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.