A Story From Papa

by Kate Demeree

A Story From Papa

By:Graeme Fieldon and Kate Reynolds

One Sunday evening in the fall of the year I turned 9, we were snuggled again under the quilt before the fire waiting… for the sounds of Father leaving. My sister curled close by my side, cat like, we listened for the sound of the creaking cart on the drive, the clip clop clip of horse hooves. The only sounds greeting our expectant ears were the rustle of leaves against the walls of Papa’s house and snap pop sizzle of the fire.

Finally after what seemed a very long time we heard Father leaving. Our voices in unison we called… "A story Papa"

"Sweet Jesus" his rumbling reply as he first froze then with a shaggy head shake and wry smile asked, "What story would you like…boy?"

‘Tell us the hunting story’ I cried

‘No!’ cried my sister ‘The story of the fox!’

Papa sat in his old rocker and took a moment to light his pipe, then blew smoke devils through his thick beard.

‘Have I told you… of the ghost?’ asked Papa.

‘Ghost?’ we cried together with saucer eyes.


‘A real, real ghost?’

‘Aye…But I’m thinking you’re to young. I’d be scaring you with stories of ghosts that live just down the road’

‘There are ghosts down the road?’

‘Aye’ he said quietly; and the shadows seemed to grow as the fire danced behind his shaggy silhouette.

…He shook his head slowly…

‘No… you’re too young to know of such things’


‘Oh Papa…We want to hear about the ghost!’ pleaded my sister.

‘There’s no ghost’ I said with a smile…’Papa’s teasing us’

Papa turned toward me with a serious face.

‘Never speak light of the dead… boy’

He turned to face his shadow, raised his arms and it jumped like a blackened scarecrow onto the ceiling.

‘Did you see that!’, he whispered

‘It was your shadow’ I shouted in laughter.

Papa winked to me so that my sister could not see him…

‘So… you want to hear about the ghost?’ he asked as he lowered the gas lamp making the cabin flicker with the glow of the open fire.

‘Yes! Oh, yes! Papa Yes!’

He reached forward, fluffing our pillow then tucking us comfortably into bed with that smile he had… ‘You’ve got to be snug for story telling’ Papa used to say…

Crouching low, his face only inches from ours, Papa began his tale. His voice so quiet it was almost a whisper…

‘Not long after the church was built a priest moved into the rectory. His cart full of household wares and books piled so high they spilled out of their boxes. Hanzel and Grettle like he left a trail behind as he went.’

‘But what of the ghost, Papa…" asked my sister. "Was it him? Was the priest the ghost?"

He looked toward her with patient eyes. Love and wry merriment twinkling with the firelight in the depths of Papa’s eyes.

‘Shhh’, I said raising a single finger, placing it on her cherub lips…

Papa made the sign of the cross across his chest, and with a solemn look began speaking again.

‘God rest his soul, the poor devil’…

‘The townsfolk soon grew to love him for he was a kind, warm man who became the answer to the towns’ spiritual needs.

He was tall, a man with a pious expression often on his thin, drawn face. He held his head to the side and nodded gently as he spoke. When he spoke to you, you could feel his words in your chest, in your heart.

‘How did he die Papa?’ my sister asked.

Papa turned toward her with sad eyes as he tenderly stroked her forehead.

‘He was a man of the cities, unused to the variance of the wild, not a pioneer such as we were. But he loved us as he loved God - for he saw a piece of God within every man and loved every man.’

We nodded listening closely, our eyes glued to Papa whose eyes stared vacantly into the distance as he silently held our attention. The flickering fire flared up, a cold wind blew the flames dampening them, and suddenly the cabin was black as sin…

It re-ignited with a burst of sparks, sending ashes into the air…

‘Shhh’, said Papa, holding his finger to his narrow lips.

I saw my sisters head turn and followed her stare toward the window. There a stooped shadow seemed to walk gently by… As I looked again it disappeared.

Papa saw my start of surprise and deep frown.

‘Are you scared already… boy?’

I said nothing…shaking my head slowly side to side, staring toward the window…

‘There was someone at the window…a tall man with a wide brimmed hat’ said my sister.

Papa laughed, caressing her cheek with his work roughened palm.

‘It’s only a story my love…the dogs would bark blue murder if anyone stepped within a mile ’

Papa tenderly stroked my forehead reassuring me before he continued the story.

Slowly Papa stood and began walking in circles around, and around the room. He held the gas lamp neatly under his chin, his eyes staring at unseen things ahead as he continued the tale. There was a slight twist of his lips as he spoke…

Papa walked faster and faster and the pace of his speech growing in speed with each step…

…Our eager eyes and ears followed his progress round and round, listening, watching, listening, and heads spinning dizzily until …

‘The good Father…’ Papas voice went lower, so soft yet urgent we leaned forward in effort to hear.

The words tumbled one into the other, each was indiscernible except for random words that seemed to throw themselves out from a strange hypnotic buzz whirring about the room. I looked at Papa and his eyes flickered in the flame which danced wildly, casting his shaggy silhouette onto the walls… That gruesome distortion which at first chased Papa and then lead him on and on in the never ending circle. ‘His body was found at the base of the cliff’…I heard as he continued… Papa appeared to move faster and faster… until it seemed that the room itself was spinning.

I turned my head, frantically following his progress, until I felt a tug at my shoulder. I followed my sister’s pointed finger toward the shadow that moved along the wall.

Papa’s silhouette transfigured before our eyes… changing from Papa’s stooped and hairy form to a man in priestly robes that walked with a slow and steady stride. It wore the same wide brimmed hat I had seen at the window. The shadow stopped, independent of Papa who continued seemingly oblivious to its presence.

My sister and I screamed as a black accusatory finger reached toward us from the shadow…


The front door swung wildly open then slammed closed. A cold dank wind seemed to breath raspy breaths through the cabin, extinguishing all light making all else quiet... we sat breathless on the bed...

Then the room was silent, completely black…

I could not hear papa’s voice or steps…

"Papa" I whispered…

I lit a candle and saw his motionless form lying on the floor.

"Papa…Papa!" cried my sister, her voice becoming filled with breathless panic as she hugged his chest.

We shook him, he did not move. My sister began to cry in great racking sobs.

"Well I’ll be damned!…" said Papas’ weary voice… We both let out a shout of fright to hear a sound other than our own sobs. Papas’ eyes flickered and he looked toward us with a slow smile.

"Fetch me the whiskey…boy."

Papa sat up slowly, swallowing half a bottle of the thick golden liquid in slow gulps until it was finished.

"Papa…I ventured…Papa, what happened?"

"That’s enough stories for tonight…boy" he said as he tucked us into bed.

He set in his chair beside our bed all that night, nervously fingering a dog eared Bible that sat upon his lap…


Posted on 10/29/2003
Copyright © 2021 Kate Demeree

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Graeme Fielden on 10/29/03 at 03:35 PM

It's been a joy to see another writer interpret and re-work the original story ... Hats off to you Madam! ... you've done a beautiful job! *HUGS*...Thanks so much!

Posted by Maureen Glaude on 10/29/03 at 08:02 PM

super idea and the campground feel of story-time, so charming. The tale-telling comes through, as a fine collaboration.

Posted by David R Spellman on 10/29/03 at 09:16 PM

An awesome and eerie piece of writing Kate. I was captured from start to finish. Splendidly done!

Posted by Max Bouillet on 10/30/03 at 04:21 PM

Tremendous use of language that really gives a goosebump sensation when you approach the end. Story tellin at its best. Great work!

Posted by Philip F De Pinto on 10/31/03 at 12:12 PM

a collaboration worthy of Adam and Eve.

Posted by Charles E Minshall on 11/03/03 at 03:16 AM

Fine story you guys, riveting. More!....Charlie

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