She drove frantically through the rain. The old car’s wipers thwacked back and forth over the petals she pummeled, grinding the engine. Gilbert Street, Perry Lane, left on Colbert – back on Gilbert. It was 9:23 already. Her forehead and hands were sweating and she was white as a sheet. It was her first job in the United States, and she was late.
The tires screeched and the car fishtailed as she slammed on the brakes – someone was right outside her window, waving her down. She could hear him yell through the glass.
“Help, do you need help?” he was yelling. The flustered Mexican woman rolled down her window and stared helplessly out into the rain. She explained in broken English she was looking for 402 Crescent Drive and was “fast” in a hurry. He was soaking wet but smiled and, speaking in perfect Spanish, pointed: “just around the bend,” it was. And that was all. She nodded, gave a quick thanks, and hit the gas.
Four hours later, she had vacuumed the livingroom, family room, basement, and bedrooms of 402 Crescent Drive; dusted; folded the laundry; and after apologizing for getting lost and being late for the tenth time, the woman of the house and mother of six – three of which were crawling around the whole time – showed her to the kitchen for milk and cookies.
Rosita offered to wash the dishes but Mrs. Panas (“you can call me Sherry”) would have none of it.
They sat while Sherry showed Rosita pictures of her kids, smiling widely with each description. Rosita stared with blank incomprehension of her excitedly fast English. She suddenly stood and walked towards the fridge, leaving Mrs. Panas in mid-sentence.
“Who is this?” asked Rosita, pointing to a small picture on the front right corner of the refrigerator.
“That’s my nephew Jeffery Boyd,” said Mrs. Panas, “my sister’s son. He’s fourteen now. We see them all the time.” In the picture was a little boy no more than two sitting on a young man’s lap. The young man had a beaming smile.
“No this,” said Rosita, “Who?”
“Oh, that’s Brian my brother,” she explained, “He was eighteen then I think. That was when we were at camp. We went every summer. He died of cancer.”
Rosita put her hand up to her mouth and started to cry. Mrs. Panas stood up and came over next to her.
“It’s okay,” she said, “he’s been dead for ten years now.”
The pale Mexican woman sniffled and wiped her eyes, continuing to cry. She pointed towards the picture and managed to mumble something after which Mrs. Panas became utterly silent and cried also. The windows were closed, but it was as if the room had become suddenly ice cold and a warm breeze ran through them. Rosita, trembling, had said:
“That was the young man who showed me how to get here.”
- "The Ghost": Chapter 1 of "Brian Bisgrove" by Joe Cunningham, 2011 [never published]