March 18, 2022

The Widow Walks

The hallway retained the scent of lilies and hyacinth, mixed with the faint edge of mothballs. The funeral had been a few days earlier; I was calling on the widow to see how she was doing. It was the neighborly thing, and we had been neighbors, her husband and I colleagues of a sort, he the minister of the Reformed church, I the rector of the Episcopal. In our small town all of the major, and a few of the minor denominations had church buildings neatly arranged around the town square, along with the courthouse and the post office. It was a testimony to fellowship and distinction all at once.

The widow and I were alone in the large Victorian manse, and had been chatting for a while, when one of those silences that punctuate such conversations settled in. Suddenly the widow started, as if she had just remembered an unfinished errand. “Thank you so much for calling, Mr. Halliwell, but I must be going. It was so kind of you.”

We rose together and went into the hall, where I helped her with the bright red woolen coat she selected from the hall closet. I was surprised at the color, but she seemed not to be concerned. The aroma of mothballs clung about it; the season had just recently turned, and a chill was in the air. “Thanks so much,” she said. She took up her purse from the hall table and slipped the strap over her arm, and we went out onto the wide porch. There was no need to lock the door; such were the times. We paused for a moment looking out over the square, standing at the edge of the porch-steps down to the walkway; the sky was overcast and grey, and seemed to drain much of the color from the scene. “May I walk with you?” I asked.

The widow looked at me with a sly smile and said, “Oh, I don’t walk.” With that, she rose a few inches into the air and floated off down the walk, slowly rising as she went. By the time she reached the center of the square it was clear she would pass several feet above the steeple of the Methodist church directly opposite. I watched as she continued, further and further away, until she became little more than a tiny red dot no larger than a pinpricked finger’s mark upon a neatly folded white linen handkerchief.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

Author’s note: This story came to me in a dream this morning. After I wrote it, I remembered I had take (and then manipulated in the darkroom) the street photo to the left, sometime in the early 70s. So here they are together.

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