By David Bransfield
It was the summer of 2009 and we were finally free from university and ready to drink, to party and to be once again with old friends. Jack’s parents owned a tiny cabin, too small to fit all twelve of us without some serious cuddling, that was located on a private road somewhere in the middle of the woods with only two other houses anywhere within 3 kilometers. So, being young and happy, we packed ourselves into cars and traveled off for another long weekend exactly like we had done the year before and the year before that. We arrived there as if to a warm daydream, where the music is loud, the beers are plentiful and the women are gorgeous beyond words.
I remember that I was playing beer pong when the golden retriever trotted up to us because I remember that he stood in silence, panting with a long droopy tongue, and his head moved after the ball as if he really cared who won the game. And I definitely remember the arrival of the little girl that came along after him thanks to the muddy panties she was wearing on her head. Her name was Julia, we talked a little bit, and Julia was just finished with fourth grade and she was always giggling and always smiling and also the dog’s name was Jimi.
That night, we all of us slept cramped together on bunkbeds in the only bedroom, a hot, damp room that stank of spilled beers and human beings. I was sleeping the sweet sleep of the drunkard until I was awoken suddenly in the dark by the sound of shrieks, of Ali yelling from above, “Who is that? Somebody at the window! Who is that?” Suddenly all of us were awake, everyone was talking at once, and not one of us was unaccounted for.
The next day, the only topic of conversation was the mysterious occurrence. Ali swore that she had seen a girl at the window and Julia quickly became our prime suspect. So when the golden dog trotted up to us to beg for food, I thought that we would soon have an opportunity to question the suspicious girl and get to the bottom of matters. But when she never appeared I decided to go and to check for myself. I walked with Jimi in the direction of the two other houses, and for almost half of an hour, we saw nothing but trees. Finally we arrived at the end of the road, where there stood two small houses, the first facing the other.
Jimi the dog sat in the middle of the unpaved road and watched as I approached the first tired looking house, storm tape still on the windows and dust on the steps, and knocked on the door. “Can I help you son? Ain’t nobody living in that house for a while now.” I turned. The voice had arrived from behind me, from a older man that was stooped over and scratching at Jimi’s ears. “Yeah hi, I just came down from the Rem’s place ‘cuz uh, I was trying to return this dog to his owner and maybe talk with Julia. We met her when she came by yesterday. Is she your daughter?” “Well Jimi here is ours, but I don’t have no daughters. Just the two boys. Julia you say? I can’t say I know no Julia and I thought we knew everyone livin’ here in Wallenpaupack. You said Julia, right?” Wait no, but really, who is Julia? I made the old man swear to me that he was telling me the truth, no jokes, that he had never heard of a little girl named Julia. The next day me and my friends went and checked in down at the bait shop and the men there told us the same story. Never heard of of a Julia. In small towns like that, everyone knows everyone else. No surpises. Besides us who came by for a weekend every year, and some teenagers that usually stay a few days in August Wallenpaupack wasn’t a place that got too many strangers. At the bait shop they tell us it we should cut back a bit on the drinking, that it was just our imagination, that Julia never really existed. But me and my friends, we know what we saw. We talked to her. Spent time with her. Touched her hand even. And that’s why I know that I will never forget her, giggly, smiley Julia with those dirty panties draped over her hair.