Weekend Reading, Continued: Phase 2 (Part 2)
Mrs. Foxe smelled like flowers, lots of them. She had huge liquid eyes and a high forehead, very smooth although the part of her neck showing above the ruffled collar of her silk blouse looked wrinkled.
“What lovely children!” she said. She glanced around the kitchen, lit only by three big candles burning on the table – red, white and blue – took a deep breath of the air, full of the smell of burning incense, raised her hands slightly and went still. “Yes,” she said, holding the pose for a moment or two, “this will do. You’ve done well, Julie.”
“Oh,” said Mom. “Thanks.”
“So if we’ll just get the donation out of the way, we can start.”
Mom went into the bedroom. Mrs. Foxe looked at Neddy, then at me. “I understand you’ll be accompanying us on our journey,” she said.
“Where to?” said Neddy.
Mrs. Foxe just smiled. Mom came back with her purse, took out her checkbook.
“Cash works so much better,” said Mrs. Foxe.
Mom handed her some bills. I didn’t see how much but there were at least two twenties. Mrs. Foxe stuffed the money down the front of her blouse with a smooth quick movement, like one of those close-up magicians. Her hands were soft and plump, with crimson nails.
“The longest journey begins with a single step,” she said.
None of us knew what to make of that.
“So let us take that step,” said Mrs. Foxe. “Time and tide et cetera. Places everybody.”
We all moved toward our regular chairs.
“Whoa!” said Mrs. Foxe.
We froze. The candlelight gleamed in her eyes. “Where does he sit?”
Mom rocked back a little. “Where he used to – ?“
“His chair, dear,” said Mrs. Foxe.
Mom pointed to Dad’s chair.
“That chair stays empty,” said Mrs. Foxe. “I will sit here, the children there and there, and Julie like so. And in front of his place, we require something personal.”
“Something personal?” Mom said.
“Something he used when he walked on this side,” said Mrs. Foxe. “It needn’t be important – in fact, a little everyday object is often best, especially if a deport is in the offing.”
“A deport?” said Mom.
“I’ll explain later,” said Mrs. Foxe, glancing at her watch.
Mom hadn’t got around to packing up Dad’s things. although she’d started once or twice. She left the room, returned with a baseball trophy, a framed letter from the secretary of defense, Dad’s laptop, and a safety razor.
“Ah, perfect,” said Mrs. Foxe, selecting the razor and setting it on the table in front of the empty chair. “Now we may sit.”
Mom put the trophy, letter and laptop on the sideboard and we sat, Mrs. Foxe removing her embroidered coat and hanging it on the back of her chair. She gazed at the white candle. It made a low sizzling noise.
“The travelers will hold hands,” she said.
That had to mean us. I held hands with Mrs. Foxe and with Mom, just able to reach her across Dad’s empty place; and Neddy did the same. Mrs. Foxe’s hand was warm, Mom’s icy cold. Mrs. Foxe’s eyes closed. For some reason, so did mine. It got very quiet.
“Breathe,” said Mrs. Foxe. She took in a deep breath, slowly let it out. “Breathe as one.” We took in deep breaths, let them out slow, breathing as one. “Now,” said Mrs. Foxe, “let each of us picture in our minds the strongest, clearest image of … of … “
“Richard,” said Mom.
“Right,” said Mrs. Foxe. “The strongest, clearest image of Richard-slash-Dad that we can.”
I tried to see Dad in my mind and drew a complete blank. Mom, Neddy, my teachers and friends – I could picture them all without effort, but not Dad. I opened my eyes. Everyone else’s eyes were closed. Mrs. Foxe spoke, her voice now soft but very deep. “We haven’t lost you, Richard. We know where you are.”
I could feel the pulse strengthen in Mom’s hand. And her skin seemed to be growing warmer.
“Are we all now projecting a strong mental image?” said Mrs. Foxe. “A mental image powerful enough to reach the beloved?”
“Yes,” said Mom, eyes closed tight, voice trance-like.
“Kind of,” said Neddy.
I gazed at that razor and suddenly a vision of Dad shaving swam into my mind, a clear vision of him tilting up his chin to get at the stubble underneath. Was it powerful? I don’t know, but I felt chills. “Yes,” I said, and closed my eyes.
“Richard,” said Mrs. Foxe. “Four faithful travelers are trying with all their power to reach you. If you can hear us, or see us, or sense us, please give a sign.”
In my mind, the image of Dad shaving under his chin began to fade, replaced by nothing. One of the candles sizzled again. Could that be a sign? I took a peek. The flame of the white candle wavered; the others were still, burning straight up.
“Look,” I said.
Everyone opened their eyes. Mrs. Foxe saw what was happening. She turned to me and smiled a little smile. “Hush, child – haste is the enemy,” she said. Now her hand felt positively hot.
“But is it a sign?” I said. “The candle flickering like that?”
Mrs. Foxe didn’t answer. We watched the flame. All at once it stopped wavering, stood straight like the others.
Mrs. Foxe sucked in her breath. “I can feel your presence, Richard,” she said. “Very near.” She leaned forward slightly. “Give us a sign, we beg you.”
I felt prickles on the back of my neck. Mom’s eyes were huge and dark, her face tilted up, like a figure in an old religious painting. Neddy’s eyes, on the other hand, were narrow, almost as though –
The razor wobbled.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt. No way to miss that movement – the razor lay all by itself on the table, gleaming in a circle of candlelight. It had wobbled. But even though there was no doubt, I began to doubt almost right away. At that precise moment, the moment of reawakening doubt, the razor wobbled again, and then, as though to crush any doubt for all time, it shifted, sliding a good two inches across the table and then rotating in a full circle.
“Oh my God,” Mom said. “Richard.” A tear spilled out of each dark eye, slid slowly down her cheeks, leaving golden tracks.
“Welcome to the circle, Richard,” said Mrs. Foxe. She paused, almost as if to allow time for Dad to say something polite in return. Then she said, “Have you anything to tell us?”
Silence. The razor lay on the table, motionless now. The flame of the white candle burned straight, unwavering.
“Do you have a message for your family?” Mrs. Foxe said. “Are you happy? Are there any wishes you’d like to –“
Suddenly Mrs. Foxe’s right shoulder sagged, as though someone behind her had leaned on it, someone with a heavy hand. Mrs. Foxe glanced behind her, looked a bit pained. “Oh, dear,” she said. “I’m afraid you don’t know your own strength.”
Mom rose, slowly, as though pulled by some force, her eyes on the shadows behind Mrs. Foxe. “Oh, Rich,” she said, tears flowing freely now, “I miss you so much.”
“Julie?” said Mrs. Foxe, straightening up and maybe a bit alarmed, “really much better form to remain seated. We can’t always predict – “
But Mom didn’t hear. She was moving around the table, toward whatever stood behind Mrs. Foxe. “Did it hurt, Rich?” she said. “I hope it didn’t hurt. You’re not hurting now, are you?” Mom reached the space behind Mrs. Foxe, raised her arms, encircled them around what appeared to be nothing, hugged my invisible dad. “I love you, Rich,” Mom said. Her voice sounded calm, as calm as I’d ever heard it, serene. “I loved you from the moment I laid eyes on you and I always will.” She wasn’t crying anymore, just stood there, gently rubbing a back no one could see.
But I was crying. “Can you feel him, Mom?” I said.
Mom nodded to me, the way you’d nod over someone’s shoulder. I rose. Was that Neddy getting up, too? I wanted to touch Dad, so much. But Mrs. Foxe grabbed my arm – she turned out to be very strong – and sat me back down. Then she got up, took Mom’s arm more gently and said, “Best not to pressure visitors from the spirit world too much, at least not at first. Wouldn’t want to scare them off, would we?”
“Oh, no,” said Mom. She let Mrs. Foxe lead her back to her seat.
We sat around the table. The air tingled now. I felt Dad’s presence, no question.
“Thank you, Richard,” said Mrs. Foxe. “We thank you for appearing among us. I sense you are fading now, and hope you will see fit to come again.”
“He’s not fading,” Mom said. “I don’t sense him fading.”
“Perhaps not,” said Mrs. Foxe. “But we don’t want to demand too much the very first – “
The flame of the white candle wavered and then rose straight again.
“Richard?” said Mrs. Foxe. “Richard?”
The room was silent. The silence went on and on. Mom watched the white candle, burning in an ordinary way now, like the other two. I stopped sensing Dad’s presence.
Mrs. Foxe pushed back her chair. “Well,” she said. “For a first attempt, quite successful, n’est-ce pas?”
“Maybe it’s not over,” Mom said. “Let’s give him a chance to – “
“It’s over,” said Mrs. Foxe. She pointed to the table. The razor was gone.
Mom gasped. So did I. Neddy? Maybe not.
“A deport, my dear,” said Mrs. Foxe. “An object borne away into the spirit world.” She got up, flicked a switch, turning on the overhead light.
Mom rose too, blinking in light that now seemed much too harsh. “When can we do it again?”
“Soon, if you like,” said Mrs. Foxe, donning her embroidered coat. “You’ve got my cell?”
To be continued.
This entry was posted on Saturday, March 6th, 2010 at 8:10 am and is filed under Chet The Dog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.