The Maier Museum of Art
at Randolph College

2015 Calvert Award: “Meeting” by Katy Boyer ’16


by Katy Boyer ’16
after Andrew Wyeth’s Burning Off

Andrew Newell Wyeth, Burning Off, 1961, watercolor on paper.

Andrew Newell Wyeth, Burning Off, 1961, watercolor on paper. Gift of the Honorable Paul Whitehead, Jr., in honor of his wife Sandra Stone Whitehead, 1998.

The apparition said it had never approached anyone before the day we met. I was only seventeen at the time, and, having been blessed with the extraordinary ego of most seventeen-year-olds, I assumed that I was the exception because I was somehow alluring. It was quick to correct me. “You spend too much time in the shed. It’s impossible to get anything done,” it said one day. “It stinks of you when you leave.” The apparition looked like cotton batting peeping out of a ripped pillow. Its eyes were squirming lines the color of graphite, sometimes scribbled and circular, sometimes single points on the hazy plane of its face.


The day it first approached me, I had been sleeping, sprawled on a bale of hay with my diary propped on my chest, when it woke me with a savage shout. Its hands (if you could call them hands) were on my shoulders. They felt like frost on fur. Naturally, I screamed, fled, and doubted myself an hour later in the warmth of my kitchen. The next day, I wandered back through the old field and hid behind the stand of pines that enclosed the old shed. It was still there, drifting in and out, in a way that seemed restless and lonely but which I now know to be merely purposeful.

I shouted from behind a tree: “I came back! I wanted to see you!” It made a little anguished sound.

“Go away! I am busy here.”

I was already halfway across the field. “I’ll come back tomorrow!”

My diary entry for that night, written on a scrap sheet of wrapping paper (for I had abandoned my journal in the straw heap the day before), went something like this:

Dear Diary, I have met a ghost. Finally, something interesting! I wonder if it is in love with me…

P.S. It is not a handsome spirit. It looks like a cirrus cloud turned on its side. Still, it will have to do!

Coasting on the swells of romance and mystery, I woke at dawn the next day and bounded back to the shed. “What is your name, spirit? Let me tell you mine!”

Silence. I crept under the sagging corrugated roof and looked around, worried that adventure had somehow slipped from my grasp. I found the apparition curled up in a milk pail that hung from a hook on the back wall. It appeared to be asleep.

“Spirit!” I shouted, feeling that events of such supernatural magnitude required an enthusiastic volume, “Tell me your secrets!” It started, a movement that was eerily reminiscent of milk splashing.

Its eyes went wild with movement as it surged from the pail, which rattled against the rotten wood. “Will you not let me sleep? What is it now?

“Ghosts don’t need sleep, do they? Tell me everything there is to know about you! Who were you? How did you die?” It reared back from me, halfway phasing through the wall of the shed.

“No! I will do no such thing!” It struck out with its appendages and again I felt the sensation of stiffness that once been soft, rather like the fleece mitt that my father used to clean the car, after it had been left outside to freeze over the winter. It was clearly exasperated.

“Then tell me your name, mysterious spirit. I am—”

“You are the stinkbug. You are kudzu,” it interrupted sullenly. “You creep and crawl where you should not, and try to take for your own what you must not. Your damp breath rusts the pitchforks and the straw molds under you.”

“But I found this place! It’s my secret spot.” I was practically wheezing with excitement. A spiritual confrontation (a séance??) at dawn—oh, auspicious day!

It dismissed this notion without a moment’s hesitation. “This place was never yours. You’re no better than the wisteria on the trees. You’ll brown.”

“Then we can haunt this place together!”

The apparition twirled in a frustrated little tornado. It more closely resembled a swollen nimbus cloud than its normal, elegant cirrus shape. “I am no ghost! I am the clover in the corners. I am the starlight through the tin roof. I am the pine stump who lost her wood. I am the hornets’ nest under the beam. I am the foal born backwards. I was no human!”

After it said this, it disappeared. I did not see it for many days afterwards, even though, as I’m sure you can imagine, I visited the shed constantly. My stupidity, while ultimately intact, was somewhat diminished during this period. When the apparition returned, it was in an even lousier mood than usual. It would be a few more days before it spoke to me, months before it liked having me around, and years before it told me its name.