Friday, November 21, 2014

Special Effects

After Sean returned from the grocery he spent time going through his mother’s things. All of her personal effects had been shipped to Tina en masse after her death. He put his mother’s clothes into boxes for the thrift store. Mary and Tina had both looked at them. They were now fourteen years out of date and, even if they had fit, neither woman wanted to wear business clothes from the nineties. His mother’s computer was a relic now. It did boot up, however, and Sean was able to transfer her files to a portable hard drive with an adapter he had brought with him from Seattle. He would deal with her hardware when he disposed of his own college computer. He also put aside a box of his mother’s papers. Mary was napping; she had been asleep when left to get groceries and was sleeping again when he got back. Just as he finished loading the car with his mother’s clothes, Mary came out of the house carrying her laptop.

“Drop me off at the Magpie, will you? I’ve got to get in touch with the law office,” she said, “I think I’ve finally recovered from last night. It’s hard to sleep when you have someone’s grandmother hanging out in your brain.”

“Tina told me that you had had another ‘visit’ from Emily,” said Sean. “Are you going to be able to deal with that?”

“It’s a little unnerving at first, to have someone else living in your head. But she’s on my side. I’ll be fine.”

They drove into town. Sean dropped Mary off at the coffee shop, then went on to the thrift store with his mother’s clothes. He took a stroll around the store; it was a habit from his college days when he would rebuild his wardrobe every few months. Those trips he made in college weren’t about needing clothes, they were about building new identities.  Although his current tastes in clothing ran toward Generic Pacific Northwest Outdoor, he hadn’t dropped the scrounging habit completely. His luck had run out in Seattle; most of the quality menswear he found there was usually worn out.  Decorah might be different, he thought, as he fingered a wool Pendleton shirt. It was his size, but when he tried it on he found that it was cut strangely—looking at the label he saw that it had been made-in-Mexico.  “Someone else couldn’t wear it either,” thought Sean.

Back in the coffee shop, Mary had connected with her lawyers. Everything was quiet in Seattle, with no further developments in the sale of ADR. The legal team had kept a monitor on activity concerning her naked balcony picture and found that new postings of it had suddenly ceased; it was also disappearing from forums where it had been previously displayed. Her lawyers thought it might have something to do with the fallout from a recent celebrity phone hacking case; no site operator wanted to undergo that kind of criminal investigation.

“Any news from Seattle?” Sean said, sitting down with a cup of coffee and a scone.

“Good news, that is to say, no news,” said Mary, “How was the thrift store?”

“Well, they did take my mother’s clothes. They didn’t have anything that I needed. Can I use your laptop to check my mail?”

“That’s the ultimate test of a relationship, isn’t it?” said Mary,  “We might as well get married now—it’s like using the same toilet. Here, I’m finished for now. I’m going to go outside and check out the town. Be back in a half hour or so.”

“I’ll put the lid down when I'm done,” said Sean.

As Mary left the shop she noticed a storefront across the street. It was apparently an antique store of some kind. There was no proper sign but its windows were filled with miscellany: obsolete machines, broken toys, rusty tools and retro appliances. There were also small paper notes taped on the windows. Hand lettered, they contained rants which concerned religion, politics, and general world unrest. She went up to the door and found it to be unlocked. Opening it timidly, Mary walked inside. The shop’s interior was full of things arrayed as if they had been in a gentle explosion: an explosion strong enough to place them chaotically around the room, but gentle enough that nothing was damaged. Mary started to get a sensation of cold descending around her shoulders again, although this time she remained in control of her emotions.

“Hello? Is anybody here?” Mary said.

She heard a rustling sound coming from the back of the shop, followed by a high, reedy voice: “I’m here, just making a little tea.” An elderly man emerged from the rubble. He was tall, with piercing blue eyes, thin white hair, and pale, almost translucent skin.

“Edwin Duddle is my name, Miss, how may I help you?”

“I… Is this an antique store or is it a museum?” Mary said as she felt Emily’s presence  getting stronger, “I was curious, I hope I’m not intruding. There are so many interesting things here.”

“Well it isn’t exactly a store, but it certainly isn’t a museum. But as they say, everything has its price, doesn’t it?” said the man, “You aren’t from around here, are you? Are you a student at the seminary?”

Mary felt a tightening in her throat. She had lost control of her vocal apparatus and, to her surprise, found herself speaking in Emily’s voice.

“Edwin Duddle, this is Emily speaking. This woman you see before you is Mary, she is going to marry my grandson, Sean.”

“Emily? Is that you, speaking through another?” said Edwin, recognizing the voice. He took this manifestation calmly, almost as if it were something which had happened to him every day. “I’ve been waiting for your return.”

Edwin, will you give Mary the book I left with you?” said Emily/Mary.

“I will do that thing for you, Emily, I will get it.” Edwin hurried to the rear of the store, back into the office from where he had emerged. By the time he returned with the book, Mary had full control of her faculties again. Emily was not present. “Here it is, Emily… ”

“Emily’s gone,” said Mary, “Mr. Duddle? Did you know Emily Carroll?”

“Oh yes, Miss… Mary. I knew her, it was 1946, just after the war. I was just a kid in high school, in the same class as her daughter Tina. That was when she came back from New York and had her second child, Marilyn. I knew Emily, I spent quite a bit of time at the Carroll place. She taught me drawing. She told me many strange things. And now she’s back, in you. It’s her way. Tina knows about these things too… I see that your instruction has begun.”

“It has,” Mary said, and as she spoke she could see Edwin’s head ringed by a faint circle of light—his halo. Mary knew that it wasn’t a physical manifestation, but it was somehow projected onto him from her understanding; she felt it was a sign that she could trust this man.  She looked down at the book’s binding which had some of the same characters that were in the ledger which Tina had given her. Edwin reached out and gently touched Mary’s fingers as he gave her the book. She put it in her purse and said:

“Edwin Duddle, I accept this as a gift from Emily, through you.”

“I’ve been waiting for you, waiting ever so long,” he said.


By Professor Batty