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November 27, 2023
"Mes de los Muertos"

Just Like Before

By Thomas Elson

The story my friend told me sounded rather contorted, almost foggy -- as if he were thirty-five with the eyes of a seventy-year-old and the emotions of a teenager.

He stopped by the side of the road because he saw either a Studebaker or a Lark with a flat tire. Two women, the older one a redhead with glasses, the other much younger -- just like before -- were staring at the tire. The trunk lid was open.

No words were spoken. Just like before. At that point, had he been asked, he could not have described anything about them -- although he knew them both. He changed their tire. And, as though it had been planned, they followed him to his house.

The following morning, after he awoke, he looked out the back-door screen -- this being pre-air conditioning days -- and saw two long tables laden with food and encircled by strangers. Throughout the day and into early evening the gathering continued. No one entered the house. No noise or movement could be detected, although, from glance to glance, positions had changed, and food had been served or taken away. No words were spoken. Just like before.

His mother, about age forty in this story, brought the red-headed woman with glasses inside the house. Her eyes squinted, and she turned away, her mouth tight and jaw clenched.

"Hi, girls," the man said -- partly from tension, partly from a misplaced familiarity. Neither woman smiled. After the red head walked outside, his mother said, "They have some decisions to make."

Later, he watched as the two women he helped yesterday sat at the table devoid of people except for themselves and a man in a dark suit. The man smiled, stood, nodded, placed papers into his briefcase, and disappeared. The two women sat awhile as if communicating but not talking -- just like before.

The red head stayed at the table. The younger woman rose and walked toward the screen door. Within six feet of the door, she raised her head slightly.

Gone was her old bouffant hair style. Her hair was much darker than before, a narrow streak of silver flowed from the right side of her forehead just past mid-temple. About fifteen pounds had been added to her once slim frame. Then, as if time had not passed, her face was the same, her cheeks and lips as full as before. She raised her hand to her hair, brushed it back with two fingers, and looked directly at him.

"It's you," he said.

She remained silent.

Just like before.

Article © Thomas Elson. All rights reserved.
Published on 2020-12-07
Image(s) are public domain.
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