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
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
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