An air of funereal pallor seemed to hang over the trail that cloudy spring day. Nothing was particularly wrong, but everything was wrong, as well. Those clouds didn't hang the way clouds are supposed to hang. The dark sections of the clouds were above, and the whiter, fluffier sections were below.

I had been involved in removing the last remnants from the house. This was the only house which existed on this trail, except for the long-abandoned grocery which the Millsaps used to run. My aunt had lived in this house all her life. She had been married 64 years to a man who had died in a bed in which they had slept for all those years. There had been 5 children born out of that marriage. All five were living somewhere else, and were too important to take care of the chore of cleaning up after the dead. Four of them managed to make it to the funeral, but all four had to hurry back to the big cities from whence they came, and they all told me that I should do as I pleased with the belongings and the small property in the middle of nowhere.

I live alone. In the middle of nowhere.

"And how does that feel?"

I jerked up from sorting the papers I had found in the chifforobe which I'd pulled out into the front yard, and looked into a face out of a Magritte painting. The head was floating above a body clothed in a tidy black suit. The space between the perfectly oblong head and the well-dressed body was only a couple of inches, but, still and all . . .

"How does what feel?" I said, shaken but not scared.

"To live in the middle of nowhere?"

I then realized that I had seen this man coming for quite some time. There had been a slight trail of dust in the air down in the distance, and not a whit of wind was blowing. In fact, now I realized that I had been watching that trail of dust come closer, and had seen this man over an hour ago. I had forced myself to look away, to some meaningless papers, when he was upon me. I had succeeded in convincing myself he wasn't really there, when, in fact, I had said, "I live alone. In the middle of nowhere" to him, as a response to an unasked question.

"I'm used to it, I guess," I said.

He walked by me and I could see just a whisp of white cloud between his collar and his neck as he said, "Her salvation was knowing you were here. It's all she had at the end. She says, 'Thank you.'"

My eyes overflowed with tears and, by the time I had wiped them and looked up, all I saw was a trail of dust being pushed down by the improbable rain falling from inverted clouds.



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