This is another short story from my 2004 ALA Stonewall Award nominated book The Life and Deaths of Carter Falls, http://claire_daniels.tripod.com:
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“Jesus, I seen him.”
Old Daryl staggered into the filling station white as a new blizzard. Ralph Marsted helped the old man into the empty chair and handed him a can of Blue Ribbon.
“Sweet Jesus, I tell ya, I seen him.”
“Seen who?” Ralph’s kid asked. Bill Marsted sat on a Pepsi soda case. He nestled his chin in his hands and tried to understand what Daryl was talking about.
“I seen Ned Carter!” Daryl was shaking so hard the beer was foaming out of the can onto his plaid work shirt.
“How many beers you had?” Ralph grabbed the beer away.
“I ain’t had a beer since noon.” Shakily he retrieved his can and emptied it.
“Daryl listen to me.” Bill stood up. I know’d Ned for sixty years afore he died. You two was there when we buried him, let’s see, eight, no nine years ago.”
“You think I’m a old, crazy fool, don’tcha?” Daryl stood up, “but I seen him. Plain as day.”
“We don’t think you’re crazy.” Ralph kicked his heavy legs and work booted feet on the station desk. “Now tell us just what happened.”
The old man sat back down. His face was back to its original color, a tanned, winter wind brown. He swept back his white hair and opened his frock.
“I was coming home from Mrs. Kelly’s. She had me over for supper cuz it was my birthday and all. I’d had a beer or two at Marty’s afore going so I was pretty dry after leaving Ethel’s house and figured I’d walk back toward Marty’s by the back road. When I passed the church I seen him sitting on the bench. He was below that sign that says ‘Carter Falls Congregational Church’ with his old knife he always had, whittlin a piece of wood.”
Daryl started shaking again.
“You sure it were Ned?” Ralph looked into Daryl’s deep blue eyes.
“It were Ned Aright. He looked up when I was afore the church and I said ‘Ned’ and he smiled and waved his hand. I was so scaret I run up the road without looking back. This was the first place I come to with a light on.
Bill gave Daryl a ride home in the wrecker. He had to go through every room in the old man’s house before Daryl would let min go.
“Bill, do me one thing.” Daryl took hold of Bill’s collar. “Look by the bench, please Bill. He was there. I knowed it.”
Bill drove the old International down to the church. He felt foolish walking to the bench but old Ned had been known to do strange things up by that graveyard he farmed next to.
When he got to the bench he took out the heavy work beam and flashed it on the ground. The wind was howling something fierce but as he turned to leave, he looked under the bench. Reaching down he pulled a couple of wood chips from under the bench leg. His foot kicked something! It was an old buck knife. Turning it in his hand he saw the initials in the handle, NC.
Bill ran for the truck. He pulled a U turn right over Mr. Mapley’s flower bed and headed for Daryl’s. When he reached the house he left the truck in gear; it choked twice and stalled. He pounded on the door until his knuckles bled then kicked the door open. Running through the kitchen to the back of the house he reached the bedroom, stopped cold in his tracks and stared at the bed.
Daryl was propped up as though he had been reading. His eyes were open but they were past seeing. On his lap was a small cross, carved from an old piece of pine. Bill took his pulse but knew there would be none. Daryl had died, the way it looked, from sheer fright. It was then that he noticed the rocking chair by the wall. On the floor in front of it was a neat pile of wood shavings, as though someone had been whittling.