The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 9:14 am Thursday, October 12, 2017

“The Fireplace”

By Linda Barnette

When I was a little girl, I used to spend a week or more each summer with my grandparents on their farm close to the Yadkin River off of Cherry Hill Road here in Davie County.  The area they lived in was fairly remote, and they had no close neighbors as people do today in neighborhoods. Their house was a one-story white farmhouse with a well outside, no telephone,  no television at that time, and therefore not very much for children to do.

Luckily, their closest neighbor had a daughter who was just a few years younger than I was. She lived in a large brick home across the road from my grandparents, about a mile from their house. Her house was a large two-story house with a front porch and a balcony on the second story of the porch. It was a fancy house that looked out over long meadows and was approached by a long, narrow driveway.There were also numerous outbuildings, barns, a granary, and so on, plus their cows and other farm animals. I was always very impressed by the house and was not oblivious to the difference in it and the house my grandparents lived in.

There was a large fireplace in the kitchen where ladies who had lived there earlier cooked their meals when they were not using the detached, outside kitchen in the years when there was no electricity. The other rooms were large and nicely furnished although much plainer than houses I had been to in town. There was a long hallway leading to the kitchen and a winding staircase up to the second level.The bedrooms were on the second floor, and that is where my friend and I slept when I visited.  I had heard people say that the house was haunted by evil spirits, but we were too young and carefree to be bothered by that talk.

However, one night we were awakened by doors opening and closing and by strange noises. We were too afraid to venture out into the hallway to see if we could find out what was happening. That whole night we were restless and lay awake listening to see if we heard anything else strange.

The next morning Ann’s mother asked us if we slept well. When we told her we did not, she shared with us that one time many years earlier, two brothers who lived there had gotten into an argument in the kitchen and had shot each other and died on the open fireplace that I had always admired. She took us over to it, and there on the brick floor were faint bloodstains where the two men had been mortally wounded.

I never did go back there to spend the night, but when I visited, I always checked out that fireplace.

“Warning Growl”

By N. R. Tucker

I jogged down the dirt road between the tobacco fields toward the paved two-lane. From there, it was half a mile to home. There was never much traffic on the S-shaped, Dead Man’s Curve, although it had seen a lot of wrecks. Grandma said strange things happened there, but that was just silly talk.

Blue, my Doberman, ran beside me. When I approached the road, Blue growled, moved in front of me and stopped which forced me to stop as well.

“What’s wrong Blue? You see a ghost or something?” Last night I read a story about how dogs can see and hear things humans can’t. The author suggested dogs could sense ghosts. I laughed. I’m 14, too old to believe in spirits. I took another step toward the road, but Blue blocked me. “Come on, boy. We’re gonna be late.”

I tried to step around him, but he wouldn’t let me pass. “Blue, drop.” Drop was his down command. He had never ignored a command from me, until now.

My eyes were drawn to the tobacco stalks where I saw a woman, pale as smoke, running. I blinked because it didn’t make sense. I could see through her to the stalks behind. The hairs on the back of my neck rose up. If Blue was concerned about what was ahead, perhaps I shouldn’t go that way. Blue was smart, and I was frightened.

“Okay fella, let’s take the long way. I’ll be late, but maybe I won’t be too late.” Being late would get me extra chores and a lecture.

We ran full out. When we exited the path at the backyard, I saw Dad standing on the back steps looking toward the path. I ran up and immediately apologized. “Sorry – ”

“You’re safe.” Dad pulled me into a hug. “I was afraid you had run down Dead Man’s Curve.”

This was not the greeting I expected. “I was going to, but Blue wouldn’t let me. We ran home through the fields. That’s why I’m late.”

Dad reached down and scratched behind Blue’s ears. “Good boy.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“No one’s sure. Old Man Drew crashed into a tree on the curve. Said he saw a pale, translucent lady, in a long flowing dress, running down the middle of the street and swerved to miss her. Not 30 feet later, at the second curve, Allen’s boy crashed their new car into the railing for the same reason.”

My eyes cut to Blue. Did I see a ghost? Can dogs really sense them?

In Acknowledgement of

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

“Abused, Broken, Rebuilt: Part 1”

By Julie Terry Cartner

He was not a horrible person.  She wasn’t either. They were merely young adults trying to wend their way through the maze of adulthood. They married. Looking back, they probably shouldn’t have, but when is hindsight not 20/20?But maybe they should have. If people are the accumulation of their experiences, who is to say that this specific segment of their lives didn’t help shape them into the adults that they became? In many ways, they were still children tied together by a love of adventure, not a bond that necessarily boded well for happily ever after. But it worked, for awhile, until it didn’t. And when it didn’t, it really didn’t.

First was the mental/emotional abuse. Withholding affection. Two people co-existing in a space, no longer connecting.  Practically still newlyweds, yet hugging the outside corners of the bed. Tears. Lots of tears. Conversational attempts that fizzled out before the first response. Questions met with silence. There is no silence more abrasive than the silence of unanswered questions. Attempts at affection. What is more poignant than a hand reaching out and not being grasped? Months passed while the gap became a chasm.  The respected minister and the wife wanting to try counseling, but the husband refusing to acknowledge a problem.

Then the escalation became more intense.  Moments of unrestrained anger led to bruises.  The first time was just a single hit, done in anger followed by tears on both sides.  “I’m so sorry.  It will never happen again,” followed by, “I know, I pushed you too far. I’m sorry too.” And she believes because she wants to because she thinks she needs to.

The second time, a little worse. An argument, followed by slamming a hand down onto a surface so hard that escape was the only answer. He was on one side; she slid down the other and ran. A trip to the emergency room led to questions that she wasn’t ready to answer. Arriving at home was followed by a desperate call to a sister, then a few things were thrown into a bag and she escaped. A job and obligations brought her home, to a home that no longer felt like a home.  Another conversation, another “I’m sorry; it won’t happen again,” but this time it didn’t seem quite so real. Blinders half on, half off, another attempt at counseling occurred, but maybe by then, it was too late. Fear and heartache overruled the strong desire to follow the commitment of “Till death do us part.”  That was maybe beginning to feel a little too possible.

The third and final time, the nightmare. Hands grasped around her throat, closing tighter and tighter. Then a rescue by an unexpected source. The dog, their beautiful and loving pet, growled and opened his jaws against the other’s throat. He threw her down in shock and backed off. It was over. Trust was irrevocably broken. She left.

She had read about abuse before she lived it, and she had always wondered what would make a woman stay. She was educated, smart, a professional. She didn’t need him for his income; she could support herself, and yet she stayed. Until she didn’t. It took years for her to learn to trust again, but she did, and she emerged a stronger and more compassionate person.  After that, she understood the heartache, the shame, the sense of failure that comes with spousal abuse, and she empathized with those who struggle with the decision to stay or leave and the need to survive.