Voices: The Unusual Case of Eliza James–Part IV
Author’s note: Be sure to check the prior blog entries to see Liza’s full story.
“I don’t really remember him,” said Liza.
“Yeah. Me either. Not much. There are things I remember. His voice. It was really deep. Or at least that’s how I remember him. I remember how he smelled too. He always wore Aramis aftershave. He used to let me stand on a chair and let me watch him shave,” Jason said, a touch of sadness in his voice. “He was a good man, I think.”
“I was only two or three years old, right?”
“You were three when he died. I was five. I do remember that night, though. It was terrible.”
Their father had died in a freak accident. Ben Jackson had been a man’s man—the kind of man others called if something went wrong. When one of the men at the plant was having trouble with the two-ton crane, Ben had gone to offer his assistance. No one was quite sure how it had happened, but when Ben was inspecting the jammed gearing, the motor suddenly engaged. The die carried by the crane had struck him in the chest—but just barely. Whether it was a result of him losing his balance or just being startled, the fall had ended with sound of skull hitting concrete. Ben had made it to the hospital and through the most of the night.
“Momma wouldn’t talk about it. But some of his friends told me it was probably for the best. If he’d survived the fall he would have never been the same. Momma sure wasn’t.”
Their mother had remained single for a respectable time after their father died. In her grief, she had turned to the church. There she met a man named Jeremiah Goddard, whom she married after a brief courtship. And if their father, Ben, had been loving and kind, their mother’s new husband had been nothing of the sort. On the day of his marriage to Angela he had made it clear that his word was law—just like God intended—and that children were to be seen and not heard.
Liza didn’t hear the key sliding into the lock. Nor did she hear the door open. When the orderly said “time to go” she almost leapt from the bed.
“Jeezus!” she blurted.
She looked at the man dressed in white pants, white shirt, and white work shoes. He looked like he had been stuffed into a shirt that was two sizes too small. His shoulders strained at the seams. His biceps were so large the sleeves were bunched up above them. The veins in his forearms looked as if they would explode from his skin at any moment. Later, Liza would begin referring to him as Mr. Clean.
“Sorry,” he said.
“Sorry, my ass,” she said. “Is your job here to try to scare the hell out of people?”
Liza knew she was overreacting. It wasn’t the fact the man seemed to creep into her room unnoticed. It was the sound of his voice that made her heart race faster than it should have. For a moment, she was sure it was them—the voices. Worse. It was that one voice. And the words he had used. “Time to go.” Shit. That had been too much.
“I’m sorry, Miss Jackson. The doctor is ready for you now.”
The warmth of the doctor’s office stood in stark contrast to the hallways of the clinic. His desk was piled with manila folders that bulged with papers. There were two worn leather wing back chairs sitting opposite the desk, one of which the doctor was already sitting in. Steam rose from porcelain mug on which was emblazoned “#1 Dad.”
After explaining to Liza that he was her friend, that he thought he could help and that he hoped she would trust him, Doctor Venable asked her if she would mind telling him why she thought she was there at the clinic.
“I’m either crazy. Or possessed. My mother wants to know which,” she said.
Venable sipping his coffee when Liza answered and he almost spewed a mouthful onto the freshly cleaned carpet. Somehow, he managed to swallow, but not without some effort. When he regained his composure, he smiled. Then he burst into laughter.
“That about sums it up, Liza. I won’t bullshit you. I mean that’s why you’re here, so to speak. So maybe you can tell me what you think. Are you crazy? Or are you possessed?
Liza looked at the doctor solemnly. A smile inched across her mouth. Maybe this wouldn’t be as bad as she had expected.