Music for Ghosts
By Laura McHale Holland
Sleepless and in pain, Mireille hears murmuring by her bedroom window. She looks outside and sees familiar translucent forms gathering in the darkness along the backyard fence. She angles into the wheelchair at the side of the bed, lifts a mandolin from her cluttered dressing table, and maneuvers out of the bedroom through the house and down the ramp into her yard.
There she sees them, swaying like silver leaves blowing in the breeze: her mother and father, husband, grandparents, sister, brothers, best friends from childhood, the son who died while a babe in the crib—all her loved ones lost from the many stages of her long life.
She picks up the mandolin and begins to pluck as though arthritis had never invaded her fingers. Her loved ones surround her and dance—she strong as the maypole, they light as ribbons. She plays on until, hours later, she closes her eyes and drops the mandolin into her lap.
Mireille’s daughter stops by later and finds her mother in the yard, sleeping to the rising sun. As daughter pushes mother back into the house and then makes hot tea, Mireille promises to stop playing music for ghosts every night. She promises to take her sleeping pills and her pain medication. She promises to play bingo at the church on Mondays and Wednesdays and attend the water aerobics class at the Y on Thursdays. She promises many things to get her daughter out of her hair and off to work. Then Mireille sleeps the day away in her chair, hands at peace on the mandolin resting in her lap.