Our 11th story in the marathon is another story brought to you by Jake Phillips.
A Country Ghost Story
By Jake Phillips
Bobby walked into the kitchen. His mother was just finishing up the dishes.
“Ma, I thought Dad went to the store.”
She looked up. “He did. Why, did you need something?”
“No, no. But isn’t that his truck out in the yard?”
Etta set down her drying cloth and walked over to the window. Sure enough, there was Ethan’s pickup being pelted by rain in the driveway. It sure was coming down! She turned to her youngest.
“You see him anywhere?”
“No,” Bobby replied, “he’s not in the TV room.”
“Hmm.” For no reason she could fathom, she felt that chewing sensation in the back of her mind that always meant bad news. Her husband and children dismissed her feelings, but she knew what she knew. She walked through the house, but there was no sign of him anywhere. She didn’t reckon he was in the barn, but she told her boy to check.
Bobby put on his jacket and pulled up the hood to keep off the wet. It was more to keep his hair neat than anything else; Etta Shamus had raised three boys, and this last one was positively vain about his hair. She supposed it was partly her fault; when he was little, she’d doted on his blonde curls, so now he -
The boy’s yell startled her back to the moment. She went to the door to ask what was wrong, the feeling, that hateful feeling that meant something WAS wrong, or was about to be wrong, filling her head . . .
She didn’t ask what was wrong. Her hand flew to her mouth.
The pickup truck wasn’t there.
The wind had blown back Robert’s hood – for the time being, his styling product was the last thing on his mind. The rain ran down his face like tears.
“He couldn’t have left, could he?”
“No, honey.” She tried to keep the tremble from her voice. “We’d have heard the engine. And you know how loud the muffler is on that old thing.”
“Well, let’s call him. If he is out, he’s got his phone with him.”
He had a point. She reached for the phone on the wall, easily dialing his number from memory – a trick her husband never could manage; those cell phones did your thinking for you, made your head for numbers go soft . . .
Thank God! “Ethan! Where are you?”
“I told you, I wanted to pick up a few things before the grocery store closed.” He was talking loudly, probably trying to make himself heard over the storm.
Relief flooded through her. Maybe her bad feeling had steered her wrong after all.
“Well, I’ll see you when you get back.” Then, maybe because she’d been so worried, she added, “I love you.”
“Me too,” he replied, as always.
It was another 45 minutes before they got the call. Ethan Shamus had dropped his cell phone when he was trying to hang up. His old pickup hit a wet patch and skidded into the concrete abutment. He was killed instantly.
His widow Henrietta and son Robert never talked about what had happened that night, not even with each other.
Etta only got her strange feeling once more, seventeen years later, but when she did, she didn’t live long enough for it to worry her much.
Purging Fires (Day Soldiers Book Two) is now available!