20 Years Later

After leaving Nashville, we settled into a house in Lewisburg, Tennessee where we raised 2 sons and I taught at the local high school. Brenda, after getting the boys to their teen years, decided to further her education by attending my Alma Mater: Trevecca Nazarene University. Majoring in education, she enjoyed the drive as a respite from small town life and preparation for the classroom.

During the fall of her second year, she came home to find me cooking dinner in the kitchen. She took my hand kissed me on the cheek and said, “I have a story to tell you.”

Always one for a good yarn, I leaned against the counter to take it in.

Brenda Began,”So I’m sitting in Psychology class today, looking at at the syllabus, and wondering how I’m going to pass the first test in three weeks . . . when the lady next to me, Michelle, sees the look on my face and tries to reassure me.” I shifted my weight, glancing at the skillet to check its status.

“Sounds like a good person to be around.” I inputted.

Brenda gave me a knowing look and a sarcastic, “Yeah,” and continued.

“We talked about the class, our notes, and the test. She even offered to have a test prep study-time at her house.”

“Hmmm” I hummed to give my approval.

Brenda went on. “I asked her how far away she lived . . . she said North Nashville. I asked what street . . . she said McIver. I told her I used to live on that street at 671- years ago. She stopped, laughed, and told me that that was where she lived.”

For a brief moment, I was no longer interested in dinner, just how that house had worked its way back into our lives.

With a blank expression I asked, “You’re not kidding, are you?”

She answered with a chuckle, “Of course not! What are the odds after all of these years?”

“I don’t know. But what now? Are you actually going?” I repositioned myself in front of the stove to finish the dish.

“Yes, I am.” She said setting plates on the table. “And I’ve already made up my mind that I’m NOT going to tell her about what happened while we lived there.”

Absently, I stirred. “Assuming that it stopped.”

With a blanched face, Brenda repeated in a steady measured tone, “Yeah. Assuming that it stopped.”



The Haunting of 671 McIver Street (Chapter 10)

Chapter 10

Brenda never found out about the close encounter I had with whatever it was in the room that night. Who knows, she may have had a similar event happen to her. One that she kept from me for the same reason I kept mine from her.

The time had come (past time, you might say) for us to move. The week of our departure had one more meeting with the entity from the other side.

I remember it being a Monday when we heard Mrs. Cruthers phone ringing. I raced down the stairs and answered it just in time.

“Cruthers residence, Mark speaking,” I spouted trying to catch my breath.

The voice on the other end explained that our landlady had been admitted to the hospital from renal failure and possible stroke. The prognosis was grim. I spoke my thanks, ran upstairs to get Brenda and started off to the hospital.

Once there, we met her pastor, who had called us, and settled in beside her for a short visit. Since only two of us were allowed at one time, the pastor stayed in the waiting room. I wish he had stayed.

“Mrs. C?” Brenda reached for her hand to comfort her and look into her eyes. From the other side of the bed, I also grasped her hand in consolation whispering a prayer.

When I made contact with her, her eyelids popped open, eyes darting back and forth as if she were being chased.

“He’s here . . . Oh, God, help me. He’s here.” Her raspy voice spat out the words with phlegm following.

I gave Brenda a quick look shaking my head and spoke, “Who’s here, Mrs. C? It’s just us. Brenda and Mark. No one else is . . ..” She cut me off and stilled my pulse.

“Don’t let him hurt me.” Her grip on both of our hands had become more than uncomfortable . . .  it hurt.

As if on queue, the room TV behind and above us in the corner came on. Our heads whipped around to it and back at each other in fright.

At first, there was static, but soon the stations began to cycle through at random. The round dial sat still, but the channels keep changing. I thought they were random until I noticed a pattern. More than a pattern. It was a message.

“I have waited. . .” static and change . . . “a long time for this moment,” static and change.
“I finally have all three of you together.” After the first three channel changes I began to hear more clearly. I could hear a coherent thread of words streaming to our ears.

“You two are my witnesses. I was tortured in life and I am tortured in death.” I still could feel the vise-like grip from the woman in the bed. I dared a look at her face to see the most horrific look of panic and fear I ever hope to see.

“I finally can repay her for all of the miserable things she did to me.” With that statement, Mrs. Cruthers body began to lurch up and down, back and forth, landing on the bed in one expulsion of air from her lungs. The maniacal beeping from the heart monitor was replaced with a steady solid tone announcing her death. The TV also stilled and the room filled with the sound of the monitor and our breathing.

Of course, we did not have a tough time saying goodbye to the old house. Mrs. Cruthers’ death made it easier to leave. We drove away without looking back.

The Haunting of 671 McIver Street (Chapter 9)

Chapter 9
Brenda and I settled into a routine of studying and working, barely even noticing the rattling door knobs or the bumps in the night. We accepted the presence as if it were a stray cat that came to the back door looking for scraps. Sometimes, however, stray cats turn out to do unpredictable things.

The fall of the second year of living with this Presence brought warmer than usual temperatures to Tennessee. Late one evening, when we had settled in to bed with the ceiling fan on, the temperature in the room dropped to a very uncomfortable level. Nearly shivering and leaving the warmth of Brenda’s side, I reached to turn off the ceiling fan and put another blanket on the quilt we already had. I snuggled back into bed happy to be married to such a warm individual.

I wish I could say how long afterwards, but I found myself on my back in the bed. I heard something. Was I dreaming? Was I snoring and woke myself up? I couldn’t tell.

Then I heard it . . . or felt it . . . or something. I could hear what sounded like a whirring above me. at first, I thought the ceiling fan was back on, but the rhythm was wrong. The ceiling fan made a mechanical high pitched swinging sound, but this was a much lower toned humming or droning . . no . . . it was moaning.

The center of the sound was nowhere near the center of the ceiling where the fan is and by now I was WIDE AWAKE! Paralyzed by fear, I lay there, eyes searching the darkness for something to see. The whooshing got closer to my face. I could feel no current of air that a fan would create. It just slowly got closer and closer to my face. My ears were the only sensory navigation my eyes could use for orientation. I would turn to the left and right hoping to center on it, but it seemed to move closer, but fill the room at the same time. In my searching, I became terrifyingly aware that it was close enough to touch.

I raised my hand from under the covers. I sensed that my hand was in front of my face only because I could feel the heat from it. The droning came closer and closer. My hand froze. I couldn’t do it. At the moment it seemed that I would be entering the same space as the sound, I pulled back.

In that instance, the room was as quiet as a tomb.

The Haunting of 671 McIver Street (Chapter 8)

I have fired a gun several times in my life. Once, shooting at balloons at the county fair. The other times, shooting a Red Rider BB Rifle at squirrels. Both instances resulted in zero casualties. I didn’t even shoot my eye out. The very thought of having a real handgun in my apartment made me more than a little nervous. With very little deliberation, I decided to keep it unloaded and to tell Brenda as soon as she got home, which would be after midnight. Where to keep the weapon meant I had to think of possible opportunities to use it.

A closet meant crossing from anywhere in the house to get to it. I didn’t like that idea. Since almost all of the encounters took place at night or after dark, perhaps under the bed. No, under the bed could be hard to get to. Our bed, however, had a cabinet as part of the head-board. Maybe, it could fit in there. I tried it and, happily, the gun fit. Of course, I laid back on the bed and practiced reaching up to retrieve the weapon behind the door until I had it down without looking. I imagined James Bond probably did the same thing- practicing until he could do it in one fluid motion.

As evening wore on, I tried to eat, clean up, and work on a paper due the following week. My thoughts kept returning to the gun, Keith & Perry’s encounter, and the message.

L-E-A-V-E. Maybe Ms. Cruthers’ assessment had merit. What if her husband really was trying to get us out? What did he have to gain- dead was dead, right? OR maybe, the entity schlepping around wasn’t human (or formally so), but demonic? That question sent chills down my spine. Not good, not good at all. Naturally, my Uncle Ernie could be right . . . but how . . . and why? The only thought I had dwelt on the fact that someone wanted us out. If they wanted to buy the place, they might get a better price if Ms. Cruthers thought it was haunted.

My train of thought built up speed but a tight curve up ahead meant I had to slow down. Fatigue was the name of the curve and I didn’t need to derail. I had to be sharp and focused. At that moment, I heard it. The rattling again. I held my forehead in my hand to formulate a plan. I raised my face to the ceiling and turned on the what-ever-it-was.

“Look” I bellowed with force and a resolute purpose. “I don’t know who you are or what you are, but I’m tired of this nonsense.” I breathed in to muster even more courage and gusto, “I have a test, a paper, and I don’t have time for you. So . . . just . . . go away. I don’t know what your problem is and really don’t care . . . so go . . . get away from here . . . NOW!” By this time I was on my feet, fists clenched in a defiant stance. I listened intently to ensure compliance. After a moment or two, I heard nothing in particular. I grunted my final word and returned to my chair. My hands were shaking from the rush of adrenaline, shaking them to relieve the tension, I resumed my work with a sigh of satisfaction.

For several uninterrupted hours, I worked to complete my assignments. Every now and then, I would turn my head to listen for any sign of disturbance. My ears remained empty, but vigilant.

Long about a quarter past midnight, Brenda came in the house to my open arms and a warm set of kisses. We talked about our respective days as we readied for bed, when, at last, I told her about the gun nestled just a few inches away from her head.

“Uh, heh-heh. You’re kidding, right?” she laughed an unbelieving chuckle. But when I didn’t return her mirthful response, her smile evaporated to a disapproving frown. Backing up from me with a sudden shudder, “You . . . brought . . . a gun . . . into our home?”

“Brenda, it’s okay. It’s not loaded and it’ll only come out in an emergency . . . just to scare whoever is doing this stuff to us.” I had rehearsed the speech twice, but now I don’t think even I believed me.

“I don’t know, Mark.” She looked down at her hands for comfort. “A Gun?” Her quiet demeanor caused her to whisper, but she really just wanted reassurance from me.

“You’ll see.” I said as I reached for her hand to engulf in mine. “You won’t even see it” I kissed her gently on the forehead and then the lips. I felt her neck and body slowly release the tension.

“Okay. ONLY in emergencies.” She looked at me as to a child being reminded to stay away from the hot stove.

“You’ll see sweetheart, never even see it.” We snuggled under the covers of the bed, taking very little time to fall asleep.

__________                    __________                   __________                    __________                    __________                    __________                   __________                    __________

Often times in dreams, you hear things in the world around you and they register in your brain, join your dreams as something totally removed from the original sound, and addled you later with a confusing memory. My dream of hunting a stag I could barely see, suddenly, had a nearby tree explode into millions of wooden shards. I awoke looking around for the forest scene to be littered with the splinters. With a shake of my head, I regained my awareness of the apartment, only to realize that something had struck my and Brenda’s ears to rouse us from REM sleep.

“What was that? Did you hear it?” Brenda whispered, not a hint of grogginess in her voice.

“Yeah, hang on. I got this.” I reached up behind my head, but turned to her gently. “This is an emergency right?” My eyebrows raised to an affirmation-seeking height on my forehead.

“Mark, yeah, it’s an emergency. It sounded like someone just ripped the front door off its hinges. Sic ’em.” She ended with a gleam in her eyes.

I grunted acceptance and completed my well-rehearsed plan of attack.

I eased the head-board door open, gripped the revolver in my hand, feeling its cold steel in my sweaty palm. Carefully, I exited the bed, ambled to the door leading to the stairs. All the while, I had been counting footfalls on the twenty-three stairs.

“10, 11, 12, 13, 14.” I sounded in my head, as I reached for the knob. Murmuring to myself very quietly, I thanked my Uncle Ernie for what will surely scare someone into becoming very religious.

I swung open the door, leapt into the hall weapon first. My hand flipped the hall switch to illuminate the face of my intruder, when my mind nearly snapped with the results of the visual scan. The stairwell was empty!

With a blood-drained face, I walked down the stairs to check the door. I ran my hand around the frame and hinges to assess the damage, but they were still in tact and in pristine condition. The noise I heard could only have come from the violence inflicted on the screen and front doors being ripped off their hinges. So boisterous was the sound that I expected to see splinters and debris all around the entry way.

I rubbed the back of my neck as Brenda called down from the top of the stairs, “Mark, what was it? Are you okay? What happened?”

“Um, nothing, babe. Nothing at all, just a dream, I guess.” I called back up the stairs meeting her eyes with a reassuring smile.

She folded her arms, and retorted, “We both had the same LOUD dream?”

She had me there. How could that have happened? “I don’t know . . . I just want to go back to sleep. Everything’s still locked up down here. You go on back to bed. I’ll sit up for a few minutes to be on the safe side.”

“Okay, hun.” She turned and went back to bed. I heard the light switch click and did the same to the stair lights. I ambled my way over to the reading chair to sit in the dark and wait. Within a minute, I heard the familiar checking of the doorknobs and resolved to return Uncle Ernie’s gun back to him as soon as I could. I realized that it was useless in this house.

The Haunting of 671 McIver Street (Chapter 7)

The next morning, we carefully collected the Bibles and loaded them into the car for Keith and Perry to take back to the church. Doing so proved more difficult than I imagined because we all got up before sunrise. We all left to eat breakfast at the Krispy Kreme.

After the business of eating had stopped distracting us, Keith broke the ice to discuss the elephant in the room.

“L-E-A-V-E”, he stated after he slurped his coffee. “We didn’t do THAT neither.” He looked for confirmation from Perry, who seemed to be studying his glazed donuts with unbelievable concern.

“I have to go to work . . .” Brenda rose with her purse and lunch in hand. Leaning over to kiss me, she addressed us. “You boys stay out of trouble. okay?” She turned to go, but not before giving me a good-bye leer over her shoulder.

“What about me?” Keith feigned a pouty face. Brenda ignored him in the worst way, she sped up.

“None for me, thanks, I’m drivin'” Perry muttered to his coffee.

“SO” Keith prodded.

“Yeah?” I replied while checking my watch. “Gotta go, Bro. Remember? Dr. Huffington?”

“Hmph.” Keith snorted, draining his cup.

Perry shifted uncomfortably, “I think I hear my Sergeant calling.”

I left the table as the dim-witted duo argued about going back to my house.

_______          _______          _______            _______            _______                _______

Dr. Huffington droned on about a Nineteenth Century European double-fronted Napoleonic war that I lost interest in after the first ten minutes. I couldn’t think straight to say the least. I needed rest, but that meant going home or to my mom’s. Either way, I needed rest. My apartment was out of the question since the events of this morning had shaken me up. After giving a little thought to my parent’s home, I felt a twinge of guilt over putting any more on them than I have already.

Where can I go, I thought. I basically need to hide for just a few hours. Uncle Ernie. The idea hit me waking me from my daze just as Dr. Huffington concluded his lecture. I looked down at my notes and saw a blank page. I shrugged off the self-disappointment and headed for the nearest bus stop. Uncle Ernie lived too far to walk or bicycle. The bus would be a nice detour.

_______          _______          _______            _______            _______                _______

“Hey, Mark. C’mon in, son.” My momma’s brother worked a swing shift at the Ford Plant, so being home during the day was not a problem.

“Thanks, Ernie. I’m sorry about not calling first.” I muttered apologetically crossing the threshold. “I need two things from ya’.”

“Sure, bubba. Anything, you know that.” He said as he closed the door and followed me into the living room.

We sat on the couch as I explained the house happenings. The more I explained the more attentive and animated he became.

“You know, son, I don’t put any stock in this ghost idea.” He stated with a raised eyebrow. “More likely, it’s somebody messin’ with you.” He thought for moment. “Questions are who and why?” He looked down in a thoughtful pose. Then, his head raised with a bright expression. “I might not be able to find out the answers to those questions just yet, but I can do something else to help.” He nearly leapt off the couch, jaunting down the hall murmuring something about putting the fear of God into somebody.

I spoke up to him as he disappeared into one of the back rooms. “Uncle Ernie . . . really, it’s okay. I didn’t come for anything more than a place to sleep before going home.” Waiting a beat or two I responded to the silence. “I have to get home before Brenda does.” I careened my neck, too tired to get up and look at what he was doing back there. I got a little worried as I heard laughter come from the room. My Uncle Ernie has some strange ways of fixing problems.

Last winter, I got a call from Uncle Ernie asking me to help him get some fire wood. We met on the next Saturday, got in his truck, and rolled out on State Highway 100. A George Jones song coming through the radio added to the whole experience as we talked about nothing in particular. Soon, after watching his expressions, I realized that he looked lost.

“Um, Ernie?” I hesitantly started. “DO you know where we’re going?” I chanced a look at him for confirmation.

Ernie scratched his chin, squinted his eyes, and then like Tonto to the Lone Ranger, he pointed. “There it is. This is the place this buddy of mine told me about.”

Two things hit me at once.

First, relief. We weren’t lost or on a wild goose chase (with Ernie that’s another story entirely). Second, we were in the middle of no where. No buildings. No houses. No signs. Nothing. He put the truck in reverse backing it into the open field just off the highway. Ernie killed the engine and turned to get out when my hand stuck out to stop him with a questioning look.

“You’re kidding, right? Ernie . . .” I looked around for Rod Serling. “There’s nothing here.”

“Oh, just like my sister. You worry too much about details.” He shrugged me off and stepped out of the opened door. He shut it and made eye contact with me. “You getting out or have I got to do this by myself?” He tapped on the door, smiled and winked at me with enough mischief in his eyes for the both of us. He always had more mischief than two ordinary people anyway.

I groaned in psuedo-protest and exited the truck. Looking in the back of the truck, I saw him tinkering with a chainsaw. I still wasn’t satisfied. I guess I did need more details. “Ernie, what are we doing again?”

“Fire wood, Mark, fire wood . . . right over there .” He nodded to a section ten yards away of knee-high grass. He started up the chainsaw before I could protest.

I followed him to the spot in question and lost my resolve to know more. Sprawled out before us lay two sections of telephone poles replete with tar and tags. Obviously, we were “borrowing fire wood” from Ma Bell. I gained a whole new appreciation for my Uncle, but not in a good way.

“Here. Load’em up!” He blared over the engine’s roar. While I had been worrying, he had already cut four sections into manageable pieces. This was no joke. I had two options. Run and join the Russian Circus, or help . . . I was no Communist, so I helped.

After about 30 minutes of furious work, we had loaded up the truck with one full length of telephone pole. The drive back was full of the radio, but no talking. As we rolled into his driveway, I broke the silence. “We just broke the law . . . we stole those poles.”

“Now, Mark. We did no such thing.” He exited the truck to unload the wood. I followed. “My buddy said his wife’s brother knows a guy at the phone company and said these poles weren’t gonna be used because of some flaw in them. That’s pretty close to permission”

Out of respect I just stood there with my mouth open. I just wanted to help him and get out. With little fan fair, I accomplished my task, making a mental note to ask LOTS of questions when it came to Uncle Ernie.

Still on the couch with Ernie down the hall, I began to drift off to sleep with a smile and chuckle at my favorite uncle’s antics.

Only later, after four hours of sleep, did Ernie present me with HIS answer to my problems . . . a .38 caliber hand gun- a 38 special.

The Haunting of 671 McIver Street (Chapter 6)

After a raucous dinner and cleanup that lasted for hours, we helped Keith and Perry get settled into the downstairs accommodations. Six-foot-one Keith on the five-foot-ten sofa and Perry sitting up in the reading chair with his feet propped up in a folding chair. After making sure they were sure they could make the night this way, we stepped gingerly through the obstacle course Keith and Perry had laid out on the stairs. Oh, the stairs?

Unbeknownst to me, the two enterprising young men had paid a pious visit to our mother’s church. They left with as many Bibles as they could find. I let them in the house, but went back to the kitchen to finish cooking. I thought a bookstore had hemorrhaged on our stairway from the looks of things. With Perry’s help, Keith explained if the Holy Word o’ God couldn’t protect them, what could? I couldn’t argue that logic. Not because it was sound, but I had a pot of chili needing my attention, so I really couldn’t argue the point.

My wife and I danced up the stairs singing “The B-I-B-L-E” song, chuckling at the thought patterns of the two soldiers.

We didn’t need any help getting to sleep. I last remember hearing the two goof-balls teasing each other and giggling before I drifted off to sleep.

My shoulder received an urgent shake rousing me from that slumber. My alarm clock glowed three in the morning, while a wide-eyed sweat-drenched face startled me out of three years of life. Keith kept shaking me, “MARK, wake up, man.” He pleaded in hushed tones. “Wake up. Can . . . can I sleep up here with you two?”

“Okay . . . wait . . . what?” Once I realized that we weren’t back home and we weren’t kids anymore, I drearily protested. “Now just hold on a cotton-pickin’ minute! What happened?” Looking around, my eyes darted from Brenda to my brother prompting me to move. “No, not here. Tell me down stairs.” I waved my hand to usher him out of the room and down the stairs we went. The Marine let me go first, of course.

I turned on the lamp next to the couch only have my eyes take in upturned furniture and two worried young men. After scanning the floor, I whispered, “Tell me this can be explained. This stuff isn’t ours.” I breathed in to control my anxiety and to keep from jabbering incoherently. “Help me” I nodded to Keith while reaching down to upright the couch. I plopped down on the couch with my hand on my forehead waving them to begin. “Okay, I’m ready. Talk.”

Keith rubbed his hands on his legs, cleared his throat, and began with an unfamiliar quiver in his voice. “Well, me and Perry was just sittin’ in the dark. When he starts making this ooh-ooh sound and whispering my name to rattle me, but all it did was make me laugh. SO after a little while, he finally stopped . . ..”

“Hey, you did it, too.” Perry interjected with an accusing finger.

I felt like a Sunday School Teacher for the Kindergarten class. “Now, boys . . .” They caught my eyes as my head rested back into my hand and regained their pseudo-maturity.

Keith went on. “Once we settled down, I fell asleep.”

“Yeah, me, too.” Perry added.

Keith swallowed and continued. “Well, sir. There I was sleepin’ nice and calm like. When I woke up ’cause felt somebody behind the couch pickin’ it up or tippin’ it or, heck, I don’t know. I just felt the thing movin’. Before I could say anything, the couch kept moving dumpin’ me out on the floor. I went into a battle stance and came flying over the top of the couch fists a flyin’.” Here, he swallowed again, looked at Perry, then at me. “Jer, there was nobody there. With the moon and streetlights, I could see well enough that I knew nobody was there.”

My heart had skipped a beat at the news. I sat up, leaned forward, and questioned, “What? You’re puttin’ me on. You two didn’t sneak some booze in here, did ya?”

“No way, man . . . not a drop” Keith protested loudly enough for me to shush him with my hands and a careful glance up the stairs. I turned my gaze to Perry and asked, “Perry, you didn’t do it, did ya’?”

Holding up his right hand, head shaking, and three fingers extended, “Eagle-Scouts honor. UH-UH.”

“Oh, I pounced on him, thinkin’ it was him. But when HE woke up swinging . . . that’s when the rest of the furniture got knocked over . . . I knew it wasn’t him.”

“Our friend hasn’t done anything like this before. I wonder why?” I turned my head to think to myself.

Perry broke my train of thought, “Didn’t you say that old man that used to live here was a real mean one? I mean, if so, don’t you think his ghost would do mean things, too?”

“Yeah, think about that.” Keith added.

“Okay, okay. We can play The Man from U.N.C.L.E. after we get some more sleep. I have a 7:30 class . . .” I rose to go back to bed, but hadn’t turned away from them. ” . . . Dr. Huffington is unforgiving with tardiness. You guys okay with cleaning up, right?” I said without turning around.

Neither of them spoke. They just stared past me with gaping expressions. Finally, Keith raised one hand pointer finger extended.”Lord, Almighty. Look.”

I turned around to face the stairs. As my eyes took in the scene, I slowly took bewildered steps to get a closer look. All of the Bibles had been collected and rearranged to spell a word, letters running up the stairs.

I felt Perry & Keith come up behind me and heard my brother whisper, “What does it say?”

Now it was my turn to swallow before I spoke. Turning my head to make sure, I read it out loud, “It says, ‘LEAVE'”

The two Marines edged ever closer to me, breathing short weak breathes. My brother managed one more request and for a moment he was six and I was ten on a stormy night back home, “Mark? Can we sleep with you and Brenda tonight?”

I said okay.

The Haunting of 671 McIver Street (Chapter 5)

“So, you’re telling me that you live in a haunted house?” My brother, Keith, looked at me with a more excited than incredulous look. He had just been given leave from the Marines to come home before shipping out to Vietnam. He craved distraction.

My worried look to him had more to do with lack of sleep than just dwelling on the strange occurrences he wanted to see for himself. “Yeah, it’s haunted. I’ve looked at it every way possible and ‘haunted’ is the only conclusion I can come to.” I slowly turned the Waffle House embossed cup in place and searched the rim for strength.

“Well, I been talking to Perry about us coming over and checking this place out. Ya’ know at night . . . maybe all night.” Keith paused to see my reaction, but continued. “We won’t bother anything, just check it out. See what we can see.” He smiled that winning smile little brothers some times give when they want big brother to go along with a freshly hatched plan.

I returned the smile with a little chuckle. “Sure” I held out the word to reassure him of my acceptance. “But you’re sure your training has prepared you two for this level of uncertainty?”

“You two guys come on. We’ll make chili, cornbread, and tea. You can sleep on the downstairs sofa and Perry on the soft chairs. We’ve been wanting to have you over but we weren’t sure how you would take the stuff going on in the house.”

“So, is tonight okay?” He pressed.

“Yeah, great . . . no time like the present. I’ll stop off at the store and pick up a few things, get home and start the chili.”

“I’ll stop off for my gear, get Perry, and we’ll be over by six?”

“Sounds good, bro. Look for you then.”

I slapped him on the back, returned his smile, paid the bill, tipped the waitress, who Keith, of course, knew probably better than he should. As I exited the door, I wondered which would be more entertaining . . . my guests or my ghost?