Chapter 1 — 626 Meridian


Saturday 24 May 1986


“Here we are, ma’am,” said the driver into the rearview mirror, “626 Meridian.”

“Sir, are you sure this is Meridian Avenue?” she asked.

“Yes, ma’am, this is Meridian; ain’t no other Meridian in Mackinaw Ferry.”

“Can you wait five minutes, please?  I’d like to get out.”

“Yes, ma’am, ain’t no hurry today; it’s Saturday.”

She glanced forward and behind to make sure there were no cars approaching then tentatively stepped from the taxi into the street.

She was a young woman in her early twenties and wore a denim pintuck jumper.  She was pretty and had lovely wavy hair, amber colored, and freckles to match that spangled the bridge of her nose.  But her expression was worried as she stepped from the vehicle and gazed across the top of the cab at the house numbered 626.  How shabby everything is, she thought, not only our house but the whole neighborhood.  I remember it neater but I guess this must be it she concluded.

The cabbie rolled down his window to let in cool air.  The young woman shut her door and walked past him to the front of the car where she abruptly stopped near the left headlight, as if almost stepping on something.  From where she stood, she searched the asphalt in front of her but saw nothing except a web of cracks.  Then she surveyed the driveway and street all around as if looking for something.

Probably about where I’m standing she thought.  Right here!  This is where the car would have hit me and I landed probably… there.  And my pretty new bicycle would have ended up here under the car.  She made a mental note of each place on the street. The cabbie began whistling to politely remind her he was waiting.

But not until she was satisfied did the girl move from where she stood and make her way to the front gate of the house.  She entered the gate and walked confidently up the pocked concrete path, through the unkempt yard, to the porch.  The porch sagged with age where it mounted to the door.

The girl reached for the doorbell button but then hesitated and withdrew her hand, bringing the fingertips of her hand, instead, to her lips.  Might Mama or Papa answer? she wondered.  That thought made her knees wobbly.  What would I say to them if they did?  She turned and glanced back at the cabbie who seemed lost in his own world.  He only stared ahead and whistled while tapping his round fingers on the steering wheel.

You’ve come too far and waited too long to chicken out now she admonished herself.  So with that, she turned again to the doorbell and rang it and held her breath.  She heard the bell ring inside the house and heavy footsteps approach.

A short, round woman opened the door.  She was, perhaps, in her fifties and a little out of breath.  She gazed blankly at the young woman through the closed screen door.  Then brushing a strand of dull hair upward, off her forehead, she exhaled before speaking.  The girl smiled nervously.

“Yes, can I help you?” said the woman in a high pitched voice.

The girl felt relief because the woman behind the screen door was not her mother.

“Yes, good morning, ma’am,” said the visitor.

“Hi,” responded the woman flatly.

“I’m looking for someone,” the girl began.  “Actually, I’m looking for a family who used to live at this address.”

“This address?” said the woman incredulously.

“Yes, ma’am,” answered the girl.

“I don’t see how that can be,” said the woman, “my husband and I have owned this house since 1970.  And I can’t even remember who owned it before us.  Bob, my husband, might but he’s at work and doesn’t get off till five.  I’m sorry, young lady, but I don’t see how I can help you.”

The woman behind the screen began easing the door closed on her visitor.

“Ma’am I’m terribly sorry for the inconvenience,” blurted the girl, “but I’ve come an awfully long way—all the way from Montana, actually.  And it’s my family I’m looking for.  I used to live here.”

“Oh!” said the woman, “I didn’t know.”  Surprised by this news, the older woman drew the door open again.  “But I still don’t see how I can help you, dear,” she said.

“I promise to only take a minute of your time but I have a couple of questions I’d like to ask you.  And even if you don’t know the answers, if you could try to answer them, I’d be terribly grateful.”

“Well, okay then,” said the woman hesitantly, “I suppose I can try.”

The older woman opened the screen and asked the young woman if she wanted to come in.

“Oh, no thank you.  I won’t be a minute,” replied the girl, “and the cab’s waiting on me.”

“All right then but I don’t remember much.”

“Thank you.  I appreciate this,” said the girl.

Finally having gained permission to interview the woman of 626, the young woman inhaled deeply and proceeded with her first question:

“Ma’am, the folks who owned this house before you, was their name Larsen by any chance?”

“Larsen—hmm, let me think.  Well, we bought it from a woman; I do remember that.  She didn’t have a husband as I recall.  But the name Larsen doesn’t ring any bells.  If Bob were here, he might know.”

“It wasn’t a couple with a daughter who lived here before you?  I guess the daughter would have been close to the same age as I am now?”

“Now that you mention it, I think there was a girl but no husband.  That I know for sure because I thought it odd: a woman owning a house by herself.”

The young woman looked puzzled but continued her inquiry.

“So after the owner—the single woman—sold you the house, do you know where she and the daughter went, where they might have moved?”

“Nope, I haven’t a clue.  The lady was gone before Bob and I moved in.  I couldn’t tell you where, neither.  She was in a hurry, though.  She had been asking twenty-one thousand for the place but needed cash she said.  We offered her eighteen cash money and she took it without batting an eye.  But as soon as she got the check she was gone.”

“Had she possibly only owned the house a short time?  Like, say, less than three or four years?”

“Um, well, let me think.  No, I’m sorry; that I couldn’t tell you.  But say, why don’t you describe the woman you’re thinking of, then I can tell you if she’s the one I remember.  Was she your mother?”

“Yes, ma’am, she was,” said the young woman.

So the young woman described her mother as best she could to the woman holding open the screen and the type of clothes her mother usually wore and a couple of mannerisms, characteristic of her.

“Well, you know,” said the woman, “I do believe that was her.  You described the woman I remember to a T, though I only met her a couple of times.  I do wish I could tell you more.  Oh now wait a minute—  I do remember her saying she had two daughters but that one was away, though I only saw the one daughter and saw her just once.  But I remember her mentioning a second daughter.  Are you the daughter who was away?”

“Yes, ma’am,” said the young woman, “I was away.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, where were you?  Sent away to boarding school or something?”  There was a hint of scandal implied in the question.

“Actually, I was dead,” said the young woman bluntly.

“Dead?” repeated the woman, dismayed.

“Yes, I was away in heaven but I’ve since been reincarnated.  And now I’m trying to locate my family from my previous life.”

“Well, I—I just don’t know what to say to that,” stammered the woman, “but I’m afraid you’ll have to leave now.”  Her face had gone white and her ears red and the corners of her mouth had curled downward and now her eyes bulged with astonishment or anger.

The young visitor tried to thank the woman of 626 Meridian for her time before the door closed in her face.  But then the young woman—apparently used to such indignities—shrugged, turned around, and walked back to the waiting cab.

“To where, ma’am?” asked the driver.

“To the Community Church on Garland Avenue, please, if it’s still there.”

“Yes, ma’am, no problem,” said the driver.

Copyright by Dale Tucker.  All rights reserved.