Entry 11: Mrs. Shiflett: Thursday July 21
The mother-in-law called today. They want to come up this weekend, but Donna told her that Matt and Susan are supposed to be visiting then. I imagine her mom wasn’t too pleased at our friends coming before her, but she’ll just have to get over that one. So anyway, I’ll probably have to deal with the in-laws next weekend. That gives a man something to look forward to.
I decided not to turn the anklet into the office this time, but I was curious about something, so I stopped off by Mrs. Mabely’s desk. The secretary is a nice lady, middle aged, very business like. Not really the kind I can cut up and carry on with, but still the type of person who could probably hold her own in conversation.
I asked her if she’d gotten the anklet I had lain on her desk the other day. She said she had, but she’d given it to Pastor Chiles because he said he thought he knew who it belonged to.
So the pastor had ended up with it. But that makes me wonder. Did he place it back where I found it, and if so, why? Or is there something else at work here? I want to ask Rev. Chiles if he still has it. I’d be almost willing to bet he thinks so. But since I know he doesn’t, and it now rests once again in my pocket, that poses the biggest question of the day: Who returned it to the closet in the rec room?
I went to see Mrs. Shiflett tonight. She lives on a dead end street in town. I went alone, though I did ask Donna if she wanted to come. She was watching her nighttime soaps and didn’t want to be bothered with talking church history with an old woman. I still haven’t said anything to her about our house or any of the weird things that I’ve been thinking lately. I know I should be more honest with my wife, but if I mention cemeteries and the possibility of ghosts, she’s liable to have me committed. Really.
When I arrived at Mrs. Shiflett’s, her assistant answered the door. She’s a dark haired lady about thirty years old. She looks foreign, maybe of Indian descent, and was introduced to me as Shaedra. With olive skin and dark eyes she reminded me of a siren who could lure sailors to their doom. I almost said this aloud.
She led me into the den where Mrs.Shiflett waited. The elderly woman was confined to a wheelchair. When she said hello her voice had a deep rasp, as if she couldn’t quite clear her throat.
We dispensed with the formalities and introductions quickly and got right down to why I was there. It didn’t take me long to tell her about the anklet I had found.
“Normally, I wouldn’t worry about such a trivial thing, but it keeps showing up in the same place,” I told her. “I’ve tried to find out who it belongs to, but no one can tell me. I think the Pastor may know, but he hasn’t volunteered the information, and to be quite honest, I just started work there so I don’t want to be asking him all kinds of questions.”
The elderly lady nodded quietly, and I continued my ramble.
“Do you think you might be able to tell me anything about this “MM” that is engraved on this anklet? I would really like to return it to her.”
Mrs. Shiflett held out her hand and I looked at her companion curiously.
“She wants to see the anklet,” the assistant explained.
“Of course.” I pulled the anklet from my coat pocket and put it in her open palm. She turned it over and over in her hand, as if she were giving it a major inspection. With her age, I imagine her eyesight wasn’t the best. But then she smiled.
“I remember this,” she said.
“Yes. I gave it to her.”
“Gave it to whom?”
“Mischa Martin. Nineteen and seventy-three. I may be old now, but the memory still works.”
Mischa Martin. The name made me think of something else. Yes, there in the playground. Carved on the decrepit sliding board. Tommy + Mischa.
“Does she still live around here?” I ventured.
“Oh no,” she replied. “Her father lives on Broad Street, right above the old barber shop, but Mischa is long gone.”
The old lady laughed. “No, she ran away years ago. I think it was around seventy-six. I remember it well because it was the year Tommy Blaine went stark raving mad.”
“He was her beau. Nice looking fellow I recall. Smart, athletic, not the kind to go mad at all. But he did.”
“He couldn’t handle her running away. She left behind a note saying she didn’t love him, she loved an older fellow, and that she was running away with him. They were going to be together forever, that kind of thing. Broke the poor boy’s heart.”
“Who was the other guy?”
“I don’t know. Personally, I don’t think there was one. She and her father didn’t get along. And her mother was a lush, loved the drink. I think she ran away to escape them. And maybe she was scared of her heart when it came to Tommy.”
“Why would she be scared of him? Was he abusive?”
“Oh no, Tommy treated her like gold. I think she was scared of how close they were. She always was a bit skittish. But I believe she loved him. Maybe she just didn’t know how to deal with it, and then, well, there was her condition.”
“I can’t say for sure, but there was rumors at the time that she was with child. I’d be willing to bet it was Tommy’s and she didn’t know how to tell her parents. If you want my opinion, I’d say Mischa ran away, had an abortion, or the child, and just didn’t feel like she could come back home.”
“Is there any possibility she may have died after running away?”
She laughed. “Oh there’s always that chance, but she did write letters home from time to time. I don’t know if she’s still writing her father, but he used to brag about her letters all the time.”
“Do you think he would talk to me about Mischa?”
“I don’t know. That was a long time ago. He’s a bit reclusive these days, and he was always possessive of his little girl. He may not take questions kindly, but if you wish, I will have Shaedra call him for you.”
“That would be nice. Thank you.”
She handed the anklet back. “Tommy Blaine is still around, too. He’s about your age now, I suppose. They released him from the hospital about two years ago, clean bill of health and all. Apparently his madness was just temporary. Time heals all wounds they say.”
“How did he go mad?”
“Tried to kill himself. Tried to kill others too. He attacked the pastor in church. He attacked her parents, her friends, darn near everybody. The boy just snapped. One of young love’s dark turns I suppose.”
“And he’s here? Still living in town?”
“Yes, he’s over on the outskirts. The county really. What we call shantytown. Just a bunch of trailers and old houses. Every town has such a place where the less fortunate live.”
I nodded and started to get up. It wasn’t long ago I had been one of those less fortunate types.
“So why this interest in Mischa Martin?” she asked.
I looked at the anklet, and dared myself to tell her. “Well, to be honest, Mrs. Shiflett, I thought I saw her in the church.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Really?”
“There was a young girl with a boy upstairs. They were running down the hall. I can’t say for certain it was her, but shortly afterwards I found the anklet. Thought maybe she dropped it.”
She kind of chuckled in that raspy voice of hers.
“Well, I don’t think that was Mischa you saw. In seventy-six she was fifteen years old. She’d be over forty now. I think we’d all know if she came home.”
At the mention of home, I thought it best if I took my leave and go back there myself. When I got to the house, Donna was asleep on the couch. I picked her up and carried her into the bedroom, where I tucked her in. Getting ready for bed myself, I took another look at the anklet. Mischa Martin. What is your real story? I have to find out. Maybe it’s nothing, but with all of Mrs. Shiflett’s speculations, I feel like something is just not right. Like I’ve stumbled onto a puzzle. And for some reason, I want to find the missing pieces. I can’t explain it. All I know is I feel like Alice in Wonderland getting ‘curioser and curioser’.
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“Resurrection Diaries” by Paul D Aronson.
Original text copyright 2007.
10th Anniversary Edition 2017. All Rights Reserved.