Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

Fallon Hotel – Chapter Nineteen

Her arms ached and her head hurt. Jeri had had many moments over the years where she’d had to tussle with Andy during particularly violent tantrums or when she needed to contain his arms and legs in space when necessary, but she had not had to physically drag him away from a location and then carry him such a distance, in a very long time.  The walk back from the Columbia Cemetery sure seemed a lot farther than their walk to the Columbia Cemetery, of that her bones and muscles were certain.

With Andy playing quietly on the floor of the lobby, Jeri whispered her plan as quickly as she could to Ruth.  The idea that they might have found where Ezra was buried left her energized and hopeful.  She felt that honoring the resting place of the poor restless spirit could lead to the release of Ezra’s grip on her son and she had a plan to do so.

Angels Camp Sign“I think I’ll only be gone for about an hour, Ruth.  Thank you so much for agreeing to keep an eye on Andy for me while I run over to Angels Camp to Metzger’s studio.  I’m positive he’ll have the perfect thing to use as a marker.  Hopefully, Andy will be good and not cause you too much trouble.  I can’t tell you how grateful I am…”

Ruth shook her head and grinned.  Putting her index finger to her lips, she shushed Jeri and with a sweeping motion of her hand dismissed Jeri.

She might have had a few misgiving with the arrangement, but Ruth didn’t have to tell her twice.  Jeri blurted out a hurried, but heartfelt thanks then darted down the hall and out the back door to the parking lot.

Getting behind the wheel of her old Explorer without having to strap the sometimes octopus-like Andy into a five-point harness in the back seat first, felt weird and wonderful all at once.  Jeri tried to ignore the anxious pit growing in the center of her stomach and turned the motor over.  She had to make peace with the idea that Ruth insisted she was capable of watching over Andy, no matter what, while Jeri went to do what she knew that she had to do.  Jeri had to trust her gut and know that Andy was in competent and caring hands and that this simple errand was for the greater good.

The round-trip driving time was only going to be about 40 minutes maximum and she was fairly confident that once she arrived at her destination, the task at hand wouldn’t take more than a few minutes.  Choosing one of Metzger’s beautiful soapstone carvings would likely be an easy decision.  Making sure it was in her price range might be the most challenging part of it all.

As expected, the drive was easy and beautiful and when she came to the stop sign in Angels Camp, she took a deep breath.  Looking around, she realized that the town hadn’t changed a bit from all of the earlier visits she’d made in years gone by.  The little town, made famous by Mark Twain’s story of “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavaras County” always made her smile.  The original building of the Angels Hotel, the spot where Mr. Twain had heard the story told of the jumping frog, was still there – registered as a California Historical Landmark.  She glanced over at the sidewalk where the Frog Hop of Fame commemorated the past winners of the annual Jumping Frog Jubilee.  She’d only been to the Frog Jump once, but it was forever embedded in her memory as one of the most unusual events she had ever attended.  It had been her hope that someday she’d have her son try his luck at seeing how far he could make a frog jump in the annual contest, but she knew that Andy’s tactile defensiveness would definitely rule out any thought of any kind of close contact with amphibians.

Big logging trucks rolled through the center of town and past Jeri’s car, causing her vehicle to shake and shimmy as they went past.  Eventually, there was a gap in the traffic and Jeri rolled across the street and into the parking lot of the artist whose sculptures had touched Jeri’s heart in the past.  His bronze sea lions in San Francisco, in particular, had resonated with her, but what she really loved was his work with the soapstone that was native to Calaveras County.

Surrounded by the cool and peaceful works of art, Jeri knew she’d made the right decision, even if she was a bit overwhelmed by all of the wonderful pieces.  There were fat cats, stately ducks and fish in motion.  Of course there were frogs and bears and noble eagles.  The swan took her breath away and the otter made her smile.  She stood in one spot and surveyed the room, almost afraid to move and lose her prime vantage point of ever piece in the shop.

She only turned her head when she heard the woman’s voice from behind her.  “Hello?  May I help you?”

Sighing deeply, it occurred to her that she might have practiced having something to say when she arrived – but she hadn’t and now she was stumped.

Well, what do you have in the way of a marker for the unmarked resting place of a ghost child who is tormenting my son so that he’ll be present in a modern century way, instead of the Gold Rush era as he has been since we arrived at the Fallon Hotel?

Jeri cleared her throat in an attempt to buy a few more seconds of thinking time.

“Uhm… yes.  I guess I have an unusual request for what I’m looking for and I’m not really sure how to begin or even what I’m actually looking for.”

A warm voice from another room took advantage of the long pause as Jeri attempted to put her finger on exactly the right way to begin.

“Suppose you just go with unusual and let us figure out the rest.”

A man in a jaunty beret, light eyes and bright smile strode into the room with mirth and determination.  With his commanding demeanor he clearly meant business, but his image suggested a completely playful side, too.

“I like unusual.  Hit me.”

Jeri wasn’t sure if it was his candor or his welcoming appearance, but she spat out the simple facts in one breath: there was an unmarked grave in the Columbia Cemetery of a boy she was relatively certain died in a fire in the 1850’s who had an unnatural grip on her son who had autism and had a hard enough time being part of today’s world without the added stress of being pulled into one more than a hundred fifty years before.

The artist didn’t flinch.  In fact, his grin expanded until it seemed it would reach either side of the ears situated at the top of his trim white beard.

“That… was some story.”

He raised his hand in the air as he spun around and began to walk out of the room, humming as he went.  Jeri hung her head, wishing she had kept the truth to herself and had fabricated something much more simple and believable.

The voice trailed off and Jeri found herself trying to place the tune that he was humming and ultimately straining to hear the words that were coming out of his mouth.

“I believe I have just the thing for you.”

The acknowledgement of the melody suddenly rumbled into her consciousness as clearly as the lumber trucks that drove through town.

Slumber my darling, the birds are at rest. 

The wandering dews by the flowers are caressed.

Slumber my darling, I’ll wrap thee up warm.

And pray that the angels will shield thee from harm.

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