Winter was coming. Now it’s here. Not the snow, but the cold dark and the daylong mist that stays on top of this mountain around the clock. I work on my novel for four hours every morning in a room large enough to hold a Fokker F-27. I have a little space heater that warms the side of my leg. Most days, I wear a blanket and a red watch cap to keep from trembling.
It’s a nice place. Enormous in every way. Sparsely furnished. In summer, if you’re quiet, you can hear the wind in the trees rise like surf. My uncle had a Japanese architect build it for him in the early 80s. My uncle went crazy in this house. He’s still alive in a facility down in central California. My cousin goes to see him and he thinks she’s my late aunt.
The house is situated near the top of the mountain but angled so that wind currents will naturally flow around it, creating an extra buffer of silence. Sometimes, the coyotes on the other side of the hill yip for a while and their voices sound like dogs and babies laughing together.
I’m lucky to have this time between things, but I don’t suspect I will be staying here much longer—maybe a month, maybe less. The regular occupants will be returning soon. They’re oblivious (or try to be), but for me the ghosts of my aunt, my mother, and my grandmother stand in the doorways of every room.
My spiritualist aunt died of a brain tumor in the upstairs room where I’m sleeping. She was a medium when she was alive, practiced automatic writing, channeling, held séances. My grandmother read the candles, apple skins, could read a deck of playing cards and tell your future. My mother could, too.
They all died in sad ways, not peacefully, not with dignity. They were good people—hard-edged but also kind. I miss them and all the old folks I knew as a kid. They’re very much with me these days. I see their faces in my mind’s eye. I hear my mother and sometimes see her in my dreams. But it’s nothing special.
If ghosts do exist, I hope I join them when it’s my time. If they don’t exist, I hope I don’t, either. It’s like that when the only family members you’ve got left are more interested in forgetting than remembering those who used to care for them. Who’s going to remember the old folks if I don’t? They were mechanics and housewives and small business owners. The marks they made on this earth were slight. And now they’re buried and gone. It’s as if they never existed. But I remember them all and think about them often. I believe they existed for a reason.
So I’ll be going soon. I don’t know where. Somewhere interesting and meaningful, I hope. Christmas is coming around again; though, I don’t much care for it. It’s a holiday I could do without. For the time being, I have an old chow to keep me company while I figure out the next thing. I have my novel to finish and my online classes to teach. And during the day, if it isn’t raining, I might go stand outside in my blanket and listen for some coyotes.