Jaimie lay in bed, curled up on her side, feeling miserable. She had arrived in New Orleans the day before – just in time to catch the end of Mardi Gras. “It must be the hangover,” she groaned. “I couldn’t have seen him. He died before I was born.”
She had caught just a glimpse at first – recognized him from pictures that her Mom kept around the house. It was on Bourbon Street, just out front of Preservation Hall – the home of New Orleans jazz. He was beckoning to her, silently imploring her to come with him.
Jaimie tried to follow him, straining to keep him in sight. The kaleidoscope of colors and characters whirled all around – sometimes out of focus, sometimes in shocking clarity. But he was always out there somewhere ahead, leading her onward. “Where are we going?” she wondered.
At first, his movements seemed random; up one street, then down another, weaving through the crowds that went on and on. Then she understood. He was leading her back to her hotel room in the French Quarter. He was taking her away from the crowds. Away from the noise. Away from the groping hands and sloshing cups of beer that splashed her as she struggled to keep up with him.
She had almost caught up with him now. She saw him enter her hotel. And then he vanished. Jaimie went up to her room, half expecting to see him there. But the room was empty – a quiet oasis in the constant chaos known as New Orleans. “Must have been my imagination after all,” she thought. “May as well go to bed. I’m more wasted than I thought.”
And now it was morning. Had she imagined the whole thing? Had her subconscious mind protected her by drawing her back to her room?
“I need some air,” Jaimie thought as she opened the door and stepped onto her balcony. She surveyed the street below, littered with the detritus of last night’s revels: empty beer cups, stray strings of beads, sticky puddles of evaporated beer. A typical morning in the French Quarter.
Then she saw him, standing below, looking up at her – the man she saw last night. The man in the photographs in her Mom’s house. It was Joe. Her long-dead grandfather. Her protector.
And she knew. Jaimie rushed back into her room, grabbed her cell phone, and hit the speed dial. “Dad,” she stammered, as soon as she heard his voice, “what’s wrong? It’s Mom, isn’t it? Is she going to be OK? Yes, I know she’s worried about me. Tell her I’m safe. I’ll be home tonight.”
©2012 Phyllis Entis. All rights reserved.
A Note of Explanation: The “prompt” for this story was multi-stage. First, each participant was asked to write down one male name and one female name. Then, we each were asked to write down a location – a city, country, or any physical place – on a slip of paper and put the paper into a common envelope. Finally, each of us drew a slip of paper at random from the envelope. Our “prompt” was a combination of the names we had selected and the random location each of us drew from the envelope. The “prompt” for this story became “Joe and Jaimie on a wrought iron balcony in the French Quarter of New Orleans.”