Sand in the Wind

by David Ray Israel


We meet people in this world and build small relationships through our life time. Do you ever question yourself about someone in your past whether they were real or something else. A questionable entity maybe, one that may have needed something from you to move on. Think about it for a moment, have you ever had an encounter with a spectral and not realized it.

                        “I am an old man who has seen his years I have lived well. I have a beautiful family of five kids and a wonderful wife. I have been walking around with a set of memories that only my wife knows about. I feel, I need to let out what happened to me. I no longer can stay silent about this. I have not told anyone due to the fact I was once a political leader of this wonderful state. One cannot tell people about such things that I am about to discuss. This would have been a definite carrier ender in politics. I kept my mouth shut and envied people who were able to talk about such things with no repercussions. But now I am free from old responsibilities it is time to let this out. I need to get this off my mind before I go to the grave. Maybe, younger people can benefit from what I’m about to tell. Just know this happened and is true, anyone that tells you otherwise has a misunderstanding of what happens after death.

                   In 1967 I was a student at University of Sothern California. I was always hard pressed for money. My finances for school consisted of an academic scholarship and money my parents gave me a month. That did not cover everything I required for school. The rest I had to earn on my own. I did this by working part time at night at a gas station and working all summer long digging ditches for the county road crew. I did this every year except the summer of my senior year. I landed a job at a ghost town as a caretaker assistant. I felt this was going to be an easy summer job compared to digging ditches it also paid unusually well I thought. It was also close to my college dorm room. The college allowed me to stay the summer if I took night classes.

            The job turned out to be as I thought, easy. It consisted of me the head caretaker and a cashier at the general store. There was not much to the job, walk the town keeping it clean taking people on tours. No big deal. Stan was the caretaker a big old man about 55 years old, he had been working the town for the past 8 years nice enough guy. He trusted me with the keys to the town a week after I started. It was a different time then. People could trust each other not like it is today. You give the keys to a kid today you would see covered wagons for sale on eBay. Well, I digress. Let’s get back to Stan as I said he was a big guy 6 ft balled and very serious. Easy to get along with as long as you did things correctly. Yes, there was a correct way of doing things then not my way or Stans way. I respected Stan due to his age and his knowledge of the town. If he gave a direct order to be followed it wasn’t to make the job harder but to get it done right the first time. I followed his directions blindly even if I felt they were off. From the history of the working with him I realized he was right most of the time. Except for a few times when he was wrong, this story is about one of those times.

             The cashier was a sweet old lady named Elsa she was in here fifties. I think her, and Stan were a thing, but I was never sure. They seemed to like each other’s company a bit more than just good friends. If there was something going on they were very discreet. Before you get the wrong idea, Stan and Elsa were both single Elsa was widowed, and Stan was never Married. Back to Elsa she was sweet and polite, she never demanded anything instead she would ask politely, and I would instantly oblige. She was also a very serious person. That was how that generation was their lives consisted of a great depression and 2 world wars. What did they have to joke about? All they knew was hard work and desperation. Humor is something of a convenience to them. I tried to kid with Stan once and let’s say it didn’t go over well. I realized I needed to stick to the job at hand and leave the comedy to Milton Berle.

         The ghost town opened at 8am till 5pm every day of the week except Sundays. I would take people on tours of the place give them back history on the buildings and monuments. Then show them to the museum it was the old courthouse. Inside there were picture and photos of the town and display cases of belongings left behind by past residents of the town. There were a lot off guns hygiene products and medical tools that were used back in the day in the display cases. People seemed to really enjoy this part of the tour. They would talk about all the interesting artifacts and ask me questions if I didn’t have an answer, I would tell them to ask Stan or Elsa at the general store. They both grew up near here and knew some of the people that lived here in their childhood. It was interesting to hear Stan and Else talk to the tourists about the town. They made it sound like the town was still alive as if you could walk out of the general store and see a living town. Looking back on my own life I see things the same way years go by quick. Well, enough rambling. In the museum there was a portrait of a young women at the time I didn’t pay it much mind. The tourists would all take notice mostly younger women they would ask me who she was where she was from and what happened to her. The first few times it threw me off I’d just say I don’t know and tell them to ask Stan or Elsa. After this happened to many times I walked over to the store and asked Stan to tell me the back story about the portrait in question.” He simply said, “She was the daughter of the livery stable owner she was said to be fine looking women”. Elsa spoke up in a direct and firm voice, “She died at the age of 19 from cholera poor thing she was the only daughter of the McKenna family. She was very kind and gentle and forgiving. My mother used to speak of her they were very close, growing up together and all. She would tell me the day Maggie died she lost a friend closer to her than her own sister. Soon after she died her family became recluse only being seen at work. Good people had a hard time getting past her death. That’s about it and ask no more.” “That was out of character for Elsa to be somewhat abrupt and to the point. She only gave me enough information to tell the tourists. I looked over at Stan, he was looking out the window next to him not wanting to allow the conversation to go on. He said in a flat voice, “Its getting near time to close.” Usually, Elsa and Stan would rattle on about the people in the town for an hour. I felt there was something they weren’t telling me. I thanked them and went about my day. One thing I always felt odd about Stan and Else they stressed that I leave by 6PM every day. Stan told me he didn’t want me having an accident on the way home at night due to the windy and desolate town roads. I would thank him for his concern, do what I was told help lock up and leave on time.

          Life continued as such I was having a great summer making extra money not digging ditches and enjoying an easy job. I had been there near to the end of summer about two weeks before going back to college. Then it happened. When Stan told me to be locked up and out of there by 6:00 it wasn’t due to any road issue. Well let me start with, Stan had to go to the doctors in the middle of the day Else wasn’t there that day I don’t remember why. Stan let me know I would be locking up alone, he made sure to let me know be gone by 6:00. I said no problem.

        The day was a little tough with ending the tour and dealing with the gift shop, but it was all good. After the people all left, I began locking up the buildings closing out the gift shop. After locking the gift shop door, I headed over to the museum I looked at my watch 5:39 good ahead of schedule almost out of here. As I got to the museum door, I took a quick look inside. I was a little startled to see a woman still there I called out to her miss were closing its time to go. She looked up at me gave me a worried grin. I didn’t recall her from the tour, but she had to be. She was a pretty thing brunette with wavy hair green eyes and light completion. She was a bit tall for a woman I’d say 5,8. She spoke to me very kindly, “Excuse me sir I’ve lost my hair comb.” I responded, “Oh, I’m sorry Miss can I help you find it, were did you last leave it?” She replied, “Well I kind of found it its right here she pointed at it in the display case.” I walked over to her and looked in the case I could see an Ivory comb with a gold decretive inlay the type a woman uses to keep her hair in place and to be visually appealing. I looked at her puzzled then asked, “Are you sure Miss I think that’s part of the museum.” She gave me a nervosa smile she truly was a beautiful woman her hair shined in the lighting of the building. “Please, Sir it is mine my father bought it for me on my birthday please can you open the case so I may look at it.” She spoke with the kindest voice I’ve ever heard very silky and soothing. I figured why not she seems to be a person of integrity.

              I walked around to the back of the case unlocked it and retrieved the comb for her. I looked at the back I saw Initials engraved on the back two capital M’s in the shape of two hearts. I asked her, “Miss what are the initials on the back of the comb?” She replied quietly, “Two M's in the shape of hearts.” She spoke as if she might be wrong. I said, “Well as weird as it may be, this appears to be yours.” She gave me a huge smile and her face lit up, “I’ve been looking for it quite a while.” This woman, I tell you I’ve never seen a movie star, nor a model look as pretty. It was Hard to take your eyes off her. Well, she reached out for me to place it in her hand as I did so she dropped it on to the glass counter. The comb bounced off the counter and fell to the floor. She immediately went to the floor to pick it up. “Why can’t I pick it up?” she retorted. I looked over the counter she kept picking it up and it would slide from her fingers and fall to the floor. I could teel this was bothering her she had a little distress in her sweet voice. She spoke again, “Why can’t I pick it up.” she sounded as if she was about to cry. I said, “Hold on miss let me help you.”

         I walked around the counter that’s when I noticed she was wearing clothes from a later time around the 1800s. She had on a long handsome maroon skirt with white lace on the bottom and a white blouse with fringes around the collar. I paid it no mind some of the tourists would show up in later cloths I guess it made them feel like they were in the past. I don’t know, I found it a little strange at times. Some of them would do their own reenactments of gun fights and what not. It could get quite interesting sometimes. You know what I mean. Enough blathering. Well, I walked around the counter bent over beside her and said please let me help you. I picked the comb off the floor we both stood up together she looked at me with tears in her eyes. I said this must mean a lot to you. As she wiped the tears from her eyes she Replied, “Yes. I’ve been missing it dearly.” I tried not to pay her comments nor the awkwardness of the situation much mind, not wanting to add up what I was seeing and hearing. I asked her, “Would you like me to put it in your hair to make it easier for you.” I was wondering at this point if she was a little touched. She gave me her smile, “Yes please, do you have a mirror.” I pointed to the one that hung on the wall by the front door she walked over I followed. When she got to the mirror. She pulled her black shiny hair back uncovering her left ear. She asked, “Could you please pull my hair back with the comb and put it in the position were my hand rests behind my ear.” I slide the comb into her hair it felt silky and very soft to the touch just like a pillow. Gently I pulled the comb back in her hair till my hand met hers. Her hand felt soft and warm I felt an electrical charge through my hand my hair stood up on the back of my neck. I pulled my hand back quickly. That’s when I smelled her, she smelled of lavender and lilacs, it was arousing.

        She looked in the mirror admiring herself moving her head gracefully from side to side, The comb stood out in contrast with her hair but complimented her skin tone and blouse. She was so vivid and colorful it was unreal as if I was watching her on a movie screen. She caught me eyeing her in the mirror. Before I had a chance to glance away from her. She abruptly turned around gave me a smile, her face was lit. She said with a sparkle in her eye “Thank you, kind sir.” She then grabbed my left hand with both of hers pulled me close and gave me a kiss on my lips. My emotions and senses were jumping her lips were extremely soft and smooth. To say I was in shock was an understatement. Then she said, “Thank you Sir I’ll let you be on your way have a nice night.” She let go of my hand then walked out the front entrance I watched her as she steeped away. I turned looked in the mirror. That’s when I saw it, in the reflection of the mirror, the portrait of Maggie was looking at me. I turned to look at the portrait hanging on the wall behind me. I said no It can’t be there’s no way. I went to the door I could see her walking down the steps of the courthouse. I told myself see she’s right there I felt reassured for a second that all was normal. Until she turned to give me a smile and a wave as she raised her hand above her head to wave. A small sand twister stirred up around her and she began to blow away with the sand starting from the bottom of her skirt and slowly working its way up to her body to her hand. It was as if she was sand in the wind. She just floated away with the wind.

       That’s when I had enough, I quickly turned off the lights walked out the door locked it. Ran over to the gift shop shoved the ghost town keys into the mail slot. Ran to my car quickly started it and drove home. I tried not to think about what I experienced until I got to the dorm to avoid any problems driving. It was hard but I did it. When I got to my dorm room, I sat at my desk staring into the wall in front of me trying to figure out what I experienced. I could not quite believe it. I know it happened I saw it I smelled it I touched it I felt it. But just couldn’t believe it.

      I thought it best to stop thinking about it before something else happened. I took a long shower and dressed for bed. Siting on the edge of my bed in the dark I did not feel afraid. It was weird I had a feeling of a deep comfort and relief. The only other time I had this feeling was years later after I was married, and our kids were grown but still living under our roof. The kids would go out with their friends. I would lay in bed or watch TV apprehensively waiting for them to come home. Only getting relief when I heard the front door open, or the garage door shut. Knowing they were home I would feel a deep comfort that my loved ones were safe. That’s the best I can do to describe how I felt.

        Well, the next morning I woke to the phone ringing. I got up in my groggy state and answered it. Stan was on the other end of the line. “Hay kid you are coming into work. I see you left your keys here.” Stan called me kid I guess everybody before the age of 30 back then was called kid. It wasn’t an insult as much as it was saying sit down and listen you have a lot to learn. I did not know what to say to Stan. I gave a simple, “No.” Stan was quiet for a moment I was waiting for him to chastise me. He asked in a slow flat voice, “Did you see her?” I gave a simple, “Yep.” Stan replied, “Kid that’s why I told you to leave at six.” I said, “Stan she was there at 5:30.” Stan replied, “She must have been doting on you. I noticed her hair comb is missing do you know where it went?” I replied, “She took it.” Stan asked with a crack in his voice, “How?” I replied, “I put it in her hair.” Stan was quite for a moment then made a humph noise, then spoke in his flat voice “I would have never thought that was the answer.” Stan went on to say, “Well thanks Dan I think she may have moved on. I do appreciate all you have done. You sure you want to quit?” I gave a quick and direct, “Yes!” Stan was silent. I didn’t know what to say. I just blurted out, “Stan I got to go.” Stan replied with, “OK, don’t think I’ll see you again, have a good life Dan stay kind.” After hanging up the phone I realized that was the first time Stan used my real name. I had earned his respect and gratitude. Back in those days it took a lot to get that out of the older generation. I achieved it at the age of 22. Still don’t know how I should feel about it due to the circumstance it was under.

         It’s been many years ago I’ve married raised kids, now my kids are raising kids. Strange thing, they say you marry your mother. No not me, I married a woman like the one I met in that ghost town tall dark hair blue eyed and sweet as ice cream. We have been married 30 great years. I can’t explain how but I feel Maggie had something to do with how I met my wife. I sometimes wonder what happened to Stan and Elsa. they passed long ago just as my parents and many other loved ones and one day in the future so will I be, sand in the wind.

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