The car headlights shone dully on the red gravel road. For miles up ahead it disappeared into murky fields and split down the middle acres more grain stalks huddled in rows like bodies with tired shoulders. The only night sounds entering the car were from its own tires sending up scrunching noises as rubber met road fill at high velocity.
“And I saw how pale and sweaty…and worried I was, and I thought ‘it’s a shame she has to be so scared all her life. Doesn’t she know everything’s going to be all right? Because the real me was floating above it all” …and then something about the ceiling opening up and how she rose in the air… “until it felt like all the stars were passing right through my body.”
The lines spun through Kathy’s brain, clear as the day she first sensed their nostalgic call to her. Bernadette Peters’ high-pitched prose had redeemed the movie ‘Pink Cadillac’ from its basic banality. At least in her opinion. “I’d know that pale, sweaty, worried thing anywhere,” she thought. “She’s me!”
By sheer will-power Kathy broke her thoughts and tried to force her sight to penetrate beyond the arc of light from the car. If she could spot a towering, pale blur in the darkness it would mean the silo was where she had placed it in memory. Somewhere in this cornfield wilderness an old board farmhouse awaited her presence.
“What if it’s been torn down?” the thought struck her as an added note of uncertainty.
“Oh, thank goodness! There’s the granary now! Lily Road can’t be much farther.” It seemed to Kathy from here on the car took a will of its own. The dirt driveway was soft under its wheels and it rolled to a stop under a Blue Beech in front of Grandpa’s blacksmith shop.
Kathy got out and looked toward the old homestead where she’d been a skinny kid with big eyes and stick-straight hair. Standing in the tall weeds she felt herself already on holy ground.
She had been in a very different kind of place, where shooting stars blazed swift across the stages of NYC, burst into blue-white flame, then fizzed and melted into busy sidewalks. Kathy had gone there to train as world-class pianist. Her meltdown, like that of so many others, had endured much trampling.
Inside the house was pitch black and smelled of mice. To her it was the fragrance of safe harbor. She had brought a flashlight along and now she shined it all around, noting the blank walls and small residue of furniture from the old days.
In the living room she picked out Grandpa’s armchair draped in yellowed sheet fabric and Grandma’s high divan on claw feet. Stepping down the hall to one of the bedrooms in the rear she played it up and down an empty bedstead and the cedar chest at its foot. Back in the kitchen a wood table and four chairs appeared to crowd a corner space on faded linoleum.
The dining area at first seemed void of any furnishings. She traced the wallpaper all around with the beam of light. A shape emerged against one wall, an upright, rectangular piece wrapped in an ancient quilt. As if under a spell she glided over and removed its quaint covering, shaking out the dust. She'd exposed a happier time. It was here Grandma Lily tutored Kathy under veined and gentle hands.
For the past three years Kathy hadn’t come near a piano but seeing her old friend in such disuse stabbed her deep now. Pulling out the bench, she sank down, and slid back the cover. She allowed her fingers to trail across the smooth ridges of the keyboard.
It may be, the conscious mind forgets. But hands do not - nor does the heart. A searching melody began to flow from beneath her fingers chasing the chill from the old house and invading the dark domain that had crept into Kathy’s soul.
She lifted her voice to join lyrics to the melody:
“Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, Calling for you and for me. See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching, Watching for you and for me.
Come home, come home, You who are weary, come home; Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, Calling, O sinner, come home!”
“Like stars passing right through my body,” she mused, overcome. “I’m home and everything really is going to be all right!”
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