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Running Late

Dustin Mennella | Monday, October 8, 2007

I’ve had a bad travel day. Not a terrible one, mind you – a terrible travel day is one in which your flight gets cancelled, or you end up in the wrong state somehow; no, my travel day has only been bad. A bad travel day is being set back by delays every step of the way, one that starts at 4:30 a.m. and goes until 8:15 p.m., missing the bus by five minutes late and having to wait an hour and a half because of it. A bad travel day is having a book of crosswords, but losing your only pencil. Then after having obtained a pen, losing that as well within an hour. And having forgotten my iPod back in South Bend didn’t help things.

So, having said all that, I’m really not all that bitter. The weekend in Los Angeles was definitely worth it, with the beach and the win. Also, at the beginning of the trip, I picked up a book of short stories by Neil Gaiman called “Fragile Things” and got a chance to do a lot of reading which I usually don’t have time for during the school year. Gaiman’s stories are wildly strange and range in topic from ghost stories to Sherlock Holmes. Many are not exactly about ghosts as much as simply unexplained yet highly unusual events, and it got me thinking about the ghost encounters of my own life. One particular camping trip I took with my friends came to mind.

Henry Island is part of the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington, north of Seattle. For his 14th birthday, a friend of mine invited me (along with some others) to stay with his family for a weekend in a little cabin they had on the small island, and the weekend turned out to be a rainy one.

Having foregone the campfire the first night (in hopes of better weather that didn’t arrive), we attempted building a fire even in the light rain of the second night, but to no avail. Even some probably dangerous experiments with lighter fluid left us fireless, though quite entertained. So, having given up on the fire for the night we set up our sleeping bags on the cabin’s covered porch, and proceeded with the ghost stories using a flashlight instead of a fire.

About an hour later, I had the flashlight, and I distinctly remember waving it lazily around the ceiling when suddenly I couldn’t see the ceiling any more due to a thick smoke that had just blown in. Confused, my friends and I looked in the direction of the campfire – it was set back into the woods so we couldn’t see it directly, but in spite of the rain there was definitely light flickering through the trees.

Maybe it was the shadowy woods, or perhaps the ghost stories we’d just been telling, but we were spooked and no one volunteered to check the fire out. We decided it was just the parents, and went to sleep soon afterwards. In the morning, however, Jon’s parents mentioned that they saw we finally got the fire going and asked us how it was.

Talking about it after neither group admitted to starting the campfire, I learned a grandfather of Jon’s had recently passed away who had loved that cabin on Henry Island. Perhaps he came back for one last campfire.