Title: This and That – Collection of Light and Dark Tales
Author: Anne K. Edwards1
Publisher: First Realm Publishing
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SUMMARY: A collection of short stories written in various genres. Among them are Death and the Detective tales, a story about the devil outsmarting himself, the destruction of Earth, a tale of beings part human and part robotic, and others.
IT HAPPENED IN KANSAS
The year I was twelve, my grandfather, Milt Dauerhaus, introduced me to his great pal, Aaron Lazarus. I was visiting Grampa Milt just as I had every summer since I was seven and I knew most of the people in town and his old neighbors who farmed those great stretches of land around Armendagh, Kansas. Armendagh is a small town located in the middle of nowhere on a hot, dusty plain covered with miles and miles of corn, wheat, and sunflowers.
Grampa Milt had sold his farm and moved to town when he turned seventy five. He told me he’d been saving an introduction to Mr. Lazarus until I was old enough to understand that while he seemed a bit different from most folks, he was special too.
Mr. Lazarus had deep lines in his face and his blue eyes sort of looked at you out of slits in his face. Those lines were from his always smiling. My first encounter with him was pleasant and I found him interesting because he’d been a railroad engineer. He told me to come back to see him any time.
A funny thing happened though as we rose to leave. Mr. Lazarus said kind of abruptly, “No, I haven’t found your glasses.”
I looked around but there was nobody there. Just us, and we hadn’t asked him about any glasses. He was looking at an empty chair too.
He caught me gaping at him. Mr. Lazarus had his glasses on so who was he talking to? I kind of thought maybe he was just getting a little silly since he was so old. You know, like he couldn’t remember what we’d been talking about.
Smiling, he said, “Sometimes I forget my manners and speak my thoughts aloud.”
I said, “Oh.” And looked and Grampa Milt who was laughing into his hand.
“She’s had you hunting those glasses since she crossed over. Why does she want them?” Grampa asked.
“Who?” I wanted to know.
Mr. Lazarus raised his thick white eyebrows and shrugged. He didn’t answer my question, but said, “She thinks she needs them to hide behind like she always did. You know, there wasn’t a thing wrong with her eyes. She'll have to look for them longer if she wants them. I don't have the time.”
Grampa Milt laughed and led me out the door.
I couldn’t contain my curiosity. “Grampa Milt, what did he mean? Who was he talking about?”
“Well, Ben, he was talking about Mrs. Ganche, a lady who passed on about thirty years ago.” He looked down at me.
I stopped. “Huh? If she’s dead, how can she talk to him and how come we couldn’t hear her? Why does she want her glasses?”
“I don’t think I can explain it to you. You’ll have to ask Mr. Lazarus next time you see him. He’s the only one who can answer that.”
I didn’t see Mr. Lazarus again that summer. We got busy with Gramma’s garden and then, before I knew it, it was time for school. It wasn’t until next summer when I went to visit Grampa Milt that I had the chance to see Mr. Lazarus.
He seemed much older than last year. Grampa Milt had sent me to see him with one of Gramma’s pies. A lady met me at the door took the pie and went into the kitchen.
“Sit down, young fellow, and tell me about school,” Mr. Lazarus said. He leaned back in his lounge chair with his feet up. “I don’t get around so good these days. Got me a touch of arthritis.”
I nodded and sat on the green couch across from him. I hadn’t the foggiest notion what to say to him.
He grinned at me, those deep wrinkles looking like my Gramma’s old washboard. “Would you like to meet some of my other company?” he asked, sweeping his left hand around the room.
I stared at him. We were alone.
“Give me your hand, young Ben.” He leaned toward me, holding out his hand.
I took it. It felt dry and almost weightless. I gaped.
Suddenly the room was crowded with people. They were standing all around us.
“Well, Ben, judging from your expression,” Mr. Lazarus said, “I do believe you have the gift, too.”
I don’t know if I had it or not then, but I sure do now. Everywhere I go, strange people are asking me to do things for them. And they’re all dead.
I learned after Mr. Lazarus crossed over—he came to tell me—that he’d passed the gift on to me so I could help these spirits. Once they had some problem solved, they’d disappear for good. But more would always find me.
So, if you meet me on the street and I’m talking to myself, please have compassion. I’m not crazy. I’m just a young guy who hasn’t learned not to talk to strangers.