'Day of the Living' (a strange account at the cemetery)
(October of 1959)Let me begin by saying that, I have never heard of an account quite like this one, and perhaps you haven’t, only in odd tales, or in hasty and abrupt sketches of weird tales from old magazines, but this tale, or call it an account, has haunted me for 48-years, and now I shall tell it as it happened, believe it or not. I was told in so many words, to let go, the facts, people will not believe you anyhow, so why tell it, why throw your pearls to the swine; well as I said it’s been a very long time since it took place, and it is a story that did not happen to me but to Ezra, my friend, I simply was the witness, and Ezea now is long gone, died some years ago, so what harm can it do.
It was ‘The Day of the Living,’ in Peru, Huancayo, we had all gone to the cemetery, as many do on this holiday, and it is quite normal to see it infested like a hornets nest, and it was. Ezea and I had never been close friends, but this would bring us a tinge closer. He was something of an abstract kid, to say the least, a driving passion for the weird, perhaps that is why I kept my distance, but he was family, I mean, through marriages, a second cousin I think, my mother’s sister’s child, who had a child (Ezea), he was twelve and so was I.
We walked around Ezra’s great-grandmother’s grave; it had a cast-iron spiked fence around it; I saw Ezra stumble in the back of it, a large tree was along side of it, so I couldn’t—at that very moment—see what he was doing, but I know now of course he was picking up something. In the background were the many young boys and girls carrying water buckets to clean the stones for those who had a coin to give, and older boys with ladders to clean the higher stones, and still yet, a few boys with short hoes to do the weeding around the graves. But the fact remains, Ezea had found something, and was trying to hide it, and I wanted to know what it was.
“What is it?” I yelled to Ezea. But he was unanswerable. Next, I started to walk towards him, and he hid behind the tree, the rest of the family (Nancy, Mini, Enrique Senior, and Junior, and Ximena, Daniel and Mary Sofa) were watching the boy cleaning, and weeding. Daniel and Mary Sofa the youngest of us, were posing for a picture, Enrique Senior had gone to the car, I think to get away from the humdrum of things, and Ximena, three for four years older than I was trying her uncles hat on, and Enrique Junior, Ximena´s brother was (a year older than Ximena) was taking it all in. And I, I was the misfit you could say back then, visiting for each October my aunts and uncles in Peru, from Minnesota, while my dad took his Peruvian mother, back to Europe with him, to visit his old Ireland, as he called it. Why October you may be asking, well, I really don’t know, but in Minnesota it is a most beautiful month with all it’s changing of the colors. Anyhow, here I was handsomely bound and decorated with my Peruvian family, like a golden goblin carefully trying to find Ezea, and the reason for his hiding.
I saw, and heard Ezea, actually I interrupted him briskly saying, “What the hick are you doing, talking to that….!”
He said back to me, “I was explaining to her about me!”
He was not utterly ignorant, but talking to a rag doll, dressed in Wanka garb, or traditional garb aroused my interest. In any case, it was worth my while to stay, he added, “I had a wish today, that I could find something dead and make it alive and talk to it. And I found this doll, and it is talking to me.”
I answered that indeed, feeling it was of the utmost importance, refuting his charges that the doll talked, or could talk at all, although I thought I saw its mouth move, but Ezea had it in quite a humiliating position, as he got red in the face, with utmost efforts to persuade me otherwise. Not able to do so, and the doll remaining silent, he thanked me abruptly and took his leave and went behind a large gravestone, a mausoleum if I recall right. In the interim, the rest of the family leaned over the fence and said a long, very long prayer.
I heard Ezea talking to the doll as I hid behind the mausoleum, peeking off and on, picking up, what I could, of a one-way conversation of sorts. And then I heard a whisper, a low vice, feminine saying something. Then all of a sudden, Ezea cried out, fiercely and smashed his clenched fist down on a slap of stone, that was part of the mausoleum, “Listen,” he commanded,” and before he could say another word, I said, “How did you see me behind this tomb?” He replied, “I didn’t, the doll told me you were there, and she saw you peeking!”
The doll was in rages, old dreadful looking textiles, perhaps five-hundred years old. I would have liked to have broken the doll in two pieced at that moment, but then the lips on the doll moved.
“I had made a wish,” said Ezea, and asked the doll, “If this is the day of the living, why do you not live and talk. And then it did.”
Somehow I felt now I was on the track of some kind of real discovery, unless Ezea was pulling my leg and smarter than I had given him credit for, and was telling me a tall tale, while moving the rag doll’s lips. But from the looks of things, he was actually, as vividly as I can describe, actually not doing a thing to the doll, nothing of any kind to make the lips move anyhow, to the best of my knowledge.
“So what happened next?” I asked Ezea.
The doll said, “Ok, wishful thinker, you have your wish, I will talk to you for a day, for I was given but one for my life, just one, then tomorrow, the ‘Day of the Dead’, I shall parish, return from where I came from!”
I mentioned briefly, a curious fan of his now, and spoke skeptically, “How about the doll talking to me?”
“I don’t think the doll has any use for you,” said Ezea. It didn’t make me feel good. My Spanish was not good enough to tell him where to go, you know, in a profound way.
Anyhow the day went on at the cemetery, and the family had a picnic right by the gravestone, Ezea and I ate side by side, and I said nothing, then afterwards we walked about, after that Ezea said to the doll, “Tomorrow no one will believe me that I talked to you.”
I was a foot to his side, searching, I suppose for the living doll to speak; to me it was more of a mummy doll, than a living thing.
We both sat down, and then utterly vague clarifying, the doll spoke, or so I think it did, or someone spoke out of the doll, or for the doll, it said, “It is not easy for one to believe from a distance.” Ezea looked at me, “See,” he said, “you heard the doll!”
Yes, I did, but I didn’t believe it, he did, I didn’t—but I didn’t say I didn’t, lest he tell me to go, or I disrupt the isolated state we both were in, while in this cemetery, and now I was part of it, and I wanted for the moment to remain part of it.
I noticed as we sat there, the weeds grew rank among the graves and trees, almost choking out the grass, and seemingly aging the stones embedded into the ground. I could see the tall walls of the cemetery in the distance, unkempt, bushes over its sides dropping wildly about and down to the soil, then I distinctly heard the doll say, “There is a time to learn, a time to lead and a time to let go, he who has less faith than the other also has less human qualities.”
The doll was not looking at me, but I felt she was talking to me, and I never forgot those words. Ezea believed beyond suspicion, I admit that, I eyed it all suspiciously, but I could never frame it properly, I found myself pacing the ground where Ezea sat, and shaking my head, thinking it would be easier to believe than not, but I lived in a world of facts and not fiction, and dolls do not speak, so that was my world, a science world you might say, yet here I was seeing and hearing and not believing want I was experiencing. As I look back now, it all doesn’t make any sense. I suppose one can say, ‘Why would God, or some other source spend its time on trying to make a nonbeliever a believer, and now that I think of it, Ezea knew this, as did the doll, and the doll proved her point.
I am now sixty-years old, I left Ezea that day, never said a word to a soul about this, lest they think I was crazy, as if my brain was in a little-frequented region of its own, or of some unusually hard basalt, I wanted to be among the normal, or part of the norm, but Ezea always believed, and he didn’t give a hoot, if anyone else believed, and he didn’t waist his breath on trying to persuade anyone to believe, like I would have done if I was him; right to the day he died, right up to the very moment, for I was at his funeral, he believed, and he was buried with his doll, as he had wished to be buried. I asked his wife and children if they knew the story behind the doll, and they said ‘no’ and I said, “Well, someday I will write it…!”That was ten-years ago, now they have it.
Written on the ‘Day of the Living,’ November 2, 2007, in Huancayo, Peru