Sammy

He glanced up when a women entered the coffee shop and strode with long legs to the counter. Then he caught himself from shouting and leaping out of his chair.

The woman looked just like his little sister. If his sister had not been dead for forty years — if he’d not seen her die (God, stop that thought) and hadn’t gone to her services, consoling Mom and his other sisters — he would have been sure it was Sammy, the name she chose when she was little, telling everyone, “My name is not Debby. It’s Sammy.” Asked why she’d changed her name, Sammy thrust out a hip, removed sunglasses from her nine-year-old face and replied, “Look at me. I’m not a Debby.” It was delivered with such precocious contempt.

Carmichael couldn’t stop himself from watching her. Like Sammy, this woman was stunning, brunette with thick hair and sunlight delivered highlights, long-legged, athletic in stance and motion, like she’s waiting for play to resume. All his sisters were the same, except Sharon, who seemed to be from a completely different set of genes, except she shared their grandmother’s hips, face, and neck — well, all of it as she aged, almost becoming Grandma’s spitting image. The other problem was that the woman looked as Sammy had when she’d died, so she couldn’t be Sammy. Sammy would now be sixty-two. So, that was impossible. Also, what would bring Sammy to Corvalis? Sammy wouldn’t be this far north. She wanted warm sunshine. He’d always thought she’d end up in southern California. That’s where she always declared she was going to live, and Sammy had the will to make it so.

The woman turned, strolling from the counter, sunglasses in hand, as Sammy always did. She glanced his way. He met it with a small smile and slight nod. God, the resemblance to his sister was shocking. He should take a photo, maybe explain why, then —

Her eyes widening, she walked toward him. “Carm? Oh my God, is it you?”

Carmichael sat back and held off answering for seconds. Then, “Do I know you?”

The woman stopped six feet away, sunglasses pointed to her chest, long hair held back by the other hand. “It’s me, Sammy.”

“Sammy?” Carmichael dumbly nodded. He refrained from adding, you can’t be Sammy because Sammy is dead. Didn’t seem like a polite thing to say. “Sammy…Sammy who?”

“But — I’m sorry. You — but it can’t — ” Sammy shook her head with small and precise movements. “I’m sorry, but you can’t be Carmichael.” A smile charmed him. “I thought you were my brother. You look just like him. But you can’t be.”

“Why?” Carmichael asked.

“Well, he died almost forty years ago,” Sammy replied with a small sigh. “Car accident, along with my mother and sister.”

“Sharon?”

Sammy froze for two seconds. Her brown eyes narrowed. “What’s going on? How did you know that?”

“Because my sister is Sharon. She was with us when you died.”

Wednesday’s Wandering Thought

He did another little DIY project, replacing the diverter on a bathtub spout. Not difficult, and yet it solved a minor problem, and that felt satisfying.

After that, he wandered around the house, searching for other things to fix. Finding nothing (although some caulking could be in order), he instead culled their financial files, taking out and shredding years of information. It, too, was satisfying, but in a different way.

What next, he wondered. What next?

The Shimmering

When the shimmering began, he took no notice. Half an ear heard of it, a quarter of his brain gave it a few seconds of attention, but that was mostly because he was a dirty old man. He was a dirty old man, couldn’t help himself, though he tried to be woke or whatever the right expression was, so the three young women caught his attention.

They were right beside him, so young, healthy, and energetic, drinking some kind of holiday coffee drink loaded with whip cream and sipped up with straws. He could even smell whatever perfume of shampoo or lotion they wore. Their behavior kindled a universe of remembered thoughts about what being young meant. One, the brunette, a tall person with wide dark eyes, maybe endowed with some Korean heritage, gasped and said more loudly than anything said previously, “Marcus has the shimmering.”

Voices dropping, heads moving toward a center point, the conversation’s tone was a serious counterpart to their previous merriment. Such behavior just sucked him in.

“He does?” said one blonde. As she continued with rising concern, “When,” and “Who told you,” the other blonde said, “Oh my God, when did he get it?”

Their voices dropped lower. Coffee house adult contemporary rock and mild tinnitus kept him from hearing though he pushed his mind to deeper levels of concentration. Nothing came of it.

They left five minutes later, texting on phones, drinks in hand, moving in a line to the exit and out. The shimmering was such an unusual expression, hours later, at home while watching The Kominsky Method again and eating a piece of Marie Callender apple pie which he’d baked, he remembered it and asked his dog if she’d ever heard of it. Although the dog’s intelligent face perked up, she said nothing.

“Fine help you are,” he said, the expression the two shared often, especially when he thought he heard someone creeping around outside at night. The shimmering still gnawed at him like an earworm which wouldn’t let go, so he turned to his ancient laptop and brought up Google. He hated Google almost as much as Twitter and Facebook, but Google unfortunately delivered the best results.

The shimmering, he typed in, figuring that it was probably using a traditional spelling, chuckling to himself at his droll wit. The computer screen went black as soon as he pressed enter.

“What the — .” He stared at the screen. What now? Damn technology. Stupid computer. He pressed enter a few times, hoping that would stir the screen back to life, and the did alt-ctrl-delete. Ah, yes, the old three-fingered salute. Remember the BSOD, he told himself, and laughed.

Grimacing, he acknowledged, he probably needed to do a hard reboot and pray to the tech gods that the stupid machine worked. Well, it was old. He couldn’t remember when he’d bought it. Seemed like it’d been at least ten years. Could that be right?

The screen lit up as he reached for the power button. It was kind of lavender-ish and blue, but also white and almost bright as looking at the full sun on a clear day. Pulling back with a hard wince, he closed his eyes, said, “Damn,” loudly, and leaned back.

Shelby said beside him, “That is bright.”

Eyebrows jumping, he peered at the black and white dog. Did she speak or was he imagining that? “What?” he finally asked.

The dog turned her brown and amber eyes on him. “I said that it’s bright.”

He gawked at her.

“I mean the screen,” Shelby said. “At least it’s bright to me.” The dog pointed her nose at the screen. “Hey, there are words.”

“You can read?” he asked. “You can talk and you read?”

“Look,” the dog answered, backing away. “Your skin.”

“What?” He looked down in almost the same second. A gasp rode out of him. His hands were shimmering like white sequins under hot spotlights.

Then a voice from the computer said, “You have been given the shimmering.”

“What?” he replied, because his neurons had abandoned their posts and nothing made sense to him. He might even be having a stroke. He’d always feared having a stroke.

The computer said, “Initiation beginning.” The light flowed out of the screen and embraced him.

An unexpected life was about to begin.

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