The haunting of a Thrift Store Cowgirl

By Amanda Shires

(LSM Oct/Nov 2010/vol. 3 – issue 6)

Photo by Joshua Black Wilkins

Photo by Joshua Black Wilkins

My plan was to write about the time a ghost prostitute destroyed my fiddle in Corsicana, Texas. I was going to describe how it was my fault for taunting her, saying things like, “What kind of ghost haunts the Jalapeno Grill (formerly the Mallory Hotel) anyway?” Little digs were what got me into trouble. Half way into the first set, my fiddle’s tailpiece was pulled from its body while I was playing it, and then it shot from my hands and straight into the sidewall as if she was taking it away from me. The whole thing felt dark. I watched my old fiddle explode and fall into an unrepairable pile of splinters and kindling. I spent the rest of the night banging on our merch tub with a drumstick, because that’s how it is when you’re a young act, playing at lower level venues: No matter what, you have to play to get paid and get dinner.

That was an unusual night for me for sure, but I didn’t feel really weirded out by the whole thing. In fact, I kind of dismissed it at the time as a coincidence; after all, I was drinking margaritas, and that’s the kind of thing that happens when you drink tequila, isn’t it? Anyway, when I was asked if I had any ghost stories to share, I immediately thought of that incident, but the minute I sat down to write, a strange fluttering sound, like a moth beating its wings, started in my ear, and I realized I had a much creepier tale to tell. You see, lately, I have been having a dream that goes beyond coincidence. It happens every couple weeks or so. It’s strange to have the same dream. Stranger still, though, is that pieces of it have begun to show up in my daily life. I’m serious. My left ear has been bothering me for weeks now.

It goes like this …

Pick a town, any town. It’s 2 a.m. I am under a streetlight. I’m absently staring up at it, looking at all the bugs humming around it. I’m thinking about moths and how sad they can be. I feel a presence behind me and I turn around. There’s a man approaching. He looks like he could be a professor. He’s wearing glasses, khaki Dockers, red dirt loafers, a red shirt and a matching khaki zipper jacket. Almost inaudibly, he says something about, “This is what it’s like.” And that’s when the fear takes over.

I run. He chases me. Then, I’m crawling through some bushes trying to get to someone’s front door for help. I’m focusing on the doorbell, but I’m aware of myself crushing this person’s geraniums and getting mud everywhere. My hands and knees are caked in it.

Oh, there’s hope! My pursuer is getting tired. I pound at the doorbell. I turn to check that I am still safe. Nope. I sink to find that I am face to face with “the professor.” He pulls his gun. I’m so scared. He never speaks another word. He aims and shoots me. It’s so loud. My left ear is screaming. I slide to the ground. It doesn’t hurt. Everything feels warm like summer. I can hear the world become an echo, then a shadow. It’s strangely OK. OK to let it go.

Then I wake up.

The first time I had this dream, I woke up in a strange bed, in a strange town (touring lends itself to that). Like always, I set out for a coffee shop. I was tired but found one. I stammered through my order, shaken at the realization that the man in front of me was dressed in a khaki suit and red dirt loafers. The lady with him (I guessed she was his wife) was wearing a shirt with a geranium print on the front of it.

Photo by Joshua Black Wilkins

Photo by Joshua Black Wilkins

More recently, I woke up (after the same dream) with my ear throbbing. The smell of breakfast drifted in and I found some strength to get up. I thought about taking some Aleve. Instead, I grabbed a cup of coffee and headed for the porch to finish waking up. I was still rattled. I was thinking about the shininess of the streetlight and that dull, worn, doorbell. Still deep in thought, I heard a man’s voice from down the street yelling, “This is what it’s like.”

If that’s not so fucking weird, then nothing is.

Someone told me that if you tell someone your dreams, they won’t come true. I guess I hope that this is the case for me and that’s why I am writing this. The question I keep coming back to is … Is my real world causing this nightmare? Or, is my real life heading for my dream’s finale?

Native West Texan (Lubbock and Mineral Wells) Amanda Shires is a singer-songwriter and fiddle player living in Nashville. She has just finished recording her third solo album, Carrying Lightning, which will be released in January. She is also a member of Lubbock’s Thrift Store Cowboys, whose new album, Light Fighter, will be out Oct. 11.