The Best of Billy Coffey: A specter of love

It’s week seven of The Best of Billy Coffey! If you’re new here, in Week 1, I shared a snippet of Billy’s second novel Paper Angels along with a few ways you can enter to win a copy of Paper Angels. As promised, I’m still choosing a winner each week. You may enter as often as you like, and there are several ways to enter:

  • Leave a comment here or on subsequent “Best of Billy Coffey” posts each Monday indicating you would like to be entered into the drawing.
  • Tweet or post to Facebook a link to this post and/or subsequent posts. (Please be sure to let me know you’re doing so by adding @katdish to the end of your tweet or sharing the Facebook link with me.)
  • Tweet or post to Facebook a link to the Paper Angels Amazon page letting people know it is available for pre-order.
  • Ditto Barnes & Noble
  • Ditto Books-a-Million
  • Ditto Indie-Bound

Each of the aforementioned actions will constitute one entry into the drawing. If you don’t win this week, each of your entries will go back into the drawing. Winners will be chosen at random and will be announced the following Monday. Enter early, enter often, and check back here each week for new opportunities to win.

Thanks in advance for helping get the word out about Paper Angels. If you’re not big into contests, I still encourage you to head over to Amazon or another online retailer and pre-order a copy. I know once you read it you will recommend it to a friends and family, and word of mouth advertising is the very best kind.

The winner of Week Six is Amy Nabors. Congrats, Amy! I’ll post next week’s winner next Monday.

Now on to another one of my favorite posts from Billy. And since it’s Halloween, of course I’m going to share a ghost story with you:

A Specter of Love

photo courtesty of

photo courtesty of

The thing about Virginia is that it’s old. There is history here, more than in most places, and that history isn’t confined to places like Williamsburg and Jamestown. It spreads westward too, over the piedmont and the mountains, right to my proverbial backyard.

Some say that our history is still alive in one way or another. I guess the story Jeff Jackson told me a few weeks ago could be classified as “another.”

Jeff and his father, Larry, are hunters. Big time hunters. The sort of Virginia boys who elevate it from sport to near religion.

Always looking for an edge as to where the best game is, Larry heard through the redneck grapevine there was a section of the mountains full of the biggest bucks anyone had ever seen. There was, however, one small problem—those woods were haunted.

Superstitions run deep in the mountains here. Larry and Jeff knew that. They also knew many of those superstitions were tales spun by moonshiners to keep prying eyes away from their stills. Besides, both of them had been in those woods before, and both had never seen anything other than squirrels, snakes, and the decaying foundation of an ancient cabin.

So they went. Hiked in one Saturday morning just before sunup. Jeff left his father under a stout oak on top of a ridge and then made his way another mile down the mountain. Walkie-talkies would keep them in contact, the woods would keep them at peace, and the prospect of a trophy buck would keep them watchful.

Larry sipped coffee while the mountain threw off its dark blanket and began the morning. The rising sun brought the woods to life slow and easy. Birds sang and critters scurried for breakfast. The cool wind was enough to keep him alert but not cold.

And then it all stopped. Everything. The birds, the critters, the wind. Life one moment, not-life the next.

Larry exchanged his thermos for his rifle, thinking that maybe the sudden stop in activity meant a bear or mountain lion was making its way through the area. But he heard and saw nothing.

Then from the corner of his eye Larry saw movement through the trees. He peeked from behind the oak and fingered the trigger.

Then he went numb.

There, no more than twenty yards away, was a woman. Not a big deal, usually. Plenty of women hiked the mountains. But two things set this particular woman apart from the rest. One was that she was wearing a wedding dress. The other was that there was empty space from her waist down.

Larry couldn’t move. Couldn’t talk, couldn’t shoot, couldn’t breathe. All he could do was stare as the legless bride floated past him and disappeared into the woods.

The silence remained behind like a whoosh of air after a car has passed. Then a cardinal sang from far away, a signal that all was safe. Other birds joined in. Critters went back to scurrying. The breeze returned.

And Larry discovered he could talk again.

“GIT UP HERE BOY NOW!!” he screamed into the radio.

Jeff, one mile down the ridge, had been oblivious to everything that had happened. All he knew was that his father was screaming for help, which to him meant Larry had either been shot or was in the process of being eaten.

“What’s wrong?!” he said through the radio. “DAD? WHAT’S WRO—”

“—Git. HERE. NOW!!”

Jeff ran.

He found Larry still peering from behind that oak tree. All his father would say was, “We gotta get the heck outta here, boy.”

A year has passed. Larry’s spent the majority of that time obsessed with what he saw. He’s researched and read, spoken with writers and professors. All to find some sense of what happened. He thinks he has.

According to Larry, the decaying foundation he and Jeff found was once the home of the Walker family in the late 1700s. Father, mother, son, and a daughter named Abigail, who just so happened to be hopelessly in love and engaged. But war came to the colonies. Abigail’s love joined Washington’s army. He never returned.

Larry’s convinced it was Abigail he saw that day, destined to forever roam the mountains in search of the man she lost and to be dressed for a wedding she’ll never have. There are some who snicker when he says that. And there are more than some who think that rather than stumbling upon a ghost, Larry stumbled upon a still and got sauced.

Me, I’m not so sure. I think Larry just might be telling the truth. Because there is ecstasy in finding true love, and there is torment in losing it.

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7 Responses to “The Best of Billy Coffey: A specter of love”

  1. Louise October 31, 2011 at 7:30 am #

    And a perfect Halloween tale!

    PS I believe Larry.

  2. Amy Nabors October 31, 2011 at 7:56 am #

    Yay!! Thank you Kathy!!

  3. Helen October 31, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

    Very spooky Halloween story.

  4. kelybreez October 31, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

    So is this where I enter to win a free Billy Coffee? Do I have to go into the store at Starbucks to claim my prize, or can I just go thru the drive-thru?

    I’m new at this grand prize business. I once won a major award though, but it was French. Frag-i-le.

  5. Joseph Baran October 31, 2011 at 9:54 pm #

    Once when I was a kid my father told me and my brother a story of what happened to him one night on the way home.

    It was long time ago when he was single. It was late at night, so late in fact that it was early morning. My father and his friend walked home from a party. They missed the last bus a couple of hours ago. The streets were desolate and only the moon reflected in the puddles after the rain passed through.

    When they got to one street, they stopped. Froze. Out of darkness in the distance, a large dog, or so they thought, appeared suddenly. It was walking towards them and as it drew closer, it crossed the road to the side of the street that they were on. With their feet numb and glued to the sidewalk, they watched it silently not knowing what to expect. The dog began to follow a long fence that stretched passed them with its other end vanishing somewhere in the night. The dog walked slowly, brushing against the fence, keeping its head low in a less than friendly gesture.

    As it drew near, my father and his friend could see more clearly in the brightness of the street light that it was no dog. The creature had four legs and a body similar to that of a dog. With a long tail. But its head was one that resembled a human head. Standing themselves only a little distance from the fence, they were on the verge of freaking out, knowing that whatever it was, it wasn’t going to turn around or cross the street again. Holding their breaths, they watch the creature walk by. It passed by them, not doing anything, not even looking at them. Only brushing against the fence. It disappeared out of sight some distance away. My father thought it crawled through a hole in the fence or crawled under it. They didn’t say anything and went on their way.

    The next day, or rather the same day a little later in the morning when the sun was up, my father and his friend went back to examine the fence. They found no hole. No broken pickets or anything. The fence was perfect. Nothing burrowed under it either. They walked the long fence end to end. Twice. Nothing.

    In days to come my father and his friend learned, after talking to some old folks who lived by, that the creature was a surveyor who lived there long time ago. They were told the man wrong many people in his surveying practice by taking bribes to divide the land unjustly. It was said that walking along the fences and walls, was his way to remeasure the wrong he did years ago.

    Being a kid, I bought the story at a face value, although my brother was skeptical. He’s two years older. But now that I’m all grown up, I say that it was the party. The drinking and smoking, and dancing. And more drinking that made my father and his friend think they saw something. And the old folk?, you ask. Well, people, not just old people, like to spread rumors. It’s what makes the gossips fly around that give them attention and put them in the spotlight – even if it’s only a dim light.

    And in regards to Larry, well, it is the moonshine country, I think the coffee in his thermos was really hot – his own special mountain arabica blend.

  6. Joseph Baran October 31, 2011 at 10:29 pm #

    I forgot. Please enter my name in the drawing. Thank you.

  7. Karolyne S November 2, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

    My preordered copy of Paper Angels came in the mail today! Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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