Terri's Cellar Door

Stuff that happens to me, Terri.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

By Accident or Design

I just realized that I hadn't checked the story for all those little grammatical mistakes that a friend had told me about. And I realized that I don't care. Ouch, that hurts. I'm just proud of myself for actually finishing a story, instead of letting it languish forever in development hell. Meanwhile here's the other half of the story with an ending that will have you thinking: What a twist!

He Sees the Ghost Pt. 2

It was almost midnight, but Jacob still wasn’t asleep. It had been almost a week since he saw the old man, but he was still thinking about the meeting. He hadn’t been sleeping, barely eating, and neglecting his chores. Finally after another restless night of tossing and turning, he had turned on all the lights and headed up to the attic. He was standing, and though he was still, he seemed frenzied, knee deep in clutter. The attic he was rifling through had gone from neat stacks and arranged boxes to one pile after another of crumpled family memories. A quilt covering this pile, a stack of photos covering that, but amidst all the chaos, surrounding Jacob there was a stillness. It was a complete stillness that enveloped the room. Jacob was still breathing heavily from his rummaging, and in his hand was the result of his harried search. It was a watch. A pocketwatch. A pocketwatch that bore a marked similarity to watch that Saul had shown him before. This watch was passed down through his family generation from generation. It was probably about a hundred years old, and there couldn’t be another like it in the entire country, much less in the same lake. But there it was, an almost exact replica of Saul’s watch. Jacob swallowed and pushed the clasp gingerly. The same song that had played on Saul’s watch sounded from the one in his hands. The song that he remembered, but didn’t know from where. Jacob sat down with a thud. That was the song that was playing on Saul’s watch. That was the song that he couldn’t quite place. Questions buzzed around Jacob’s head like gnats, and as much as he tried to swat them away, they always came back, and with more friends. He commanded his legs to stand, and then dragged them to his bedroom. He closed the door behind him, and walked across the room to sit in the chair. Her chair. The chair he had made for her. It creaked under his weight and continued as he began to rock back and forth, his eyes never leaving the watch. It seemed to say the same thing again and again, “It’s the same.” It was as though he was in a trance. And that’s the way he stayed all night, his eyes never leaving the watch, rocking slowly back and forth. Before dawn he was distracted by his alarm clock that rang out announcing it was time to get up. The dogs were already pawing at the door, and Jacob quickly made some food for them. He didn’t even bother with breakfast for himself as he gulped down a cup of coffee, bundled up and headed out. He hurried the dogs out the door, and rushed down to the pier. Jacob didn’t know what he’d do if he saw the old man again, he didn’t know what he’d say, but he had to try to find him. The dogs jumped onto the boat after him and they were off, with smoke trailing behind them in the water. The sun was barely touching the sky, but Jacob knew the bay well enough to know where to go. The mist was still hanging low in the sky near the little island, and as Jacob sped towards it, his hand went into his pocket and squeezed the watch. To touch it meant that it was still there, that he hadn’t dreamt the whole thing. For a while after she was gone, Jacob had dreamed about her. The dreams seemed so real; he would touch her cinnamon skin, and caress her raven hair, and kiss her lips. He would rush downstairs the next morning and expect to see her there, reading the paper, and waiting for him to make breakfast; a smile on her lips as she hummed a lullaby. But when he reached the bottom of the stairs there was only the same thing that greeted him every day; a cold kitchen and an empty table. Many times he had broken down, cried right there in the kitchen as the dogs whimpered around him and pushed their heads into his lap. There were some days when he really thought he had gone crazy. Sometimes he thought it would be better off. At least then he could be with her inside his mind. But Saul was not in Jacob’s mind. He couldn’t be. The man saved Gideon’s life and had rowed back to him. He had eaten the sandwich that Jacob had made, and he had chatted the day away, and had left boot prints on the deck of Jacob’s little boat. But the watch in his pocket had raised questions that Jacob couldn’t even begin to answer. The dogs sensed that he was anxious and layed down low near the bow. Jacob raced towards the little island and when he had cut through some of the fog, and could see the shore, he slowed down. His eyes scanned the shore, but there was nothing. No old man hobbling around, no mysterious pocketwatches, nothing. Jacob began to feel a little silly. He had raced back here, for what? To chase some ghost? And that’s what it was beginning to feel like. Like she was gone and he was still coming down the steps expecting her to be there. He felt his legs crumple and he hit the deck. He couldn’t focus his eyes, his hands wouldn’t stop shaking, and for some reason his head was pounding. What exactly did he expect to find out here? He tried to stand but found this much more difficult than sitting and so stayed on the deck. Suddenly he heard voices. Peeking over the side, he saw two people waving from the shore. Somehow he got the strength to make himself stand and pilot over to their direction. Their names were Jim and Nellie and they had been picnicking on the island the day before and had somehow lost track of time. Before they knew what was happening, it was high tide and their boat had gotten away from them. They had spent all evening hoping someone would track them down, but after it had gotten colder they had to seek shelter inland. Jim knew which way his boat had gone, and if Jacob could just take them there they’d be so grateful. Jacob was still slightly shaken, but pulled the boat inland a bit, and brought the couple onboard. As he offered a hand to Nellie, he discovered her’s were practically frigid. But they had been out all night on the island, no doubt it was freezing. They were a youngish couple, African American, and were wearing clothes that Jacob thought were a little dated. At the very least they were dressed for the winter. With Jim pointing the way, Jacob steered the boat and finally he saw the shape of their boat bobbing on the waves. Jacob told them of a place where they could get cleaned and warm. Jim tried to slip him a five dollar bill, “For you trouble.” But Jacob refused. They went back and forth and finally Jacob relented, on the condition that if the couple ever went out again, they would come and see Jacob first, who could ensure they would make it back to shore safely. He watched them paddle quickly away, and soon they were enveloped in the quickly evaporating fog.

Jacob looked towards the little island, but the sun was quickly rising in the sky, and the dogs were getting restless. There were chores to do, and he had neglected to even bring his fishing nets with him. He began to turn the boat, and carelessly fiddled with the bill Jim had given him. He took out his wallet to put it away, but he caught another glimpse of it. It wasn’t normal. It had a five on it, but instead of Abraham Lincoln, there was a large picture of Andrew Jackson. Jacob furrowed his brow as he studied it. There were a couple pioneers right in the middle and a strange script on the very top. He didn’t think Jim and Nellie be the kind of people to try to slip in fake money, but the bill was certainly not legitimate. Jacob had made up his mind, as soon as he reached the shore, he put the dogs into his house, and rode his bike to the library. The cold wind cut at his face, but he peddled on. He barely let his bike stop before he was bounding up the library steps and bursting through the doors. The library had a section named for his great grandfather. Before he had died, his grandfather had come here every night to read the paper. He’d walk slowly down the long road, and when he reached the front steps, he’d just collapse, and open up his paper. At that point, Jacob was already taking care of the chores, and even piloting the ship on his own, and his grandfather had very little to do. The library was like an old family friend, and Jacob had spent his fair share of time searching through the books, as he was doing now. After a short while, he found what he was looking for. He hurriedly reached for his wallet and pulled out the bill that Jim had given him. It was a match. Jim had given him a five dollar bill from 1907. Jacob couldn’t understand it. A bill that old certainly had to be worth more than the five dollars that it advertised. Jacob slammed the book shut and rushed out the front door. The librarian watched him with apprehensive eyes. This time he rode towards the inn he had suggested for Jim and Nellie. The Golden Oyster was almost empty this time of year, and any outsiders would be easily recognized. But the front desk hadn’t checked anyone in days. It was the same at the other two bed and breakfasts in town. Jacob was getting nowhere, so he headed home. It was evening and though his chores were left undone, he was exhausted. He hadn’t caught up on the sleep he had missed the night before, and he felt it. His eyes were rimmed red, and his cheeks haggard. He collapsed on the chair in the living room, and the dogs paced around him. Another evening went by, and before Jacob knew it, it was midnight. By now, the stories of his visits to the local inns, and his stop by the library had traveled all around town. Neighbors noticed his neglected traps, and the familiar pile of trash was missing from his front step. Jacob could feel their stares, but he didn’t feel like going out and putting on a show for them. He just wanted, as always, to be left alone. The fire in the stove had gone out, and the room was quickly losing the precious heat that was left. Jacob didn’t feel this, however, and continued to sit, seeing only the walls. The dogs were getting restless, so he opened the front door to let them out. But something made him stop from closing the door. He heard music. Ever so softly a few notes slipped in on the frigid air. Forgetting his jacket, forgetting his gloves, forgetting his scarf with the initials so lovingly etched on the ends, he stumbled out into the freezing evening air. The notes were louder now. They were the notes from a pocketwatch, from a lullaby; and as Jacob got closer and closer, the music became louder. It was in the fog. The music sounded as if it were coming from in the fog. It was rolling across the dock and towards the houses. He saw a face, her face. It was the face that had loved him, when he’d lost everything. When his parents had died, and his grandparents had followed not long after. It was the face that helped him when he thought he’d lost his home, and his livelihood. It was the face that had grimaced and worked with him when he thought he had forgotten everything he knew. It was the face that had looked up at him one final time, covered in blood, as glass lay across the darkened highway. It was her. Jacob rushed toward her, letting himself be enveloped by the murkiness, embracing her, and pulling her close to him. The dogs howled in the moonlight.

He thought he saw his love that day.
But he’d just given his mind away.
And now as all he knows grows black
He doesn’t know how to go back.

The life he knows is gone forever.
A darkness he’s just had to weather.
And yet a new light shines for him.
The light that grows bright, free from sin.

People stand by and watch the show.
A man who sees what they can’t know.
They pity him with saddened eyes
Wishing they had said their goodbyes.

Amidst the mists and coldest frosts,
with stoutest wrists and loudest boasts,
he thrusts his fist against the posts
and still insists he sees the ghosts.


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