In the Gorham Cemetery

A story taking place in Gorham New Hampshire, near Mt. Washington, proud home of "the worst weather in the world." See the travelblog, Big Trip Up North.

Walking back down US 16 at 5:30 AM from McDonald's to the Gorham Motor Lodge. Not a serious walk; I was wearing my Crocs.

I stopped by the cemetery for a closer look at one of those vaults where they used to put people in the winter when the ground was too hard to dig graves. Like other vaults we saw throughout New England this one had a heavy metal door and was covered in earth and grass (Whitman's "grave hair"). The structure resembled a bunker that seemed designed not only to protect the inside, but the outside , as if the dead might spontaneously explode. (I can imagine them going off in late winter or early spring with a muffled "Whump!" and locals proclaiming, "Eh ah, waited too long on old Fester.")

Sipping coffee from my insulated McDonald's cup I wandered past the vault toward the back of the cemetery. The main drag was no longer visible and I was not surprised to hear a voice say, "Hello."

It was a man sitting on the edge of a large rock outcropping. He seemed to be wearing leather clothes. I took him to be one of the French Canadian motorcyclists who frequent this area. Beside him sat a huge dog - something like a Sheppard. The dog stared at me with yellow eyes. I could see no leash or collar.

I said, "Hello, how are you?"

The man said, "Just fine. Out for a morning stroll?"

His accent was not French Canadian - but something from further down the Appalachians. "Yeah. I was walking by, thought I would look around. Interesting place." I glanced at the dog. "You and your friend also out for a stroll?"

The man stood. It was odd. He didn't lean forward, use his hands to push up from knees. He just straightened up. He was big. At least six feet six inches tall. His hair was long and white. His motorcycle garb, if that is what it was, was brown and appeared to be hand-stitched. The dog also rose. The dog was not a dog but a wolf.

"You could say that."

"Your friend is a wolf I think."

The animal loped over to me. I held out my hand. He touched it with the tip of his nose, wagged his tail and stepped back.

"Yep, Sam is pure timber wolf. He likes you. I'd take that as a good sign."

"I do."

I had seen several motorcycles with side cars and persisted in the idea that this man and his friend were bikers. Gesturing toward the road, I said, "You and Sam ride in, stay at one of the motels in Gorham?"

The man gestured with a turn of his chin to the mountains behind us. "No, Sam and I are from up there - south of here. Sam likes cheeseburgers so we come into town every now and then. That crazy guy at McDonald's - you probably met him - brings them out back. " The man laughed. The wolf seemed to smile. "He thinks we are spirits."

"I saw that man. He was mopping the lobby. Are you? Spirits?"

"John - that's his name - has consumed too much weed. Messed up his mind. He thinks there are spirits up and down the Appalachians, on the ridges, in the woods. A 2000 mile wilderness filled with ghosts." The man laughed again. The wolf still smiled. "He sees yellow eyes whenever he drives through. He thinks we hide in the undergrowth, watch people go by."

"No wonder John is crazy."

"No wonder."

"Anyway, it would be boring - just watching."

"You can see a lot watching. And of course there would be other things to do."

"Of course."

The man turned and headed toward the shadows behind the last graves. He said over his shoulder, "Well, Tom, we have to go."

"How did you know my name?"

"A lucky guess. You look like a Tom. Come see us sometime."

He and the wolf disappeared into the woods. I walked back to the front. Bob rumbled by in the BMW. I walked to McDonald's for another cup of coffee and an orange juice.

John was putting out napkins.

I said, "Hello John."

He looked at me with crazy eyes.

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