The Folding Frame

by Oren Cedar

Chapter 2 – Return Home

Echos of places past.

Entangled with people passed.

“Hey, who’s in here?”

Henry said, “Alma, who is that, and why do we hear her?”

“I don’t know, Henry — I hear her too.”

“I am Fanny — it is nice to meet you. But where are you — are you inside that luggage? In all my years stowing away, I have never known anyone to hide inside the luggage.”

The frame opened — they saw Fanny and the cargo stacked in the box car. She was dressed like the people they had seen in the hobo camps when they took the train.

“There you are — that’s a beautiful frame you are in.”

Henry said, “You can hear us! Your lips are silent, but we can hear you too!”

“That is my gift and curse. I can talk with other gifted people using just our minds — I can also hear the thoughts of ordinary people. I was forced into an asylum because of it. I escaped after a few years and have lived with my friends along the tracks ever since. We are in most cities on this side of the Mississippi — we look out for each other.”

Alma said, “I am glad you have found friends that welcome you — that is a great gift. Where is this train going?”

“I climbed on in Savannah, and the last stop is Augusta.”

Henry said, “We were visiting Savannah, and our home is in Augusta.

Then Henry and Alma explained everything that happened in Savannah.

Fanny grinned, “That is an amazing story — if it is all the same to you — I will keep it to myself. I don’t like asylums.”

The train arrived in Augusta; she put the frame back in their luggage and climbed from the car — they told each other goodbye as she walked away in the rail yard.

The frame opened — Henry and Alma were staring into a room — it was the parlor in their mansion! 

Henry told Alma,” Look, our mirrors are covered with black cloth; someone must have died.”

Alma said, “They are covered for us; someone brought our bodies home. Don’t you think protecting our images from being trapped is ironic?”

That disturbed Henry, and he said, “ Look, there are two coffins — at least we can’t see inside from here. I couldn’t stand that — funerals make me scared and anxious — we are living my worst nightmare! “

Alma said, “We may be experiencing it — but I wouldn’t say we are living it — at least not our bodies, anyway.”

He said, “I wish they would close us again because I don’t want to see or hear that out there — I was happier with just the two of us in here.”

Their oldest daughter, Eliza, came from behind Alma. She was wearing black and carrying flowers. She pulled her veil back over her head and, with tear-red eyes, began arranging the flowers in the open coffins.

Alma said, “She is so loving and caring — I wish I could comfort her — She brought my favorite flowers.”

Henry said, “To think that our bodies are in there, why do they need to be open? I wish they were closed.”

“You should be thankful; remember, our parents had glass coffins.”, she said.

Oliver Moore entered the front door — engaged to Eliza — he was Alma’s least favorite of her courters. However, Henry liked him since he was from a wealthy, society-established family.

Seeing Eliza, he said, “Look at you, sexy and beautiful, dressed in black. Do you have plans?”

“Shhh — keep it down — someone may hear you. Now’s not the time!”

Alma said, “Yep, insensitive as usual.” 

Henry asked, “Just what did she mean by — not the time?” Alma grinned.

Oliver left the parlor. They heard the clock strike at two o’clock, and their son Lewis came in carrying the guest book and laid it open on the table in front of them. It read, “In loving memory of Henry and Alma Parker.” At that instant, the reality of what was happening gripped them, and they both started crying, not for themselves but for their children’s grief.

They watched their friends and family pay their respects for several days. Then, on the last day, they listened to their funeral and watched their bodies carried out to the family graveyard. 

Henry said, “I am happy that so many of our friends came. Our parlor is packed with beautiful flowers — too bad we can’t smell them.“ 

Alma said, “Eliza and Lewis can smell them — their poem and talk were moving — we are lucky to have our children. 

Someone closed the frame.


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