Hello, my name is Carmen and I thought I’d take a moment to share with you something that happened to me earlier in the year. It was a beautiful spring day and I was thinking, “Finally – warmer weather!” Days before, I was convinced it was never going to reach New England. For me, warmer weather means more shopping outings, even if only to window shop. I love looking for the newest fashions and especially enjoy finding the clearance items, whether last year’s styles or not.
Deciding to take advantage of the weather, I ventured off to Main Street to browse the stores for that special item marked down to a price that easily fit into my budget. It was while I was in Marlee’s Fashions that I came across something that would have a profound effect on my life --- at least I thought so at the time.
Toward the rear of the shop I spotted a rust-shaded blouse with a delicate lace trim on a circular rack and hurried to check it out. However, when I looked at the tag, I discovered it was not my size. The blouse was exactly what I was looking for to match a skirt I had picked up a couple weeks before. Not one to give up, I perused the racks nearby, hoping to see another one. My heart raced when I thought I spotted one on the back wall tucked in the corner.
This is where things took a turn-around. When I reached the rack, I had to push the clothes aside to get at the blouse I wanted to examine and noticed something written on the wall. It looked to be graffiti at first, but when I was able to get a clearer view of it, I realized it was a poem of sorts. Intrigued, I read it and then retrieved a pen and paper from my purse to copy it down. This is what I copied:
About time you got here, I’ve
Been waiting for you
Do you know what
For you to see?
Got your interest,
Just so you’ll know
Lest you want to die
My my, you are
Not going to ignore this note
Possibly dismiss it as a lunatic’s
Remember, I am the one who
Stated your name
Think before you
Veracity and burden the blame
While being labeled a
Xerxes or worse
Yielding your mind, becoming
Zany and forever cursed.
My first reaction, of course, was to look around to see if someone was playing a joke, but then I couldn’t explain how that was at all possible being no one, including myself, knew I was going to be in the store that day. Well, no one I figured was in my social circles.
For whatever reason, I pushed the clothes together blocking out the message and then opened the space again -- only to find a blank wall. Immediately, I glanced at the paper in my hand at the words I had written and headed for the front of the store completely forgetting about the blouse.
Across the street, I bought a coffee and took it outside where I sat on one of the park benches. Beneath my sunglasses, I glanced around to see if someone was nearby recording my actions, but no one appeared to be doing anything out of the ordinary. I resumed studying the writing trying to make some kind of determination about it and would have thrown it out but for the fact it had my name in it. There was no way it could have been there by coincidence. Forty-five minutes later and frustrated from going round and round in a circle with it, I stuffed it in my pocketbook and headed for home.
It was close to an hour later before I sat down with the piece of paper again, hoping to find something meaningful that I could make sense of. Not having any success, I put it down and tried to ignore it. When my eyes drifted down at the lines again, I realized for the first time that each line began with a letter of the alphabet. I verified my discovery by counting the lines to be sure and there were twenty-six. Needless to say, this piqued my curiosity and breathed new life into my wanting to decipher its meaning. Three hours and two cups of coffee and a cup of tea later, I was no further ahead in deciphering its meaning than when I had first begun. To say it was aggravating would be a stupendous understatement for sure. When I’d had enough self-punishment, I left the house to go do some chores. The break was incredibly relaxing and I tried my best not to think about the poem on my kitchen table.
Back at the house, I decided to make one last-ditch effort to root out the meaning within the lines, but before I get sink my teeth into the chore, I was interrupted by an unexpected knock on the door. As far as I knew, I hadn’t ordered anything nor had anyone called to say they were stopping by.
When I opened the door, I came face to face with a complete stranger and normally would have thought nothing of it, but this guy said, “I am from the future and if need be, I can prove it.”
I had all I could do to keep from laughing in his face. Instinctively, I moved to the side to close the door, but something, I’m not quite sure what, made me pause. By doing so, I couldn’t help notice how the sunlight reflected on his features the same way it had on my grandfather’s face. In fact, the guy kind of resembled one of my uncles so I figured it was one of my relatives I hadn’t yet met and the family was playing a joke on me. I scanned the street for signs of one or more of them sitting in a car or nearby doorway having a good laugh at my expense. Seeing no one, I turned my attention back to the fellow patiently waiting on my doorstep.
I invited him in. “So, what’s this all about?” I asked, trying my best to keep from laughing.
He motioned to the chair and I nodded. Once seated, he said, “You have to go to the Chinese Laundry in Chinatown, Boston, or you will die”.
Unable to contain myself any longer, I burst out laughing.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” I blurted when I stopped laughing. “You want me to go all the way to Boston to a Chinese Laundry? Is that the best you can come up with?”
He stared at me without saying a word.
“Okay, what’s the catch? I mean this is some kind of joke, right? Is this a new TV show like Candid Camera or something?”
He reached into his pocket and pulled out an envelope. “I assure you, this is no joke. Look at these pictures good before you say anymore.”
I snatched the papers from his outstretched hand and glanced at them. They were photographs of my family and more importantly, of me standing in front of a building that, as of that moment, was only a proposal to be built. Another one showed an obituary column in the local newspaper with my picture and name and all the stats to go with it.
The more I thought about the story being absolutely ridiculous, the more fascinated with it I became. I tried not to appear too eager and nonchalantly said, “So tell me what’s going on.”
He cleared his throat twice before speaking. “Two days ago, you brought a shirt to Ideal Laundry for Mrs. Clark that was to be cleaned, pressed and starched.”
“Yeah, so what?” I remarked, not seeing the significance or relevance of the information.
He shot me a look like a father would give an errant child, so I motioned for him to continue.
“Ideal sends their special laundry items to Ho Ling’s in Boston which is why it takes them a couple days to get them finished. You will need the ticket for the shirt. Without it, you will only waste your time and come back empty handed, like you did the first time.”
“Like I did the first time? What the hell are you talking about?”
“This is the third time you have had to do this because you keep thinking it an elaborate joke.”
I started to protest but he immediately flicked his hand to shut me up and like an obedient child, I did.
“However,” he continued once satisfied he had my attention again, “this is going to be your last chance. Should you ignore this warning or fail to do as you are instructed, you will die, make no mistake about it.”
“Who are you?”
“I’m not at liberty to say, except to tell you what you need to know.”
His eyes set, he motioned with his head. “Shall I continue?”
He gave a satisfactory nod. “The shirt belongs to Mrs. Clark’s son, Donald. Donald is…..well, to put it mildly, daffy. Ever since his father, who, by the way, was an alcoholic, ran off with some other woman, leaving Mrs. Clark and Donald to fend for themselves, Donald has never been right. He has been a misfit his whole life it seems and is, how you would put it, a stick of dynamite ready to explode.
“The shirt happens to be his favorite and he’s planning on wearing it to a concert in the park on Saturday night. Because his mother gave you the shirt and because you were the one to bring it to the laundry, Donald blamed you both and thus killed the two of you.”
“I’ll call the police and tell them and nothing to worry about.”
“Wrong. What will you tell them? That this person is going to kill you because you brought his shirt to the laundry? Listen to how that sounds! Not only that, you tried doing that the first time and all it did was put Donald on alert. Don’t be foolish, Carmen, this is your last chance or you will die once and for all.”
With that, he looked at his watch and got up. “Heed this warning.”
I walked him to the door not knowing what to think.
“Have a good day Carmen and should you mark my words, you will have a good life ahead of you. Good bye.”
“Good bye,” I said robotically and watched him till he disappeared around the corner. Inside the house, I pondered his words over and over and over again trying to make a decision on what to do and waiting for the dream or nightmare to end so I could get back to my normal life.
In closing, I can tell you that it was neither a dream nor a nightmare but for real. Donald did go on a shooting spree. Obviously, I was not one of his victims. Nor was his mother for that fact. You guessed it correctly. I retrieved the shirt and returned it to Donald’s mother in time for him to wear it for the concert.
We all have stories to tell. This just happens to be mine.
October 10, 2013