"Death is no more than passing from one room into another." – HELEN KELLER

Reader Submission - What Scared the Dog

A story sent to me from Christopher at Death By Children:

June. It's like 3 in the morning. It's ink dark in the house. I'm knocked out of a deep sleep by a scream.

This isn't the normal screaming I'm used to. This isn't "oh dear, I've stabbed myself with this kitchen implement!," Nor was it "Good Lord, that fecal expurgation was distressingly large and I fear that I may have torn something loose down there!" It was real fear. It was "I just saw a freaking ghost."

I ran downstairs, my mind blank with concern, and found Connor standing in the dining room, all the lights on, wailing. I grabbed him, asking what was wrong, checking him for blood, automatically adding up his extremities. He was perfectly fine--and white as a sheet. I asked him what happened.

"I saw a ghost."

Now my kids hate my inflexible stance on the paranormal, a stance immovable and fixed: it's one rung below noodling and NASCAR on the rung to true redneck Gothic stupidity and I don't buy it. I don't believe in:

* Psychics
* Bigfoot
* The Bermuda Triangle
* No Money Down Refi claims
* or ghosts

It just doesn't happen. As much as I enjoy reading about it, and as thrilling as it may seem, I think it's a big bucket of self agrandizement and delusion and the precipice off which one can gape into the wide, wiggly valley of bonkerville.

That isn't to say I won't tell a good ghost story. I've turned entire ranks of Cubscouts into wild-eyed, wigged-out believers. I made them cry and beg me not to tell another story. I've had parents tell me maybe I ought to tell some jokes instead. I can lay into it.

And I've met men who've spent their lives in the pursuit of dignity and providence, men who are not easily shaken, men who would stare down the barrel of a gun. They were the kind of guys you vote for. Pillars of character. And they told me they'd seen a ghost. Yet I don't buy it. I just don't.

But I'm closer now than I ever have been. If I shield my eyes and squint, I can barely see the idea of ghosts being real--like trying to make out the opposite shore of a long lake. I'm closer not because of Connor's recent scare. I'm closer because of my dog.

Connor didn't want to talk about what happened that night. He came upstairs and slept fitfully between me and my attorney. The next day Connor explained that he'd looked out his bedroom door and seen a face looking around the door jamb, then jerk back out of sight. He said he saw it then he screamed. I told him it was probably just part of a dream that got mixed up with some night time noise and not to worry about it and he bought it. Or seemed to.

But several months later. Yesterday, actually, out of nowhere, he told me what happened. We're driving back from downtown, just the two of us, and he tells me this version.

He says he woke up because Ty (the dog) was whining. He sat up in bed and Ty was standing next to the bed looking out the door, stock still. Connor looked up and saw a person dressed in nice clothes with white hair pulled back. He said they looked into his room and seemed amused. Connor said the dog backed up.

Connor said it took him a long time to scream. He said he had to make it happen. Then he said he screamed for a long time before I got there. (Of course, the sister never woke up.)

I've told you before our dog is gay and I mean that in a good way. Our gay friends know how to nurture--and Ty is no exception. When Connor gets hurt, Ty is all over him, tail wagging like crazy, licking and nudging, as if he's saying "It's all right, you'll be ok, don't worry, look I'm licking you. Everything is good. Lick lick lick"

But when I raced downstairs to deal with the screaming, when I skidded into the dining room and found Connor too afraid to come upstairs or go back in his room, the thing I forgot until yesterday is this: Ty's tail was dragging the floor and he was standing with his furry ass backed-up to the window and he was not happy. He was as far away from the hallway bathroom and he could get, still as a statue--looking over my shoulder.

Now perhaps Connor enjoyed a delusional moment of heightened and sudden neuroses. Maybe a moth flew into his room. Maybe nothing happened and he just had a dream. But the dog? Ty does nothing but wag his tail, lick people, and run around trying to figure out where we're going to walk next. He never stands still. Ever. Even when he's in STAY he's twitching and sweeping the floor with his tail, and smiling and panting and drooling all over himself. But this time--nothing. Backed up against the wall, afraid of the bathroom.


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