GHOSTERS GO CAMPING

 

Flashlight in hand, I work my way back to the campsite to find a snake lying on my folding chair. My entire body stiffens. There’s one on Grandpa Frank’s chair too. Both creatures are long and pencil-thin. As I consider whether I should run or just scream my lungs out, my little brother, Joey, steps into the firelight carrying a third snake, which he’s holding in front of himself like a small fishing pole.

“You okay, Theresa?” Grandpa follows Joey into the light, a brown paper bag in his hands.

Oh, yeah. Dessert. Feeling like a major idiot, I nod, pick up my snake-stick, and take my seat.

“Good,” says Grandpa. His voice is deep and rich, a lot like the guitar he played for us before dinner. He lowers himself into the empty folding chair between Joey and me. “Now, let’s make some s’mores.” He reaches into the sack and removes a bag of supersized marshmallows, which he tears open and offers to Joey.

“My friend, Elbie, tells the best campfire stories,” says Joey. He takes a marshmallow and shoves it onto his snake-stick.

“Yeah, scary ones.” I scooch my folding chair closer to the fire. “His always take place somewhere creepy and out-of-the-way like a dark forest or a cursed lighthouse.”

“My favorite’s the one about the abandoned castle,” says Joey.

Grandpa offers me a marshmallow then takes one for himself. “I know a story or two myself.”

Doubting my grandfather knows many stories with serial killers as the main character, I chuckle, then decide, what the heck and say, “Tell us one.”

“Okay, let me think.” Seeing Joey’s marshmallow dip into the flames, he uses one finger to nudge the stick upward. “This story takes place many years ago, in the city of Sevilla.”

“Isn’t that in Spain?” I ask. “Where you grew up?”

“Close. Our village was about twenty miles outside the city. Anyway, a young man named Paco was in Sevilla visiting his uncle’s family when he and his cousin were invited to a big fiesta. Lots of music, food, and dancing. But Paco hadn’t packed a suit. Luckily, his cousin owned several and offered to loan him one. The jacket was a little tight and the pants could have been longer, but he looked good, and off they went.”

“So, all the men wore suits.” I can’t help but crack a smile as I imagine the boys at my own school all starched and pressed. “What did the women wear?”

“Gowns, of course. Fine ones, and since it was July, and air conditioning wasn’t common yet, they all carried fans.” From beneath his chair, he pulls the one section of newspaper he hadn’t used to build the fire with and flaps it in front of his chest like some flirtatious señorita. “So…” he drops the paper onto the fire. “…the band was playing, fans were flapping, couples were dancing, and Paco was staining his borrowed suit with sweat as he searched the ballroom for his first dance partner.”

“So far,” says Joey, “This is not a very good campfire story.”

He’s right. Even Elbie’s worst story would have had at least one murder by now. I shake my head at my overly-honest brother and tell him his marshmallow is done.

Seeing I’m right, he swings the end of his stick toward his mouth, but Grandpa stops it six inches short.

“Patience, nieto. On the outside, your treat looks delicious, but inside, it is boiling.” He removes his own marshmallow from the flames. “We let them cool a while. Like this...” He lays the stick across his lap. “…while we get the other stuff ready.”

Seeing my own marshmallow is now nice and brown, I lean my stick against my chair and help Grandpa pass out the chocolate bars and graham crackers.

“So…” says Grandpa, “…as the night went on, Paco danced with several girls, none of whom he found very interesting. Around twelve o’clock, he was about to call it a night when he spotted a beautiful young woman standing alone in the center of the dancefloor. She was gorgeous. Golden hair. Green eyes. A woman any man would be proud to dance with. He stepped toward her and—”

“Am I doing it right?” Marshmallow sandwiched between his graham crackers and chocolate, Joey waits for Grandpa Frank to nod before sliding it off the stick. He takes his first bite and gives us a thumbs up.

Eager to get some of that gooey goodness for myself, I quickly assemble my own s’more and take a big bite. “Mmmm,” I moan through a mouthful of deliciousness, and once I can get out the words, try to move the story along by saying, “So, he asked the girl to dance. Then what happened?”

Chewing thoughtfully, Grandpa stares into the campfire, but I doubt that’s what he’s really seeing. “Others tried to take her from him, but she would dance with no one else,” he continues, “and by the time the band quit playing, he’d fallen in love with her. And he didn’t even know her name.”

“Really?” Joey licks some chocolate off his finger. “I’d think that would be the first thing a guy would ask.”

“He did, eventually. Right before he offered to drive her home.”

“What was her name?” I ask, wondering which of the two characters would die first.

“Socorro,” Grandpa answers, the orange flames reflecting off his eyes.

“Okay,” says Joey. “So, Paco drove Socorro home.”

“Well...” Grandpa shrugs. “He definitely tried.”

Is there going to be a big car crash? I take another bite and look at Joey who seems like he’s going to ask the same question. “Shhh,” I tell him. “This is starting to get good.”

Grandpa chuckles. “Thank you. Paco thought so too. Thrilled such an elegant young woman had shown interest in him, he escorted Socorro to his little car. From her dress and manners, he knew she was well bred, but he was still a bit surprised when she told him she lived in Barrio del Arenal, the finest neighborhood in all Sevilla.

“So, he aimed his car in the direction of Puente de Triana, one of the many bridges that cross the Guadalquivir River. At first, the girl behaved normally. But when the river came into view ahead of them, she suddenly shouted, ‘Stop!’

“Paco slammed on the brakes. ‘What’s wrong?’ he sputtered.

“‘We can’t go this way!’ Eyes wide with terror, she gripped his arm like a vise. ‘Turn the car around…please.’

“Paco knew Barrio del Arenal was just across the bridge, but, seeing the girl so distressed, he did as she said. ‘Where to?’ he asked, once they were heading the opposite direction. ‘Straight?’

“Eyes forward and lashes spiked with tears, she nodded.”

“Well, that’s just weird,” says Joey, reaching for another marshmallow.

Nodding, Grandpa takes another for himself and positions it over the fire. “So, Paco drove straight. After a while, she signaled for him to turn, which he did. He followed all of her directions. Finally, she told him to stop.”

“Where were they?” Joey asks.

“At the front gates of El Cementerio San Fernando.”

“A cemetery?” I smile, anticipating the possibilities.

“At that hour?” Joey asks. “Did Socorro have mental issues?”

“Paco wondered the same thing,” Grandpa tells us. “On Socorro’s side of the car was a high brick wall with black wrought-iron gates. And since, by that time, it was past three o’clock in the morning, there wasn’t another soul in sight.”

“The perfect setting for a murder,” I say, hoping I’m right.

“Indeed. But Socorro kissed his cheek and got out of the car anyway.”

I gasp. “What did Paco do?”

“He got out too. But by the time he ran around to the other side, she’d already slipped through the gate.” Grandpa shrugs. “So, he followed her.” He sits back, letting his words sink in. “In the middle of the night, he raced into the largest cemetery in Sevilla.”

“Was Socorro killed with an ax?” Joey asks. “In Elbie’s campfire stories, maniacs always use axes.”

Grandpa’s eyes slide sideways, stopping on Joey. “Sorry to disappoint you, but the fact is, Paco never found the girl. And he searched for hours too. Up and down a hundred rows of flat marble tombs, past monuments built to the greatest bullfighters, the most famous flamenco dancers. But Socorro was nowhere to be seen. Finally, he gave up.

“By then, it was nearly dawn. Anyone else would have considered himself the butt of a terrible joke and gone home, but Paco was obsessed with the girl.” Grandpa continues to stare into the flames, the curve of his earlier smile now turned downward. “Heartbroken, he sat in his car…thinking about her…and as he thought, he realized that the little rich girl had been toying with him all along, laughing behind her fan at his borrowed suit and too short pants. Furious, he decided to drive to the address she had first mentioned and confront her there.

“So, he sped through Sevilla, growing angrier with each street he passed, across Puente de Triana and into the center of Barrio del Arenal. As he suspected, her home was the most beautiful of all. Tall, stately. At this hour, there were few cars on the street, so he parked right in front of the gates, strode up to the huge black lacquered door, and rang the bell.

“By then, the sun was just beginning to rise. Exhausted and still angry, he rang the bell again. Several times, in fact. Finally, a butler opened the door.”

“Is Paco carrying an ax?” Joey asks.

Catching his eye, I shake my head again, and Grandpa continues.

“‘I need to see Socorro,’ Paco demanded as he stormed into the house. ‘I know she lives here.’”

“Was the butler surprised?” I ask. “Angry? I’d call the cops if someone burst into my house like that.”

Joey nods. “Especially if the guy’s carrying an ax.”

“Strangely,” says Grandpa, “the butler was neither, and instead of calling the police, he escorted Paco to an elegant sitting room where an elderly woman sat sipping coffee from a fine china cup. ‘Would you like some?” she asked. ‘Sanchez, bring some pastries.’

“‘I must speak to Socorro,” Paco insisted. ‘Immediately.’

“‘Lo siento,’ the old woman answered, ‘but Socorro doesn’t live here. She hasn’t for a very long time.’

“Paco must have looked confused because the old woman reached for his hand. ‘Tell me,’ she whispered. And when he had finished his strange story, she surprised him again.

“‘You are not the first man this has happened to,’ she told him.

“Paco didn’t know what to say. In the short time he’d known Socorro, she had stolen his heart then tossed it aside like a broken toy. He shuddered at the thought of her making such behavior a habit. ‘Playing with a man’s emotions can be dangerous,’ he told the old woman. ‘I would never hurt her, but other men are not so well mannered. If your granddaughter continues this behavior…’

“‘Gracias, but if you’re worried about the girl’s welfare, it is far too late. You see…’ She drew his attention to the fireplace on the far wall and the large framed portrait hanging above it. ‘…Socorro is not my granddaughter. She is my daughter.’

“Since the woman was at least eighty, Paco was, once again, at a loss for words.

“‘I can hear the wheels turning in your head.’ The woman chuckled softly, her coffee forgotten on the table. ‘As I am sure you know, Socorro loves to dance, and as beautiful as she is, men have always climbed over each other for the chance of being her partner. One in particular was so eager to impress my daughter that he borrowed his friend’s car in order to drive her home.’ Her eyes filled with tears. ‘Socorro died in that car.’

“‘Are you saying…’ Paco shuddered, the blood in his veins suddenly frozen. ‘…I was dancing with a ghost?’

“‘For more than forty years, whenever there is a fiesta in Sevilla, at least one young man sees her. Sometimes she disappears after they leave the ball. Other times, she waits until they get to the cemetery. I wish the poor child could come home, but she can’t.’”

“That’s so sad,” I blurt. “But why not?”

“Remember?” says Joey. “Spirits can’t cross over moving water.”

“Oh, yeah. That’s why she freaked out when she saw the bridge.” I study my grandfather’s face, and suddenly it hits me. “You’re Paco, aren’t you grandpa?”

“How did you know?”

“Everyone calls you Frank, but your real name is Francisco, and Paco—”

“—is short for Francisco?” Joey’s lips purse. “That makes no sense. It’s like Bill being short for William—or even worse, Dick for Richard.”

“Grandpa…” I u-turned back to the story. “Did you ever see Socorro again?”

“No, but her mother told me where her grave was located, and right after I left the house, I went straight to the cemetery. Can you guess what was written on her tombstone?”

“I would imagine it would be her name,” Joey says, “and the dates of her birth and death.”

“Well, yes, but…below all that, it also said, ‘She loved to dance.’”Flashlight in hand, I work my way back to the campsite to find a snake lying on my folding chair. My entire body stiffens. There’s one on Grandpa Frank’s chair too. Both creatures are long and pencil-thin. As I consider whether I should run or just scream my lungs out, my little brother, Joey, steps into the firelight carrying a third snake, which he’s holding in front of himself like a small fishing pole.

“You okay, Theresa?” Grandpa follows Joey into the light, a brown paper bag in his hands.

Oh, yeah. Dessert. Feeling like a major idiot, I nod, pick up my snake-stick, and take my seat.

“Good,” says Grandpa. His voice is deep and rich, a lot like the guitar he played for us before dinner. He lowers himself into the empty folding chair between Joey and me. “Now, let’s make some s’mores.” He reaches into the sack and removes a bag of supersized marshmallows, which he tears open and offers to Joey.

“My friend, Elbie, tells the best campfire stories,” says Joey. He takes a marshmallow and shoves it onto his snake-stick.

“Yeah, scary ones.” I scooch my folding chair closer to the fire. “His always take place somewhere creepy and out-of-the-way like a dark forest or a cursed lighthouse.”

“My favorite’s the one about the abandoned castle,” says Joey.

Grandpa offers me a marshmallow then takes one for himself. “I know a story or two myself.”

Doubting my grandfather knows many stories with serial killers as the main character, I chuckle, then decide, what the heck and say, “Tell us one.”

“Okay, let me think.” Seeing Joey’s marshmallow dip into the flames, he uses one finger to nudge the stick upward. “This story takes place many years ago, in the city of Sevilla.”

“Isn’t that in Spain?” I ask. “Where you grew up?”

“Close. Our village was about twenty miles outside the city. Anyway, a young man named Paco was in Sevilla visiting his uncle’s family when he and his cousin were invited to a big fiesta. Lots of music, food, and dancing. But Paco hadn’t packed a suit. Luckily, his cousin owned several and offered to loan him one. The jacket was a little tight and the pants could have been longer, but he looked good, and off they went.”

“So, all the men wore suits.” I can’t help but crack a smile as I imagine the boys at my own school all starched and pressed. “What did the women wear?”

“Gowns, of course. Fine ones, and since it was July, and air conditioning wasn’t common yet, they all carried fans.” From beneath his chair, he pulls the one section of newspaper he hadn’t used to build the fire with and flaps it in front of his chest like some flirtatious señorita. “So…” he drops the paper onto the fire. “…the band was playing, fans were flapping, couples were dancing, and Paco was staining his borrowed suit with sweat as he searched the ballroom for his first dance partner.”

“So far,” says Joey, “This is not a very good campfire story.”

He’s right. Even Elbie’s worst story would have had at least one murder by now. I shake my head at my overly-honest brother and tell him his marshmallow is done.

Seeing I’m right, he swings the end of his stick toward his mouth, but Grandpa stops it six inches short.

“Patience, nieto. On the outside, your treat looks delicious, but inside, it is boiling.” He removes his own marshmallow from the flames. “We let them cool a while. Like this...” He lays the stick across his lap. “…while we get the other stuff ready.”

Seeing my own marshmallow is now nice and brown, I lean my stick against my chair and help Grandpa pass out the chocolate bars and graham crackers.

“So…” says Grandpa, “…as the night went on, Paco danced with several girls, none of whom he found very interesting. Around twelve o’clock, he was about to call it a night when he spotted a beautiful young woman standing alone in the center of the dancefloor. She was gorgeous. Golden hair. Green eyes. A woman any man would be proud to dance with. He stepped toward her and—”

“Am I doing it right?” Marshmallow sandwiched between his graham crackers and chocolate, Joey waits for Grandpa Frank to nod before sliding it off the stick. He takes his first bite and gives us a thumbs up.

Eager to get some of that gooey goodness for myself, I quickly assemble my own s’more and take a big bite. “Mmmm,” I moan through a mouthful of deliciousness, and once I can get out the words, try to move the story along by saying, “So, he asked the girl to dance. Then what happened?”

Chewing thoughtfully, Grandpa stares into the campfire, but I doubt that’s what he’s really seeing. “Others tried to take her from him, but she would dance with no one else,” he continues, “and by the time the band quit playing, he’d fallen in love with her. And he didn’t even know her name.”

“Really?” Joey licks some chocolate off his finger. “I’d think that would be the first thing a guy would ask.”

“He did, eventually. Right before he offered to drive her home.”

“What was her name?” I ask, wondering which of the two characters would die first.

“Socorro,” Grandpa answers, the orange flames reflecting off his eyes.

“Okay,” says Joey. “So, Paco drove Socorro home.”

“Well...” Grandpa shrugs. “He definitely tried.”

Is there going to be a big car crash? I take another bite and look at Joey who seems like he’s going to ask the same question. “Shhh,” I tell him. “This is starting to get good.”

Grandpa chuckles. “Thank you. Paco thought so too. Thrilled such an elegant young woman had shown interest in him, he escorted Socorro to his little car. From her dress and manners, he knew she was well bred, but he was still a bit surprised when she told him she lived in Barrio del Arenal, the finest neighborhood in all Sevilla.

“So, he aimed his car in the direction of Puente de Triana, one of the many bridges that cross the Guadalquivir River. At first, the girl behaved normally. But when the river came into view ahead of them, she suddenly shouted, ‘Stop!’

“Paco slammed on the brakes. ‘What’s wrong?’ he sputtered.

“‘We can’t go this way!’ Eyes wide with terror, she gripped his arm like a vise. ‘Turn the car around…please.’

“Paco knew Barrio del Arenal was just across the bridge, but, seeing the girl so distressed, he did as she said. ‘Where to?’ he asked, once they were heading the opposite direction. ‘Straight?’

“Eyes forward and lashes spiked with tears, she nodded.”

“Well, that’s just weird,” says Joey, reaching for another marshmallow.

Nodding, Grandpa takes another for himself and positions it over the fire. “So, Paco drove straight. After a while, she signaled for him to turn, which he did. He followed all of her directions. Finally, she told him to stop.”

“Where were they?” Joey asks.

“At the front gates of El Cementerio San Fernando.”

“A cemetery?” I smile, anticipating the possibilities.

“At that hour?” Joey asks. “Did Socorro have mental issues?”

“Paco wondered the same thing,” Grandpa tells us. “On Socorro’s side of the car was a high brick wall with black wrought-iron gates. And since, by that time, it was past three o’clock in the morning, there wasn’t another soul in sight.”

“The perfect setting for a murder,” I say, hoping I’m right.

“Indeed. But Socorro kissed his cheek and got out of the car anyway.”

I gasp. “What did Paco do?”

“He got out too. But by the time he ran around to the other side, she’d already slipped through the gate.” Grandpa shrugs. “So, he followed her.” He sits back, letting his words sink in. “In the middle of the night, he raced into the largest cemetery in Sevilla.”

“Was Socorro killed with an ax?” Joey asks. “In Elbie’s campfire stories, maniacs always use axes.”

Grandpa’s eyes slide sideways, stopping on Joey. “Sorry to disappoint you, but the fact is, Paco never found the girl. And he searched for hours too. Up and down a hundred rows of flat marble tombs, past monuments built to the greatest bullfighters, the most famous flamenco dancers. But Socorro was nowhere to be seen. Finally, he gave up.

“By then, it was nearly dawn. Anyone else would have considered himself the butt of a terrible joke and gone home, but Paco was obsessed with the girl.” Grandpa continues to stare into the flames, the curve of his earlier smile now turned downward. “Heartbroken, he sat in his car…thinking about her…and as he thought, he realized that the little rich girl had been toying with him all along, laughing behind her fan at his borrowed suit and too short pants. Furious, he decided to drive to the address she had first mentioned and confront her there.

“So, he sped through Sevilla, growing angrier with each street he passed, across Puente de Triana and into the center of Barrio del Arenal. As he suspected, her home was the most beautiful of all. Tall, stately. At this hour, there were few cars on the street, so he parked right in front of the gates, strode up to the huge black lacquered door, and rang the bell.

“By then, the sun was just beginning to rise. Exhausted and still angry, he rang the bell again. Several times, in fact. Finally, a butler opened the door.”

“Is Paco carrying an ax?” Joey asks.

Catching his eye, I shake my head again, and Grandpa continues.

“‘I need to see Socorro,’ Paco demanded as he stormed into the house. ‘I know she lives here.’”

“Was the butler surprised?” I ask. “Angry? I’d call the cops if someone burst into my house like that.”

Joey nods. “Especially if the guy’s carrying an ax.”

“Strangely,” says Grandpa, “the butler was neither, and instead of calling the police, he escorted Paco to an elegant sitting room where an elderly woman sat sipping coffee from a fine china cup. ‘Would you like some?” she asked. ‘Sanchez, bring some pastries.’

“‘I must speak to Socorro,” Paco insisted. ‘Immediately.’

“‘Lo siento,’ the old woman answered, ‘but Socorro doesn’t live here. She hasn’t for a very long time.’

“Paco must have looked confused because the old woman reached for his hand. ‘Tell me,’ she whispered. And when he had finished his strange story, she surprised him again.

“‘You are not the first man this has happened to,’ she told him.

“Paco didn’t know what to say. In the short time he’d known Socorro, she had stolen his heart then tossed it aside like a broken toy. He shuddered at the thought of her making such behavior a habit. ‘Playing with a man’s emotions can be dangerous,’ he told the old woman. ‘I would never hurt her, but other men are not so well mannered. If your granddaughter continues this behavior…’

“‘Gracias, but if you’re worried about the girl’s welfare, it is far too late. You see…’ She drew his attention to the fireplace on the far wall and the large framed portrait hanging above it. ‘…Socorro is not my granddaughter. She is my daughter.’

“Since the woman was at least eighty, Paco was, once again, at a loss for words.

“‘I can hear the wheels turning in your head.’ The woman chuckled softly, her coffee forgotten on the table. ‘As I am sure you know, Socorro loves to dance, and as beautiful as she is, men have always climbed over each other for the chance of being her partner. One in particular was so eager to impress my daughter that he borrowed his friend’s car in order to drive her home.’ Her eyes filled with tears. ‘Socorro died in that car.’

“‘Are you saying…’ Paco shuddered, the blood in his veins suddenly frozen. ‘…I was dancing with a ghost?’

“‘For more than forty years, whenever there is a fiesta in Sevilla, at least one young man sees her. Sometimes she disappears after they leave the ball. Other times, she waits until they get to the cemetery. I wish the poor child could come home, but she can’t.’”

“That’s so sad,” I blurt. “But why not?”

“Remember?” says Joey. “Spirits can’t cross over moving water.”

“Oh, yeah. That’s why she freaked out when she saw the bridge.” I study my grandfather’s face, and suddenly it hits me. “You’re Paco, aren’t you grandpa?”

“How did you know?”

“Everyone calls you Frank, but your real name is Francisco, and Paco—”

“—is short for Francisco?” Joey’s lips purse. “That makes no sense. It’s like Bill being short for William—or even worse, Dick for Richard.”

“Grandpa…” I u-turned back to the story. “Did you ever see Socorro again?”

“No, but her mother told me where her grave was located, and right after I left the house, I went straight to the cemetery. Can you guess what was written on her tombstone?”

“I would imagine it would be her name,” Joey says, “and the dates of her birth and death.”

“Well, yes, but…below all that, it also said, ‘She loved to dance.’”Flashlight in hand, I work my way back to the campsite to find a snake lying on my folding chair. My entire body stiffens. There’s one on Grandpa Frank’s chair too. Both creatures are long and pencil-thin. As I consider whether I should run or just scream my lungs out, my little brother, Joey, steps into the firelight carrying a third snake, which he’s holding in front of himself like a small fishing pole.

“You okay, Theresa?” Grandpa follows Joey into the light, a brown paper bag in his hands.

Oh, yeah. Dessert. Feeling like a major idiot, I nod, pick up my snake-stick, and take my seat.

“Good,” says Grandpa. His voice is deep and rich, a lot like the guitar he played for us before dinner. He lowers himself into the empty folding chair between Joey and me. “Now, let’s make some s’mores.” He reaches into the sack and removes a bag of supersized marshmallows, which he tears open and offers to Joey.

“My friend, Elbie, tells the best campfire stories,” says Joey. He takes a marshmallow and shoves it onto his snake-stick.

“Yeah, scary ones.” I scooch my folding chair closer to the fire. “His always take place somewhere creepy and out-of-the-way like a dark forest or a cursed lighthouse.”

“My favorite’s the one about the abandoned castle,” says Joey.

Grandpa offers me a marshmallow then takes one for himself. “I know a story or two myself.”

Doubting my grandfather knows many stories with serial killers as the main character, I chuckle, then decide, what the heck and say, “Tell us one.”

“Okay, let me think.” Seeing Joey’s marshmallow dip into the flames, he uses one finger to nudge the stick upward. “This story takes place many years ago, in the city of Sevilla.”

“Isn’t that in Spain?” I ask. “Where you grew up?”

“Close. Our village was about twenty miles outside the city. Anyway, a young man named Paco was in Sevilla visiting his uncle’s family when he and his cousin were invited to a big fiesta. Lots of music, food, and dancing. But Paco hadn’t packed a suit. Luckily, his cousin owned several and offered to loan him one. The jacket was a little tight and the pants could have been longer, but he looked good, and off they went.”

“So, all the men wore suits.” I can’t help but crack a smile as I imagine the boys at my own school all starched and pressed. “What did the women wear?”

“Gowns, of course. Fine ones, and since it was July, and air conditioning wasn’t common yet, they all carried fans.” From beneath his chair, he pulls the one section of newspaper he hadn’t used to build the fire with and flaps it in front of his chest like some flirtatious señorita. “So…” he drops the paper onto the fire. “…the band was playing, fans were flapping, couples were dancing, and Paco was staining his borrowed suit with sweat as he searched the ballroom for his first dance partner.”

“So far,” says Joey, “This is not a very good campfire story.”

He’s right. Even Elbie’s worst story would have had at least one murder by now. I shake my head at my overly-honest brother and tell him his marshmallow is done.

Seeing I’m right, he swings the end of his stick toward his mouth, but Grandpa stops it six inches short.

“Patience, nieto. On the outside, your treat looks delicious, but inside, it is boiling.” He removes his own marshmallow from the flames. “We let them cool a while. Like this...” He lays the stick across his lap. “…while we get the other stuff ready.”

Seeing my own marshmallow is now nice and brown, I lean my stick against my chair and help Grandpa pass out the chocolate bars and graham crackers.

“So…” says Grandpa, “…as the night went on, Paco danced with several girls, none of whom he found very interesting. Around twelve o’clock, he was about to call it a night when he spotted a beautiful young woman standing alone in the center of the dancefloor. She was gorgeous. Golden hair. Green eyes. A woman any man would be proud to dance with. He stepped toward her and—”

“Am I doing it right?” Marshmallow sandwiched between his graham crackers and chocolate, Joey waits for Grandpa Frank to nod before sliding it off the stick. He takes his first bite and gives us a thumbs up.

Eager to get some of that gooey goodness for myself, I quickly assemble my own s’more and take a big bite. “Mmmm,” I moan through a mouthful of deliciousness, and once I can get out the words, try to move the story along by saying, “So, he asked the girl to dance. Then what happened?”

Chewing thoughtfully, Grandpa stares into the campfire, but I doubt that’s what he’s really seeing. “Others tried to take her from him, but she would dance with no one else,” he continues, “and by the time the band quit playing, he’d fallen in love with her. And he didn’t even know her name.”

“Really?” Joey licks some chocolate off his finger. “I’d think that would be the first thing a guy would ask.”

“He did, eventually. Right before he offered to drive her home.”

“What was her name?” I ask, wondering which of the two characters would die first.

“Socorro,” Grandpa answers, the orange flames reflecting off his eyes.

“Okay,” says Joey. “So, Paco drove Socorro home.”

“Well...” Grandpa shrugs. “He definitely tried.”

Is there going to be a big car crash? I take another bite and look at Joey who seems like he’s going to ask the same question. “Shhh,” I tell him. “This is starting to get good.”

Grandpa chuckles. “Thank you. Paco thought so too. Thrilled such an elegant young woman had shown interest in him, he escorted Socorro to his little car. From her dress and manners, he knew she was well bred, but he was still a bit surprised when she told him she lived in Barrio del Arenal, the finest neighborhood in all Sevilla.

“So, he aimed his car in the direction of Puente de Triana, one of the many bridges that cross the Guadalquivir River. At first, the girl behaved normally. But when the river came into view ahead of them, she suddenly shouted, ‘Stop!’

“Paco slammed on the brakes. ‘What’s wrong?’ he sputtered.

“‘We can’t go this way!’ Eyes wide with terror, she gripped his arm like a vise. ‘Turn the car around…please.’

“Paco knew Barrio del Arenal was just across the bridge, but, seeing the girl so distressed, he did as she said. ‘Where to?’ he asked, once they were heading the opposite direction. ‘Straight?’

“Eyes forward and lashes spiked with tears, she nodded.”

“Well, that’s just weird,” says Joey, reaching for another marshmallow.

Nodding, Grandpa takes another for himself and positions it over the fire. “So, Paco drove straight. After a while, she signaled for him to turn, which he did. He followed all of her directions. Finally, she told him to stop.”

“Where were they?” Joey asks.

“At the front gates of El Cementerio San Fernando.”

“A cemetery?” I smile, anticipating the possibilities.

“At that hour?” Joey asks. “Did Socorro have mental issues?”

“Paco wondered the same thing,” Grandpa tells us. “On Socorro’s side of the car was a high brick wall with black wrought-iron gates. And since, by that time, it was past three o’clock in the morning, there wasn’t another soul in sight.”

“The perfect setting for a murder,” I say, hoping I’m right.

“Indeed. But Socorro kissed his cheek and got out of the car anyway.”

I gasp. “What did Paco do?”

“He got out too. But by the time he ran around to the other side, she’d already slipped through the gate.” Grandpa shrugs. “So, he followed her.” He sits back, letting his words sink in. “In the middle of the night, he raced into the largest cemetery in Sevilla.”

“Was Socorro killed with an ax?” Joey asks. “In Elbie’s campfire stories, maniacs always use axes.”

Grandpa’s eyes slide sideways, stopping on Joey. “Sorry to disappoint you, but the fact is, Paco never found the girl. And he searched for hours too. Up and down a hundred rows of flat marble tombs, past monuments built to the greatest bullfighters, the most famous flamenco dancers. But Socorro was nowhere to be seen. Finally, he gave up.

“By then, it was nearly dawn. Anyone else would have considered himself the butt of a terrible joke and gone home, but Paco was obsessed with the girl.” Grandpa continues to stare into the flames, the curve of his earlier smile now turned downward. “Heartbroken, he sat in his car…thinking about her…and as he thought, he realized that the little rich girl had been toying with him all along, laughing behind her fan at his borrowed suit and too short pants. Furious, he decided to drive to the address she had first mentioned and confront her there.

“So, he sped through Sevilla, growing angrier with each street he passed, across Puente de Triana and into the center of Barrio del Arenal. As he suspected, her home was the most beautiful of all. Tall, stately. At this hour, there were few cars on the street, so he parked right in front of the gates, strode up to the huge black lacquered door, and rang the bell.

“By then, the sun was just beginning to rise. Exhausted and still angry, he rang the bell again. Several times, in fact. Finally, a butler opened the door.”

“Is Paco carrying an ax?” Joey asks.

Catching his eye, I shake my head again, and Grandpa continues.

“‘I need to see Socorro,’ Paco demanded as he stormed into the house. ‘I know she lives here.’”

“Was the butler surprised?” I ask. “Angry? I’d call the cops if someone burst into my house like that.”

Joey nods. “Especially if the guy’s carrying an ax.”

“Strangely,” says Grandpa, “the butler was neither, and instead of calling the police, he escorted Paco to an elegant sitting room where an elderly woman sat sipping coffee from a fine china cup. ‘Would you like some?” she asked. ‘Sanchez, bring some pastries.’

“‘I must speak to Socorro,” Paco insisted. ‘Immediately.’

“‘Lo siento,’ the old woman answered, ‘but Socorro doesn’t live here. She hasn’t for a very long time.’

“Paco must have looked confused because the old woman reached for his hand. ‘Tell me,’ she whispered. And when he had finished his strange story, she surprised him again.

“‘You are not the first man this has happened to,’ she told him.

“Paco didn’t know what to say. In the short time he’d known Socorro, she had stolen his heart then tossed it aside like a broken toy. He shuddered at the thought of her making such behavior a habit. ‘Playing with a man’s emotions can be dangerous,’ he told the old woman. ‘I would never hurt her, but other men are not so well mannered. If your granddaughter continues this behavior…’

“‘Gracias, but if you’re worried about the girl’s welfare, it is far too late. You see…’ She drew his attention to the fireplace on the far wall and the large framed portrait hanging above it. ‘…Socorro is not my granddaughter. She is my daughter.’

“Since the woman was at least eighty, Paco was, once again, at a loss for words.

“‘I can hear the wheels turning in your head.’ The woman chuckled softly, her coffee forgotten on the table. ‘As I am sure you know, Socorro loves to dance, and as beautiful as she is, men have always climbed over each other for the chance of being her partner. One in particular was so eager to impress my daughter that he borrowed his friend’s car in order to drive her home.’ Her eyes filled with tears. ‘Socorro died in that car.’

“‘Are you saying…’ Paco shuddered, the blood in his veins suddenly frozen. ‘…I was dancing with a ghost?’

“‘For more than forty years, whenever there is a fiesta in Sevilla, at least one young man sees her. Sometimes she disappears after they leave the ball. Other times, she waits until they get to the cemetery. I wish the poor child could come home, but she can’t.’”

“That’s so sad,” I blurt. “But why not?”

“Remember?” says Joey. “Spirits can’t cross over moving water.”

“Oh, yeah. That’s why she freaked out when she saw the bridge.” I study my grandfather’s face, and suddenly it hits me. “You’re Paco, aren’t you grandpa?”

“How did you know?”

“Everyone calls you Frank, but your real name is Francisco, and Paco—”

“—is short for Francisco?” Joey’s lips purse. “That makes no sense. It’s like Bill being short for William—or even worse, Dick for Richard.”

“Grandpa…” I u-turned back to the story. “Did you ever see Socorro again?”

“No, but her mother told me where her grave was located, and right after I left the house, I went straight to the cemetery. Can you guess what was written on her tombstone?”

“I would imagine it would be her name,” Joey says, “and the dates of her birth and death.”

“Well, yes, but…below all that, it also said, ‘She loved to dance.’”Flashlight in hand, I work my way back to the campsite to find a snake lying on my folding chair. My entire body stiffens. There’s one on Grandpa Frank’s chair too. Both creatures are long and pencil-thin. As I consider whether I should run or just scream my lungs out, my little brother, Joey, steps into the firelight carrying a third snake, which he’s holding in front of himself like a small fishing pole.

“You okay, Theresa?” Grandpa follows Joey into the light, a brown paper bag in his hands.

Oh, yeah. Dessert. Feeling like a major idiot, I nod, pick up my snake-stick, and take my seat.

“Good,” says Grandpa. His voice is deep and rich, a lot like the guitar he played for us before dinner. He lowers himself into the empty folding chair between Joey and me. “Now, let’s make some s’mores.” He reaches into the sack and removes a bag of supersized marshmallows, which he tears open and offers to Joey.

“My friend, Elbie, tells the best campfire stories,” says Joey. He takes a marshmallow and shoves it onto his snake-stick.

“Yeah, scary ones.” I scooch my folding chair closer to the fire. “His always take place somewhere creepy and out-of-the-way like a dark forest or a cursed lighthouse.”

“My favorite’s the one about the abandoned castle,” says Joey.

Grandpa offers me a marshmallow then takes one for himself. “I know a story or two myself.”

Doubting my grandfather knows many stories with serial killers as the main character, I chuckle, then decide, what the heck and say, “Tell us one.”

“Okay, let me think.” Seeing Joey’s marshmallow dip into the flames, he uses one finger to nudge the stick upward. “This story takes place many years ago, in the city of Sevilla.”

“Isn’t that in Spain?” I ask. “Where you grew up?”

“Close. Our village was about twenty miles outside the city. Anyway, a young man named Paco was in Sevilla visiting his uncle’s family when he and his cousin were invited to a big fiesta. Lots of music, food, and dancing. But Paco hadn’t packed a suit. Luckily, his cousin owned several and offered to loan him one. The jacket was a little tight and the pants could have been longer, but he looked good, and off they went.”

“So, all the men wore suits.” I can’t help but crack a smile as I imagine the boys at my own school all starched and pressed. “What did the women wear?”

“Gowns, of course. Fine ones, and since it was July, and air conditioning wasn’t common yet, they all carried fans.” From beneath his chair, he pulls the one section of newspaper he hadn’t used to build the fire with and flaps it in front of his chest like some flirtatious señorita. “So…” he drops the paper onto the fire. “…the band was playing, fans were flapping, couples were dancing, and Paco was staining his borrowed suit with sweat as he searched the ballroom for his first dance partner.”

“So far,” says Joey, “This is not a very good campfire story.”

He’s right. Even Elbie’s worst story would have had at least one murder by now. I shake my head at my overly-honest brother and tell him his marshmallow is done.

Seeing I’m right, he swings the end of his stick toward his mouth, but Grandpa stops it six inches short.

“Patience, nieto. On the outside, your treat looks delicious, but inside, it is boiling.” He removes his own marshmallow from the flames. “We let them cool a while. Like this...” He lays the stick across his lap. “…while we get the other stuff ready.”

Seeing my own marshmallow is now nice and brown, I lean my stick against my chair and help Grandpa pass out the chocolate bars and graham crackers.

“So…” says Grandpa, “…as the night went on, Paco danced with several girls, none of whom he found very interesting. Around twelve o’clock, he was about to call it a night when he spotted a beautiful young woman standing alone in the center of the dancefloor. She was gorgeous. Golden hair. Green eyes. A woman any man would be proud to dance with. He stepped toward her and—”

“Am I doing it right?” Marshmallow sandwiched between his graham crackers and chocolate, Joey waits for Grandpa Frank to nod before sliding it off the stick. He takes his first bite and gives us a thumbs up.

Eager to get some of that gooey goodness for myself, I quickly assemble my own s’more and take a big bite. “Mmmm,” I moan through a mouthful of deliciousness, and once I can get out the words, try to move the story along by saying, “So, he asked the girl to dance. Then what happened?”

Chewing thoughtfully, Grandpa stares into the campfire, but I doubt that’s what he’s really seeing. “Others tried to take her from him, but she would dance with no one else,” he continues, “and by the time the band quit playing, he’d fallen in love with her. And he didn’t even know her name.”

“Really?” Joey licks some chocolate off his finger. “I’d think that would be the first thing a guy would ask.”

“He did, eventually. Right before he offered to drive her home.”

“What was her name?” I ask, wondering which of the two characters would die first.

“Socorro,” Grandpa answers, the orange flames reflecting off his eyes.

“Okay,” says Joey. “So, Paco drove Socorro home.”

“Well...” Grandpa shrugs. “He definitely tried.”

Is there going to be a big car crash? I take another bite and look at Joey who seems like he’s going to ask the same question. “Shhh,” I tell him. “This is starting to get good.”

Grandpa chuckles. “Thank you. Paco thought so too. Thrilled such an elegant young woman had shown interest in him, he escorted Socorro to his little car. From her dress and manners, he knew she was well bred, but he was still a bit surprised when she told him she lived in Barrio del Arenal, the finest neighborhood in all Sevilla.

“So, he aimed his car in the direction of Puente de Triana, one of the many bridges that cross the Guadalquivir River. At first, the girl behaved normally. But when the river came into view ahead of them, she suddenly shouted, ‘Stop!’

“Paco slammed on the brakes. ‘What’s wrong?’ he sputtered.

“‘We can’t go this way!’ Eyes wide with terror, she gripped his arm like a vise. ‘Turn the car around…please.’

“Paco knew Barrio del Arenal was just across the bridge, but, seeing the girl so distressed, he did as she said. ‘Where to?’ he asked, once they were heading the opposite direction. ‘Straight?’

“Eyes forward and lashes spiked with tears, she nodded.”

“Well, that’s just weird,” says Joey, reaching for another marshmallow.

Nodding, Grandpa takes another for himself and positions it over the fire. “So, Paco drove straight. After a while, she signaled for him to turn, which he did. He followed all of her directions. Finally, she told him to stop.”

“Where were they?” Joey asks.

“At the front gates of El Cementerio San Fernando.”

“A cemetery?” I smile, anticipating the possibilities.

“At that hour?” Joey asks. “Did Socorro have mental issues?”

“Paco wondered the same thing,” Grandpa tells us. “On Socorro’s side of the car was a high brick wall with black wrought-iron gates. And since, by that time, it was past three o’clock in the morning, there wasn’t another soul in sight.”

“The perfect setting for a murder,” I say, hoping I’m right.

“Indeed. But Socorro kissed his cheek and got out of the car anyway.”

I gasp. “What did Paco do?”

“He got out too. But by the time he ran around to the other side, she’d already slipped through the gate.” Grandpa shrugs. “So, he followed her.” He sits back, letting his words sink in. “In the middle of the night, he raced into the largest cemetery in Sevilla.”

“Was Socorro killed with an ax?” Joey asks. “In Elbie’s campfire stories, maniacs always use axes.”

Grandpa’s eyes slide sideways, stopping on Joey. “Sorry to disappoint you, but the fact is, Paco never found the girl. And he searched for hours too. Up and down a hundred rows of flat marble tombs, past monuments built to the greatest bullfighters, the most famous flamenco dancers. But Socorro was nowhere to be seen. Finally, he gave up.

“By then, it was nearly dawn. Anyone else would have considered himself the butt of a terrible joke and gone home, but Paco was obsessed with the girl.” Grandpa continues to stare into the flames, the curve of his earlier smile now turned downward. “Heartbroken, he sat in his car…thinking about her…and as he thought, he realized that the little rich girl had been toying with him all along, laughing behind her fan at his borrowed suit and too short pants. Furious, he decided to drive to the address she had first mentioned and confront her there.

“So, he sped through Sevilla, growing angrier with each street he passed, across Puente de Triana and into the center of Barrio del Arenal. As he suspected, her home was the most beautiful of all. Tall, stately. At this hour, there were few cars on the street, so he parked right in front of the gates, strode up to the huge black lacquered door, and rang the bell.

“By then, the sun was just beginning to rise. Exhausted and still angry, he rang the bell again. Several times, in fact. Finally, a butler opened the door.”

“Is Paco carrying an ax?” Joey asks.

Catching his eye, I shake my head again, and Grandpa continues.

“‘I need to see Socorro,’ Paco demanded as he stormed into the house. ‘I know she lives here.’”

“Was the butler surprised?” I ask. “Angry? I’d call the cops if someone burst into my house like that.”

Joey nods. “Especially if the guy’s carrying an ax.”

“Strangely,” says Grandpa, “the butler was neither, and instead of calling the police, he escorted Paco to an elegant sitting room where an elderly woman sat sipping coffee from a fine china cup. ‘Would you like some?” she asked. ‘Sanchez, bring some pastries.’

“‘I must speak to Socorro,” Paco insisted. ‘Immediately.’

“‘Lo siento,’ the old woman answered, ‘but Socorro doesn’t live here. She hasn’t for a very long time.’

“Paco must have looked confused because the old woman reached for his hand. ‘Tell me,’ she whispered. And when he had finished his strange story, she surprised him again.

“‘You are not the first man this has happened to,’ she told him.

“Paco didn’t know what to say. In the short time he’d known Socorro, she had stolen his heart then tossed it aside like a broken toy. He shuddered at the thought of her making such behavior a habit. ‘Playing with a man’s emotions can be dangerous,’ he told the old woman. ‘I would never hurt her, but other men are not so well mannered. If your granddaughter continues this behavior…’

“‘Gracias, but if you’re worried about the girl’s welfare, it is far too late. You see…’ She drew his attention to the fireplace on the far wall and the large framed portrait hanging above it. ‘…Socorro is not my granddaughter. She is my daughter.’

“Since the woman was at least eighty, Paco was, once again, at a loss for words.

“‘I can hear the wheels turning in your head.’ The woman chuckled softly, her coffee forgotten on the table. ‘As I am sure you know, Socorro loves to dance, and as beautiful as she is, men have always climbed over each other for the chance of being her partner. One in particular was so eager to impress my daughter that he borrowed his friend’s car in order to drive her home.’ Her eyes filled with tears. ‘Socorro died in that car.’

“‘Are you saying…’ Paco shuddered, the blood in his veins suddenly frozen. ‘…I was dancing with a ghost?’

“‘For more than forty years, whenever there is a fiesta in Sevilla, at least one young man sees her. Sometimes she disappears after they leave the ball. Other times, she waits until they get to the cemetery. I wish the poor child could come home, but she can’t.’”

“That’s so sad,” I blurt. “But why not?”

“Remember?” says Joey. “Spirits can’t cross over moving water.”

“Oh, yeah. That’s why she freaked out when she saw the bridge.” I study my grandfather’s face, and suddenly it hits me. “You’re Paco, aren’t you grandpa?”

“How did you know?”

“Everyone calls you Frank, but your real name is Francisco, and Paco—”

“—is short for Francisco?” Joey’s lips purse. “That makes no sense. It’s like Bill being short for William—or even worse, Dick for Richard.”

“Grandpa…” I u-turned back to the story. “Did you ever see Socorro again?”

“No, but her mother told me where her grave was located, and right after I left the house, I went straight to the cemetery. Can you guess what was written on her tombstone?”

“I would imagine it would be her name,” Joey says, “and the dates of her birth and death.”

“Well, yes, but…below all that, it also said, ‘She loved to dance.’”Flashlight in hand, I work my way back to the campsite to find a snake lying on my folding chair. My entire body stiffens. There’s one on Grandpa Frank’s chair too. Both creatures are long and pencil-thin. As I consider whether I should run or just scream my lungs out, my little brother, Joey, steps into the firelight carrying a third snake, which he’s holding in front of himself like a small fishing pole.

“You okay, Theresa?” Grandpa follows Joey into the light, a brown paper bag in his hands.

Oh, yeah. Dessert. Feeling like a major idiot, I nod, pick up my snake-stick, and take my seat.

“Good,” says Grandpa. His voice is deep and rich, a lot like the guitar he played for us before dinner. He lowers himself into the empty folding chair between Joey and me. “Now, let’s make some s’mores.” He reaches into the sack and removes a bag of supersized marshmallows, which he tears open and offers to Joey.

“My friend, Elbie, tells the best campfire stories,” says Joey. He takes a marshmallow and shoves it onto his snake-stick.

“Yeah, scary ones.” I scooch my folding chair closer to the fire. “His always take place somewhere creepy and out-of-the-way like a dark forest or a cursed lighthouse.”

“My favorite’s the one about the abandoned castle,” says Joey.

Grandpa offers me a marshmallow then takes one for himself. “I know a story or two myself.”

Doubting my grandfather knows many stories with serial killers as the main character, I chuckle, then decide, what the heck and say, “Tell us one.”

“Okay, let me think.” Seeing Joey’s marshmallow dip into the flames, he uses one finger to nudge the stick upward. “This story takes place many years ago, in the city of Sevilla.”

“Isn’t that in Spain?” I ask. “Where you grew up?”

“Close. Our village was about twenty miles outside the city. Anyway, a young man named Paco was in Sevilla visiting his uncle’s family when he and his cousin were invited to a big fiesta. Lots of music, food, and dancing. But Paco hadn’t packed a suit. Luckily, his cousin owned several and offered to loan him one. The jacket was a little tight and the pants could have been longer, but he looked good, and off they went.”

“So, all the men wore suits.” I can’t help but crack a smile as I imagine the boys at my own school all starched and pressed. “What did the women wear?”

“Gowns, of course. Fine ones, and since it was July, and air conditioning wasn’t common yet, they all carried fans.” From beneath his chair, he pulls the one section of newspaper he hadn’t used to build the fire with and flaps it in front of his chest like some flirtatious señorita. “So…” he drops the paper onto the fire. “…the band was playing, fans were flapping, couples were dancing, and Paco was staining his borrowed suit with sweat as he searched the ballroom for his first dance partner.”

“So far,” says Joey, “This is not a very good campfire story.”

He’s right. Even Elbie’s worst story would have had at least one murder by now. I shake my head at my overly-honest brother and tell him his marshmallow is done.

Seeing I’m right, he swings the end of his stick toward his mouth, but Grandpa stops it six inches short.

“Patience, nieto. On the outside, your treat looks delicious, but inside, it is boiling.” He removes his own marshmallow from the flames. “We let them cool a while. Like this...” He lays the stick across his lap. “…while we get the other stuff ready.”

Seeing my own marshmallow is now nice and brown, I lean my stick against my chair and help Grandpa pass out the chocolate bars and graham crackers.

“So…” says Grandpa, “…as the night went on, Paco danced with several girls, none of whom he found very interesting. Around twelve o’clock, he was about to call it a night when he spotted a beautiful young woman standing alone in the center of the dancefloor. She was gorgeous. Golden hair. Green eyes. A woman any man would be proud to dance with. He stepped toward her and—”

“Am I doing it right?” Marshmallow sandwiched between his graham crackers and chocolate, Joey waits for Grandpa Frank to nod before sliding it off the stick. He takes his first bite and gives us a thumbs up.

Eager to get some of that gooey goodness for myself, I quickly assemble my own s’more and take a big bite. “Mmmm,” I moan through a mouthful of deliciousness, and once I can get out the words, try to move the story along by saying, “So, he asked the girl to dance. Then what happened?”

Chewing thoughtfully, Grandpa stares into the campfire, but I doubt that’s what he’s really seeing. “Others tried to take her from him, but she would dance with no one else,” he continues, “and by the time the band quit playing, he’d fallen in love with her. And he didn’t even know her name.”

“Really?” Joey licks some chocolate off his finger. “I’d think that would be the first thing a guy would ask.”

“He did, eventually. Right before he offered to drive her home.”

“What was her name?” I ask, wondering which of the two characters would die first.

“Socorro,” Grandpa answers, the orange flames reflecting off his eyes.

“Okay,” says Joey. “So, Paco drove Socorro home.”

“Well...” Grandpa shrugs. “He definitely tried.”

Is there going to be a big car crash? I take another bite and look at Joey who seems like he’s going to ask the same question. “Shhh,” I tell him. “This is starting to get good.”

Grandpa chuckles. “Thank you. Paco thought so too. Thrilled such an elegant young woman had shown interest in him, he escorted Socorro to his little car. From her dress and manners, he knew she was well bred, but he was still a bit surprised when she told him she lived in Barrio del Arenal, the finest neighborhood in all Sevilla.

“So, he aimed his car in the direction of Puente de Triana, one of the many bridges that cross the Guadalquivir River. At first, the girl behaved normally. But when the river came into view ahead of them, she suddenly shouted, ‘Stop!’

“Paco slammed on the brakes. ‘What’s wrong?’ he sputtered.

“‘We can’t go this way!’ Eyes wide with terror, she gripped his arm like a vise. ‘Turn the car around…please.’

“Paco knew Barrio del Arenal was just across the bridge, but, seeing the girl so distressed, he did as she said. ‘Where to?’ he asked, once they were heading the opposite direction. ‘Straight?’

“Eyes forward and lashes spiked with tears, she nodded.”

“Well, that’s just weird,” says Joey, reaching for another marshmallow.

Nodding, Grandpa takes another for himself and positions it over the fire. “So, Paco drove straight. After a while, she signaled for him to turn, which he did. He followed all of her directions. Finally, she told him to stop.”

“Where were they?” Joey asks.

“At the front gates of El Cementerio San Fernando.”

“A cemetery?” I smile, anticipating the possibilities.

“At that hour?” Joey asks. “Did Socorro have mental issues?”

“Paco wondered the same thing,” Grandpa tells us. “On Socorro’s side of the car was a high brick wall with black wrought-iron gates. And since, by that time, it was past three o’clock in the morning, there wasn’t another soul in sight.”

“The perfect setting for a murder,” I say, hoping I’m right.

“Indeed. But Socorro kissed his cheek and got out of the car anyway.”

I gasp. “What did Paco do?”

“He got out too. But by the time he ran around to the other side, she’d already slipped through the gate.” Grandpa shrugs. “So, he followed her.” He sits back, letting his words sink in. “In the middle of the night, he raced into the largest cemetery in Sevilla.”

“Was Socorro killed with an ax?” Joey asks. “In Elbie’s campfire stories, maniacs always use axes.”

Grandpa’s eyes slide sideways, stopping on Joey. “Sorry to disappoint you, but the fact is, Paco never found the girl. And he searched for hours too. Up and down a hundred rows of flat marble tombs, past monuments built to the greatest bullfighters, the most famous flamenco dancers. But Socorro was nowhere to be seen. Finally, he gave up.

“By then, it was nearly dawn. Anyone else would have considered himself the butt of a terrible joke and gone home, but Paco was obsessed with the girl.” Grandpa continues to stare into the flames, the curve of his earlier smile now turned downward. “Heartbroken, he sat in his car…thinking about her…and as he thought, he realized that the little rich girl had been toying with him all along, laughing behind her fan at his borrowed suit and too short pants. Furious, he decided to drive to the address she had first mentioned and confront her there.

“So, he sped through Sevilla, growing angrier with each street he passed, across Puente de Triana and into the center of Barrio del Arenal. As he suspected, her home was the most beautiful of all. Tall, stately. At this hour, there were few cars on the street, so he parked right in front of the gates, strode up to the huge black lacquered door, and rang the bell.

“By then, the sun was just beginning to rise. Exhausted and still angry, he rang the bell again. Several times, in fact. Finally, a butler opened the door.”

“Is Paco carrying an ax?” Joey asks.

Catching his eye, I shake my head again, and Grandpa continues.

“‘I need to see Socorro,’ Paco demanded as he stormed into the house. ‘I know she lives here.’”

“Was the butler surprised?” I ask. “Angry? I’d call the cops if someone burst into my house like that.”

Joey nods. “Especially if the guy’s carrying an ax.”

“Strangely,” says Grandpa, “the butler was neither, and instead of calling the police, he escorted Paco to an elegant sitting room where an elderly woman sat sipping coffee from a fine china cup. ‘Would you like some?” she asked. ‘Sanchez, bring some pastries.’

“‘I must speak to Socorro,” Paco insisted. ‘Immediately.’

“‘Lo siento,’ the old woman answered, ‘but Socorro doesn’t live here. She hasn’t for a very long time.’

“Paco must have looked confused because the old woman reached for his hand. ‘Tell me,’ she whispered. And when he had finished his strange story, she surprised him again.

“‘You are not the first man this has happened to,’ she told him.

“Paco didn’t know what to say. In the short time he’d known Socorro, she had stolen his heart then tossed it aside like a broken toy. He shuddered at the thought of her making such behavior a habit. ‘Playing with a man’s emotions can be dangerous,’ he told the old woman. ‘I would never hurt her, but other men are not so well mannered. If your granddaughter continues this behavior…’

“‘Gracias, but if you’re worried about the girl’s welfare, it is far too late. You see…’ She drew his attention to the fireplace on the far wall and the large framed portrait hanging above it. ‘…Socorro is not my granddaughter. She is my daughter.’

“Since the woman was at least eighty, Paco was, once again, at a loss for words.

“‘I can hear the wheels turning in your head.’ The woman chuckled softly, her coffee forgotten on the table. ‘As I am sure you know, Socorro loves to dance, and as beautiful as she is, men have always climbed over each other for the chance of being her partner. One in particular was so eager to impress my daughter that he borrowed his friend’s car in order to drive her home.’ Her eyes filled with tears. ‘Socorro died in that car.’

“‘Are you saying…’ Paco shuddered, the blood in his veins suddenly frozen. ‘…I was dancing with a ghost?’

“‘For more than forty years, whenever there is a fiesta in Sevilla, at least one young man sees her. Sometimes she disappears after they leave the ball. Other times, she waits until they get to the cemetery. I wish the poor child could come home, but she can’t.’”

“That’s so sad,” I blurt. “But why not?”

“Remember?” says Joey. “Spirits can’t cross over moving water.”

“Oh, yeah. That’s why she freaked out when she saw the bridge.” I study my grandfather’s face, and suddenly it hits me. “You’re Paco, aren’t you grandpa?”

“How did you know?”

“Everyone calls you Frank, but your real name is Francisco, and Paco—”

“—is short for Francisco?” Joey’s lips purse. “That makes no sense. It’s like Bill being short for William—or even worse, Dick for Richard.”

“Grandpa…” I u-turned back to the story. “Did you ever see Socorro again?”

“No, but her mother told me where her grave was located, and right after I left the house, I went straight to the cemetery. Can you guess what was written on her tombstone?”

“I would imagine it would be her name,” Joey says, “and the dates of her birth and death.”

“Well, yes, but…below all that, it also said, ‘She loved to dance.’”Flashlight in hand, I work my way back to the campsite to find a snake lying on my folding chair. My entire body stiffens. There’s one on Grandpa Frank’s chair too. Both creatures are long and pencil-thin. As I consider whether I should run or just scream my lungs out, my little brother, Joey, steps into the firelight carrying a third snake, which he’s holding in front of himself like a small fishing pole.

“You okay, Theresa?” Grandpa follows Joey into the light, a brown paper bag in his hands.

Oh, yeah. Dessert. Feeling like a major idiot, I nod, pick up my snake-stick, and take my seat.

“Good,” says Grandpa. His voice is deep and rich, a lot like the guitar he played for us before dinner. He lowers himself into the empty folding chair between Joey and me. “Now, let’s make some s’mores.” He reaches into the sack and removes a bag of supersized marshmallows, which he tears open and offers to Joey.

“My friend, Elbie, tells the best campfire stories,” says Joey. He takes a marshmallow and shoves it onto his snake-stick.

“Yeah, scary ones.” I scooch my folding chair closer to the fire. “His always take place somewhere creepy and out-of-the-way like a dark forest or a cursed lighthouse.”

“My favorite’s the one about the abandoned castle,” says Joey.

Grandpa offers me a marshmallow then takes one for himself. “I know a story or two myself.”

Doubting my grandfather knows many stories with serial killers as the main character, I chuckle, then decide, what the heck and say, “Tell us one.”

“Okay, let me think.” Seeing Joey’s marshmallow dip into the flames, he uses one finger to nudge the stick upward. “This story takes place many years ago, in the city of Sevilla.”

“Isn’t that in Spain?” I ask. “Where you grew up?”

“Close. Our village was about twenty miles outside the city. Anyway, a young man named Paco was in Sevilla visiting his uncle’s family when he and his cousin were invited to a big fiesta. Lots of music, food, and dancing. But Paco hadn’t packed a suit. Luckily, his cousin owned several and offered to loan him one. The jacket was a little tight and the pants could have been longer, but he looked good, and off they went.”

“So, all the men wore suits.” I can’t help but crack a smile as I imagine the boys at my own school all starched and pressed. “What did the women wear?”

“Gowns, of course. Fine ones, and since it was July, and air conditioning wasn’t common yet, they all carried fans.” From beneath his chair, he pulls the one section of newspaper he hadn’t used to build the fire with and flaps it in front of his chest like some flirtatious señorita. “So…” he drops the paper onto the fire. “…the band was playing, fans were flapping, couples were dancing, and Paco was staining his borrowed suit with sweat as he searched the ballroom for his first dance partner.”

“So far,” says Joey, “This is not a very good campfire story.”

He’s right. Even Elbie’s worst story would have had at least one murder by now. I shake my head at my overly-honest brother and tell him his marshmallow is done.

Seeing I’m right, he swings the end of his stick toward his mouth, but Grandpa stops it six inches short.

“Patience, nieto. On the outside, your treat looks delicious, but inside, it is boiling.” He removes his own marshmallow from the flames. “We let them cool a while. Like this...” He lays the stick across his lap. “…while we get the other stuff ready.”

Seeing my own marshmallow is now nice and brown, I lean my stick against my chair and help Grandpa pass out the chocolate bars and graham crackers.

“So…” says Grandpa, “…as the night went on, Paco danced with several girls, none of whom he found very interesting. Around twelve o’clock, he was about to call it a night when he spotted a beautiful young woman standing alone in the center of the dancefloor. She was gorgeous. Golden hair. Green eyes. A woman any man would be proud to dance with. He stepped toward her and—”

“Am I doing it right?” Marshmallow sandwiched between his graham crackers and chocolate, Joey waits for Grandpa Frank to nod before sliding it off the stick. He takes his first bite and gives us a thumbs up.

Eager to get some of that gooey goodness for myself, I quickly assemble my own s’more and take a big bite. “Mmmm,” I moan through a mouthful of deliciousness, and once I can get out the words, try to move the story along by saying, “So, he asked the girl to dance. Then what happened?”

Chewing thoughtfully, Grandpa stares into the campfire, but I doubt that’s what he’s really seeing. “Others tried to take her from him, but she would dance with no one else,” he continues, “and by the time the band quit playing, he’d fallen in love with her. And he didn’t even know her name.”

“Really?” Joey licks some chocolate off his finger. “I’d think that would be the first thing a guy would ask.”

“He did, eventually. Right before he offered to drive her home.”

“What was her name?” I ask, wondering which of the two characters would die first.

“Socorro,” Grandpa answers, the orange flames reflecting off his eyes.

“Okay,” says Joey. “So, Paco drove Socorro home.”

“Well...” Grandpa shrugs. “He definitely tried.”

Is there going to be a big car crash? I take another bite and look at Joey who seems like he’s going to ask the same question. “Shhh,” I tell him. “This is starting to get good.”

Grandpa chuckles. “Thank you. Paco thought so too. Thrilled such an elegant young woman had shown interest in him, he escorted Socorro to his little car. From her dress and manners, he knew she was well bred, but he was still a bit surprised when she told him she lived in Barrio del Arenal, the finest neighborhood in all Sevilla.

“So, he aimed his car in the direction of Puente de Triana, one of the many bridges that cross the Guadalquivir River. At first, the girl behaved normally. But when the river came into view ahead of them, she suddenly shouted, ‘Stop!’

“Paco slammed on the brakes. ‘What’s wrong?’ he sputtered.

“‘We can’t go this way!’ Eyes wide with terror, she gripped his arm like a vise. ‘Turn the car around…please.’

“Paco knew Barrio del Arenal was just across the bridge, but, seeing the girl so distressed, he did as she said. ‘Where to?’ he asked, once they were heading the opposite direction. ‘Straight?’

“Eyes forward and lashes spiked with tears, she nodded.”

“Well, that’s just weird,” says Joey, reaching for another marshmallow.

Nodding, Grandpa takes another for himself and positions it over the fire. “So, Paco drove straight. After a while, she signaled for him to turn, which he did. He followed all of her directions. Finally, she told him to stop.”

“Where were they?” Joey asks.

“At the front gates of El Cementerio San Fernando.”

“A cemetery?” I smile, anticipating the possibilities.

“At that hour?” Joey asks. “Did Socorro have mental issues?”

“Paco wondered the same thing,” Grandpa tells us. “On Socorro’s side of the car was a high brick wall with black wrought-iron gates. And since, by that time, it was past three o’clock in the morning, there wasn’t another soul in sight.”

“The perfect setting for a murder,” I say, hoping I’m right.

“Indeed. But Socorro kissed his cheek and got out of the car anyway.”

I gasp. “What did Paco do?”

“He got out too. But by the time he ran around to the other side, she’d already slipped through the gate.” Grandpa shrugs. “So, he followed her.” He sits back, letting his words sink in. “In the middle of the night, he raced into the largest cemetery in Sevilla.”

“Was Socorro killed with an ax?” Joey asks. “In Elbie’s campfire stories, maniacs always use axes.”

Grandpa’s eyes slide sideways, stopping on Joey. “Sorry to disappoint you, but the fact is, Paco never found the girl. And he searched for hours too. Up and down a hundred rows of flat marble tombs, past monuments built to the greatest bullfighters, the most famous flamenco dancers. But Socorro was nowhere to be seen. Finally, he gave up.

“By then, it was nearly dawn. Anyone else would have considered himself the butt of a terrible joke and gone home, but Paco was obsessed with the girl.” Grandpa continues to stare into the flames, the curve of his earlier smile now turned downward. “Heartbroken, he sat in his car…thinking about her…and as he thought, he realized that the little rich girl had been toying with him all along, laughing behind her fan at his borrowed suit and too short pants. Furious, he decided to drive to the address she had first mentioned and confront her there.

“So, he sped through Sevilla, growing angrier with each street he passed, across Puente de Triana and into the center of Barrio del Arenal. As he suspected, her home was the most beautiful of all. Tall, stately. At this hour, there were few cars on the street, so he parked right in front of the gates, strode up to the huge black lacquered door, and rang the bell.

“By then, the sun was just beginning to rise. Exhausted and still angry, he rang the bell again. Several times, in fact. Finally, a butler opened the door.”

“Is Paco carrying an ax?” Joey asks.

Catching his eye, I shake my head again, and Grandpa continues.

“‘I need to see Socorro,’ Paco demanded as he stormed into the house. ‘I know she lives here.’”

“Was the butler surprised?” I ask. “Angry? I’d call the cops if someone burst into my house like that.”

Joey nods. “Especially if the guy’s carrying an ax.”

“Strangely,” says Grandpa, “the butler was neither, and instead of calling the police, he escorted Paco to an elegant sitting room where an elderly woman sat sipping coffee from a fine china cup. ‘Would you like some?” she asked. ‘Sanchez, bring some pastries.’

“‘I must speak to Socorro,” Paco insisted. ‘Immediately.’

“‘Lo siento,’ the old woman answered, ‘but Socorro doesn’t live here. She hasn’t for a very long time.’

“Paco must have looked confused because the old woman reached for his hand. ‘Tell me,’ she whispered. And when he had finished his strange story, she surprised him again.

“‘You are not the first man this has happened to,’ she told him.

“Paco didn’t know what to say. In the short time he’d known Socorro, she had stolen his heart then tossed it aside like a broken toy. He shuddered at the thought of her making such behavior a habit. ‘Playing with a man’s emotions can be dangerous,’ he told the old woman. ‘I would never hurt her, but other men are not so well mannered. If your granddaughter continues this behavior…’

“‘Gracias, but if you’re worried about the girl’s welfare, it is far too late. You see…’ She drew his attention to the fireplace on the far wall and the large framed portrait hanging above it. ‘…Socorro is not my granddaughter. She is my daughter.’

“Since the woman was at least eighty, Paco was, once again, at a loss for words.

“‘I can hear the wheels turning in your head.’ The woman chuckled softly, her coffee forgotten on the table. ‘As I am sure you know, Socorro loves to dance, and as beautiful as she is, men have always climbed over each other for the chance of being her partner. One in particular was so eager to impress my daughter that he borrowed his friend’s car in order to drive her home.’ Her eyes filled with tears. ‘Socorro died in that car.’

“‘Are you saying…’ Paco shuddered, the blood in his veins suddenly frozen. ‘…I was dancing with a ghost?’

“‘For more than forty years, whenever there is a fiesta in Sevilla, at least one young man sees her. Sometimes she disappears after they leave the ball. Other times, she waits until they get to the cemetery. I wish the poor child could come home, but she can’t.’”

“That’s so sad,” I blurt. “But why not?”

“Remember?” says Joey. “Spirits can’t cross over moving water.”

“Oh, yeah. That’s why she freaked out when she saw the bridge.” I study my grandfather’s face, and suddenly it hits me. “You’re Paco, aren’t you grandpa?”

“How did you know?”

“Everyone calls you Frank, but your real name is Francisco, and Paco—”

“—is short for Francisco?” Joey’s lips purse. “That makes no sense. It’s like Bill being short for William—or even worse, Dick for Richard.”

“Grandpa…” I u-turned back to the story. “Did you ever see Socorro again?”

“No, but her mother told me where her grave was located, and right after I left the house, I went straight to the cemetery. Can you guess what was written on her tombstone?”

“I would imagine it would be her name,” Joey says, “and the dates of her birth and death.”

“Well, yes, but…below all that, it also said, ‘She loved to dance.’”Flashlight in hand, I work my way back to the campsite to find a snake lying on my folding chair. My entire body stiffens. There’s one on Grandpa Frank’s chair too. Both creatures are long and pencil-thin. As I consider whether I should run or just scream my lungs out, my little brother, Joey, steps into the firelight carrying a third snake, which he’s holding in front of himself like a small fishing pole.

“You okay, Theresa?” Grandpa follows Joey into the light, a brown paper bag in his hands.

Oh, yeah. Dessert. Feeling like a major idiot, I nod, pick up my snake-stick, and take my seat.

“Good,” says Grandpa. His voice is deep and rich, a lot like the guitar he played for us before dinner. He lowers himself into the empty folding chair between Joey and me. “Now, let’s make some s’mores.” He reaches into the sack and removes a bag of supersized marshmallows, which he tears open and offers to Joey.

“My friend, Elbie, tells the best campfire stories,” says Joey. He takes a marshmallow and shoves it onto his snake-stick.

“Yeah, scary ones.” I scooch my folding chair closer to the fire. “His always take place somewhere creepy and out-of-the-way like a dark forest or a cursed lighthouse.”

“My favorite’s the one about the abandoned castle,” says Joey.

Grandpa offers me a marshmallow then takes one for himself. “I know a story or two myself.”

Doubting my grandfather knows many stories with serial killers as the main character, I chuckle, then decide, what the heck and say, “Tell us one.”

“Okay, let me think.” Seeing Joey’s marshmallow dip into the flames, he uses one finger to nudge the stick upward. “This story takes place many years ago, in the city of Sevilla.”

“Isn’t that in Spain?” I ask. “Where you grew up?”

“Close. Our village was about twenty miles outside the city. Anyway, a young man named Paco was in Sevilla visiting his uncle’s family when he and his cousin were invited to a big fiesta. Lots of music, food, and dancing. But Paco hadn’t packed a suit. Luckily, his cousin owned several and offered to loan him one. The jacket was a little tight and the pants could have been longer, but he looked good, and off they went.”

“So, all the men wore suits.” I can’t help but crack a smile as I imagine the boys at my own school all starched and pressed. “What did the women wear?”

“Gowns, of course. Fine ones, and since it was July, and air conditioning wasn’t common yet, they all carried fans.” From beneath his chair, he pulls the one section of newspaper he hadn’t used to build the fire with and flaps it in front of his chest like some flirtatious señorita. “So…” he drops the paper onto the fire. “…the band was playing, fans were flapping, couples were dancing, and Paco was staining his borrowed suit with sweat as he searched the ballroom for his first dance partner.”

“So far,” says Joey, “This is not a very good campfire story.”

He’s right. Even Elbie’s worst story would have had at least one murder by now. I shake my head at my overly-honest brother and tell him his marshmallow is done.

Seeing I’m right, he swings the end of his stick toward his mouth, but Grandpa stops it six inches short.

“Patience, nieto. On the outside, your treat looks delicious, but inside, it is boiling.” He removes his own marshmallow from the flames. “We let them cool a while. Like this...” He lays the stick across his lap. “…while we get the other stuff ready.”

Seeing my own marshmallow is now nice and brown, I lean my stick against my chair and help Grandpa pass out the chocolate bars and graham crackers.

“So…” says Grandpa, “…as the night went on, Paco danced with several girls, none of whom he found very interesting. Around twelve o’clock, he was about to call it a night when he spotted a beautiful young woman standing alone in the center of the dancefloor. She was gorgeous. Golden hair. Green eyes. A woman any man would be proud to dance with. He stepped toward her and—”

“Am I doing it right?” Marshmallow sandwiched between his graham crackers and chocolate, Joey waits for Grandpa Frank to nod before sliding it off the stick. He takes his first bite and gives us a thumbs up.

Eager to get some of that gooey goodness for myself, I quickly assemble my own s’more and take a big bite. “Mmmm,” I moan through a mouthful of deliciousness, and once I can get out the words, try to move the story along by saying, “So, he asked the girl to dance. Then what happened?”

Chewing thoughtfully, Grandpa stares into the campfire, but I doubt that’s what he’s really seeing. “Others tried to take her from him, but she would dance with no one else,” he continues, “and by the time the band quit playing, he’d fallen in love with her. And he didn’t even know her name.”

“Really?” Joey licks some chocolate off his finger. “I’d think that would be the first thing a guy would ask.”

“He did, eventually. Right before he offered to drive her home.”

“What was her name?” I ask, wondering which of the two characters would die first.

“Socorro,” Grandpa answers, the orange flames reflecting off his eyes.

“Okay,” says Joey. “So, Paco drove Socorro home.”

“Well...” Grandpa shrugs. “He definitely tried.”

Is there going to be a big car crash? I take another bite and look at Joey who seems like he’s going to ask the same question. “Shhh,” I tell him. “This is starting to get good.”

Grandpa chuckles. “Thank you. Paco thought so too. Thrilled such an elegant young woman had shown interest in him, he escorted Socorro to his little car. From her dress and manners, he knew she was well bred, but he was still a bit surprised when she told him she lived in Barrio del Arenal, the finest neighborhood in all Sevilla.

“So, he aimed his car in the direction of Puente de Triana, one of the many bridges that cross the Guadalquivir River. At first, the girl behaved normally. But when the river came into view ahead of them, she suddenly shouted, ‘Stop!’

“Paco slammed on the brakes. ‘What’s wrong?’ he sputtered.

“‘We can’t go this way!’ Eyes wide with terror, she gripped his arm like a vise. ‘Turn the car around…please.’

“Paco knew Barrio del Arenal was just across the bridge, but, seeing the girl so distressed, he did as she said. ‘Where to?’ he asked, once they were heading the opposite direction. ‘Straight?’

“Eyes forward and lashes spiked with tears, she nodded.”

“Well, that’s just weird,” says Joey, reaching for another marshmallow.

Nodding, Grandpa takes another for himself and positions it over the fire. “So, Paco drove straight. After a while, she signaled for him to turn, which he did. He followed all of her directions. Finally, she told him to stop.”

“Where were they?” Joey asks.

“At the front gates of El Cementerio San Fernando.”

“A cemetery?” I smile, anticipating the possibilities.

“At that hour?” Joey asks. “Did Socorro have mental issues?”

“Paco wondered the same thing,” Grandpa tells us. “On Socorro’s side of the car was a high brick wall with black wrought-iron gates. And since, by that time, it was past three o’clock in the morning, there wasn’t another soul in sight.”

“The perfect setting for a murder,” I say, hoping I’m right.

“Indeed. But Socorro kissed his cheek and got out of the car anyway.”

I gasp. “What did Paco do?”

“He got out too. But by the time he ran around to the other side, she’d already slipped through the gate.” Grandpa shrugs. “So, he followed her.” He sits back, letting his words sink in. “In the middle of the night, he raced into the largest cemetery in Sevilla.”

“Was Socorro killed with an ax?” Joey asks. “In Elbie’s campfire stories, maniacs always use axes.”

Grandpa’s eyes slide sideways, stopping on Joey. “Sorry to disappoint you, but the fact is, Paco never found the girl. And he searched for hours too. Up and down a hundred rows of flat marble tombs, past monuments built to the greatest bullfighters, the most famous flamenco dancers. But Socorro was nowhere to be seen. Finally, he gave up.

“By then, it was nearly dawn. Anyone else would have considered himself the butt of a terrible joke and gone home, but Paco was obsessed with the girl.” Grandpa continues to stare into the flames, the curve of his earlier smile now turned downward. “Heartbroken, he sat in his car…thinking about her…and as he thought, he realized that the little rich girl had been toying with him all along, laughing behind her fan at his borrowed suit and too short pants. Furious, he decided to drive to the address she had first mentioned and confront her there.

“So, he sped through Sevilla, growing angrier with each street he passed, across Puente de Triana and into the center of Barrio del Arenal. As he suspected, her home was the most beautiful of all. Tall, stately. At this hour, there were few cars on the street, so he parked right in front of the gates, strode up to the huge black lacquered door, and rang the bell.

“By then, the sun was just beginning to rise. Exhausted and still angry, he rang the bell again. Several times, in fact. Finally, a butler opened the door.”

“Is Paco carrying an ax?” Joey asks.

Catching his eye, I shake my head again, and Grandpa continues.

“‘I need to see Socorro,’ Paco demanded as he stormed into the house. ‘I know she lives here.’”

“Was the butler surprised?” I ask. “Angry? I’d call the cops if someone burst into my house like that.”

Joey nods. “Especially if the guy’s carrying an ax.”

“Strangely,” says Grandpa, “the butler was neither, and instead of calling the police, he escorted Paco to an elegant sitting room where an elderly woman sat sipping coffee from a fine china cup. ‘Would you like some?” she asked. ‘Sanchez, bring some pastries.’

“‘I must speak to Socorro,” Paco insisted. ‘Immediately.’

“‘Lo siento,’ the old woman answered, ‘but Socorro doesn’t live here. She hasn’t for a very long time.’

“Paco must have looked confused because the old woman reached for his hand. ‘Tell me,’ she whispered. And when he had finished his strange story, she surprised him again.

“‘You are not the first man this has happened to,’ she told him.

“Paco didn’t know what to say. In the short time he’d known Socorro, she had stolen his heart then tossed it aside like a broken toy. He shuddered at the thought of her making such behavior a habit. ‘Playing with a man’s emotions can be dangerous,’ he told the old woman. ‘I would never hurt her, but other men are not so well mannered. If your granddaughter continues this behavior…’

“‘Gracias, but if you’re worried about the girl’s welfare, it is far too late. You see…’ She drew his attention to the fireplace on the far wall and the large framed portrait hanging above it. ‘…Socorro is not my granddaughter. She is my daughter.’

“Since the woman was at least eighty, Paco was, once again, at a loss for words.

“‘I can hear the wheels turning in your head.’ The woman chuckled softly, her coffee forgotten on the table. ‘As I am sure you know, Socorro loves to dance, and as beautiful as she is, men have always climbed over each other for the chance of being her partner. One in particular was so eager to impress my daughter that he borrowed his friend’s car in order to drive her home.’ Her eyes filled with tears. ‘Socorro died in that car.’

“‘Are you saying…’ Paco shuddered, the blood in his veins suddenly frozen. ‘…I was dancing with a ghost?’

“‘For more than forty years, whenever there is a fiesta in Sevilla, at least one young man sees her. Sometimes she disappears after they leave the ball. Other times, she waits until they get to the cemetery. I wish the poor child could come home, but she can’t.’”

“That’s so sad,” I blurt. “But why not?”

“Remember?” says Joey. “Spirits can’t cross over moving water.”

“Oh, yeah. That’s why she freaked out when she saw the bridge.” I study my grandfather’s face, and suddenly it hits me. “You’re Paco, aren’t you grandpa?”

“How did you know?”

“Everyone calls you Frank, but your real name is Francisco, and Paco—”

“—is short for Francisco?” Joey’s lips purse. “That makes no sense. It’s like Bill being short for William—or even worse, Dick for Richard.”

“Grandpa…” I u-turned back to the story. “Did you ever see Socorro again?”

“No, but her mother told me where her grave was located, and right after I left the house, I went straight to the cemetery. Can you guess what was written on her tombstone?”

“I would imagine it would be her name,” Joey says, “and the dates of her birth and death.”

“Well, yes, but…below all that, it also said, ‘She loved to dance.’”Flashlight in hand, I work my way back to the campsite to find a snake lying on my folding chair. My entire body stiffens. There’s one on Grandpa Frank’s chair too. Both creatures are long and pencil-thin. As I consider whether I should run or just scream my lungs out, my little brother, Joey, steps into the firelight carrying a third snake, which he’s holding in front of himself like a small fishing pole.

“You okay, Theresa?” Grandpa follows Joey into the light, a brown paper bag in his hands.

Oh, yeah. Dessert. Feeling like a major idiot, I nod, pick up my snake-stick, and take my seat.

“Good,” says Grandpa. His voice is deep and rich, a lot like the guitar he played for us before dinner. He lowers himself into the empty folding chair between Joey and me. “Now, let’s make some s’mores.” He reaches into the sack and removes a bag of supersized marshmallows, which he tears open and offers to Joey.

“My friend, Elbie, tells the best campfire stories,” says Joey. He takes a marshmallow and shoves it onto his snake-stick.

“Yeah, scary ones.” I scooch my folding chair closer to the fire. “His always take place somewhere creepy and out-of-the-way like a dark forest or a cursed lighthouse.”

“My favorite’s the one about the abandoned castle,” says Joey.

Grandpa offers me a marshmallow then takes one for himself. “I know a story or two myself.”

Doubting my grandfather knows many stories with serial killers as the main character, I chuckle, then decide, what the heck and say, “Tell us one.”

“Okay, let me think.” Seeing Joey’s marshmallow dip into the flames, he uses one finger to nudge the stick upward. “This story takes place many years ago, in the city of Sevilla.”

“Isn’t that in Spain?” I ask. “Where you grew up?”

“Close. Our village was about twenty miles outside the city. Anyway, a young man named Paco was in Sevilla visiting his uncle’s family when he and his cousin were invited to a big fiesta. Lots of music, food, and dancing. But Paco hadn’t packed a suit. Luckily, his cousin owned several and offered to loan him one. The jacket was a little tight and the pants could have been longer, but he looked good, and off they went.”

“So, all the men wore suits.” I can’t help but crack a smile as I imagine the boys at my own school all starched and pressed. “What did the women wear?”

“Gowns, of course. Fine ones, and since it was July, and air conditioning wasn’t common yet, they all carried fans.” From beneath his chair, he pulls the one section of newspaper he hadn’t used to build the fire with and flaps it in front of his chest like some flirtatious señorita. “So…” he drops the paper onto the fire. “…the band was playing, fans were flapping, couples were dancing, and Paco was staining his borrowed suit with sweat as he searched the ballroom for his first dance partner.”

“So far,” says Joey, “This is not a very good campfire story.”

He’s right. Even Elbie’s worst story would have had at least one murder by now. I shake my head at my overly-honest brother and tell him his marshmallow is done.

Seeing I’m right, he swings the end of his stick toward his mouth, but Grandpa stops it six inches short.

“Patience, nieto. On the outside, your treat looks delicious, but inside, it is boiling.” He removes his own marshmallow from the flames. “We let them cool a while. Like this...” He lays the stick across his lap. “…while we get the other stuff ready.”

Seeing my own marshmallow is now nice and brown, I lean my stick against my chair and help Grandpa pass out the chocolate bars and graham crackers.

“So…” says Grandpa, “…as the night went on, Paco danced with several girls, none of whom he found very interesting. Around twelve o’clock, he was about to call it a night when he spotted a beautiful young woman standing alone in the center of the dancefloor. She was gorgeous. Golden hair. Green eyes. A woman any man would be proud to dance with. He stepped toward her and—”

“Am I doing it right?” Marshmallow sandwiched between his graham crackers and chocolate, Joey waits for Grandpa Frank to nod before sliding it off the stick. He takes his first bite and gives us a thumbs up.

Eager to get some of that gooey goodness for myself, I quickly assemble my own s’more and take a big bite. “Mmmm,” I moan through a mouthful of deliciousness, and once I can get out the words, try to move the story along by saying, “So, he asked the girl to dance. Then what happened?”

Chewing thoughtfully, Grandpa stares into the campfire, but I doubt that’s what he’s really seeing. “Others tried to take her from him, but she would dance with no one else,” he continues, “and by the time the band quit playing, he’d fallen in love with her. And he didn’t even know her name.”

“Really?” Joey licks some chocolate off his finger. “I’d think that would be the first thing a guy would ask.”

“He did, eventually. Right before he offered to drive her home.”

“What was her name?” I ask, wondering which of the two characters would die first.

“Socorro,” Grandpa answers, the orange flames reflecting off his eyes.

“Okay,” says Joey. “So, Paco drove Socorro home.”

“Well...” Grandpa shrugs. “He definitely tried.”

Is there going to be a big car crash? I take another bite and look at Joey who seems like he’s going to ask the same question. “Shhh,” I tell him. “This is starting to get good.”

Grandpa chuckles. “Thank you. Paco thought so too. Thrilled such an elegant young woman had shown interest in him, he escorted Socorro to his little car. From her dress and manners, he knew she was well bred, but he was still a bit surprised when she told him she lived in Barrio del Arenal, the finest neighborhood in all Sevilla.

“So, he aimed his car in the direction of Puente de Triana, one of the many bridges that cross the Guadalquivir River. At first, the girl behaved normally. But when the river came into view ahead of them, she suddenly shouted, ‘Stop!’

“Paco slammed on the brakes. ‘What’s wrong?’ he sputtered.

“‘We can’t go this way!’ Eyes wide with terror, she gripped his arm like a vise. ‘Turn the car around…please.’

“Paco knew Barrio del Arenal was just across the bridge, but, seeing the girl so distressed, he did as she said. ‘Where to?’ he asked, once they were heading the opposite direction. ‘Straight?’

“Eyes forward and lashes spiked with tears, she nodded.”

“Well, that’s just weird,” says Joey, reaching for another marshmallow.

Nodding, Grandpa takes another for himself and positions it over the fire. “So, Paco drove straight. After a while, she signaled for him to turn, which he did. He followed all of her directions. Finally, she told him to stop.”

“Where were they?” Joey asks.

“At the front gates of El Cementerio San Fernando.”

“A cemetery?” I smile, anticipating the possibilities.

“At that hour?” Joey asks. “Did Socorro have mental issues?”

“Paco wondered the same thing,” Grandpa tells us. “On Socorro’s side of the car was a high brick wall with black wrought-iron gates. And since, by that time, it was past three o’clock in the morning, there wasn’t another soul in sight.”

“The perfect setting for a murder,” I say, hoping I’m right.

“Indeed. But Socorro kissed his cheek and got out of the car anyway.”

I gasp. “What did Paco do?”

“He got out too. But by the time he ran around to the other side, she’d already slipped through the gate.” Grandpa shrugs. “So, he followed her.” He sits back, letting his words sink in. “In the middle of the night, he raced into the largest cemetery in Sevilla.”

“Was Socorro killed with an ax?” Joey asks. “In Elbie’s campfire stories, maniacs always use axes.”

Grandpa’s eyes slide sideways, stopping on Joey. “Sorry to disappoint you, but the fact is, Paco never found the girl. And he searched for hours too. Up and down a hundred rows of flat marble tombs, past monuments built to the greatest bullfighters, the most famous flamenco dancers. But Socorro was nowhere to be seen. Finally, he gave up.

“By then, it was nearly dawn. Anyone else would have considered himself the butt of a terrible joke and gone home, but Paco was obsessed with the girl.” Grandpa continues to stare into the flames, the curve of his earlier smile now turned downward. “Heartbroken, he sat in his car…thinking about her…and as he thought, he realized that the little rich girl had been toying with him all along, laughing behind her fan at his borrowed suit and too short pants. Furious, he decided to drive to the address she had first mentioned and confront her there.

“So, he sped through Sevilla, growing angrier with each street he passed, across Puente de Triana and into the center of Barrio del Arenal. As he suspected, her home was the most beautiful of all. Tall, stately. At this hour, there were few cars on the street, so he parked right in front of the gates, strode up to the huge black lacquered door, and rang the bell.

“By then, the sun was just beginning to rise. Exhausted and still angry, he rang the bell again. Several times, in fact. Finally, a butler opened the door.”

“Is Paco carrying an ax?” Joey asks.

Catching his eye, I shake my head again, and Grandpa continues.

“‘I need to see Socorro,’ Paco demanded as he stormed into the house. ‘I know she lives here.’”

“Was the butler surprised?” I ask. “Angry? I’d call the cops if someone burst into my house like that.”

Joey nods. “Especially if the guy’s carrying an ax.”

“Strangely,” says Grandpa, “the butler was neither, and instead of calling the police, he escorted Paco to an elegant sitting room where an elderly woman sat sipping coffee from a fine china cup. ‘Would you like some?” she asked. ‘Sanchez, bring some pastries.’

“‘I must speak to Socorro,” Paco insisted. ‘Immediately.’

“‘Lo siento,’ the old woman answered, ‘but Socorro doesn’t live here. She hasn’t for a very long time.’

“Paco must have looked confused because the old woman reached for his hand. ‘Tell me,’ she whispered. And when he had finished his strange story, she surprised him again.

“‘You are not the first man this has happened to,’ she told him.

“Paco didn’t know what to say. In the short time he’d known Socorro, she had stolen his heart then tossed it aside like a broken toy. He shuddered at the thought of her making such behavior a habit. ‘Playing with a man’s emotions can be dangerous,’ he told the old woman. ‘I would never hurt her, but other men are not so well mannered. If your granddaughter continues this behavior…’

“‘Gracias, but if you’re worried about the girl’s welfare, it is far too late. You see…’ She drew his attention to the fireplace on the far wall and the large framed portrait hanging above it. ‘…Socorro is not my granddaughter. She is my daughter.’

“Since the woman was at least eighty, Paco was, once again, at a loss for words.

“‘I can hear the wheels turning in your head.’ The woman chuckled softly, her coffee forgotten on the table. ‘As I am sure you know, Socorro loves to dance, and as beautiful as she is, men have always climbed over each other for the chance of being her partner. One in particular was so eager to impress my daughter that he borrowed his friend’s car in order to drive her home.’ Her eyes filled with tears. ‘Socorro died in that car.’

“‘Are you saying…’ Paco shuddered, the blood in his veins suddenly frozen. ‘…I was dancing with a ghost?’

“‘For more than forty years, whenever there is a fiesta in Sevilla, at least one young man sees her. Sometimes she disappears after they leave the ball. Other times, she waits until they get to the cemetery. I wish the poor child could come home, but she can’t.’”

“That’s so sad,” I blurt. “But why not?”

“Remember?” says Joey. “Spirits can’t cross over moving water.”

“Oh, yeah. That’s why she freaked out when she saw the bridge.” I study my grandfather’s face, and suddenly it hits me. “You’re Paco, aren’t you grandpa?”

“How did you know?”

“Everyone calls you Frank, but your real name is Francisco, and Paco—”

“—is short for Francisco?” Joey’s lips purse. “That makes no sense. It’s like Bill being short for William—or even worse, Dick for Richard.”

“Grandpa…” I u-turned back to the story. “Did you ever see Socorro again?”

“No, but her mother told me where her grave was located, and right after I left the house, I went straight to the cemetery. Can you guess what was written on her tombstone?”

“I would imagine it would be her name,” Joey says, “and the dates of her birth and death.”

“Well, yes, but…below all that, it also said, ‘She loved to dance.’”Flashlight in hand, I work my way back to the campsite to find a snake lying on my folding chair. My entire body stiffens. There’s one on Grandpa Frank’s chair too. Both creatures are long and pencil-thin. As I consider whether I should run or just scream my lungs out, my little brother, Joey, steps into the firelight carrying a third snake, which he’s holding in front of himself like a small fishing pole.

“You okay, Theresa?” Grandpa follows Joey into the light, a brown paper bag in his hands.

Oh, yeah. Dessert. Feeling like a major idiot, I nod, pick up my snake-stick, and take my seat.

“Good,” says Grandpa. His voice is deep and rich, a lot like the guitar he played for us before dinner. He lowers himself into the empty folding chair between Joey and me. “Now, let’s make some s’mores.” He reaches into the sack and removes a bag of supersized marshmallows, which he tears open and offers to Joey.

“My friend, Elbie, tells the best campfire stories,” says Joey. He takes a marshmallow and shoves it onto his snake-stick.

“Yeah, scary ones.” I scooch my folding chair closer to the fire. “His always take place somewhere creepy and out-of-the-way like a dark forest or a cursed lighthouse.”

“My favorite’s the one about the abandoned castle,” says Joey.

Grandpa offers me a marshmallow then takes one for himself. “I know a story or two myself.”

Doubting my grandfather knows many stories with serial killers as the main character, I chuckle, then decide, what the heck and say, “Tell us one.”

“Okay, let me think.” Seeing Joey’s marshmallow dip into the flames, he uses one finger to nudge the stick upward. “This story takes place many years ago, in the city of Sevilla.”

“Isn’t that in Spain?” I ask. “Where you grew up?”

“Close. Our village was about twenty miles outside the city. Anyway, a young man named Paco was in Sevilla visiting his uncle’s family when he and his cousin were invited to a big fiesta. Lots of music, food, and dancing. But Paco hadn’t packed a suit. Luckily, his cousin owned several and offered to loan him one. The jacket was a little tight and the pants could have been longer, but he looked good, and off they went.”

“So, all the men wore suits.” I can’t help but crack a smile as I imagine the boys at my own school all starched and pressed. “What did the women wear?”

“Gowns, of course. Fine ones, and since it was July, and air conditioning wasn’t common yet, they all carried fans.” From beneath his chair, he pulls the one section of newspaper he hadn’t used to build the fire with and flaps it in front of his chest like some flirtatious señorita. “So…” he drops the paper onto the fire. “…the band was playing, fans were flapping, couples were dancing, and Paco was staining his borrowed suit with sweat as he searched the ballroom for his first dance partner.”

“So far,” says Joey, “This is not a very good campfire story.”

He’s right. Even Elbie’s worst story would have had at least one murder by now. I shake my head at my overly-honest brother and tell him his marshmallow is done.

Seeing I’m right, he swings the end of his stick toward his mouth, but Grandpa stops it six inches short.

“Patience, nieto. On the outside, your treat looks delicious, but inside, it is boiling.” He removes his own marshmallow from the flames. “We let them cool a while. Like this...” He lays the stick across his lap. “…while we get the other stuff ready.”

Seeing my own marshmallow is now nice and brown, I lean my stick against my chair and help Grandpa pass out the chocolate bars and graham crackers.

“So…” says Grandpa, “…as the night went on, Paco danced with several girls, none of whom he found very interesting. Around twelve o’clock, he was about to call it a night when he spotted a beautiful young woman standing alone in the center of the dancefloor. She was gorgeous. Golden hair. Green eyes. A woman any man would be proud to dance with. He stepped toward her and—”

“Am I doing it right?” Marshmallow sandwiched between his graham crackers and chocolate, Joey waits for Grandpa Frank to nod before sliding it off the stick. He takes his first bite and gives us a thumbs up.

Eager to get some of that gooey goodness for myself, I quickly assemble my own s’more and take a big bite. “Mmmm,” I moan through a mouthful of deliciousness, and once I can get out the words, try to move the story along by saying, “So, he asked the girl to dance. Then what happened?”

Chewing thoughtfully, Grandpa stares into the campfire, but I doubt that’s what he’s really seeing. “Others tried to take her from him, but she would dance with no one else,” he continues, “and by the time the band quit playing, he’d fallen in love with her. And he didn’t even know her name.”

“Really?” Joey licks some chocolate off his finger. “I’d think that would be the first thing a guy would ask.”

“He did, eventually. Right before he offered to drive her home.”

“What was her name?” I ask, wondering which of the two characters would die first.

“Socorro,” Grandpa answers, the orange flames reflecting off his eyes.

“Okay,” says Joey. “So, Paco drove Socorro home.”

“Well...” Grandpa shrugs. “He definitely tried.”

Is there going to be a big car crash? I take another bite and look at Joey who seems like he’s going to ask the same question. “Shhh,” I tell him. “This is starting to get good.”

Grandpa chuckles. “Thank you. Paco thought so too. Thrilled such an elegant young woman had shown interest in him, he escorted Socorro to his little car. From her dress and manners, he knew she was well bred, but he was still a bit surprised when she told him she lived in Barrio del Arenal, the finest neighborhood in all Sevilla.

“So, he aimed his car in the direction of Puente de Triana, one of the many bridges that cross the Guadalquivir River. At first, the girl behaved normally. But when the river came into view ahead of them, she suddenly shouted, ‘Stop!’

“Paco slammed on the brakes. ‘What’s wrong?’ he sputtered.

“‘We can’t go this way!’ Eyes wide with terror, she gripped his arm like a vise. ‘Turn the car around…please.’

“Paco knew Barrio del Arenal was just across the bridge, but, seeing the girl so distressed, he did as she said. ‘Where to?’ he asked, once they were heading the opposite direction. ‘Straight?’

“Eyes forward and lashes spiked with tears, she nodded.”

“Well, that’s just weird,” says Joey, reaching for another marshmallow.

Nodding, Grandpa takes another for himself and positions it over the fire. “So, Paco drove straight. After a while, she signaled for him to turn, which he did. He followed all of her directions. Finally, she told him to stop.”

“Where were they?” Joey asks.

“At the front gates of El Cementerio San Fernando.”

“A cemetery?” I smile, anticipating the possibilities.

“At that hour?” Joey asks. “Did Socorro have mental issues?”

“Paco wondered the same thing,” Grandpa tells us. “On Socorro’s side of the car was a high brick wall with black wrought-iron gates. And since, by that time, it was past three o’clock in the morning, there wasn’t another soul in sight.”

“The perfect setting for a murder,” I say, hoping I’m right.

“Indeed. But Socorro kissed his cheek and got out of the car anyway.”

I gasp. “What did Paco do?”

“He got out too. But by the time he ran around to the other side, she’d already slipped through the gate.” Grandpa shrugs. “So, he followed her.” He sits back, letting his words sink in. “In the middle of the night, he raced into the largest cemetery in Sevilla.”

“Was Socorro killed with an ax?” Joey asks. “In Elbie’s campfire stories, maniacs always use axes.”

Grandpa’s eyes slide sideways, stopping on Joey. “Sorry to disappoint you, but the fact is, Paco never found the girl. And he searched for hours too. Up and down a hundred rows of flat marble tombs, past monuments built to the greatest bullfighters, the most famous flamenco dancers. But Socorro was nowhere to be seen. Finally, he gave up.

“By then, it was nearly dawn. Anyone else would have considered himself the butt of a terrible joke and gone home, but Paco was obsessed with the girl.” Grandpa continues to stare into the flames, the curve of his earlier smile now turned downward. “Heartbroken, he sat in his car…thinking about her…and as he thought, he realized that the little rich girl had been toying with him all along, laughing behind her fan at his borrowed suit and too short pants. Furious, he decided to drive to the address she had first mentioned and confront her there.

“So, he sped through Sevilla, growing angrier with each street he passed, across Puente de Triana and into the center of Barrio del Arenal. As he suspected, her home was the most beautiful of all. Tall, stately. At this hour, there were few cars on the street, so he parked right in front of the gates, strode up to the huge black lacquered door, and rang the bell.

“By then, the sun was just beginning to rise. Exhausted and still angry, he rang the bell again. Several times, in fact. Finally, a butler opened the door.”

“Is Paco carrying an ax?” Joey asks.

Catching his eye, I shake my head again, and Grandpa continues.

“‘I need to see Socorro,’ Paco demanded as he stormed into the house. ‘I know she lives here.’”

“Was the butler surprised?” I ask. “Angry? I’d call the cops if someone burst into my house like that.”

Joey nods. “Especially if the guy’s carrying an ax.”

“Strangely,” says Grandpa, “the butler was neither, and instead of calling the police, he escorted Paco to an elegant sitting room where an elderly woman sat sipping coffee from a fine china cup. ‘Would you like some?” she asked. ‘Sanchez, bring some pastries.’

“‘I must speak to Socorro,” Paco insisted. ‘Immediately.’

“‘Lo siento,’ the old woman answered, ‘but Socorro doesn’t live here. She hasn’t for a very long time.’

“Paco must have looked confused because the old woman reached for his hand. ‘Tell me,’ she whispered. And when he had finished his strange story, she surprised him again.

“‘You are not the first man this has happened to,’ she told him.

“Paco didn’t know what to say. In the short time he’d known Socorro, she had stolen his heart then tossed it aside like a broken toy. He shuddered at the thought of her making such behavior a habit. ‘Playing with a man’s emotions can be dangerous,’ he told the old woman. ‘I would never hurt her, but other men are not so well mannered. If your granddaughter continues this behavior…’

“‘Gracias, but if you’re worried about the girl’s welfare, it is far too late. You see…’ She drew his attention to the fireplace on the far wall and the large framed portrait hanging above it. ‘…Socorro is not my granddaughter. She is my daughter.’

“Since the woman was at least eighty, Paco was, once again, at a loss for words.

“‘I can hear the wheels turning in your head.’ The woman chuckled softly, her coffee forgotten on the table. ‘As I am sure you know, Socorro loves to dance, and as beautiful as she is, men have always climbed over each other for the chance of being her partner. One in particular was so eager to impress my daughter that he borrowed his friend’s car in order to drive her home.’ Her eyes filled with tears. ‘Socorro died in that car.’

“‘Are you saying…’ Paco shuddered, the blood in his veins suddenly frozen. ‘…I was dancing with a ghost?’

“‘For more than forty years, whenever there is a fiesta in Sevilla, at least one young man sees her. Sometimes she disappears after they leave the ball. Other times, she waits until they get to the cemetery. I wish the poor child could come home, but she can’t.’”

“That’s so sad,” I blurt. “But why not?”

“Remember?” says Joey. “Spirits can’t cross over moving water.”

“Oh, yeah. That’s why she freaked out when she saw the bridge.” I study my grandfather’s face, and suddenly it hits me. “You’re Paco, aren’t you grandpa?”

“How did you know?”

“Everyone calls you Frank, but your real name is Francisco, and Paco—”

“—is short for Francisco?” Joey’s lips purse. “That makes no sense. It’s like Bill being short for William—or even worse, Dick for Richard.”

“Grandpa…” I u-turned back to the story. “Did you ever see Socorro again?”

“No, but her mother told me where her grave was located, and right after I left the house, I went straight to the cemetery. Can you guess what was written on her tombstone?”

“I would imagine it would be her name,” Joey says, “and the dates of her birth and death.”

“Well, yes, but…below all that, it also said, ‘She loved to dance.’”Flashlight in hand, I work my way back to the campsite to find a snake lying on my folding chair. My entire body stiffens. There’s one on Grandpa Frank’s chair too. Both creatures are long and pencil-thin. As I consider whether I should run or just scream my lungs out, my little brother, Joey, steps into the firelight carrying a third snake, which he’s holding in front of himself like a small fishing pole.

“You okay, Theresa?” Grandpa follows Joey into the light, a brown paper bag in his hands.

Oh, yeah. Dessert. Feeling like a major idiot, I nod, pick up my snake-stick, and take my seat.

“Good,” says Grandpa. His voice is deep and rich, a lot like the guitar he played for us before dinner. He lowers himself into the empty folding chair between Joey and me. “Now, let’s make some s’mores.” He reaches into the sack and removes a bag of supersized marshmallows, which he tears open and offers to Joey.

“My friend, Elbie, tells the best campfire stories,” says Joey. He takes a marshmallow and shoves it onto his snake-stick.

“Yeah, scary ones.” I scooch my folding chair closer to the fire. “His always take place somewhere creepy and out-of-the-way like a dark forest or a cursed lighthouse.”

“My favorite’s the one about the abandoned castle,” says Joey.

Grandpa offers me a marshmallow then takes one for himself. “I know a story or two myself.”

Doubting my grandfather knows many stories with serial killers as the main character, I chuckle, then decide, what the heck and say, “Tell us one.”

“Okay, let me think.” Seeing Joey’s marshmallow dip into the flames, he uses one finger to nudge the stick upward. “This story takes place many years ago, in the city of Sevilla.”

“Isn’t that in Spain?” I ask. “Where you grew up?”

“Close. Our village was about twenty miles outside the city. Anyway, a young man named Paco was in Sevilla visiting his uncle’s family when he and his cousin were invited to a big fiesta. Lots of music, food, and dancing. But Paco hadn’t packed a suit. Luckily, his cousin owned several and offered to loan him one. The jacket was a little tight and the pants could have been longer, but he looked good, and off they went.”

“So, all the men wore suits.” I can’t help but crack a smile as I imagine the boys at my own school all starched and pressed. “What did the women wear?”

“Gowns, of course. Fine ones, and since it was July, and air conditioning wasn’t common yet, they all carried fans.” From beneath his chair, he pulls the one section of newspaper he hadn’t used to build the fire with and flaps it in front of his chest like some flirtatious señorita. “So…” he drops the paper onto the fire. “…the band was playing, fans were flapping, couples were dancing, and Paco was staining his borrowed suit with sweat as he searched the ballroom for his first dance partner.”

“So far,” says Joey, “This is not a very good campfire story.”

He’s right. Even Elbie’s worst story would have had at least one murder by now. I shake my head at my overly-honest brother and tell him his marshmallow is done.

Seeing I’m right, he swings the end of his stick toward his mouth, but Grandpa stops it six inches short.

“Patience, nieto. On the outside, your treat looks delicious, but inside, it is boiling.” He removes his own marshmallow from the flames. “We let them cool a while. Like this...” He lays the stick across his lap. “…while we get the other stuff ready.”

Seeing my own marshmallow is now nice and brown, I lean my stick against my chair and help Grandpa pass out the chocolate bars and graham crackers.

“So…” says Grandpa, “…as the night went on, Paco danced with several girls, none of whom he found very interesting. Around twelve o’clock, he was about to call it a night when he spotted a beautiful young woman standing alone in the center of the dancefloor. She was gorgeous. Golden hair. Green eyes. A woman any man would be proud to dance with. He stepped toward her and—”

“Am I doing it right?” Marshmallow sandwiched between his graham crackers and chocolate, Joey waits for Grandpa Frank to nod before sliding it off the stick. He takes his first bite and gives us a thumbs up.

Eager to get some of that gooey goodness for myself, I quickly assemble my own s’more and take a big bite. “Mmmm,” I moan through a mouthful of deliciousness, and once I can get out the words, try to move the story along by saying, “So, he asked the girl to dance. Then what happened?”

Chewing thoughtfully, Grandpa stares into the campfire, but I doubt that’s what he’s really seeing. “Others tried to take her from him, but she would dance with no one else,” he continues, “and by the time the band quit playing, he’d fallen in love with her. And he didn’t even know her name.”

“Really?” Joey licks some chocolate off his finger. “I’d think that would be the first thing a guy would ask.”

“He did, eventually. Right before he offered to drive her home.”

“What was her name?” I ask, wondering which of the two characters would die first.

“Socorro,” Grandpa answers, the orange flames reflecting off his eyes.

“Okay,” says Joey. “So, Paco drove Socorro home.”

“Well...” Grandpa shrugs. “He definitely tried.”

Is there going to be a big car crash? I take another bite and look at Joey who seems like he’s going to ask the same question. “Shhh,” I tell him. “This is starting to get good.”

Grandpa chuckles. “Thank you. Paco thought so too. Thrilled such an elegant young woman had shown interest in him, he escorted Socorro to his little car. From her dress and manners, he knew she was well bred, but he was still a bit surprised when she told him she lived in Barrio del Arenal, the finest neighborhood in all Sevilla.

“So, he aimed his car in the direction of Puente de Triana, one of the many bridges that cross the Guadalquivir River. At first, the girl behaved normally. But when the river came into view ahead of them, she suddenly shouted, ‘Stop!’

“Paco slammed on the brakes. ‘What’s wrong?’ he sputtered.

“‘We can’t go this way!’ Eyes wide with terror, she gripped his arm like a vise. ‘Turn the car around…please.’

“Paco knew Barrio del Arenal was just across the bridge, but, seeing the girl so distressed, he did as she said. ‘Where to?’ he asked, once they were heading the opposite direction. ‘Straight?’

“Eyes forward and lashes spiked with tears, she nodded.”

“Well, that’s just weird,” says Joey, reaching for another marshmallow.

Nodding, Grandpa takes another for himself and positions it over the fire. “So, Paco drove straight. After a while, she signaled for him to turn, which he did. He followed all of her directions. Finally, she told him to stop.”

“Where were they?” Joey asks.

“At the front gates of El Cementerio San Fernando.”

“A cemetery?” I smile, anticipating the possibilities.

“At that hour?” Joey asks. “Did Socorro have mental issues?”

“Paco wondered the same thing,” Grandpa tells us. “On Socorro’s side of the car was a high brick wall with black wrought-iron gates. And since, by that time, it was past three o’clock in the morning, there wasn’t another soul in sight.”

“The perfect setting for a murder,” I say, hoping I’m right.

“Indeed. But Socorro kissed his cheek and got out of the car anyway.”

I gasp. “What did Paco do?”

“He got out too. But by the time he ran around to the other side, she’d already slipped through the gate.” Grandpa shrugs. “So, he followed her.” He sits back, letting his words sink in. “In the middle of the night, he raced into the largest cemetery in Sevilla.”

“Was Socorro killed with an ax?” Joey asks. “In Elbie’s campfire stories, maniacs always use axes.”

Grandpa’s eyes slide sideways, stopping on Joey. “Sorry to disappoint you, but the fact is, Paco never found the girl. And he searched for hours too. Up and down a hundred rows of flat marble tombs, past monuments built to the greatest bullfighters, the most famous flamenco dancers. But Socorro was nowhere to be seen. Finally, he gave up.

“By then, it was nearly dawn. Anyone else would have considered himself the butt of a terrible joke and gone home, but Paco was obsessed with the girl.” Grandpa continues to stare into the flames, the curve of his earlier smile now turned downward. “Heartbroken, he sat in his car…thinking about her…and as he thought, he realized that the little rich girl had been toying with him all along, laughing behind her fan at his borrowed suit and too short pants. Furious, he decided to drive to the address she had first mentioned and confront her there.

“So, he sped through Sevilla, growing angrier with each street he passed, across Puente de Triana and into the center of Barrio del Arenal. As he suspected, her home was the most beautiful of all. Tall, stately. At this hour, there were few cars on the street, so he parked right in front of the gates, strode up to the huge black lacquered door, and rang the bell.

“By then, the sun was just beginning to rise. Exhausted and still angry, he rang the bell again. Several times, in fact. Finally, a butler opened the door.”

“Is Paco carrying an ax?” Joey asks.

Catching his eye, I shake my head again, and Grandpa continues.

“‘I need to see Socorro,’ Paco demanded as he stormed into the house. ‘I know she lives here.’”

“Was the butler surprised?” I ask. “Angry? I’d call the cops if someone burst into my house like that.”

Joey nods. “Especially if the guy’s carrying an ax.”

“Strangely,” says Grandpa, “the butler was neither, and instead of calling the police, he escorted Paco to an elegant sitting room where an elderly woman sat sipping coffee from a fine china cup. ‘Would you like some?” she asked. ‘Sanchez, bring some pastries.’

“‘I must speak to Socorro,” Paco insisted. ‘Immediately.’

“‘Lo siento,’ the old woman answered, ‘but Socorro doesn’t live here. She hasn’t for a very long time.’

“Paco must have looked confused because the old woman reached for his hand. ‘Tell me,’ she whispered. And when he had finished his strange story, she surprised him again.

“‘You are not the first man this has happened to,’ she told him.

“Paco didn’t know what to say. In the short time he’d known Socorro, she had stolen his heart then tossed it aside like a broken toy. He shuddered at the thought of her making such behavior a habit. ‘Playing with a man’s emotions can be dangerous,’ he told the old woman. ‘I would never hurt her, but other men are not so well mannered. If your granddaughter continues this behavior…’

“‘Gracias, but if you’re worried about the girl’s welfare, it is far too late. You see…’ She drew his attention to the fireplace on the far wall and the large framed portrait hanging above it. ‘…Socorro is not my granddaughter. She is my daughter.’

“Since the woman was at least eighty, Paco was, once again, at a loss for words.

“‘I can hear the wheels turning in your head.’ The woman chuckled softly, her coffee forgotten on the table. ‘As I am sure you know, Socorro loves to dance, and as beautiful as she is, men have always climbed over each other for the chance of being her partner. One in particular was so eager to impress my daughter that he borrowed his friend’s car in order to drive her home.’ Her eyes filled with tears. ‘Socorro died in that car.’

“‘Are you saying…’ Paco shuddered, the blood in his veins suddenly frozen. ‘…I was dancing with a ghost?’

“‘For more than forty years, whenever there is a fiesta in Sevilla, at least one young man sees her. Sometimes she disappears after they leave the ball. Other times, she waits until they get to the cemetery. I wish the poor child could come home, but she can’t.’”

“That’s so sad,” I blurt. “But why not?”

“Remember?” says Joey. “Spirits can’t cross over moving water.”

“Oh, yeah. That’s why she freaked out when she saw the bridge.” I study my grandfather’s face, and suddenly it hits me. “You’re Paco, aren’t you grandpa?”

“How did you know?”

“Everyone calls you Frank, but your real name is Francisco, and Paco—”

“—is short for Francisco?” Joey’s lips purse. “That makes no sense. It’s like Bill being short for William—or even worse, Dick for Richard.”

“Grandpa…” I u-turned back to the story. “Did you ever see Socorro again?”

“No, but her mother told me where her grave was located, and right after I left the house, I went straight to the cemetery. Can you guess what was written on her tombstone?”

“I would imagine it would be her name,” Joey says, “and the dates of her birth and death.”

“Well, yes, but…below all that, it also said, ‘She loved to dance.’”Flashlight in hand, I work my way back to the campsite to find a snake lying on my folding chair. My entire body stiffens. There’s one on Grandpa Frank’s chair too. Both creatures are long and pencil-thin. As I consider whether I should run or just scream my lungs out, my little brother, Joey, steps into the firelight carrying a third snake, which he’s holding in front of himself like a small fishing pole.

“You okay, Theresa?” Grandpa follows Joey into the light, a brown paper bag in his hands.

Oh, yeah. Dessert. Feeling like a major idiot, I nod, pick up my snake-stick, and take my seat.

“Good,” says Grandpa. His voice is deep and rich, a lot like the guitar he played for us before dinner. He lowers himself into the empty folding chair between Joey and me. “Now, let’s make some s’mores.” He reaches into the sack and removes a bag of supersized marshmallows, which he tears open and offers to Joey.

“My friend, Elbie, tells the best campfire stories,” says Joey. He takes a marshmallow and shoves it onto his snake-stick.

“Yeah, scary ones.” I scooch my folding chair closer to the fire. “His always take place somewhere creepy and out-of-the-way like a dark forest or a cursed lighthouse.”

“My favorite’s the one about the abandoned castle,” says Joey.

Grandpa offers me a marshmallow then takes one for himself. “I know a story or two myself.”

Doubting my grandfather knows many stories with serial killers as the main character, I chuckle, then decide, what the heck and say, “Tell us one.”

“Okay, let me think.” Seeing Joey’s marshmallow dip into the flames, he uses one finger to nudge the stick upward. “This story takes place many years ago, in the city of Sevilla.”

“Isn’t that in Spain?” I ask. “Where you grew up?”

“Close. Our village was about twenty miles outside the city. Anyway, a young man named Paco was in Sevilla visiting his uncle’s family when he and his cousin were invited to a big fiesta. Lots of music, food, and dancing. But Paco hadn’t packed a suit. Luckily, his cousin owned several and offered to loan him one. The jacket was a little tight and the pants could have been longer, but he looked good, and off they went.”

“So, all the men wore suits.” I can’t help but crack a smile as I imagine the boys at my own school all starched and pressed. “What did the women wear?”

“Gowns, of course. Fine ones, and since it was July, and air conditioning wasn’t common yet, they all carried fans.” From beneath his chair, he pulls the one section of newspaper he hadn’t used to build the fire with and flaps it in front of his chest like some flirtatious señorita. “So…” he drops the paper onto the fire. “…the band was playing, fans were flapping, couples were dancing, and Paco was staining his borrowed suit with sweat as he searched the ballroom for his first dance partner.”

“So far,” says Joey, “This is not a very good campfire story.”

He’s right. Even Elbie’s worst story would have had at least one murder by now. I shake my head at my overly-honest brother and tell him his marshmallow is done.

Seeing I’m right, he swings the end of his stick toward his mouth, but Grandpa stops it six inches short.

“Patience, nieto. On the outside, your treat looks delicious, but inside, it is boiling.” He removes his own marshmallow from the flames. “We let them cool a while. Like this...” He lays the stick across his lap. “…while we get the other stuff ready.”

Seeing my own marshmallow is now nice and brown, I lean my stick against my chair and help Grandpa pass out the chocolate bars and graham crackers.

“So…” says Grandpa, “…as the night went on, Paco danced with several girls, none of whom he found very interesting. Around twelve o’clock, he was about to call it a night when he spotted a beautiful young woman standing alone in the center of the dancefloor. She was gorgeous. Golden hair. Green eyes. A woman any man would be proud to dance with. He stepped toward her and—”

“Am I doing it right?” Marshmallow sandwiched between his graham crackers and chocolate, Joey waits for Grandpa Frank to nod before sliding it off the stick. He takes his first bite and gives us a thumbs up.

Eager to get some of that gooey goodness for myself, I quickly assemble my own s’more and take a big bite. “Mmmm,” I moan through a mouthful of deliciousness, and once I can get out the words, try to move the story along by saying, “So, he asked the girl to dance. Then what happened?”

Chewing thoughtfully, Grandpa stares into the campfire, but I doubt that’s what he’s really seeing. “Others tried to take her from him, but she would dance with no one else,” he continues, “and by the time the band quit playing, he’d fallen in love with her. And he didn’t even know her name.”

“Really?” Joey licks some chocolate off his finger. “I’d think that would be the first thing a guy would ask.”

“He did, eventually. Right before he offered to drive her home.”

“What was her name?” I ask, wondering which of the two characters would die first.

“Socorro,” Grandpa answers, the orange flames reflecting off his eyes.

“Okay,” says Joey. “So, Paco drove Socorro home.”

“Well...” Grandpa shrugs. “He definitely tried.”

Is there going to be a big car crash? I take another bite and look at Joey who seems like he’s going to ask the same question. “Shhh,” I tell him. “This is starting to get good.”

Grandpa chuckles. “Thank you. Paco thought so too. Thrilled such an elegant young woman had shown interest in him, he escorted Socorro to his little car. From her dress and manners, he knew she was well bred, but he was still a bit surprised when she told him she lived in Barrio del Arenal, the finest neighborhood in all Sevilla.

“So, he aimed his car in the direction of Puente de Triana, one of the many bridges that cross the Guadalquivir River. At first, the girl behaved normally. But when the river came into view ahead of them, she suddenly shouted, ‘Stop!’

“Paco slammed on the brakes. ‘What’s wrong?’ he sputtered.

“‘We can’t go this way!’ Eyes wide with terror, she gripped his arm like a vise. ‘Turn the car around…please.’

“Paco knew Barrio del Arenal was just across the bridge, but, seeing the girl so distressed, he did as she said. ‘Where to?’ he asked, once they were heading the opposite direction. ‘Straight?’

“Eyes forward and lashes spiked with tears, she nodded.”

“Well, that’s just weird,” says Joey, reaching for another marshmallow.

Nodding, Grandpa takes another for himself and positions it over the fire. “So, Paco drove straight. After a while, she signaled for him to turn, which he did. He followed all of her directions. Finally, she told him to stop.”

“Where were they?” Joey asks.

“At the front gates of El Cementerio San Fernando.”

“A cemetery?” I smile, anticipating the possibilities.

“At that hour?” Joey asks. “Did Socorro have mental issues?”

“Paco wondered the same thing,” Grandpa tells us. “On Socorro’s side of the car was a high brick wall with black wrought-iron gates. And since, by that time, it was past three o’clock in the morning, there wasn’t another soul in sight.”

“The perfect setting for a murder,” I say, hoping I’m right.

“Indeed. But Socorro kissed his cheek and got out of the car anyway.”

I gasp. “What did Paco do?”

“He got out too. But by the time he ran around to the other side, she’d already slipped through the gate.” Grandpa shrugs. “So, he followed her.” He sits back, letting his words sink in. “In the middle of the night, he raced into the largest cemetery in Sevilla.”

“Was Socorro killed with an ax?” Joey asks. “In Elbie’s campfire stories, maniacs always use axes.”

Grandpa’s eyes slide sideways, stopping on Joey. “Sorry to disappoint you, but the fact is, Paco never found the girl. And he searched for hours too. Up and down a hundred rows of flat marble tombs, past monuments built to the greatest bullfighters, the most famous flamenco dancers. But Socorro was nowhere to be seen. Finally, he gave up.

“By then, it was nearly dawn. Anyone else would have considered himself the butt of a terrible joke and gone home, but Paco was obsessed with the girl.” Grandpa continues to stare into the flames, the curve of his earlier smile now turned downward. “Heartbroken, he sat in his car…thinking about her…and as he thought, he realized that the little rich girl had been toying with him all along, laughing behind her fan at his borrowed suit and too short pants. Furious, he decided to drive to the address she had first mentioned and confront her there.

“So, he sped through Sevilla, growing angrier with each street he passed, across Puente de Triana and into the center of Barrio del Arenal. As he suspected, her home was the most beautiful of all. Tall, stately. At this hour, there were few cars on the street, so he parked right in front of the gates, strode up to the huge black lacquered door, and rang the bell.

“By then, the sun was just beginning to rise. Exhausted and still angry, he rang the bell again. Several times, in fact. Finally, a butler opened the door.”

“Is Paco carrying an ax?” Joey asks.

Catching his eye, I shake my head again, and Grandpa continues.

“‘I need to see Socorro,’ Paco demanded as he stormed into the house. ‘I know she lives here.’”

“Was the butler surprised?” I ask. “Angry? I’d call the cops if someone burst into my house like that.”

Joey nods. “Especially if the guy’s carrying an ax.”

“Strangely,” says Grandpa, “the butler was neither, and instead of calling the police, he escorted Paco to an elegant sitting room where an elderly woman sat sipping coffee from a fine china cup. ‘Would you like some?” she asked. ‘Sanchez, bring some pastries.’

“‘I must speak to Socorro,” Paco insisted. ‘Immediately.’

“‘Lo siento,’ the old woman answered, ‘but Socorro doesn’t live here. She hasn’t for a very long time.’

“Paco must have looked confused because the old woman reached for his hand. ‘Tell me,’ she whispered. And when he had finished his strange story, she surprised him again.

“‘You are not the first man this has happened to,’ she told him.

“Paco didn’t know what to say. In the short time he’d known Socorro, she had stolen his heart then tossed it aside like a broken toy. He shuddered at the thought of her making such behavior a habit. ‘Playing with a man’s emotions can be dangerous,’ he told the old woman. ‘I would never hurt her, but other men are not so well mannered. If your granddaughter continues this behavior…’

“‘Gracias, but if you’re worried about the girl’s welfare, it is far too late. You see…’ She drew his attention to the fireplace on the far wall and the large framed portrait hanging above it. ‘…Socorro is not my granddaughter. She is my daughter.’

“Since the woman was at least eighty, Paco was, once again, at a loss for words.

“‘I can hear the wheels turning in your head.’ The woman chuckled softly, her coffee forgotten on the table. ‘As I am sure you know, Socorro loves to dance, and as beautiful as she is, men have always climbed over each other for the chance of being her partner. One in particular was so eager to impress my daughter that he borrowed his friend’s car in order to drive her home.’ Her eyes filled with tears. ‘Socorro died in that car.’

“‘Are you saying…’ Paco shuddered, the blood in his veins suddenly frozen. ‘…I was dancing with a ghost?’

“‘For more than forty years, whenever there is a fiesta in Sevilla, at least one young man sees her. Sometimes she disappears after they leave the ball. Other times, she waits until they get to the cemetery. I wish the poor child could come home, but she can’t.’”

“That’s so sad,” I blurt. “But why not?”

“Remember?” says Joey. “Spirits can’t cross over moving water.”

“Oh, yeah. That’s why she freaked out when she saw the bridge.” I study my grandfather’s face, and suddenly it hits me. “You’re Paco, aren’t you grandpa?”

“How did you know?”

“Everyone calls you Frank, but your real name is Francisco, and Paco—”

“—is short for Francisco?” Joey’s lips purse. “That makes no sense. It’s like Bill being short for William—or even worse, Dick for Richard.”

“Grandpa…” I u-turned back to the story. “Did you ever see Socorro again?”

“No, but her mother told me where her grave was located, and right after I left the house, I went straight to the cemetery. Can you guess what was written on her tombstone?”

“I would imagine it would be her name,” Joey says, “and the dates of her birth and death.”

“Well, yes, but…below all that, it also said, ‘She loved to dance.’”Flashlight in hand, I work my way back to the campsite to find a snake lying on my folding chair. My entire body stiffens. There’s one on Grandpa Frank’s chair too. Both creatures are long and pencil-thin. As I consider whether I should run or just scream my lungs out, my little brother, Joey, steps into the firelight carrying a third snake, which he’s holding in front of himself like a small fishing pole.

“You okay, Theresa?” Grandpa follows Joey into the light, a brown paper bag in his hands.

Oh, yeah. Dessert. Feeling like a major idiot, I nod, pick up my snake-stick, and take my seat.

“Good,” says Grandpa. His voice is deep and rich, a lot like the guitar he played for us before dinner. He lowers himself into the empty folding chair between Joey and me. “Now, let’s make some s’mores.” He reaches into the sack and removes a bag of supersized marshmallows, which he tears open and offers to Joey.

“My friend, Elbie, tells the best campfire stories,” says Joey. He takes a marshmallow and shoves it onto his snake-stick.

“Yeah, scary ones.” I scooch my folding chair closer to the fire. “His always take place somewhere creepy and out-of-the-way like a dark forest or a cursed lighthouse.”

“My favorite’s the one about the abandoned castle,” says Joey.

Grandpa offers me a marshmallow then takes one for himself. “I know a story or two myself.”

Doubting my grandfather knows many stories with serial killers as the main character, I chuckle, then decide, what the heck and say, “Tell us one.”

“Okay, let me think.” Seeing Joey’s marshmallow dip into the flames, he uses one finger to nudge the stick upward. “This story takes place many years ago, in the city of Sevilla.”

“Isn’t that in Spain?” I ask. “Where you grew up?”

“Close. Our village was about twenty miles outside the city. Anyway, a young man named Paco was in Sevilla visiting his uncle’s family when he and his cousin were invited to a big fiesta. Lots of music, food, and dancing. But Paco hadn’t packed a suit. Luckily, his cousin owned several and offered to loan him one. The jacket was a little tight and the pants could have been longer, but he looked good, and off they went.”

“So, all the men wore suits.” I can’t help but crack a smile as I imagine the boys at my own school all starched and pressed. “What did the women wear?”

“Gowns, of course. Fine ones, and since it was July, and air conditioning wasn’t common yet, they all carried fans.” From beneath his chair, he pulls the one section of newspaper he hadn’t used to build the fire with and flaps it in front of his chest like some flirtatious señorita. “So…” he drops the paper onto the fire. “…the band was playing, fans were flapping, couples were dancing, and Paco was staining his borrowed suit with sweat as he searched the ballroom for his first dance partner.”

“So far,” says Joey, “This is not a very good campfire story.”

He’s right. Even Elbie’s worst story would have had at least one murder by now. I shake my head at my overly-honest brother and tell him his marshmallow is done.

Seeing I’m right, he swings the end of his stick toward his mouth, but Grandpa stops it six inches short.

“Patience, nieto. On the outside, your treat looks delicious, but inside, it is boiling.” He removes his own marshmallow from the flames. “We let them cool a while. Like this...” He lays the stick across his lap. “…while we get the other stuff ready.”

Seeing my own marshmallow is now nice and brown, I lean my stick against my chair and help Grandpa pass out the chocolate bars and graham crackers.

“So…” says Grandpa, “…as the night went on, Paco danced with several girls, none of whom he found very interesting. Around twelve o’clock, he was about to call it a night when he spotted a beautiful young woman standing alone in the center of the dancefloor. She was gorgeous. Golden hair. Green eyes. A woman any man would be proud to dance with. He stepped toward her and—”

“Am I doing it right?” Marshmallow sandwiched between his graham crackers and chocolate, Joey waits for Grandpa Frank to nod before sliding it off the stick. He takes his first bite and gives us a thumbs up.

Eager to get some of that gooey goodness for myself, I quickly assemble my own s’more and take a big bite. “Mmmm,” I moan through a mouthful of deliciousness, and once I can get out the words, try to move the story along by saying, “So, he asked the girl to dance. Then what happened?”

Chewing thoughtfully, Grandpa stares into the campfire, but I doubt that’s what he’s really seeing. “Others tried to take her from him, but she would dance with no one else,” he continues, “and by the time the band quit playing, he’d fallen in love with her. And he didn’t even know her name.”

“Really?” Joey licks some chocolate off his finger. “I’d think that would be the first thing a guy would ask.”

“He did, eventually. Right before he offered to drive her home.”

“What was her name?” I ask, wondering which of the two characters would die first.

“Socorro,” Grandpa answers, the orange flames reflecting off his eyes.

“Okay,” says Joey. “So, Paco drove Socorro home.”

“Well...” Grandpa shrugs. “He definitely tried.”

Is there going to be a big car crash? I take another bite and look at Joey who seems like he’s going to ask the same question. “Shhh,” I tell him. “This is starting to get good.”

Grandpa chuckles. “Thank you. Paco thought so too. Thrilled such an elegant young woman had shown interest in him, he escorted Socorro to his little car. From her dress and manners, he knew she was well bred, but he was still a bit surprised when she told him she lived in Barrio del Arenal, the finest neighborhood in all Sevilla.

“So, he aimed his car in the direction of Puente de Triana, one of the many bridges that cross the Guadalquivir River. At first, the girl behaved normally. But when the river came into view ahead of them, she suddenly shouted, ‘Stop!’

“Paco slammed on the brakes. ‘What’s wrong?’ he sputtered.

“‘We can’t go this way!’ Eyes wide with terror, she gripped his arm like a vise. ‘Turn the car around…please.’

“Paco knew Barrio del Arenal was just across the bridge, but, seeing the girl so distressed, he did as she said. ‘Where to?’ he asked, once they were heading the opposite direction. ‘Straight?’

“Eyes forward and lashes spiked with tears, she nodded.”

“Well, that’s just weird,” says Joey, reaching for another marshmallow.

Nodding, Grandpa takes another for himself and positions it over the fire. “So, Paco drove straight. After a while, she signaled for him to turn, which he did. He followed all of her directions. Finally, she told him to stop.”

“Where were they?” Joey asks.

“At the front gates of El Cementerio San Fernando.”

“A cemetery?” I smile, anticipating the possibilities.

“At that hour?” Joey asks. “Did Socorro have mental issues?”

“Paco wondered the same thing,” Grandpa tells us. “On Socorro’s side of the car was a high brick wall with black wrought-iron gates. And since, by that time, it was past three o’clock in the morning, there wasn’t another soul in sight.”

“The perfect setting for a murder,” I say, hoping I’m right.

“Indeed. But Socorro kissed his cheek and got out of the car anyway.”

I gasp. “What did Paco do?”

“He got out too. But by the time he ran around to the other side, she’d already slipped through the gate.” Grandpa shrugs. “So, he followed her.” He sits back, letting his words sink in. “In the middle of the night, he raced into the largest cemetery in Sevilla.”

“Was Socorro killed with an ax?” Joey asks. “In Elbie’s campfire stories, maniacs always use axes.”

Grandpa’s eyes slide sideways, stopping on Joey. “Sorry to disappoint you, but the fact is, Paco never found the girl. And he searched for hours too. Up and down a hundred rows of flat marble tombs, past monuments built to the greatest bullfighters, the most famous flamenco dancers. But Socorro was nowhere to be seen. Finally, he gave up.

“By then, it was nearly dawn. Anyone else would have considered himself the butt of a terrible joke and gone home, but Paco was obsessed with the girl.” Grandpa continues to stare into the flames, the curve of his earlier smile now turned downward. “Heartbroken, he sat in his car…thinking about her…and as he thought, he realized that the little rich girl had been toying with him all along, laughing behind her fan at his borrowed suit and too short pants. Furious, he decided to drive to the address she had first mentioned and confront her there.

“So, he sped through Sevilla, growing angrier with each street he passed, across Puente de Triana and into the center of Barrio del Arenal. As he suspected, her home was the most beautiful of all. Tall, stately. At this hour, there were few cars on the street, so he parked right in front of the gates, strode up to the huge black lacquered door, and rang the bell.

“By then, the sun was just beginning to rise. Exhausted and still angry, he rang the bell again. Several times, in fact. Finally, a butler opened the door.”

“Is Paco carrying an ax?” Joey asks.

Catching his eye, I shake my head again, and Grandpa continues.

“‘I need to see Socorro,’ Paco demanded as he stormed into the house. ‘I know she lives here.’”

“Was the butler surprised?” I ask. “Angry? I’d call the cops if someone burst into my house like that.”

Joey nods. “Especially if the guy’s carrying an ax.”

“Strangely,” says Grandpa, “the butler was neither, and instead of calling the police, he escorted Paco to an elegant sitting room where an elderly woman sat sipping coffee from a fine china cup. ‘Would you like some?” she asked. ‘Sanchez, bring some pastries.’

“‘I must speak to Socorro,” Paco insisted. ‘Immediately.’

“‘Lo siento,’ the old woman answered, ‘but Socorro doesn’t live here. She hasn’t for a very long time.’

“Paco must have looked confused because the old woman reached for his hand. ‘Tell me,’ she whispered. And when he had finished his strange story, she surprised him again.

“‘You are not the first man this has happened to,’ she told him.

“Paco didn’t know what to say. In the short time he’d known Socorro, she had stolen his heart then tossed it aside like a broken toy. He shuddered at the thought of her making such behavior a habit. ‘Playing with a man’s emotions can be dangerous,’ he told the old woman. ‘I would never hurt her, but other men are not so well mannered. If your granddaughter continues this behavior…’

“‘Gracias, but if you’re worried about the girl’s welfare, it is far too late. You see…’ She drew his attention to the fireplace on the far wall and the large framed portrait hanging above it. ‘…Socorro is not my granddaughter. She is my daughter.’

“Since the woman was at least eighty, Paco was, once again, at a loss for words.

“‘I can hear the wheels turning in your head.’ The woman chuckled softly, her coffee forgotten on the table. ‘As I am sure you know, Socorro loves to dance, and as beautiful as she is, men have always climbed over each other for the chance of being her partner. One in particular was so eager to impress my daughter that he borrowed his friend’s car in order to drive her home.’ Her eyes filled with tears. ‘Socorro died in that car.’

“‘Are you saying…’ Paco shuddered, the blood in his veins suddenly frozen. ‘…I was dancing with a ghost?’

“‘For more than forty years, whenever there is a fiesta in Sevilla, at least one young man sees her. Sometimes she disappears after they leave the ball. Other times, she waits until they get to the cemetery. I wish the poor child could come home, but she can’t.’”

“That’s so sad,” I blurt. “But why not?”

“Remember?” says Joey. “Spirits can’t cross over moving water.”

“Oh, yeah. That’s why she freaked out when she saw the bridge.” I study my grandfather’s face, and suddenly it hits me. “You’re Paco, aren’t you grandpa?”

“How did you know?”

“Everyone calls you Frank, but your real name is Francisco, and Paco—”

“—is short for Francisco?” Joey’s lips purse. “That makes no sense. It’s like Bill being short for William—or even worse, Dick for Richard.”

“Grandpa…” I u-turned back to the story. “Did you ever see Socorro again?”

“No, but her mother told me where her grave was located, and right after I left the house, I went straight to the cemetery. Can you guess what was written on her tombstone?”

“I would imagine it would be her name,” Joey says, “and the dates of her birth and death.”

“Well, yes, but…below all that, it also said, ‘She loved to dance.’”Flashlight in hand, I work my way back to the campsite to find a snake lying on my folding chair. My entire body stiffens. There’s one on Grandpa Frank’s chair too. Both creatures are long and pencil-thin. As I consider whether I should run or just scream my lungs out, my little brother, Joey, steps into the firelight carrying a third snake, which he’s holding in front of himself like a small fishing pole.

“You okay, Theresa?” Grandpa follows Joey into the light, a brown paper bag in his hands.

Oh, yeah. Dessert. Feeling like a major idiot, I nod, pick up my snake-stick, and take my seat.

“Good,” says Grandpa. His voice is deep and rich, a lot like the guitar he played for us before dinner. He lowers himself into the empty folding chair between Joey and me. “Now, let’s make some s’mores.” He reaches into the sack and removes a bag of supersized marshmallows, which he tears open and offers to Joey.

“My friend, Elbie, tells the best campfire stories,” says Joey. He takes a marshmallow and shoves it onto his snake-stick.

“Yeah, scary ones.” I scooch my folding chair closer to the fire. “His always take place somewhere creepy and out-of-the-way like a dark forest or a cursed lighthouse.”

“My favorite’s the one about the abandoned castle,” says Joey.

Grandpa offers me a marshmallow then takes one for himself. “I know a story or two myself.”

Doubting my grandfather knows many stories with serial killers as the main character, I chuckle, then decide, what the heck and say, “Tell us one.”

“Okay, let me think.” Seeing Joey’s marshmallow dip into the flames, he uses one finger to nudge the stick upward. “This story takes place many years ago, in the city of Sevilla.”

“Isn’t that in Spain?” I ask. “Where you grew up?”

“Close. Our village was about twenty miles outside the city. Anyway, a young man named Paco was in Sevilla visiting his uncle’s family when he and his cousin were invited to a big fiesta. Lots of music, food, and dancing. But Paco hadn’t packed a suit. Luckily, his cousin owned several and offered to loan him one. The jacket was a little tight and the pants could have been longer, but he looked good, and off they went.”

“So, all the men wore suits.” I can’t help but crack a smile as I imagine the boys at my own school all starched and pressed. “What did the women wear?”

“Gowns, of course. Fine ones, and since it was July, and air conditioning wasn’t common yet, they all carried fans.” From beneath his chair, he pulls the one section of newspaper he hadn’t used to build the fire with and flaps it in front of his chest like some flirtatious señorita. “So…” he drops the paper onto the fire. “…the band was playing, fans were flapping, couples were dancing, and Paco was staining his borrowed suit with sweat as he searched the ballroom for his first dance partner.”

“So far,” says Joey, “This is not a very good campfire story.”

He’s right. Even Elbie’s worst story would have had at least one murder by now. I shake my head at my overly-honest brother and tell him his marshmallow is done.

Seeing I’m right, he swings the end of his stick toward his mouth, but Grandpa stops it six inches short.

“Patience, nieto. On the outside, your treat looks delicious, but inside, it is boiling.” He removes his own marshmallow from the flames. “We let them cool a while. Like this...” He lays the stick across his lap. “…while we get the other stuff ready.”

Seeing my own marshmallow is now nice and brown, I lean my stick against my chair and help Grandpa pass out the chocolate bars and graham crackers.

“So…” says Grandpa, “…as the night went on, Paco danced with several girls, none of whom he found very interesting. Around twelve o’clock, he was about to call it a night when he spotted a beautiful young woman standing alone in the center of the dancefloor. She was gorgeous. Golden hair. Green eyes. A woman any man would be proud to dance with. He stepped toward her and—”

“Am I doing it right?” Marshmallow sandwiched between his graham crackers and chocolate, Joey waits for Grandpa Frank to nod before sliding it off the stick. He takes his first bite and gives us a thumbs up.

Eager to get some of that gooey goodness for myself, I quickly assemble my own s’more and take a big bite. “Mmmm,” I moan through a mouthful of deliciousness, and once I can get out the words, try to move the story along by saying, “So, he asked the girl to dance. Then what happened?”

Chewing thoughtfully, Grandpa stares into the campfire, but I doubt that’s what he’s really seeing. “Others tried to take her from him, but she would dance with no one else,” he continues, “and by the time the band quit playing, he’d fallen in love with her. And he didn’t even know her name.”

“Really?” Joey licks some chocolate off his finger. “I’d think that would be the first thing a guy would ask.”

“He did, eventually. Right before he offered to drive her home.”

“What was her name?” I ask, wondering which of the two characters would die first.

“Socorro,” Grandpa answers, the orange flames reflecting off his eyes.

“Okay,” says Joey. “So, Paco drove Socorro home.”

“Well...” Grandpa shrugs. “He definitely tried.”

Is there going to be a big car crash? I take another bite and look at Joey who seems like he’s going to ask the same question. “Shhh,” I tell him. “This is starting to get good.”

Grandpa chuckles. “Thank you. Paco thought so too. Thrilled such an elegant young woman had shown interest in him, he escorted Socorro to his little car. From her dress and manners, he knew she was well bred, but he was still a bit surprised when she told him she lived in Barrio del Arenal, the finest neighborhood in all Sevilla.

“So, he aimed his car in the direction of Puente de Triana, one of the many bridges that cross the Guadalquivir River. At first, the girl behaved normally. But when the river came into view ahead of them, she suddenly shouted, ‘Stop!’

“Paco slammed on the brakes. ‘What’s wrong?’ he sputtered.

“‘We can’t go this way!’ Eyes wide with terror, she gripped his arm like a vise. ‘Turn the car around…please.’

“Paco knew Barrio del Arenal was just across the bridge, but, seeing the girl so distressed, he did as she said. ‘Where to?’ he asked, once they were heading the opposite direction. ‘Straight?’

“Eyes forward and lashes spiked with tears, she nodded.”

“Well, that’s just weird,” says Joey, reaching for another marshmallow.

Nodding, Grandpa takes another for himself and positions it over the fire. “So, Paco drove straight. After a while, she signaled for him to turn, which he did. He followed all of her directions. Finally, she told him to stop.”

“Where were they?” Joey asks.

“At the front gates of El Cementerio San Fernando.”

“A cemetery?” I smile, anticipating the possibilities.

“At that hour?” Joey asks. “Did Socorro have mental issues?”

“Paco wondered the same thing,” Grandpa tells us. “On Socorro’s side of the car was a high brick wall with black wrought-iron gates. And since, by that time, it was past three o’clock in the morning, there wasn’t another soul in sight.”

“The perfect setting for a murder,” I say, hoping I’m right.

“Indeed. But Socorro kissed his cheek and got out of the car anyway.”

I gasp. “What did Paco do?”

“He got out too. But by the time he ran around to the other side, she’d already slipped through the gate.” Grandpa shrugs. “So, he followed her.” He sits back, letting his words sink in. “In the middle of the night, he raced into the largest cemetery in Sevilla.”

“Was Socorro killed with an ax?” Joey asks. “In Elbie’s campfire stories, maniacs always use axes.”

Grandpa’s eyes slide sideways, stopping on Joey. “Sorry to disappoint you, but the fact is, Paco never found the girl. And he searched for hours too. Up and down a hundred rows of flat marble tombs, past monuments built to the greatest bullfighters, the most famous flamenco dancers. But Socorro was nowhere to be seen. Finally, he gave up.

“By then, it was nearly dawn. Anyone else would have considered himself the butt of a terrible joke and gone home, but Paco was obsessed with the girl.” Grandpa continues to stare into the flames, the curve of his earlier smile now turned downward. “Heartbroken, he sat in his car…thinking about her…and as he thought, he realized that the little rich girl had been toying with him all along, laughing behind her fan at his borrowed suit and too short pants. Furious, he decided to drive to the address she had first mentioned and confront her there.

“So, he sped through Sevilla, growing angrier with each street he passed, across Puente de Triana and into the center of Barrio del Arenal. As he suspected, her home was the most beautiful of all. Tall, stately. At this hour, there were few cars on the street, so he parked right in front of the gates, strode up to the huge black lacquered door, and rang the bell.

“By then, the sun was just beginning to rise. Exhausted and still angry, he rang the bell again. Several times, in fact. Finally, a butler opened the door.”

“Is Paco carrying an ax?” Joey asks.

Catching his eye, I shake my head again, and Grandpa continues.

“‘I need to see Socorro,’ Paco demanded as he stormed into the house. ‘I know she lives here.’”

“Was the butler surprised?” I ask. “Angry? I’d call the cops if someone burst into my house like that.”

Joey nods. “Especially if the guy’s carrying an ax.”

“Strangely,” says Grandpa, “the butler was neither, and instead of calling the police, he escorted Paco to an elegant sitting room where an elderly woman sat sipping coffee from a fine china cup. ‘Would you like some?” she asked. ‘Sanchez, bring some pastries.’

“‘I must speak to Socorro,” Paco insisted. ‘Immediately.’

“‘Lo siento,’ the old woman answered, ‘but Socorro doesn’t live here. She hasn’t for a very long time.’

“Paco must have looked confused because the old woman reached for his hand. ‘Tell me,’ she whispered. And when he had finished his strange story, she surprised him again.

“‘You are not the first man this has happened to,’ she told him.

“Paco didn’t know what to say. In the short time he’d known Socorro, she had stolen his heart then tossed it aside like a broken toy. He shuddered at the thought of her making such behavior a habit. ‘Playing with a man’s emotions can be dangerous,’ he told the old woman. ‘I would never hurt her, but other men are not so well mannered. If your granddaughter continues this behavior…’

“‘Gracias, but if you’re worried about the girl’s welfare, it is far too late. You see…’ She drew his attention to the fireplace on the far wall and the large framed portrait hanging above it. ‘…Socorro is not my granddaughter. She is my daughter.’

“Since the woman was at least eighty, Paco was, once again, at a loss for words.

“‘I can hear the wheels turning in your head.’ The woman chuckled softly, her coffee forgotten on the table. ‘As I am sure you know, Socorro loves to dance, and as beautiful as she is, men have always climbed over each other for the chance of being her partner. One in particular was so eager to impress my daughter that he borrowed his friend’s car in order to drive her home.’ Her eyes filled with tears. ‘Socorro died in that car.’

“‘Are you saying…’ Paco shuddered, the blood in his veins suddenly frozen. ‘…I was dancing with a ghost?’

“‘For more than forty years, whenever there is a fiesta in Sevilla, at least one young man sees her. Sometimes she disappears after they leave the ball. Other times, she waits until they get to the cemetery. I wish the poor child could come home, but she can’t.’”

“That’s so sad,” I blurt. “But why not?”

“Remember?” says Joey. “Spirits can’t cross over moving water.”

“Oh, yeah. That’s why she freaked out when she saw the bridge.” I study my grandfather’s face, and suddenly it hits me. “You’re Paco, aren’t you grandpa?”

“How did you know?”

“Everyone calls you Frank, but your real name is Francisco, and Paco—”

“—is short for Francisco?” Joey’s lips purse. “That makes no sense. It’s like Bill being short for William—or even worse, Dick for Richard.”

“Grandpa…” I u-turned back to the story. “Did you ever see Socorro again?”

“No, but her mother told me where her grave was located, and right after I left the house, I went straight to the cemetery. Can you guess what was written on her tombstone?”

“I would imagine it would be her name,” Joey says, “and the dates of her birth and death.”

“Well, yes, but…below all that, it also said, ‘She loved to dance.’”campsite to find a snake lying on my folding chair. My entire body stiffens. There’s one on Grandpa Frank’s chair too. Both creatures are long and pencil-thin. As I consider whether I should run or just scream my lungs out, my little brother, Joey, steps into the firelight carrying a third snake, which he’s holding in front of himself like a small fishing pole.

“You okay, Theresa?” Grandpa follows Joey into the light, a brown paper bag in his hands.

Oh, yeah. Dessert. Feeling like a major idiot, I nod, pick up my snake-stick, and take my seat.

“Good,” says Grandpa. His voice is deep and rich, a lot like the guitar he played for us before dinner. He lowers himself into the empty folding chair between Joey and me. “Now, let’s make some s’mores.” He reaches into the sack and removes a bag of supersized marshmallows, which he tears open and offers to Joey.

“My friend, Elbie, tells the best campfire stories,” says Joey. He takes a marshmallow and shoves it onto his snake-stick.

“Yeah, scary ones.” I scooch my folding chair closer to the fire. “His always take place somewhere creepy and out-of-the-way like a dark forest or a cursed lighthouse.”

“My favorite’s the one about the abandoned castle,” says Joey.

Grandpa offers me a marshmallow then takes one for himself. “I know a story or two myself.”

Doubting my grandfather knows many stories with serial killers as the main character, I chuckle, then decide, what the heck and say, “Tell us one.”

“Okay, let me think.” Seeing Joey’s marshmallow dip into the flames, he uses one finger to nudge the stick upward. “This story takes place many years ago, in the city of Sevilla.”

“Isn’t that in Spain?” I ask. “Where you grew up?”

“Close. Our village was about twenty miles outside the city. Anyway, a young man named Paco was in Sevilla visiting his uncle’s family when he and his cousin were invited to a big fiesta. Lots of music, food, and dancing. But Paco hadn’t packed a suit. Luckily, his cousin owned several and offered to loan him one. The jacket was a little tight and the pants could have been longer, but he looked good, and off they went.”

“So, all the men wore suits.” I can’t help but crack a smile as I imagine the boys at my own school all starched and pressed. “What did the women wear?”

“Gowns, of course. Fine ones, and since it was July, and air conditioning wasn’t common yet, they all carried fans.” From beneath his chair, he pulls the one section of newspaper he hadn’t used to build the fire with and flaps it in front of his chest like some flirtatious señorita. “So…” he drops the paper onto the fire. “…the band was playing, fans were flapping, couples were dancing, and Paco was staining his borrowed suit with sweat as he searched the ballroom for his first dance partner.”

“So far,” says Joey, “This is not a very good campfire story.”

He’s right. Even Elbie’s worst story would have had at least one murder by now. I shake my head at my overly-honest brother and tell him his marshmallow is done.

Seeing I’m right, he swings the end of his stick toward his mouth, but Grandpa stops it six inches short.

“Patience, nieto. On the outside, your treat looks delicious, but inside, it is boiling.” He removes his own marshmallow from the flames. “We let them cool a while. Like this...” He lays the stick across his lap. “…while we get the other stuff ready.”

Seeing my own marshmallow is now nice and brown, I lean my stick against my chair and help Grandpa pass out the chocolate bars and graham crackers.

“So…” says Grandpa, “…as the night went on, Paco danced with several girls, none of whom he found very interesting. Around twelve o’clock, he was about to call it a night when he spotted a beautiful young woman standing alone in the center of the dancefloor. She was gorgeous. Golden hair. Green eyes. A woman any man would be proud to dance with. He stepped toward her and—”

“Am I doing it right?” Marshmallow sandwiched between his graham crackers and chocolate, Joey waits for Grandpa Frank to nod before sliding it off the stick. He takes his first bite and gives us a thumbs up.

Eager to get some of that gooey goodness for myself, I quickly assemble my own s’more and take a big bite. “Mmmm,” I moan through a mouthful of deliciousness, and once I can get out the words, try to move the story along by saying, “So, he asked the girl to dance. Then what happened?”

Chewing thoughtfully, Grandpa stares into the campfire, but I doubt that’s what he’s really seeing. “Others tried to take her from him, but she would dance with no one else,” he continues, “and by the time the band quit playing, he’d fallen in love with her. And he didn’t even know her name.”

“Really?” Joey licks some chocolate off his finger. “I’d think that would be the first thing a guy would ask.”

“He did, eventually. Right before he offered to drive her home.”

“What was her name?” I ask, wondering which of the two characters would die first.

“Socorro,” Grandpa answers, the orange flames reflecting off his eyes.

“Okay,” says Joey. “So, Paco drove Socorro home.”

“Well...” Grandpa shrugs. “He definitely tried.”

Is there going to be a big car crash? I take another bite and look at Joey who seems like he’s going to ask the same question. “Shhh,” I tell him. “This is starting to get good.”

Grandpa chuckles. “Thank you. Paco thought so too. Thrilled such an elegant young woman had shown interest in him, he escorted Socorro to his little car. From her dress and manners, he knew she was well bred, but he was still a bit surprised when she told him she lived in Barrio del Arenal, the finest neighborhood in all Sevilla.

“So, he aimed his car in the direction of Puente de Triana, one of the many bridges that cross the Guadalquivir River. At first, the girl behaved normally. But when the river came into view ahead of them, she suddenly shouted, ‘Stop!’

“Paco slammed on the brakes. ‘What’s wrong?’ he sputtered.

“‘We can’t go this way!’ Eyes wide with terror, she gripped his arm like a vise. ‘Turn the car around…please.’

“Paco knew Barrio del Arenal was just across the bridge, but, seeing the girl so distressed, he did as she said. ‘Where to?’ he asked, once they were heading the opposite direction. ‘Straight?’

“Eyes forward and lashes spiked with tears, she nodded.”

“Well, that’s just weird,” says Joey, reaching for another marshmallow.

Nodding, Grandpa takes another for himself and positions it over the fire. “So, Paco drove straight. After a while, she signaled for him to turn, which he did. He followed all of her directions. Finally, she told him to stop.”

“Where were they?” Joey asks.

“At the front gates of El Cementerio San Fernando.”

“A cemetery?” I smile, anticipating the possibilities.

“At that hour?” Joey asks. “Did Socorro have mental issues?”

“Paco wondered the same thing,” Grandpa tells us. “On Socorro’s side of the car was a high brick wall with black wrought-iron gates. And since, by that time, it was past three o’clock in the morning, there wasn’t another soul in sight.”

“The perfect setting for a murder,” I say, hoping I’m right.

“Indeed. But Socorro kissed his cheek and got out of the car anyway.”

I gasp. “What did Paco do?”

“He got out too. But by the time he ran around to the other side, she’d already slipped through the gate.” Grandpa shrugs. “So, he followed her.” He sits back, letting his words sink in. “In the middle of the night, he raced into the largest cemetery in Sevilla.”

“Was Socorro killed with an ax?” Joey asks. “In Elbie’s campfire stories, maniacs always use axes.”

Grandpa’s eyes slide sideways, stopping on Joey. “Sorry to disappoint you, but the fact is, Paco never found the girl. And he searched for hours too. Up and down a hundred rows of flat marble tombs, past monuments built to the greatest bullfighters, the most famous flamenco dancers. But Socorro was nowhere to be seen. Finally, he gave up.

“By then, it was nearly dawn. Anyone else would have considered himself the butt of a terrible joke and gone home, but Paco was obsessed with the girl.” Grandpa continues to stare into the flames, the curve of his earlier smile now turned downward. “Heartbroken, he sat in his car…thinking about her…and as he thought, he realized that the little rich girl had been toying with him all along, laughing behind her fan at his borrowed suit and too short pants. Furious, he decided to drive to the address she had first mentioned and confront her there.

“So, he sped through Sevilla, growing angrier with each street he passed, across Puente de Triana and into the center of Barrio del Arenal. As he suspected, her home was the most beautiful of all. Tall, stately. At this hour, there were few cars on the street, so he parked right in front of the gates, strode up to the huge black lacquered door, and rang the bell.

“By then, the sun was just beginning to rise. Exhausted and still angry, he rang the bell again. Several times, in fact. Finally, a butler opened the door.”

“Is Paco carrying an ax?” Joey asks.

Catching his eye, I shake my head again, and Grandpa continues.

“‘I need to see Socorro,’ Paco demanded as he stormed into the house. ‘I know she lives here.’”

“Was the butler surprised?” I ask. “Angry? I’d call the cops if someone burst into my house like that.”

Joey nods. “Especially if the guy’s carrying an ax.”

“Strangely,” says Grandpa, “the butler was neither, and instead of calling the police, he escorted Paco to an elegant sitting room where an elderly woman sat sipping coffee from a fine china cup. ‘Would you like some?” she asked. ‘Sanchez, bring some pastries.’

“‘I must speak to Socorro,” Paco insisted. ‘Immediately.’

“‘Lo siento,’ the old woman answered, ‘but Socorro doesn’t live here. She hasn’t for a very long time.’

“Paco must have looked confused because the old woman reached for his hand. ‘Tell me,’ she whispered. And when he had finished his strange story, she surprised him again.

“‘You are not the first man this has happened to,’ she told him.

“Paco didn’t know what to say. In the short time he’d known Socorro, she had stolen his heart then tossed it aside like a broken toy. He shuddered at the thought of her making such behavior a habit. ‘Playing with a man’s emotions can be dangerous,’ he told the old woman. ‘I would never hurt her, but other men are not so well mannered. If your granddaughter continues this behavior…’

“‘Gracias, but if you’re worried about the girl’s welfare, it is far too late. You see…’ She drew his attention to the fireplace on the far wall and the large framed portrait hanging above it. ‘…Socorro is not my granddaughter. She is my daughter.’

“Since the woman was at least eighty, Paco was, once again, at a loss for words.

“‘I can hear the wheels turning in your head.’ The woman chuckled softly, her coffee forgotten on the table. ‘As I am sure you know, Socorro loves to dance, and as beautiful as she is, men have always climbed over each other for the chance of being her partner. One in particular was so eager to impress my daughter that he borrowed his friend’s car in order to drive her home.’ Her eyes filled with tears. ‘Socorro died in that car.’

“‘Are you saying…’ Paco shuddered, the blood in his veins suddenly frozen. ‘…I was dancing with a ghost?’

“‘For more than forty years, whenever there is a fiesta in Sevilla, at least one young man sees her. Sometimes she disappears after they leave the ball. Other times, she waits until they get to the cemetery. I wish the poor child could come home, but she can’t.’”

“That’s so sad,” I blurt. “But why not?”

“Remember?” says Joey. “Spirits can’t cross over moving water.”

“Oh, yeah. That’s why she freaked out when she saw the bridge.” I study my grandfather’s face, and suddenly it hits me. “You’re Paco, aren’t you grandpa?”

“How did you know?”

“Everyone calls you Frank, but your real name is Francisco, and Paco—”

“—is short for Francisco?” Joey’s lips purse. “That makes no sense. It’s like Bill being short for William—or even worse, Dick for Richard.”

“Grandpa…” I u-turned back to the story. “Did you ever see Socorro again?”

“No, but her mother told me where her grave was located, and right after I left the house, I went straight to the cemetery. Can you guess what was written on her tombstone?”

“I would imagine it would be her name,” Joey says, “and the dates of her birth and death.”

“Well, yes, but…below all that, it also said, ‘She loved to dance.’”

 

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