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A story from long ago March 26, 2010

Posted by Christine Coleman in Writing.

Sincere thanks to everyone for your comments on my novel dilemma. Still pondering it all …

In the meantime, I was looking through some of the writing on my computer. Amazing the number of one and two paragraph “things” I’ve started through the years. (I have a plastic tub filled with notebooks that contain similar bits.) I also came across several stories from a children’s writing class I took in fall 1999. Re-reading these stories after such a long time was fun, because I could only remember bits and pieces of them. Here’s one of the stories I wrote — as it was the last time I edited it, on Dec. 6, 1999!

The Ghost of Jimmy Wilson

“Bye Mom! Bye Dad! Have fun at the party!” Valerie shouted as her parents walked down the driveway to their car. It was finally time for Valerie’s slumber party.

“What are we going to do first?” Ashley asked.

“Let’s call Joshua and see if he really likes Megan,” Natalie said.

“I don’t care if he does,” Megan answered.

“I know what we can do – tell ghost stories!” Valerie said.

 “OK,” Ashley replied. “Who knows a good one?”

 “Did you ever hear about Jimmy Wilson?” Valerie asked. “He lived down the road from here 30 years ago, next to where Joshua lives now.”

“Let’s go into the living room,” Ashley suggested. “And let’s keep the lights out – that will be better!”

“Look – there’s a full moon,” Megan said, looking through the picture window. “And look at those clouds getting closer to it! This is the perfect night for stories.”

The girls sat in a circle on the carpet in the dark living room, with both the moon and the streetlight outside the window combining to cast long shadows of the front yard tree across the room.

“This isn’t a story – it really happened,” Valerie began. “Jimmy Wilson was 13 years old at the time, just like us. There were fewer houses out here then, and his house was the last one on the lane. All this area was just woods, like it is across the street. Jimmy’s favorite place was the pond – the one where we ice skate. His mother always told him never go to the pond by himself – she was worried something could happen and no one would hear.”

The girls were already engrossed in Valerie’s story, sitting cross-legged with their elbows on their knees, heads resting in their hands and eyes wide. A breeze outside made the tree shadows dance across the floor.

“It was an October night, like this one, with a full moon and a breeze. But the temperature was warm, and it was very hot inside the house. Around midnight, Jimmy still wasn’t asleep because it was so hot in his room. But there was one place he knew he could cool off. He got up and tiptoed by his parents’ room – they were fast asleep. He tiptoed down the hallway then out the back door. He ran to the woods and down the paths to the pond. It looked pretty in the moonlight and felt so cool with the breeze. He knew better than to go swimming alone, so he climbed a tree next to the pond instead. Jimmy sat on a lower branch, swinging his feet and enjoying the night air.”

Valerie paused. “Keep going!” Ashley said.

“Just then the breeze shifted and a strong wind started to blow. Very quickly, clouds piled up in the sky and covered up the moon. Jimmy liked watching the clouds, so he sat on the branch looking at the sky. He didn’t realize how dark it now was and how hard seeing the path home would be without the moon. He felt scared, then realized that was silly. He’d been down the path hundreds of times – he could find his way in the dark. Suddenly, a lightning bolt flashed nearby and a huge crack of thunder rang out through the sky. It startled Jimmy. He yelled, but his cry was muffled by the thunder. At the same time he jumped up and the sudden motion caused the branch—”

A bright lightning flash lit up the room, followed by a crack of real thunder that rattled the windows. The girls screamed. “No way – I can’t believe there’s really lightning and thunder,” Megan said.

“This is getting way too creepy,” Natalie whispered.

“No, it’s not,” Ashley said, her eyes wide with anticipation. “What happened next?”

“No one knows,” Valerie said. “The next morning, Jimmy’s parents saw his empty bed and knew to look in the woods. When they got to the pond, they saw a broken branch and a torn piece of Jimmy’s pajamas on the ground. But they didn’t find him. They searched the pond and all the woods but his parents never saw him again.”

“That can’t be true,” Natalie said. “People don’t just disappear.”

“His parents never saw him again, but that doesn’t mean others didn’t. He usually appears on nights like this  – where there’s a full moon, clouds in the sky and a breeze. He’ll start out walking through the woods by the pond, this white figure dressed in pajamas. He walks around, trying to find his way back home, confused by the new houses here. Once my Dad saw him next door, looking in the Miller’s window.”

“We HAVE to turn the lights on!” Natalie yelled.

“Wait, what was that?” Ashley asked, looking down toward the carpet. “I mean it – look at that shadow!”

The girls looked at the floor. Even though the moon was now behind the clouds, the streetlight allowed them to make out the obvious shadow of a boy mixed in with the tree branches.

“Oh no, what do we do now?” Valerie whispered.

“I’m really, really scared,” Ashley said. Natalie was too terrified to speak.

“I’ll go look out the window,” Megan said, trying to sound brave.

“Look out the little window on the door instead,” Valerie whispered. “That way, he — I mean, it —, I mean no one will see you.” Lightning again flashed outside.

Megan took a few steps toward the door.

All at once there was another clap of thunder, a pounding on the door and a continuous ringing of the doorbell. The girls screamed, and Megan dove back to her circle of friends on the floor.

The pounding continued, followed by a voice from outside the door. “What are you girls screaming at?”

The girls were quiet but breathing heavy from their fear.

The voice outside continued. “Hey, come open the door!”

“Wait,” Megan whispered. “That sounds like Joshua. I’ll go see.”

“Be careful . . .” Natalie whispered back.

Megan rose again and tiptoed toward to the door. Once there, she peeked out through the window then slowly opened the door.

There on the porch stood Joshua, trying to look in the door’s window himself.

“Joshua!” Megan said, breathing a sigh of relief. “Come on in. Hey, have you heard the story of the ghost of Jimmy Wilson?”



1. Michael - March 26, 2010

This is a really good piece of writing, Chris. Awesome ending!
And linking your blog from Facebook is a great way to get hits — you got me that way this time.

Christine Coleman - March 26, 2010

Thanks! It was funny as I was reading through it yesterday – I couldn’t remember how it ended at all. Did you know/know of David Collins? He taught the class I wrote this for.

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