The setting ball of fire in the sky cast the most mesmerizing glow on the figure seated by the window. The sunlight caught her grey hair and made it shimmer. Even in her very old age, she still maintained her aura of youthful vibrance.
Her wrinkled skin, cracking ever so slightly, seemed to glow in the magnificent dusk. Her arthritic hands clasped tightly in her lap, playing with a rosary. It was not merely a distraction, but a ritual. She prayed everyday – morning to night – with the rosary ever ready in her hands. It was not just beads on a string, but “a beacon to help get her prayers to God” she told James.
Whether this was disillusions at her old age, or merely a joke, James was not sure. But it made her happy, and therefore it brought him some sense of joy. He would sit and stare at his mother throughout the day. It broke his heart to see her so frail. She had always been fragile, but the death of her husband of 50 odd years had really taken a toll on her.
When James had first heard of the passing of his father just over a year ago, he dropped his job as a columnist for the local paper, and rushed home to be with Edith. Neither of them had taken the death very well (who takes death well?), and they had decided it was best they stay together during the tough time.
After the funeral and cremation, they left the hustle and bustle of the city life, and moved to their summer cabin on the lakeside – far away from the woes of town. It was not merely to get away from the city, but rather to spend their time in a place that brought them joy.
The cabin was a yearly getaway for the whole family during school summer break, and they would spend the month fishing, canoeing and playing board games. The tradition had continued well after school ended. It was their way of staying close to their father and husband.
James cooked and cleaned for them both. It wasn’t a huge cabin and so he had no problem managing just fine. He made weekly trips into town to collect groceries to feed them. Life was simple. The only problem was Edith. She just sat praying. She didn’t seem to be healing or getting anything from their seclusion.
“James, I’ve got something I would like to do…”
This was the first time she had spoken in ages, besides the frequent “thank you” and nods when being addressed.
“What is it mum? What would you like?” James asked her excitedly.
“I’d like for us to talk to your father. I have prayed on it, and I feel him here with us. He just has no way of speaking.”
James was unsure what exactly she meant. She looked at him hopefully and seemed to be waiting for an answer. Seeing how excited his normally quiet mother was, James asked what talking to his father would entail.
“Well I’ve seen a few articles in the paper.” Edith said.
“We’ll get the lady in to be the mediator between us and your dad, and she’ll help us talk to him.”
James rolled his eyes and let out a groan of annoyance. His mother’s face dropped, and he could see the bright flair in her eyes snuff out from his response. Not wanting to see his mother return to her comatose state, he told her they could indeed give this mediator a call.
A week had passed since they had called the 0800 number listed in the paper. His mother now sat at the window, phone in hand rather than rosemary. James was not usually an analytical person. However, his immediate thought on this was the sudden switch in his mother’s belief, from God, to hope in the unknown.
What this meant, he did not know. Later that day, when the blazing ball highlighted her grey wisps of hair, the phone came alive. It startled them both as they sat in silence. Edith merely stared at the phone, prompting James to take it and answer. He listened intently, nodding at what was said and thanked the unknown caller. His mother stared at him, too shocked or anxious to ask.
“She’s coming tonight Ma.” James informed Edith.
The bright sunlight seared his eyelids. He mumbled while rambunctiously reaching up to cover his eyes. Why had he left the curtains open? Having adjusted relatively well, he managed to open his eyes at last.
He looked up at the sofa and immediately knew he was not in his bed. He had woken up on the floor and had no idea why. His back clicked as he sat up. A hard floor is not an adults best friend when a good night of sleep is in question. All lethargy and confusion immediately dispersed as his eyes stumbled upon his mother who lay across from him on the living room floor.
He rushed up and made his way to her, lifting her gently off the floor and setting her down on the couch. Panic set in at the thought she had fallen at night and had lay there unattended to. Her eyes shot open and a huge smile washed over her face.
“James!” She exclaimed.
“I think it worked!”
James was in awe. His mother was up and in the kitchen making them breakfast. She hadn’t walked this much in years. Confused, he sought the newspaper to retrieve the number he had last called. After a few rings, a nervous sounding voice answered.
“Hi, is this Lady Gertu…
“What do you want?” She asked before James finished the name.
“I just wanted to ask what exactly happened last night? I must confess I don’t remember much but my mother seems to think something ‘worked’.”
“You must not call this number again. Your house is no good spirit. I am sorry!” Lady Gertrude said before hanging up…
Even more confused, James tried recalling the number. The automated voice on the other line informed him that the other party was out of service. James inhaled deeply. He could smell bacon.
“Mum. What do you mean it worked? What worked?” James asked his mother.
“I can feel your father honey. It’s almost as if he’s sitting down to eat breakfast with us.” Edith said.
“What… What happened… last night?” Was the next question out James’ mouth.
His mother looked confused. Deep in thought, she put her knife and fork down.
“Well what do you know Jimmy. Your Ma must be getting old. For the life of me, I can’t remember.” She said with a laugh.
“Eat your bacon before it gets cold!”
James sat up in bed. It was just a nightmare. He pressed the home button on his phone to check the time, his phone was dead. Thankful for having woken up in his bed this time, he felt along the bedside table for the lamp.
His watch was on the table, so he’d check the time. It was dark out, but it might be close to 5:00, and if it was, he would just start his day an hour earlier than usual. Maybe he’d make Edith breakfast in bed today. He felt the bulge of the lamp bottom and fumbled for the switch. It clicked on and illuminated his room. He glanced at his watch. it was 4:47. Guess it was going to be an early start to the day.
The shadow in the corner near the door caught his eye and startled a small shout of surprise from him. The figure of his mother stood, back to him, facing the wall. She probably took too many Imovanes to help her sleep. Sometimes she would sleep walk.
“Mum.” James called out as he began to stand.
“Let’s get you back to bed for a while. It’s still early.”
The popping sounds her neck made as it turned, sounded like when you crack your knuckles. James stare as his mother’s head turned a full 180 degrees to stare at him, while her body faced the front. She stood, facing the wall but looking at him. He felt goosebumps break out all over his body. His bladder let loose and he felt the warm stream run down his legs.
“Sorry Jimmy boy. Your mother doesn’t seem to be here at the moment.” said the head of his mother with a voice that wasn’t hers.