You needed to have patience to visit him. Jacob moves slowly. He refused to use his cane. I reached out toward him and he handed me a hot cup of coffee.
He lived alone in a house that seemed just right for him, though it did seem lonely. Near the edge of town his one bedroom home was basically a shack. The weeds grew long. The wood grew gray. He drank from a ladle which hung from the side of a trash can filled with clean water. He relieved himself in an out house fifty feet from his front door.
Jacob was old. Eighty three at this point. He still wore the clothes of a man ready to break horses. His hair was kept in a buzz cut since 1945 though it is now completely white.
He spoke in a rasp as he sat down.
“Where’s your dad? He was going to bring me ‘Lonesome Dove.'”
“He said he’s going to come over later. He needed to take mom some things from the store.” I responded and sipped the boiling hot tar.
“I like her. She’s good for your dad.”
With fingers that appeared to be made of wood, he took a small pouch from the table and removed a small white pack from it. He prepared a thin white paper and sprinkled tobacco from the pouch into it.
“Everyone tells me you like to tell stories.”
I moved the cup away from my face.
“I write them. A lot of them are based around here.”
“Being a storyteller is a good thing.” He rolled the cigarette. “Our people have a very strong oral tradition.”
Jacob paused to lick the edge of the paper.
“But people have been telling me that I should talk to you.”
“In our way we wait until the leaves begin to change color to start telling our stories. Some people even say that you have to wait until there is snow on the ground. Then when the snow is gone, you have to stop.” Jacob lit the cigarette.
“And if you’re writing about the wrong things it could be dangerous.”
Jacob took another drag of his cigarette.
“When you write about some spirits, you call them to you. When you talk about them, you call them. And if you’re writing these stories and giving people your books then you call them.”
Jacob used his weathered left hand to reach toward the ashtray and flicked the ash into it.
I had heard all of this before. I even had friends cower when I said our word for “tree women,” witches. It seemed to me like simple superstition.
Where I had grown up was a unique place in the world. There are many superstitions and stories I thought people would want to hear about. I thought I could be the first to bring these stories to many.
“You live in this world with TV and cars and a job. You don’t know that everyday your elders pray for your protection. You’ve never seen the tree women or the little people. You can eat meat at night and your face will not be twisted.”
My people believe in a race of little people who cause mischief but even go so far as stealing children. I had never seen them myself, which is the entire basis for my disbelief. Though I had been told an uncle of mine saw one as a child as it carried an entire deer on its back running up a hill.
They also believe that eating meat outside at night will make spirits angry or jealous and they will twist your face. Not like a photoshop thing, more like Bell’s Palsy.
I thought about what he was telling me. I was grateful, though having never seen evidence of the paranormal I felt it was wasted effort. It seemed unnecessary, as though I were being warned about the sky falling.
“I am proud that you are a storyteller. Our history has been passed down through stories for as long as we have been a people. But these are dark stories and you shouldn’t spread them. Others can’t protect themselves from what the stories will bring.”
I understood. I hated it but I would continue to write them though I had no intentions of uploading them anywhere.
Something went wrong. Maybe I was, and am, protected but my laptop isn’t. The stories are gone, the file disappeared. Someone or, worse, something is uploading them and I can’t stop it.