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Standing there with a basket of stolen pinecones, I would keep watch as my mother took the kitchen broom and swept away our footprints from the snow. Then we would take our stolen contraband inside and I would get ready for school. By the time that I would get home from school with my little sisters, the pinecones would be strung into wreaths for the doors. All the neighbors would stop by over the holiday season to compliment my mother on her festive decorations. Some would even buy small pieces from her, never knowing that the material came from their own yards, or if they did know, they never said anything.

The neighbors were tolerant and intrigued by my mother. Even when she and my father were standing in the front yard yelling and swearing at each other, they would look the other way and still smile at my mother when they passed her on the street the next day. Not even the time that she hauled all of her husband’s clothes outside and set fire to them did a single neighbor snicker, they all must have assumed that it was a Cherokee ceremony for eradicating evil spirits from the house or something. Little did they know that it was Jack Daniels that possessed my father and not some unknown demon that made her act that way.

This and other stories are featured in Ghost Country: A Novel

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