By Shane Brown
I remember being a little kid and Mama walking around videoing anything and everything she could. She would use that camera all day. She said she never had anything that neat before. I think she believed she would have each moment forever when she hit the record button.
That camera was huge and it hurt your shoulder to hold it propped up for a minute. I guess it didn’t bother her. She gleamed with it. She was getting something new and recording her babies. Recently, I watched a video of us at my grandmother’s house having lunch one day. LeAnne and Billy Ray were fighting while Mamaw was in the background frying chicken and baking biscuits. Dad was leaned back in a chair watching everyone.
Mama throws the camera on him and asks him about the ghost story from a call he got the night before while on duty at the fire station. Dad’s wearing a navy blue “Firebuster” shirt and he leans his head down and his eyes get big. He twists the sides of his ear with a finger and a thumb as he chuckles. He shivers. He tells the story of what he saw that night on call. I disbelieve him as surely as I study every word he says. I didn’t believe in ghosts at nine years old.
Webster says ghosts are “the soul of a dead person thought of as living in an unseen world or as appearing to the living people.” Webster can’t describe what I know, but “He” is close. Maybe Webster is telling me I know a soul that still lives, that it’s appearing to me. I think I know his feelings too from spending time at Tula. I’m starting to know instead of only wondering.
At forty-three I don’t know if I truly believe in ghosts yet or not. I’ve never seen one. I have never considered for one second that my eyes witnessed a ghostly motion. But I feel things.
I wonder if ghosts can make you feel things. If they can, then I believe in them. That’s something that happens to me often, especially at Tula or somewhere my father frequented. I’m sitting on the docks of Tula right now and it’s almost haunting, not a scary haunting but a gut-wrenching one. Crickets are calling and the bullfrogs are loud. They echo off trees and through my body. There is a white cloud of fog sitting on the pond as its glow dances from the moonlight. The moon’s cast is wrapped in fog which shows the pond’s general shape. The moon’s light runs about six or seven feet to the bank and up the trees and to their tops as it shines up back into the sky. The white fog just sits in a gloom. It doesn’t move and neither do I. There’s a presence here.
This presence makes me want to write stories. Maybe this is the presence that makes me want to be like my Dad. I’m not for sure yet, but I like both of those thoughts. I know I’ll never be the writer he was. I’m ok with that. But if I can be a writer with a connection to him then it’s all worth the sacrifice.
There’s a presence over me and under me. I feel it in both of my sides too. It’s in my truck that I drive every day now. It’s the truck I got to pick out for my Dad one day when he said he wanted a pickup with air-conditioning, a CD player, and powered windows as he sent me and Mom to Tupelo to purchase it.
It’s the presence that I feel when I’m asleep at the old Tula store he owned that’s been renovated into an apartment; it’s the store he wrote about in Joe where the protagonist would pick up his workers. But the feeling down on the pond at Tula is more powerful than any I’ve ever felt. It’s a feeling where I start to believe in ghosts. I still don’t see it, but I believe it.
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