A Premonition Ignored & Missing Wife

I lost my wife while hunting for a bargain.

In the early nineties, I browsed for antiques with my wife Selene in a shop situated on a former farm outside Bloomsburg PA. The store sold quality pieces inside a renovated barn. After admiring two floors stuffed with Empire divans, Eastlake parlor sets, and Renaissance Revival armchairs—all beyond our budget—I asked whether they sold discount projects that needed repaired.

“Absolutely,” said the lady at the checkout counter. “They’re over there.” She gestured vaguely through double glass doors across an open field.

Stepping outside, I considered returning for better instructions. Two sheds sat across an empty space the size of a soccer field—one along the northern edge and the other to the east. The only other structure, a cement outhouse, sat a dozen yards to the right, slightly to the left of our line of sight to the eastern shed.

Selene took my hand and started toward the right. As we neared the outhouse, she veered to the left to pass in front of it while I stayed to the right. Without reason, a bizarre thought occurred to me as we parted:

Don’t do it, said an inner voice, or she won’t be there when you round the outhouse. Naturally I ignored the warning.

When I passed into the open field—after three or four seconds—my wife was nowhere in sight. Even worse, I had the definite sense of being alone. The silly premonition suddenly lost its humor.

I circled the outhouse in both directions. She might have re-entered the shop unseen if she had sprinted. The barn was too large for her to have rounded its corners between our parting and my search. Likewise, the sheds were too distant for her to have crossed the field without my seeing her, so I verified the outhouse stalls were empty after calling inside. Before returning to the shop, I re-circled the outhouse and checked the roof.

The lady behind the counter assured me my wife had not returned, so I hurried toward our original goal, the eastern shed. At the farther end of the outhouse, I ran into Selene as she charged around a corner.

“That wasn’t funny!” she yelled, much too angry over a simple mix-up.

After a stormy exchange, we grew calm enough to compare accounts of the past few minutes. As she listened to my story, her Mediterranean complexion blanched.

“That’s impossible,” she whispered. “I walked straight to the shed without stopping. You had to have seen me. I looked for you, but you were nowhere in sight. I thought you were playing one of your stupid pranks.”

“Then what happened?”

“The doors were open, so I went inside. It’s still a part of the farm. There was straw on a dirt floor and some guy wearing a raw cotton shirt with billowing sleeves. He hammered a leather harness with a mallet. I started to ask him where they kept the antiques except…”

Disquiet squelched her voice.

“Go on.”

“He…I couldn’t hear the mallet fall or anything else. Everything was quiet. I crossed the shed to stand by his shoulder, but he never looked up. I almost touched him to get his attention. Something told me not to—that I’d be really upset if I tried it. So I backed out and forced myself to walk across the field. I told myself you’d be here when I arrived, and you were.

I wanted to see how someone could hammer a harness without making noise, so I tried to lead her toward the shed. She resisted until I pointed out we couldn’t be separated as long as we held hands.

When we reached the shed, a rusted padlock hung on the wooden doors. Moving to peer through grimy windows, our grips tightened as we scanned a storeroom cluttered with shabby furniture on a concrete floor—no workmen clad in billowing shirts, no wooden mallets, and no straw.

We returned to our car and drove home without discussing the affair or saying much. On the seat between us, our hands remained tightly clasped.

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~ by jperrykelly on July 31, 2010.

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