was getting the job done, I could grumble away.

On the last day, I walked lightly to the field, a spring in my step. There was a cool breeze, compliments of the night’s passing storm. It blew over the stalks causing them to sway and ripple in one mass of beautiful green. It was like watching waves rolling over the sea.

“It’s lovely.” I said aloud.

I thought of the coming autumn and the chore of picking all that corn, throwing it into the wagon and then riding the wagon back to the corncrib in the barn. It brought a smile to my face. It was a chore I loved and never tired of. There would be no complaints coming from my mouth during those workdays. Dad stared at me for a moment before heading for the far side of the field where there were only a few rows left to weed. There would be plenty of time today for reading and my mood brightened even more as I followed behind him.

Two days later I stood on the front porch and watched, as Dad dug holes along the garden fence that bordered our drive. He’d been gone all morning and just returned. I couldn’t imagine what he was doing. It was too late in the season for planting. Mom came out and stood beside me.

“What’s your dad doing out there?”

“Looks like he’s going to plant something.”

“Well, go tell him lunch is ready before he gets too far along and forgets to come in.”

I sauntered across the soft grass, enjoying the feel of it on my bare feet and stopping short of the gravel driveway. “Mom says to tell you lunch is ready.”

“Okay, I’ll just be a minute.”

Being a teen, I was loath to show interest in what he was doing, but my curiosity got the better of me. “What are you doing?”

“Planting morning glories along the fence for you.”

My mouth fell open. “Why?” I could barely get the one word out around the fist-sized lump that had formed in my throat.

He continued to work, not looking at me, as he answered. “You said you love them. I can’t have them choking the corn, but you can enjoy them growing here along the fence.”

Moisture gathered along my lashes and I rapidly wiped it away, hoping he hadn’t seen. My voice was thick with emotion, as I asked, “Will they live, being planted this late?”

“They’ll live, I’ll see to it.”

Dad wasn’t the type of man to show outward signs of affection, and I’d often doubted his love for me. But with every vine he put lovingly into the ground along that fence, I could feel my heart rejoicing and hear the words, I love you, loud and clear in my mind. I never really understood this man who was my father and at times the distance between us seemed much too wide to bridge, but I understood this gesture. Every morning for years afterward whenever I’d step onto the porch and see those lovely purple blossoms, the gulf between us shortened. Today when I see morning glories, my heart swells with the memory of this gift of love given by my father.

©Elizabeth Melton Parsons

 


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Read The Tell Tale Heart By Edgar Allen Poe

Here’s one of my favorite Poe stories just in time for Halloween. Enjoy!

The Tell Tale Heart – Edgar Allen Poe 1843

TRUE! nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why WILL you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses, not destroyed, not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How then am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily, how calmly, I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain, but, once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! Yes, it was this! One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture — a pale blue eye with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me my blood ran cold, and so by degrees, very gradually, I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye for ever.

Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded — with what caution — with what foresight, with what dissimulation, I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night about midnight I turned the latch of his door and opened it oh, so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern all closed, closed so that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly, very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man’s sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! would a madman have been so wise as this? And then when my head was well in the room I undid the lantern cautiously — oh, so cautiously — cautiously (for the hinges creaked), I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights, every night just at midnight, but I found the eye always closed, and so it was impossible to do the work, for it was not the old man who vexed me but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he had passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed , to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch’s minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers, of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was opening the door little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea, and perhaps he heard me, for he moved on the bed suddenly as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back — but no. His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness (for the shutters were close fastened through fear of robbers), and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.

I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening , and the old man sprang up in the bed, crying out, “Who’s there?”

I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed, listening; just as I have done night after night hearkening to the death watches in the wall.

Presently, I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief — oh, no! It was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him although I chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself, “It is nothing but the wind in the chimney, it is only a mouse crossing the floor,” or, “It is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp.” Yes he has been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions ; but he had found all in vain. ALL IN VAIN, because Death in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel, although he neither saw nor heard, to feel the presence of my head within the room.

When I had waited a long time very patiently without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little — a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it — you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily — until at length a single dim ray like the thread of the spider shot out from the crevice and fell upon the vulture eye.

It was open, wide, wide open, and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness — all a dull blue with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones, but I could see nothing else of the old man’s face or person, for I had directed the ray as if by instinct precisely upon the damned spot.

And now have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the senses? now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well too. It was the beating of the old man’s heart. It increased my fury as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.

But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eye. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder, every instant. The old man’s terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment! — do you mark me well? I have told you that I am nervous: so I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror. Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me — the sound would be heard by a neighbour! The old man’s hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once — once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But for many minutes the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more.

If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence.

I took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly so cunningly, that no human eye — not even his — could have detected anything wrong. There was nothing to wash out — no stain of any kind — no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that.

When I had made an end of these labours, it was four o’clock — still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart, — for what had I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity, as officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by a neighbour during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused; information had been lodged at the police office, and they (the officers) had been deputed to search the premises.

I smiled, — for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house. I bade them search — search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber. I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim.

The officers were satisfied. My MANNER had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. They sat and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears; but still they sat, and still chatted. The ringing became more distinct : I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued and gained definitiveness — until, at length, I found that the noise was NOT within my ears.

No doubt I now grew VERY pale; but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased — and what could I do? It was A LOW, DULL, QUICK SOUND — MUCH SUCH A SOUND AS A WATCH MAKES WHEN ENVELOPED IN COTTON. I gasped for breath, and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly, more vehemently but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why WOULD they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men, but the noise steadily increased. O God! what COULD I do? I foamed — I raved — I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder — louder — louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly , and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! — no, no? They heard! — they suspected! — they KNEW! — they were making a mockery of my horror! — this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! — and now — again — hark! louder! louder! louder! LOUDER! —

“Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed! — tear up the planks! — here, here! — it is the beating of his hideous heart!”

“The End”

 


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Poetry – Whispering Stream

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Through poetry and short stories four authors, Brintha J. Gardner, Debbie A. Stevens, M. Jean Pike, and E. G. Parsons reflect on life ~ both the good and the bad. This book is dedicated to those providing shelter to the homeless and all royalties earned will be donated to family shelters.

 

Paperback ISBN: 978-0-557-02741-5

Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-557-02561-9

Buy the paperback, hardcover, or digital copy here or buy the paperback on Amazon

Thank you for your support of the wonderful people who provide shelter to those without homes.

http://egparsons.com


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Katie Blue Eyes 3

Supper was over and I’d settled several residents in the lounge to smoke and converse together, while others were in their rooms watching TV or reading. The scent of their cigarettes drifted to the desk where I was finishing some paperwork and caused my craving for a smoke to increase. I tried to put it out of my mind. I’d been cutting back in an effort to quit, but knew I was failing miserably. With Pat answering lights for me and by working through first break, I’d managed to finish most of the showers. Now I kept an eye on the hallway and as soon as I saw her returning from supper break, I jumped up and hurried her way.

She laughed as we passed each other. “Hungry, are you?”

“Oh, yeah. Starving.” She laughed again, knowing full well how badly I was wanting a smoke.

 I squeezed my way into the tiny staff lounge and found a vacant seat. Lighting my cigarette, I took a deep draw, sighing in satisfaction and wishing for the hundredth time that I had even a shred of will power. Several people were just finishing and rose to leave the room, making jokes about aching feet and breaking backs. With their exit, the room seemed to expand and become more comfortable.

“Hey, Gail, are you in here?” Peggy’s sleek dark head appeared around the corner of the door.

“I’m here, come on in and talk to me.” Peggy was one of my dearest friends and I knew she’d waited to take supper until she was sure I’d be here. I stubbed out my cigarette in the ashtray and rose to take our sandwiches and drinks from the fridge. Sliding hers across the table, I sat facing her.

“Did you hear about Joe?”

I shook my head, not wanting to talk around a mouth full of sandwich. Joe was one of the few male aides in the facility. He’d moved here from another state and had taken his classes and licensing exam the same time I had. Joe was in his forties, thin and shorter than most of the female aides. He always managed to get his work done on time and most of the residents liked him.

“He was fired.”

I took a swig from my bottle of tea. “Fired? Whatever for?”

She leaned closer and lowered her voice, although there was no need. We were the only two left in the lounge at that point. “Abuse. One of the nurses walked in on him. He was up on the bed straddling Mr. Davis and punching him in the face.”

“What! Is Jeb all right?” I knew my face had gone red, could feel the heat rushing into it. Anger swept over me. I couldn’t believe anyone could be so vicious, as to assault a helpless old man. Jebediah Davis suffered from senility and was bedfast. Although a few of the residents could be violent and abusive to staff, he wasn’t one of them. He had a sweet demeanor and was always cooperative.

“He’s fine physically, only one small bruise on his chin. But imagine what the poor old guy was thinking, being attacked that way.”

“Incredible. I would never have thought Joe capable of such a thing.”

“They say he just flipped out.”

“Was he arrested?”

“Yes, and charged with assault, but he’ll probably get off on some kind of mental breakdown excuse and be ordered to take counseling.”

“That’s one rotten egg out of here, but I fear there may be others.”

Her brows rose into peaks, but she remained silent, waiting for me to say more. I told her about Katie.

“Are you sure it wasn’t Joe she’s afraid of?”

“No, not a hundred percent sure, but from the different things she’s said, I think it’s a woman.”

“See, this is what comes from always having a shortage of staff and aides having to do shifts alone. When there are two, the job isn’t just easier, but there’s less chance of abuse because someone’s there to see. And some people just aren’t cut out for this type of work. You have to be both physically and mentally strong. Remember a while back when Gary was punching you in the hallway that day and the reporter guy saw it? He asked if you received combat pay and when you laughed and said no, he said you should. You never lost your cool with Gary.”

“That had more to do with compassion than mental strength. If I was eighty or ninety and my family stuck me in a nursing facility so they could sell my home and everything else I owned, I’d want to punch someone too.”

“Oh, poo. He was a bully way before that ever happened. He was terribly abusive to his wife before she passed away. He’s as right in his mind as you or I and he’s physically strong. He’s just a bully, pure and simple. Always was and always will be. But you’re right about the compassion. Without that…Well, you know.”

“Yeah, I know and I also know that I need to get off my duff and back to work. I still have Katie to shower and a couple of others before bedtime. I still can’t believe Joe did that. There’s no excuse for it. I just wish we’d have more in-depth in-service meetings on recognizing and handling burnout and other emotional stress on the job.”

“So do I, but we’d most likely still have incidences like this one. All the training in the world won’t help if the person doesn’t seek help when they need it.”

“ You’re right.” I rose and went to the door. “Talk to you later. I’m alone tonight, so can’t take a full supper break.”

“When things are caught up over on my wing, I’ll come and help you. Save Katie’s shower for last and we’ll give it together. Maybe with both of us there, she’ll feel safe enough to tell us what’s going on.”

“Okay, see you later.”

***

To Be continued……©Elizabeth Melton Parsons  http://elizabethmeltonparsons.com

 

 

 


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Katie Blue Eyes 2

 

 

After getting Katie down for a nap, I went back to the nurse’s station. Janice was just finishing her paperwork. “Why was Katie still up?”

 

Janice raised her head, a blank look on her face, as she tried to switch her thoughts from what she’d been writing to my question. “I don’t know. She wouldn’t let anyone touch her. She wanted her ‘Bubble Girl’. Why does she call you that anyway?”

 

“Because I chew bubble gum and I blew a bubble one day and she saw it.”

 

Her face wrinkled in distaste. “That’s a disgusting habit. You shouldn’t be chewing gum on shift.”

 

“Ill mannered perhaps, but not disgusting and there are no rules against it. Who was on day shift?”

 

“Barb and Kevin here on the west wing, why?”

 

“Just curious.” I’d had my suspicions about Barb for a while now and the fact that Katie didn’t want the woman near her only strengthened them, but why hadn’t she let Kevin put her to bed?

 

“Here comes Pat. I’m out of here. Have fun.” Janice hurriedly draped her sweater over her shoulders, grabbed her purse and was halfway to the time clock before Pat had even reached the desk.

 

“Where’s she going in such a hurry? Got a hot date or something?” Pat turned and watched, as Janice rushed down the hall.

 

I laughed and shook my head. “Just happy her shift is over. Katie’s been difficult today.”

 

“Katie’s always difficult unless you’re here. But I don’t blame her for that. You treat her like a queen.”

 

“I don’t treat her like a queen. I treat her like a human being and that’s no different than I treat anyone else.”

 

“Not true. You broke the fundamental rule of elder care. You bonded—got too close and not only to Katie, but others like Ben.”

 

“Ben’s a doll. I can’t help it if I like him.”

 

“He’s a crotchety old man and has half the aides scared witless. Do you know some won’t even go in his room?”

 

“It’s all bluff. He’s the sweetest man ever. They need to tease back with him and when they see that silly little grin sweep across his face, they’ll know they’ve won him over.”

 

Pat laughed and went behind the desk, pulling the day reports out and looking them over. “I know that and you know that, but they don’t and I have to admit, I get a kick out of seeing how intimidated they are.”

 

“Meanie.”

 

She grinned and handed me a paper. “Here’s a list of the showers that weren’t done on day.”

 

My heart sank, as I saw the long list. “Goodness, did day shift do any showers?”

 

“Only two and don’t ask me why. I wasn’t here. And something else, you’re on your own tonight. Sally called in.”

 

“What a surprise. I’d better get moving if I’m going to give twenty showers before supper.”

 

“I’ll help, as soon as I finish meds. We can save some to do right before bed time.”

 

“Thanks, Pat.” Sighing heavily, I hurried down the hall in answer to the blinking light over Mr. and Mrs. Paulson’s door. The couple was self-reliant, so I hoped whatever they wanted could be quickly dealt with. It was going to be a long night and I needed to find time to question Katie about Barb in such a way that she wouldn’t know I was fishing for information.

 

To be continued….

©Elizabeth Melton Parsons

http://elizabethmeltonparsons.com  

 


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A Father’s Gift of Love

A Father’s Gift

 

Straightening, I stretched my back and wiped the sweat from my brow. The seemingly endless rows of corn offered shade, but blocked any breeze that might offer relief from the sweltering mid summer heat. I longed for the shaded coolness of the creek bank—could almost feel the cold rush of water flowing over my feet, as I delved into the fantasy world of the book I’d began reading the night before. The image lasted no more than a moment before reality reasserted itself.

 

Grumbling, I once again bent to the task of removing the morning glory vines from the fully mature stalks. As I contemplated the insanity of the chore, anger moved over me the way a dark cloud covers the sun. It swelled in intensity with every vine I pulled. By the time I’d reached the end of the row, a raging storm had brewed within me and it’s fury begged for release.

 

Dad stood at the end of the field, leaning on the handle of his hoe. He watched me, as I pulled the vines from the last corn stalk. To my anger-shrouded mind, he seemed an evil overlord and I imagined he’d invented the chore simply to torment me.

 

“I could hear you mumbling all the way down that row.”

 

It was embarrassing to know he’d been listening to my grumbles and I had the most absurd feeling that he’d somehow invaded my privacy. This of course only added to my anger. “It’s too hot and I don’t know why we’re doing this. It’s crazy and useless.”

 

“If we don’t pull the vines, they’ll choke the corn.” He spoke reasonably, as though any idiot would know this.

 

“The stalks are fully grown. Those vines aren’t hurting it at all.”

 

“The ears aren’t fully set.”

 

“I don’t care. I love morning glories and I’d rather see their beautiful flowers blooming than this ugly corn.”

 

“Morning glory flowers won’t feed the pigs come winter.”

 

With every word of this argument, I could feel my peaceful afternoon of reading on the creek bank slipping farther and farther away. My anger wanted to shout out at him, but I pushed it back. I was only fifteen, but far from stupid. If I went so far as to scream at him the way I longed to do, he’d only think of some other way to torture me tomorrow. Glaring at him with an emotion very closely resembling hatred, I turned my back and started down another row. Maybe if I worked fast enough, I could still salvage part of the afternoon.

 

Unfortunately, the work continued till the sun began to set before we trudged wearily to the house when hearing Mom’s call to supper. Every day for the next five, my younger brother and I followed Dad to the field, pulling vines from dawn to dusk. My brother worked quietly while my complaints about pulling the colorful flowers grew louder and more frequent with each passing day. Dad never said anything. I suppose he figured as long as I was getting the job done, I could grumble away.

 

On the last day, I walked lightly to the field, a spring in my step. There was a cool breeze, compliments of the night’s passing storm. It blew over the stalks causing them to sway and ripple in one mass of beautiful green. It was like watching waves rolling over the sea.

 

“It’s lovely.” I said aloud.

 

I thought of the coming autumn and the chore of picking all that corn, throwing it into the wagon and then riding the wagon back to the corncrib in the barn. It brought a smile to my face. It was a chore I loved and never tired of. There would be no complaints coming from my mouth during those workdays. Dad stared at me for a moment before heading for the far side of the field where there were only a few rows left to weed. There would be plenty of time today for reading and my mood brightened even more as I followed behind him.

 

Two days later I stood on the front porch and watched, as Dad dug holes along the garden fence that bordered our drive. He’d been gone all morning and just returned. I couldn’t imagine what he was doing. It was too late in the season for planting. Mom came out and stood beside me.

 

“What’s your dad doing out there?”

 

“Looks like he’s going to plant something.”

 

“Well, go tell him lunch is ready before he gets too far along and forgets to come in.”

 

I sauntered across the soft grass, enjoying the feel of it on my bare feet and stopping short of the gravel driveway. “Mom says to tell you lunch is ready.”

 

“Okay, I’ll just be a minute.”

 

Being a teen, I was loath to show interest in what he was doing, but my curiosity got the better of me. “What are you doing?”

 

“Planting morning glories along the fence for you.”

 

My mouth fell open. “Why?” I could barely get the one word out around the fist-sized lump that had formed in my throat.

 

He continued to work, not looking at me, as he answered. “You said you love them. I can’t have them choking the corn, but you can enjoy them growing here along the fence.”

 

Moisture gathered along my lashes and I rapidly wiped it away, hoping he hadn’t seen. My voice was thick with emotion, as I asked, “Will they live, being planted this late?”

 

“They’ll live, I’ll see to it.”

 

Dad wasn’t the type of man to show outward signs of affection, and I’d often doubted his love for me. But with every vine he put lovingly into the ground along that fence, I could feel my heart rejoicing and hear the words, I love you, loud and clear in my mind. I never really understood this man who was my father and at times the distance between us seemed much too wide to bridge, but I understood this gesture. Every morning for years afterward whenever I’d step onto the porch and see those lovely purple blossoms, the gulf between us shortened. Today when I see morning glories, my heart swells with the memory of this gift of love given by my father.

 

Copyright ©Elizabeth Melton Parsons

http://elizabethmeltonparsons

 


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Celia ~ A Short Story

Celia

 

 

It was a long haul between Leavenworth and Casey. Tom knew if he didn’t fill up in Organ Springs he’d never get the cargo to Casey without running out of fuel. He’d been a trucker for over twenty years, but had never driven this particular route and wasn’t any too happy about doing it now. The narrow road wound itself like a snake through the mountain passes and the passing rain left just enough fog and mist behind to make seeing the dark road difficult. Tom couldn’t see the steep cliff to his right, but knew it was there and it made him nervous.

 

Turning the radio on, he settled for a station playing an old favorite about lost love. Listening to the old familiar tune, he could feel his anxiety slip away. He’d be in Organ Springs in less than twenty minutes and was looking forward to some hot coffee and a brief rest. Looking through the slapping wipers, he could just make out the Organ Springs road sign up a head at the crossroad. He geared the big truck down, preparing to stop. 

 

Just as he was getting ready to turn right onto the road leading into town, he caught a glimpse of something white in the middle of the road to the left. He looked again, but didn’t see anything. Oh, boy, I’ve been on the road too long tonight. Now I’m seeing things that aren’t there. 

 

Continuing on his way, he quickly put the incident from his mind. All he could think about was getting that much needed coffee to clear his head for the next leg of the trip. Hopefully, the mist would clear and he’d have smooth sailing the rest of the way. Tom had always been proud of getting his cargo where it was supposed to be and getting it there on time, but he never took unnecessary chances.  In his twenty plus years on the road, he’d never had an accident. A fact for which his company was grateful. Cora, Tom’s wife, felt they should have shown their gratitude in a more tangible way such as a raise in salary.

 

Tom smiled, as he thought of his wife of twenty years. An outspoken woman, Cora loved him with a fierceness he’d never thought possible before meeting her. And he loved her the same if not more. Cora had finally succeeded in convincing him to retire from the company in five years with a nice pension. Then they’d finally be able to move to the little house on the cost of Maine they’d bought years ago. Cora could paint all day and Tom could fish, something he never seemed to have time for now.

 

When his twenty-year retirement date came up, Cora had tried to convince him to take it. He thought they should wait another ten years, so there would be more money. Cora argued they’d spent too many years apart as it was. So they had compromised on the twenty-five year retirement.

 

Lost in thought, Tom never the less was paying attention to his surroundings and when the white thing appeared in the middle of the road, he was able to stop in time. Looking closer, Tom saw a lady in a long white dress. Jumping down from the cab, he hurried to her.

 

“Geesh, Miss. I could have run right over you. What are you doing out here in the middle of the road? Did you have an accident or something?”

 

“No, sir. I’d appreciate a ride into town. I was out walking and got caught in the rain.”

 

“I’ll be happy to oblige, I’m Tom Withers.”

 

“Thank you, Tom. I was afraid no one would come along and I’d have to walk all the way back, I’m Celia.”

 

Tom helped her into the cab and then climbed in himself. He looked over and realized she was shivering from wet and cold. Turning the heat on high, he reached behind the seat and pulled out a warm blanket to drape over her.

 

“Why, you poor little thing, you’re wet and freezing. Were you at a party? That’s a mighty pretty dress to be out walking in.”

 

“It’s my wedding dress. Do you like it?”

 

Tom was taken aback by this comment. Looking at the woman more closely, he saw a pale oval face and large dark eyes surrounded by purple smudges. She had an air of sadness about her that wrung his heart and he wondered if she’d gotten cold feet and run off from the wedding.

 

“It’s a beautiful dress, Hon. Are you getting warm now?”

 

“Yes, it’s nice and toasty under this blanket.”

 

“I’d better get you back to town then.” Tom put the big truck in gear and headed towards Organ Springs.

 

On their way to town, Tom tried to make polite conversation, hoping to get more of her story out of her, but she didn’t seem inclined to talk. She began to hum the tune to the same old love song he’d been listening to earlier and he softly sang the words. She turned her huge eyes his way and smiled, then continued to hum as he sang.

 

Right at the edge of Organ Springs sat a huge, old Queen Ann style house that had seen much better days. It was here, Celia asked Tom to let her out. Tom stopped the truck and eyed the old place dubiously. It was dark and there wasn’t a sign of a light inside the old place. The weeds growing in the yard were knee high and he couldn’t imagine anyone living there.

 

“Are you sure you want out here, Hon? I could take you on into town.”

 

“Oh, no. I live here. This is my home. Isn’t it just beautiful? Charles said we’d have lots of children to fill it up.”

 

Tom was worried about dropping the lady at this dilapidated old house. “So then, there’s someone waiting inside for you?”

 

“Of course, Charles is there waiting. He’s been waiting for such a long time. He’ll be so happy to see me.”

 

Tom glanced back at the old house, as he helped Celia from the cab of the truck. A small light came on in one of the front windows, easing his mind.

 

“There, you see? Charles has put the light in the window for me. He does that every night.” Happiness lit her eyes and her face seemed to glow as she said the words.

 

“Well, Celia, I’ll bid you goodnight then and I hope your wish of filling the house with children comes true.”

 

The glow left her face and she smiled sadly up at him before making her way through the weeds to the front door. Tom climbed back into his truck and drove to the truck stop on the other side of town. He was surprised that he was the only trucker around the place. He didn’t see how they could stay in business with so few customers. While the attendant filled his truck, he went inside to order coffee and a bite to eat.

 

He sat at the counter and an elderly man in a white apron came to take his order, shouting it to the cook in back as he filled Tom’s cup with hot coffee. Tom sighed, as he sipped the fragrant brew. “This is what I’ve been needing. Thank you.”

 

“Come from Clancy, did ya?” The man asked him.

 

“No, over the pass, I’m heading to Casey.”

 

The man’s eyes grew round in surprise. “Well, I’m mighty glad you made it safely. Guess you don’t know, but most truckers won’t come over the pass, they circle around through Clancy and take southbound 180 to Casey.”

 

“Yeah, I saw that route on the map, but that’s a good forty miles out of the way.”

 

“Most feel the forty miles are worth it. You didn’t see the ghost, then?”

 

Tom grinned. “What ghost might that be?” He’d heard these stories before in many small towns all over the country.

 

“The ghost of Celia Matheson.”

 

Tom choked on his coffee, coughing and sputtering. Once he’d got his breath back, he looked into the face of the old man and saw the knowing look in his eyes.

 

“You did see her then?”

 

Tom nodded, thinking the old man was pulling his leg, but wanting to hear more anyway. “Tell me about her.”

 

“Celia and Charles Matheson were childhood sweethearts. I went to school with both of them and they were in love from first grade on. Charles was going to law school when he and Celia decided to get married. A few months before the wedding they bought the old Queen Ann on the other side of town, course it was a beautiful place then. Celia loved that house.”

 

 “What happened with him and Celia? They did get married, I guess.”

 

“Yes, sir, they did. Got married at the little church over on Walnut Street. They left for their honeymoon, but a big truck ran the stop sign over at the crossroad and rammed right into them. There wasn’t much left of the car and Celia didn’t make it.”

 

“That’s terrible. What about Charles?”

 

“He lived, still alive in fact. He’s lived in that big old house all alone for the past fifty years.”

 

“The house is in pretty bad shape. Hard to believe anyone lives there.”

 

“Yep. Charles is one of the good guys. He’s helped a lot of folks out with free legal advice over the years and has defended more than a few of his neighbors in court, never asking for a dime. So when his health began to fail, folks would get together and mow the lawn, do a few repairs. Charles thought it was charity and got so upset, everyone figured it was best to leave him be. He never did remarry and puts a light in the front window of that house every night, saying it’s for Celia to find her way to him when the time is right.”

 

Shivers crept along Tom’s spine. He didn’t believe in ghosts, but this was getting pretty spooky. “Right time for what?”

 

“For the two of them to be together again. They say Celia haunts the old crossroads. Before word got around, there was many a trucker come to town and swore they’d run over some lady in a white dress and then she’d just disappeared. Some said they stopped in time to miss her and actually spoke to her and offered her a lift, but she always said the same thing. ‘It’s not the right time’. So what’s your story, Mr.? Did ya run over her or offer her a lift?”

 

“I not only offered her a lift, but brought her to the old Queen Ann house and dropped her off. Now why don’t you tell me the real story behind all this nonsense. Is this some kind of way to draw in the tourists?”

 

“You say ya dropped her at the old house?”

 

“Yes, I did.”

 

The old man behind the counter rushed to the phone and dialed a number. “Hello, Sarah, let me talk to the sheriff.” He waited a moment and then spoke into the phone again. “Yeah, Pete, it’s me Hank. You better get a car over to the Matheson house. I think Charles might be ailing. Yeah, okay, let me know what happens, will ya? Thanks.” He hung up the phone and walked back to counter.

 

Tom finished his meal. He’d had enough of this silliness for one night and needed to get back on the road.

 

“Thanks for the meal, Hank, and for the entertainment.”

 

He left the truck stop and headed his big rig out of town towards Casey. He couldn’t get Hank’s story out of his mind and he kept seeing Celia’s lovely, pale face full of sadness.  “Darn it,” he whispered. He just had to see for himself what was going on at the old house.

 

Turning the truck around, he headed back to Organ Springs and drove to the old Queen Ann. There was an ambulance and a police car parked in front. As he watched, they wheeled a gurney out of the house, a body covered with a white sheet on top of it. An ache settled into mid-section and Tom wondered if it were possible he’d actually had an encounter with the ghost of Celia Matheson. He climbed down from his truck and wandered over to a small group gathered in front of the house.

 

“What’s happening?” He asked one woman.

 

“Poor old Mr. Matheson passed away tonight. It’s a shame. He was a nice old man.”

 

Tom returned to his truck and began to turn it around to head back out of town, many questions running through his mind. As he started to pull away from the old house, a flash of something white caught his eye in the side mirror. Turning quickly, he saw Celia Matheson and a handsome young man in a dark suit walking hand in hand down the road.

 

As he stared open mouthed, Celia turned and looked at him. She smiled brightly before turning and continuing down the road, snuggled close against the side of the young man. As Tom watched, the two of them disappeared into the mist. Only there was no mist. It had cleared while he was having coffee. Tom shook his head and rubbed his eyes. Either he was going crazy or he’d actually just seen Celia and Charles Matheson’s ghosts.

 

Tom was quiet and thoughtful for the rest of the trip. After dropping his cargo, he found a phone and called Cora.

 

“Hello, Sweetheart, I’ll be home tomorrow. And, Cora, I’ve decided to take the twenty-year retirement. This is my last trip. Ah… Honey, don’t cry. Yes, I know. I’ll tell you all about it when I get home. I love you too. Bye, Darlin’.”

 

Tom walked back to his truck with a smile on his face. Ghost or not, Celia Matheson had shown him that spending time with his Cora was more important than a few extra dollars in retirement benefits.

Copyright Elizabeth Melton Parsons

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