Friday, October 31, 2008




On a rainy day, filled with remorse, Melinda McMillan was laid to rest in a watery grave, the irony escaping no one. Tansy and rosemary leaves were spread all around to ward off danger from the corpse. The Irish Bagpipes played, “The Flowers of the Forest” and Maura Gillian sang a woeful rendition of “Down by the Salley Gardens.” Jack McMillan wept openly.

The railing that Melinda broke through was repaired with good solid timber the day after her burial. However, a shockwave of disbelief ran rampant through the valley, when within twelve hours of the renovation; the boards were broken up and busted through, as if they had not been repaired at all.

The repairs were made again, and for a second time the boards were broken through. When a third restoration was attempted, several men volunteered to stay at the bridge site for twenty-four hours to see if trickery and deception were involved.

The men rarely spoke of their experience, only to say that the bridge itself groaned loudly before the boards broke and exploded into the water below.

James Lilly, a young married man, was one of the volunteers who stayed at the bridge that night. His daughter, Annie, wrote an entry in her diary. “Da comed home from stayin’ on the bridge. Nobody knowed ‘im cause his hair turned pure white.”

People were terrified of the possibility that the bridge was possessed by Melinda’s restless spirit. They stopped using the bridge, opting instead to cross over dangerous wetlands a few miles further downstream.

“Jack, I wisht ye would eat somethin’,” his mother begged. “Yer gitten’ thin,” even though he still weighed 190 pounds and was as strong as a young bull.

“I’m alright, Ma, I don’t want any food right now. I’m goin' to the bridge. I want to try to repair it. Maybe the folks will start to use it again. Why should they be without a bridge?” He said, as he stood to leave. His mother’s worried look followed him.

Jackson rode his gelding through the early evening mist, as crows as dark as ink called overhead. He didn’t hear them, as his thoughts were only of Melinda and her porcelain skin and her mouth as soft and sweet as sugared cream. He tied his horse on a tree branch and walked onto the bridge. There was an absence of sound.

“My sweet darling’ where are ye now?” he whispered, as he gazed down into the creek. “I miss ye and I will forever.” He laid his head on his folded arms that rested on the bridge railing, directly across the span from the un-mended opening.

“Jack, I am here.” Had he heard Melinda’s whispered voice or was he mad.
Jack raised his head slowly and listened. He looked down into the creek and saw the faintest apparition of her, smiling up at him. She was in her wedding gown, holding the bouquet of oxeye daisies, standing on a flat rock in the middle of the creek.

“Melinda, my love. Is that you girl, or a phantom most fine?”
She beckoned to him with up stretched arms.
“Melinda, I cannot come to ye. You are in a place that I cannot go. Not now.”
Jack watched in terror as she rose into the air, stopping in front of him.
“But you have to come Jack. That was the wish I made the day we were last here.”
“No, Melinda – you didn’t make a wish. You fell before ye….”
“It was my dyin’ wish, Jack. Dyin’ wishes always come true,” she said, sweetly.
“No, Melinda…Melinda,” his breath came ragged now.
“But, Jack…My dying wish was that you and I would be together for eternity.”

Jack backed up, as she floated toward him, closer and closer. He was so frightened that he didn’t realize she was steering him right to the spot where she had fallen through, that un-repairable opening. As he started to fall backwards, she caught his hands in hers and pulled him into her, kissing his lips ever so softly, as together, they fell silently into Clay Creek, their spirits forever joined.

Everyone was saddened by the news that Jack had gone mad and "jumped" to his death. People from far and wide were fascinated by the romantic tale of Jack and Melinda McMillan. It was said that he could no longer draw breath in a world that was absent his raven-haired beauty. Ballads were sung and poems penned about the tragic events of the young married lovers. And… to honor Jack in his passionate, although dreadful act - the bridge, which had been known simply as the bridge over Clay Creek, was officially named “Lover’s Leap Bridge.”


Sarah Hina said...

What a conclusion! Maybe Melinda wasn't quite as sweet as I thought...

The spontaneous, and repetitive, breaking of the bridge rail was a great touch. And so was Melinda's dying wish. Is it awful that I still found their plunge romantic? ;)

I really enjoy your writing style, K. It feels very natural and effortless to me. I hope we see more stories from you in the future, in addition to your beautiful poems!

K.Lawson Gilbert said... is funny that you say that - about Melinda not being so sweet after all. I had written a completely different second part that showed her ghost more in keeping with what one would have thought her ghost would be like. It didn't even involve Jack! Then, I thought, I can't go with such banality, not on Halloween! I had to reveal a little malevolence.

Thanks for your encouragement.
And, no, it isn't awful that you found it romantic. I really saw it that way too. Melinda wanted Jack with her. I am sure that given more time - (without a ghost in his face- literally)he would have jumped to be with her eventually ;)

trooping with crows said...

You are a great storyteller as well as an excellent poet.

Oh, the part with the volunteer's hair turning white after working on the bridge...I had the kind of chills that actually hurt!

What a treat for Halloween! This story had it all; love, death, fear, sadness, suspense...etc. Wonderful work!

Anonymous said...

I like the touch of the bridge railing breaking and breaking on its own.

Thanks for the Halloween story, Kaye!

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Trooping with Crows - I don't have a lot of confidence as a story teller. I think I can write fairly well...but never feel I have "stories" in me. Poetry is different - I can tell a story packed into a few lines. I don't know it is weird.

I always appreciate your support of my work. Thanks for the enthusiastic comments - they are encouraging. :)

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Jason, thanks, as always. I don't feel that short stories are my forte, but I keep trying.

Vesper said...

Wow! Quite the story! I enjoyed it very much, K., and I think you made the right choices.
It is a chilling story, sad at the same time, like all ghost stories...
The selfishness and malice of Melinda's spirit are a bit surprising, yet provide the perfect ending for this story.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Vesper - Thanks a bunch! I haven't written many ghost stories. I must say this was a challenge.

I didn't want it to end up like everyone thought...that Jack would jump because he was so distraught. I wanted to give it a little twist, and hopefully make it a bit surprising. Thanks for joining in. K.

Aine said...

I love the visuals that this story planted in my head. It is a lovely Halloween tale! I can hear people sitting around a campfire sharing the legend of Lover's Leap Bridge.

I had the same thoughts about Melinda's actions. It does seem romantic, but her actions are too selfish to be born of true love.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Aine, I'm glad you liked the story. I cannot believe that Halloween and now come and gone!

I appreciate your kind remarks. :)

Hans Ford said...

never knowing what to say about your poetry, I am at a total loss with such a tale. your passion for the written word is so evident in all you do,it seems so effortless. without a doubt may favorite spot to visit

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Hans, You always say the perfect thing.

I wish writing were effortless...I could do more!

I hope you will always be at "home" here at OMM! ;)

joaquin carvel said...

as a ghost story, this is wonderfully crafted - a slow burn to an explosive end, stoked with the unexplained and the implied.

as a period piece, it is equally strong - a balance of language and imagery that transports the reader completely, but manages to stay out of the way of the narrative, never feeling overwrought.

in short, i was captured, drawn, and quartered. really, really nice work.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Joaquin Carvel - Those are high compliments indeed. Thank you very much.

I do believe period pieces are a challenge - for the very reasons that you referenced. Sometimes, we are so intent on getting the *era* across, that we get careless about content.

I haven't written too many ghost stories, so I was thrilled with your critique! Thanks again.

I hope you will find time to visit Old Mossy Moon regularly. ;)

Juie said...

Hey, K! What a fascinating story! I'm coming to it late, but I'm actually glad I don't have to wait. This reminds me of the old ghost stories my grandfather used to tell. He was a master storyteller, as are you!

I was literally holding my breath. You weaved together all the details perfectly. I love the part about the bridge rail, too. You do a fabulous job with narrative and dialect, which is not easy to do. Two thumbs way up!

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Julie - Thank you a big bunch for that great review. I don't feel that short (flash) fiction is my forte, but I do like to try my hand at it now and then. I have one I am working on that might be ready for posting in a few weeks.
Glad you threw it in reverse & stopped by. Always good to see you here!