Then, just as quickly, she was back in the “blue” room with no beginning, and no end. The man asked, “Why did you go there?”
“Down by the river?”
She looked down at her feet. “I thought we just talked about that. My mother made me go.”
The man raised her chin, “Your mom took you to a dance hall, but you made the choice to go down by the river, not her. You led the cowboy on. You know what was in your mind. You seduced him. He didn’t seduce you! You see, you make your own decisions. You can blame anyone you want, but you and only you make those choices in life. You can put them off on other people, you can lie, you can reason, but just like that ‘S.P.J.S.T.’ is really a bar, you really wanted to be there in that truck on that riverbank!”
“She made me!”
“Did she make you go outside with the cowboy?”
Veronica was trapped within her own lie. She went with the cowboy for the thrill. True, she was using the methods she’d sharpened to a razor’s edge to entice men, but it was ultimately her free will, and not her mother who went out that back door with the young man.
“Mom always wanted me to be the prettiest girl in town. She waved me around like a beauty queen ever since I can remember. My jeans were better, my hair was perfect, everything. It was almost as if she got a charge out of me. Do you think a woman can be like that, I mean as pretty as I am, and not go down by that riverbank?”
“Did you ever hear about self control?”
A shadow crossed her face, “There’s a fire inside of me. I keep that fire burning on low, but every now and then it gets out of control. That fire just goes all over me, and I gotta just let it burn down.”
“Couldn’t you have had ‘fun’ at your table. He gave you beer, and wanted to sit there with you. Why go out the door?”
She looked down again. The reality was coming home to her. Slowly she looked up and softly said, “I wanted more.”
“You know, the thrill. I felt like I wanted that fire to break out. I felt as if my whole life were trapped in this oily scum, and that if I went through that door with him that I’d feel clean and free for a little while.”
“No.” She smiled a sheepish little smile, “After the fire goes down it really don’t change anything. All you have left after the fire is gone is ashes.”
She walked to what she thought was the edge of the room. She found that there was not an edge at all. She reached out a hand and the blue extended. She tried to “walk” a bit more, but walk didn’t do justice to what was happening because she wasn’t walking at all but existing in a series of moments, drifting along in the blue mists of eternity. It was so peaceful and she began to understand how a soul would eventually choose to stay here in this place of no return. For the first time in her life she was not conscious of ego, or self. Yet there seemed to be a “self” here, only it wasn’t her, it was the other. This “other” seemed to permeate the entire existence of the beings that inhabited this side of the veil. While in life you intellectually knew about the other, here you felt it. You felt it as an abiding force, yet not a force, but something to be absorbed, or rather to absorb you. The “other” seemed to be just the other side of the blue mists but as she approached it kept going farther away. She felt like she could have walked forever. Stopping, she turned to look back. The spirit guide was still in the same proximity he’d been when she started walking. She actually hadn’t gone anywhere!
“I didn’t want sex. I wanted freedom. Being with him in that way didn’t really give me what I wanted, but it came close, but you just can’t quite touch it, you know?”
“Did you ever think that maybe your mother had those same feelings? Maybe she was trying to communicate some of them to you?”
She looked away again, and laughed dryly, “My mom; she got old, but she was still trying to…be me!”
“Could she ever be you? Could she have ever been you?”
“No. She lost it. She could never be me. She wasn’t even a good grandma. After the baby was born, she never came to Memphis. She never wrote me. She never called. She just sat alone in that shack behind Fat Eddie’s and got fatter, and all the time all she wanted was more party! She wanted more party. More party! She just knew if the men came to our table because of me, they’d notice her, too. Ray worked all the time. She was trying to go back. Thought if she tried hard enough she’d be sixteen again, and he’d notice her but it didn’t happen that way, though. She never appreciated Ray. He wasn’t like that. All she had to do was be herself, but she lost herself so long ago she could never find it again.”
“Did you? Did you appreciate your stepfather?”
A film of tears came over June’s eyes, “Appreciate? I loved him.” She looked directly into the guide’s eyes, “Ray was the only man I ever really loved!”
“Do you think that perhaps your mother felt the competition for Ray’s attention?”
Veronica was shaken down to her core. In her mind’s eye, a flash of a picture of her aging appeared before her. She remembered the pictures of her mom at her age. She was beautiful, too. She had in effect given up her life to raise the girl, who was the apple of her husband’s eye, and now all she asked in return was to watch her have fun at the S.P.J.S.T. hall.
“Will I be at that table some day?”
He looked at her and replied, “No, you will never be at that table, but there is a table for you, just not that one. That’s part of what I’m here for.” There was a kind of finality in his words, with a gravity that made her blood run cold.
“I’ll be one of those souls that gets lost and simply never makes it back?”
“No, it is important that you do make it back. You have work to do back at that intersection, but you have to learn some things about yourself before that. If I hadn’t taken you on this journey you would never be able to make the right choices when the time comes.”
Then he waved his hand and Veronica saw the scene appear before her again. Her mother was laughing, drinking her beer, and watching the people dance. She moved toward her and looked at her for the longest time. It became apparent that her mother could not see her. She watched her face. Slowly tears formed in her eyes and rolled down her lovely cheeks.
“Mom, I never realized. It’s so awful to be old. It’s so awful to know that you are not the center of the party. You robbed me of everything, my youth, my life, my dad, everything. Why couldn’t you just put it down and be “mom?” You broke your neck trying to get into the Bend, and I just threw it away, doing the very things you taught me to do, and then, when I was of no more use to you, you never even called! And you know why I threw it away? I did it because I hated you! I hated you for what you did to me, to Ray, to everyone!”
She looked at her mother and saw a strange satisfaction in her face. It was a perverse satisfaction that she’d never noticed before. Only now did she realize where it was really coming from. She looked into the crowd and saw the people dancing. Her mother was enjoying the dance. Veronica could see herself sitting at the table miserable, even after the joint, and the trip outside, but her mother had the happiness of being the mother of the most beautiful girl at the hall! By being the mother of the seductress she was in fact the seductress herself. The beauty lived on in another generation. People were still captivated by the rare beauty that June had inherited from her. As long as that beauty was there, there would always be hope. For her mother, that hope was all that she had left.
Quietly, almost the volume of a human heartbeat June whispered, “I did it because I hate you. I did it because I hate you.”
Her companion stepped up behind her, “Hate?”
“All the time I was in Memphis she never wrote or called. It was like once I left the Bend she had no more use for me. I suppose she was planning on dolling up my little sister to take my place.”
“Ha! She is as ugly as a toad. She looks like Ray, God love him.”
“Maybe an ugly duckling.”
“Or maybe a big fat pig. She has absolutely no self control.”
“You need to think about that; self control, that is.”
She looked back at the man. “I suppose you never had fun. I guess you never did anything wrong.”
He smiled and looked down, “No, you suppose wrong. Like you, there was a time when I was looking for more also. But you know, Veronica, suddenly your destiny comes upon you and you realize that there is actually very little you can do about it. The wrong turn on a country road, the wrong statement that you never get to correct, any number of things can come along and put that destiny on you. I’ve made mistakes. As a matter of fact that’s part of what I’m doing here right now. There are more wrongs to right than that little fling you took under that bridge that night. You see God is wise. He always works things out in the end, but he uses us to help. You’ll understand these things as we go along.”
“Why do you think I went outside with the cowboy?”
“Because you thought you had all the time in the world, that’s why. Have you ever noticed that you’re always in a hurry, June?”
Her eyes narrowed and she said, “Yeah. Been that way all my life. Gotta do it now. Were you like that?”
“I was. I was until one night a man walked in front of my car, and suddenly I had all the time in eternity. He made sure of that. He made me realize that some things may take an eternity to fix. You and I have to do some of that fixing, Veronica. It takes a little more work if we’re going to save the whole thing.”
“But you didn’t save me any of that chilidog did you?”
The spirit guide laughed.
Back at the intersection Juan Sanchez stood staring at the frozen scene. The wreck should have already happened! Here were all of the participants but no Dreamwalker. He looked at the S.U.V. barely touching the red dust on the Mazda. Walking over he looked in at the little boy, still looking up, smiling at June who was staring at the oncoming truck. Then he walked back to the spot where the man in the tux had been standing. He was aware that the man was gone from the spot he’d been for so long, but he knew that he had not ascended to the light. But where had he gone? Juan was versed in these matters, but could it be that Dreamwalker had learned a thing or two during his imprisonment? Maybe? Maybe not!
He went back and looked into the Mazda again. Something about June’s demeanor suddenly struck him. Having the knowledge of these things he knew that this was not June but a shell. The soul was gone, yet not ascended. He felt a terror grip his heart. Only certain souls could do this. He had miscalculated this soul, but then he had miscalculated the boy, too. Yet the boy’s soul was still there. He could see the souls within all the others in the car, but not this one. This was a meat dummy left to fool him. Dreamwalker had fled and taken her with him, but where? He stared again at the boy, making sure the soul was still there. It was. Why had he taken June? In a moment of aggravation he tried to reach in and grab the little boy by the neck but the moment his hand got near to the boy’s skin a blue flash came and he withdrew his hand in pain. He slammed his fist into the trunk of the car in exasperation. He tried once more, but got the same result. Looking around once again for the Dreamwalker Juan turned and walked back up the road a little way. Where had they gone? Juan knew that he was not just dealing with both sides of the spiritual veil but with time, also. He had to locate the true June, and her dream-walking companion and not just their images scattered throughout all the parallel universes that stretched in every possible direction from this point of reference. He knew that time not only went forward and back but sideways, too, binding the fabric of existence with many possibilities. Wherever the soul was that’s where the true timeline was, and a soul so skilled could dance between these lines of time and leap like a gazelle at will. It would do him no good to locate one of the images that did not have the true soul within it. It would be like smashing mirrors in a carnival glass house, never finding your way to the very door you came in from. Yet this was his task, and Juan had been smashing these mirrors for over two hundred years. This wisp of a girl and her friend, Dreamwalker would not out fox him!
“Where are you, June Montgomery?” he screamed at her placid face, but there was no response. He knew there would not be any. He shook his head in exasperation, turned and disappeared in a puff of smoke.
The Butcher Shop