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Of the past two weeks, 35% was spent in Wisconsin: we had van troubles, got stranded in Mauston, then upgraded to stranding in Milwaukee shortly after (with many interesting auto repair stories, which I may recount someplace, but haven't decided yet how to do so). During our time stranded in Milwaukee we were at the disposal of my in-laws. They are antique dealers of great accomplishment, who had recently scored the opportunity to manage an estate sale. While running an estate sale excuses you from being able to shop at the sale, you get the opportunity to examine everything without fighting off surly collectors and unwashed antique dealers, along with getting a cut from every sale. It also means, however, that in touching every item you are expected to throw out anything unsellable and organize all the sellable things on tables in an eye-appealing way - a week-long project for only a two-day sale. Fortunately for Dean and Val, the money they paid to their friends in the Norwegian Mob succeeded in our drive-shaft and water-pump self-destructing within seconds of each other, so we could be conscribed into helping with the estate sale set-up.

Which wasn't so bad; much better than sitting around their house, wondering when the van would be ready and getting on everybody's nerves. And, wouldn't you know it: the Wifey and I kinda like digging through other people's attics for antiques! Crazy, I know - but it's true. We wouldn't be around for the sale, so we knew we wouldn't get anything in the end anyways, so the opportunity to help organize the sale would at least give us a glimpse of the cool stuff.

The theory seemed to be to work from the edges inward: attic and basement first, mainfloor last. The basement had a bit of water in it from recent heavy rains, so the attic got the earliest attention. Someone from the estate apologized for leaving things on the attic stairs, but she had been up there cleaning and didn't have any place to put things right away. The linoleum-covered stairs were quite steep and made a 180-degree left turn at the seventh step, and the addition of junk limiting each step to one footfall-width tread would only result in something bad happening.

The wifey refers to my limbs as "freakishly long," which I am to interpret as a compliment because she only uses that reference when I am able to reach things that nobody else can, thus making them perfect tools for staircase evacuation. A little assembly-line grew behind me: I'd clear off a few stairs (flour canisters, an old dust-broom, a hat box), hand it behind me, who then passed it to someone else until I couldn't see it anymore; the next step (empty flowerpots, a waffle iron, galoshes), hand it behind, move upwards.

After around the fifth step, I passed the junk to the person behind me and moved up a step. I was almost on my hands and knees, quite low, and about nose-level to the left-turn landing, when I was shocked to notice something large and black out of the corner of my eye: just at the edge of the landing, around the corner, appeared to be a medium-sized furry black dog, squatting and leaning forwards to see who was coming up the stairs.

I quickly turned my head, and it was gone; my initial reaction was that it turned and went up the stairs, but I hadn't heard or seen anything further up the stairs. I looked around to see if I had been fooled by shadows or something else sitting on the stairs, but there was nothing that could account for such a large, black thing so close to my head - it couldn't have been more than six inches from my face, since I was almost up to the landing. I finished clearing the stairs, then pulled the Wifey aside.

"I think I saw a ghost!" I whispered, so as not to freak out the younger helper. I didn't say any more than that, didn't describe the ghost nor the experience; just a quick message and a big smile.

I'm not one to believe in ghosts outright; I admit there's things that cannot be explained, but for the most part things are explainable. I believe I saw one in broad daylight when I was much younger, a child who darted from a yard to between two parked cars while I rode my bike down the street, but when I passed that spot nobody was there. I had been watching closely, because if he jumped out into the street from between the cars I risked running into him, so it was quite a shock to see nobody there at all. D and I even watch Ghost Hunters from time to time, and some things give me little chills because I couldn't imagine anything that would cause some of the sounds and things they've caught on tape, but these are rare things. If ghosts were not rare, transient things, they would be scientifically provable, empirically analizable things. I was satisfied this time that there was nothing that could have been mistaken for a dark mass on the stairs, right next my head as I leaned forward to reach higher on the stairs. The logical part of my still doesn't want to admit it, but the rest of me is left with that conclusion.

As we went through boxes in the attic, we found a lot of 'personal items' -- family photos, letters, postcards, and miscellani that had been missed by the family when they cleaned out the things they wanted to keep. Personal items aren't necessarily sellable, either, so we put them aside for the family to go through later. In going through one box, finding a number of photos, the Wifey exclaimed:

"Oh, look at the puppy! Aw, the owners even wrote when he died on the back."

"What does it look like," I demanded.


"What does the dog look like?"

"It says his name is 'Burly?'" she said.

"What does the dog look like??"

She brought the photo over:

A short, black furry dog of medium size, who we determined, after closer interpretation of the archaic cursive writing, was actually named "Curly", and who passed away at a quarter after 11PM on March 23rd, 1943 at the age of eight. Yes, all that information was contained on the note pasted to the back of the frame. Pictures of children, pictures of men and women in wedding attire -- no notes. The dog, practically a life story.

Hairs stood up on my arms and neck, and I whispered to my wife again:

"This is who I saw on the stairs!"

At this point, I was forced to tell my story to everybody, trying as hard as I could not to sound like the crazy people on TV. Nobody else encountered Curly during the three days we worked at the house, and we hadn't recieved any reports of ghosts after we left, but we did try and make sure Curly wasn't scared of us by announcing ourselves and greeting the ghost dog whenever we entered the attic. In the end, we did get to bring two things home from the sale: the family didn't want the two pictures of Curly we found, and nobody bought them at the sale. Curly can stay with us now.

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