Growing up I occasionally would visit the turn of the century cemetery near my house. A 10 minute walk would put me deep in the woods gazing upon the gray and mossy headstones. Some from the 1800's. Some from only a few years before. There were four headstones that would always catch my eye: the Coffmans. Marbles in the cement created the names of what appeared to be four sisters who died a year or two apart only twenty years before. Taken in their teen years. Standing in the rain and the dimming light of the day I would imagine the family torn apart by tragedy. What happened to these poor girls?
One night I was driving home following the twists and turns of the country road through the Nestucca River valley. Typical of the coast the rain is pounding my windshield and my headlights barely pierce the darkness. As I round a corner I see a young man standing on the roadside drenched and holding out his thumb. Feeling for him I pull over and offer a ride. As he opens the door a gust of wind blows in the rain and some fall leaves.
He tells me his name is Randy Coffman and he's going home after being gone for some years. His family only lives a couple of farms down from mine, but somehow I had never met them before. Remembering the sad marbles embedded in the headstones I ask him if he is related to the girls in the cemetery. "Yes," he says quietly, "those are my older sisters." Randy tells me how the family felt cursed, as one by one the girls perished in random accidents. A drowning took Martha, an aneurysm felled Jess, a fire Darcy. "Me and Heather knew we were next," he told me. "Heather slipped on the rocks down by Agate Beach. She hit her head." "I'm so sorry," I said.
I dropped Randy off at a farmhouse where I had never seen the lights on. It was dark and the house was in disrepair. He told me his parents were on their way home so I left him with the wind and rain. I pulled into my driveway and made my into the house, contemplating the poor Coffman family.
At the dinner table I asked Mom and Dad about the Coffmans. "That poor family," my Mom said. "Such a sad story." "I gave Randy Coffman a ride and he told me about it. Those poor girls," I said. My Dad's eyes grew big and my Mom gasped just a bit. "Did you say Randy Coffman?" my Dad asked. "Yeah," I replied. "He told me about what happened to his sisters. So sad!" "I'm sorry," my Dad said. "You must be mistaken. Randy Coffman died in a car wreck twenty years ago."