The beast | Front Porch | Indy Week
Pin It

The beast 

"It was some kind of an animal" was what my father would say about it. "Noise like nothing I'd ever heard before."

It was a story he told many times. The scout troop that he was scoutmaster for had gone on a camping trip. On Saturday evening the scouts hiked to a nearby river for some fishing. Fairly soon most of the boys grew bored and headed back to camp. But one scout wanted to stay and so my father stayed with him. They fished quietly for a while and then they heard heavy footfalls in the brush on the cliff above them--and slow, deliberate, heavy breathing. And then a sound that both man and boy would later describe as "like a baby crying." An eerie, unearthly sound.

The footfalls came closer and my father considered his options. He was afraid that if they tried to make a run for camp that the boy's short legs might not be able to outpace whatever might be chasing them. He didn't know what was out there, but he decided to take a chance that whatever it was might not be a swimmer. He took the boy's arm and they waded to the middle of the waist-deep river. They could hear the animal circling in the brush, moving closer then edging away, trying to figure a way to get at them. My father figured it would go for the boy, the smaller prey, and he was planning to use his fishing pole as a whip to try to fight it off. After a quarter hour, whatever it was gave up and moved off.

Over the last year or so I've thought of that story often, been haunted by it really. The boy in the story grew to manhood. He married and had two children. One was a girl. Her name was Stephanie. She grew up and moved to Raleigh after college. She brimmed with promise and had a megawatt smile. She was engaged to be married. But she never made it to her wedding day.

You probably remember what happened to Stephanie. It was front page news for quite a while--the search for her killer, his capture and eventual suicide. It's not in the news anymore, nothing new to tell. But the story won't leave me alone. I keep wondering if Stephanie's father thought of it in his wracking grief. Did he ask the powers of the universe where her river had been when the beast came? It's a weeping father's question. It's the question I keep asking myself as I try to remember Stephanie, all the Stephanies that fall prey not to an animal but to the terribly, terribly human.

(Read this week's LitLocal profile of Chitwood at http://www.indyweek.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A34766.)

  • "It was some kind of an animal" was what my father would say about it. "Noise like nothing I'd ever heard before."

Latest in Front Porch

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Front Porch

  • One vote

    • Nov 12, 2014
  • Box of one

    Was I paying to be helped or to feel important, a bona fide expert on only myself?
    • Sep 24, 2014
  • The Old South (Hills)

    The Old South (Hills)

    • Sep 17, 2014
  • More »


Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

'Anna Lee' is a truly beautiful song, Ms Dossett. And I love Levon Helm's rendition. You are blessed with a …

by Byron Miller on A song for Levon (Front Porch)

Just now seeing this....Liz and I were super close friends in the early 80s. She was so special. I had …

by RoBert 1 on In memoriam: Liz Holm, 1959–2013 (Front Porch)

Nobody will be surprised to learn that Hocutt never went to Nam. He was in the Navy but washed out …

by Jefflenter on Raleigh bad boy no more (Front Porch)

I see his concern. Yes, it was a well written story and showed his caring side for sure. But not …

by Linda Bates Terrell on Motorcycle men (Front Porch)

Follow-up to my "nervous mom" comment. The last coupe of weeks we have been in many situations with individuals that …

by paulapowers on Governor's School blues (Front Porch)

Comments

'Anna Lee' is a truly beautiful song, Ms Dossett. And I love Levon Helm's rendition. You are blessed with a …

by Byron Miller on A song for Levon (Front Porch)

Just now seeing this....Liz and I were super close friends in the early 80s. She was so special. I had …

by RoBert 1 on In memoriam: Liz Holm, 1959–2013 (Front Porch)

Most Read

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation