A Town with No Cheer

by jamesmerolla

I smelled burning oil, gas, and grease. My head was pounding; at the time I assumed it was the gas fumes.  I took a deep breath and felt a sharp twitch in the right side of my rib cage. Something was broken. My ears were buzzing in some sort of rhythmic call. It sounded like a language. Then, I remembered who I was.

I remembered I was a man who had just made a Quantum jump through the space/time continuum. I had landed in the body of someone in a lot of pain. I could still hear the buzzing, it was speaking to me. It sounded like a hive of bees buzzing in collective rhythms. I heard a girl laughing. She sounded hysterical, then a stranger’s voice.

Glenn! Did it get ya? Oh Jesus!

Who’s there?

Glenn, can you hear me, Glenn? Lemme get this off ya buddy.

I heard a loud screech and suddenly a tremendous weight was lifted off of me.  I felt myself being lifted by a pair of hands. The hands were frigid and boney.  Rocked onto my feet, the footing beneath me was uneasy , as if I was on a fishing boat.

I saw a light, at first it was scaldingly bright, but then softened into blue. Everything looked blue, and a face came into shallow focus.

He’s an older man. Salt and pepper hair laid down like matted wheat on his leathery forehead. He had a mustache to match the hair. It spun out ever so slightly from just above his lip. He had a narrow smile on his face. It was a warm, a father’s smile.  But there was worry in his fuzzy blue eyes.

You okay buddy? Geez, I knew that latch was gonna be the death’a’me one these days.

Why… is she…… laughing?

Why’s who laughing, Glenn?

I don’t know. I can’t see her I just hear her.

Oh, her? Yeah, she’s been laughing like crazy since the hood came down on you. Hey, get out of here lady! He’s really hurt!

At first the laughing gets much louder, but then slowly fades as if drifting.  The older man watched her as she disappeared into the blue.

She’s gone now. Get off your feet Glenn, geez!

He rests me down on a splintery wooden bench at the edge of a rocky driveway. I could feel my lips and my fingertips getting cold.

I’m sorry about that Glenn, that latch…..Yeah, I knew that was gonna happen one of these days.

What happened?

Ew….That bump on your head must’ve really sent you for a loop huh?

Yeah, I think so.

Do you know what year it is?

Um…..1962?

Oh boy…..what’s your name?

Glenn?

Okay, good, what’s your birthday?

October 16th, 1981?

Oh, buddy. We gotta get you somewhere.

Why is everything blue here?

Come on, get in the truck. I’ll take you over to Ms. Lancy’s house. She’ll take care of you.

His cold hook-like hands lifted me off the bench. I felt my thick woolen pants take some of the bench with me.

I could feel the rust of the old truck chipping away as it lurched down the road. The old man stayed quiet, but occasionally he’d look over at me and give me a nervous smile.

The news was fighting the static on the radio. It all sounded like good news. There was a cheery harmony to everything reported. But then, when they got to the weather there was a sudden feeling of remorse, as if the weather man was about to read from the obituaries. Before he could get too far into his report, the old man reached down and angrily turned the radio off.

Without knocking, the old man opened a heavy looking door and shuffled me into the large old house. Everything in the house felt wooden. Even the sounds we made seemed to disappear into the imperfections of the walls, ceilings, and floors. There was ornate wood bordering every doorway, and every room the old man pulled me through had at list something reflective and expensive looking.

He found me a room at the end of the house with an unusually high ceiling. The painted wood beams in the ceiling seemed to cradle our every echo.

Just lay down there Glenn, and I’ll go find Ms.Lancy.

He laid me down on an uncomfortable couch, and I closed my eyes. The old man’s soft steps disappeared into the house.

The house felt like it had several people drifting within its hallways being careful not to wake the guests upstairs. And it smelled like a cedar box.

I was just slipping away when the sound of a woman clearing her throat shook me. Being suddenly too tired to want to open my eyes I pretended I didn’t hear it. But then it cut again, this time her intent was clear. My eyes opened, and everything was white.

A woman still too young to miss her youth, but old enough to see it slipping by, sat in an ornate chair watching me. She wore an understated, yet subtly daring white dress. It had whiffs of Victorian class. Two cups of coffee sat on the marble top table between us. Her skin almost seemed to glow against the light. She was a work of art. A simple canvas splashed with the delicate hue of pink in her cheeks, and gray in her eyes. Her straight blonde hair framed her perfectly.

Ed tells me you had quite an accident.

Yeah, I don’t know what happened.

He said something about a car hood?

I remember having a hood pulled off of me.

She laughed at this, and sipped her coffee.

Glenn, you’re a riot.

Where am I?

The same place you always are, Glowersville.

Oh, okay. What year is it?

Don’t be silly Glenn. Drink your coffee.

I’m pretty sure I have a concussion, and I might have at least one broken rib.

Oh, don’t be dramatic. Here, let me look at your head.

She stood up and gently stepped over to me. He fingers were icy, but her touch was gentle and deliberate.

You got a little bump, but I don’t think it’s too bad. Pull up your shirt let me look at your ribs.

She gingerly lifted the three layers of heavy clothing.

Well, your ribs look fine.

No, the pain is in my back.

She craned her neck slightly to peek just over my shoulder. Her eyes suddenly seemed to widen slightly. I stretched my neck to look for myself.

You have a little bruise, but we’ll just get some ice on it, and get you patched up. If there’s one good thing about Glowersville is you never have a shortage of ice, huh? 

Before I could get a good look at my back she gently turned my head with her cold touch.

Just take a sip of coffee. It’ll help you relax.

I swore I saw a fairly large bruise just as she was turning my head. She laid me back down onto the couch. My eyes fixed on the ceiling again. I felt her stand and walk from me.

Martha! Will you hurry with that bandage and ice?

My eyes wanted to close again.

Just set it over there, Martha, dear.

The smell of cigarettes masked by perfume filled my nose. It smelled like youth. It eased me into a deep sleep.

I woke up to someone prying my left eye open. When my right eye opened she jumped back and attempted in vain to duck behind the edge of the bed.

I’m sorry.

An apologetic smile hung on her thin youthful face.  Her eyes, a swirl of red and brown winced.

Who are you?

I’m Martha Lancy. My mother asked me to watch you for a little while.

Why were you sticking your fingers in my eye?

I thought you might be dead.

You weren’t hoping I was dead were you?

You’re always a comedian, Glenn.

She rolled her eyes and sighed as she dropped back down in the chair beside the bed. She wore a white and red checkered sweater. Her sleeves were pulled up slightly, revealing the fine hair on her arms. Her light brown hair was pulled back neatly, and she smiled as she put her fingers to her mouth.

She looked bored, with a spark of anger just beneath the surface.  She wasn’t as young as she seemed.

You want to hear another funny one?

Of course I do.

Where am I?

She sat up with a burst of interest.

You really are out of it, aren’t you?

Well, yeah. I think a car hood fell on my head.

When Ed brought you over we just assumed you were faking it to get out of working. Even Ed thought so.

Ed was the one that dropped the hood on my head.

Yeah, he’s like that. So, you really don’t know where you are?

That’s right. The only thing I know is you’re Martha, and it’s winter.

She bit her red lip in a vain effort to hide her smile.

If I told you it was always winter here, would you believe me?

No.

It’s true.

Can I get something to drink maybe?

It is always winter here Glowersville. In fact, you and Ed are trying to do something about it.

I haven’t eaten in a while.

Well, you’re not really trying to do anything about. You’re trying to do something about the fact that we haven’t had snow in 62 years.

I don’t even know where I live.

You guys are scientists, and you are trying to make it snow again. Every day you go down to that shop by the lake and try to make it snow.

She leaned in closer to whisper in my ear. The smell of perfume and cigarettes pulled over me like a blanket.

I know the truth about what you guys are really doing though.

Martha, can you help me with something?

What does she want now? I’ll talk to you more later. Coming mother!

Martha slipped out of the room in a red flash.

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