10.28.2004

Samhain - All Hallow's Eve

Another Samhain (Sow-een) is here, the 2nd since my mother's passing. I wonder if she'll visit this summer's end? Fields are once again barren and empty. The ancient Celts believed, long before Christianity, that Samhain (later known as All Hallow's Eve) was the one night of the year that the veil between the 2 worlds of the living and the dead was the thinnest. It was a time when the dead walked among the living and were honored with meals. It was a time when the living dressed as ghouls and spirits in order to blend in with the dead. It was a time when summer was ushered out and winter began. It was a time of bonfires and sacrifices.

In honor of the season, my offering tonight is a story, a Halloween story. It's not set during October, but I hope as you read, you will see that it fits the Halloween season.

Why There Are No Homeless In This City

It was April 1st, and Wilma was not in her usual spot on the corner. How appropriate, All Fools Day. It wasn’t the same without Wilma and her beat up Costco shopping cart. One of those little blue Walgreens things would never do for her. As I said, she was not there that sunny, crisp morning; however, I gave her absence little more than a passing thought.

This city isn’t much different from any other large metropolis. Lots of traffic, bad air, a cacophony of noise all loosely knotted together, and the homeless found on almost every street corner, park bench and viaduct. Getting back to Wilma.

Of course, Wilma wasn’t her name; I never cared enough to ask. To me, she was Wilma. Put a bone in that red hair and give her a fur dress, and well, there you have it. That Monday morning she was not in her usual spot. I thought to myself,

“Good one, Wilma, April Fool’s.”

By the time I passed her spot on my way home from work, there was a lanky dark man in her place. Claim jumpers act quickly here in the city, and this corner was prime real estate.

Tuesday was gray, damp and chilly, dropping rain. As I emerged from the Adams street station with the rest of the cubicle squatters, I found myself looking for Wilma. This morning a slump-shouldered, raggedy woman had claimed the corner, still no Wilma, and no lanky dark man. Our eyes meet briefly just long enough for me to be startled by the wild fear I saw in hers. Looking away, I quickly passed not wanting to know what she knew.

That night, twilight was dropping as I passed the corner heading home, but she’s there shadowy and still. As I pass by, I’m sure I heard her whisper,

“Run fast, boy, if you ever hear them laugh.”

Looking back, I saw she was looking beyond me with eyes that have seen too much. An icy fist clenched my heart as I stumbled drunkenly down the stairs startled to find myself alone on the subway platform. In the distance, I could hear the sound of the on-coming train; there’s something else, fainter, but I know what it is, it’s them, their hard nails clicking on the tile floor of the subway tunnel. Somewhere farther off the maniacal laughter of a hyena bounces off the curved walls.

Wednesday was a work-at-home day, and I didn’t think about Wilma, or her cohorts until the train pulled into the station the next morning. After the darkness of the tunnel, the empty corner unnerves me. Secretly, I was hoping Wilma would be there laughing over her April Fool's joke, and things would be back to normal. But on that empty corner, amid the city clamor, the echo of the slump-shouldered woman’s whisper is all that greets me,

“Run fast, boy, if you ever hear them laugh.”

On the way home that night, I stop at a kiosk to get a copy of the paper. I seldom bother since there’s little that interests me within those pages. However, a headline about the missing homeless catches my eye. Little concern is reflected there; instead, the disappearances are reported in glowing terms. The mayor is quoted, saying,

“I’d personally like to thank whoever is facilitating the clean up of our city streets.”

Again, I am touched by a sense of unease as I think of that empty corner which only days ago had been so highly prized. And as a chill skates down my spine, I hurry to catch up to the rest who are boarding trains for their long treks home.

Friday morning I rush past the still empty corner refusing to give it a second glance. In the elevator on the way to my office, I listen to a couple of men discussing how Bob, the obnoxious windshield washer, has gone missing. And even though they shared a chuckle, their apprehension was tangible. It was then that I knew there was something terribly wrong.
On my way to meet my girlfriend, Sara, for lunch, a green-eyed, dark-haired beauty approached me. I couldn’t help but notice the white t-shirt stretched tightly across her chest, and it's message:

"Ask me why you’ll find no homeless in this city"

As we passed, her eyes caught mine; I swear she winked and licked her bloodless lips. I shivered and hurried past feeling her eyes on me, marking me, but when I turned around she had disappeared in the crowd.

The rest of the day passed uneventfully, but the air seemed to thicken and draw in around me almost suffocating me. As I pass Wilma’s corner on my way to the subway, I notice an unexpected falling darkness. At the corner, a storm is brewing, and as I hear the sound of maniacal laughter and clicking nails on the sidewalk behind me, I begin to run, now knowing why there are no more homeless in this city.

Copyright Cher Cunningham, 2002

Blessed be,
Moonstone

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