THE FOREST GREEN: The Curse of Nathaniel Granger    
 The Curse of Nathaniel Granger0 comments
Friday, March 2nd 2007, by Marissa A Spencer

The Curse of Nathaniel Granger
by Marissa A Spencer

There was a small dock that extended out into the stream. I remember dropping my fishing line into the water and watching the trout look at me. I had a feeling they would roll their eyes at me if they could have.

It was obvious that they weren't going to bite. Not then, not ever. The sunshine filtered through the swaying leaves above me and the cool breeze kept the warm afternoon from being too hot. I closed my eyes and just enjoyed the sweet-smelling air.

This was an out-of-the-way secret spot my Aunt Sally and Uncle Jess had taken my mother Georgie and I. We had traveled from California and rarely hiked and fished where we lived. Too many people. Bad chi I guess you could say. The opportunity to fish in a place where the fish were actually spawned there was a rare thing. The point wasn't so much to catch a fish, as to catch the mood; the peace, the end of stress. Eastern Oregon wasn't as wet and suited us just fine in the mid summer.

When the point of fishing was a moot point entirely. We ceased our efforts and decided to go exploring. The area we were in was uninhabited. I should say it was uninhabited now. Perhaps one could say that it was still inhabited, but one wouldn't notice.

We came upon a open place in woods. There were remnants of a cabin. I have no idea how long the cabin had been there, or when it had burned down. We could see the crumbled, burnt chimney and the charred wooden floor that rotted into the grass. I looked up the chimney and toward the front of the cabin. I looked toward a sound and swore I saw a shadow flit past my vision. It must have been a bird. We had our walking sticks and poked around for a bit. I found a button hook in the dirt. I showed it to my Mother. She said they were used to button up the high button shoes women wore. I recall how they looked and we all agreed they looked uncomfortable. I stuck it in my pocket and we muttered and puttered. I wonder who lived in that lost and forgotten cabin. Who died? Did they die in the fire? The thought struck my heart and felt a resonance in that lonely sad spot we all have. I sighed and looked at the sky darkening. I felt a chill go up my spine. Another thing caught my eye before we hiked back to the car. A small wooden clothespin. It was the kind that they often used long ago.

The cabin was hidden in the woods near Strawberry mountain. We drove away and left it there sitting in lonely silence. I looked out the window and my thoughts were solemn. The feel of the place had depressed me. I felt cold deep inside. It was inexplicable. Such a wonderful day it had been. I would be glad to get back to my Aunt's ranch and have some warm dinner. No fish tonight, but I am sure there would be a great meal nonetheless.

My Aunt Sally finally sat down after serving us all. She wouldn't let my mother raise a finger. We sat there with her and my Uncle after the meal and had conversation. Her graying black hair and dark eyes made her a bit intimidating. When she had something to say it was usually important to listen. Great storytellers run in the family, and she was no exception.

Leaning forward she said, “ I hear tell some rumors about that cabin we saw. There is a story.”

Uncle Jess gave us a chuckle and remarked, “ Doan you get all strange on me Sal. I swear your family is the weirdest folk !”

Sally glared at him and turned her back slightly on him and said, “Let's go to the living room and leave smarty pants alone. Lisa, go clean up the dishes while your Mom and I get the tea ready.”

I cleared the dishes and was finished just in time for some herb tea in the living room. Small cookies on an old china plate looked and tasted great. My Aunt sat back and started to tell a story.

“ Long before the turn of the century. Around 1850 a lot of settlers came up here abouts. Men, women, children. Women were special. Not a lot of women in those days were pioneers. Took a bit of convincing to get a woman to leave the comforts of civilization to go traipsing out to the West. They kept coming for many years. The men would hunt, collect furs and sell them. The women would grow gardens and keep house, raise kids, etc. I guess we would look back and think it was an ideal life.

One couple came on the trail around that time. She was a perty thing by all accounts. Young and slender. Dark hair and eyes. Her name was Abigail. Everyone called her Abby. Miss Abby. She arrived with an older man. Most people thought she was his daughter. It was quite a surprise when it was discovered she was his wife. His name was Nathaniel Granger. He had been a sailor and had made his fortune in the Caribbean Islands. The trade store merchant would see them come to get supplies. The husband never let her get out of the cart. No one was allowed to speak to her. She would smile at passer-bys and he would raise his hand as if to strike and she would lower her gaze.

In those days, how you treated your wife was your business. Abuse happened and was accepted. Time went by, and the merchant Mr. Hart noted that she hadn't come into town. There came a time when it was known that she was obviously expecting a child. When she went into labor, her husband finally had to admit it was beyond his experience. He came into town and asked for a midwife to assist his child into the world.

When the two women arrived they found Abby in heavy labor and about to deliver. The women worked with Abby, sponging her forehead and murmuring words of encouragement. Abby held on for many hours, but finally things took a turn for the worse and she and the baby died. The husband yelled at the women to leave. The women left and let everyone in town know what had happened.

Men from town came out to help Nathaniel with the arrangements regarding his wife. Did he want a service, did he want her buried in any place in particular? The town cemetery was small, but had room still. Nathaniel roared at them to leave and never return.

Weeks went by and nothing was heard. The town folk assumed Nathaniel had buried her on the property. The cabin was rather isolated and not seen by anyone from the road. A year went by. No one had seen Nathaniel for that time. The merchant came to the cabin. It looked abandoned and over grown. He knocked on the door. Nathaniel came to the door. He looked pale and thin.

“Whatya want?”, he growled at the merchant.

“I just wanted to see if you needed anything ?” The merchant stood fidgeting at the door. Nathaniel looked suddenly bleak.

Nathaniel stood there and started to shake. Great sobs came from him and he motioned the merchant to come in. He came in and saw something that froze him to his core. In the corner stood a shadow. It had the form of a young woman. She held a shadow baby in her arms.

“My God! Nathaniel what is this about. What is that ?”, Mr Hart could barely keep standing he was so frightened.

“That is my dear Abby and our baby dead and gone. Did you know she was from Bermuda? Yes, she was a slave woman I took away with me. I laid eyes on her and wanted her for my wife. She could pass for white, so I wasn't worried. I went to her master and he asked for a certain amount. I paid it and came here. Before I left though, I was cursed. There was a man who wanted her for himself and had hired a voodoo witch to curse me. I didn't believe in such things. She told me that if I took her away she would die. And if she died, she would never leave my side. Everywhere I go, she is there. Sometimes I hear her crying. I pay someone to come to town for me. I can't go anywhere. I can't go on like this!”

The shadow came toward Mr Hart and he felt a cold breeze touch his cheek. He knew why she never spoke. Her speech would have revealed her ancestry. Nathaniel wasn't the terrible man they all had thought. He was a frightened man. The shadow went to the window and a soft cry could be heard. Mr Hart had never seen anything so terrifying. The thought of having that shadow haunt you for the rest of your life would be unbearable.

“Nathaniel, I will bring supplies to you from now on. You just write what you need and leave it on your door. I will come around once a week. I won't say a word to anyone.” Mr Hart put on his hat and left. Nathaniel was still sitting at the table when he left.

The next week Mr. Hart traveled through the woods to Nathaniel's cabin. He could never be induced to enter the cabin again, but he had given his word. When he arrived he was shocked to see the cabin completely burned to the ground. Nothing nearby was even scorched. It was unbelievable that this fire could have occurred and no one would have seen it from town. It was unbelievable that the forest wasn't affected. There it was. All that was standing was the chimney and part of the wood floor. Mr Hart rushed to the cabin and could see two forms laying on the wood floor. One was obviously Nathaniel, but who was the other one? He walked closer and could see the tattered remains of a dress on the other form. Abby? Up from the form rose a shadow. It stood before Mr Hart and he trembled with terror. She walked to where the window used to be and stood there. He could hear soft crying. He ran away as fast as he could, and no one ever came again.”

My Aunt was done with her story. I know I had goosebumps on my arms. My Mother just sat there with a sly grin. “You just made that up didn't you Sis ?” , said my Mother.

“If you say so Georgie.”, my Aunt sat there and picked up her knitting.

“Aunt Sal? Do you think I should take these back to the cabin tomorrow? ” , I said as I held out the button hook and clothespin.

She patted my hand and said, “Yes, I think that might be wise.”

© March 1, 2007




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