Original writings by Adrienne Nater

Into Focus  - Chapter One

The Crucial Journey

The door closes. A figure stands, arms crossed, staring. The carpet is white: the walls are white, the drapes are white, the ceiling is white, the shelving is white. The mirror is dark: mementos piled up, surfaces overflow with books, trophies, photo albums. Family photographs stare into the room. Nothing moves. Nothing sounds.

Moves. Eleven steps. Stops. Looks down. The desk: white shaded lamp, left; typewriter, center; pen, pencil, paper, right. Top center, clock and calendar: October 9th, 1:43 PM. Outside, Southern California. Inside, cold shadows.

The bookcase. Eyes scan the titles. Pulls a book from the third shelf, reads the title, puts the book back. Turns again. White walls. Family photos, floor to ceiling. Hands stroke the photo albums, scrapbooks, mementos. Sits on the arm of the sofa, pulls out an album at random, opens, views the faces, places ― closes.

Back to the desk. Sits. The weight presses her into the chair. 1:46 PM. Fingers rest on the keyboard: reaches to the right, picks up a black pen and a blank piece of lined paper.

Writes the date at the upper right; only the date, nothing more. Script neat, small and precise: each letter, each number, definable, chillingly familiar. The lack of style is the style.

Pushes the chair back, stands, and stumbles to the door. Fingers grip the handle, pressing downward. Opens the door, hesitates. Right hand reaches out. The photograph is seventy-five years old. Fingers trace two figures. Smiles, nods her head, turns away, closes the door.

And now she walks down the hall staring at her feet, her walk, familiar, strangely familiar, and moves through the living room, into the kitchen to the refrigerator and opens the door, reaches for the bottom shelf and grabs a can of beer and then opens the freezer and finds a cold glass. She opens the can, pours and throws the can into the recycle bin and walks across the room to her armchair and sits with her feet up resting on the hassock. Then she takes out a cigarette, picks up the lighter, flicks the lighter, all the while watching her hands. She lifts the glass and takes a long drink, and leans back. She closes and opens her eyes and watches the smoke drifts out the window. Her glass is half empty.

She walked to the open front door, shrugged her shoulders, pushed open the screen door thatís never locked and stepped outside. She saw the roses. She walked across the gravel-covered yard, head down, each step creating a grinding sound. She turned around, tilted her head up and gazed at the house. Then she placed her right hand on the tree for support, lowered herself to the ground and sat with her back against the trunk of the Magnolia.

Beneath her were the sharp uneven rocks. She closed her eyes and gathered her legs under the robe, wrapping her arms around her knees. She was still, listening. "Alice, get my check book! Iíll write you a check right now and we will ---" "But thatís $10,000 dollars!"

It started to come back to her. The narrow road, the rocks, the barbwire fencing, the endless expanse of weeds, the wild vines, wild gum and pepper trees, yellow flowering mustard. She looked down, picked up one of the jagged rocks, traced a rectangle in the dirt, heard old Ray, the builder -- "Run the chalk line and letís get started on the measurements. 1,100 square feet, slab foundation, cedar exterior, 1 X 12í planks, two fireplaces, gray slate entry, white frame windows and the usual fixtures."

Her eyes flashed open and she saw the house: gray cedar planking, gray roof, two white chimneys, gray slate entryway, white framed windows: Twenty years. She looked up through the leaves into the blue. Placed her right hand on the ground for support, stretched out her legs and pushed to a kneeling position. A branch of the tree touched her head. She took a deep breath sniffing the air. "What is it?" Who? Barbeque. No, onions and cloves with smoke flavor: Something, someone moves into her line of sight, near the barn entrance. "Where shall I go?"

She is unaware of the sunlight. She begins to walk, small careful steps to the orchard gate. Her hands automatically reaching forward to lift the cane latch. It strikes the adjoining fence with a sound so familiar that the goats donít notice as they rush toward her.

"One, two, three, four." She was counting her steps up the path. Counting each stride, "41, 42, 43 --- 101, 102 103," until she reached 247. The trees on either side of the path formed a sanctuary as she walked. She reached the chain-link fence and gate at the northern boundary of the property. She stood and stared, focusing on the 1888 farmhouse. Her position at the fence unchanging: still standing, hands gripping the wire. She doesnít hear the trees rustling, the voices are too clear now: "Wish the old man who bought the place would keep up the old homestead." " Iíll bring the tractor for the heavy field work." "You like potatoes? Weíll bring you some from the harvest." "Them pigs is boars, girls." "Why would you want to live in the country?"

She lowers herself to the ground, supported by the hand over hand grasp she has on the fence wire. On her knees now, her head buried in her hands, elbows on the ground. She didnít feel the sweat rolling down her body. She crawled to the shelter of one of the trees, sat, her legs stretched out in front of her, her arms and hands out to the side. Her head was back, her gaze upward through the branches and leaves. Then she placed her open hands together, lowered her head, thumbs under her chin, fingers straight, like a prayer. Her eyes open, her gaze fixed, watching the path, framing the scene. "Is that someone standing in the orchard?" She sees a tall figure with thick wavy gray hair, dressed in white pants, white silk shirt, white shoes, Armaniís? She calls out, "Hello, there." The sound of her own voice frightens her; she moves to get up. The figure disappears.

She drops back down into the thick layers of leaves, breathes in the earthís aroma.

A warm comforting feeling is by her side, a weight across her left shoulderó"Mac, is that you?"

Mac, you wonderful dog, you are a comfort. "Comfort." She speaks the word aloud. But, then, at this exact moment, in the filtered sunlight, she is determined not to think of words as she lies in the soft leaves, looking skyward, stroking Macís head and shoulders. She takes deep relaxed breaths, letting the pungent odors surround her. She closes her eyes, drifts back. Signs to the left, signs to the right. She sees people, places, objects; days and nights pass by. She feels hot, then cold, wet then dry. Sun, moon and stars blend into one glow. She listens: sounds are missing, voices are silenced, the noise is of the silence. She recognizes, one after the other, the streets and avenues. She hears herself pronouncing the words on the road signs.

`She has been down each one and back again. Is it her feet that are traveling so fast and easy along the road? She senses no contact. Then she wonders: am I the one in motion or is the road moving by my stationary body?

Her eyes open and close again. Leaves, bark, cobwebs surround her. And then, she is back living in Los Angeles, when it was a sleepy, sprawling town, more then sixty years past. 1937 Myra Street.





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