The day started out pleasant enough. With no traffic jams to hold me up, I actually arrived at the office early. After unlocking the door, I turned on the lights then sat down at my desk. That’s when I looked up and saw that one of the paintings on the wall was crooked. It looked as if someone had rotated it down and a little to the left.
The painting showed a bunch of trees that were just beginning to turn their fall colors. An old fashioned rock wall ran parallel to the trees. There was grass leading up to the wall—a lawn perhaps? That’s where the artist had obviously set up his or her easel.
I always liked that painting. It reminded me of the yard in back of the house where I lived when I was a little girl. That was in Connecticut. Back then, there was a path that lead from our yard into the woods. My father often took me on walks with him into those woods. As we walked, he’d often make up stories about all the creatures, real and imaginary, who lived in the woods. Some of his stories were extremely fanciful. I used to love our walks together.
But now, I’m an adult, living in California, and there are no rock walls, and my father’s long gone. At least I still have my mother, for the time being anyway. Right now she’s ensconced in an assisted living facility, and only occasionally remembers who I am.
While I was thinking about my mom and my childhood home, I went over and straightened the painting. Then as soon as I sat back down, the door opened, and my boss walked in. I work for a Chiropractor. I’m his receptionist, and all around paper pusher.
“You have the charts from yesterday all put away?” he asked.
“Good! Then what about the charts for this mornings’ appointments?”
“They’re right here,” I said, handing them to him. While he was still organizing them, the first scheduled patient arrived.
The morning went pretty much as usual, with a steady stream of patients flowing in and out. Then around eleven forty-five, I happened to look up and noticed that the same painting was hanging crooked again. Damn! One of the patients must have brushed against it.
Pushing up from my chair, I circled around the counter and moved to straighten it once more. “Now, stay straight!” I mumbled then returned to my seat.
The rest of the day, the painting stayed as I had positioned it, but then, later in the afternoon, just as was just about to leave for the day, I saw that it was hanging crooked again. “What the hell!” I remarked, getting up to straighten it for what seemed like the umpteenth time.
Must be something wrong with one of the wall hooks, I thought. But I wasn’t going to worry about it right then. For some reason, the day had felt longer than usual, which was why all I wanted to do was get home and collapse in front of the TV. So, after tilting the painting back into place, I grabbed my purse, shut off the lights, and went out the door, locking it behind me. Tomorrow was another day, I thought.
But it wasn’t going to be a normal day.
Sure enough, when I arrived at work the next morning, I found the painting hanging crooked again. “Damn!” I said out loud. Since my boss had not come in yet, I didn’t feel funny about talking to the painting. “What the hell is wrong with you?” I demanded. Of course, I didn’t get an answer.
After listening to the silence, I grabbed both sides of the painting and lifted it off its wall hooks then put it down on the floor. Leaning it against the wall, I began to inspect the hooks, but couldn’t find anything wrong with them. Then I checked the wire attached to the back of the painting. Nothing wrong there either. So, why did it keep falling over? With a sigh, I replaced the painting on its hooks then went back to my desk.
An hour later, the painting was hanging crooked again. “What the frig is going on!” I mumbled a little louder than I had intended. One of the patients heard me.
“Did you just swear?” she asked.
Feeling my face turn a bright red, I explained. “I’m sorry, but this painting won’t stay straight. It’s driving me crazy.”
“Oh!” she replied, nodding.
This time, instead of straightening it up, I decided just to ignore it. But then my boss, who was on his way to the bathroom, spotted it and asked, “Why is this painting crooked?”
“Because, it won’t stay straight!” I told him.
“Well, fix it,” he ordered then continued on.
With a huge sigh, I got up from my chair and went over to the painting. “Will you please stay straight,” I ordered, tilting it up level again.
When my boss returned from his trip to the bathroom, and saw that the painting was level, he stated, “Now that’s much better.” Of course, it didn’t stay that way.
Ten minutes later, the painting was crooked again.
This time, instead of straightening it, I took it off the wall and stored it, along with the hooks, in the coat closet. Then I told my boss what I had done. “Don’t worry,” I assured him. “I’ll get you another painting for the wall at The Frame Shop after work.”
As soon as I left work, I headed for The Frame Shop, and picked up a similar type of landscape. As for the original? I took it home with me and hung it on the wall in my living room next to the TV.
“That should do it,” I said, as I collapsed on my couch and began flipping through the channels. I stopped when I came upon an old 1940s movie: The Ghost And Mrs. Muir. I’d always really liked that movie.
But then while I was watching, I noticed movement out the corner of my eye. When I looked toward the painting, I saw it was slowly rotating all by itself down and to the left. “What the hell!” I said, as I jumped up, my eyes bulging. No friggin’ way, I thought! This has got to be a dream, but, of course, it wasn’t.
Standing there for several seconds, I kept staring at the painting—a painting that reminded me of my youth, and the walks I used to take with my father. That’s when the idea came to me.
“Dad, is that you?” I said out loud. “Have you been making the painting tilt?” Of course, I got no answer, but I couldn’t seem to let go of the notion that maybe my father’s ghost was doing something to the painting; which was when another even crazier idea came to mind. “Does this have anything to do with mom?” I asked him.
At that point, I saw the painting slowly rotate back up until it was straight again. That’s when I knew I had to go check on my mother. I could have just called, but I wanted to be there in person.
It took me only ten minutes to drive to the assistant living facility. Once inside, I ran straight to her room. That’s where I found her sitting in a chair facing the window. The curtains had been pulled aside, and a magnificent sunset was shading the evening sky in bright reds, yellows, and blues.
“Mom;” I called gently. No response. “Mom,” I called again. When she still didn’t respond, I walked around to the front of the chair.
It didn’t take a genius to see she was gone. “Oh, mom!” I said, as tears began to fill my eyes. Leaning forward, I placed a hand gently on top of her head. Her scalp still felt slightly warm. Then moving my mouth close to her ear, I whispered, “Tell dad I said hi when you see him.”
After brushing away the tears, I went to find a supervisor.