Excerpt of "The
MARIAH OF THE SPIRITS
When the bus pulled away she realized she was all alone in fog
thick as she-crab soup, in a place without a single landmark she
could see. And with evening coming on! She might be standing in
the middle of the street, for all she knew, but a street without
any traffic she could see or hear. Once the last sounds of the
shuttle bus died away, she could hear water slapping hard against
So she was near the harbor! Or near some body of water, anyway.
Her suitcase in one hand, her pocketbook in the other, Mrs. Oliver
walked blindly a few feet in what she thought might be the direction
of the water, and then a few more feet forward, until finally
she saw a small dome outlined by very dim lights….
Straining her eyes through the fog, she could see that it was
a gazebo. She was able to make out, as she walked a little closer,
that there was a boat dock beyond the gazebo, and past that,
dark, liverish, choppy water. Where in the world was she? It
wasn't City Pier, or any dock she recognized, but there was nothing
so unusual about that. There were many public docks she knew
about, and there must be hundreds of private docks in and around
any port city. She could be anywhere!
The fog thinned for a moment, like a curtain held back from a
window, and she could see people standing under the domed roof,
huddled against the dampness. They were men and women, many at
or around her age, she guessed…. Most were white-haired
like herself, well-dressed tourists, as best she could tell.
Oh, she was so thankful to see somebody, anybody, now that it
was getting so near dark. She was as excited as if she'd just
run across old friends. She noticed a thickening in the gray distance,
a boat or a ferry with lights that shone dim through the foggy,
deepening night, moving slowly toward the dock. A harbor tour
of course! To Fort Sumter? No, it was much too late in the day
for that. She'd heard about moonlight excursions into the harbor
and always meant to go on one. Were they waiting for the tour
boat? Little chance for moonlight this evening, not in this thick
fog...She started across the boardwalk to the steps leading up
to the gazebo.
She heard little snatches of conversation. Maybe the heavy fog
would lift during the passage, someone said. Wouldn't that be
lovely? A full moon over the harbor! Could be a rough ride over
the choppy water, said one anxious voice. It might be, another
voice said, that the attractions on the other side will more than
make up for a less than perfect journey. Mrs. Oliver started up
the steps thinking she might just stay and chat with them until
their ferry arrived. They certainly seemed like pleasant enough
people, and she was genuinely curious to find out just where it
was they were all waiting to go.