Gracie dug through her purse looking for a hammer. She pulled out a 45 of the Beatles single “Love Me Do”, then emptied the other contents of her bag: her journal, a broken brush, a long since finished tube of lipstick, and a wallet with nothing in it but a two dollar bill. She turned the whole bag upside down and shook it. Thin candy wrappers and disintegrating tissues fell to the dusty wooden floor. Gracie’s pale fingers picked a library card out of the rubbish. She flung the purse away. The brown leather had turned orange with age, and the sides had deep creases from years of use, but she hadn’t aged like the relic. She hadn’t aged a day since she arrived in Bodie, California in 1962.
Gracie’s knees were folded beneath her and hidden by the thin yellow skirt that flowed onto the floor around her. Her dirty blonde hair fell loosely about her pretty face. She looked around the small, shabby room. There weren’t many places a hammer could hide. She was so frustrated that when she did find the hammer she planned on smashing what little there was in the two hundred year old room that seemed to have eaten her tool.
“What’s wrong, Gracie?” asked a sweet old woman hovering in the door frame. Trails of grey streaked her dark hair and her black eyes sparkled kindly. She was petite but not at all frail.
“Hello, Rosa May,” Gracie said turning towards the door. Her gloomy dress was unmistakably from the nineteenth century. There was a trail of tiny buttons up the front to her neck and a trim of linen lace where the sleeves touched below her wrists. It hung to the tips of her dark pointy boots which Gracie happened to know laced up past her ankle. The sky behind her was shining such a brilliant blue that it seemed to mute the green and gold desert sitting below it. “Have you seen my hammer?” Gracie asked hopefully.
“Darling child,” Rosa May said with worried eyes, “what do you need a hammer for?”
“I found some more sheet metal down by the mill. The winter is coming and the walls on this house get thinner all the time. I need to add another layer on the north side to block that freezing wind from blowing in.”
“Gracie,” she said softly, “you could set this house on fire with both of us in it and you wouldn’t feel the warmth of the blaze.”
Gracie looked down at her hands sitting lifelessly in her lap. She wanted to cry. She hated when Rosa May spoke to her as if there was no solution. “If I could just find my hammer,” she said, but she knew there was no reason to finish the sentence. She stared out the window wishing she could feel hot tears rolling down her cheek. She hated the sight of such a gorgeous day knowing she couldn’t feel the sun on her face.
“You haven’t seen my hammer then?” Gracie asked distantly. Rosa May floated over the door jam and sat lightly on the table.
“You know I used to come to this house,” she said picking up the dusty, cracked tea cup that sat on a broken saucer. She smiled at Gracie in her soft and inviting way.
“Tell me about it,” Gracie said, she laid back on the dusty floor and closed her eyes.
“It was the turn of the twentieth century,” Rosa May began, “and it was colder than you could imagine. Everyone was dying of pneumonia. We did what we could to enjoy our last days. The man who lived here looked as if he was older than Bodie himself. The war had taken both of his legs and all of his manners. A mean old bastard he was,” she said with a coy smile.
“Why did you come here then?”
“He liked me. I tried to make him smile. Seeing a big old grin grace his miserable face was always worth it. You know, they say misery loves company but what they fail to mention is that the company isn’t worth a damn unless they absolve some of the misery.”
Gracie couldn’t feel the cold floor beneath her. She couldn’t feel the rough wood scraping her elbows, she couldn’t smell the desert air, and she couldn’t feel misery, but she enjoyed Rosa May’s company all the same.
“Where is he now?” Gracie asked sitting up.
“I don’t know,” Rosa May said reflectively, “Heaven, I suppose. Maybe hell. I haven’t seen him around here in a hundred years.”
“Why can’t I remember my home?” Gracie asked with sad eyes begging for answers. Rosa May looked down into her face compassionately.
“I don’t know darling. I wish I could tell you, but I never knew any home worth remembering until I came to Bodie. Here’s the only place I ever really felt loved. I guess that’s why I’m still here.” Gracie tried to remember the people who loved her. She wondered why no one ever come looking for her.
“How long have I been here?” she asked timidly.
“Too long,” Rosa May said looking at her pitifully.
Am I a lost soul? Gracie wondered, but wouldn’t dare say it aloud.
Someone would come looking, she thought. And for once Gracie was glad she couldn’t cry.