Tag Archives: Virginia authors

Resurrection Diaries Entry 28: The Nephew

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Entry 28: The Nephew: Friday August 5

I thought about Wednesday’s night dream all morning. It wasn’t really the images of the dead kittens floating in the pool that bothered me, but the question of who had done the drowning. Did Mischa’s mystery friend really do such a thing? And if so, did that automatically classify him as a murder suspect? And just who was he anyway? Tommy Blaine said he was the Pastor’s nephew, but even he couldn’t remember his name. But was Tommy even telling the truth? I find it hard to believe he would forget the name of the boy who may have been competing with him for Mischa’s affections. I really wanted to know who this guy was, and if he was any way responsible for the girl’s disappearance.

So after doing a little cleaning this morning at the church, I thought I’d check its library and see if I could find anything on the Pastor’s elusive nephew. I went through all the photo albums from the seventies I could find. I tried to keep it to seventy-five and seventy-six, where I had once located the picture of Mischa herself. There were a lot of pics of the Pastor by himself, and I glazed these over, not even paying attention, until I finally came across the nephew’s picture by accident.

I had flipped a page and the photo came loose from the paper, falling to the floor by my chair. I leaned over and picked it up. Looking upon the picture at first, it meant nothing to me, but as I was putting it back in its place on the page, I saw the writing in the empty spot it had come from: “Pastor Shiflett, wife, daughter, and nephew. Easter portrait 1975.”

In the picture, the preacher was smiling, as his wife held a newborn baby in her arms. Beside them, a gangly teenage boy with pimples grinned at the camera. The boy had kind eyes and was a good-looking kid. But who was he? What was his name? And then something struck me about the caption. Pastor Shiflett? Could that be right? I looked closely at the woman in the photo. She was standing in the picture, but sure enough, it was the wheelchair bound woman who had told me to never come back to visit her.

So that’s why she has been lying all this time. Her own nephew was connected to Mischa. I found myself wanting to get in the car and go back over there to confront her. Instead, I flipped through the photo album some more, hoping for something else. Within a dozen or so pages, I found it. A picture of a Sunday school picnic. The pastor stood smiling, his arm around his nephew: “Pastor Shiflett and nephew Eric.”

Bingo! His name was Eric, his uncle was the preacher at the time of Mischa’s disappearance, and his aunt was the Mrs. Shiflett I knew. Now all I needed to do was find him. I knew the only way of locating him was by going back and confronting Mrs. Shiflett again. I didn’t look forward to such a thing, after my last visit there, but it seemed to be my only option. Either that or forget it. But something told me that Mischa would find a way to not let me forget it. I have learned she is a very persistent girl.

I sat in the car outside the Shiflett home for ten minutes before I could work up the nerve to go up the porch and knock on the door. As one could imagine, when Shaedra opened the door she looked pretty surprised to see me.

“Mrs. Shiflett is not receiving visitors,” she said.

“You mean she’s not receiving me,” I mildly corrected her, remembering the outcome of our last visit.

“She’s not receiving visitors,” she stressed.

I stood there for a moment, the silence stretching between us, as if one were daring the other to say something else. “Tell her I need to ask her about her husband,” I finally said. “And her nephew.”

Shaedra seemed taken aback for just a moment, but she told me, “Wait here.” Then she closed the door and was gone.

I had to wait there a little while. I think they both did that on purpose, but finally the door opened again. Shaedra had a smirk on her face, as if she were privileged to a private joke, most likely concerning me. “Come on in,” she said, and led me to the parlor where her mistress waited in her wheel chair.

“So what is it now?” the old woman asked. “Come here to blame my husband or nephew for that girl running away?”

“No ma’m, I’m just wondering where they fit in.”

“Fit in? Well, that’s easy. One was her Pastor, the other her friend. And like everyone else that cared about her, she let them down.”

“You had told me your late husband had worked in the barbershop. Why didn’t you tell me he was the Preacher at Resurrection, too?”

“You didn’t ask,” she grinned. “And what would that have mattered anyway?”

“It would have helped fill in the picture a little.”

She leaned forward in her chair. “I’m afraid your picture is made of conjecture and opinion, not facts nor the truth.”

I ignored her snide comment. “What of your nephew?”

“What of him? He’s a nice boy. He’d been friends with Mischa. Then when she ran off, his school studies slipped and he didn’t handle her leaving every well.”

“Why not?”

“Because she was his only friend. He never fit in with the rest of the children. Being the new kid isn’t easy, and teenagers can be cruel to each other at that delicate age.”

“Why were they cruel to Eric?”

She looked hard at me. I think she knew I was fishing around, trying to get her to admit something to me. “I think you already know,” she said.

“Because of the kittens?”

She nodded. “Rumors can follow you all your days.”

“So it was just a rumor then,” I prodded. “He didn’t really drown a bunch of kittens in a kiddy pool back home?”

She looked disgusted. “What does it matter now if he did or not? That was before he came here and stayed with us. That was before Jesus came into his life. It was a child’s prank that went too far, nothing more.”

“So it did happen?”

I could see her temper trying to flare behind her eyes, but she held it in check and smiled. “Have you ever done anything you regret?” she asked. “Something you knew was wrong, but you did it anyway?”

“Yes, I suppose.”

“What happened with my nephew and the kittens was just like that. He felt bad about it, but he got over it and went on with his life.”

“And when Mischa disappeared?”

“He didn’t want to stay here anymore. We sent him back home.”

“Is there some way I can reach him, maybe talk to him? A phone number or an address?”

She looked at me incredulously, as if I had just asked her the dumbest question in the world. “Are you trying to bait me again?” she asked.

“No ma’m, I’d just like to talk to…”

She held up her hand. “Stop,” she said. “My nephew adored that girl, and she broke his heart along with everyone else’s. He has done his best to forget her and live an exemplary life. If she is dead, as you seem to think she is, then let the dead rest and the living live.”

There was a hard look in her eye as if her pent up anger would spill over any minute.

“Sometimes the dead can’t rest until the truth is known.”

That did it. Her face turned beet red. “And you know the truth! Mischa was a bad girl. She got pregnant, she ran away, and that was that.”

“She didn’t run away.”

“So YOU say.”

“I doubt she was pregnant either.”

“Whatever.”

“And I’m having a hard time believing she was a bad girl.”

“Well you didn’t know her, now did you,” she spat.

“No, not then. But I know her now.”

“As I said before, your picture is guesswork and your own opinion. But the truth is, she wasn’t the good little girl you have placed on your pedestal.”

“Why do you dislike her so much, Mrs. Shiflett?”

She hesitated for a moment, and then answered. “She broke our hearts.”

I reached into my pants pocket and pulled something out. It was a Kleenex. “Here’s a tissue,” I said and dropped it in her lap. “Sounds like you’re the one who needs to get over it and move on.”

I turned around and left. I kept expecting to hear words of rage aimed at my back on the way out, but it was silent. Even Shaedra was quiet as she followed me to the door. As I stepped out on the porch, I thought of something. I turned around and Shaedra was standing in the doorway, leaning against the doorjamb, one hand on her hip.

“You don’t know her nephew, do you?” I asked.

“Not very well,” she replied. “Over the years he has come to visit on occasion, but I don’t know much about him.”

I nodded and turned to go.

“…But I may remember more over a candlelight dinner,” she suggested.

I stopped and looked at her. She was smiling quite seductively.

“It’s amazing what candlelight can do,” I replied.

She continued to smile and raised an eyebrow.

“But most of all, it reminds me how much I miss my wife,” I said. Her smile vanished and I went down the walk.

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“Resurrection Diaries” by Paul D Aronson.

Original text copyright 2007.

10th Anniversary Edition 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Resurrection Diaries Entry 15: The Phone

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Entry 15: The Phone: Monday July 25

Shaedra called this morning. Of course, I was at work when she called, so you can bet Donna asked me who she was when I got home. I told her it was Mrs. Shiflett’s assistant. Maybe it was her exotically sounding voice, but I could see suspicion cross Donna’s face. And then there was the cryptic message itself: “Call this number,” followed by a local seven-digit phone number. I explained to Donna it was the number of a guy who knows a detail of church history I’m interested in.

She nodded. “Why are you so interested in the history of that place?”

“I’m just curious, that’s all. ”

She nodded again, but I don’t think she believed me. For the first time in our relationship, I get the feeling she may think I’m fooling around on her.

This brief conversation occurred when I came home from lunch, so afterwards when I walked back to church, I took the phone number with me. I called it, but there was no answer. Eventually, an answering machine picked up, but there was no recorded greeting, only a hiss of air like that of gas escaping through a pipe. Weird. I just hung up without leaving a message.

I went ahead and did a little work and then I heard the phone ringing from the secretary’s office. I figured if no one were in there, the answering machine would pick up after a couple of rings, but it didn’t. It just kept on ringing, over and over again.

I looked out the sanctuary window, and saw the secretary’s car was in the lot. Why wasn’t she picking up the phone? It continued to ring.

I put everything down and went to the office. Mrs. Mabel was at her desk. The phone was ringing off the hook beside her, but she seemed to be ignoring it.

“You going to get that?” I asked.

She looked at me with a strange look on her face.

“The phone,” I said.

Strange looks turned to a dumfounded one. “It’s not ringing,” she replied. But it was. I could hear it.

I reached out and picked up the receiver. The ringing stopped. I put the phone to my ear as Mrs. Mabel watched me with bewildered concern. I didn’t say anything to the caller, I just listened. But there wasn’t anyone there. Just the escaping hiss of air, like when I called the number Shaedra had given me. I set the phone back down in its cradle.

“Something must be wrong with these phones,” I said.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

I nodded and backed out of the office. It was apparent she hadn’t heard the phone ringing. No one had. Just me. Why was that? Is this a new kind of message from Mischa or am I starting to hear things? And what exactly was I hearing? A gas leak? Air conditioning? The breeze on a beach? Air leaking out of a tire?

Just one more mystery adding to the many that seem to surround this place…

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“Resurrection Diaries” by Paul D Aronson.

Original  text copyright 2007.

10th Anniversary Edition 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Resurrection Diaries Entry 14: The Watcher

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Entry 14: The Watcher: Sunday July 24

We all went to church this morning, Matt, Susan, Donna, and myself. We sat in the back because we didn’t want to feel out of place, but wouldn’t you know it, Pastor Chiles pointed us out to the whole church, trying to embarrass the new custodian. He did a good job of it, too.

As I sat in the congregation though, I couldn’t quite concentrate on his sermon. I kept looking to the ceiling, half expecting to hear sounds of footsteps running across the floor above. But nothing like that happened.

The invitation hymn was “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”, and my thoughts were drawn to Mischa with the line “thou will find a solace there”. I wonder if she will ever find peace.

We had lunch in the cottage. Donna fixed her specialty, spaghetti. I thought I would eat until I popped. Afterwards, Matt and I sat out back.

“What’s in the woods?” he asked. “Any trails?”

“Yeah there’s a few.” I wondered whether to tell him about the old playground in there.

“Take a walk?”

“Sure. Why not?”

We walked through the woods and I didn’t have to wonder whether to tell him about the playground or not. We were there soon enough.

“Wow,” he exclaimed. “What’s this stuff doing way back here?”

“I don’t know. I just found it the other day.”

Matt walked up under the old twisted jungle gym. “Remember how we used to play on these things all the time?” He began to climb it. “We were a bunch of monkeys.”

Once at the top of the dome shaped bars, he looked up into the trees that hung low over it. “They must have had something up here.”

“Why?” I asked from my spot below.

“There’s rope marks on this branch. Deep ones, too. Kids probably swung from it. Bet that was fun.”

He scrambled back down to me. “Man, I’d love to be a kid again.”

I grinned. “Yep, I know what you mean.”

We both turned to walk back to the house. Suddenly, there was a rustling noise in the woods, as if something was running across fallen leaves. Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw a figure through the trees.

“Hey!” I yelled, but the person didn’t stop. He kept on running into the woods.

“Maybe we were playing on his monkey bars,” Matt joked.

“Yeah, maybe so,” I agreed, but I didn’t like the notion that someone had been watching us.

Matt and Susan left this evening. It sure has been nice having them over this weekend, but I’m anxious for the work week to start. The mystery of Mischa’s ghost beckons to me.

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“Resurrection Diaries” by Paul D Aronson.

Original text copyright 2007.

10th Anniversary Edition 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Resurrection Diaries Entry 13: Matt and Susan

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Entry 13: Matt & Susan: Saturday July 23

Matt and Susan arrived this morning. It was great to see our friends again. We all went into town and had lunch, but we didn’t go to the diner, just in case the waitress that “warned” us was working.

Then Susan and Donna went shopping, while Matt and I went to the movies at the town’s only theater. Afterwards, we met up with the ladies and went back to our modest little cottage. We played a couple of board games. Donna and Susan are the most competitive Monopoly players I know.

In the evening, Matt and I sat on the porch. He asked me how I liked it here with the new job and all. I told him it was great. I really wanted to tell him about the ghost of Mischa Martin, but I didn’t think that would be a good idea. Matt and I are close, but I don’t want him questioning my sanity.

As we sat and talked, the dog sauntered around the corner and came up on the porch with us. He sat down by my feet.

“Did you get a new dog?” Matt asked.

“No, it’s just a stray that has become attached to us.”

He chuckled. “You know Donna’s mom is going to have a fit.”

I nodded with a little smirk. “Yep, I suppose she is.” Donna’s mother is allergic to dog’s fur. I’m going to have to find a way to keep him away from her, or I’ll never hear the end of it.

It was late when Matt and Susan left. They are going to stay at a nearby hotel and then meet us for church in the morning. It will be our first time attending services at Resurrection, but I figure since I work there, and I’m not going anywhere else, we might as well attend their worship.

Okay, so today there were no ghosts, and to be honest, I was so distracted by our visiting friends that I didn’t think of Mischa much, but something tells me if I forget her for long, she will remind me.

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“Resurrection Diaries” by Paul D Aronson.

Original text copyright 2007.

10th Anniversary Edition 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Resurrection Diaries Entry 12: Anklet Test

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Entry 12: Anklet Test: Friday July 22

Today was an interesting day. Donna and I woke up with the sun. She automatically began straightening up our little house since Matt and Susan will be here tomorrow. I got dressed for work and headed over to the church.

The information that Mrs. Shiflett had given me weighed heavy on my mind and I thought about all the things she’d said. As I’d left her last night, her final words echoed in my head. “I think we’d know if she came home.” Something inside told me she had come home. But not as a prodigal daughter who’d gone away to have an abortion or run off with an older man. No, this Mischa, I was beginning to think, had come home as a wraith. And though some of the elderly woman’s speculations made sense, there were some things that just didn’t add up.

For instance, if Mischa is in fact still alive, how can her teenage self be roaming the upper floors of the church? My bet is that she is dead, and it is her ghost I have seen and heard.

And then there’s Tommy Blaine. If the ghost is Mischa as I suspect, and if Tommy Blaine is still alive, then who is the boy pursuing her through the hall?

I really wanted to talk to Tommy, but there was another experiment I wanted to try first. I wanted to hide the anklet. Put it somewhere under lock and key where no one had access to it except me. And then if it showed up in the closet again, I’d feel certain the spirit of Mischa is trying to communicate.

So I went back over to the house to get it. Problem is I couldn’t find the thing. I checked my pants pocket from the night before and it wasn’t there. I searched the nightstand, the bathroom, even the car. There was no anklet. I asked Donna if she’d cleaned out my pants pocket and she said no. Then I thought maybe Mrs. Shiflett hadn’t given it back to me, but no, I distinctly remember her handing it over. I scrambled all around the house looking for it, but it was gone. There was only one place it could be.

I ran back over to the church, and went upstairs to the rec room. The hallways were empty, the rooms silent, and as I reached for the closet door, I momentarily hesitated. But when I opened it, the closet was empty. There was no anklet on the floor.

I shook my head, disappointed in myself for acting so weird. I’d apparently lost the anklet somewhere between Mrs. Shiflett’s and home last night. I wouldn’t see it again.

I thought I’d go home and eat some lunch with my wife, but when I walked over she was sitting on the front porch, her hands in her lap. I could tell by the look on her face something was wrong.

“I cleaned up the office today. Took all that ugly paper down.”.

“Did you make it angel blue?” I asked, thinking of the paint we’d bought in town.

“Not yet. I think you should see the room before I do anything with it.”

“What’s wrong with it?”

“Go take a look.”

“Okay.” I noticed she wasn’t making a move to get up and show me, so I went inside to see for myself.

She had taken down the makeshift wallpaper that had been there. The biblical scenes torn from magazines now lay on the floor. A Bosch painting of hell stared back up at me and I wondered how they could put such a horrible image in today’s modern bible.

But it wasn’t what was on the floor that was bothering Donna. It was what the pictures had been covering up that had her out there sitting on the porch. It appeared someone had taken crayons and drew on the walls. Most of it was just scribbling, random letters thrown together in a shaky scrawl, as if the artist had been out of his mind and desperately trying to find words. I did find it a bit unsettling, because it reminded me of something I’d read about once called spirit writing, where a person channeled the thoughts and energy of the dead and wrote it on paper. A lot of that stuff was jibberish too. But here on these walls, it had an stranger effect, for someone obviously had gone out of their way to cover up the message that finally got scrawled in one corner. The message was eerie enough: COVER NOT THOU MY BLOOD. In big red crayon it was emblazoned in the corner, as if the artist had crawled there for comfort. And there in the smallest of letters beneath it was something else. Apparently written in a different hand, it read: go away little girl. Somehow I don’t think it was quoting the Donny Osmond song.

I stood there for a few minutes looking at the walls. What had happened here? Who wrote this stuff? And who had hastily covered it up? It makes more sense to me that they could have just painted over it. But instead they hastily covered it with magazine and bible pages. Maybe they did it so quickly because they couldn’t stand to be in this room long enough to paint.

When I returned to the front porch Donna was still sitting there. I sat down next to her and put my arm around her shoulder. “It’s okay. It’s nothing,” I tried to console her.

“What is it all about? What do you think happened in there?”

“I don’t know. I’ll ask Larter about it, okay.”

“If there’s something wrong with the cottage, we shouldn’t be here.”

“There’s nothing wrong, Donna. We got something good here. Maybe it was just kids or vandals. We don’t know how long this place has been empty.”

“It just freaked me out. I wasn’t expecting that when I took the paper down.”

I kissed her on her forehead. “It freaked me out too, sweety. I’ll tell Larter and he’ll get somebody out here to paint it. You won’t have to do it, okay? After it’s painted you won’t even know there was ever a thing wrong.”

She smiled weakly. I knew as well as she did, she wouldn’t forget what was on the walls.

After going home for lunch, I returned once again to the quiet church. Friday afternoons are silent there. No one on the staff comes in and I’m left with myself to do the cleaning. No secretaries, no pastors, just me.

I was cleaning the vestibule when I heard it. That familiar sound from upstairs. Footsteps running across the floor.

I dropped what I was doing and bounded up the stairs. Reaching the top I saw them, just as I thought I would. They were halfway down the hall, running playfully in the opposite direction. Her skirt flowed behind her, followed by her own giggles, and the boy’s Sunday suit almost rustled as he ran in happy pursuit of her.

“Hey!” I yelled.

They didn’t pay attention, so I took off after them. But like before, they went around the corner and were gone. I didn’t see them vanish or disappear in wisps of smoke for I was too far away. When I came around the corner, they were just gone.

I stopped and waited. I listened for it and soon there it was, the girlish giggle emanating from the rec room. I went in and walked straight to the closet. I jerked the door open and there it was on the floor. The anklet with “MM” emblazoned across it.

I reached down and picked it up, inspecting it. Yes, it was the same one. Taken from my possession somehow and placed here.

“Mischa,” I whispered. “Are you here?”

Normally I would feel stupid, but not anymore. This was beyond my comprehension, but otherworldly things were at work, and I’m thinking someone is trying to tell me something.

“Mischa,” I repeated, this time a little louder, but I was met with only silence. I looked at the anklet in my hand. “I’m going to find out what happened to you.”

Now as I write this entry, it is early evening. Donna is once again in the den watching TV, her escape from the world. I’m in the kitchen with the backdoor open. Our dog friend sits out there and I can see him through the screen.

“What do you know, boy?” I ask him.

He just stares back, but I’m nearly convinced this dog is tied somehow to the mystery of Mischa Martin. In fact I think everything about this place is probably connected, like parts of a huge interlocking puzzle. It’s just a matter of finding the missing pieces…

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“Resurrection Diaries” by Paul D Aronson.

Original text copyright 2007.

10th Anniversary Edition 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Resurrection Diaries Entry 11: Mrs Shiflett

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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.

“You do?”

“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.”

“Dead?”

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.”

“Tommy Blaine?”

“He was her beau. Nice looking fellow I recall. Smart, athletic, not the kind to go mad at all. But he did.”

“What happened?”

“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.”

“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.

Resurrection Diaries Entry 7: The Playground

Resurrection Diaries: 10th Anniversary Main Page

Entry 7: The Playground: Sunday July 17

The church lot was full this morning. It looks like attendance is good at Resurrection, so I guess if there were any bad things or scandals, it must not have been too awful. Yesterday’s warning from the waitress was probably just local superstition. We didn’t attend the services though. Instead, I fixed breakfast for Donna and I, a Sunday tradition in our marriage, and we had a quiet meal together.

 

Later on we decided to take a walk through the neighborhood. Just a little weekend leg exercise. The neighborhood seems pretty typical. Small ranch style houses, even smaller yards. I noticed here you could lean out your window and practically touch your neighbor’s house. Some houses had garages, others kiddie pools. I noticed children playing in the street as we walked. Girls playing hopscotch, boys street football. It was then I realized there was no playground here. Kids were playing in the street because they had nowhere else. So what had the pastor meant about the playground?

When Donna and I returned to the house, the dog was back again. He wasn’t on the porch this time though. He was just on the edge of the woods that lined our “backyard”. Our lot is bigger than most of the others in the neighborhood. It stretches far behind the house, ending in a line of trees that separates the church property from the next neighborhood over. The dog stood under these trees watching us.

“You think maybe we need to call the pound about our friend?”

“No, I think he’s harmless, hon,” Donna replied. “Probably belongs to someone around here.”

I looked at the dog. He wasn’t big, just an average size animal. A little bit taller than my knee and seemingly well fed. His coat was tan and a little mangy, as if he’d been crawling through brush and bramble.

“She says you’re okay,” I called out to him, before following my wife inside. But as I took a bottle of spring water from the refrigerator, something about the dog began to nag me.

“Honey, I’ll be back in a minute.” I went out the back door and there he was, still standing at the woods’ edge. He looked right at me, barked once, and then wandered into the woods. A little voice in my head said, ‘follow the dog.’

He went through the brush, and I followed, shoving vines and stickers out of my way as I went. We emerged onto an old trail that went in two directions. Each way disappeared around a bend. The dog went left and I was right behind him. The trail had grown over in places. I could tell nobody used this path much anymore, except maybe rabbits and dogs.

He kept a good pace. I picked mine up a little in an effort to catch up to him, but the faster I walked, the quicker he trotted ahead. He disappeared around a curve in the path and when I came around it, I noticed the trail had ended in a small clearing. But the dog was nowhere to be seen.

The clearing was dotted with clumps of bushes and brush. Vines and kudzu hung from trees, creating canopies in which you could almost hide. In the middle stood a gazebo, grown over with all this foliage. I stepped under it to get a closer look at its framework, but looking more closely, i discovered it wasn’t a gazebo at all. It was a jungle gym, what we as children called ‘monkey bars’.

I looked around the clearing. I approached what I had first thought was just a clump of bushes. It wasn’t. Closer inspection revealed it to be pieces of a swing set, discarded and left to be swallowed up by nature. And not far from it, the bare remains of a sandbox pit, now hidden by weeds. Suddenly it hit me. I’d found the playground.

I heard the dog’s bark behind me. I turned around and there he was, sitting on his haunches in front of something half hidden by a thick stand of trees. I walked over and the dog moved away, keeping its distance. He’d been sitting in front of an old sliding board. A covering of vines and leaves had protected most of its surface it seemed. The steps were rusted, but the slide itself still had a little shine left to it. I could see there were words etched in the metal, most likely carved by kids with pocketknives, rocks, or some other sharp instrument. “Billy Cobb is a loser,” read one. “Jason was here” declared another. At the bottom of the slide a scratched-in confession read “Tommy + Mischa” and I smiled at these mementos from someone else’s childhood.

For a moment, I stopped to wonder what their lives had been like. I imagined at one time this was a popular place to play. But it sure didn’t look like kids played here anymore. It had been abandoned for a long time, left here for the woods to swallow up and claim.

So, now I have to ask myself, why is it here like this, forgotten and unused?

I don’t know, but I aim to find out.

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“Resurrection Diaries” by Paul D Aronson.

Original text copyright 2007.

10th Anniversary Edition 2017.