Short literary fiction is one of my areas of writing interests, so I dabble in composing short stories and flash fiction from time to time.
Lenore's Dreaded Chore
Lenore Ellen Thompson spent her childhood at end of a long dirt road, where her family owned and operated pay fishing lakes—Thompson’s Ponds, later renamed Heavenly Lakes. The fellows who came fishing would get mighty thirsty, so the Thompson's sold soda pop and other snacks in their concession stand that they nicknamed "The Shanty." Back then in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the pop was sold in 12 ounce returnable bottles, but the fishers would not bring back their bottles to "The Shanty," instead they simply threw them on the ground around the ponds, and Lenore would have to go out and gather them up, so they could return them to the Pop Man, who came every Saturday to deliver fresh bottle of pop from his big pop truck.
To gather up the pop bottles, Lenore would carry a pop crate that held about 20 or so bottles. She was always fearful when negotiating the sloping side of the ponds because she could not swim, and her inability to swim accounted for the reason that she feared picking up bottles on the sloping sides of the lakes. Sometimes she would pick them up around the level sides and just not bother with the sloping side, but when she did that, her father would tell her she was lazy for not finishing her task, so to avoid being upbraided by her father, she determined to finish her task regardless of her safety .
After a weekend of fairly heavy business, the Monday, June 17, 1957, at approximately 9 a.m., Lenore was hauling the pop crate along the sloping side of the Big Pond, as the family referred to the bigger pond back then; the other one was the Little Pond, naturally. It had rained the night before and the ground was slippery with mud. There was only one person fishing in the lake, a very thin woman who was casting her line out and reeling in and casting out and reeling in, more as if she were practicing than fishing.
As Lenore stepped down and reached out to retrieve a bottle from near the edge of the water, she slipped and went tumbling into the water. The pop crate tumbled in after her hitting her on the leg. She panicked, she could not feel the bottom of the lake under her feet, so she panicked some more. Suddenly, her lungs felt as though they were going to burst. All at once, she realized that she was breathing under water, and she was shocked! She wondered how she would tell her mom and dad that she could breath under water.
A Bizarre Thing Happened
But then a most bizarre thing happened. She lunged up out of the water, hovered over it, and then looked around for what to do next. She saw the woman, who was sitting in an odd position, cross-legged, on the hard ground, not moving, just staring off into space. It seemed that Lenore saw the woman open her brain and ask Lenore to enter it. She did what the thin woman requested, and then after what must have been only seconds, Lenore realized that she no longer had the body of an eleven-year-old, but that of a woman who must have been in her thirties.
Lenore got up and walked into a clump of trees up the sloping side of the pond. She sat down to decide what to do. She closed her eyes and began to pray. Although she had never really prayed before, she couldn’t think of anything else to do, so she prayed for God or Someone or Something to tell her what to do. She knew she could not live as this woman—Lenore was still eleven-year-old. What could she do?
Lenore was guided to think hard about what she used to look like, and so she did that thinking for several minutes as hard as she could. Slowly, she could feel her body changing. She looked down at the hands; they were her hands. The legs were her legs, and the arms her arms. She wondered if the face was her face, so she went down to the water's edge and looked in and saw that, indeed, it was the face of eleven-year-old Lenore Ellen Thompson. And she saw something that stunned her more than she had ever been stunned before: she saw her former body in the water. She was starting to panic again—this time not because of not being able to swim, because she knew that if she fell into the water now, she would be able to swim.
What if They Find the Body?
Lenore tried to figure what she would do when people find that body. Everybody knows that she is not twins. She searched for a long tree branch and shoved the body deeper into the water. Luckily, it finally disappeared so no one could see it from the bank, and she reasoned that because she was very much alive, no one would ever bother to look.
Lenore sat for a few moments trying to calm herself and figure what to do next. She had been gone for what seemed a long time, and she knew her mother would begin to worry if she didn't get back to the house soon. Then it hit her that she had that woman's clothes on. They were so tight that she could barely breathe. The woman, whose body she now inhabited, had been a very thin woman, and Lenore was a rather chubby girl. And she realized that her mother would know that those clothes were not Lenore's shorts and top. She had to get into the house without her mother seeing her and get some of her own clothes.
So she sneaked up the hillside and waited until her mother came outside. Fortunately, her mother came out and went to the garden to pull weeds. Lenore ran as fast as she could, bounded into the house, changed her clothes, bundled up the thin woman's clothes and then started to panic again. What could she do with those clothes? Her mother would know that these were not hers. She looked out the window and saw that her mother had moved to the very far end of the garden, and thus could not see Lenore if she went outside. Lenore thought at first that she could burn the clothes in a trash barrel drum that they were using to burn trash. But then she would have to account to for the fire.
The trash barrel was just a few yards away from their outdoor john, (they still had no indoor plumbing back then), and she got the idea to just toss them in the john, and that's what she did. It didn't occur to her that anyone would look down into the excrement hard enough to recognize a pair of shorts and a blouse. But later that night, her father started complaining about the fishermen using their private toilet. He said somebody had put some clothes down in it. That's all though. He and Lenore's mother just thought that some fisherman had tossed those clothes down there. Luck was on Lenore's side again.
Who Was That Woman?
Things settled down for Lenore Ellen Thompson over the next few days, months, years—at times, she wondered if that body would ever be discovered. But what bothered her most was, who was that woman who gave up her body for Lenore? Every time Lenore would hear of a woman missing, she wondered if it were that thin woman until she'd find out some fact that made it impossible; for example, a woman in Eaton, Ohio, went missing, but they found her body later in Dayton in a hotel room, where she had committed suicide. Over the years, this fear finally faded.
After earning her culinary certificate in Cooking Arts at the Culinary Institute in Rhode Island, Lenore married the chef Christopher Evanston, and they worked together in vegetarian restaurants in Chicago, Miami, and finally Encinitas, where they settled down to raise their two sons, Eliot and William.
In her early thirties, Lenore encountered the teachings of Vedanta from which she learned some astounding concepts which gave her great comfort—like reincarnation and karma and how each human being is responsible for his/her own salvation. According to those teachings, if we have led a life that has caused us great pain, we can change it, and follow a pathway that leads us to happiness in the future, and the heart of these teaching is meditation, which calms the body and mind, allowing the soul to find itself.
Discovering that each human body has a soul was a defining moment in the life of Lenore Ellen Thompson because she could now understand that it was her soul that left that body that day and entered the body of the thin woman. Who was the thin woman? Lenore still did not know, but she thought that the woman was just an astral being used by the Divine Creator to allow Lenore to continue to live out her life and to give her an experience base that would allow her to identify with the teachings of Vedanta—no one else in her family ever had such an experience base. No one ever turned up missing who fit the thin woman's description. And no one had bought a ticket to fish that morning that Lenore drowned while picking up pop bottles. No one saw the thin woman except Lenore.
Vedanta explains that vagrant souls exist and try to enter bodies of people who allow their minds to remain blank. At some point during Lenore's death state, she became something like a vagrant soul, and the thin woman was waiting for her to take over her body. Lenore comforted herself knowing that the thin woman invited her to do that; Lenore did not merely abscond with the woman's physical encasement. Lenore didn't even know how she did it. It was as if forces were moving her and connecting her without much of her awareness. Lenore was guided to place her attention between her eyes and let the forces do the rest.
Vedanta also explains that intense prayer can change the physical body. And at the time of her death and entry into that woman's body, Lenore prayed with an intensity that she had never before or after experienced.
The Thin Woman Revisits
Despite her bizarre drowning death and rebirth, Lenore lived a fairly ordinary life. She was content in her marriage, motherhood, and loved working with her husband cooking in vegetarian restaurants. Both sons entered monastic life in the ashrams of Paramahansa Yogananda, and Lenore whole-heartedly approved of her sons' life choices.
Lenore's soul left its body with finality June 17, 2057, at 9:00 a.m.—exactly one hundred years after the bizarre drowning. Both sons were at her side as she slipped out of her physical encasement. Her belovèd husband had passed only days before.
As she was entering the astral realm, Lenore was permitted a brief visitation with her belovèd husband and with several friends from her meditation group. Then she saw a brilliant light that slowly formed itself into the image of the thin woman, who had offered Lenore her body that day by the Big Pond. The thin woman then welcomed Lenore's soul to the astral world, where she continues on her journey back to the Infinite.
© 2015 Linda Sue Grimes