Friday, November 3, 2023

Scairt of ghosts? (Cumberland Saga)

Sally asked Blain if he would mind driving back to Copperhead Cove.

Blain’s first inclination was to say “NO!!!”. He did not have a driver’s license and he would stop being invisible if he were picked up for a traffic stop.

But then, looking at Sally (who seemed a bit unsteady on his feet) and Lliam who was all of fourteen-years-old, Blain realized that he had unwittingly maneuvered himself into a position where he could not say “No”. Sally was not safe to drive and if Lliam was pulled over Blain would get a lot more scrutiny than he could stand.

“Sure, no problem” Blain said.

Lliam took the middle and Sally rode shotgun. Blain’s guesswork was correct. As soon as Sally had settled into his seat, his hand shot behind the seat and came out with a half-filled mason jar.

“Prolly make sense to drop off Lliam first, then drive back to my place to pick up your bike” Sally said.

Then Sally started giving directions to get back to Copperhead Cove. Blain could have sworn they should have turned right at the first road but Sally directed him to turn left. Sally also chided him for driving too fast.

Given that the truck was woefully in need of new shocks and ball-joints, Blain did not need a lot of encouragement to keep his speeds low.

Once they got rolling, Blain commented "You know, Sally, you are a hell of a good man taking care of folks the way you do."

"Being good has nothing to do with what I do" Sally responded. "I figure every one of them old ladies has five-or-six friends and those friends have friends. An have you ever seen who sits on juries? Not the made-for-TV show juries but real honest-to-God juries. Its little old ladies like the ones we helped."

"Nope, my helpin' them out don't have nothin' to do with me bein' good. Has to do with enlightened self-interest" he said.

After that Sally kept up a running commentary. “So Lliam, have ya given any thought to what you are gonna do when you move out of your mammy’s house?”

Blain would have been flabbergasted if a grown adult had asked a fourteen-year-old that question back in Michigan but Lliam seemed to punch way above his calendar-years.

“Not too much, sir” Lliam answered.

“A man could do worse than to move into a scrapped out van” Sally said. “Many a man has slept in one after his old-lady kicked him out.”

“Where would a fella get a scrapped out van, Mr Sally?” Lliam asked.

The topic kind of interested Blain, too. He realized that if he pissed off Sig or Sarah he looking for a place to live and pickings weren’t all that promising out here.

Warming to the topic, Sally took a long sip of whatever was in his mason jar. “There are scrap vans and there are scrap vans” Sally pontificated.

"Don’t be buyin’ one from somebody you don’t know. Don’t buy one with cloudy windows. They mighta been ‘cookin’ in it” he said.

“Cooking?” Blain asked, mystified.

“Meth” Sally said. “Used to be a big deal up here before it got cheaper to just walk it across the border but the shit stays in the fabric forever and some of the old-timers might whip up a batch every once in a while to stay in practice.”

“Yer best bet is to go to a scrapper with a lot of vehicles. He ain’t doin’ it as a sideline and he almost for sure ain’t cooking” he said. "I can give ya some names when ya get serious."

“Tell him what yer gonna do with it. It won’t be the first he sold for that and it won’t be the last. Prolly cheaper if he tows it to where you want it. That way he can pull the tranny and engine and sell them. He might even throw in some cee-ment blocks for you to put it up on.”

The idea of buying just the shell of an old plumber’s van had never occurred to Blain. It would be colder than hell in the winter unless he insulated it but it would stop the wind and the rain better than any tent ever made. He tucked that away for future reference.

After dropping off Lliam, Sally’s kindly-uncle demeanor evaporated.

“I am pickin’ up a vibe that you might be getting’ kinda interested in Miss Sarah” Sally challenged.

“To tell ya the truth, Sally, I don’t know what my feelings are toward her. She is certainly an interesting woman but I don’t know if I am in the market for a woman” Blain said truthfully.

Sally snorted. “Single men are always in the market for a woman. That is the way we are wired.”

“If you got any questions about her, you can ask me. God knows you can’t ask anybody in the Cove or it will get around pretty damned quick” he said.

Blain wondered if he should ask. There had been one question that he had been worrying like a tongue probing the gap where a newly pulled tooth had been.

“OK, I got one question” Blain finally said. “If I got interested in Miss Sarah, do I have to worry about Lliam and Mary’s dad showing up and making my life difficult?”

“Only if you are scairt of ghosts” Sally responded.

“Say what?” Blain said. He wasn’t sure if he had heard right.

“Sarah’s husband is dead. He kilt himself when Mary was about a year old” Sally said.

“Lotta people up here think folks that kilt themselves come back as ghosts” he explained further.

“Most of us up here feel pretty protective of Miss Sarah and I don't mean just the folks at the Cove. I wouldn’t be worryin’ so much about Miss Sarah’s husband as I would about everybody else keepin’ an eye on Miss Sarah” Sally said. “She’s been through some mighty hard times that she didn’t deserve and folks around here aim to see that she don’t go through that again.”

Blain was still trying to make sense of Miss Sarah’s husband killing himself.

“Could it have been an accident?” Blain asked.

“Nope” Sally asserted. “They didn’t find his body for about two, three months but he’d hung hisself. He’d tied some electric wire around the limb of a tree, wrapped it around his neck and jumped offen a barrel. Ain’t no way that was an accident.”

“Why would anybody do that?” Blain asked.

Sally scowled darkly. “Some folks figure he saved the county a lotta money and time, doin’ what he did.”

“Meth?” Blain asked.

Sally laughed a bitter laugh. “Hell no. Runnin a little shine or cookin’ a little crystal is almost a rite-of-passage up here. Nope. It was worlds worse than that, but you ain’t gonna hear it from me.”

Blain was pulling into the yard and knew he was going to have to hustle if he was going to get back to the Cove while there was still some light in the sky.

Next Installment


  1. Wow - sorry to sound like a broken record, but very nice writing sir. Thank you for your effort to write it..

  2. Thickened, the plot has (to be fair, I was wondering what happened to Miss Sarah's husband as he had not been mentioned at all).

  3. I'd thought she'd been identified as a widow early-on in the storyline.

  4. I recall a reference to her being a widow, also. But I’ve found, over the decades, that there are many kinds of widows.

  5. This keeps getting "gooder and gooder"
    Love the story.

  6. I'm enjoying the show very much, Joe.


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