Voices in the Wind
by William Falo
Katya heard strange voices when the wind blew from the east; it pierced the darkness of her forgotten childhood but not enough to spark a memory of where she came from.
She left footprints in the sand and seagulls squawking as she left the beach and went up the steps to the boardwalk. The ocean’s roar dwindled to a purr. “Time for Tomas,” she said aloud.
A short walk and she reached the multi-dwelling building. It housed seniors who required some assistance but wished to remain independent. It was located close enough and built at an angle to provide partial ocean views and allow the ocean breezes to provide some relief from the summer heat.
As the seagulls watched from above, Katya rang the bell for Tomas Sarka, her assignment as a senior aide. The more time she spent with him, the more she noticed him slipping into despair.
“Hi, Tomas, how are you today?”
“The same as yesterday.” He rubbed his beard and put on his hat.
A letter stood open on the kitchen table. She quickly read it as Tomas went to the bathroom. It was asking, almost demanding that Tomas move to a nursing home near his family many miles away.
“Tomas, I saw the letter on the table.”
“You saw it. Well, I’m not moving. I love to be near the ocean.”
Walking up the slanted, warped boards that led up to the boardwalk wore Tomas out. They rested under a sign that said inside were the best fries on the boardwalk.
“Maybe it’s best to be near your family,” Katya said. She noticed him bent over as he walked.
“Best for who? Them, so they’re closer to my money, closer to visit me, so they don’t feel guilty, closer to tell me what’s best for me. They never ask me what I want.” Stopping to rest on a bench, he added. “I have to stay close to the ocean. I miss living in the Czech Republic, people I knew, friends. And I miss my wife. I feel closer to them here. Sometimes I think I can hear them in the wind.”
Katya looked out at white-capped waves. Her cell phone broke the silence. She answered it but thought about what he had said about voices in the wind.
“Hello, Matt.” She listened for a while then hung up. “That’s my boyfriend Matt. He’s canceling our dinner plans because he has to help someone with a radio. He’s always tinkering with radios. I think they’re more important to him than I am.”
They looked out to the sea, deep in thought. Tomas looking like a man at a birthday party but dressed for a funeral.
“How is your mother?” Tomas asked her as he crept down the boardwalk.
Katya frowned, “She acts like a gypsy.” They gazed into the store window of Shrivers Salt Water Taffy. “My mother is annoying. My father and brothers left her, everyone left her. Kids are afraid of her; they think she is a witch and might turn them into something.” The smell of pizza made her stomach growl.
Tomas started stumbling forward, “What does she think about that? Did you ever ask her?”
“No. Let’s get some pizza.” The pizza always tasted great by the ocean; it must be the salt air. They sat down. “My mother believes in magic.”
Tomas looked at her. “There was a story about people near my home town in Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic of course, near a mountain pass, in a village called Tachou. Gypsies lived there, you see. People claimed they had magical powers. However, they were only stories. The German army destroyed the area. Then the Russian army came. Many gypsies were killed, and the stories were forgotten.”
Tilting her head, and pulling back her hair, Katya asked, “Did you ever hear about people hearing voices in the wind? Do you?”
“No, I don’t think so.” Tomas leaned on his cane. “I think we had better head back. Our time is almost up.”
Tomas still seemed sad to her, but he had been talking more than usual. “Ouch,” she yelled as he tapped her leg with his cane. She had been staring at the man making the pizza.
When they were back at Tomas’s apartment, she went into the bathroom and took out her anti- depressants. She had never read the side effects. Doing so now, she noticed they were extreme, including hearing voices. She frowned.
After saying good-bye, she decided to visit her mother.
Her mother lived in a big house, which made it look and feel even emptier then it was. It was not far from Ocean City; just pass the Somers Point Circle where three liquor stores stood, trying to capture tourists before they got to Ocean City, which had none.
The smell of flowers was overpowering, coming from three candles spaced around the living room.
“Katya, how are you dear? Why don’t you visit more often?”
Katya didn’t answer. She picked up some jellybeans out of a bowl that sat under a pile of family pictures. “Mother, I want to ask you something.” She fidgeted before continuing. “Do you know anything about hearing voices in the wind, by the ocean?” She blushed, embarrassed to ask her something so crazy. She feared criticism about her recent divorce, her lifestyle, and singing in an unsuccessful rock band.
However, it didn’t come. Her mother plopped down in a big, soft chair and sighed. “It could be from all the stress you’re under, or the medication I know you take. Nevertheless, there are stories from Romania.”
Her mother took her glasses off, deep in thought. “Certain people could hear voices from far away. Extreme emotion will carry them on the wind like radio waves. Certain people could hear them, if they would just listen. These days nobody listens, everybody talks. You may be able to hear them.”
“Could they be from dead people?’
Her mother stood up. Katya knew she had gone too far. Her mother didn’t speak of the dead — ever. She did sing at funerals, even in church, but wasn’t sure of her belief in the afterlife. She had been raised Catholic but was a gypsy by tradition.
Her mother didn’t answer the question. “Look how you’re dressed, like a flirt.”
This was the mother everybody ran from. “I know. I got to go,” was all Katya said. When her mother acted like this, Katya felt weakened, like Superman exposed to kryptonite. One day she would visit more; one day she would listen to her mother.
On her way out, she looked at a tattered doll on the shelf with one green eye; the other eye socket was empty. “Why don’t you have any pictures of me as a child?”
The conversation was over as far as her mother was concerned. She had no answer, just more confusion.
Was it the pills or some inherited magical ability? Driving to Matt’s she thought of Tomas.
At Matt’s apartment near the bay, a steady breeze blew Katya’s hair in many directions. The smell of dying fish in the bay permeated the air. The living room was a mess, radio equipment everywhere. She held her hands on her hips, “Matt, I’m tired of being second to these damn radios.”
Matt sighed, “I’m sorry, I had to help someone in the club.” A crackling voice came from the back room breaking the tension.
Matt went to the radio and worked on the receiver, one of the many pieces of equipment he kept there. As he turned the knob, she heard some voices in a foreign language.
“Say, Matt, do you get people from the Czech Republic on there?”
“Sure, sometimes. Depends on the sunspots, angle of the antenna, and power of the amp.”
“You know Tomas, the old man I’m assigned to assist. Can you rig up a radio at his place so he can talk to people in the Czech Republic?”
“Sure, I can rig up anything to do with ham radios.”
The next day they had the radio set up and Tomas heard for the first time in many years a voice from his homeland. His face lit up, as he talked to someone in Prague in his native language. Katya felt great, she had never seen him so happy.
“Matt, this might be the best thing we ever did.”
“That is true,” Matt, said smiling.
The next morning a neighbor found Tomas by the radio. He went home and left Tomas to talk.
Katya fell into despair. She went to the beach, and thought, she would visit her mom again. Try to listen to her. Someone needed to listen, everybody wants to talk, there’s a need for good listeners. She walked on the wet sand trailing footprints behind her. She heard seagulls fighting, people talking, someone blasting a Bruce Springsteen song. No voices. It must have been the pills.
The wind turned and blew from the east. Despite the sound of the thundering waves, Katya stopped. She heard a small girl’s voice. A little girl played in the sand with a doll. She was singing, “Voices in the wind, crying out in tears, they plead for life, hoping someone will hear.”
The doll and that song awakened long-hidden memories. Katya fell to her knees in the wet sand and covered her eyes with her hands. She knew where she came from. She remembered Romania.
She was standing in line with other girls, holding the one-eyed doll. The sound of crying and sobs filled her ears. A gypsy woman picked her out and took her from the orphanage. Why did she choose her? Katya felt guilty. Another girl, her friend, whispered, “Remember me.” Katya had forgotten.
Tears streamed down her cheeks, making puddles in the sand. The wind intensified and she heard the voices again. She knew now that it wasn’t magic or pills. The voices were the other orphans’, and no radio could reach them. She would have to go back to the sad past hidden in the darkness of her memories.
Copyright © 2007 by William Falo