The man is an older man, twenty-five years more than I’m carrying if a day and he’s driving a car that has seen its better days, too. He stops in front of my house, sits there a while, then backs up and pulls in behind my truck. He seems lost. He backs up, stops, parks the car and just sits there for a while. He opens the door and struggles to get out and stares at my house as if is a hallucination. The dogs alert on him and I put the entire pack out. Every else may be, I believe this human being to be harmless, in as much as one of them can be.
I meet him in the yard and he’s looking for a man I knew many years ago, one of the first people I met in this area, and the man died about ten years back. The Lost Soul is shaken by this news. He tells me my house wasn’t here the last time he was here and that he’s sure I’m wrong about the man being dead, because he spoke with him, wait, it was, Sara’s granddaughter graduated from Georgia that year, that was 1999, and there was that Timmons boy that she was going to married, he got killed in a wreck in 99, too, broke her heart, but she got married about, let’s see, that was…
And he does this for fifteen minutes, connecting the dots and talking about people that are gone or going and he retraces his past back when he last spoke to someone he was in the Army with and suddenly he realizes that it’s been over seventeen years or so, maybe just sixteen, but surely someone would have called him. He looks at me as if he’s trying to figure out who I’m related to out here.
I tell him I happened upon the place and it was for sell and none of the family out here wanted it. That’s the short version of the story and it is true. The Lost Soul tells me to wait and then tells me to follow him and in his car he has a photo album. There’s dozens and dozens of photos and he shows me the man he’s looking for much younger and he’s trying to convince me that someone I once knew and someone he once knew very well, isn’t dead. His withered hands tremble and shake as he turns the pages and jabs a finger at a photo of some young man in a uniform that was once not a Lost Soul.
The man’s aunt is still alive, still spry at over ninety-five years old, and he shakes his head and tells me that she died several years ago, and he went to the funeral, it was a nice one, many people there, many people he knew was there, and he remembered it being at the church, and I tell him that was her husband and he looks at me as if he remembers, nearly, and he looks again at the house and looks around as if he ought to see something that he knows.
We go inside and he’s thrilled to meet the dogs and the dogs seem to realize he’s a Lost Soul and Lilith sits beside him and leans on him. The Lost Soul tell me about a dog named Betty who looked just like this one here but… He looks at Lilith and puts his hand on her head and she allows it with a lot of grace. Tyger Linn takes a step forward and looks at me as if to ask me what is wrong with the Lost Soul? Why is he hurt? Why is he sad? Why is this happening? The Cousins keep their distance, seemingly understanding that this is a human that needs some room right now. Now, the man seems even more lost than before and whatever else I can or cannot do for him I cannot allow him to leave on his own.
There’s a nephew of the dead man somewhere around these parts and I leave a voice mail for him. He won’t answer his phone directly but he will get back to you in his own time. He is not a young man either anymore. I make sure the Lost Soul is comfortable and I give him a bottle of water. Lilith licks his hand as if trying to heal it.
The Lost Soul tells me that they had to walk from one train station to a place where there was a man with a wagon pulled by a horse to get back to this farm, so very many years ago, and there in the dark they could walk by starlight because there was nothing else to walk under and no one ever thought anything about it at all. The night was cool and they smoked cigarettes as they walked and he quit smoking, wait, and he’s off connecting dots again with people being born and dying and living and not living, and he narrows down his kicking the habit back to when Nixon was president and after Johnson and before Reagan was shot.
He remembers where he was when JFK was murdered, and it’s an odd thing because he uses that term, “murdered” and it’s not a term most people use when describing the event. There’s a sense of decency about him that he hasn’t lost and someone has murdered someone it ought to be put plainly. But then he remembers he quit smoking and tells me that it was much harder than anything else he did, but he hesitates and he looks at me as if there was something else, but he rather not talk about it.
The phone rings and it scares the living hell out of me because I’m listening to the Lost Soul and I tell the nephew who is here and he says he’s come get him. They talk on the phone and then I talk to the nephew who says it’s okay to let him drive down to his aunt’s house. The Lost Soul leaves, and he leaves three or four times, telling me he has to go, but connecting the dots with this departure or that one, and I let him wander the past as he will.
It takes a full acre for him to back up and turn around but he waves to me as he pulls away. He sits in his car for more than a few minutes halfway up the driveway and I wonder. But just as I am about to walk over and see if he is okay, he pulls away and I watch him slowly pull into my neighbor’s driveway. Maybe seeing someone he thought was dead will make him less of a Lost Soul, or maybe it will make him more of one.