Monday, August 10, 2009

The day Mary almost shot the devil

A friend called and said he had a downed tree out on his farm. He told me I could have it for firewood, if I wanted, but I would have to get it soon—if his wife spotted it, she would make him cut, split, and stack the wood to use at their place. “Please hurry!” he begged.

The humidity was high and it was already pushing 90 degrees when I drove out to the farm late the next morning. I got right to work, cutting and loading the sections of log into my pickup. It was one of those days that people describe as sticky; so I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when I saw a hummingbird fly over, and then stop to rest in mid-flight. It hung suspended there, its motionless wings silent as it surveyed my worksite before mustering the strength to plow on through the soggy stillness of the hot summer air.

Turning away from this anomaly, I looked down and noticed my shadow appeared to be slumped over. As I studied this new spectacle, my shadow lifted its head and made a sweeping gesture with its hand—as if waving me off and saying: It’s too hot. I’m done! And with that he walked over to the truck and laid down in the shade.

I looked back at where my shadow should have been, but there was nothing there. This caused me some concern, and thinking I might not be well I decided I’d better go home and rest my obviously heat-addled mind. I couldn’t see my shadow, there in the shade of the truck, so I called out, “If you’re coming, let’s go!”

I looked, but still no shadow.

Over the next several days, my shadow appeared to be enjoying his freedom. One day, I saw him follow someone into the feed store. On another, I’m pretty sure I saw him standing behind a reporter on the TV news. I started to hear talk of a strange, dark critter roaming around town, always in broad daylight. Some folks were getting a little jittery about it. I hoped he wasn’t going to get me in trouble.

One of the most concerned was my neighbor, Mary. Apparently, my shadow had taken a particular liking to spending time in Mary’s garden, where she had spied him on several occasions. Mary has a Mediterranean style garden that’s full of urns, benches and statues, but the focal point of the garden is the labyrinth. The first time Mary showed me her garden, she told me the history of labyrinths and how they were once constructed to serve as traps for evil spirits. Mary mostly used the path for quiet exercise and meditation.

One morning, my shadow was taking a stroll in Mary’s labyrinth, when she spotted him. Mary’s husband, Cal, heard her growl, “Now I’ve got you!” before grabbing Cal’s 16-gauge from the gun rack and running onto the screened porch. Mary took five shots, right through the screen, missing my shadow (even the labyrinth) completely. Cal snatched the shotgun from her hands as she screamed, “I shot him! I shot the devil!”

There have been no more reports of the dark, mystery-creature skulking around town. My shadow returned unscathed—not that he would have been hurt much anyway, I suppose. He’s been staying close by, and to keep it that way, I’m taking it easy if temperatures are forecast to go over 70 degrees.

My wife thinks I’m making this up to avoid work—Mary and Cal aren't talking about it. But there’s a shadow of truth in it…I swear!

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