Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler


premature fiction

Part Three – Mose Brenlee’s Missive

Mose Brenlee, in at least one respect, is like most early 21st century Americans, in that he is not much of a letter writer. He loves to receive them, even enjoys writing them, indulges in reveries of their romantic eloquence and lasting importance while watching Civil War and other pre-twentieth century documentaries on television, but Mose, at 63 years old, can think of only two personal letters he has written in the last thirtysome years. He vows to change that, beginning with a long letter to his wife and children whom he has not seen in some weeks due to an uncomfortable and, ultimately, violent exchange with his son regarding the existence of ghosts. Mose believes in them, his son, Rick, does not.

Late in the evening of the day the body of 12 year old Gabriel Velasquez was found in Pickem Sneed’s orchard exactly as the body of a boy named Tomas Coates was found in the same place some 20 years earlier, Mose sits down to explain himself in writing to his family. They must understand why he knows there are ghosts, why he is about to do what he knows he must do the following day, and, most importantly, he must convince them to return to live in Brenlee. He sits at the battered linoleum topped kitchen table in the firehouse with a new ballpoint pen and a pad of air mail stationary (both purchased that afternoon from the new dollar store out on the edge of town) and begins writing.


I have a lot to tell you that I’m afraid you wouldn’t sit and listen to if I tried rambling on about it to you in person. I’ve tried and it just comes out wrong. We end up fighting over things that aren’t the heart of the matter anyway. And someone’s got to know the heart of the matter the way I know it. Someone besides me. A Brenlee should know it because the heart of the matter, the heart of this town I can’t ever leave is the birthright of you kids and your right as my wife Phyllis, our marriage making you a Brenlee too.

So, the heart of the matter is what I’m writing about. But before I get to it, let’s just get a few things out of the way and if you think they make me crazy, well, I hope that won’t keep you from reading this whole letter, because I don’t think the main things I have got to tell you would be called crazy by anybody.

First, or number one, I don’t believe in ghosts. I just know there are ghosts. Like knowing water runs down hill. Simple as that. I have seen them my whole life in Brenlee. It’s not getting old that made me see them, it’s getting old that’s made me less afraid to be honest about what I see around me everyday in this town. Don’t be scared. I’m not one of those TV guys who thinks they can tell us how to win the lottery or something. The ghosts here, I don’t know about other ones or even if other ones exist, but the ones around here, the ghosts of Brenlee, are quiet, in fact, not all of them are even people. They’re things you see and smell and even, one time, taste. I’ve heard them too, but they don’t talk to me, not exactly. They say things or make sounds, but they don’t have a message that’s straightforward like two living people having a conversation.

For a long time, I just figured I was a little crazy, but not so crazy I couldn’t get on with what I had to do to look normal or sane. Then, one day, I helped this lady out on Fraser Landing Road with a kitchen fire. She was old, but in good shape. She saw my name tag and knew my family. She told me she had seen my grandmother the week before walking in town. By that time my grandmother had been dead for twenty or more years. The old lady said, “Oh, but you saw her too, didn’t you? She probably came to town to see how you were doing.” I told her my grandmother was dead so she must have seen someone who looked like her, but she said, “No. She was a ghost. Don’t pretend you haven’t seen them Yosemite Brenlee, everyone in Brenlee sees them sooner or later. People don’t leave Brenlee. Not their souls, anyway.” She told me Brenlee was built on a Miwok burial ground and that was why the souls stayed, it was a place blessed for souls. I don’t know about that and she’s the only one who ever told me any such thing, but I had seen my grandmother that week and lots of people before her and lots of other things too. And these days, everywhere I look in Brenlee I see ghosts, more than ever before, and I think I know why they’re so active. That’s the heart of the matter of this thing. That’s why I’m writing you all, to tell you what the ghosts want me to do.