5. Visitor or Intruder?
I had honestly debated whether or not I needed to lock the trailer. I went on a warm fall day, sometime near the end of August, and read through some of the farm ledgers that were in the trailer. There were names I didn’t know and the familiar ones of my grandad and some of his brothers. Otherwise, the ledger was pretty straight forward. Supplies, livestock, and seed sold to Hiram Truelove.
The next time I went back I thought I had left some books out. One sat, open on the table. Embarrassed and feeling negligent to the dust and ghosts of the trailer, I hurriedly closed the book and put it back on the shelf where I’d gotten it.
Except I realized that I hadn’t gotten that book out. I didn’t look carefully at it and had assumed it was one of the ledgers but it was the book with the SATOR square in it. I had done a basic google search with some of the text from that book, leading me to its title: Pow Wows, or Long Lost Friend by John George Hohman. It was the first book I’d looked at in the trailer. I hadn’t looked at the book for a few weeks and was sure that I hadn’t set it out on the table.
A week or so later, another new book was out on the table. It sat hanging off the edge of the table when I entered the trailer. I saw it was about a religious order in New York State that was, according to the text, building some sort of magnificent machine. I knew for sure that someone else had been in the trailer. A Polaroid had been used for a bookmark and I couldn’t quite make out what was in the picture, but I could make out a moth in the background. I’d seen the moth before somewhere else, in what I was choosing to call a sketchbook, even though I’d never known anyone in my family to draw.
I called my cousin Ally and asked her. Her dad was older than mine and he’d joined the military right after high school and raised his family on the West Coast. I kept in touch with Ally in part because we both had a hard time adjusting to college. A lot of my family looked down on me dropping out but Ally supported me. She had changed majors and schools a few times and knew a little about what I was going through.
Ally said she didn’t know anything about the trailer, though. She hadn’t been back to the farm since her dad sold his part to someone in the 1990’s. She didn’t even realize the trailer was there.
I asked her if she thought another of our relatives might be in the area. I didn’t expect her to know much about this but she surprised me to say that she had accounted for all of our cousins-first, second, and third cousins-and there was only one living near Milford, in another small town called Angel Grove, about fifty miles away from the farm. It was one of our cousins through marriage, but she was paraplegic and lived in a care facility. I doubted she’d be able to use the deer paths leading to the trailer nor navigate the crude wooden stairs outside the only door.
I should have been concerned that someone else had been in the trailer. I couldn’t help but focus on all of my aunts and uncles that had moved on, either geographically or beyond the veil. As I unpacked over the summer, I had found a number of old photographs, including one of me and my mother sitting on my Uncle Thomas’s porch, waving at cars and watching for passing trains. Those memories were still in me, but so many of the people were gone.
I thought a lot about Granny and Grandad working on the farm and raising kids. The trailer and its contents were all that was left except for grandchildren that were spread throughout the country, loosely tethered together by a thread that Ally had been smart enough to tie.
I had established a schedule of starting work early in the morning and heading out to the trailer most afternoons. I wanted to get there before it started to get dark and I always left before the sunset, in part so that I could find my way back to my car, which I had to park about a quarter mile away at the end of Carpenter Road which led back into Milford. I had also grown afraid of the dark, apparently, when I moved out of the city. I’d never known darkness like nighttime in Milford and I wondered if I’d ever get used to it.
During my afternoons at the trailer, I continued to notice the presence of someone else. Books had been moved on the shelves, papers left in various places in the trailer, as if someone else was doing research. I hadn’t gotten up the nerve to take more than one book or box off the shelves at a time, so it felt particularly stressful to walk in and see things out of place or not put away.
I installed a small security camera on the door to the trailer and purchased a portable WiFi device so that I could keep an eye on the trailer when I wasn’t there. I wanted to find out who else had a key. I remember that it was early September when I installed the camera. There were giant clouds in the sky without the threat of rain and I could see the clouds reflected perfectly in the lake.
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