The whole thing is sad, don’t you think?
Winter came early this year; otherwise they might have found them earlier. Maybe they could have even saved them if the snow hadn’t covered their bodies so completely like it had covered the rest of the town.
The Gernot twins are gone, but the snow is still here. Nobody has shoveled it away so I am stuck in the house. I cannot visit anyone and it is quite hard to get through to visit me. Thank you for being here, dear. It’s lovely to have some company.
You know, I never liked snow. The earlier it snows the more I dislike it, though I know I’m the minority. Everyone likes a white Christmas. I mean a snowy one of course, these days one has to be sure to point that out. It was different when I was a young girl, but such is the course of life. People knew what they could say and what not.
Where was I? Ah yes, everyone was happy about the snow and still is I suppose, everyone except Mrs. Gernot. After all she has lost both of her boys in one day.
Our town has not seen such a tragedy since the Peterson family got killed in that terrible accident eight years ago. I cannot imagine what it is like to experience such loss. Poor Woman… First the husband gets lost and then she loses her boys.
They seemed like such a nice family when they moved here. They came over to introduce themselves, like good neighbors, before I had to chance to do so myself. Mrs. Gernot was holding the twins, only babies at the time and Mr. Gernot had a bottle of wine in his hands, which I am sure he would have loved to drink himself. They introduced themselves and the babies and handed me the wine. None of the other new neighbors had ever made an effort to be so neighborly. I mean the ones that came after my dear Waldo, may he rest in peace, and I bought our house here 40 years ago.
I invited the Gernots inside and that started my little friendship with Mrs. Gernot. She was a dear woman, very sweet and good with the twins. She could have been my daughter, though I sincerely hope my daughter is not as naïve. I believe I did a better job raising her than Mrs. Gernot’s mother. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Mrs. Gernot, but I despised her husband from the beginning I just knew that he was bad, a good-for-nothing philanderer and drunk, absolutely expendable if you ask me. I would have never tolerated that kind of behavior, never I tell you. But Mrs. Gernot she never said argued with him, she never even said a bad word about his behavior. In fact she always defended him. When he cheated on her with the girl from the post office, she told me that it didn’t matter because he always came back to her- and that was true love, that was what mattered. As I said, she was kind but she was naïve.
When he left I hoped that she would realize what a bum he was, but Mrs. Gernot cried bitter tears after him. The man just up and left without a word of warning, leaving his family behind, never contacting them again and she still loved him, can you believe it?
I have never been one to gossip, but personally I believe he must have been very good at the horizontal tango, because he squandered the little money he made on booze if he wasn’t chasing the newest skirt in town, so there was no reason for her to stick with the man other than that. Her and the children were better off without him anyway if you ask me.
No, no. I have not said a word about it to her of course, not a single word. As a good Christian you are there for your neighbors and to help them through difficult times. And the poor thing was suffering, trying to juggle work and the children. My sharp tongue would just have done more damage had I said any of that
Let me just take one sip of tea, dear, before I talk about the unfortunate twins.
My mother, may she rest in peace, she used to say; one tragedy always calls for another. She was a wise woman. I think of her often, now that I am what some would call an old lady. My mind is wandering again, you’re right. Let me tell you how she lost those boys.
They looked like little angels with blond curls and eyes as blue as the sky. They were always together as if they were conjoined by the hip, like Siamese twins. I don’t believe I ever saw one of them without the other. Must be normal for twins, one always hears that they are closer than regular siblings.
True dearies those two, believe me, nothing like their father. They used to shovel the snow in front of my door, so I could go outside. Could never tell them apart though, never know which one was Martin and which one was Samuel.
They were found by the stream, both cold as ice. Their bodies were covered by snow, so much snow that the police knew there was nothing to be done for them.
To be perfectly frank, I wonder why Mrs. Gernot let them go play outside in the first place. They were children after all and children do stupid things, I know, I still remember. Probably their father’s influence or lack thereof, it’s hard to tell really.
The day they disappeared, Mrs Gernot came straight over and of course I helped her when she told me she was looking for the boys. I advised her to go to the police, after calling their friends revealed that none of them had seen Samuel or Martin. I could not join her at the police station, my arthritis was acting up.
The police started searching for them, but they did not find them that day, or the next. Mrs. Gernot was blaming herself and I comforted her, though I did agree with her. A good mother always has an eye on her children, always. I never let mine out of sight and none of them died. They are all doing well, thank you very much.
Finally, it was Arnold, the school principal’s son that found them. For once in his life he achieved something and even that was only to bring someone bad news.
He wanted to go ice fishing by the stream and apparently he slipped and fell on the way to the stream. That’s when he saw a small boot sticking out of the snow. That’s when he knew what he had found.
What the twins were doing at the stream in winter is anyone’s guess… Who knows what children goes on in children’s heads these days?
Mrs. Gernot was hysterical when the police gave her the news. She broke down in front of her door, the poor thing. I could see it clearly from my window in the living room, as I was just changing the curtains. I went over like a good neighbor should to comfort her. She cried, but she did not talk to me or anyone else. Everyone else in town of course was talking about the death of the Gernot twins.
At first nobody knew the cause of death though everyone had a theory. Everyone is Sherlock Holmes these days. You could hear people talk about it when you went to the supermarket or to the doctor; it was the talk of the town. Some of these theories were so disgusting, you cannot imagine. It makes you wonder if there is something wrong with these people that they have to make up such gruesome stories. Terrible what the world has come to…
In the end the explanation was much simpler, poisoned ivy… ah the silly boys. Mrs. Gernot should have taught them that you don’t just stick everything in your mouth. They didn’t know and stuffed their greedy little mouths with the poisoned berries, just like they stuffed themselves with the cookies I gave them for shoveling the snow away. Foolish if you ask me, but it seems like children nowadays are foolish. You know none of my children would have stuffed their mouths with poison, none, I can vouch for it.
But you have to know that this is not the end of the story. God knows I wish it were.
I think I need some rum in my tea to tell you the rest of the story.
You know how people are when something bad happens. They are drawn to tragedies like moths to the light. All the neighbors were trying to help Mrs.Gernot, they could learn all there was to know about the death of the twins. Her house was constantly full of people. As some left, others would arrive bringing food or wine, as if they were coming to a dinner party and not a house in mourning. All the while they would whisper behind Mrs. Gernot’s back. She was too occupied to notice, thank God.
I felt ashamed for them, disgusting vultures trying to make themselves feel better by prying into a poor woman’s life. I chased some of them off, as Mrs. Gernot was incapable to do so.
She had always been a beautiful woman, but this misfortune has added years to her looks, decades even. Her skin was pale and seemed to hang off her bones and her blue eyes were lifeless. She wore the same dress for three days. She was unwell and confused; she must have been to make this absurd decision to have them both buried in one coffin.
She looked at me with teary eyes and said she did not want to separate her two boys in death when they had been inseparable in life. I nodded tried to be understanding. Though I suspected it was more about the money than separation. God knows death is expensive. Good coffins cost money, I learned that when my dear Waldo died… I have selected and bought mine already, so they cannot put me in a cheap excuse for a coffin. But how could I say any of this to a mother who has just lost her children?
Although in hindsight, I should have spoken my mind, then maybe things would have turned out differently.
Were you there, at the funeral? It started so lovely, with a beautiful service by Pastor Greg.
There were sobs here and there, as there should be, it was very emotional. The people moved to the open grave with soil in their hands after the coffin had been lowered into it. I stayed seated in the first row, since moving around is not very easy these days- my arthritis is acting up very much since I heard the bad news.
Now, as the people threw soil on the coffin in the grave, it started: the screaming. A terrible sound, let me tell you. Never have I heard anything as terrifying.
It came from inside of the coffin. A cold shiver ran down my spine and I made the sign of the cross. The dead were rising.
For what seemed like an eternity we could only hear that screaming, nothing else. Everyone seemed frozen in place, unable to stop it.
Then Mrs. Gernot started screaming and that broke the spell. Suddenly people were everywhere, jumping in the freshly dug hole, trying to lift the lid off the coffin, but it did not work at first. The screaming only got louder and more desperate. I pray that I never have to hear something like it again.
Mrs. Gernot jumped into the open grave and opened the coffin; she had the strength of ten men. One of the boys, I don’t know which one – they looked the same after all, fell out of the coffin right into her open arms, white as a sheet and with eyes big with fear, yet alive. Those eyes…They looked much too old for his age. They could not stand still, but darted from left to right, up and down, looking everywhere at once, yet not really seeing a single thing. Because he had seen death and it had marked him. I cannot forget those terrible eyes… and I see them at night sometimes, when I try to sleep. All-knowing and petrified.
The boy screamed his heart out for a bit longer as his mother cradled him and tried to sooth him with kind words. Then he started shaking and convulsing and eventually he collapsed. It was quiet at last.
A heavy silence hung over the cemetery. Nobody seemed to know what to do, everyone just stared at Mrs. Gernot. Her face was so white it was transparent. You could see every single vein. She was still cradling the unmoving boy and whispering inaudibly into his ear.
This lasted for a maybe a minute or two, but it seemed much longer. Finally our young doctor, I cannot remember her name presently though it will come back, I know, jumped down to Mrs. Gernot and ripped the boy from her arms, but it was too late, the boy was dead already.
Imagine, the poor boy wakes up, trapped with his dead brother in a coffin. What did it feel like when he understood where he was? Did he think he was dead? How long did it take for him to scream I wonder?
Mrs. Gernot naturally could not take the pressure anymore and fainted, and who could blame her? She had just lost her child for the second time. The doctor, Lisa is her name I remember now, caught her before she could hit her head on the coffin, but she had to drop the boy. His head thumped loudly against the coffin instead. Everyone gasped. His little pale hand lay palms up, unmoving. I could see it very well from my seat. The doctor started yelling orders at people, and some jumped down to help lift Mrs. Gernot up, some put the boy back in the coffin, where his brother was already waiting.
Unfortunately I couldn’t help, the Arthritis you know. The pain comes in waves, even more so when I am excited and do not expect it.
Whose fault it is? Well, I cannot say. I only know that Manfred, the funeral director is a boozer. He used to drink with Mrs. Gernots husband. This one, he would not even notice a dead body walking out of the funeral home if he was watching it walk away. A scapegrace he is, but the last of the family, who could take over the business after his father’s death. What a shame!
Wouldn’t you say it is the most tragic story you ever heard?
Mrs. Gernot is in the hospital now. She hasn’t said a word since she woke up. I called to see how she was doing, and the head nurse told me everything. Apparently her hair has gone white and she has a hollow look that makes the nurses shiver. She just stares into nothing most of the day and when you talk to her she looks at you, but she looks through you. Some of the nurses are scared to go near her – as if she hasn’t suffered enough. Her life is in shambles and she has seen the worst thing any mother could see. I wish I could visit the poor thing and give her some comfort.
Well yes, the grave has been closed. There was no second funeral. One was enough.
The snow is still falling, even though November just started.
I am snowed in, with no one to shovel the snow away, and even though the phone is working, it doesn’t ever ring. I cannot leave the house, so I sit here in my warm living room by the fire and talk to people that are not here, to you dear one, because I have to tell the story to someone, and if not to you, then who?