Tuesday, February 22, 2011

No. 20: The Stone

Once a month, Ethan made the forty mile drive to Silver Lake. He wound through the town, following the highway to Beaubien Street. He turned right onto Thomas Road and followed it over the railroad tracks where the paved road suddenly became gravel. He drove another half mile to a cemetery. He turned into the cemetery and followed the small road around the forest of headstones and came to a stop in front of a small stone. Ethan got out of the car and placed a bouquet of fake flowers in the ground in front of the stone. Ethan knelt in front of the stone, which was a simple marble stone with a lamb carved on the top, and stayed with it for about half an hour before kissing two of his fingers and placing them on the lamb. Ethan stood up and got in his car and drove the forty miles back home.

“Yes, sir. I understand that your cable and Internet are not working. There’s an outage,” Ethan said into his mouthpiece. “Sir, you just had a tornado go through your town, you should be glad anything is still working and that you’re alive.” Ethan looked over at Aaron. “He hung up,” Ethan smiled. Ethan watched as Heather, a girl from another department walked by on her way out to smoke. Ethan took off his headset, hit a couple buttons on the phone and followed her.

Heather had just exhaled her first drag when Ethan joined her. “Need a cigarette?” she offered.

“You know I don’t smoke,” Ethan said. “How’s work going for you?”

“Could be better. Only two other people felt obligated to come in tonight so we’re pretty busy,” Heather said then took another drag.

“Yeah. A tornado went through our area and people are calling wondering why their services are out,” Ethan chuckled.

“People are idiots,” Heather smiled and turned away from Ethan to lean on the railing and look out over the river.

“Hey, um, Heather? I was wondering if you’d want to go out with me,” Ethan asked as he leaned against the railing.

“Sure,” Heather looked at him. “I think this weekend would be fine.”

After a couple of months, Ethan and Heather were still together. “A friend of mine is having a birthday party this coming Saturday. I thought that we’d go,” Heather said.

“Oh, I can’t this Saturday. I already have something planned,” Ethan declined. “Besides, I don’t really know your friends all that well. They don’t seem to like me.”

“They like you, they just don’t know you. What are you doing Saturday that you can’t go?”

Ethan paused as he tried to think of an excuse. “I have work. I signed up for some overtime.”

“Really? But you hate overtime. You call it un-American. Besides, your department never offers overtime,” Heather recalled.

“Well, they finally did and I decided to take it,” Ethan nervously said. “Now I have to get to work,” Ethan said and left the apartment.

“Why didn’t you just tell her the truth?” Aaron asked.

“Oh, she wouldn’t understand why I drive forty miles to a cemetery to put flowers on a grave that has no connection to me,” Ethan said.

“Yeah, I can see that,” Aaron nodded. “So why do you do it again?”

“I honestly don’t really know. It seems like I have a spiritual connection with her but I think most of it is because I think she’s lonely. She has no family members around her and is kind of in an isolated area.”

“Why can’t you go do both? You’re only at the cemetery for an hour at most. Add in the drive time, I think you can do both,” Aaron explained.

“Heather’s friends don’t like me. They always seem to look at me a just ‘another guy Heather is sleeping with’,” said Ethan.

“Well, I still think you should’ve told Heather the truth.”

As usual, Ethan had his cell phone off as he drove to Silver Lake. Heather had decided against going to the birthday party and called Ethan at work—who wasn’t there. She then tried his cell phone two times before finally calling Aaron.

“Aaron? Where’s Ethan?” Heather asked, sounding a little angry. “He’s not at work and his phone is off.”

“I told him he should’ve told you,” Aaron shook his head. “Don’t worry. Ethan is okay. He’s driving to Silver Lake—he should be back in two hours.”

“What’s he doing in Silver Lake?” she asked.

“When he gets home, let him tell you.”

Heather waited, thinking the worst. Two and a half hours passed then Ethan walked through the front door. “Who is she?”

Ethan was confused. “What?”

“Your Silver Lake whore. Who is she?”

“What are you talking about? I’m not seeing anyone besides you.”

“Then why’d you go to Silver Lake?” Heather demanded.

Ethan sighed. “I am seeing a girl there but it’s not what you think,” Ethan paused and looked down at the floor. “Her name is Elizabeth Uhl and she’s been dead since 1917. Every month for the past two years I’ve been visiting her grave. I didn’t tell you because I thought you’d think it was stupid or that you wouldn’t believe me.”

“Why do you go?” Heather asked quietly.

“I don’t know. I just do. She has no one else.”

“You should’ve told me. I would’ve believed you and you wouldn’t have had to lie about working,” Heather went over and hugged Ethan.

“Why didn’t you go to your friend’s birthday?” Ethan asked, hugged Heather back.

“When I called to get directions this morning I mentioned you weren’t coming and he immediately replied with ‘so you finally dumped that loser’,” Heather said.

“I told you they didn’t like me,” Ethan smiled.

“When are you going out to Silver Lake again?” Heather asked.

“Next month sometime. Why?”

“I want to come with you,” Heather said and smiled at Ethan.

Ethan smiled back and nodded. “Okay.”