Mary Beth Writes

Len wrote this story for a nephew who was a youngster at Boy Scout Camp at the time!

It was about eight o'clock when Casey Jones noticed that the Lumberjack Steam Train had dropped him off at the wrong stop.  It was that bad conductor, or maybe it was the other boy with red hair who said, "Hey, isn't this your stop?"  Anyway, there he was, all by himself on the crossing at PileDriver Road, with the old locomotive puffing out of sight.

But, hey, he was a Boy Scout, and scouts are always prepared for anything, aren't they?  So, he shrugged his shoulders and starting walking back toward Camp LeFeber.  He just hoped that there was still going to be some hot dogs left for him when he got back.

He looked around, and it looked pretty much the same as it always did in the Northwoods.  Grass by the side of the road.  Then some bushes.  And beyond those, dark pine trees, far as you could see.  So, Casey kept walking.

Casey knew it was getting late.  He couldn't see the sun any more, but because of the trees all around, he wasn't really sure if it had set or not.  Pretty soon he got to a place where the trees opened up and he could see further.  He thought it might be town, and he could call someone to pick him up.  But it wasn't the town, it was the Laona Cemetery, glowing white against the blue sky.  There was a grey fog blowing slowly between the tombstones.  He could tell that the sun had gone down and there was something flying through the air.  Probably not bats, though.  Casey hated bats.  He hurried on down the road a little faster.

Between the dark and the fog, Casey found it harder and harder to see where he was going.  He reached down for his flashlight, but then he remembered that he'd left it back in his bunk.  "Rats," said Casey, then quickly put his hand over his mouth.  He was already in enough trouble without calling in the furry little monsters.   Just then, something caught his foot.  He looked down before he tripped.  It was just a tree root.  But, wait, wasn't he on a highway?  He looked again at the ground.  It wasn't a road, he was walking through a path in the middle of the pine forest.  And it looked like the path was just about all grown over.

Casey turned around and tried to run back, toward the cemetery.  But BASH, he ran smack into a big old pine tree.  This time Casey got smart, and cried "Suffering Succotash!"  He didn't know what succotash was, but it didn't sound as bad as rats or bats.  He turned again to keep walking in the same direction, but he got tangled in a bramblebush.  He looked around, but he couldn't even find the path he had been on before.  Just the trees, all around him, and the still fog blowing quietly through the needles.  Plus a couple of faint little wing noises in the night air.  

Well, that's how you get lost, said Casey.  

He stopped, looked around, and tried to find anything, anything at all, in the darkness.  He tried yelling, "Hey, is anyone there?"  "Hey, I'm Casey and I'm lost."  And just "Help!"  But the fog in the air sucked out all the other noises, so there wasn't even an echo.

Just then, out of the corner of his eye, Casey saw a little flicker of light.  As soon as he looked that way, it went out.  Then it came back on.  It was moving back and forth, right about at eye level.  Casey yelled out, "Hey, who is it?  I'm over here!"  Then the light was gone, and Casey couldn't hear a thing.

About a minute later, the light went on again, this time so bright it almost blinded him.  He blinked, and when he opened up his eyes again he saw that it was another Boy Scout, a tall guy a little older than him, holding a flashlight.  There was something a little odd about his uniform, and his hair was wet.  "Who are you?" asked Casey.  But the other scout didn't answer, he just swung the flashlight around to get Casey to follow him.

Casey followed along slowly at first, then the other scout started going a little faster.  Still they were in the dark pine forest.  He could hear wild animals howling in the distance, and once he thought he saw something run between him and the other scout.  He tried to get a better look at the other Boy Scout.  His scarf, it was different, but he thought he'd seen it before.  Maybe in one of the old-time pictures from when the camp was new, lots of years ago.  And his flashlight was weird, too.  It was green, and the top was bent sideways.  The light was kind of yellow, not like a LED flashlight.  He could ask about that stuff later.  "Are we going back to Camp LeFeber?" asked Casey, "I'm getting hungry." The other scout hadn't ever said a word.  This was getting really creepy.

Then Casey saw something so strange he almost hiccupped.  Right in front of the other scout was a big wall of solid rock.  The scout swung the flashlight to one side and then to the other, but there wasn't any way around it.  Then the other scout bent down, took a step, AND DISAPPEARED.  In a second, Casey saw the flashlight through a crack in the rocks.  Casey saw that there was a hidden tunnel, and the other scout was waiting for him just inside.

It was hard to believe that anything could be darker than the pine woods, or creepier, but this was definitely it.  They walked on a sandy path right through the rocks.  Then Casey couldn't hear the other scout's steps any more.  He looked for the flashlight.  Nothing.  The scout must've turned it off.  But through the dark of the tunnel, Casey could just make out an opening.  When he walked towards it, he could see a fire and hear some kids talking.  Casey saw that he was at the far side of Hardwood Lake, right across from Camp Leber.  Then the flashlight snapped on again, and Casey could see a path that led down to where there was a little boat tied up to some willow trees.

Casey didn't need to hear any more.  He ran down the path faster than a groundhog with the runs looking for an outhouse.  He jumped in the boat and grabbed the oars.  He looked up to see if the other scout was going to get in with him, but he just saw the flashlight waving goodbye, and then swinging back and forth as the scout walked through the trees.  The light looked like it was going on and off when it went behind tree trunks.  Then he couldn't see it any more.

Casey rowed across the lake and pulled the boat up onto the beach.  There was Jack Marshall, his camp leader, with a hot dog.  He handed it to Casey and said, "Where you been, Scout?"

Casey started to talk about the train, and being lost, then he remember the scout who had led him back to the Camp.  "I followed that guide, you know, the scout that had the flashlight.  Didn't you send him to come and find me?"

"What scout with a flashlight?" asked Mr. Marshall.

"He was tall.  Old, but not too old.  He had an old-time uniform on, like in the picture in the Dining Hall, and he had a flashlight that was bent at the top."

Mr. Marshall got quiet.  "An old time uniform?  Did he say anything?"  Casey nodded his head no.  "Did he look ..." Mr. Marshall got really quiet, "did he look wet?"

"Yeah," said Casey.

"I think I know what happened," said Mr. Marshall.  "It was a long time ago, right after they built the camp.  Most of the boys were in the Dining Hall, but a couple of them were outside fooling around.  I think it was a tall guy who had called them outside to play flashlight tag.  He had this old green flashlight with a bent over top.  I heard them yell about a weird light that filled the sky, and something that maybe shot through the sky and exploded.  All the scouts outside were covered in some kind of powder that glowed bright blue.  I was inside when it happened, but I ran outside to see what was going on."

"Most of them were still down there by the Lake, but one kid came up to me and started to say something.  Before he could finish, he got this strange look on his face and his mouth opened wider than I've ever seen.  His teeth started moving up over his head, and right in front of me HE TURNED INSIDE OUT!"

All the other scouts on the beach came over to where Casey was to hear the rest of the story.  Mr. Marshall went on, "Then, one by one, all of the other scouts did the same thing.  It was awful, they all turned inside out.  Except for the tall one.  The one who got them outside in the first place.  He saw what was happening to them, and before it could happen to him he ran to the end of the dock and jumped right into the Lake.  We threw life preservers and ropes and tried to save him, but there was a freaky current in the Lake and he got pulled into the deep end.  We could see his flashlight under the water.  Then it was gone."

"Now, every couple of years, a scout gets lost in the woods, or swims out too far in the Lake or falls down or something, and I hear about this tall Boy Scout with a flashlight who leads 'em back.  Old uniform, still dripping wet from the Lake."

"Guess you saw a ghost, Casey!"


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U is for Umbrella


Note to readers: I gravitate to writing in first person. This is fiction as much as any writer can say they invented what they know.

A-Z A Fine Romance .....


Len and I are about to take a trip that’s been in the works since January - you know I will post about it when we get back. Meantime, here’s a story I wrote long ago that I still like and think about a lot. I probably should post this at Valentine’s Day but, hey, we’re at the letter Q.


The Wisconsin Writers Association hosts a short story contest each year. This morning I submitted a story I wrote over the past few months. If and/or when it doesn't win (I'm not optimistic but I have hope. Thanks, Carly.) I will get around to posting it here.  

Meantime, this is the story i wrote for the WWA contest last year. It didn't win anything but reading it again just now for the first time in nearly a year, the beginning made me laugh. 

Maybe you will like it, too.  




Harriet Amaryllis


Harriet Amaryllis met John Blake in her twenties when she volunteered for a medical study; she did those kinds of things back then to make extra money. John, who was the intake guy at the clinic, looked at her name, looked up at her and said her name was the most beautiful name he had ever heard in his life.

She was so nonplussed that she stammered that her brothers called her Hairy.

John said, “Would you like me to clobber them out for you? I did a year in Vietnam. I have skills.”

Thunder and Courage

After I write a story, I like to let it sit and steep. This story has been in the 'story cellar' for two years. I woke up this morning thinking about it, so I think it's time to put it here.

I'm surprised by how much courage  some people have when they think they don't have much at all.  This is my take on that thought.

PS: if you like this story, forward it to others you know who might like it. Thanks. 


Thunder and Courage

The Pilgrimage of Wally, Diego, and Miles

I wrote this story nearly 20 years ago. Our second kid was getting ready to go to college, our youngest was in middle school. I needed to find a job - and trying to find a satisfying one when you still don’t know, at the tender age of 50-whatever, what it is you want to do … that is a tricky time for many women. For many adults.

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