Originally Published July 18th 2011 8:51 AM
Photo Source: Jessica Beebe
“Seen the town report yet?” Chester Lamphere asked the assembled Round Table. “You ain’t gonna believe some’a what’s in here!”
The daylight had long since left the skies as Chester Lamphere, Roland Baxter, Fred Deschaine, Ike White and Willard McGee huddled around the pot-belly stove in Lamphere’s Market at 5:30 PM on the Monday before Thanksgiving. A blast of early winter had exploded all across Penobscot Bay, leaving the world buried in snow, ice and bitter cold. The Round Table, who all had some stake in town business, were warmed by the stove, freshly percolated coffee and ire at the goings on at the Town Hall.
Chester, in addition to running the market, served as a selectman, so he was quite interested in the expenditures listed in the report. He passed around his pack of Chesterfields – his own brand, as the joke went – then got down to the business at hand.
“Now look at this! They only budgeted $700 for snow removal for the year!” Chester said, reading off the report with his spectacles on his lower nose. “Way it’s been snowing these past three weeks we’ll run through that ‘afore the new year even starts! But they budgeted $6,000 for the two schools! Them kids need their learning, to be sure, but they ain’t learning how ‘ta clear them goddamn roads in no school!”
The Round Table, suitably warmed up and outraged, roared their disapproval. Ike, ever the troublemaker, yelled out “Maybe we oughta shave a hunnered off of your salary, even things up a bit!” pulled out a pint of Calvert, took a good swig and passed it around while the rest howled with laughter.
Chester knew that with the whiskey flowing his control over the meeting would soon be gone, and he was secretly relieved, since all he and the rest really wanted to talk about was hunting. He rapped on the counter like a podium, and yelled “Order! Order! The last remarks shall be stricken from the record!” to much chuckling.
The pint had made several passes around the store by now, and the ire at municipal malfeasance, real or perceived, was melting away. Chester gazed at the massive buck head mounted on the wall, his prize kill from last season in Jackman. 14 points, she was, and bagged out at about 400. What a day! After a few good pulls, he turned to Willard and asked the eternal Maine autumn question: “Did you get yours yet?”
Willard was relieved to have the subject changed from business. “Naw, nawthin’ yet, and the season’s almost over! Saw one, over cross the ridge on Dysart’s property, must’ve been a 12 point, but it ran off ‘afore I could sight it.”
Chester turned to Ike and asked the same. “Naw. Ain’t even seen tracks this year. I guess them deer is on to us! Maybe they think you’re gonna vote to cut their salary!”
Again, the Round Table cracked up. It went around like that, all describing their woes in deer slaying while enjoying their success in drinking whiskey. Suddenly Fred, who was already working on his own pint before the meeting, remembered something.
“Y’know, I just plumb forgot ‘till just now, but I was talkin’ to Red down to the feed store, an’ he said Hod Hebert saw somethin’ in the woods over toward the old Carleton place,” Fred told the crowd, all of whom suddenly became very attentive. “Said it was some gawd-awful thing, couldn’t even tell what it was. Wasn’t a man, wasn’t a deer or moose, wasn’t anything he could even say what it was. Like maybe one’a them Sasquatches. It was lying just off the trail, all froze over, almost at the Carleton property line.”
An air of tension filled the store, like the door had just opened and all the air just sucked out into the cold night.
“Whatever it was,” Fred continued, “it must’a scared the bejesus outta Hod, ‘cause Red said he was some white and his voice was shaking a little. An’ you all know Hod: he’s wicked rugged! Ain’t afraid of nothin’!”
Now the Round Table was rattled. This was something else entirely. There was plenty of lore and ghost stories floating around, but nothing about a Sasquatch. And Hod Herbert was not one to go spinning yarns. Another pint of Calvert appeared, another log went in the stove and another pot of coffee started to percolate as talk of this new development carried them toward the night.
A plan was established. The Round Table would convene at Chester’s for breakfast at 4:30. They would then drive out the old Harlow Road to the dam, then walk the four and a half miles through the woods to the Carleton property line to investigate. After hot coffee, eggs and biscuits, they set out.
The dawn was frigid, well below zero and pitch black. A crystalline wind howled into their faces, kicking up gusts of snow as they gathered in the driveway, breath smoking in flashlight beams, and got into their vehicles for the ten mile drive over to the dam, the constellations shining in a million brilliant pin-points of light. They parked, gathered together and set out into the forest.
Chester, Roland, Fred, Ike and Willard were all scared, though none of them wanted to admit it. They walked silently through the forest, as the dawn gently broke in purple to rose to peach to daylight. The woods were silent, save for the snow crunching under their boots and the sound of breathing, heavy with exertion and fear.
Finally they came upon the location.
There it was, just off the path, the old logging path where wood for 18th and 19th century battleships was carried. It was, whatever it was, like nothing any of them had ever seen before in this earthly realm.
Chester, ostensibly the leader of the Round Table, slowly approached the creature, heart pounding, throat constricted. He couldn’t speak. All he could think was that it was…whatever it was…a creature like he had never seen before.
Ike, theoretically second in command and just as scared as Chester, stepped forward a pace so he was just behind Chester. He scanned the beast and did some internal figuring: probably about seven feet tall, almost ape-like…what the goddamn hell is it?
After a moment, Fred joined them. He carried the heaviest load, since he brought up the story and got the wheels turning. He was almost too scared to think, knowing with early-morning clarity suddenly that it was all true, that Hod wasn’t lying and he was face-to-face with the nightmare. His voice and body trembled as he stood before the thing.
Nobody else moved. Nobody else dared to. This was real: ghost lore no more. They were standing before a creature that DID NOT exist, yet it was there, before the five of them. What was it? Were there more in the woods, hiding just out of sight?
“I guess we should see what it really is,” Chester said, voice trembling like never before. He grabbed a branch, wedged it underneath the frozen body, and lifted, snow and ice falling in explosions of fresh powder.
With a heavy thud the body flipped over. Chester recoiled, dropped the branch, and the Round Table stepped forward for a closer look. A collective gasp arose and then the woods were silent again…