Advent Ghosts 2021: “Presence”

The Paw Paw Tunnel is a 3,118-foot-long canal tunnel on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in Allegany County, Maryland. Located near Paw Paw, West Virginia, it was built to bypass the Paw Paw Bends, a six-mile stretch of the Potomac River containing five horseshoe-shaped bends. 

Winding my way. The commonwealth for an hour, but now it’s the oldest county in the state no one seems to believe is real. I can feel the old. It looks into my windows. Trying both to outrun it and let it ride with me.

The turns. Always the turns, then blindness, then an opening. Pressing fuel but now another turn. 

Four hills, and narrow. Speed lost, though I look for it. A crumbling stone bridge suggests in silence I can’t cross.

I cross and the stones disappear behind me.

It will be soon. And all out of my hands.

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Advent Ghosts 100 Word Storytelling is put on by Loren Eaton at I Saw Lightning Fall. You can read this year’s entries there. Visit back here throughout the day for a growing crop of spooky stories from a range of writers! Loren posts them all day as we approach the darkest day of the year.

This is an exactly 100-word flash fiction piece for a tradition of writing ghost stories on Christmas Eve. We acknowledge a sinful and hopeless world, and welcome the dawn in full awareness that Christmas day brings us light.

Search tag “Advent Ghosts” to read all of my 100-word stories for this project over the years.

Polish Resistance, Regardless

Like so many people with long roots in West Virginia, I have the lovemaking, hard stepping, fight starting, large drinking, genetic and cultural legacy of Ireland and Scotland in me.

It doesn’t matter much that we never owned that or planned events around it when I was young; I know now that ignoring the woven threads of how you were put together does little to nothing to change the cloth.

I suppose the Scotch-Irish piece is, however complex, the “fun” part. It’s Braveheart and bagpipes and line dancing and shamrocks and large families.

The Polish piece, the Eastern European thread, that’s the ever-surprising outlier in my garment.

My friends are asking one another about their “plan for self-care” during this election season and the inevitable point where as a nation we all try to move on, regardless of the outcome.

Regardless of the outcome.

I’ve realized I’ve talked about my Polish side as Stoicism, but that’s not what it is. Stoicism is “indifference to the vicissitudes of fortune and to pleasure and pain.”

That’s not really what’s going on with my Polish side.

It’s not indifference. It’s the technique for managing pain.

So what is my plan? It’s too late to become truly Stoic. My plan is to lean into being truly Polish.

And at first I thought that meant storing potatoes and ignoring my feelings. But then I remembered……

“Whenever Poland fell to foreign powers, Poles would rebel over and over again. Admittedly, most of our uprisings turned out to be crushing defeats, but that didn’t break our spirit ‒ we would simply prepare for the next rebellion. In the end, here we are, free and prosperous.”

That’s my plan.

Prepare for the next rebellion.