My Uncle Tru refused to meet with Vice Principal Morgan and Paulina Frost. I seem to recall, all these years later, him grumbling something to the effect of... “If you don’t have anything nice to say...” and then tramping out the door to his truck. He actually had business that day in the next town over, anyway. He was buying a calf, a female Holstein to replace the one that had been eviscerated by the unknown predator shortly after he and my father accidentally disinterred the remains of Juke Jackson and then pounded them into paste and burned them. He was delighted at the price he was paying for the calf, below the going rate. My uncle figured it was so cheap on account of the old rancher had died and left everything to his son, a college boy from the city, who had no interest in the ranch and cattle and was therefore selling everting off. Tru would later surmise that actually the bargain basement price he’d paid for the calf was on account of it was infected with Bovine Tuberculous. And when he tried to get his money back from the college boy, discovered that he was actually a practicing trial attorney with a winning good track record.
“It reminds me of the home I grew up in!” Paulina Frost said to my mother and aunt, just before she insisted on walking into the woods with me, alone.
I showed her the little mound of dirt that was my Chihuahua, Hector’s grave. I had placed some wild flowers on top of it and made a little wooden cross from a couple of dead branches and said some prayers a couple of times to Saint Francis. One of the Catholic boys at school had told me he was the Patron Saint of animals only I thought he was a girl on account of his name.
“So Hector followed the woman in the white dress into the woods and something killed him?” Paulina Frost asked me. “Is that what happened?”
“I think it was the ghost of Juke Johnson’s rockweiller.” I told her. “But I don’t know for sure because I didn’t see it.”
“Who’s Juke Johnson?”
“This guy who my uncle’s great grandfather killed and buried on the farm. They were trading wives or something and Juke wouldn’t stop. We dug up some of his bones.”
“You uncle didn’t call the sheriff?”
“No. He didn’t want all the attention it would bring on the family on account of everybody would start talking about it like they did when it happened. I think that the woman and the boy are his wife and children.”
“Juke Johnson’s wife.”
“Why do you think that?”
“I don’t know exactly.” I told her. “I think they want to tell me something or show me something.”
“Like Hector wanted to show you something?” she said.
“Hector wasn’t real.” I said. “Except in the dream.”
“And this woman and boy are real?” she asked.
“They are not a dream.”
“And you know the difference?” Paulina Frost said to me. She had gotten a serious but not threatening look on her face. She looked to me like she was very interested in what I was saying and not doubting me.
“Of course I know the difference...” I said, between what’s in my dreams and what is not, except when I am dreaming.”
“How do you know that you are not dreaming now?” she said, an almost imperceptible smile on her lips, like she had caught me in some kind of riddle or mystery or something inscrutable.
“Because,” I said, “that would mean that you’re not real.”
Paulina Frost knitted her brow just a bit. And then her smile broadened, also just a bit. “What do you think this woman in the white slip and the boy want to tell you or show you?” she asked.
“Where they’re buried.”
“I want to talk to the boy.” Sheriff Percival Walker said. He was a fairly short and slender man with sharp features- high cheekbones and sort of hollow cheeks. He wore a genuine, light tan Stetson cowboy hat with bona fide beaver and chinchilla fur construction and satin lining.
“There is no need to bring the boy into this,” my father said. “I can show you where we dug up the bones.”
It was certainly not my intention to get any trouble started when I told Paulina Frost about the bones that my uncle and father had surmised belonged to Juke Johnson. She had already indicated to my mother that there was nothing improper about my father and her and me living in the same house as my Aunt and Uncle and their daughters; and that the house itself was clean and passed her inspection. She seemed like she was on my side. But I already knew, by that age in life, that sometimes grownups would present themselves that way to kids in order to make them trust them and win them over. And I could also already tell, as a rule, when grownups were doing that thing. I didn’t sense that Ms. Frost was doing that thing and besides, so what? What did it matter? The cat was already out of the bag- as they say... whoever they are. The genie was already out of the bottle. I told her exactly what I had witnessed because I figured the truth was a better explanation than anything I could make up. And I certainly could not make up anything better than the truth. Also, I believed that was trying to help me and my family and not hurt us... a hunch that I would soon discover to be true.
“I need for the boy to show me and to tell me the exact same thing that he told his teacher.” Percival Walker said. He always wore freshly starched and ironed shirts and khaki or green slacks. His cowboy boots always looked like they had just been shined, as did his sheriff’s badge. The revolver that he wore in his leather holster was a service model colt forty-five with a bone handle. It was not that he was an ostentatious man, he was not. Percival Walker was just sort of a buttoned down, by the book sort of a man. The fact that he would not allow anyone, save his mother or grandmother refer to him as Percy instead of Percival, was testament to that.
“The boy is a minor,” my uncle, Tru interjected. “Don’t you need a warrant or subpoena or something to interrogate him unless you have his parents’ consent?”
“I’m not arresting the boy, Tru,” Sherriff Walker said, “Or interrogating him, so I don’t need a warrant or his parent’s permission or anything like that- but I can get one, easy enough.”
The Sheriff turned to his deputy, “We can get a warrant easy enough can’t we Wish?”
“We sure can!” Deputy Thompson responded. He was a long tall, lanky drink of water as the expression went. He’d attended the State University on a basketball scholarship and studied law on account of he’d seriously considered becoming a lawyer when he was a teenager. But he’d ultimately decided however, that he’d rather go into law enforcement instead. Sherriff Walker appreciated that about James, his practical knowledge of legal matters. That was his real name, James, not Wish. And there was a funny story about that... that most local folks knew- how Brian James Benjamin Thompson had acquired his mom de guerre.
“And if you make me get a warrant...” Sherriff Walker continued, staring my uncle Tru hard in the face before turning to my father, “I’ll come back with a backhoe and a team of forensic boys from the state police and maybe a few fellas from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and we will have a look around for more than just that hole you boys dug.”
Sheriff Percival Walker was a 2nd cousin once removed of Juke Johnson’s wife, Charlene who had gone missing not long after Juke had- along with their only son, Bartholomew. Of course there had always been suspicion... but never evidence. And there had also been... rumors... hearsay... innuendo about the mysterious disappearances of several other local folks... back in the day.
“Is that the way you want it to go, Tru?” Sheriff Walker said staring my uncle Tru hard in the eyes again. “Me and a bunch of troopers digging up your farm?”
Hector would return that night, or his ghost, anyhow. I didn’t even realize that animals could leave a ghost until that Rottweiler appeared in my room... I was eight for crying out loud. And the Rottweiler wasn’t even really real to me, as a spook. It was when my Chihuahua became a spirit that I understood that canines can go on the haunt. In addition, I knew that it wasn’t a dream, not this time- no it was Hector’s ghost for sure. And he wanted me to follow him again, which I did not want to do. I pulled the bed sheet and quilt up over my head.
The next day at school, I was called into the Vice Principal office first, and then the office of Paulina Frost. Vice Principal Morgan basically gave me a pep talk and told me that I was a good kid and that I was actually one of the smartest kids in the school and that although he didn’t quite know what to make of me he felt like I had a lot of potential and that he hoped that I would not allow things that happened outside school, in my home life, to ever prevent me from reaching my potential. He was also the first to inform me, even before my parents, that I was being withdrawn from classes.