Close up Hands Tea x

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

Fallon Hotel – Chapter Seventeen

GraveProducts copyNo one brings me flowers.  It finally occurred to Jeri, a small extent of the pain that poor Ezra was in and why he was so drawn to Andy and, in some small way, her, too.  She wondered, how long had he been interred at the cemetery with no marker, no relations and no one to remember him?  It had always seemed sad to Jeri that so many occupants of cemeteries were ultimately abandoned and forgotten due to families moving away, dying off or just not carrying on the tradition of honoring relations from long, long ago.  It was probably why she often saw a handful of people lingering in cemeteries, her grandfather had certainly been one, who took time to stop and read the names and dates of those they did not know.  It was a simple little way to honor the lost and forgotten.  When she was little, she had mispronounced the word, calling it a “ceme-memory-tery.”  Now, she smiled at the thought that she might have had it more right, as a 5 year old, then anybody knew after all.

She jumped to her feet, but continued humming “Oh, Susanna” the Stephen Foster tune. Unsure of whether she was doing so to keep her son, the ghost of Ezra, or herself calm.  In the moment, it simply seemed like the logical thing to do, since music was definitely the thing that was the most soothing to Andy and the one thing that had brought Ezra closest to Jeri and Andy.

The humming also gave Jeri something else to concentrate on, as she still found herself very afraid of Ezra and what was turning into his stronger bond to her son.  She realized that she had no idea how deeply Ezra might try to pull Andy into his world or what the ultimate consequences for that might be.  There were times that the connection to Andy seemed innocuous, but at other times, Jeri felt her entire body seize with fear when Ezra was near, how was it possible that Andy did not feel the same.  What was the sensation like for her son, who could not tolerate hardly any sensory input?  Everything was too much for Andy’s ears, eyes, taste, smell and touch – how did Ezra manage to break through?  For Jeri, her every sense, including the unofficial one that some called the sixth sense, was on heightened alert and overload.  She could not comprehend what Andy might have felt and because of his language deficit, he could not tell her.

The anecdotal stories of past incidences involving Ezra and others in the Fallon Hotel were mostly of a brief and mischievous nature. Harmless events where he would confuse patrons and employees of the hotel with locked doors, moved items and unexpected sounds in hallways and the laundry chute.  These stories showed that Ezra knew he could connect with people all along, but Jeri had a feeling he’d probably never gone as far as he had with her and with Andy.

Was it the fact that Andy’s autism had him so far removed from everyone and everything in this world that he was somehow vulnerable to… what, exactly? Energy from another realm?  A spirit from beyond?  An angel of some sort?  She thought about old syndicated television shows from her childhood, the ones with long bits of cheesy dialogue describing parallel dimensions, then found herself snickering at the idea she would even allow any far-fetched theories to take up room between her ears.

Her head had always been terribly concrete and logical, but now her heart was involved and it wasn’t at all convinced that anything, no matter how implausible, was out of the realm of possibility, at this point.

Continuing to hum, she went about the business of brushing her teeth, washing her face and getting ready for the day as if this morning was no different from any other.    Andy sat quietly on the floor next to her, stimming and wiggling his fingers in front of his face.  He had reverted right back to being in the moment, but totally removed, due to the traits of autism.  He was back in his Andy Bubble, but Jeri found she was absolutely fine with that – for the first time ever.

She slipped into her jeans and a sweater that was slung across top of her suitcase.  They were the closest items of clothing to her, so she wouldn’t have to worry about Andy (or Ezra) shutting the door on her.  Gently placing her arms around Andy to lift him off of the floor to get dressed, she continued to hum and he didn’t protest too much, and as a result she was able to get him into his outfit for the day pretty quickly.  He slid his feet into his sneakers and then secured the Velcro straps, making his mother smile at his one big attempt to dress himself.  Jeri wondered what they were going to do when he would eventually outgrow shoes equipped with Velcro and forced into shoes with laces.  Fine motor skills were incredibly frustrating for Andy and she questioned whether he would ever be able, or willing, to tie any pair of shoes.

Once he was dressed, Jeri swiftly grabbed her purse with one hand and Andy with the other and they slipped out of their hotel room and into the hallway.  Before she could put the key into the vintage mortise door lock, she heard the bolt click from the other side of the door.  One the one hand, it took her by surprise, but it also felt perfectly natural, too.

Quickly making their way down the bottom of the stairs facing the front door, Jeri realized that the bell that alerted the staff to guests coming and going was about to specifically alert Gwen of their going.  She made the decision to risk heading out the back way, knowing that they still might run into Gwen if she popped out of door #13 as they went by.

As if on cue, Gwen’s door opened just as Andy and Jeri stood under the glowing red exit sign.  “Alright?  You’re dressed for going out, so I shouldn’t want to keep ya!  Cheerio then!”

Jeri and Andy continued on their way out the back door as Gwen skittered down the hallway toward the front desk.  As if predetermined, choreographed and scripted, the front door swung open with the cheerful jingle of bells announcing incoming guests.  Two couples wearing motorcycle gear filed in, in an almost courtly manner, the four of them filled the small lobby.  Jeri felt guilty for a brief moment, because their encounter with Gwen had been so clipped and weird, but then she thought better of it, because everyone one was busy and had places to go and things to do.  Thank goodness.  She told herself they’d make small talk later.

The gravel crunched beneath their feet as they walked around the building and away from the parking lot where their dark green SUV was still parked, right where they’d left it, the night they arrived.  At some point, Jeri knew that getting back behind the wheel of that vehicle meant returning to the outside world away from the insulated one they’d entered such a short time ago in Columbia.  Out there, big box stores, highways and glossy magazines would shatter in an instant the quaint, slower paced world that had been created in the State Historic Park.

In Jeri’s mind, there were now a multitude of snowglobe worlds she had to walk between:  There was the outside world, the 21st century one buzzing ferociously with activity, information and constant social interaction; then there was the quiet, quaint frozen-in-time world of the 1800’s that the town of Columbia offered; leaving the two unusual worlds she had no real understanding of… the one her beautiful son was locked in (which she’d started to call “Autistopia” on occasion)  and whichever realm it was that had Ezra trapped.  She wasn’t exactly sure about her efforts to pull one boy out and push the other one in, but she knew she had to try.

It occurred to her that bringing Andy to the cemetery might be a risky idea, because if that was indeed where the body of Ezra had been laid, perhaps it would make his ghostly presence even stronger, as it had been in her dream/nightmare (or whatever that place between awake and asleep had been).  She didn’t really know what to do, and she didn’t really know what not to do either.  It wasn’t as if she could ring up her ex-husband and ask for his advice.  After all, he hadn’t really been that helpful when it came to dealing with real life after Andy’s diagnosis. What help could he possibly be to them now?  If anything, Jeri realized he might think she’d finally cracked a mental engine block and possibly finally fight for the right to now be in Andy’s life.  Madness wasn’t a tactic she’d thought about before, insofar as bringing father and son together, but if autism hadn’t been enough to do the trick, Jeri was pretty sure that whatever current neurological phenomenon was going on with his son and ex-wife, it wasn’t going to sway Brian any more (or any less) in their direction.

Since skipping was a relatively new activity that Andy enjoyed, Jeri thought she’d try it again, to hasten their pace as they headed toward Pacific Street.  She started to skip and hum “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” from one of Andy’s all-time favorite movies.  He didn’t really watch any of the scenes containing dialogue in “Mary Poppins” but the minute music of any kind started to play, he was mesmerized and glued to the screen.

The streets of ghost mining town were quiet, except for the small joyous noise of mother and son as they hummed and skipped toward the cemetery.  Jeri chuckled, knowing that there wasn’t another soul alive who would understand what was taking place, not that she was so certain herself about what was going on.

If her hunch proved to be correct, she thought there might be a way to right a wrong and repair what she saw as a grievous error.  She also knew that she might be putting her only child in danger, by exposing him to Ezra if he were in a heightened emotional state when, and if, Jeri and Andy located his gravesite.  But she knew that she would need Andy’s help if they were to find it, at all.

As their warm breath hit the crisp morning air, petite puffs of personal clouds floated around the heads of the bobbing duo.  They continued to skip right up to School House Road and they were both winded by the time they arrived at the corner of the cemetery’s tall white entrance gates.  Jeri stopped and pulled Andy close to her and pointed.

“Buddy, I need you to listen to me.  We’re going in there and we’re going to look for Ezra and where he might be… sleeping.  Do you understand?  It is so important that we find him.  Okay?”

Jeri’s heart clenched.  It seemed as if all of the times she became frustrated when Andy wouldn’t respond to a simple question like “Juice or milk?” or tell her where it hurt, were distilled down to the most trivial of emotions.  In this very moment, when his safety might depend on his ability to listen to the sound of her voice and grasp any instructions she might give, she desperately needed him to understand her.  She also thought about how Ezra had frightened her on more than one occasion and wondered why she hadn’t asked Ruth or Gwen to accompany her on this bizarre field trip.

Shaking the though off, she tried again to reach Andy.  “Mommy is afraid that Ezra might be… grumpy.  If that’s the case, I want to make sure you know we might have to leave right away.”

Andy gave a weary sigh, as if to indicate he fully grasped the situation and found his mother’s little speech boring and unnecessary as he walked on, without her, through the gates under the towering “In God We Trust” sign.

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