The Urn

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Chapter 18

Orville sat in the sun of the early afternoon at a table at Regina’s, one of his all-time favorite cafes in Laconia enjoying the unseasonably warm temperatures of the December day. Several people he knew stopped by briefly to welcome him home and ask about the trip, but over all Orville was enjoying his time alone to readjust to being back home and just letting his mind wander aimlessly. He had been to three humane shelters that morning following his adjustment with his chiropractor, but he had come away empty-handed. It was not that there had not been any options for a dog at any of the shelters…quite the opposite. The shelters seemed to be brimming with dogs needing good homes, but Orville had just not yet found one that really spoke to his heart.

Dog jumped and yapped and begged as he walked through with volunteers who worked at the various locations and it was heart-breaking for Orville. If he had possessed the facilities and the wherewithal, he would have backed a large truck up to each place and taken each and every one. But he was looking for that one special dog and so far he had just not felt the connection. It was hard walking away from each one knowing they were most likely not no-kill shelters, but he could not save theme all. So to decompress and try and clear his mind, he had stopped off here at Regina’s for a club sandwich and a beer.

After eating and clearing away his trash, Orville felt recharged and made plans to take another run at the shelters in a week or so when he had had more time to put his travels behind him and settle into Laconia as a new retiree. But as he dumped his trash in the bin and was putting his plate and tray on top of the can where they got cleaned and reused, Orville glanced up and saw a flyer on a bulletin board announcing a community garage sale that was being held all day in the square where farmer’s markets and other large events were set up in Laconia. Orville was normally not one to be interested in such things, but he needed to walk a bit to digest his lunch and he figured what the hell.

The sale was going on just a few blocks from Regina’s, so Orville left his car where it was and walked across Halpern Avenue and through the park to take a look. Orville had never been to one of thee events before and he was amazed at the wide assortment of selections across a seemingly endless array of tables that stretched for row after row. Though there were some actual items of interest to him, Orville found about three-quarters of the offerings to fall into the category he would describe as “time to get this crap out of my house and into yours”. He chuckled to himself wondering if it would not have been just as efficient for most of these people to have donated a lot of this stuff to some charity rather than spend the day attached to a table asking 25 cents for this and 50 cents for that. On the other hand, though, he suppose what they did with their time was none of his business and at least they were not just dumping more junk into a landfill somewhere…at least not yet.

He cruised the aisles just scanning everything from afar amazed at what the average person could apparently amass over a life time. The he thought of his own home and figured the only difference for him was that he was not out here trying to hawk it to some other resident. After he had finished one complete round through the maze of tables, Orville doubled-back to return to his car and head home…maybe check in on Sarah despite her request to be left alone. Maybe, he thought, she could just use some things from the grocery store or something. But just as he reached the last couple of tables he caught sight of this unique-looking porcelain urn sitting on one table among a myriad of other items.

He did not know why, but he slowed and went over for a closer look. The piece was about a foot in height or so with this intriguing green hue through which some black web-like striations were mixed. It had two simple silver bands, one around the upper rim and one at the base that circled the urn. The design on the bands was not ornate by any means, but the pattern of some sort of vine or other plant that had been imprinted into the metal fit well with the over all design. Likewise, the lid had a conical cap that matched the bands leaving a perfect oval section in the center of the lid that was the same as the body of the urn.

“Excuse me?” Orville asked the woman sitting at the table. “Is that urn yours?”

She looked over and just shook her head.

“Can’t say that it is. I’m just sitting a table for people in my block. I guess someone there dropped it off.”

“It’s very curious. So you don’t now anything else about it?”

“Sorry. You interested in it?”

“Actually…” Orville said, still not quite understanding what it was about the urn that had drawn him over, “I am.”

“Someone pass away in your family?”

Orville laughed as he had not even considered that she might think he wanted it for the actual use for which it had been intended.

“No…I just like the looks of it. It would look great on the mantle over my fireplace at home. How much did you want for it?”

She reached out and picked it up and turned it in her hands.

“I don’t know…it is a nice piece and it’s got some heft to it, too. How about $25?”

Orville had been thinking more along the lines of ten bucks, but as she handed it to him to inspect he had to admit it was flawless and the way it sparkled in the sunlight was beautiful. And she was right, it did have some heft to it. The porcelain work was apparently from a talented craftsman and was not just some cheap knock-off as he had expected.

“Would you take fifteen?”

“Split the difference at $17.50 and you’ve got a deal.”

Orville smiled, impressed at her haggling skills.

“Here’s eighteen. Keep the change.”

Orville paid her and she slipped it into a deep violet colored satchel with a drawstring and handed it over as he passed her the cash. The protective bag seemed just as lovely to Orville as the urn itself and he headed to his car feeling like he had gotten a real bargain. He set it aside on the passenger seat while he dialed Sarah up to check on her. He was a bit relieved at having just gotten her voice mail as he was not sure quite what to say to her at this point. He left a message and told her to call him if she needed anything.

After a quick stop at the store for some beer and a few other odds and ends that he needed himself, Orville headed north out of Laconia and into the shadows of the overhanging trees that lined the narrow road to his bungalow just as the sun was dipping behind the treetops. He put away his groceries and then carefully removed the cover from the urn and set it in a prominent spot at the center of his fireplace mantle and stood back to admire it. Just as he had thought, it was a perfect fit for the space and it really accented the room. Though he supposed it would soon become the center of question after question from visitors about who was in there.

Orville chuckled as he stowed the bag in a drawer of the chest that had been given to him by his grandfather years ago. He then headed to the den to have a beer and read while he waited on some leftover lasagna to heat up. The sun set just a few moments later and Orville ate as he finished up his book. It was still early, but he was feeling a bit weary as he dried and put away the dishes from dinner, and he decided not to fight it. Orville figured he was still feeling the lingering effects of his long trip and the death of Joe Garrity was certainly not helping either he supposed. After checking the locks on the doors, Orville doused the lights as he went through the house and slipped into bed, too fatigued to begin another book, though it was rare he headed to bed without some reading.

He was soon asleep relishing being back in his own bed once again nestled in the serenity and calm of his little forest retreat outside Laconia. Orville was floating along deep waves of sleep when a loud boom and flashing light shook him from his slumber as his bed rattled on the floor and the little cottage trembled.

“What the hell…” Orville said out loud as he jerked awake in a fuzzy confusion.

He looked across the room and saw sheet after sheet of rain slashing against the window pane as another explosive crack of thunder vibrated the place, like a cannon being fired from above. The lightning came again within seconds of the thunder and he relaxed. What is it with this weather lately, he wondered. March was, he supposed, the time of year for these storms to begin to make their presence known, but the violent nature of these lately often did not show up in Tennessee until well into the summer. Orville lay back down and sunk deeper under the covers as the storm raged on as he dreaded what possible clean up might be awaiting him in the morning from the trees and bushes surrounding the bungalow. But soon the thunder and lightning dissipated and the rain tapered off to a light to moderate shower and Orville fell back into a deep sleep once again.

***********

He awoke to a sunny sky the next morning and stretched before arising. He threw back the linens and went to the window to reluctantly take a look outside to see what might await him to clean up. On that side of the house and out back as far as he could see, all seemed just as it had been the day before and he sighed with relief. But he knew well enough that the most fragile and susceptible tree limbs around the place were out front, so he did not think he had dodged the bullet completely as he padded to the kitchen and turned the coffee maker on. As the water began to gurgle and drip through the grounds Orville opened the front door and surveyed the view beyond the porch and near his car.

A few small limbs had come down in the melee from the storm as well as a scattering of loose brush from around the edges of the drive, but not as much as Orville had expected based on the severity of the blast that had roused him from his sleep. The air was significantly cooler, though, than it had been the day before and he assumed the unusually warm day had been just one of those outliers that often came along in the early spring. Things seemed back to normal for this time of year now and Orville quickly closed the door against the chill of the early morning almost wondering if a small fire in the fireplace might be in order to chase the lingering cold from the night away. The enticing smell of his coffee in the kitchen made his stomach rumble and he thought that, yes, a nice small fire would be just the thing once he had retrieved his first mug of caffeine.

But as he closed the door and began to make his way through the living room and to the kitchen, Orville glanced off to his left and stopped in his tracks. The urn that he had placed precisely in the center of the hearth—or so he thought he had anyway—was now skewed a few inches to the right. And to top it off, the lid was sitting just ajar and loose on top of the body. Orville furrowed his brow as he walked over and looked at it. He was sure he had put the thing in the exact center of the ledge, yet here it was this morning just off-center as if it had walked along the hearth on its own. He could have accepted this as just a bad recollection of where he had placed it the night before, except that the lid was sitting at a slight angle and loose on the top.

He puzzled and puzzled over this until it finally came to him. The storm of course! The concussive echo of the thunder must have vibrated the thing over and maybe have even been strong enough to rattle loose the lid. It was a stretch, Orville thought to himself, but it was the only logical explanation. Certainly the intensity of the thunder could have done this he figured as he reseated the lid and moved his new purchase back to the center of the hearth. In addition he slid it back as far as it would go on the ledge in case there was another such episode that might give the urn enough momentum from a tremor of another storm to fall from its perch. It has not been an extravagant purchase by any stretch of the imagination, but all the same Orville wanted to secure it as best he could. The thought of the handsome relic smashed on the brickwork below made him grimace.

And with no more thoughts of the urn and what had happened, Orville lit a quick fire and retreated to the kitchen to retrieve his coffee and a new book to enjoy in front of the crackling flames.

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