We remember the white building with the mossy cedar shingles on the roof to be a bank at one time. When I wasn't looking it became an insurance company. This small building under the maple trees. Before they built the shopping center behind it, which once was a farmer's pasture. Everyone in town has their own memory of the location. What had once been there. The shopping center came in with a grocer and a Home Depot that folded up its tent in less than a year. We're in a builders region, but we all like our local hardware store. Shoo.
So when we bought our week of groceries and figured we may as well have supper off the grocer's salad bar, the only spot that looked halfway quiet in a loco area was over under the maple trees near the old white building. We'd stay in our pickup truck and have a picnic in the cab, all easy to do with the company you love. We drove over 100 feet from where we had parked and we were there. Our backs to the parking lot, facing the white building, some of the tree shade and still some of the late summer sunshine.
Except just as we were arranging our spread, a car pulled up on our driver side. Funny, who would park here? The business is all over-there. It couldn't possibly be another picnic bunch, could it?
For a moment we stopped our picnic to see what would happen. Maybe it was all a fluke and the couple was disoriented.
But no, a woman got out on the passenger side while a silhouette-figure of a man sat at the wheel. The woman hesitated a moment and then proceeded over the unmowed lawn, seemingly oblivious to the sallow look of the building, the dark windows, the poor roof. She came to the front door and found it bolted. As soon as she touched and felt the lock she shot a glance straight back to her companion who remained where he sat. In her plain and gray skirt and top, the woman returned the same way. She hesitated a moment at the car door and took another look at the building, then through the window to her companion, before opening the door and getting back inside. They didn't wait long. The car started back up and moved out toward the shopping center parking lot. But we noticed it didn't move like a car as much as it flew like a bird, as if floating on its wheels. It was so softly unusual that I had to look away, as if I wasn't sure what it was I was looking at. Hours later I would know.
For ten minutes we joyfully ate and talked and tried not to mess ourselves or the truck. Fresh fruit is always a wise choice when altering the taste of the salad bar. Neat slices of pineapple and melon.
Suddenly, right before our eyes out the windshield, a solo figure appeared at the back car port of the white building. Where cars used to drive through making their money transactions. Where the furry moss cedar shingles on the roof looked the worst. This was a young man, t-shirted, well suntanned, built and scruffy trousered, like he knew physical work and he moved about with an easy agility. His first plan of action was to peer into one of the building's windows. Nothing of course. Then he tried the window and turned away all with a split second instinct of giving a try and knowing it wasn't working. The brains and touch of hand movement. He moseyed unnoticed, except by us, across the small lawn and out from under the trees and into the parking lot where as soon as he was there, he seemed to vanish.
We were becoming full of food, lazy now with our perceptions. It wasn't dawning on us at that time we were seeing ghosts.
It was only hours later in the night asleep I woke up with a start. Yes, the first couple had perished in a house fire and they were returning to the insurance company, long after it had gone out of business. To the dead there is no end to the story. As to the solo young man — a motorcycle fatality. He had borrowed money years earlier from the bank and had business to finish up.
Try to go back to sleep.
photo & story © bob arnold
from a possible eden (longhouse)