The road was a ribbon linking the present with the past.

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A VG Serial: Jory Sherman’s Hills of Eden

Episode 42

He pulled the pickup over to the curb and got out, taking his cane with him. He went inside. The soda fountain was still there. An old couple ran it. No young girls to wait tables or help shoppers. Just an old man and an old woman.

He sat at the counter on a reupholstered stool and ordered a Coke float. The old woman looked at him oddly when she set the glass in front of him, plopped a long handled spoon into the bottom scoop of ice cream.

“Here you are, Mister,” she said. “What brings you to town?”

“Used to live here,” he said.

“We been here since eighty-nine.”

“Long before that,” he said.

“Town’s changed a heap,” she said, wiping a cloth across the edge of the formica counter.

“Yes. Since I was here it’s changed. I just ran into an old classmate.”

“What’s his name?”

“Not a he, a she, Marianne,” he said. “Marianne Vester.”

The woman stopped wiping and her eyes widened.

“Vester, you say?”

“Yes, Marianne Vester.”

“Where’d you run into her?”

“Up at the school. In the schoolyard.”

“That can’t be,” she said.

“What?”

“Unless they’s two of ‘em. They was a Marianne Vester died here last week. Suicide, they say. Lived in that old ramschackle house acrost from the school. That the one?”

He looked at the woman, who was eying him as if he was disturbed.

“No, I guess not,” he said.

“No, I surely guess not,” she said, and walked away as if he had some incurable communicable disease. He stirred his float and drank it slowly, the vanilla tasteless, the Coke stinging his tongue. He looked out the window at the intersection, the traffic light that had not been there sixty years earlier. He looked out at an old dead town with empty eyes. He paid for the float and walked outside onto a street where he had once ridden his horse in a parade, and where his father had been mayor, his mother a barfly. He had run away from home when he turned 16 and had not come back until now.

He wished he had stayed in San Francisco where he now lived.

“Thomas Wolfe was right,” he said to no one. “You can’t go home again.”

He looked at the town clock. It had been broken back when he was a boy, the hands stuck on the numeral 12. That had not changed. No one had fixed the clock, and there had been a saying back then. “In Cedar Shade, it’s always high noon or midnight.” Or, it was a place where time not only stood still; it had no meaning. Time was static. It was not a river that flowed in only one direction. Time was just one part of the universe captured and warped by the dark matter surrounding it. He felt enclosed in that vacuous cylinder now, lost to time, lost somewhere in that dark region of the universe that no one could see, no one could measure.

Yet he felt a connection to Leone, to the town where he had once lived, even though he suspected it might have been an illusion, part of a dream that lingered in is mind. Maybe, he thought, he would always be a part of this old town. Once connected, always connected, even if separated from that something that had drawn him to revisit Cedar Shade after so many years.

Maybe, he thought, we are always connected to everything and everyone that ever happened in our lives. Maybe we become part of all that, and all that becomes part of us.

Maybe, he thought, we never really leave home, or if we do, we take some part of it with us.

And, maybe, he thought, as he turned the key in the Ford’s ignition, we always do come home again and maybe we must come home again. Even if everything we know is only an illusion, something that occurs in one of the parallel universes that are always hidden, always unseen.

The engine drowned out his last thought and he drove away from Cedar Shade, up through the hills and limestone bluffs to Springfield, Missouri and west to San Francisco.

“I’m glad we finally got out of that town,” a voice said from the back seat.

Startled, Thad turned his head and looked into the back seat.

There was no one there.

He shivered in the sudden chill, and drove on, the road like a black ribbon linking the past to the present.

Back home in another time and another place that now seemed to exist only in his imagination. Like Cedar Shade, and carol, and Marianne.

 

Hills of Eden will be published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Please click the title, Hills of Eden, to read more about Jory Sherman and his books.

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