Before my mother in-law passed away a few years ago she and her husband spent long weekends at their house in Highland County, Virginia.
My family was visiting one weekend. I walk into the kitchen. My mother in-law, Margaret is telling my kids, who were around six and eight years old at the time, about the man that was standing on the deck when they arrived for the weekend. He was wearing a red flannel shirt. Margaret and her husband Wayne walked around the property but there was no sign of the man.
Margaret says, “I call him the Ghost in a Red Flannel.”
She goes on: “One time I was washing dishes and I hear loud footsteps. I look over and I see a tall man in a red flannel running across the porch. Ladybug (their Corgi) was barking like crazy. I ran outside and looked around but the man disappeared. Just like that.”
I’m thinking, “for fuck’s sake. Could we move onto discussing your flower garden? More gladiolas and LESS GHOSTS?”
My son Charles walks around the yard looking behind bushes for a tall ghost in a red flannel. I’m worried he’s going to stumble upon a timber rattlesnake. We’re hours from a hospital. I’ll take a gang of ghosts any day over timber rattlesnakes.
The weekend is not off to a relaxing mountain retreat visit.
The neighbor comes to visit. He’s a seventy-something year old native with an impossible to understand dialect.
My husband and I are chatting with him. I always shake my head and smile.
He says, “the yotes got my shep.”
My husband and I grin ear to ear. My husband gives him a pat on the shoulder and takes his hand like he’s congratulating him for…I don’t know, living?
The neighbor repeats, “the yotes got my shep.”
Margaret comes over and tranlates. “HE SAID THE COYOTES GOT HIS SHEEP.”
I say, “I’m so sorry.” Then I start laughing. My husband gives me a look like I Cannot Believe You’re Laughing.
Later, we’re hanging out in the den. It’s about time for the kids to go to bed.
Margaret says, “Do you smell that? You can smell the bears when they come into the yard. They’re probably right outside this window.”
Suddenly bedtime is cancelled. “Mom, I’m scared.”
I think, “For fuck’s sake.”