I was literally in a daze for almost a week. I managed to eat and shower but even doing that was a task. All thoughts of the greeter had been overtaken by an almost overwhelming grief for a man I didn’t even know, but somehow, I managed to pull myself together long enough to attend Bobs’ funeral.
Two ladder trucks formed a Gothic arch with a huge American flag suspended from the center. I could hear the sound of wailing bagpipes playing Amazing Grace in the distance. All of the local firefighters as well as firefighters from surrounding counties attended. They donned their full dress uniforms and walked solemnly in perfect cadence.
Bobs’ flag draped casket was placed on a horse-drawn caisson, originally built to carry cannons during the Civil War. As I watched it being slowly pulled up the street, even the horses seemed to be mourning.
The shop owners closed their stores as a show of respect and tied black ribbons on their doors. They stood along the side of the street with their heads bowed and many of them were crying.
As I stood there, I heard people talking about what a good man Bob was. Linda, who owned the hair salon, asked me how long I had known him. I stumbled a bit when I told her that I really didn’t know him at all.
I followed the crowd to the cemetery. Bobs’ helmet was respectfully handed to his widow and I watched the tears stream down her face as taps was being played. I was numb and felt almost as lifeless as Bob.
I couldn’t help but wonder, why Bob? I didn’t want anybody to lose their life but why, of all people, did it have to be Bob?
Had I torn the fabric of time somehow and caused a rift in the natural order of things? Was my brief intrusion into his life the catalyst for his untimely death? Had I crossed a supernatural line by wanting to know something that was to remain unknown? Did he intend to breach a sacred vow that cost him his life? My mind was flooded with these thoughts and I couldn’t shake them.
When I heard the priest say “the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away,” I had to leave.
Had the Lord really taken Bob away…or had I?
When I left, I drove through town. It was completely deserted, except for me…and the greeter.
I pulled into a parking place and just sat there, watching him standing vigil by the clock. I couldn’t make sense of the strange things that had happened. The universal answers to my question…the death of the one man who was willing to talk to me…the man who “had been there for as long as anybody could remember”…yet nobody knew who he was. I wanted the greeter to look at me but I was afraid his head would turn all the way around.
I felt like I needed to go home and not think about it for a while. I was almost there, when a thought invaded my head as clearly as if it had been spoken.
Was I really so sad that Bob had died or was I actually just disappointed that now, I would get no answers? Was I really that petulant and selfish?
When I was putting the key into my front door, I remembered the picture behind the chair. I thought that would be a good distraction for the sadness and or disappointment I was feeling.
I changed clothes and went into the living room to get the picture. I picked it up and ran my hands over the glass.
I don’t know how it happened, but I lost my grip and the picture fell to the floor.
The glass shattered. I thought “Goddammit! Where am I ever going to find another piece of bubble glass? This just fucking figures.” Disgusted, I walked into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee and try to calm down.
A little while later, I went back into the living room. I sat down on the floor and started picking up the pieces of glass. I don’t know why but I felt like I needed to tell the man in the picture that I was sorry. I ran my fingers over his face and really looked at him for the first time.
He had hauntingly beautiful eyes and a stern but kind expression. He was dressed in a coat and tie that was typical of the 1800’s.
I didn’t find him at all “creepy” like my son did and he captured my attention. He was what I would call “fetching.” I was thinking, “I’ll bet you were quite the ladies man in your time.”
I carefully studied everything about him while sipping my coffee. I just kept looking at him. It was as if I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. After a few minutes, I thought “he looks strangely familiar.”
I heard myself gasp and thought my heart might stop beating when I realized that I was staring into the face of the greeter.
To be continued………………..