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I’m sure you’re all dying to know how I start my day.

We have one of those light alarms that gradually gets brighter as it approaches its set time, so…I usually wake up before it’s fully on and I lay there trying to remember dream fragments, or what I need to do that day, until the sound kicks on, which is set to waves crashing on the beach. Then, we both lie there until the sound becomes annoying, and I finally roll out of bed. Usually around 7:30 or so.

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Then I take a shower, or not. I scritch Ingrid Cookieface Jefferson until she’s been mostly satisfied. Special note on Cookieface: At night, she sleeps in her little cozy cat bed on the floor next to my side of the bed. Almost every night, she wakes up meowing, and she doesn’t stop meowing until I’ve gotten up and pet her. She does this 1-3 times per night, 5-6 times a week. I don’t know if she’s having monstrous Cookieland nightmares from her time in prison, or what. But, I do it, because her meows are pathetic and they wake me up anyway. I’ve gotten used to it.

By now, hubs is downstairs well into feeding Gudie Gumbands and Aud the Deepminded, which, if the cans comes from the fridge, requires a little warming on the stove. During this waiting period, they are positive we’re just standing there ignoring their pleas. They can’t have dry kibble just sitting around, because Aud is a fatty-fatty fat cat and is on a diet. So, by this time, they’re hungry and screeching together in unison, which sounds demonic.

So, I come down and start making my coffee, which is instant, much to everyone’s dismay. My first coffee was instant. I’ve tried coffee makers and fresh, good coffee, but it always reminds me of the Starbucks coffee we made at a theater I worked at in the 90s, which, even freshly brewed, tasted like burnt ass. So, instant coffee (don’t worry, it’s the fancy, good kind). Since I stopped taking it with cream and sugar, I, for some reason, need to have it cold, even in winter, so I dump ice in it. It’s instant, so it doesn’t water it down.

Then, I retreat to my study with my cold coffee and my phone (which we put on chargers in the kitchen overnight, because I hate having the phone around as we go to bed), while hubs heads back upstairs to meditate.

In the study, I post whatever story installment is going up on Wattpad that day, send a bit or two out on social media to announce the installment is up, and then I answer emails, comments, DMs, whatever. I do some promo stuff. Then, I break open whatever book I’m reading, and read and drink my cold instant coffee until about 9:30 or so.

At this point, I reopen the ol’ laptop and look at the news.

Now, fully disgusted, it’s 10 o’clock and time to feed The Creature, Cookieface, and the Brothers Littleman. They all always have grazing kibble, so the need to feed isn’t as dire as with the first floor demons. Then, I eat breakfast.

And that’s it. That’s my morning, most mornings. Now you know.

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When I was 11 or 12, I was home alone one Sunday afternoon. I don’t remember where the rest of my family was, but it was one of those weird afternoons — a hot summer day, but it had just rained, so off to one side were these dark brooding clouds, having just barely passed, and to the other, the sun. The leaves on the trees around the house still dripped.

There was knock on the front door, which was weird, because we never used the front door. The side door was closer to the driveway, so that was the main entrance/exit. I looked through the door and there was this man standing there. An old guy. I opened up.

He was an albino African American in a fedora-type hat and a long dark rain coat. He asked is “Danny” was around — my father — so, I knew he was family, somehow, some way. A strange, vaguely unpleasant smell came from him. The whole thing was strange.

I said, no, my dad wasn’t home, and he just smiled and told me to tell him Ludlow had stopped by to say hello, and then he left.

When my parents came home, I explained the strange visitation, and my dad laughed and gave me a look. He asked me, “So, how’d you like ol’ Ludlow?”

Ol’ weird, smelly, albino Ludlow. I said he seemed nice enough. But, overall, the experience was a little unnerving. The smell, my dad surmised, might have been embalming fluid, as Ludlow was a mortician.

I think he was a cousin of some sort, but I never saw, nor heard about, Ludlow again.

I’ve been working on a book for the last 12 years. I recently just finished the first draft, finally. The protagonist is an albino black mortician named Ludlow. It’s set in my home town. It’s a ghost story. It’s set in 1992, but involves the 1905 explosion of the Rand Powder Mill that occurred nearby, the dead of which the above monument memorializes. It’s located in the Fairchance Cemetery — I took this picture recently, as I needed the inscription.

Maple Grove Cemetery runs right up against Fairchance Cemetery — there is no partition, so if you don’t know, you couldn’t tell there are two, and not one. The above monument is about fifty yards from the veterans section of maple Grove, where my father is now buried.

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When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time in these cemeteries, and St. Joseph’s next door, this one separated from the others by a cow path between the farm fields surrounding them all. There is a funeral scene in my book, which, in my head, takes place at our old family plot, (the Clares and the Allens) on the other side of Maple Grove, which my father used to take care of when he was alive. At one point, he’d had a mini-stroke while cutting the grass and fell over into a grave indentation, which he’d joke about later. My dad isn’t in that plot, and in, in fact, the only Davison buried here (in the veterans’ section), the rest all interred at Sylvan Heights in Uniontown. I have no idea why he chose this.

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The Allens and Clares lived in the house we lived in, in which my father was born. There was another house on the property, also occupied, I believe, by the Clares, on the corner by the street, where you can still see the cement walkway that went around it, the foundation long since filled in by my father. The old pipe for the well pump is still there as well. I remember seeing pictures of fit — a typical middle class, 19th-century home.

Once, when I was 10 or so, I thought I saw a man standing by the side of our house, looking up at the second floor, hands on hips. I had just come around the corner and saw him for only an instant, when he turned and ran toward the older house foundation, faster than I could register. But my memory of the figure was that he had no face, and nothing from the knees down. When I told my parents about it, it was concluded it had been 18-year-old James Byrd Allen, who’d died of typhoid, his grave pictured above.

These things aren’t really connected, but in my mind they are. So, yes, it’s a ghost story. And it needs a lot of work, still, even after 12 years.

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