The ghostly toll collector (in hot pink)

Yesterday on my drive home from work, a young girl stepped out into the middle of the road and held her arms out at both sides like kids do when they’re playing toll collector on the stairs or in bathroom doorways to torture siblings. This road is not a highway by any stretch but is busy enough that you don’t cross the street to get your mail at night without telling your family you love them first.

The girl looked about 6 years old, but she might have been 5 or 7. She was wearing a hot pink snowsuit and knit hat. Her eyes lit with power when I stopped my car several feet in front of her. I thought about honking the horn, but it felt rude even though I honk at deer when they do the same thing.

The girl finally stepped back into what I assume was her yard and I rolled down my window and said “You know, you can’t stand in the road like that. Someone might hit you.”

Her eyes got big but not in a particularly scared way. She did not look at me but turned and walked back towards what I assume was her house, which is next to the one with the orange fish mailbox that someone inexplicably painted half black.

Later when I told my husband about the girl in the road, he said “Maybe she was a ghost.”

This hadn’t occurred to me or my daughters, probably because ghosts usually don’t wear hot pink snowsuits. He then said in his spooky voice, “It was five years ago today that a horrible accident happened just up the road…

This is one of the reasons we’re still married. It’s a real asset to be able to spin your spouse’s mundane stories into ghostly tales or anything halfway interesting.

He also had my back years ago when I took a photo of the front of our house and noticed a ghost hovering in the corner. We were living in the Poconos at the time and I got so excited about snow in October that I scurried out in my pajamas to snap a picture. It turned out to be a very long winter and I’ve never gotten that excited over a little snow on the roof since, but anyway, I showed Joe the picture of the ghost and he squinted for awhile and said “Oh yeah, you mean the reflection of Saddam Hussein in the window?”

I looked at the picture again. “No. I mean the gaunt looking figure holding a sickle in the lower right corner.”

He squinted again and said “Hmm.”

Years later the people behind Ghosthunters had a magazine and I emailed the photo to them. They featured it on a page called Evidence Bag.

One of the Ghosthunters – I think it was Steve – wrote that it might be a ghost but was probably not and next time I should try taking it with a digital camera to be sure it wasn’t a glitch in the development process. 1) I had taken it with a digital camera and 2) How was I supposed to know when and where a gaunt apparition with a sickle might be hanging around waiting to be photographed? The more I thought about it, the easier it seemed to just move.

On the drive in this morning, I will look for footprints in the snow by where I saw the little girl. Even if I see footprints, how can I be sure they don’t belong to deer or tiny elven men.

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whiskers off kittens (a few of my unfavorite things)

I’m afraid of geese and cat whiskers if you must know. I realize it’s not smart to put my biggest vulnerabilities out there. What if my arch nemesis subscribes and is now loading a pillowcase with whiskers and angry geese? Do arch nemesises have to be mutual, or can mine be someone I’ve never even met? What is the plural of nemesis anyway?

And let me clarify that I am not afraid of whiskers on kittens, but rather when they fall off and are discovered loose on a blanket or, you know, on top of my pillow. Which is where my husband threatened to put one this morning when he found a loose one on a blanket.

He also sent me this picture he snapped this morning of our roof.

Image

And now I’m not sure where I’m going to move on such short notice.

The goose fear stems from a traumatic memory of getting bit on the butt by one during a kindergarten field trip, but I should probably clarify it was not even my butt that got bit. I was definitely bit on the butt by a dog in second grade, and am proud to announce I am not much afraid of them anymore.

I regularly encounter dogs and geese when I run. I make eye contact with the geese, but do not add a respectful nod like I do with dogs. If the geese start to charge, I usually clap my hands and yell. My husband threw pinecones to get the two off our roof, which seems less efficient but more fun and also not as congratulatory.

Last week I had a close call with a dog I never even saw when I was jogging down a familiar road. I had earbuds in, but still heard a spatter of angry barking behind me. I slowed my pace but did not stop or turn around. I kept waiting for the bite and thought how my butt must have looked like an overly plump set of tenderloins. But the barking eventually stopped and the adrenaline gave a nice energy boost for the rest of the run home.

I often think what I would do if attacked by a dog or a goose. I like to think instinct would kick in, but maybe I should run with some mace. At least then I could accidentally mace both of us and wouldn’t have to remember the pesky, humiliating details. One summer I worked at a camp where some kid “accidentally” sprayed a canister of pepper spray in front of an industrial fan during the farewell dance. Farewell indeed.

I’m less afraid of pepper spray and dogs and getting that way about geese. Whiskers are next!

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