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February, 2010 Gold medal winner for short stories.

    a short story by D. L. Mittan   (fiction)




My name is Elizabeth Martin and in 1966, my dad was a deputy sheriff in Spokane County, Washington. I was only 7 years old and we lived about 40 miles north of Spokane, near the Little Spokane River.

My dad was an Army Reservist and was pretty much exempt from ever having to go to Viet Nam, or so we all thought. Because of events in our area including a manhunt for a rapist/killer, my dad had to miss some required training in the reserves. He thought he could make it up, but instead, they called him to active duty and he got sent to Nam. We were so afraid! It was just my mom and me now, and we lived a long way from help in case we ever needed it. We were mad at the Army too, because we thought they were just punishing him, and us.

My mom wrote a letter to President Johnson and asked him to let my dad come home, she didn’t know if it would help, but she sent it anyway.

They didn’t find the killer they were looking for and everybody thought he was long gone from the area, since no rapes or murders occurred in the last 6 months.


I used to play outside in our back yard at the edge of the woods and sometimes mom and I went out looking for wild berries to pick. We especially liked Salmonberries. Salmonberries grow on bushes of up to six feet (two meters) tall with broad, fuzzy leaves and thorns. Depending on the maturity of the bush, the thorns can be soft and yielding or firmer, posing a threat to clothing and unprotected body parts. Salmonberries have small pink flowers. They mature into fruits between June and August. The plants thrive along streams and in moist forests, preferring damp soil and partial sunlight. My mom used to make a really good pie when we could get enough of them, but most of the time we just picked a variety of what we could find and she’d make a mixed berry pie, which we liked really well.

I t was spooky at night without my dad, but we did pretty well just mom and me. We used to hear sounds at night that we couldn’t define and one of them was a long howling sound. Dad used to say it was Elk, but I’ve heard Elk since then and they didn’t sound like that.

One day I was playing in the back yard with my favorite doll, named Sally. Sally and I were making sand pies in the sand box and mom was doing some gardening. Suddenly I heard a low growl and looked up to see a huge Cinnamon Bear coming towards me and Sally. I screamed and mom looked up and ran to me as the bear looked more and more menacing and kept creeping towards us. We were cut off from the house and we didn’t know what to do. We backed up to the edge of the forest and I turned around to see  a huge, wild man standing there. He was all hairy and gigantic, just standing there. I screamed again and mom turned to see him too and screamed. We both fell to the ground and held each other. The wild man was not looking at us though, he was watching the bear and started towards it. When he was only yards away from it, he let out a loud howl that I recognized. The bear stood up and two legs and the hairy creature picked up a big branch that had fallen from our oak tree in the last storm. He slammed the branch on the ground a couple of times and howled again. The bear began to back off and the wild man slammed the branch on the ground again hard enough to break it with a loud snap. The bear bolted and ran off.

We were too petrified to move, we just sat there and watched in horror waiting to be eaten alive or worse. The creature turned and looked at us as we shivered in fear. Something in his eyes changed at that moment and the fiery red turned to amber and softened as he looked at us. He made a couple of whoop, whoop sounds and lumbered off in the direction of the bear.

Mom and I ran for the house and reported what we’d seen. But we both had the feeling they didn’t believe us and only sent a deputy out to look around because of my dad.

Two weeks passed and I was out playing in the yard again when I noticed the wild man. He was standing at the edge of the woods, back just far enough to make it hard to see him.  He was watching me and Sally swing. I stopped and ran for the house to tell mom. She came out and saw him too and he turned and walked away. I stayed in the rest of the day even though I don’t think he was going to hurt me.

One week later, while I was out side again, I heard a crashing sound like glass breaking, then mom screamed. I ran into the house and a mean looking man was holding my mom in a choke hold with a big knife in his hand. Mom said, “run, baby run!” But I didn’t. The man said, “you run and I’ll kill your mom!” He told me to get the car keys because we were all going for a little ride. I did and he dragged my mom outside, crying and struggling. He told me to get in the car and I did, then he  forced mom in next to him on the drivers side. He said, “give me the keys, kid.” I threw them at him and he cursed at me and said he’d cut my ears off. As he struggled to get the keys in the ignition, the car jolted like it had been hit by something big, and I heard the howl again. The wild man was furious and shook the car and bounced it up and down. Finally he broke the windshield out and then the driver side window. He dragged the man out of the car and slammed him to the ground so hard he knocked him out. Then he howled like crazy. Mom grabbed me and ran inside to call the sheriff. They were there with-in about 15 minutes and the wild man never left till he heard the sound of cars approaching. Then he ran off before anyone else could see him.

The rapist/killer had finally been caught and mom and I were grateful to the “wild man”. I guess some folks call him Sasquatch. Spokane Indians were familiar with the stories and had their own name for him. We decided we should move to town after that, and I packed my stuff and mom and I went out the next day after they brought our car back from the repair shop. We got in and looked at our home and I thought mom would cry, but then started the car and we headed down the drive. Unbelievably, the “wild man” stepped out in front of the car and stood there a few moments, then stepped aside and let out mournful cry like I’d never heard him do before. Mom slowly drove on and I started crying. Mom hit the brakes and said, “shall we stay?” I said yes and turned around to see the “wild man”, but he was gone. The next morning though, when we went outside, there were piles of branches full of berries on the picnic table.

We stayed there another six months and I frequently saw him watching from the woods like a guardian angel. I was never afraid, and I used to sing loud and make up songs about him. I told myself he understood. I usually knew when he was around, because if the wind was right, I could smell him. He smelled bad! Once, I accidently left Sally outside overnight, in the sand pile, I think. The next morning she was on the picnic table, propped up against a branch full of salmonberries.

Finally dad came home and we had a big party for him. We told him all about what had happened and he just could believe it. Dad told us he had gotten a job clear across the country. It was a good job and he had to take it. So, we moved to Connecticut. I was nine years old now and was outgrowing Sally; I left her on the picnic table for my friend to remember me by.

                                                             The End

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