The Lost

This brief story was written and presented to my readers of the "Sunday Morning Coffee" on March 3, 2002. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as they did.


by Colleen Pustola


She looked around. Where was she? People surrounded her for what seemed like miles and miles! Where in the world had they all come from? One minute she was alone, the next she was sitting amidst this huge crowd! There was no sky; there was no earth. What kept this mass of people so closely grouped together?

...and the DUST! Whew! Between that and the overbearing pressure of the crowd, she felt as though she could hardly breath!

Then she saw them, her family. There were her parents and all eleven siblings! Why, that's her as a young girl and there's her long-dead sister, a child again! Over there were her husband and eight children! She looked around a little more and found a few of her aunts, uncles and even some cousins! Everyone seemed to be there ~ a REUNION! Oh, yes!

But there were also many, many people she didn't know. "Let's think on the positive side of things, though," she thought. Just look at everyone she DID recognize!

Look at her dad! He's so proud of his family! You can see his pride by the way he stands, his shoulders thrown back. The long, hard years of farming show in his weathered face. Her mother's face looks delicate; those long skirts covering her frailness. She won't live much longer... the doctor said she shouldn't have had so many children.

She noticed her two grandfathers by the oxen-pulled wagon. Both her grandmothers and both families' children were in it. She saw her father as a boy! "Everyone is on their way to a Fourth of July community picnic," he'd once told her. To look at them their clothes weren't the finest ~ rather plain actually. One grandfather wears a beaten up hat as proudly as though it were a gentleman's derby.

And there!... there are six of her great-grandparents! Those people pioneered this area. Two pairs of those grandparents made their way over to America ~ one from Germany, the other from Ireland. Best friends, they are and what a combination of personalities they make. One of the great-grandmothers was even a handmaiden to the queen herself before she got married! But they all died, the last one 17 years ago, wasn't it? How could they be here now?

And just in front of her ... her mother had once told her they were her great-great grandparents from the old country! They look a little smudged. How in the world could they be here in this crowd? They look like they might be awfully warm in those heavy clothes. Her first impressions of them hadn't changed ~ he still looked friendly; she still looked mean and strict!

What's going on? she wondered.

See those two women over there? One is a cousin to her, the other just an acquaintance. The two young women are best friends, so close you'd think they were sisters. They have their arms wrapped around each other. They once vied for the attentions of a young man, but she doesn't see him in the crowd. Did either of them marry that man?

She looked at the two women more closely. Why does her cousin's friend have that scar across her face? Her friend didn't have that before least, it looks like a scar.

Some of them had names, some didn't. She was one who didn't. Some were in groups of full families, while others just one or several people. Some were dressed in their Sunday best; others in worn and ragged clothing used for working. The styles of dress of the children was as mixed as the adults they co-mingled with. The old, old gowns of some of the the women ... how could this be? How could these people who had already passed on be here with all these younger people today? What kind of a reunion is this?

Whooshhhh! She felt the cool air waft around her. It wasn't as crowded anymore; the dust was still in the air but it wasn't as choking. Where'd everyone go? She felt as though she was being looked at.

"This one doesn't have a name, either."

Whooshhh! Back into the crowd again!

This is crazy!

Wait! Who is that? That woman who is standing with her hand on the man's shoulder as he sits? Who IS that???

Her sister! It's her sister!

It can't be. She died when a horse pulling a wagon ran over her 9 years ago! What a beautiful woman she was before she died. But she and her husband look so faded now...

There wasn't a mirror to look in, but she knew the dress she was wearing wasn't the one she had on earlier today. As a matter of fact, she hadn't worn this dress since she was 18!

Dateline 2002: Antique Store, Any City, Any Country

"These old pictures, just look at all of them ~ tintypes, sepia-tones ~ all kinds! They sure are dusty! Some of them are in pretty bad shape, too."

"Yeah, I know. It's such a pity that a lot of them don't have names. They're from quite a few old estates. We just took all the pictures and stuck them in that box to get them out of the way. It's rare that anyone looks at them, but we have an occasional customer who looks through them. If we get too many more pictures though, we'll probably have to throw these out to make more room.

"We'll get rid of those unmarked ones first."

~~ FINIS ~~

And so it goes, a dusty box of old pictures sits in yet another out of the way place in one of the world's antique shops (or maybe even a flea market or garage sale). Some of the photographs may be marked with names, dates, places, and/or relationships; many aren't. Certainly, all of the people in the box had life stories, most of which will never be known to future generations. If you haven't figured it out yet, "she" was one of the unmarked pictures in the box ~ one of the lost souls.

I wonder how many of us will become one of the lost souls in still another dusty box of unmarked, unwanted, uncared-for photographic treasures.  How many of our descendants will end up saying, "I haven't the slightest idea who s/he is but s/he sure looks familiar!" Is that really what you want, gentle reader? Are your pictures labeled? Will your grandparents, parents, sister, even YOU be known to your descendants 3-4 generations from now?

Obviously this was a work of fictional fantasy, for we KNOW that souls aren't really attached to pictures...

...or are they?