Ben Hatter had never believed in ghosts. Had never seen one, and didn’t want to see one. But on the ridge above his porch was his old dog Skippy – or a perfect replica. The dog was sitting on its haunches watching him. He whistled and called out, “Skippy, come here boy.” The dog didn’t move. He whistled and called again. Still, the dog didn’t move.
He went inside and got his deer rifle from the rack above the fireplace and looked at the dog through the rifle scope. It was Skippy all right. Same white streak on the chest, same white left front paw.
Skippy had been dead more than a year. He had buried the dog in the woods beside the house. He sighted on the dog’s head and fired, watched it fall. He walked up the ridge where the dog lay. The ground was dark red beneath the dog’s head. He looked at the collar, saw his name and phone number.
“Damn,” he said.
He walked back to the house. His grandfather was sitting in a rocker in front of the fireplace.
“What you doing here, Grandpa?”
“Warming myself by the fire, son.”
“There ain’t no fire. It’s the middle of summer.”
Ben laid the rifle on the kitchen table. “Do dogs have ghosts?”
“Not that I’m aware of. Only people have ghosts. You have to have a soul to make a ghost.”
“I just shot Skippy,” Ben said, “that dog you gave me when I was little. Had my collar him. He was dead, all right. He even bled.”
“You told me Skippy was killed when he was run over by a truck.”
“He was. I buried him myself.”
“You can’t kill a ghost, son. They’re already dead.”
Ben picked up the rifle and pointed it at his grandfather’s chest.
“I could kill you, couldn’t I?”
His grandfather pushed the rifle barrel away. “I told you, son. You can’t kill a ghost.”
Ben placed the rifle on the table.
“I think I’ll go back to bed. You going to stay awhile?”
“No, I’ll probably be gone when you get up.”
When Ben got up, his grandfather was gone. He picked up the rifle and sat in the rocker, thinking about Skippy and his grandfather. He placed the rifle barrel beneath his chin.
“Can’t kill a ghost,” he said.
Robert Boyd Satterwhite is a retired college English instructor and former journalist. He has a bachelor’s degree in literature and a master of fine arts in creative writing. His non-fiction stories have been published in numerous regional and national publications. His fiction has been published by the California Pelican, Bartleby Snopes literary magazine and by several regional literary magazines. He lives in Cullowhee in the western North Carolina mountains. He is the author of Broken, an as-yet unpublished novel.