My Near Arrest in the Cemetery

At dusk each night someone in my family would travel the gravel lanes meandering through our nearly thirty-acre cemetery to see if any visitors were still lingering. It wasn’t a good thing to lock the gates and imprison some poor unsuspecting widow inside the cemetery after dark. Leaving the grounds unsecured overnight also had its perils. The least of our worries were the lovers who were subject to a surprise when a spotlight was shown through the car window revealing their private tryst. More troublesome were the teenagers who wanted to spin their wheels in the open gardens of the back acreage, and the evil minded who thought it fun to vandalize a family memorial or a mausoleum.

police_car_227    I hadn’t had my license but just a few days when a friend and I offered to take Dad’s brand new four-wheel-drive Ford truck for the nightly gate duty. Dad didn’t object to my driving the truck for the first time. I didn’t even have to pull out on the road since our driveway was connected to the cemetery’s entrance. I would stay on the grounds. How much trouble could I cause?

We climbed up in the cab, found the appropriate rock n roll music station, giggled aplenty and started our trip. We took our time, cruised around chatting away, made several loops and eventually parked down by the cemetery pond to watch the ducks flapping their wings and chasing each other for a bit of entertainment.

As we made one last spin around the grounds, I realized we were being followed. And it wasn’t just anybody. We were being followed by a Fayetteville Police cruiser. Uh oh! This was a first-time experience for me. I anxiously glanced in the mirror, followed the ten-mile-per-hour speed limit inside the cemetery and eventually made my way to the gates. The officer simply followed and didn’t put on his lights. Stopping the truck just past the stone pillar entrance, I glanced at my girlfriend and climbed out of the cab. The officer had parked just a few feet from the chrome rear bumper of the Ford.

I hadn’t taken but a step, maybe two, when I heard a ‘pop’ and realized the truck was rolling backward. The officer, who had started to step out, jumped back in his police cruiser. I held my breath and hopped up into the driver’s seat, slammed my foot on the brake, and yanked the gearshift into park. I knew I’d put it in park once. Or, hadn’t I?

The officer was more than a little pissed. Questions exploded at me as I stuttered and shook my head, trying to look as innocent as possible. No, I didn’t have my license. I’d left my purse behind. I was the daughter of the cemetery owner and was simply trolling the grounds before locking the gates for the night. I pointed toward the house. He lectured and followed me across the side lawn.

I steeled myself for more lecturing from my father and tried not to cry. I explained what happened and that I thought for sure I’d put the truck in park. The officer added his own account of how I tried to run over him.

Fortunately, Dad came to my defense. He said the truck had a tendency to pop out of park, and that Ford had been talking about recall but there’d been no official word yet. He apologized as well for not warning me to put on the emergency brake. He even accompanied the officer back to the gates, officially closed them for the night and retrieved the truck.

I sat down and cried in relief. I could have crashed into a police car. Or, even worse, run over a cop. What a way to christen my new driver’s license.

These stories of my life growing up in a cemetery seem to be popular on my blog. I’ve incorporated a lot of ideas from these memories in my writing as well. . So, thank you to those who enjoy reading them and for any feedback.


A True Encounter with a Dead Man

I woke up to the “swish swish” sound of his arm moving against his windbreaker in the eerie green glow of the living room. His face was covered with blood, as was his chest that was exposed by the open jacket. He wore cut-off jean shorts and tennis shoes. I thought it was a dream, this stranger illuminated by the green glass lamp base. I was stretched out asleep on my stomach on the living room floor in the house next to the cemetery when I heard him. He came through the dining room and sat in my dad’s recliner a little after midnight.

He stared at me, the smeared blood making him look surreal. I put my head back down thinking I must be dreaming.

He rocked in the recliner.

Raising my head again, I could see the same image.

“Who are you,” I asked.

“I’m dead. I just crawled out of my grave.” He rocked.

“Oh, come on. Do you know my brother John?” I asked. He looked about John’s age, a few years younger than me.

“I might of, when I was alive, but I just crawled out of my grave.” He rocked again in the recliner and continued to stare.

Frozen in place on the floor in front of him, I was unsure what to do. He wasn’t a dream. I hadn’t ever seen him before. Fear caught in my throat.

His rocking stopped. He raised a hand to his face, drew it back and stared at his palm with a quizzical look on his face as if he’d never seen blood before.

Lowering his hand to his lap, he rocked and looked at me. “I’m bleeding to death.”

“You said you’re already dead. How can you be bleeding to death?” It was an obvious question, or so I thought.

“I’m bleeding to death,” he repeated in a raised voice.

That scared me. Why had I questioned this dead man, this apparition covered in blood?

I started to get up, moving backward slowly and watching him closely.

“I just crawled out of my grave,” he yelled.

I got to my feet, ran around the corner, down the hall to my parents bedroom. I heard him following. By the time my dad sat up in bed and put on his glasses, the apparition was standing in the hall. He reached into the bathroom, flipped the switch, and the light fell over this teenage boy covered in blood.

“Who the hell are you?” Dad asked.

“I just crawled out of my grave. I’m dead.”

He stared back at Dad, who repeated his question.

“I just crawled out of my grave, and I need to use your bathroom.” He stepped into the bathroom. I heard the water start in the tub.

I didn’t see him again until the police officer gently coaxed him out of the tub and escorted the boy from our home.

My dead man had apparently done a few too many drugs, entertained himself by jumping from headstone to headstone in the dark cemetery and broke his nose.