Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, I have no pleasure in them -- Ecclesiastes 12:1
Monday, September 8, 2014
I have heard of ghost hunters. I don’t hunt ghost, but I find them -- rather they find me. A I round the bend on some old road, they ambush me. Though they pierce my heart, the wound is never fatal.
Some people have trouble seeing ghosts. I took pictures during this last attack. All I had was my phone I’m not sure they will show up too well.
I’m pretty sure you can see the loading dock and the big door? Well, right in front of that door, there’s a green 1950 Chevy pickup backed in for loading. You can’t see it from here, but there’s a decal on the back window that says “Shake, Rattle, and Roll”. You might be able to see the four men and a boy standing there on the dock. One of the men, wearing a fedora, has taken a large, already cold watermelon out of the bed of the truck and is taking his pocketknife out, cutting the melon and handing it to those standing around him.
Is he generous? He’s a Baptist preacher, but it’s not his watermelon. The man who owns the pickup is coming out a door behind and to left of where I’m standing taking this picture. He has just finished paying for the melon those boys on the dock are enjoying. What is going to happen? The preacher asks the man if he would like some watermelon, and he gladly accepts. Then he looks at the empty corner in the back of his truck and down at the melon in his hands. He laughs heartily and hard. The preacher will have to be careful. No one is immune from payback.
Let’s look across the street. Sudden darkness has fallen in the middle of a busy Saturday afternoon. A wild, wide black chaos spins up above that little building. Death and destruction loom as a young man runs from the gas station where he is the attendant to his grandmother’s house. Halfway there, he remembers he didn’t lock the door to the station, runs back and turns to flee just ahead of the funnel.
To our ghosts, the white building has a flat roof. It is their hardware store. There they buy their Winchester .22 ammunition in cardboard boxes of 50 for 79 cents, and there are all kinds of needful supplies on the side with the big doors. Local oak lumber -- 2x4’s honestly two inches by four inches -- is stacked on the side to my right. The coming winds will hurl the lumber into the fields, but the walls of the hardware store lose only their eyes for they are made of concrete, hand-mixed and poured into forms by men who were prone to mix it a little rich.
Between the hardware store and the brown building sits a nice little white shotgun house, homey and friendly. You may see only a foundation beside that power pole. I'm having a little trouble, myself, remembering whether the white house or the power pole is the real ghost.
Now the storm passes. A man and his wife and an imprudently barefoot boy have left their pickup to walk along the black road into these ruins new-made. The boy steps carefully because of debris and a downed power line. They wonder if there will be human bodies strewn the same way carcasses of white-faced cows littered the hillside on the way in. They are looking for family as well as friends.
People stand in clusters. The boy sees them wide-eyed, still frightened, but there are few if any tears. If anyone is injured, they are not making much of it. There are no first responders, no sirens, and no ambulances. The doctor is on the scene. If he is sober enough, he’ll be ready to stitch and splint what he can and send the rest to the nearest hospital in the fastest cars still running.
They pass the place where the gas station was. The locked door did not stop the wind from sweeping away the puny structure down to the bare concrete floor. The boy notes for the first time the bizarre humor of tornadoes. A straight-back wooden chair stands alone, serenely upright and undisturbed on the naked slab.
Beyond our aforementioned loading dock, burlap sacks of feed grain lie exposed, forlorn and vulnerable. The three pause for a moment where an old man sits with his cane on the steps that led to his house. The boy is fascinated by the emptiness between the crawlspace walls. The old man is shocked and unsure what to do, but he does not seem overly saddened by his obvious losses. As best he can tell, no one has died, and no one seems to be seriously hurt. Despite what has been broken and blown away, all is well.
Ah, time passes, and there are more ghosts than I can count. The name on the little brown store is different. There in front of it, a pretty girl with curly hair gets into a new car with a boy to be driven home, though home is hardly a hundred yards distant. A little later that same car comes to a sliding, screeching, tire-smoking halt at the same spot, just missing a collision that would have been disastrous ... The haunts have overrun us. Sound the retreat and pull back. On another day, perhaps, in another place, they will catch us again.