This is the first part of a three part story. Come back tomorrow for Part Two!
It started simply enough. But how was she to know that disturbing the stones could also disturb the dead? How could she have known that it was possible to wake the dead? She certainly never intended to bring a spirit home to haunt her days and nights. But that’s what happened.
She needed a cellar. She was a gardener, and folks said she had a way with plants. Her gardens produced abundantly, so she canned quarts and quarts of fruits and vegetables every year. All those jars had to be stored somewhere. First she filled the shelves in her pantry, then boxes that were stored under beds. Jars overflowed from cabinets and closets. Now the jars of tomatoes on her counter had nowhere to go.
“This is nuts,” Mary told her husband. “We need the food, but this is driving me crazy. We have got to build a cellar. All these jars could be stored there instead of all over the house. We really need a cellar, Andy.”
“I’ll add it to my list of things to do,” Andy replied. “We’ve got to have a new barn first. The old one will fall down by itself if we don’t pull down.”
“You’re right. But promise you’ll build the cellar as soon as the barn is done.”
He promised, and that’s where they left it. The new barn was built the next summer but the cellar had not even been started. She sighed as she ran her eyes over the pantry shelves. There was no room for even one more jar. She’d have to pick up boxes the next time she was in town. More jars, too. She was almost out of empty ones, and there were still apples to be put up. She made some coffee and sat down to read the paper, scanning through the want ads.
Mason jars, free. Don’t can anymore.
Free! What was that number? She grabbed the phone.
“Hi. I’m calling about the jars you advertised …”
“You and everyone else! My phone ain’t quit ringin’ since the paper come out. If you want ‘em, it’ll be first-come-first served. I ain’t promising ‘em to no one.”
“That’s fair. I’ll come right away if you can give tell me where you live.”
Mary scribbled directions as the old voice scratched on.
“Thank you. I’ll be there in about twenty minutes. My name is Mary. I’ll see you soon.”
“Don’t blame me if the jars are gone before you get here. Dang people callin’….”
“I won’t. Good-bye.”
She hung up and hurried out to the porch. Andy was sitting in the swing, reading the sports section.
“Andy, I’ve got to go out. This guy had an ad in the paper for some free canning jars. I’ve got to go now or they’ll be gone.”
“ Okay, honey. Drive it slow. You’re a speed demon when you’re in a hurry.”
“Look who’s talking! See you in a little while.”
The door opened before she had a chance to knock.
“You’re Mary, ain’t ye? And you’ve come for the jars.”
“They’re still available?”
“Oh, some feller took the ones in the basement. But there are more in the shed out back.”
“Wonderful! I thought I’d have to buy new ones, and they’re pretty pricey these days.”
“Well, the price is right on these, then. My name’s Patterson.” He stuck out his hand.
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Patterson,” Mary said. “I’m Mary Marshall.”
“Well, Mary, let me show you them jars.”
The shed was looked no better than the house. Patterson opened the door and warned, “Mind your step. And keep an eye out for snakes. Used to be a big black one lived in here…”
Mary stepped inside and looked around. Boxes of dusty jars lined the walls.
“Well, here’s you go. You want ‘em all?”
“Sure do. I like to make apple butter and give away a lot of it. Sometimes I get my jars back, sometimes not.”
“Apple butter! I haven’t had homemade apple butter in years.”
“I’ll bring you some next time we make it,” Mary promised.
“Now that would be mighty kind of you. I’d not turn it down!” The old man’s voice was wistful.
“I’d better get to work. I’ll be washing jars ‘til midnight!”
Patterson grinned and pulled a chair out of the shed.
“Reckon I’ll just sit here and watch you work,” he said. “Can’t stand dust in these old lungs.”
Mary nodded. “That’s fine. I’d appreciate your company.”
It took a while, but when the job was done there were twenty-nine boxes of jars in the back of the truck. Enough to finish out the canning season, she thought. Exhausted, she flopped down on the grass beside Patterson.
“Would you like a glass of sweet tea?” he asked. “Made it myself.”
“Why yes. Thank you!” Mary gazed around the yard appreciatively. Mr. Patterson certainly knows how to grow flowers, she thought. A tumble of stones caught her eye. It looked like on old stone cellar with no roof. Obviously it had not been used in years, because it was almost completely hidden by a sprawling grapevine.
The creaking of the screen door announced Patterson’s return.
“Here ya go! Come on over and sit on the porch. Rest yer legs awhile.”
Mary followed the old man to the porch and took a long drink of tea. “Ummm! Just what I needed.” She smiled at the old man and asked, “What was that building over there, Mr. Patterson? Looks like it was a cellar.”
“Yep,” Patterson said. “I’m surprised you noticed it. It caught fire and burned the smokehouse that was on the top of it. Happened when my grandparents were first married, over a hundred years ago. My grandfather built that cellar himself. Quarried the stone from the rock cliff down the road.”
“It burned? How did that happen? Seems a shame they never tried to fix it up again”
“Oh, Granny didn’t want no part of it after what happened. She planted that vine to cover it up so’s she wouldn’t see it and be reminded. Sad, that was.”
“This is going to take a while, so might as well get comfortable.” He settled deeper into the rough oak chair, then looked up at Mary. “Do you believe in ghosts?”
Tomorrow: Part 2: The Soldier