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One Spring Afternoon

May 2002

This story happened when I was in elementary school, I can't really remember exactly when this happened but it was sometime during fifth and sixth grade.

One day my teacher told us about her hobby of making tombstone rubbings, which I still think is kind of cool. So I told her about this graveyard that is near my house. When I was growing up it was always referred to as "The Indian Grave Yard" but really I don't think it can be. One of the gravestones has writing on it, too worn to make out, but I'm pretty sure that the death date is from the 1800's. Besides I'm pretty sure that the Indians from this area put their dead on those bed things on poles. What I figure is that it was a slave graveyard, and one of my friends asked his grandmother about it and she said that his family owned slaves and they were buried pretty close by so that makes sense.

Anyway, I told my teacher about the one grave that was marked by the one gravestone with an inscription. The rest are just stones. She asked if I could get a rubbing to her. I said I'd see what I could do and that I might just bring the stone for her and she could do it herself. I figured she'd say no, but to my surprise she said yes. I changed my mind on that one though, and pretty quick after I made the offer.

So after school on a sunny and windy March day I left home with my backpack full of books and papers. I walked through the apple orchard and into the plowed field that the graveyard was in. At one point it all was apple orchard but the farmer and pushed up the trees on this end and planted corn the year before. He'd just recently plowed it to plant it again.

The graveyard itself wasn't much. It'd been left untended for what I'd guess at least a hundred years. It was a circle of trees in the middle of the plowed field with a border of grass and weeds. I knew where the gravestone was so I went straight to the edge of the grove where it was located and opened my backpack, took out my spelling book and pulled one of the loose sheets of paper from the book. After getting a pencil I left my backpack and kneeled down to the grave.

The grave was a sunken spot the size of a human, at its head was the gravestone. It was maybe two feet tall, a foot wide, leaning against a tree that had grew up around it, a hunk of granite with a cleft top. I'm don't think it was carved other than the name and dates, which I tried to get without getting to close. Remember I was just a kid. The name was something like Hervey or Harvey but that was all I could make out. The inscription was worn and covered in moss.

I was getting a little paranoid about being there so long, I was getting impatient and was wanting to leave. I figured the only way to get the name was to get closer, and the only way to get closer was to step on the grave. Silly yes, but I didn't want to. I knew that when I did something was going to grab me. So I gathered my courage and stepped forward.

I kneeled down again and started trying to read the inscription. Now this is going to seem like I'm making it up but every word is true, maybe a little more dramatic but not much. The ground beneath my feet started rising. It was the only moment in my life where I couldn't breath. At first I figured it had to be my imagination, I was thinking of exactly this event a moment before. But it was real. The moment went on forever. When I could finally breath I screamed, threw my book and ran.

My grandparents house was close by, across the field, through a fence and down a hill. So I ran for there. I've never been so scared. I tripped several times running through the plowed furrows, doing a few face plants in the dirt. I tore my shirt and cut my back driving through the barbed wire fence. The whole time looking back over my shoulder to see what was chasing me.

When I got to their house my grandmother asked me what was wrong because of the way I looked. I must have looked insane because I was so scared. I told her what happened, I could tell she wanted to laugh but she wasn't sure what happened. So she insisted I eat something, that's a grandmother's cure for everything, and said she'd walk back with me to get my stuff. So I ate a homemade biscuit and a glass of milk while we talked, and calmed down a little. Then she walked back with me.

When I get to this point in the story everyone is quiet, because as I said this really happened. I love the way everyone looks when I get to this point of the story. I wish I could change the ending to something more supernatural but then it wouldn't be real.

When we got to the graveyard, with some coaxing from my grandmother who knew I'd be terrified of that place forever if I didn't go back, everything was calm. No ghosts, no monsters, just a quiet afternoon. After examining the grave we found that what had lifted me was a root growing from the tree that the gravestone rested on. The root crossed the hollow of the grave just below the surface and when the wind blew the tree rocked back making the root tip upward cracking the ground.

I was filled with that giddy excitement one gets after being really frightened and everything turns out okay. My grandmother seemed a little relieved as well that everything was easily explained away. So I gathered up my books and papers and walked her back home, thanking her for walking me to get my stuff, and feeling more than a little silly. Then I went home.

A few years after it happened when I was telling the story that I realized something. The wind was blowing strong that day, it was the middle of March, kite flying weather. Strong enough to bend a tree with only light covering of early spring foliage. But yet all of my papers, the ones the flew from my spelling book when I threw it, didn't blow away. I didn't loose anything. When that came to mind I just stopped and thought about that. I guess it could be explained away as me looking for a good ending for my story, or wanting to find something more than what I can see. But when I think about it I just don't know.

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