A La Mondain Storytelling

I am sitting and watching the clouds pass over the moon under a cedar tree. The bark was slick when I tried to climb it. The branches did not lend themselves easily to a quick climb, perhaps the tree thought about this. Perhaps it did not want to lend itself to such endeavors easily. One by one the three of us attempted to hook our legs over the lowest branch that hung above our heads when standing. The bottom of shoes scraping at the peeling bark, emitting a smell so sweet, so nostalgic. One by one the three of us attempted to hang upside down from the lowest branch that drowned beneath the weeping branches of evergreen branches from above. My legs have not climbed a tree in years, since I was a child. These legs were awkward and did not know how to grip, how to maneuver. One by one, however, the three of us found a way to hang so that our head was at least below our torso, from the branch, the lowest one, with evergreen in our faces, our senses overtaken by the pungent smell of the tree itself. This was bat medicine. This would cure us. Ailments seem to be of subjective definition these days. They seem to be found everywhere in the physical, mental and spiritual realms. Everybody is suffering in some way, everyone is ailed. We kept our particular maladies to ourselves during this pilgrimage, lightly joking that the tree would fix our crazy. Not the tree, that is, but the inhabitant beneath it. You see, there is a cedar tree in a town in Colorado, a town founded in 1878. This tree burst forth from the earth sometime around 1918 and 1919. It was during this period of time that the small town of Lafayette in Colorado suffered a massive influenza epidemic. Many died. The town was quarantined. In this town, during this time, there was a man. His name was Fodor Glava and he hailed from the country of Transylvania. How Fodor found himself in the western outskirts of the United States in 1918 is a mystery to the three of us who sit beneath the cedar tree, but he was there. The records indicate that Glava died at the age of 43 from influenza, suddenly collapsing from the illness outside of the Simpson mine, where he mined coal. The real story, however, is shrouded in the mists of time and the myth of lips. The hearsay is that Fodor Glava was born in Transylvania and suffered a horribly violent attack in his mid-thirties, one that he never truly recovered from. After the attack he was rarely seen leaving his home. His wife would run his errands throughout the week, picked up residential work in order to support herself and her husband. Fodor could occasionally be seen tending to the rosebushes in their yard at night, but otherwise none saw his face over the course of a couple years. Then his wife disappeared. A week after her disappearance people began to wonder if perhaps something had gone terribly awry in the Glava household. Rumors of her death floated around, that perhaps Fodor had murdered her. Further rumors spread at the fact that the man had not been seen outside of his home, outside of nighttime flower-tending, for nearly three years now. The word “vampire” sprung up, not an uncommon myth in Transylvania at any point in time. When the townspeople finally broke down Fodor’s door to demand their explanations he was gone. This was in the year 1897. Several years later the name Fodor Glava sprung up in the town of Lafayette, Colorado. It appears that Glava arrived in the town sometime between 1916 and 1917. In September 1918, one of the worst influenza outbreaks in the United States occurred. Over the course of 10 months nearly 1,500 Denver-ites fell from the ailment, Colorado’s statewide statistics attributed 7,783 to it. It was during this time that Fodor worked in the local Simpson mine in Lafayette. He would wake up early, so early that the sun had not risen when he went to work; and he work would work late, so late that the sun had gone down before he ever went home. Nobody questioned Glava, nobody minded a man with such a dedicated work ethic. Not until strange occurrences began happening during the influenza outbreak. Among the deceased in Lafayette, several cases of hypovolemia sprung up; that is, a dangerously low volume of blood was found in the deceased bodies. This was most certainly not a common symptom of influenza, as doctor’s found quickly from comparing notes with nearby towns. After a light amount of research and questioning, it was found that those found with the low blood content had been visited often during their ailment by a man, and only at night. It turns out that Glava had been a practicing spiritual doctor in his homeland, according to family members of the deceased, and was summoned by the sick to tend to their spiritual ailments so that they might pass on easily into the afterlife. Part of the process was exsanguination, according to the troubled family left behind. How strange, thought the doctors. This did not match with any beliefs, either spiritual or physical, that they could recall. Any attempt to reach Glava was unsuccessful, as he was at work during all daylight hours and could never be found home at night. One doctor made extra effort to ask the families with sick members that he visited whether or not a man had come to them with stories of spiritual healing, whether or not this man made a point of visiting their home at night to spend time with their sick. One family, the Samsons, admitted that Glava had been coming to visit their oldest member, Jonathon, a grandfather at the age of 57, for the past week. The doctor decided to drop in on the practice the next night, a Tuesday. On Tuesday, the doctor made his usual rounds and went home to his family for dinner, washing well before entering the home. Afterwards he kissed his wife goodnight and left for the Samsons’ home. He arrived and the family was in the living room, crying. Many people spent their nights crying these days, so terrifying was the epidemic, so sad was it to see family member after family member die. The doctor glided past the family toward the old man’s room and the woman of the house, his daughter, stopped him. She told him he could not enter while Fodor was practicing, it would disturb the rituals. She told the doctor that her father had a lot to be thankful for in life, but also a lot to be shameful for and she desperately wanted his everlasting spirit to have a place in the afterworld. The doctor calmed her and made sure she knew that he was not there to disturb any such process, but that he absolutely had to see what Glava was doing, how he was practicing. He gently moved her aside and entered the room. The sight that unfolded never happened outside of myths and was hard to digest in the physical world. The doctor gagged. Fodor looked up from the father’s neck, where puncture wounds had been bleeding into his mouth. His face was a dark and mottled red. The doctor turned away and purged his stomach on the living room floor. The family was scared and screaming. The small children ran from the house. Fodor disappeared. After this, the word of what the doctor had witnessed spread quickly around town. “Vampire” the people said. An abomination. Why Glava went to work in the mine the next day is unknown, but he was there before the sun rose. He chipped away as the miners collected outside of the shaft’s entrance. They murmured a plan of action amongst themselves, trying to gather the courage to go in. Eventually they amassed and mobbed Glava, dragging him out into the sunlight where he screamed and his skin began to boil. They drove a wooden stake through his heart and threw his body on the cart that carried away the influenza-ridden deceased. He was buried in a pauper’s graveyard that held no headstones, in a grave with several other nameless. A couple weeks later, a slab of stone appeared at the head of Glava’s grave, a stone that nobody could claim they had put there. Hand-chiseled into the stone was his name and place of birth, and the date of his death. A couple years later a rather solid young cedar tree had claimed the earth there, the same sort of tree that the stake through Glava’s heart had been whittled from. That tree is the tree I sit beneath tonight, with my two cohorts. We sit with our palms flat on Glava’s headstone, imagining that perhaps he’s still down there, feeling us up here. We ask him to cure our ailments, to see our spirits well, and stand up to make our leave. As we walk back to my car across the graveyard I look back to the cedar tree and watch the shadows build and melt in the moonlight and I’m pretty sure, not positive, not without any doubt, but perhaps with a little flip of the heart valve, I see a shadow that looks like a man. When I doubletake the image it’s gone, of course, and we keep walking. I don’t say anything to my friends. I light a cigarette as I start my car and drag as I pull into reverse.

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