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  • Mj Pettengill

Shoo Away the Ghosts: Simple Acknowledgment


Milan Statues, CCO

Like dreams, the events that followed were nearly impossible to express. Unable to escape the confusion of Dolly May while amidst those wearied and worn by illness and grief, I had lost all count of time.

I was the last one to see Dolly May alive. I watched her knowingly take her final breath. Why? Because she hated herself. Back then, it was too much for me to grasp as it is now while pennin’ this account with a shaky hand.

I didn’t get how someone who believed in magic the way that she did, could have fallen into an endless pit of darkness. Under the influence of her own miserable life, which had become a livin’ nightmare, she had up and shattered. Where was God when it happened? Where was He? Why did Mamma and the others praise Him so much? And the faith? Where did it come from?

I wanted that faith. I craved to view injustice and pain as they did, believin’ without a doubt that a lovin’ and fair God would shine His light upon us. He would sort it out, and we could go about our business. The faithful said that we’d be fine if we just kept prayin’ and readin’ the Bible. We didn’t necessarily need to know how or why. Just believe, they said.

I decided to see the best in others and take care not to give in to what I knew to be wrong. I came to understand that I was a trouble-maker because I always needed to know more. I pushed for answers. I s’posed it was too much. It was favored to simply accept everything as God’s will and move along.

So, not only did I question God, I questioned Dolly May’s proclaimed magic. Unless there was somethin’ more to all that she had done, I dared to disbelieve. Had she found a way to return from the stone garden? That had to have been it. Perhaps Dolly May knew about findin’ her way back, that when Death came and even seemed to have won, we were not gone forever.

In the middle of that discovery, I found comfort in the possibility that Dolly May was not a victim or one who lost. No, she was one who knew of things that we had yet to discover. It was this belief that helped me sleep for the next few nights. I was able to close my eyes and view her walk into the pond as freedom—an act of light over darkness, as one in peace, not as a tortured soul.

Sadly, my relief didn’t last. The wretched conditions continued to arise on the Farm. Under such reduced circumstances, Death did not wait politely at the door. No, it was in all the way. Accompanied by fear, it had surrounded us all, so much that at first, I was shaken but not broken down. I saw it in others but had the sense to try something. As confused as I may have been, all of the fuss must have worked. Again, I prayed.

Dear God, Dolly May had to go because she knows of a way back home. She can come back here or stay out there, very far beyond the fence, without pain. Please keep her and Daisy safe. And God? Please help me and everyone here to stop bein’ scared. Show Death the way out. We’ve had enough of it for now, Amen.

Not sure how or when Dolly would reappear, I remained secretly optimistic. The number of those who caught the fever was on the rise. Most of them were old but good.

At least Mamma and Lidie went back and forth between rooms throughout the night. Whenever Mamma had a chance, she stopped in to check on me. It was just a guess because I could have sworn that I awoke a few times to see her lookin’ down on me.

I sat up with a start once or twice, managin’ to shoo away the ghosts that, after takin’ a bad turn, rushed wildly about the passages of the house. I was used to all of that. Mamma said that as long as we were mindful, we had God’s protection. She said that most of those spirits were restless but harmless. They just wanted to be remembered. Once acknowledged, she said that they would return to the light.

She believed that writin’ their names in the Book of Numbered Souls was of vital importance for them and us all. She warned that it couldn’t stop there. Should somethin’ happen to her, and if the book were neglected, they would be restless and troubled throughout the ages. Under such unfortunate circumstances, to restore them would require the help of others in years to come. Simple acknowledgment is all that is needed, she said.

Overall, the night was filled with groans of the sick—those with or without fever—in madness, shoutin’ out scraps of songs in jarrin’, sour voices. It was summer, I didn’t think that people got sick unless it was cold and snowy. I was wrong. ~Samuel Hodgdon II, June 21, 1878~ Excerpt: Down from the Tree Etched in Granite Historical Fiction Series Book Three (Book Four is in the making.)


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