11. Pressed into Service

Jesse Price was an ordinary guy, who died when he was 26 in a train accident in 1880 on Valentine’s Day. If there was speculation about his death being more suicide than accident, based on the day, let me put that to rest now. Price just died, in a way people just die.

He laid in the ground unbothered for quite some time. What he thought about, if anything, we don’t know.

This, though, we do. We know of a girl, a young girl, so desperate for good fortune, for her boyfriend to return from the war in one piece, that, in the middle of the night, she parked her car back behind the far wall, walked nervously up Oak Street (and for good reason; that part of town was, back then, not that safe even during the day) and, when she felt sure there were no cars about to come by,slinked over the fence.

She was looking for her family plot, to beg a dead great aunt for help.

But imagine, you’re in an ancient cemetery at nigh, stumbling around with only a small flashlight you need to keep pointed down if you don’t want to attract the attention of neighbors or the police.  Every twig snap, every shadow shift, and soon she terrified out of her mind.  And there, before her, was Mr. Price’s grave.

“Oh, please,” she whispered, “For Christ’s sake, bring Donny home.” And then, she found a small stone near by and made a small cross on the back of his grave.

And this tells you a lot about the kind of person Mr. Price was, because Donny came home.

I was there with a medium on the annual October tour and when we walked by Mr. Price’s grave, she laughed.

“Oh my,” she said to no one in particular, “That hasn’t worked out.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Mr. Price feels very fondly towards these folks, who have worked so hard to clean the place up. He has, whenever someone has marked his grave, done the one thing he can think to keep them from marking it again.”

“Oh?”

“He’s tried to make what they’ve asked for happen, so that they won’t come back.”

“Ah, I see what you mean. Has he considered stopping?”

“Not lately. By now, he kind of likes feeling useful again.”

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Everybody Hollerin’ Goat

“I’m Everybody at this Table but Betsy.”

So, the folks are here, which means that we had to play a game of 500 rummy and since I have no card skills, I have to rely on luck.

Luck was not with me.

I didn’t even break 200.  If you’ve played rummy, you know that not even breaking 200 is almost a physical impossibility. And we were sitting me, the Butcher to my left, Mom to his, and then Dad to hers. So the Butcher would often discard a card I needed and Mom would pick it up just to see if she could make something happen with it later, which she could not because I had the rest of the cards in my hand doing nothing but preparing to count against me. And so, finally, after she unwittingly pulls that same bullshit again, while she and Dad and the Butcher all have at least 50 points down in front of them and I have not even gotten down, I say, in my most mocking tone, “Oh, I have a bunch of points. I have cards that play. I’m taking cards that Betsy needs. I’m everybody at this table but Betsy.”

Because I am five.

Ha.

Anyway, my mom starts to laugh, just this little giggle, at first, but then you can kind of see it coming right up from her gut, shaking her whole frame until it just bursts out of her mouth like it was too big for her, this enormous belly laugh.  And then she keeps laughing and laughing until tear are rolling down her cheeks and she’s practically gasping for air.  The rest of us now are so tickled by her being tickled that we have caught it, too–the giggles.

“Whew,” she said, once she caught her breath, “that was ridiculous.”