white nights of stars

 

I listen to the sound of raindrops falling sadly and slowly. You weigh upon my heart.

You are the red leaf come to rest upon my walk, I haven’t the heart to brush off—and so you remain.

And the wind is kind to your memory as well.

I thought you indifferent—that’s all—and wounded too, as far as eyes could tell—but I was wrong, and now you’re gone.

You were my obsession, Mara, and I remember each of your careless gestures and how they made a melody inside me of sad carelessness.

I listen to Eric Satie’s Gymnopédie No. I, and alternate between piano notes and the sound of raindrops falling sadly and slowly—and cannot tell, nor do I care, where the one begins, or the other ends.

I made a space for you in my heart—where I thought you’d be happy, but can’t imagine how we can ever meet, let alone talk, now that you’re gone.

I need you to haunt me.

 

“You’re afflicted with love sickness, my friend”

Bookman peers at me over silver rimmed glasses, and comes down from a ladder dusting a tome’s tooled leather cover.

He shakes his head sadly as if chiding my right to grief, sighing as many tsks as the Moon sprinkles stars for asterisks.

“And now, what will I do with you, Walter? You’ll perpetuate her tormenting spirit in life-long grief because you’re a romantic. Only a young man of such ideals would be so fetishistic as to build a shrine and plan to read Cyrano in her memory every spring.”

“She was my Roxanne,” I protest.

He shrugs, “As I said, a most idealistic young man—but a fool nonetheless. She’s gone and you missed your chance.”

“I think she knew, Bookman—in fact, I’m sure she did. My soul reached hers across the ether.”

He pauses at the counter, puts down the book and stares through the shop window out into the shining streets. “It’s raining again—appropriate, somehow—as the ancients said, tears for things.”

“Of course there will be tears for her,” I muse.

“No, Walter—that’s a pathetic fallacy, and you—well, such a pathetic young fellow. As I asked before, what will come of this now?”

“I’m not sure it matters—it didn’t when she was here. We communed in the spirit, my soul touching hers.”

Bookman’s eyes flashed. “She was a jumper, Walter. It took the city hours to clean up the blood from the subway tunnel. Don’t idealize her death.”

“She’s not there—her flesh perhaps—but her spirit’s fled to heaven and is stamped out in stars.”

Bookman reaches down beneath the counter and fishes out a bottle of Old Overholt Rye and produces two tumblers. “Shall we drink to her?”

I nod and come around the counter and sit on the stool beside him.

He hands me my glass. “You should make the toast, Walter.”

I stare at him blankly. “I have no idea what to say.”

“Tell me about her. Recall a memory.”

I close my eyes and think of the first time I saw her.

“I was walking down Yonge Street in the wind—past bleary windows and chestnut sellers. A young girl, honey-colored hair, camel coat, came towards me, smiling.”

Bookman raises his glass to mine. “To the young girl who walked in beauty.”

I grab his wrist. “No wait—there was more than just beauty.”

The old man shuts his eyes in reverence, “Go on, my young friend—honor her memory.”

“She made no attempt to tuck in the stray ends of her hair—it was lovely to see it floating and tumbling on the breeze and spinning to nothingness in the air.”

“Shall we toast her careless beauty?”

I frown remembering. “She was happy then—did I say her cheeks were rosy?”

“You didn’t, but now, you did. And I can picture her clearly.”

“Did I tell you she haunts me?”

The whiskey sloshes against the glass rim, inches from Bookman’s lips. He sets down the tumbler and stares at me.

“Tell me what happened.”

“Last night, in my sleep, we met and conversed. When I awoke, I thought it a dream, but when I passed the hallway mirror, she was there.”

“Did she speak to you again when you were awake?”

“She did.” I smile at the memory of it.

“Do you know why I cautioned you about love madness, Walter? It’s dangerous—it opens the door to tormenting spirits—and you already have a tendency to worship women.”

I stop my ears and refuse to hear his warnings. “Go ahead—think me demonized. I don’t care. The truth is, I’ve been channeling her for some time—for months before she passed.”

Bookman is scandalized. “You have been doing this dark thing without telling me—Why?”

“I wanted to tell you, but when made public, love rarely endures”.

“Ah, so you’ve read, De Amore, my young friend—but be careful—it’s powerful magic, some might say, wormwood.”

“She’s all I have, Bookman. Is it so abnormal for a lonely man to obsesses about a female co-worker?”

He shushes my objections with a wafture of a heavily veined, almost transparent hand.

“Tell me how you went about it, Walter. Did you employ black arts?”

“You think I’d stoop to occult means to conjure her semblance?” I sneer at the old man.

He’s undeterred and repeats in a calm tone, “I want to know how you did it.”

I throw up my hands in exasperation. “I’ll be damned if I know how I contacted her. It began I suppose by finding a picture of her on one of her girlfriend’s Facebook pages. I copied it and made it my desktop wallpaper.”

“I see,” Bookman muttered, “—a fetish.”

I ignored him and continued my explanation.

“I began thinking of her at night when I went to bed – invented various scenarios in my head where we’d bump into each other in malls or bars and end up spending the evening together. It was a pleasant diversion—and hers was the last face I’d see each night before I fell to sleep.”

The old man shook his head sadly. “So, you’ve been obsessing about her for months until she finally becomes a habit, and then a concrete idea. In a sense, one could say, you enslaved her.”

The idea enrages me. “What do you think I am—some disgusting night crawler or stalker? Yes, this was some grand obsession, and yes, of course, it was totally unreal—but face it—so too are most of our lives. It wasn’t as if I wanted another man’s wife—I simply wanted my own life. I was walking alone on midnight streets surrounded by the colored windows of other people’s lives.”

Bookman goes quiet and rasps in a barely audible whisper, “But it was a fantasy, Walter—a dreamland.”

I shrug my shoulders. “I admit it—it was a fantasy. But a normal man, on average, spends twenty years of his life daydreaming. So why not me—and why not daydream of her? Why should she not be my grand obsession? Would you have preferred I wasted my life on unworthy concerns? No, I chose to spend my time obsessing about her.”

The old man picks up his rye and salutes me in a mock toast.

“I drink to your solitary existence, Walter—shut in alone with your fantasy and your obsession.”

“You think so? Turn around, old friend. I’d like you to meet Mara Portinari.”

Bookman turns, stares into the shadows and sees something, just outside the circle of lamplight.

His jaw goes slack and the glass of rye tumbles from his hand and shatters on the floor.

 

 

© 2015, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.

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bygones

“I know that I have died before—once in November.”
Anne Sexton

 

It rained all night and by morning the trees had turned to glass. It was a brooding, melancholy start to November.

I had another of those dreams that seemed more far more frequent now—strange rambling dialogues with a beautiful woman whose face I could never recall, let alone the details of our conversations.

Her aura persisted though, long after waking, and pervaded everything like morning mist and dampness. She was at the tip of my tongue, on the edge of my mind, hidden in lonely gray distances that harbored mystery and in rain trails blurring and marring familiar things.

I met Mireya and Rab at The Bakery hoping the steaming coffee and blueberry scones would restore a sense of normalcy, but even the morning routine seemed tinged with a sepia ambiance of another time, and I couldn’t shake the feeling.

But finally, back at the agency, amid the subdued chaos of a Monday morning, I was distracted enough to find me, and by the time Mireya phoned at noon wanting to go antiquing I enthusiastically agreed.

 

“You seemed preoccupied this morning, Cole—more bad dreams?”

We were browsing through curios at Bygones and Mireya was gently probing my mood while trying not to dig in too much.

“It’s not so much the dreams are bad, Mir, as they’re damned perplexing. I feel a need to recall the content, but can’t remember even one simple thing.”

“You seemed depressed this morning,” she whispered.

“I don’t know if that’s from the dreams or this dreary weather.”

“Well, you know today is Día de los Muertos—the Day of the Dead.”

I chuckled at her Latin tendency to verge to the dark side. “We called it All Souls Day when I was growing up in Catholic parochial school and saw it as a holiday to eat our Halloween candy—that’s all.”

Her eyes were dark and somber. “Not for us, my friend, it’s much more than that—it’s the autumn rites associated with remembering the dead and the after life.”

As she was talking, my gaze fell upon an antique Ouija board with the familiar arcane letters.

“Well, speaking of the dead—look at this. “ I held up the board and said facetiously, “you could celebrate the dead, or, on the other hand, using the centuries-old tradition of a mystic table, you could go one better and summon them.”

I said it with the requisite levity and sarcasm meant to lighten her morose mood, but my words had the opposite effect. Her eyes grew huge and she turned pale. “You musn’t joke about such matters, Cole—it’s not wholesome to contact the dead.”

“I was only joking, Mireya. Besides, these boards aren’t mystic oracles—they’re only parlor games made by toy companies from paper and plastic—quaint and dated as Spiritism and table tipping.”

A voice rasped behind me, “In this day and age I suppose it’s regarded as old technology.”

I turned to see Ella James, the proprietor, smiling at us—her eyes crinkled from much laughter and far too much cigarette smoke—the latter being another instance, no doubt, of ‘old technology.’

I smiled back at her. “I suppose folks nowadays would be more inclined to the Internet than having an affinity with ether—that so-called mysterious fifth element of alchemists and mediums.”

The older woman turned serious. “You know there’s a long tradition of linking communication with the dead to wireless telegraphy. Edison tried to build such a device to contact the dead. Back in 1898, there was even a Ouija board called The Wireless Communicator.”

“Really?” I said, growing interested. “You don’t happen to have one of those in the shop, do you?”

She gave a wheezing laugh, “Naw, can’t say I’ve seen one of those lately, but I do have a computerized Ouija board—The Gypsy, put out by Mac. It was state of the art back in the 1980’s.”

“You’re kidding! Can I see it?”

“Sure, if you’re into haunting entertainment—it was real popular back in the day.”

As the older lady went back into the stockroom to locate the device, Mireya was becoming agitated. “You should not use such instruments, Cole—they’re witch boards used to summon a demon.”

I tried to calm her fears.

“Relax, Mir—even at the height of the Spiritist Movement these games were used mostly for harmless flirtation between men and women—sitting knee to knee with the board on their laps and their fingers touching on the planchette. The questions asked were more of a romantic nature.”

She was not deterred. “That doesn’t make it right, Cole.”

Ella was back with what looked like a boxed board game tucked under her arm. “Here we are—THE MACINTOSH MYSTIC—the cyber oracle for the computer age,” she laughed.

I opened the box and perused the contents. The so-called Ouija board was blank—no letters or numbers. It looked like an oversized mouse pad.

“How does it work?” I asked.

“You create the talking board on your Mac using the supplied software and MacPaint. You can use the basic design or create your own unique board using different fonts and layouts. You can even add blinking stars and constellations to create a magical effect.”

“That’s kind of hokey—I like the vintage version.”

“Well, the planchette is also super-charged—it fits into a “Mouse Mover” that glides effortlessly across the board and as the cursor touches different letters, messages appear on the screen.”

“That’s kind of cool.”

“And you have the option of switching to “Automatic Writing Mode” and a blank board. Then, the planchette becomes an automatic writer.”

“I’ll take it,” I laughed, “I can’t wait to get it home and try it.”

Mireya looked glum but said nothing.

We walked back to the agency in the gray November rain—Mir morosely mindful of her Día de los Muertos, and I, keenly anticipating a different arcane ritual to honor All Souls Night.

 

It was after nine that evening when I finally found time to relax by the fire with a glass of Shiraz and to try out the Gypsy board.

I placed the smooth, pressed board table on my lap, letting my fingers lightly touch the mouse. I had some idea of being gently guided by mystic spirits, but found the mouse, augmented by the ball-bearing supported plastic mover, too free and erratic in the way it skittered across the board.

I realized the oracle was intended for use by two, or even more players, and my using it solo wasn’t going to work.

I elected to use the automatic writing mode, and almost immediately there was a charged atmosphere in the room.

The window curtains began moving as if billowing in a breeze, and yet the windows were closed. The lights began to flicker and the fireplace flames began to dwindle and glow blue.

I felt an icy tingle as the hair on my arms stood up. I wanted to shut off the machine, but before I could react I watched in morbid fascination as the cursor on the screen spelled out a message.

Is anybody there?

I experienced a breathless, bone-chilling frisson as I stared in awe at this communication from some mysterious entity—and then, it hit me. It must be a pre-programmed response.

I had to admit it was very convincing and clever—it had me going for a moment.

I typed back. I am Cole Michaels. Who are you?

I was aware that Gypsy would record the entire conversation along with the date and times and the entire dialogue would be stored on Macwrite. It would be an interesting conversation piece with which to tease Mir tomorrow at The Bakery.

My name is Adella Constable and I live in Maryland.

I was a bit perturbed at that response. It seemed too detailed and specific to be pre-programmed into the computer memory.

I decided to be flippant. Are you real or a bot? I don’t want to get a virus.

I assure you, Sir, I am real and the only infection to which I succumb is the seasonal grippe. You can talk to me and will not be infected with measles, smallpox or diphtheria—or, should you live on a farm, hoof and mouth disease.

My skin began to crawl. The only time I encountered such stilted prose was in a third year Lit class at university when I was compelled to read Jane Austen.

I felt this was a classical Turing experiment gone wrong and I was confusing a computer with a real person or vice versa.

I elected to keep the tone light and see where it would take me.

I feel I’m no longer in Kansas and I’m talking to the wizard behind the curtain.

The cursor typed again.

I see you’re familiar with the writings of L. Frank Baum. I teach children the book and had the opportunity recently to see the musical on Broadway.

I love the Wizard of Oz and I sure wasn’t aware of any Broadway musical.

Are you sure you saw the musical recently on Broadway? I’m not aware of any recent productions.

Of course, I’m sure. It starred Anna Laughlin as Dorothy Gale. It was enchanting.

I decided to Google the production and what I found made my blood freeze. There was a production of the Wizard on Broadway starring Anna Laughlin, but it ran for 293 performances from January 21, 1903, to December 31, 1904.

Do you recall the date of the performance you saw, Adella?

Of course—it was New Years Eve, 1904.

That was a long time ago, I joked.

Not really. It’s been less than two months. Today is Valentine’s Day.

Are you saying today’s date is February 14, 1905?

Unless they’ve changed the date of Valentines—Yes!

I began shaking. This was insane—impossible. There was no way this conversational thread could have been pre-programmed. What the hell was going on?

I decide to end the session. I typed in: Got to go now. Goodbye.

The cursor moved across the screen in response. Sweet dreams, Cole.

I put the board and its various components back in the box. I contemplated burning it in the fireplace—I think I saw that once on a lame Friday Night Fright Show on cable TV. It didn’t make a bit of difference—the board reappeared the next morning.

I smiled grimly as I put it on the top shelf of my closet, intending to re-gift it to Rab and pass on the curse to him.

 

It was after twelve by the time I got to bed, and I tossed and turned until three before finally falling into a deep sleep.

I dreamt again of my mystery girl, her face veiled and hidden by mist.

“Why is it always raining when we meet?” I asked her.

“Rain obscures details—there’s no time or place—only the ether and the eternal mist.”

“But I need more. I can’t embrace a shadow.”

“We spoke tonight—you in your world and I in mine. We communicated across the Great Divide—wirelessly, by telephony—and I, allergic to electricity.”

It dawned on me. “You mean that was you—Adella Constable?”

“It was me, my Love. I wrote so many letters through so many lonely nights—billets doux written to an unknown lover and then tossed into the fire like an MS sent on some celestial sea, to be washed up on the shores of some distant star.”

“Are you saying our souls reached out to one another like vines sending out shoots?”

“Exactly. There’s nothing more lonely than tapping out messages that can never be heard.”

“But my soul heard your cosmic SOS, and we connected—you by ether, and I by electric.”

She chuckled, “And now we share this bliss.”

“But to never touch or see you, or to hold you in my arms—it seems so empty.”

“Soul to soul communication—that’s the goal to which lovers aspire—and we have it. Would you settle for anything less?”

 

Adella’s question has been haunting me ever since.

I seem fated to a Platonic love affair that can never be consummated in the flesh.

I possess her in dreams, only to be dispossessed when I awake.

I think Shakespeare expressed it best when he said,

Some there be that shadows kiss.

Such have but a shadow’s bliss.

Soul to soul communication—Adella and I have it. Who could ask for anything less?

 

 

© 2015, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.

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unbreak my heart

Un-break my heart
Say you’ll love me again
Don’t leave me in all this pain
Don’t leave me out in the rain
Bring back the nights
when I held you beside me

 

“Is this too mature for a six-year old?”

Angie rolls her eyes. “Bubble bath? Really, Paul.”

“What do I know? —Hell, I’m a forty-year old bachelor.”

“Don’t worry. I know Hope will love her birthday gifts—Lambie socks, a soft purple blanket, bubble bath and Ferrero Rocher chocolates—gold foil only. What six year old wouldn’t feel all grown-up getting that?”

“I appreciate this, Ange—you spending your Saturday with me at the mall.”

“Don’t worry—you’ll owe me for it,” she smiles mischievously.

We walk back to her car. Angelina and I are co-owners of Adolph’s, an upscale eatery in the historic Stickley mansion, but Adolph Moulton, is the real genius behind the scenes.

Adolph’s a restaurateur par excellence, a modern Ragueneau whose love of poetry and big heart leads him to support struggling artists by bartering meals in exchange for help in running the restaurant.

On any given day I can enter the doors and be greeted by several unfamiliar faces. Still, it makes for one big happy family and Adolph’s is fast becoming a beloved Toronto eatery.

We drive back to the historic Stickley manse where our restaurant is housed. It’s now lit with twinkling clear Christmas lights and Yule trees spaced round the huge wooden verandah. It looks warm and inviting in the November twilight.

“You can come to the party, you know.”

Ange winces, “Uh, no. Sorry Paul—I’ll pass—a half-dozen six year olds getting their faces painted? I don’t think so.”

Ange and I never really hit it off—not to say we’re not compatible, but whatever chemistry it takes to push friends to that next level, well, it just isn’t there for us.

Mind you, I can’t say the same for Eileen.

Eileen Dunn is the mysterious dark-haired beauty who appears at odd times, just when we need her—usually a rainy day, or a hectic Friday night. She’ll pop in, help out and disappear—God knows what arrangement Adolph has made with her.

I’m enthralled with Eileen and my friendship with Ange has now finally gotten to the point where I can confide in her.

“So when am I going to meet this dark lady, Paul?”

“No idea, Ange—you know how chaotic things get around here—it’s day to day. The place is crazy—like the old Laurel and Hardy skit—Who’s on First?”

She smiles knowingly. “I love Adolph, but it is sheer madness some days—okay, most days, ha ha.”

“So, are you coming in?”

“No, heading home. Gonna have a spa, put my feet up and order in—probably Chinese.”

“Lucky you,” I smile wryly, thinking a movie night would be nice—but the lines between us are firmly drawn.

But then there’s Eileen, too—an Audrey Hepburn look-alike, with the same fashion flair and a penchant for wearing retro 60’s fashions.

Eye-catching, to say the least.

I push through the doors and run straight into Adolph, his huge face perpetually beaming like the Mediterranean sun he loves.

“Ah Paul, I was just looking for you. It’s going to be really hectic tonight—I was thinking of calling in Angelina—what do you think?”

I spot Eileen entering the far door dressed in a long, black wool jacket—she looks stunning.

“I don’t think we need to trouble Ange tonight—I’ve got the situation in hand.”

Adolph’s head is bobbing, his smile beatific—it’ll be an enchanting evening, Paul.”

It will, I muse—certainly enchanting.

I approach Eileen in time to help her off with her coat. “Paul, I’m so glad you’re on tonight!”

I lean in close and inhale her perfume. She’s dressed in a simple red shift, her black hair up and no accessory other than a necklace of over-sized white pearls. She takes my breath away.

“You’re staring,” she whispers, “Am I showing?”

You certainly are, I tell myself, but that’s not what I tell her.

“You look lovely, tonight.”

Her smile is dazzling. Strange, how I never before noticed her red ruby lipstick, or how her lips pout—but I do now.

I somehow manage to focus, and force myself back to the task at hand. Together, Eileen and I work as an efficient team and before long, the room is running smoothly and the night filled with magic.

I’m so caught up in the details, it’s after midnight before I notice my lovely diva has fled—another missed opportunity to ask her out.

I resolve to remedy that next time.

 

Hope’s birthday party is held on the Sunday afternoon and comes off without a hitch. Adolph closes the restaurant for the afternoon and allows me to play the doting uncle.

There are clowns and face painting, pink and purple balloons, and all the cake and ice cream six year-old girls can eat.

Of course, Adolph is in his glory.

The sparkler-lit Birthday cake is presented with the ambience of subdued lighting and Adolph’s flair for drama. The little girls are delighted—and Adolph? Well, he just beams, basking in the oohs and ahhs.

 

“It was a beautiful party, Paul—thank you.” Carrie hugs me, but really it was all Adolph’s doing.

“We’re going to have to find a woman for you, Paul,’ she chides, “it would be tragic for you to become a settled old bachelor.”

“Oh, you never know,” I tease, “there just might be someone waiting in the wings.”

“Really, Paul?” she enthuses, “I’d be so happy for you.”

I can see myself here next year with Eileen—actually, I can see forever with Eileen, if I let my imagination take control.

But first, I have to ask her out.

 

The next week is hectic and I don’t see Eileen until the Thursday when she breezes in on a moody, wet afternoon with her country retro look. She’s wearing a brown Cahoots felt hat with floppy brim, belted trousers and a tucked-in button up.

My heart melts when I see her.

I make a bee-line, but am intercepted by a flustered Adolph, “Sorry, Paul, but could I impose on you to fetch me a bottle of Louis Roederer from the wine cellar—you know, the Cristal Brut 2005?”

“Sure,” I tell him. Eileen flashes me a lovely hello smile.

I head back to the stairs, navigating between boxes of fresh produce that have just arrived. I hate the gloomy cellars, but Adolph has amassed a formidable collection of fine wines that’s added to our reputation. I berate myself for taking him for granted.

I start down the stairs, but halfway my foot slides on what feels like a wet lettuce leaf and though I grab frantically for the railing I miss and pitch forward.

I literally see my life pass before my eyes.

Suddenly, a hand reaches out of the darkness and pushes my shoulder. I fall sideways twisting my ankle, but avoid dashing my head on the concrete floor.

The next thing I know, Adolph and several concerned waiters are hovering over me.

 

I spend the next several hours in the emergency ward, until Ange comes and recues me and brings me home.

“Do you think you’ll be able to stay off the ankle?” She asks, as she sets me up on the couch with a pillow elevating my foot.

‘Well, you know me,” I wince, “but don’t worry—this hurts so bad there’s no way I could stand on it.”

Ange stares at me, flustered. “You would pick the one week Matt, Carrie and the kids are out of town. I’ll be able to drop by though, as long as you promise not to undo my help by trying to hop around.”

“Yeah—well, fat chance of that,” I groan.

“I’ll be back after my shift to check in on you—sure you’ll be okay?”

I wave her off. “Yeah, I’ll be fine—just leave the door unlocked so you can get in.”

She nods, biting her lips and looking worried.

“Hey, Ange,” I brighten to cheer her, “it’s just a sprained ankle—I appreciate the concern, but I’ll be fine. Now go to work—we all have to eat.”

“I will,’’ she laughs, “But I’ll be back.”

“I’m sure you will,” I groan.

I put on a brave face, but as soon as she’s gone I begin to think—maybe I should consider hiring a private duty nurse—at least for a few days until I can get back on my feet.

There’s a light rap at the door—Ange back already? I wonder.

“Come in,” I shout.

Eileen pokes her head in the door.

“Are you decent?” She giggles. I almost wish I weren’t.

“Eileen! How did you know where I lived?”

“I made a few discreet enquiries—do you mind?”

“Not at all. Happy to see you.”

“I’ve come bearing gifts,” she smiles.

She’s brought food and a dozen red roses.

“I hope you’re not one of those men who don’t like getting flowers.”

“No, I love flowers” I laugh, “but I am really touched that you came.”

“Well, of course, I would—I mean, you’re quite special to me.”

She says it simply, matter of factly, but stares at me as if baring her soul.

My stomach flips. I can hardly breathe.

“Well,” she says, “ are we going to eat or just stare at each other?”

I’d be content with the latter option, but I let her bring on the food.

We spend a beautiful afternoon, listening to rain, and enjoying the fire, Eileen curled up on the floor beside me, head in my lap, and I stroking her hair.

“I’ll be back tomorrow,” she says as she leaves.

And so it goes, one glorious day after another—Eileen dropping by to spend romantic afternoons and I falling deeper and deeper in love with her.

 

“Why can I never meet your mystery woman, Paul?”

I shrug, offering empty palms. “It’s the damndest thing, Ange. Sometimes, you just miss her by moments. Tell you what—let know me the next time you’re coming and I’ll make sure she stays.”

But it continues that way the rest of the week, with Eileen spending the days with me and just missing Ange when she arrives.

“Damn rotten luck,” I explain.

Ange, however, seems to take it personally, her mood darkening each time.

Finally, on Friday afternoon she confronts me.

“Look, Paul—I’ve been worried about you for some time.”

“Why on earth would you be worried about me Ange? I’m fine.”

“No, you’re not. Adolph is worried too.”

‘What’s going on, Ange? You’re treating me as if I’m sick or something.”

“I’m beginning to think you are, Paul.”

I feel my body go cold and limbs tingle. The room suddenly seems brighter. I fight the panicky feeling rising inside me.

“What are you talking about, Ange? You’re not making any sense.”

She looks me dead in the eye. “There’s no Eileen, Paul—nobody of that name or description works at the restaurant.”

“Don’t be silly, I protest. “We work together all the time. She helps out periodically—everybody’s seen her.”

“No, Paul,” she whispers, “that’s the problem—only you have seen her. I think you’ve made her up in your mind.”

“That’s insane—why on earth would I do that? Do you think I’m crazy, or something?”

“We think—I mean, Adolph and I think, you need to take some time off, and see someone.”

I’m in shock—totally flabbergasted. I don’t know how to reply.

Ange is being gentle and kind—a bit too kind. I feel patronized. She’s treating me the way people treat delusional people.

I feel myself getting angry, but don’t care. This is insane—an insult to me.

“I’m going to have to ask you to leave, Ange. I may not be able to get around very well just now, but when I do—I’ll prove to you—both you and Adolph that Eileen’s real. Hell, she’s not some figment of my imagination, Ange. She’s real.”

After Ange leaves and I calm down, I begin to experience the first niggling of doubt.

I have to admit the coincidences are piling up and straining credulity. Then, there’s the accident—the arm appearing out of nowhere, pushing me back.

A sense of horror rises up inside of me.

What if there was no arm? What if I did strike my head and this is all some grand illusion?

I feel sick and can’t stop trembling.

 

The following week I return to work—to Adolph’s nervous smile, and the uncertain stares of the wait staff. Everyone overly solicitous, treating me as if I were fragile—which I am.

It’s weird though—I haven’t seen or heard from Eileen in a week, and adding to my confusion is a deep aching inside me. I feel my insides are bruised.

I miss her. A vacuum is left inside me and there’s nothing that can fill the emptiness.

It goes on like that a week and then, one bleak Saturday afternoon, everything changes. Adolph comes up from the wine cellar with a strange look on his face.

“What is it?” I ask. He looks as if he’s seen a ghost.

He has in hand a yellowed newspaper he’s found shoved in back of a wine shelf—an edition of the local paper from the sixties—November 28, 1963, to be exact.

“I want you to look at this,” he says, hands trembling, as he hands the paper to me.

Young Local Woman Dies in Tragic Fall, the headline reads.

The article goes on to state that Eileen Dunn, a popular tour guide at the historic Stickley House died when she tripped and fell down a set of basement stairs. The article includes a picture of the woman.

“Is—is this your Eileen?” Adolph stammers.

I nod mutely. She’s pictured wearing the same stylish black coat she often wore. My knees weaken and then, slowly give out.

 

I can’t explain why Eileen chose to haunt me. I can conjecture, but what’s the point? Nothing makes sense. I doubt it ever will.

I wasn’t looking for her, but she sought me. Why? —To find and then abandon me, leaving me alone in a dark swamp of regret?

It seems absurd.

There’s nothing to do but try to carry on and put all this behind me—I try, but can’t.

I spend nights alone now, by the fire, or I end up staring hopelessly at the Moon.

I keep looking at that moon face as if I’m seeking hers. It’s ironic—that desolate world suits her—lakes of darkness, mares of basalt seas—rills and umbras of mystery.

As with all ancient things, if you stare long enough, they start to tell time—stare longer, and their time starts to tell you. The Moon tells me the lines drawn between Eileen and I aren’t firm—but ragged as the lines of waves washing up on the shore.

It’s not over this transaction between the two of us. Perhaps, momentarily, the tide has gone out, but it will come back again, and when it does, she’ll return too.

But I don’t want this waiting game—this desolate existence. I need to move on.

I need Eileen to give me back my life. Give me back the bruised and broken man who once could dream.

I don’t want moods or phases—I want the transit of days.

I’m talking to her now—nights when the Moon is full.

I’m talking and hoping she’ll see.

Tell me, Beloved, how I can go on, how I can find a way?
You can’t un-break a heart—you can’t un-cry a tear.
You can’t re-start a love that’s been dead for fifty years.

 

© 2015, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.

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