Wednesday, June 14, 2006

An Even Trade

Casey pulled the car into the only remaining spot and climbed out. The sun was shining down in a ruthless sort of way, outside of the air conditioned car the temperatures were spiraling upwards towards the 100’s. Sweat began to form on the back of her neck where the strap of her camera was hanging.

She’d been meaning to come to Graceland Cemetery for years; to photograph the headstones that were surrounded by ghost stories and strange myths. Dexter Graves, whose headstone, a 25 foot statue of a mysterious, shrouded figure, was said to give visions of death, Ludwig Wolff, who was so rich and eccentric that he had a ventilation system built into his grave, so that he could breath after he’d been entombed, and little Inez Clark, whose statue disappeared from within the glass case during lightening storms, storms like the one that killed her so many years ago.

“Mommy… why are we at a semi-tary?”

Casey inwardly sighed. None of the scenarios of her exploring the cemetery had included having her six year old daughter along for the trip. She walked around the car and helped the girl out of her car seat. She smoothed the girl’s hair before putting her baseball cap on and straightened her shirt, which proudly proclaimed ‘Chicks Rule!’ across her chest. “Mommy just needs to take a few pictures here, then we’ll go get some lunch.”

Zoe perked up immediately. “McDonalds?” She asked happily. “Can I get a Happy Meal? Can I play in the tunnels? Can we stay for an hour? For two hours? Can we stay for two hours Mommy? Please? I’ll be so good, I promise! I’ll be so good if we can only stay for three hours!” She held up three fingers hopefully.

“We’ll see.” She told the girl before taking her hand. “Now, remember this is a quiet place, so you have to be very quiet and not run around a lot.”

The girl nodded and, as they passed through the fence, began tiptoeing along, trying to be as quiet as possible.

Casey led the girl around the cemetery, clicking random pictures now and then. The girl was behaving so well that she felt she may well have to let the girl stay in the tunnels at McDonald’s for three hours as a reward.

Finally she found Inez Clark’s grave, the one she had been most interested in photographing. “Sweety, sit down right here by the tree while I take some pictures. Tell BoBear a story.”

Zoe sat down and sternly told her bear to stop making so much noise and listen up before beginning to rattle off a nonsensical story about a butterfly with an elephant trunk.

Circling around the statue, Casey admired the fine work that had been done. It was life size, the girl was almost the same size as Zoe and sitting primly in a little wicker chair on the sand. She was wearing a beautiful dress with lace around the collar and wrists, the sort that Zoe often begged for when shopping and cried horribly when she was denied. There was a straw hat hanging from her neck, held there by a ribbon, and she was holding a lace umbrella with which she’d written her name in the sand. It truly was a beautiful memorial to the girl who had died so young.

The click and beep of her digital camera was the only sounds for several minutes while she took photo after photo of the girl, wanting to get every detail on record.

Click, beep, the girl’s colorless eyes were staring into the camera.

Click, beep, her smooth cheek and the curve of her jaw.

Click, beep, the lobe of one ear sticking out from under a gathering of hair.

Casey lowered the camera with shaking hands. She’d taken the three pictures in rapid succession without moving an inch. She peered through the glass and saw that indeed, the statue was now looking the other direction entirely. Almost on instinct, she turned to see what the statue was now facing.

BoBear was lying abandoned on the ground and Zoe was no where to be seen.

The thrill of seeing someone so amazingly paranormal was immediately replaced by pure terror. “Zoe!” She yelled and dropped her camera, distantly she heard it click and beep as it took another photo. “Zoe Ann!” Her voice echoed through the grounds and several people turned to stare at her.

“I’m here Mommy. I was playin’ with the little girl.”

Casey whipped around and felt all the breath leave her as suddenly as if she’d been punched in the stomach.

Zoe was standing just behind her, beaming excitedly at her mother. “We traded!” She said happily. The girl’s jeans and tee-shirt were gone, along with her flipflops and baseball hat. Instead she was wearing a beautiful dress with lace around the collar and wrists, a straw hat perched neatly on her head. Spinning around, she watched the skirt flare out in all directions around her before opening up the lace umbrella and dancing around with it.

“Traded?” She asked the girl weakly.

Nodding, Zoe pointed up at the statue encased in glass. “See Mommy?”

Casey turned to look at the glass and backed away in alarm.

The statue was no longer sitting primly in her little wicker chair in her beautiful dress. Instead she was sitting cross-legged in the seat, one flipflop abandoned on the sand in front of her, a tee shirt proclaiming ‘Chicks Rule!’ on and a baseball cap pulled low, as if trying to hide the impish grin on her face.


Blogger mrspao said...

Phew! I won't have that many nightmares tonight.

12:09 PM  

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