A Ghost Story Between Brothers

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The boy in the ceiling has a message. Glynn Washington, host of the storytelling radio show Snap Judgement has a tale just in time for Halloween.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

If the puzzle has your head spinning, how about a ghost story? Glynn Washington, host of the storytelling radio show "Snap Judgment," has a tale just in time for Halloween.

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GLYNN WASHINGTON: OK. So it was one night in Detroit. I was five years old asleep in the bed right next to my brother. In the middle of the night, he woke me up and asked me: What's that? I looked up and staring down from the ceiling was a child's face.

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WASHINGTON: It was made out of some kind of red haze. I didn't know who it was but he had the same big forehead that we do. The face smiled. I smiled back. It leaned toward like it wanted to get a better look. It came closer and finally stopped, floating right above our bed. It whispered something but I couldn't make out what he was saying. My forehead burned and the figure...

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WASHINGTON: ...disappeared.

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WASHINGTON: In this leftover silence, my little brother said: I think maybe he's related to us. And I told him: Well, we don't have any other brothers. I think maybe we do, or maybe we did. Together, we kept staring up at the ceiling, kept waiting. And when nothing happened I pulled the covers up and we went back to sleep.

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WASHINGTON: We couldn't talk about it to anyone but ourselves. Any discussion around what happened in my fundamentalist family would have ended poorly. The next night though and the night after that, lying next to each other in the darkness, I wondered where did he come from? Where did he go? And what did he want?

This was the first time that I felt fear. What had he been trying to say? I had never been afraid of the dark. Now I screamed at every nighttime shadow. My father shouted for me to: Go to sleep, go back to sleep. It took a long time until I could sleep. What was he trying to say?

Thirty-some-odd years passed and I told myself what you're telling yourself right now: Kids, memories, things can get muddy, perception is a tricky thing. Then I got a call from my brother: He's back.

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WASHINGTON: Three decades later and I don't even ask who he is. Did he say anything? Yeah. What? You need to hear it from him. I argue but my brother is insistent; it's always been his most infuriating trait. So now I wait again. A grown man with two beautiful kids of my own, sleeping next to each other in the same bed. While they lay restful, I wake up in the middle of the night to stare at the ceiling to wait and make sure that whatever he says, he says it to me and not to them.

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MARTIN: Glynn Washington is the host of "Snap Judgment" from NPR and PRX.

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