by Roger S Nelson
Saturday morning blue skies and gentle breezes warmed the river walk trail in Lansing. Sandy and Babs were running together, enjoying the scent of lilacs and the pretty wisteria blooms along the way. Robins were singing and squirrels ran up trees. Wary geese waddled in the trail near Potter Park. Babs and Sandy slowed down to a walk to catch their breath on the river trail not far from where they lived. They'd been running partners for several years and were training for their next race, the Big Foot race in Dansville on Memorial Day this year.
“Sandy, I don't know how you do it. You're nine years older than me and I can barely keep up with you.” Babs sounded depressed.
Sandy, always the encourager, said, “I'm sure you'll do good in the Big Foot and we'll cross the finish together just like we always do.”
“Are you going to the 8K race this year? Or the 5K.”
“The 8K, or course. You had doubts? Is Bud coming?”
“Yeah. He's improved so much I can't keep up with him anymore. Remember the first time we ran with him? We really ran him into the ground that day.” Babs was laughing and Sandy joined in. “He'll probably run the race in 30 minutes. I'll be happy if I can do it in 40.”
“I wonder how the race got its name, Big Foot,” Sandy asked. “Why don't they call it the Memorial Day run, or the Wooden Nickel run. Doesn't the Wooden Nickel sponsor it?”
“The Wooden Nickel does sponsor it. But I remember when I was a little girl there was a Bigfoot sighting out there. In fact, I heard that someone painted some big yellow footprints across the State Highway and put up a sign that said “Bigfoot Crossing”. Later the State repaved the highway, so it's gone now.”
“That's right! I remember now,” Sandy said. “One of our biking friends told us that it got started because a friend of his put on a gorilla costume to scare some people on a hayride near Halloween. The next day it was in the papers that there was a Bigfoot sighting.”
“Jim and I have ridden our bicycles to Dansville on a club rides and we stop at the Wooden Nickel for lunch sometimes. You can get buffalo burgers there, and I really like their BLT's.”
“I'll have to try one sometime.”
They walked in silence for a minute and then Babs asked, “What are you doing this afternoon?”
“After I get cleaned up and have lunch I'm going to Macy's to get their latest hot shoes on sale. What about you?”
“Bud and I were invited to Linc's for a cookout.”
“Linc? You know Linc. Linc Sorenson?”
“He is so full of baloney. My friend Sheryl has been dating him. He told her this crazy story about playing on the USA team for the winter Olympics in Vancouver last February.”
“Really? What's so crazy about that? He looks like an athlete.”
“In the snowball fight event? Come on. There is no such event.”
“Is that way he said? That is so funny. Actually, I think something like that would be fun. Certainly less dangerous than the half pipe or the downhill ski. I wonder how it would be done.”
“You can ask him when you see him this afternoon. That guy is so full of baloney you'd think he kissed the Blarney Stone. Still, I kind of like him. He's fun.”
“Funny you should mention the Blarney Stone. I was just talking to someone about the Blarney Stone the other day. Did you know the stone is in the tower of a castle? In order to kiss it, you have to climb 90 feet to the top and then bend backwards over a parapet. A friend holds your feet so you don't fall over and kill yourself. I looked it up on Wikipedia. I always thought it was just a big rock in a field somewhere. I had no idea it was such an ordeal to kiss it.”
“Well at least you can find it. Poor Ponce DeLeon looked for the Fountain of Youth and never found it,” Sandy said.
“Blarney Stone, Fountain of Youth, Bigfoot, and Olympic snowball fights. It's funny how these things get started.”
“And wishing wells, too. If I had a penny I'd toss it in and wish I could beat you on Memorial Day. If I had a wishing well, that is,” Babs said wistfully. Sandy laughed.
They were off the trail now and soon were back on Best Street where they lived. Babs lived on the north west corner near Pennsylvania and Sandy lived in the middle of the block. “Have fun shopping,” Babs said, “I'll see you later.”
“Enjoy the cookout,” Sandy said. “See ya.”
* * *
Linc greeted Babs and Bud at the cookout. Sheryl was in the kitchen making a salad. Janet was helping her by getting plates and silverware ready to use, and Joe was helping Linc tend the grill. Janet and Joe's twin girls, Valena and Tina were sitting on the porch swing playing pattycake., Jay and Doug came in a little later. There were a few others there, but the party didn't feel complete to Babs without Jim and Sandy. Nevertheless, they were soon eating steak and telling jokes.
“Tell me about your snowball fight,” Babs said to Linc. Link told her the rules and all about the match with the Canadians. He told the story so well, it was actually believable. Babs wondered if maybe it was a true story, even though Sandy told her it wasn't. Maybe Sandy was wrong. Maybe there was a snowball fight up there in Canada. Just because they didn't cover it on TV, well just how accurate is TV anyway. Everyone knows they only report what they want you to hear.
“Do you know Jim and Sandy Sanders?” Babs asked Linc.
“Yes, I invited them today but they said they couldn't come,” Linc said. “I heard they're good friends of yours. Don't you run races with Sandy?”
“I do. Our next race is on Memorial Day in Dansville.”
“Oh yes. The Big Foot race. I hear you're quite an athlete.”
“Thanks. But Sandy is nine years older than me and I still can't beat her. I wish there was some way I could get better. I'm struggling just to keep up with her. How does she do it?”
“I don't know how she does it, but I know of something that could make you better.”
“Really? What's that?”
“I heard that out near Dansville, a deer hunter shot an albino deer once. Sometimes late at night, on one of the back roads, one can see its ghost. Those who see it get the ability to run a little faster, you know, run like a deer. Usually the ability wears off in a few days, but I was talking to a professor who studies the paranormal. He said that if you could touch it on the night of a full moon, the ability would be permanent.”
“Oh, sure. Like how's that gonna happen? You can't even get close enough to a live deer to touch it, and can you really touch a ghost?”
“Well, maybe not. I guess the hard part would be finding the ghost. It could be anywhere. But if you did find it, maybe if you threw something at it and hit it, the ability would stick to the object. Then you go pick up whatever you threw at it, and you'd have the ability.”
”Well how could you tell an albino ghost from a regular ghost. Wouldn't they look the same? I mean, a ghost is a ghost, right?”
“An albino ghost has red eyes.”
“That's the craziest thing I ever heard. Besides, how could you hit it. Wouldn't whatever you threw just pass through it?”
“I think it would pass through but that should be good enough. I know it sounds crazy. I probably shouldn't have bothered to tell you. But you know Sandy. She grew up in Flint, and there was a similar object there. She probably touched it when she was little, but she doesn't remember it. I asked her.”
“What object is that?”
“There was a big rock there made out of flint. It's where the city got its name originally, or so I hear. Anyway, it's no longer there. A developer put up a shopping mall and destroyed it. I imagine there are a bunch of shoe stores sitting on top of where it used to be.”
“Goodness! Do you think that's where Sandy gets her love for shoes?”
“Hard to say. But she certainly is fast.”
* * *
On the way home Bud said, “You look depressed. Is something bothering you? Is it me?”
“No, no, you're fine. I guess I'm frustrated that I can't seem to beat Sandy in a race, no matter how hard I train. And she's nine years older than me.”
“Well, you're good friends. Isn't friendship better than winning a race?”
“Of course it is. But I'd really like to beat her. Just once. “ And then Babs shared with him what Linc had told her about the deer.
“That Linc! He's always coming up with these wild stories.”
“But what if it's true? He also told me of a stone in Flint that had similar power. He said Sandy probably touched it when she was little. That would explain why she's so fast.”
“The Flint Stone? You gotta be kidding me.”
“But what if he's right? Do you think there's a chance we could find the deer?”
“Slim to none. I think he's just pulling your leg.”
“Everybody says that about him. Maybe some of his stories are true. They say truth is stranger than fiction.”
“Have you ever been on a snipe hunt?
“No. What's that?”
* * *
When Babs got home she went to her laptop and looked up when the next full moon would be. May 27th. That was a Thursday. The race was on Memorial Day four days later, the 31st. What if Linc was telling the truth. Wouldn't it be worth a shot to try to find the deer ghost. . If I only just saw the deer, I might still have the power on Monday for the race. Linc said it lasted for a few days.
As Memorial Day drew near Babs struggled as she trained with Sandy and thought about finding that ghost. She even asked Sandy about the Flint Stone, and Sandy said it was just a joke. There was no such thing.
Thursday morning before Memorial Day Babs said, “Bud, I'm going ghost hunting tonight.”
“What? Roast hunting? You did say roast hunting, right? But we were going to cook on the grill.”
“No, GHOST hunting. Ghost, as in the albino deer near Dansville. I looked it up on Google maps, there is a back road just east of town and I think it's the perfect place to look. Jessup Road.”
Bud knew Babs well enough to know that there was no talking her out of this. The tone of her voice and stern look said it all. What was a husband to do? “OK,” he said. “Let me go with you. We'll go together.”
“You'd do that for me? Oh thank you.” Babs gave him a big kiss with a hug. I'm so glad I married you.”
* * *
During the day at work, Bud called Linc. “Hey guy, I need your help.”
“Babs is going ghost deer hunting tonight, and since you put the idea in her head, I want you to provide the ghost for her.”
“Me? How am I gonna do that?”
“The albino deer ghost you told her about. Near Dansville. She's going to Jessup Road tonight and look for it. I want you to rig together some sort of contraption with sheets or something. Make it look like a deer. Hang it from a tree. If she throws something at it, make it fall. She's been depressed all month thinking about this, and I want her to get it out of her system. I don't want to have to spend any more nights with a full moon looking for ghosts than I have to. I can think of better things to do under a full moon. And you gotta quit telling your wild stories. Some people are just too gullible.”
They discussed the project and decided that Linc would hide somewhere near the top of first hill south of M-36 and they'd show up around midnight. Hopefully there would be some trees there.
* * *
At suppertime Babs seemed all excited. Bud hadn't see her so happy for months, not since their baby was born. “What time should we leave?” she asked.”
“Around 11:00 pm. That should give us time to drive out there and find Jessup Road. Then we'll just walk south and if we're lucky...”
Babs interrupted, “We'll be lucky tonight. I just know it.” She was practically bouncing up and down with excitement, like a little kid. Sandy had taken the baby for the night and everything was go. Bud was smiling and happy to see her so excited, like he was like giving a kid a gift at Christmas. The moon was up and shining brightly when it was time to leave. It looked to be a beautiful spring night, but they brought their coats since it would probably get chilly late at night. As they drove south to Dansville, the skies clouded over. When they got to Dansville, it had started to sprinkle a little. When they got to Jessup road, it was a light rain and the moon was totally obscured by dark clouds.
“We've come too far now to turn back,” Bud said. “Let's get this over with.”
They started walking south and the rain came down a little harder. It looked to be an all night drizzle and it was really dark out in the country with no street lights, no moon, or any other lights for that matter. Bud was glad he had taken a flashlight else they wouldn't have been able to see the road at all. He noticed Linc's car parked by the road on the way in, so everything should be set. Bud checked his watch. 11:45. They were a little early. He would walk slow, but that wouldn't be hard to do considering the darkness and the weather.
They hadn't gone very far, not even to the first hill yet, when Babs squealed and pointed. “There it is.” Bud followed her aim with the flashlight. There in the middle of a plowed field was a ghost deer with red eyes. Bud wondered how Linc could arrange it since there were no trees and the crop wasn't even up yet. Where was he hiding?.
“Well throw something at it,” Bud said.
“I don't have anything. Give me your flashlight.”
“No. We need it to find our way back.”
“Well, give me something. Anything. Hurry.”
“I don't have anything.”
“Never mind.” She took her left shoe off and threw it as hard as she could while the deer just stood there and looked at them, red eyes unblinking. The shoe sailed right at it, hit it, and passed right through it. “I did it. I did it,” she yelled. The deer ran off unharmed.
“Good arm,” Bud said. “Did you ever consider joining the church softball team? I'm impressed.”
“Thanks. Will you get my shoe for me,” Babs said, hopping on one foot in the mud.
“Sure.” Bud disappeared in the dark except for a bobbing light. Babs watched the light move back and forth, forward and back.”
“I think it's a little more to the south,” Babs shouted. “And a little more west.”
Finally Bud came back with her shoe, muddy and wet, and gave it to her. He was soaked and his boots were all covered in mud from walking in the soft field. She put her shoe back on and they walked back to the car.
“Do you feel any different?” Bud asked.
“Yeah. Wet. More wet. And wetter yet.” And I'm cold. She sneezed.
On the way home Bud put the heat on high until Babs stopped shivering. But she kept on sneezing.
Friday morning Babs stayed in bed. Bud brought her cold medicine and told her to drinks lots and get some rest. Saturday morning she wasn't any better. Sunday she stayed home from church. And on Memorial Day, she was still too sick to go anywhere, much less run.
Babs stayed in bed while Bud and Sandy went to the race and after the parade, drove back to Lansing. When he got home he started up the grill and the guests started arriving. Sandy offered to be hostess in Babs place and Bud accepted her offer. Linc was there along with Sheryl, Joe and Janet with their twin girls, Doug and Jay, and of course, Jim and Sandy. But Babs was staying in bed. Sandy went in her room to visit with her. Babs didn't feel like company, but she did want to know about the race. “I did pretty good,” Sandy said. “I beat 40 minutes,” Babs groaned.
Shortly after Sandy left her, Bud went in to look on her and it looked as if she'd been crying. “Honey, what's wrong. Is there something I can do for you?”
“No. I was just so looking forward to the race and I got sick and missed all the fun. And I just know I could've beat Sandy this time and I just feel miserable. I don't even have the energy to watch our baby.”
“I know how you feel,” he said. “You'll get better soon and I'm here for you. I still love you.” He kissed her.
She gave a weak smile and then sneezed. “How'd you do in the race?”
“It was amazing. I never ran so fast before. I beat 25 minutes. I even got first place in my age category. See?” He held up the medal.
Then Babs started bawling. “Oh, Honey. Don't cry. Things will turn around for you.” He lay down next to her and held her until she stopped crying and fell asleep. Then he went back out to the party.
“Where've you been?” Linc asked.
“With Babs. She's feeling pretty bad right now, missing the race and the party and all.”
“Yeah, that's too bad about the race.”
“I've been meaning to thank you for helping out Thursday, you did a great job with the ghost you set up. It looked so real.”
“I was there, but you never made it up to where I was near the top of the hill. I guess the weather was too bad for you, huh. I saw your light bobbing around down below, though.”
“But we saw the deer, and Babs hit it with her shoe.”
“It wasn't my deer.”
“Then who's was it?”
“Santa's? I don't know. Who would be crazy enough to go out on a dark rainy night around midnight and fool a person into thinking they saw a ghost? I mean, besides us, that is.”
“You don't think it was real, do you?”
“I don't know. You saw it, you figure it out. You're the one who keeps thinking I make up stories. Well I didn't make this one up and I'm not telling any more 'wild stories' because as you said, there are 'gullible' people out there.”