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I See Dead People

By Hillary Ibarra

I see dead people.

Okay. Not dead. Yet. But run over.

No one else can see them.

Let me explain.

Obsessive-compulsive, I used to fret about germs, but having four children — who threw things in the toilet, rubbed snot on the walls and ate random black things off the floor — annihilated that fear. Cognitive behavioral therapy had nothing on my little imps.

My brain required a new obsession: a fear of running over people in my minivan.

Potholes, litter and rocks in the road make me jumpy. As I approach a speed bump I must assure myself before I cross it, “It’s a speed bump. That’s a speed bump.” Heaven forbid there are several in a row! Then I chant like a preschooler: “The speed bumps in the road are not people…not people…not people. The speed bumps in the road are not people — all through the town!”

Sudden, strange thunks and thuds make me hyperventilate — What was that?”

I am always looking in the rearview. My husband, my personal guru, assures me that is not the way to live one’s life — figuratively or literally.

“Did I just run over somebody back there? Are you sure?” are questions parents should never ask their children, but I have.

“Yes, Mom. It’s Flat Stanley. Again.”

I knew it! Waiting for me to tattoo him into the pavement.

My kids sigh when I circle back to where we have just been.

“What are you doing? You didn’t run over anybody!”

“I’m just checking something out.”

Yep, I’m making sure that rough patch in the road or parking lot was not a person.

My oldest son told me, “You would know if you ran somebody over!”

Would I?

One time a police cruiser followed me from my neighborhood to a Walmart parking lot and flashed his lights. In a panic I thought, “Oh no! I’ve finally done it — I’ve run over somebody!”

I was so anxious to know who and where that I bolted out of my vehicle and charged toward the police cruiser — in my cowboy boots — to ask.

The police officer threw up a hand. The other flew to his hip.

“Stop right there, ma’am!” he ordered. “Stay by your vehicle.”

I had turned into the wrong lane on a left-hand turn. A minor infraction compared to pancaking a pedestrian, but my OCD nearly got me tasered for it.

Will I ever stop seeing run-over people? Man, I hope so.

Flat Stanley, stop haunting me!

— Hillary Ibarra.

Hillary Ibarra is the author of The Christmas List, an inspirational holiday novella based on real events. Her humor writing has appeared in New Mexico Woman and on various online sites, her favorite being Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop. She is a contributor at and For Every Mom. When not baking, hugging trees or playing endless board games with her children, she writes about family life and adventure in the sunny Southwest at

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