I saw Vern Applebee last night. My wife seen him two days ago at the store. Our neighbor, Phil, had seen him sometime last week at the park and the Jokelson’s at the end of the block spotted him on their camping trip. There were others too.
This is perplexing because Vern’s been dead for a month. I haven’t believed in ghosts since I was a kid, and even then I was skeptical. I don’t even believe in no after life. But I sure as shit saw Vern last night walking down Chestnut Street as happy as you please. I started to wave and say hello before I remembered I was looking at the dearly departed. Didn’t spook me as it has some people. Mrs. Jokelson confessed that she damn near had a heart attack when she saw him walking a trail opposite them out in there gall darn forest.
Actually the first person to see Vern was his wife, Lydia. It was a few weeks after his funeral. Lydia said she saw Vern walking past the library. Lydia didn’t say anything because she figured people would think she was off her nut. Her account of seeing Vern only came out when someone — I think it was Mabel Perkins but I can’t be sure — told her that other people had been seeing Vern.
None of us know what to make of it. We all know for a fact that it was Vern who was buried. The coffin had been open at the funeral service and there was no mistaking Vern’s pudgy face and the mole on his right cheek. Doctor Larsen was at the funeral and he was the one who pronounced Vern dead of pneumonia. Yup Vern was as dead as dead can be. End of story. Only it seems the story is just beginning what with all of us seeing him.
A few of got together this evening to talk about the Vern sightings and what we could do. All of us who saw Vern reported that he looked happy as a lark. He was wearing kind of a Hawaiian shirt like he’d sometimes have on at neighborhood barbecues. He also had on dark slacks and slightly scuffed Rockport shoes. When I saw Vern last night it had just turned cold for the first time this Autumn and there was a bit of a wind but Vern didn’t seem to mind. Anyway we also all saw Vern walking, not stopping for a second, and all of us saw him until he’d walked out of sight. I think it was Lake Bennett who said that when she saw Vern over by the lumberyard he was whistling. Lake often gets things wrong though. Apparently in her younger days Lake used a lot of drugs and it’s permanently effected her. That’s what I hear anyway.
Most everyone is confused by the Vern sightings and can’t make heads nor tails about what it means. Oh a few theories were tossed out like that he was trying to find the spirit world or that he was trying to tell us something, but theories is all they are and no one is certain of nothing. Everyone who’s seen Vern was well acquainted with him but then again for all we know folks who never knew Vern might be seeing ambling along and don’t realize he is no longer a living being.
Me I got to know Vern at the lake where we’d both go fishing sometimes on the weekend. We had a few common interests and he lived in the neighborhood so we were always seeing one another, especially when someone was having a barbecue or there was a block party. I liked Vern well enough, seems everyone did, but I never felt what you’d call close to him. Come to think of it no one else did, even his wife Lydia had said she never felt like she got to know Vern.
Okay so its two months since I wrote that part you just read and well things have gotten a bit stranger. Example: one night about five weeks ago, Martha (that’s my wife) and I were watching the TV. The kids were in their rooms asleep or studying or what have you when all of sudden we see Vern sitting in a chair in our living room. We was both on the sofa and there’s an easy chair next to the sofa and that’s where we saw Vern. He had on the same clothes everyone has seen him in and had this contented expression on his face and was just looking straight ahead. Seemed he was both staring at something and not looking at anything, if you get my meaning. This spooked as considerable because all we’d seen of Vern was him walking. Martha gasped and starting shaking and grabbed ahold of my arm. Me I didn’t know what to do. Finally I said, “Vern?” like I was getting his attention and trying to figure what he wanted. Well darned if ole Vern didn’t turn his head and look at me for a second, same expression on his face. Then he turned his head back and looked straight ahead for a second before standing up and walking down our hallway. I was worried Vern was gonna scare the bejesus out one of the kids. I got up and looked down the hall but he was nowhere to be seen. He'd vanished is what.
Right about then the phone rang, Martha answered it and said to me it was Mrs. Jokelson. The next thing I hear Martha say is: “we did too! Yes it was exactly the same. I’ll call Phil and you call Lydia.” Martha hung up and started to dial Phil and as she was doing that she looked up and told me that Vern had been over to the Jokelsons the same time he was with us and had done the same thing, just appeared in a chair. My wife then talked to Phil and sure enough Vern had been there too and it had caused his wife Betty to scream and scream and he was having a deuce of a time settling her so he hung up. Long story short ole Vern had been in at least seven houses at the same time doing the same dang thing.
The next night a few of us got together at Bob Custer’s house — he’d been seeing Vern too — to talk it over. We’d all had just about enough. It was one thing to see a dead man walking down the street and an all together different thing to see him right smack dab in your house. We couldn’t help but think where he might show up next. Imagine waking up in the middle of the night and seeing a ghost (if ghost he was) sitting on the edge of you bed. Or maybe you’d step out of the shower and there he’d be on your toilet. The possibilities were endless and most were unsettling as hell.
We swapped stories for a bit, which wasn’t all that useful because we were all having the same experience. Then Bob Custer says: “we don’t we contact the science department over to the university and see if they’ll look into it?” Well my neighbor Phil replied, “there ain’t just a ‘science department’ there’s all kinna different sciences.” Phil said it kind of smart ass, he can be that way sometime. “Okay Mr. Smart Guy,” says Bob, “let’s you tell us which one would handle ghosts and that’s who we’ll call.”
It was Ida Rolfe who said, “I honestly don’t think there’s any department that studies ghosts.” Well we went back and forth on the whole thing getting nowhere. Finally Lydia (remember now that’s Vern’s widow) said that she’d find out herself since it was her late husband who was causing all the ruckus. Lydia said she’d drive on over there, the university is a good 60 miles away, and find somebody in person rather than fool with a bunch of phone calls.
We never have heard back from Lydia and we ain’t seen her neither. That was three weeks ago. Lydia hasn’t answered her phone or her doorbell and her old Chevy is nowhere to be seen.
As for Vern, well his wife may be missing but he’s still around. Thankfully he’s not been in anyone’s house again. Nope. Instead we see him in the darndest places. First it was on rooftops, then in trees, then sitting on top of moving cars and most recent leaning against buildings. Ted Jokelson said he once went up to Vern and started asking him questions and that Vern just looked at him then went off.
Ida Rolfe, who’s Lydia’s best friend called the police about Lydia being missing and they poked around and sent out a description of her and the car and checked hospitals and morgues and what not. No sign of her. We all don’t know what to think, but a few folks, yours truly included, feel like we’re used to seein’ Vern and don’t much care anymore and our concern is Lydia and did she come to some harm and is it related to her late husband's ghost.
Okay this is the last of it, I swear. It’s three months since that last part I wrote. Lydia’s car was found at the bottom of a gully. It was way out in nowhere so no one could figure out how it got there. There were no tire tracks leading to it neither. Strangest damn thing Sherif Boykins says he's ever seen and he's been at sheriffing for 35 years. How does a car get out to where there are no roads and not leave no tire tracks? Anyway Lydia’s remains were found in the car. The coroner couldn’t find no cause of death that he was certain of. His best guess was a heart attack, although Doctor Larsen said Lydia had never had no problem with her ticker.
A few days after Lydia’s funeral wouldn’t you know it she’s starts turning up. First she was alone, just walking along like we first seen Vern, then she and Vern started appearing together. The thing is they look so darn happy, holding hands strolling down the street together. Most everyday someone reports seeing them. Or used to. We’re all kinna used to now. They're not bothering nobody so we don’t care. No one knows how to explain or cares to even try anymore. It’s just the way things are. A person can get used to most anything, I guess.