When I was writing for Senior Living sometimes people would make suggestions for feature stories. A friend of mine said there was something in Elmwood I should see. If you’re like me, you visit Elmwood only on an as needed basis.
I asked him if we would be going at midnight. If we were, I was about to have the story of the century, maybe a couple of centuries. A verifiable ghost story.
No, it would be broad daylight. I’m not sure how he found out about this, probably word of mouth. We drove around like he knew where he was going, and finally stopped in one of the older sections. We walked up to a small, 5” square grave marker, that stood a foot tall, maybe an inch or two more. Read what’s on it, he said. The inscription was dim, rain from many inches over time had weathered it to the extent it was almost indiscernible.
Finally I got in the right slant of sunshine and there it was. “I told you I was sick”.
My friend had no explanation, and there was no other additional information saying who it was, or better yet the history of how it came to be there.
Of course as a writer, I turned my imagination loose. Was it a married man, and both he and his wife had a sense of humor, and thought that would be above and beyond the ordinary grave markers, and his grave would be visited over and over? Did he pre-arrange to have the marker put there at his death, to remind his wife she hadn’t taken him seriously?
I could imagine the people responsible for putting the marker on the grave, and as they did, they were laughing as another funeral procession went by, and the deceased in that particular procession wondering if he/she had made a bad choice in cemeteries or at the least a bad location in the cemetery.
But this is only a portion of the story. I finished writing the story, and e-mailed it over to Senior Living, and thought that was the end of it. Not quite.
For any writers of Senior Living they included our e-mail address if we had no objections. Naturally any writer assumes anything he/she has written is the best thing ever written, and they wait for accolades from their adoring readers, Thousands of them. Maybe hundreds, maybe tens.
I got an e-mail from a lady that said, “The picture of the grave marker with your story is just like a grave marker I saw in Key West.”
I had no idea where the editor had gotten the picture. It certainly could not have been the one I saw in Elmwood. The grave marker accompanying my story was readily readable. For all I knew it might be the one from Key West.
I e-mailed her back, and told her I had nothing to do with the picture, and she would need to take that up with the editor.
Within 10 or 15 words, I can generally tell if someone has a sense of humor. She didn’t. If she had, I would have e-mailed her back. “Obviously the grave marker in Key West you have described is much newer than the one in Elmwood. The writer of the grave marker in Key West must have stolen it from the guy in Elmwood who was the original author. This is serious business, because the writer of the grave marker in Key West committed plagiarism. Send me the name of the dead guy in Key West, because I am going to notify my dead guy in Elmwood, he needs to bring a lawsuit against the dead guy in Key West. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Oh, by the way, if it’s not too much trouble, could you find out if the dead guy in Key West had a lot of money, and notify his estate what to expect. Many thanks. I always enjoy hearing from my reader.”