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A Ghost Story

This is a true story.

I only did a short run last night. The day had been hot, and I had already run almost every day this week. Also, I was on call for work. Technically I'm not supposed to be more than 15 minutes from being able to get online in response to some technical issue with Nordstrom's credit card application system. Normally, this isn't a big deal. In the absence of some new software being pushed out, we don't get many issues, and the ones that do occur are usually resolved quickly by rebooting a server. However, we are in the midst of our biggest days of the year in terms of credit applications, as these are the days leading up to our yearly "Anniversary Sale", and we had already had issues over the past couple days because of the significant increase in traffic. So a short run made sense all around.

It was twilight when I started my audio book going in my headphones, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Murakami, stepped off the porch and started the timer on my phone. To be very technical about it, it was more like civil twilight when I went out. The sun had gone down below the mountains way off to the west, and even then would probably be below the horizon had the mountains not been there. There was no sun, but still some residual light and the air was still pretty warm. I went a mile and then a little more before turning around at the park by the local elementary school. This stretched out my short run a bit beyond the two miles I had done recently. I was running in my Vibram Five Finger shoes, minimal "barefoot" shoes. You can't just suddenly do long distances in them - your calves will be screaming the next day. You need to gradually build up the distance in them. I have only recently really started rebuilding the foundation of my running as a whole lately.

Just after the voice in my headphones told me I had gone a mile and a half I swore I heard a dog. I'm always a little wary about dogs when running in our neighborhood. People work out in their garages, even at night, and for some reason their dog will just sit and watch when a stranger comes running by in the dark. I've had to deal with dogs coming out and aggressively defending their territory on runs. It's never been a problem for me, though. I just stop and wheel around on them and shout, "Go home!" Every dog I've dealt with like this has been incredibly surprised. Every dog but one, a cute, skinny pit bull pup that just wanted to run along with me. Your results wheeling around on aggressive dogs may vary, but it works for me. 

Anyway, dogs aren't unusual, but I must have just been hearing things because there was no dog there. Dogs that aren't there aren't unusual for me either. It sounds weird, but on a number of times I've felt that I was being followed by a dog, just somewhere behind me. Just an eerie feeling. One time I had the feeling though, and there was a coyote loping along with me, maybe 30 yards off into the undeveloped field. No dogs and no coyotes were with me tonight, not even the eerie feeling I was being followed, just the thought I heard something, a thought that came and left.

Like I said, the air was still warm when I left. It was now "nautical" or maybe even "astronomical" twilight when I turned the corner back onto our street. Nightfall. Still enough light to see the bats circling above feasting on mosquitoes, but you could also see the first stars, Venus anyway. It was still a warm night but upon stopping I realized I was drenched in sweat, the night air feeling good on my back and forehead but still warm enough that I didn't have a chill.

I gave myself a few moments to sit on our porch swing and cool off. Then I went into the house, poured myself a glass of ice water, and took another few minutes to let myself cool off before heading to the shower.

As I stepped out of the shower I heard a drawer open in the kitchen, or shut I guess, because I only heard the sound once. No one was home though, were they? I listened closely now and heard a light switch click off and someone walk, I presumed, from the kitchen to the family room. Just as the footsteps stopped, our dog Bear launched a series of barks. Actually, it sounded like they walked the other way, from the family room to the kitchen. That didn't jibe though with the sequence of the light switch and then the walking.There is a regular light switch in the kitchen, but in the family room is a lamp with a switch on the neck as well as a dimmer switch on the wall for the overhead light. Neither sounds like what I distinctly heard as a light switch being flipped. I must have just heard the footsteps wrong.  Jen must have come home early while I was in the shower, had made herself something to eat and had now settled into the couch.  I waited for the television to come on, but it didn't. She's sitting on the couch with her nose in her iPad checking Facebook until I come out. I was going to go to bed, but maybe she'll convince me to stay up and watch the Game of Thrones season premiere. 

I almost called out "Hi!" but just figured I'd walk out and say, "I'm glad you are home." And then when she said, "You are?", I'd say, "Yeah because it would have been very strange if I heard someone walking around and came out of the bathroom and it wasn't you."

I toweled off pretty well, slid on the athletic shorts I've been using to sleep in and walked out of the bathroom. The lights in the house were still off. Jen usually turns on a bunch of lights when she gets home. I had heard her flip the kitchen light back off, so maybe she's happy just to sit in the almost dark. There was no glow from an iPad when I poked my head around the corner to look in the family room. I was a bit perplexed as I walked to the front room to check out the front window for her car in the driveway. Wasn't there. Had she come in and left again, maybe to run to the store? Maybe she was getting popcorn for the GoT premiere. No, I would have heard the door for sure.

At this point, I have to admit I half-hoped she was playing some relatively elaborate prank on me and was going to jump out of a dark corner to scare me. I played back the last few minutes in my mind. I had heard the drawer. Our drawers are old. There is this distinct sound they make. Even if I had misheard that, I had definitely stopped to listen and heard the light switch and the footsteps. I had heard those right? Maybe it was the dog? No, I had heard the light switch, and then the clearly human footsteps, because it was only after those that I heard the dog bark and then clearly a different sound of the dog pattering across the floor.

I texted her, just in case there was some small chance this was still some ruse. "Remind me to tell you about my ghost story," I texted. "Oooh yes! Can't wait!" Jen responded. She was still at work. She wouldn't be home for several hours yet. 

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