Crossroads

The house is quiet. Everyone is sleeping. It’s nearly the middle of the night, time to wake my lookout. I’ve been preparing for three days.

“Do you have everything you need?” he yawns and asks.

“Yes,” I answer.

We drive quietly to the crossroads. The intersection sits next to the cemetery of an old pioneer era church which is rumored to be haunted. Haunted by a witch. Both the church and the cemetery are a popular target for vandals. It’s fenced now, with a locked gate, and the neighbors watch it closely. This is the reason for my lookout. Where I’m working is public property, but I’d rather not be seen or questioned. I didn’t ask him to come, he insisted.

My lookout turns the car around and parks on the shoulder facing away from the crossing. I get out. He stays, pulling back the inside sunroof cover so he can watch the stars. I walk behind the car, my feet sliding on the gravel, each step I take seeming unnaturally loud. I cross the road. Reaching the center of the dirt triangle between the roads, I kneel. It seems they’re re-sealing these roads later this month. The orange sign announcing, “Expect Delays,” blinks off and on, providing more light than I expected. Good. I didn’t bring a lantern or candle. The grass is dry, the crops are tall, and I don’t want to risk fire.

Dogs bark in the distance and catch my attention. I smile. I collect and scatter my herbs, take out a small spade, and begin digging. The wind picks up. The ground is tough and hard to break. Something calls, startling me. What? A bird? A cat? I can’t tell. I search the dark for eye shine, but see nothing. Quickly I place and bury my item. There’s a rustling now in the tall grass on the other side of the road just across from me. The side that borders the cemetery. My heart jumps. My breath quickens. I look up the road toward the car. My lookout hasn’t moved. I’ve felt watched since I knelt and the feeling is getting stronger. I’m sure it’s only been a few minutes, but I already feel like I’ve been here a long time, and it feels like trespassing. The grass rustles again, louder this time. I’m not done yet. There is still work to do. I hurry. The lighting is bad and I fumble. I feel stalked. Something is getting closer. I pour my mixture and say the words, much faster than I intended. I hurry to gather my things. The noise in the grass is close and constant. I’m scared now. I stop. I take some deep breaths. I look around and at the up at the stars. I sit quietly for a moment, ignoring my growing fear, and say my prayer.

I get up and cross the road, walking toward the car, and toward the noises in the grass. The rustling moves with me. By the time I reach the car it’s so close and persistent I shy away from walking to the other side. I stand still on the driver’s side, watching. My lookout puts down the window.

“There’s something in the grass,” I say.

“Hmmm. Raccoon maybe?” he says.

He seems relaxed and serene. The sound of his voice steadies me. I go around the car and get in, feeling vaguely like I’ve just woken from a dream.

“Done?” he asks

“Yes.”

“I saw three shooting stars while you were gone.”

The Perseids! I’d completely forgotten.

“You saw three?” I ask, “Three? You’re sure?”

“Yep,” he says and starts the car.

I smile, and we drive quietly home.

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