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In the Valley of Shadows

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A little Halloween "trick" backfires on Cousin Bob

I was six in 1962, my cousin Bob, eleven. They were on one of his family’s frequent trips to Sandpoint to visit our grandmother the end of October that year and Bob went out with us.

One of our first stops was Mrs ‘B’s house. From there we would then branch out about a four-block radius.

Mrs. ‘B’s house was two stories with a high peak. Clean, the yard immaculate. We kids used a little imagination and could see that left to itself for several years, it would make a perfect haunted house.

Along with four neighbor kids, we were a group of six that year. The eleven-year-old smart aleck in Bob had brought a squirt gun. He had the intention of soaking anyone who didn’t put out any candy. I doubt he would have the guts to spray a stranger, but someone we knew, he thought, would take it all in jest.

Hanging back, Bob was the last one Mrs. ‘B’ offered the bowl of candy to. Whipping out his gun, he let her have it right between the eyes. After a startled minute, she looked down at him sternly and said, "Bob, I thought we were friends." With this, she stepped back and shut the door in his face.

The rest of us had already raced to the next house, assuming Bob would follow. Instead, he slowly turned and headed the other way to Grandma’s house.

It was the last time Bob went trick-or-treating. Years later Bob told me he had glanced back at Mrs. ‘B’s house and up to the second floor window. For a moment, he thought he had seen a man’s face illuminated by the corner streetlight. Thing was, Mrs. ‘B’ was a widow, her husband had died several years earlier.

Frowning, Bob turned and continued back to Grandma’s with his few pieces of candy.

He put the incident out of his mind and he returned with my uncle and aunt a few weeks later for Thanksgiving.

Uncle Pat wanted to spend as many holidays with his mother as possible. She died in ‘69.

The afternoon before Thanksgiving I returned home from school to find dinner preparations in full swing—pots on the stove, turkey on the table, stuffing being made. But there was something else, a ham. Full of questions, Mom told me that there would be eleven of us the next day—including Mrs. ‘B’, who would be bringing a potato casserole and Grandma, her best friend, pies.

Waking the next morning, the house was already full of smells of the holiday. Along with the usual parades, Uncle Pat, Aunt Peggy, Bob and Molly showed up about eleven. My other cousin, Mike, had just married his first wife and was spending the holiday in Eugene with his new in-laws.

Around noon, Dad left in our ‘56 Fairlane to fetch Mrs. ‘B’ and Grandma. They returned 30 minutes later, each carrying two pies. Apple, cherry, coconut cream and three pumpkin highlighted our dinner.

Bob, I noticed briefly, was maintaining his distance from Mrs. ‘B’ but thought little of it at the time.

Dinner was boisterous and I was relegated to the smaller kitchen table with my three-year-old brother. Mom promised next year that we’d both be at the adult table as usual.

Dad spent most of the rest of the afternoon watching football on our black and white TV with his brother and Bob, even though he was never into pro-sports although he had played high school and some college football.

By early evening, the obligatory turkey sandwiches were served along with more pie before it was time for the Oregon Furys to take Grandma and Mrs. ‘B’ home on their way back to their motel.

Bob told me that upon dropping Mrs. ‘B’ off he unwillingly accompanied his father to the door to use her bathroom. While Uncle Pat waited for him inside the front door, he went upstairs as the half bath on the ground floor needed plumbing work.

Coming out of the bathroom, Bob started for the stairs when out of nowhere, a small, narrow stream of water hit him square in the face. Startled, he wiped his eyes, but couldn’t see where the water could have come from and ran the rest of the way.

As Bob followed his father out the door, Mrs. ‘B’ looked down at him with a funny little smile, saying, "We’re square now."

As my Uncle Pat pulled away from the curb, Bob looked up at the second floor window and got a fleeting glimpse of a smiling, masculine face.

Next month, three ghosts in a Valley of Shadow’s Christmas.

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Author info

Lawrence Fury Lawrence Fury is an inveterate letter-to-the-editor writer, and a conservative conscience for this area of North Idaho. He's also an expert on local ghost stories, and is compiling a group of them for future book publication. You can read more about him in a Love Notes feature for the River Journal

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