NIGHT VISITORS: Short story episodes by Diana McGuerty-Hunter
In town, right near a busy intersection constantly visited by heavy traffic in all directions… there is a little-known empty field, long forgotten, once a small burial ground for folks who lived such a very long time ago…when “heavy traffic” was the occasional farmer with an ox-cart, or an elderly gent upon a slow-moving burro. People of all ages greeted one another as they passed, trodding the hard-packed dirt roads which intersected at this very spot.
The town was primarily a community meeting-spot, where folks from the surrounding brown hills may have come to sell or barter produce raised on small organic farm plots. Yes… organic. You laugh, perhaps… for, never did that label appear; this simple farm produce was merely raised without the “enhancement” of questionable chemical sprays or toxins. And the water which came down from the mountains above the town… was cold and pure to the taste. Sunshine was abundant, as were hands willing to plant the fragile seedlings, and care for them like well-loved children.
You may have thought such a sustainable agricultural community might have been a boring place to live, day in and day out as the seasons changed. Not so, for the people themselves brought to this daily life a simple joy and sharing of small delights. They were close, as neighbors, but did not impose themselves on each other in a worrisome manner.
The elderly often sat with the children, to regale them with stories and tales, an art in itself… the telling of a good story to an eager and appreciative audience… who, in later times, would themselves become the wonderful tellers of fascinating tales to other youngsters eager to listen… and perhaps ask questions. Questions which would satisfy their curiosity and well-nurtured imaginations.
Which leads me to today’s story to be shared with you… in this over-populated community so very different from the one just mentioned. And if you are willing to sit and listen… I shall proceed with the first episode of “The Night Visitors”:
That little-known empty field behind the Discount Tire Shop, and next door to this busy Dunkin’ Donuts, dispenser of fine hot coffee and fresh-baked doughnuts of all shapes and fillings… extemely popular with the locals and occasional tourists seeking a sweet snack. If you turn just a bit from where you are sitting, you will see what was once the quietly serene resting place of a small number of our early local residents, once life had left them at its rusting gate.
This doesn’t sound like much of a story as yet, does it. But I want you to know that it is right in this very same spot, among these tiny table and chairs, that our adventure first took place. In fact, it may still be happening… but not so much in the morning hours when the doughnut shop is so busy (as you can see)… but much later in the evening, close to midnight in fact when seldom are the few customers who stop by quite so eager and in a rush to leave, and continue on their way in fast-moving vehicles.
No, these customers tended to be on foot, and often had nowhere to rush, let alone much of a destination at all. The brightly-lighted shop was a beacon to those tired and often lonely individuals, drawn like human moths to the light, the fragrance of freshly-baked goods and the aroma of rich hot coffee, soothing to an empty stomach.
In fact, the doughnut shop often sells half-price day-olds this late night, especially reasonable when one does not have a lot of change in one’s pocket. With that in mind, let us imagine that you are sitting alone at that small corner table… for whatever reason. Perhaps you could not sleep, the summer night was beguiling, and the idea of a delicious jelly doughnut and medium-sized cup of their most excellent hot coffee… plus a good book to read… or perhaps a lined pad upon which to scribble… were simply too difficult to resist.
Placing your order with the pleasant counter clerk, you retreated quietly to that table there in the corner, spread a napkin for your doughnut, and sipped that delicious coffee. Mmm… perfect! As you settled in thinking you had been the only customer when you entered… you look up at a smiling elderly gent sitting with a young man, juts over there. Naturally, you nodded and smiled back, then picked up your pen, resuming what you had planned to write… yet, casting an occasional friendly glance at the two sitting nearby. Somehow, they both seemed to “belong” there, quite relaxed and at ease. Funny that you had not noticed them come in.
At this point in our narration, your interest is drawn to a woman of indiscernable age… quietly entering and hesitantly placing her order for a small coffee and a cake doughnut. Her appearance does not draw attention, nor is her manner such that she seems to want to be noticed. On the contrary, she takes her seat and seems to blend into the very table and chair.
As your pen has now halted its scribbling, you do not wish to stare or be rude… but now the elderly gentleman’s interest seems drawn to this silent woman whose expression appears… blank.
He rises and, in good form, invites the customer to sit with him and his young companion. Hesitantly, but instinctively trusting, she joined them. He carried her coffee and wrapped doughnut to their table, placing them before her and resuming his seat.
To my surprise, the three quietly exchanged conversation in bits and pieces. True, I was eavesdropping as I absently scribbled at my pad. heir hospitality seemed to include me, if only as an observer. I will try to relate the exchange… as I scribble notes unobtrusively.
She had come from Las Cruces after a long bus ride to Santa Fe, the hour now too late to locate the one she had come to find… a daughter in her 20s with whom she’d not had contact for quite some time.
TO BE CONTINUED