Not long ago, a young man named John Peacock lived in New Orleans. One day he learned that he had inherited a farm from a distant cousin of his. The farm was in the Louisiana backcountry. This came as a surprise, since his cousin had lived all his life in Europe and had never spoken of such a thing. In any case, John was eager to drive up and see what the farm looked like. But the place, called Peacock’s Farm, was miles away, where roads were poorly marked, if at all. John soon became hopelessly lost trying to find the farm. At a crossroads, he saw an old woman, sitting in a rocker on the sagging porch of a crumbling house.
Behind the house were the remains of a barn and a shed, choked with brambles and vines. The woman was wearing an old white shift, and her uncombed white hair gave her a wild look. Since there was no one else around, the young man parked his car and strolled to the porch. “Can you tell me how to find Peacock’s Farm?” he asked. “I kin tell you,” the woman said. “But you don’ want ter go thar.” “Why not?” John asked. “The place belong to me now.”
“Mebbe. Mebbe not.” she said. “Anyhow, I got a story ter tell you. If you lissen an’ you still want ter go thar, I’ll show you the way.” John Peacock agreed; then he fanned himself with his hat as she began: “Years ago, ole man Peacock died an’ lef a heap o’ property ter his chillun. An’ he give ev’ry one a farm. There was one mo’ farm lef’ over. ‘Twas a good farm an’ the house all furnished up, but no one did keer to live that, fer they all said the house was haanted.
“One o’ the sons- Micah Peacock- said he wan’t no way a-feared. Said he could lay that ghost if they’d give him the farm. Th’ others tole him the place was his if he could lay the ghost so’s ter live thar. “Well, Micah went at night ter the house, takin’ his Bible along. He sat thar a-readin’ it backward and forward: He didn’ mind it none whether the ghost come a-nigh or not. Sho’ nuff, the ghost come along while he was a-readin’. It went all about thro’ the house, so’s Micah could hear it goin’ inter the diffunt rooms an a- movin’ things thisaway an’ thataway. But he didn’ let on ter hear the ghost- no indeed, he kep a-readin’ away in his Bible.
“After a while the ghost blowed out his lamp, but he jes lighted it an’ read on. Then he went inter the bedroom an’ lay down. That sort o’ made the ghost mad, so’s it come inter the bedroom an’ Micah seed it, like as if it was real person. “Anyhow, then he seed the ghost reach out an arm long an’ skinny-like, under the bed, an’ jes’ turn it over with him on it. But he only crep’ out from under it an’ went back inter the kitchen an’ begun ter read away in his Bible. An’ thar he stayed all night. Afore day, the ghost come once mo’ an’ said, ‘If you come back yere again, yore a dead man.’
“Well, the nex’ night Micah Peacock come back again, yes indeed: an’ he’d got two preachers ter come along an’ try to lay that ghost. One was a Methodis’ an’ the other was a Catholic. They both brought their Bibles, an’ all of ‘em kep’ a-readin’ forward an’ backward. ‘Twan’t no time at all till that ghost come again, an’ then it just went on mos’ outrageous. “The Methodis’, he didn’t stay ter hear much o’ the racket. Out he run an’ never come back. The Catholic, he held out a good bit, but afore long he run an’ lef’ Peacock ter stay it out by himself.
“Well, they say the ghost never spoke ter him no mo’; but sho’ nuff, in the mornin’, thar was Peacock a-lyin’ dead with his head cut clean off- yes indeed, sir!-an thar ain’ no one ever try ter lay that ghost since.” “Well, I’ve been warned,” said John Peacock impatiently. “Now give me the directions you promised. Let me tell you, any ghost that crosses me will find he’s-” “Who tole you it were a he?” the old woman said. She stood up from the rocker and began to grow longer and thinner. Her bony hand locked on to young Peacock’s wrist; her grip was as painful as a metal vise.
He was afraid she was going to snap his wrist bone like balsa wood. “Yep,” she said, suddenly letting go of him. “You been warned. This yere is Peacock’s Farm. Still want ter stay?” But John was halfway to his car. When he looked back, he saw only the old rocker bobbing on the porch. John drove as quick as he could back to New Orleans. There he burned the deed to Peacock’s Farm. But for the rest of his life, there was a bruise, like the imprint of long thin fingers, around his wrist.