” This place really is a ghost town” Hadley said to Odelia
They were standing next to Odelia’s car on that hot dusty August afternoon in a town that used to be called Barger.
Odelia was holding a water bottle full of warm water but she drank it anyway because it was wet and her mouth was full of grit. ” Yeah, well it’s dead alright. Dead and as dry as an old bone. ”
Hadley shook his head when Odelia offered him a drink from the bottle that was now full of floating bits of whatever had made it’s way into Odeia’s mouth when the air conditioner in the car decided to stop working and she rolled the windows down for some moving air. ” Really Odelia?”
” Your loss.”She put the cap back on the bottle and tossed it back into her car.
” Barger is a funny name for a ghost town. I wonder when it, you know, keeled over as it were.”
” Don’t know, don’t care. Let’s just take a quick look around and get back on the road. It’s not getting any cooler out in case you haven’t noticed.
As Hadley had pointed out, this was a ghost town and she had a hard time imagining any part of it- even the light brown grasses and weeds had ever been alive.
” What do you think this place was like, when it was alive.” he asked her- but his voice had an edge to it and that edge put Odelia’s back up.
” Have a hard time picturing it, don’t you?” he asked.
” Well yeah, I mean look at it. It’s like it never took a breath.”
Hadley stopped and faced Odelia . ” You must be one Soulless creature to not be able to picture something ever having been alive. You have no imagination,do you? That’s a sure sign of having something wrong with you. Not being able to comprehend anything outside of your own head is not a sign of well adjusted human being.”
In one quick step Odelia was almost nose to nose with Hadley . ” I got plenty of imagination. How do you think we got here?”
They both looked around themselves and then they looked down at the smooth slightly raised mound of earth below their feet.
” It’s a puzzle to me Odelia , how I got here.”Hadley said looking down into her face, his eyeglasses sat sideways on his nose, they were a little dusty now.
Betsy smoothed away a little patch of dirt with her foot and something white and slightly pitted appeared under her toe. ” It’s a puzzle to me too.” She moved more of the grit away and an empty eye socket housed in a broken cheek bone of a dirt encrusted skull stared up at her through a cracked eyeglass lens.
The warm air slithered around them and then Betsy heard a little sound- plink.
That was it.
Hadley was looking at her. One of his eyes watered a little behind it’s now cracked eyeglass lens.
Then the ghost town shimmered in the heat and it blew away on a blast of warm air.
Odelia and Hadley and her car were now on an road littered with gray and soot covered rocks and above them was a fiery red sky and ahead of them was a blood red horizon. ” I don’t know why you’re here Hadley. But I know why I am. I guess I should be going now.”
Hadley Barger nodded and Odelia started to walk to the driver’s side of the car and she stopped. ” I guess you want to see where I’ll end up.”
” I know Odelia. And I think you knew where you would end up that night you put your gun to my head and pulled the trigger.”
Odelia looked up into a sky full of falling stars and she said to Hadley as he faded away with the last of the sunlight ” I think I knew it too Hadley. ”
like Godfrey’s Pumpkin Patch where twisted oak trees line the drive in and apple trees
run along the fence line
just before noon with paper cups of
warm apple cider in one hand and a set of pruners in the other.
But it’s not Fall, it isn’t even Summer yet but what I saw yesterday chilled me to the bone and brought an early Halloween to that balmy Spring day.
I saw Mrs Pierce’s 12 year twin daughters in matching pink and blue track suits and her 6 six year old son Del trailing behind them.
Del was dragging his plastic over sized T-Ball bat at his side and when they saw me they all stopped and stared at me with identical gray eyed stares.
They raised their hands and waved.
I raised my hand up and on their own my fingers curled down one by one, and then my thumb locked itself against my forefinger.
” What are you doing?”my thumb seemed to say to my other fingers. ” What on Earth do you think you are doing?
The children stared at me from across the street and I stared back at them and then Del raised his plastic bat at me and took a swing.
The twins looked back at him and then they looked at me and they grinned.
Del took another swing and then another.
Then they started to cross the street, Del was swinging his bat and the girls were smiling at me.
The three children were oblivious to the cars that were racing up and down the street- just as obvious as the cars were to them. The cars never stopped moving and neither did Mrs. Pierce’s children.
Eventually they reached the curb and the three of them stood there in their track suits smiling their flat painted on smiles. Del put his bat down. ” Have you seen our Mother? ” Del asked.
He lifted his bat and swung it.
Swoosh. Swoosh. Swoosh.
” Nobody has seen your Mother for many years. You must know that. ”
The Twins looked at each other. ” We think she’s hiding from us. ”
” I can’t say I blame her. ” I told the Twins.
The Twins laughed. Del Laughed. I did not laugh.
” If you see her, tell her we are still looking for her. ”
” Tell her we want her to come home. ” Del added. ” Tell her we forgive her. We’re not mad that she told on us.”
The Twins smiled and titled their heads to the side, ” Just tell her, if you see her- ”
A man’s voice came from Del’s scrawny little frame ” tell her we just want to talk to her.”
I looked back at the Twins and they weren’t little girls, they were grown women, and they looked exactly liked their pictures in the papers that ran the day before the Twins became the only women to ever be executed for murder in Washington state, along with their brother in 1992 for the murders of six year old Felicity and her 12 year old sister Penny Woods.
The sisters had been playing T-Ball at the park with their friends and after the game they left for home. Felicity was carrying her T-Ball Bat and Penny had been carrying their jackets.
Nobody ever saw them alive again.
Del loomed over us- he had grown up to be a bulky man with dirty blond hair and that’s who I saw. ” Tell her we are still looking for her. ”
And then they walked back through the cars to the other side of the street and when they got there Del waved his bat. The Twins waved their hands.
I waited until they were gone and then I started walking and I thought about my children taken from this world- as the minister had said at their funeral- but not from our hearts –
and I thought about Mrs Pierce begging for the lives of her murderous hellions and pointing out what grand futures they could have had- that they still could have if the courts would only spare their precious lives
and I thought about making a stop to the logging road that runs a mile away from my house and the rotten oak tree I left Mrs Pierce hanging from and I decided not to.
It was, after all a lovely Spring day and I didn’t want to spoil it anymore then it had been.