Henry Brandt

You can call me Mr. Brandt if you like, but I prefer just Henry.   I was born in New York City in the year 1810. My grandfather fought in the American War of Independence and my father, too, served in the army and fought in the War of 1812. He liked the country upstate and decided to relocate the family to Munson in 1815, which had just started to boom thanks to the Erie Canal. I grew up here and it was a kind of heaven for a boy who liked to catch toads, make mud pies, climb trees, and roam the countryside.   Those years are long gone and faded memories in my mind, but as far back as I can remember, I knew this land was different than other places. Special. Sometimes you'd go for a walk and speak to the trees and they'd answer back. At sundown you'd see strange shadows loping on the horizon. Men spoke in low voices about things they'd seen in the water. A woman in white robes standing in the swamp holding a lantern. Tiny reclusive people who lived in holes and rode rabbits. Things to be wondered at, admired, often feared. Imagination of a child, most would say. But I know better.   I married a sweet girl named Cassandra Bennett we had two sons three years apart named Charles and Wilbur. My darling Cass died of cholera in 1858. It broke my heart, it might have been for the best as she didn't live to grieve the deaths of our boys in the War of the Rebellion, Wilbur in '62 and Charles in '65, with the war ending just two months later. I miss them all fiercely but Della¬†keeps me company. She's good at conversation.¬†   Like I said, Munson is a special place. Every so often in autumn when there's a new moon and a chill in the air, I will sit in my study with my pipe and a brandy and light a single candle. They will sometimes come to me then, Cass, Charlie, and Willie. They won't step too far into the light and I can hardly make out their faces, but I know it's them even though they never speak a word. I dusted off a few chairs at set them in a circle just at the edge of candlelight and they seem to like that. They will come and sit for a time--sometimes alone, sometimes in pairs, and when I'm lucky it's all three--and we look at each other and smile, and they listen to me tell stories until I nod off.   Most people here have such stories, though most won't talk about it, and many stories aren't so gentle. People have lost touch with that reality, it seems, and all this rush toward progress with its belching smokestacks and cutting down forests have made some things in the shadow angry, or maybe they were just born angry, who knows. I keep to myself and follow my rituals and it's worked for me for more than half of a century.   My advice: keep your eyes open and trust what you see. Mind your own business and keep your nose clean and you should do just fine here in Munson.


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