Celia had developed a nagging almost to the point of waking up in the middle of the night obsession about her ancestry and the quality of accumulated DNA that had led her being who she was. Blessed with an alcoholic father, depressed mother and various disjointed relationships with grown siblings she wondered if somewhere in the past there had been a kinder more loving family she had just missed by a generation or two. Her search came to an abrupt end however when she discovered her great-great grandfather was hung in 1898 for horse thievery and cattle rustling. Thinking to herself, “ that figures,” she arranged an impromptu vacation and went in search of great grandfather Cole James Taylor. Sitting on the plane heading west she thought of the TV commercial that mocks all the strange things people do with their vacation days. None ever went looking for the tree their great grandfather got hung in; but there she was. After arriving in Texas she made her way north in a rental car with nothing more than a town name and a listing from a registry of deaths stating that; On June seventh, 1889   Cole James Taylor was, “hung-ed till dead,” in the town square of Stuckey Texas, for cattle wresting and thievery. The names of two other men hung-ed with him were great uncles of hers according to the registry; a family hanging. A few hours later as the sun set she arrived at her destination. To her surprise an old confederate statue covered in graffiti sat in the town center beside a large majestic Oak that might have been the offspring for the tree she was looking for. Sitting there as the moon rose she said goodbye to her kin; one hundred and twenty-eight years too late.

She had not even opened her eyes yet and already felt the throbbing headache was still there. Another day of pain accompanied by another day of her own personal journey through Dante’s inferno. Another day of languishing in and out of thoughts of why me and maybe if she could manage the strength, a brief thought of a better tomorrow. Leaning across to the nightstand side of the bed without opening her eyes she felt for the lukewarm glass of water at her bedside before slowly wrapping her fingers around the glass and moving it to her lips. Time, noises, memories, thoughts, feelings, wants and desires are all part of the pain she thought; while slowly swallowing. She had no life separate. No promise of individuality anymore and the mere promise of relief, albeit a faint one provided by medication to cover up that tension and  disorder inside her head seemed like a pipe dream. The pain was now getting up and just one step ahead of her. It would dress, eat, determine tone and with a certain bitterness and cynic accuracy form most of her responses for the next several hours before disappearing late in the day unexpectedly. Laying back into the bed and pushing herself into a poor attempt at numbness she thought of work friends that had all faded away into the pain. Sure some old ones still occasionally checked in, but even for those who knew her before the pain there was an understanding any friendship was doomed to it, her life. Pain would always trump their feelings and concerns. Pain would always be the gatekeeper of conversations, memories and interests. And so it was as she sat up on the edge of the bed, her feet barely touching the floor; and so it was.

The last thing she remembered was turning the key in her mailbox and the sudden appearance of a muddling cloud of dust mingling across her field of vision. Weeks later in a grief counseling session a vivid flashback of the stranger down the hall who had a slight limp, mischievous smile and always dressed in black returned to her with frightening clarity as she starred dimly ahead with her out of focus one good eye. Once she realized that he and what had happened were linked, tears filled her eye. The few times their paths had crossed he always seemed somewhat suspicious in that he never exchanged pleasantries and was always carrying something in a black bag. She guessed his age to be mid-twenties early thirties at the most and his shaved head and thin build were reflective in her mind of a man of few necessities. Their mailboxes were directly beside each other in the lobby and long packages in solid brown wrappers with no return address or other distinctive markings could be found upon her late afternoon arrival from work leaning against the boxes regularly. She had on several occasions had to move a package to get at her box, noting they were extremely heavy; even the small ones. Oddly enough her normal entrance and exit of the building more times than not was greeted with an ajar door to his apartment which she suspected was not just coincidence and while she had never seen him walking around in the apartment when she passed she could always hear Fox News blaring on the television and the clanging of pots and pans coming from inside the apartment. She never took more than a second or two glancing inside; dare she be caught and have to explain her curiosity.Su


Geo 299's are works of fiction all in just 299 words. Most stories are stand alone, but sometimes three or four are linked together by a topic that has more story to tell. Feel free to comment and share with your friends. grantman
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