There are things in this world that, defy all known, natural laws. Such is the being of which, I write. Sometimes, you just can’t kill a body, not permanently, anyway. That is the way with Jeremiah Dalhousie. I suppose there’ll always be someone who thinks they can completely, eliminate him; I have my doubts, Being new to the town, I heard the story from Annie Mae Britain, who runs the town’s only burger joint. It had been passed down by generations of the townsfolk, many claiming to have seen Jeremiah.
Jeremiah was born in 1792, in a small town named, Satan’s Ladder; just a spit of a village in New England. Abused by his father and loathed by his mother because she didn’t want children to begin with, he grew into a bitter young man. He made a decent living as a gravedigger and never married.
Often shunned, in public, as he was a man who always smelled of damp earth and being a heavy drinker, with a volatile temper, was known as the man no one tangled with. He died at the ripe old age of one hundred and twelve years and still possessing a rather spry body, from many years of digging graves. The few people, who attended his funeral, did so more out of pity than anything else. From there, it’s clear that, being dead, didn’t agree with Jeremiah.
Mae Petrie was the first one to see him. She literally backed into him, while tossing out chicken feed, one April morning, he barely had time to speak. Her frantic screams brought her hired hand from the barn with a pitchfork. Jeremiah had vanished before he got to her. It took three days to bring her to her senses and from that point, she slept with a loaded rifle, right beside of her bed.
Sequentially, Jeremiah was spotted nineteen times that first month, in full flesh and with the same results; never having a chance to explain his appearance, post death. This, I believe, did not do anything to help his anger management issues.
One day, Jeremiah appeared in town; walking through the door of the local bank. Frantic chaos ensued, he was, shot dead by a terrified bank guard, whose brother Jeremiah had nearly killed, in a drunken bar brawl. Still, he returned, though not quite as often as before. Nevertheless, it was enough for the town residents to keep loaded guns, by their side, at all times. Of course, as it always does with smaller towns, the gossip blew out of proportion, the children began making up jokes and songs and every dog in the village barked at the least little sound or motion, at night, the town was, paranoid. Every scream of a child, every bark of a dog or yowl of a cat brought out armed defenders.
Decades came and went with old Jeremiah, being shot and re-buried, no less than thirty-three times. Once, he had knocked over a lantern, while entering someone’s home and actually burned to death, while trying to say something and put it out! His ashes were placed in a shallow area at the foot of his previous grave and everyone thought that was the end of his appearances. The Reverend, Dupree, our current Baptist minister, made a regular weekly habit of visiting Jeremiah’s grave and pray for his soul.
My friend, Annie Mae, kept a loaded pistol behind the counter of her place, a holstered one strapped to her right thigh and one by the restaurant’s back door, just in case old Jeremiah paid a visit. She had never seen him, but her mother swore that she had. Annie told me numerous times that I should carry protection, just in case I ever saw him. Not favoring guns, I never bought one and, I never really believed the story.
Being an artist, I often asked the local farmers if I could sketch on their property or do some painting. In payment for their generosity, I would do a portrait or a painting of their house or pet. It was on one of these outings that I received the scare of my life.
On Billy Palmer’s farm is the loveliest little creek I’d ever seen. Occasionally, I would go there and fish, as he kept it well-stocked with Blue Gill. On this particular morning, I had my paints and was engaged in the labors of painting some lovely cattails where colorfully translucent dragonflies played. One of Billy’s dogs, Bad Boy, was lying beside me, watching me spill colors onto the canvas. I loved, Bad Boy, a large black Labrador with eyes like brown chocolate pools and a personality so warm, you could melt right into his fur, if you desired.
I was about one third of the way into the painting when Bad Boy jumped up, nearly hitting my elbow. “Whoa, Bad Boy!” I cried, petting him on the head but, he began barking frantically and I drew back wondering what gotten into him.
Bad Boy barked. His tail was tucked between his legs. He pranced sideways and back. The barking turned to yips and then just whining. I looked around thinking there might be a snake, perhaps a venomous copperhead or something else but, saw none. Then, I noticed that Bad Boy was looking at a wooded area about thirty yards away. I reached for my binoculars and held them to my eyes. What I saw made me grab what I could and sprint for the car, calling, “Bad Boy, come! C’mon boy!”
My car was only a few yards away; I threw everything in the back seat; brushes and paint tubes spraying across the floorboards. “Bad Boy sprinted behind me, leaping into the car, alongside of me and both of us in a frenzied panic; I sped away, heading straight for Billy’s house.
I screeched to a halt in front of Billy; he was walking towards the barn. “Get your rifle!” I shouted. Billy ran inside and grabbed one, shoving a few bullets in as he sprinted back out. By this time, Bad Boy was barking and whining.
“What’s wrong?” he shouted.
It was all I could do to recall the name of the thing that I’d seen, “I saw him; I saw Jeremiah Dalhousie! He’s alive, Billy. I saw him near the trees, at the creek!”
“Get in!” Billy shouted, holding his truck door open. Quivering like a leaf in a violent wind, I did and Billy floored the accelerator.
We found nothing that day, no one; no strangers or Jeremiah. After a quick search, Billy and I drove into town, to see Sheriff Hayes. The sheriff and volunteers did a thorough search, on Billy’s property, that turned up nothing.
I know I wasn’t imagining things; Bad Boy saw Jeremiah too. He’s still out there, somewhere; I know, roaming around, un-dead and unable to tell his story. I bought a gun that week and learned to use it. If I see him again, I’m not sticking around to chat. Oh, I still enjoy going out to paint and sketch, I just, go heavy now.
Copyright, M.L. Kiser, 2019