The Ghost of the Mission


A Speculative Essay inspired by the 

Mission Bench Dedication




While I was waiting at the airport for my plane home after that glorious week in Oceanside/LA, I was thinking about the dedication once more, and thinking, as I had at the time of the bench dedication, that Guy was there.  It had happened before at other Guy events, but it was even stronger this time.  So I opened my lap top and began typing.  I continued typing on the plane, and when I finished, I sent the draft to someone who knew Guy, Sue Schuck.  She said something to the effect of, 'so you felt it, too.'   Yes, I certainly did.



The Ghost of the Mission--


A tall man stood at the back of a large chapel.  He had been here often, especially in the last decade, but usually it was when the crowds were gone, when the cool of the night still lingered, and the morning sun was just barely filtering into the large room. Sometimes he came when there were a few people, especially when there were children. He loved the children, and loved to watch them stare at the huge vaulted ceiling, their chins turned upward, their eyes showing wonder.  A long time ago, he had felt that same wonder, even though he was an adult.  It was a wonder of youth, the exhilaration of a future bright and assured.  

The man walked forward, then turned and looked up at the balcony above him, visualizing an organ, one that was older than the one that was there now, one whose keys were smooth with the use of many fingers.  His own fingers had stroked those keys, but the music had come later, dubbed in at the studio.  He looked at the entrance to the bell tower, the same stairs that led to the organ loft.  He remembered how narrow they were, how hard it had been to negotiate them in boots. 

Wandering into the small chapel to his right, the man remembered the last time he had been here, not too terribly long ago.  It was in the early evening, after the mission had closed.  Birds sang in the trees and squirrels wandered through the graveyard, finding things to eat among the gravestones.  A cool breeze had blown, ruffling his hair, hair that was no longer gray, but dark brown as it had been in his youth.  He was continually astonished at how much vigor he felt now.  He had watched the last rays of the sun disappear over the western hills, he had smelled the scents of newly cut grass, blossoms in the trees, all of the other things that made this place wonderful and unique.  Age, peace and serenity.  That was what he had felt then and he felt it now, despite the number of people that were here. 

He gazed at those gathering, speaking softly, finding seats and was astonished to see so many.  He felt the heat in his eyes that he had felt so much of late, that of the knowledge that he was remembered, that he was appreciated, that he was loved.  While he had often told himself that those things were inconsequential, things that might be considered insignificant or petty, he thought about it anyway.  Everyone wanted to feel that they had made a difference in someone elseís life and he was no exception.  The people sat in reverent consideration of this church, an edifice that had withstood the ravages of time, neglect, war and politics, and they waited. 

He remembered the first time he had come here.  It was for work, but he quickly felt the peace and serenity that seemed to be a constant and permanent part of this mission.  The Mission San Luis Rey, the King of the Missions.  The set for several episodes that would be shown in the fall.  He remembered his exhilaration at the time.  He remembered how excited he still was that he had actually been hired for this role.  There was a tingle of recalled pleasure at his memories. 

Then he saw his wife and children, his grandson, entering the vaulted room and his eyes burned anew.  Janice looked beautiful, she always had.  Beautiful?  No, gorgeous, oh, so gorgeous.  Steve was so handsome, a man any father could be proud of, but he was his son and he was damn proud of him.  Despite the hardships, Steve had done good.  Toni was beautiful like her mother, and a mother herself.  And Nando.  Oh, Nando.   He had been overwhelmed when they had named the baby after him, and this boy was growing big and strong.  The senior Armando watched as they moved to the front of the church and sat down.  Guy blinked and smiled, then he couldnít help it, he laughed.  Softly, but he laughed.  Someone turned and looked back.  Yes, I am here, he silently told the person in front of him.  I am here.  Where else would I be?  He laughed again, knowing that no one could hear him, but maybe someone could feel his happiness, as his friend in front of him had.

A bit earlier he had followed these people around the mission, he had walked up to the pepper tree, felt the rough bark, remembered the shooting scene that occurred so many years ago underneath its, then, smaller, branches.  He remembered the struggle to stand up in this historic tree, to draw his sword without cutting his cape.  He had laughed at the memory.  That cape was a nuisance, but they had finished the scene.  Another flowerpot had downed the comandante, (poor Britt), and the day had finished with another segment of the Ghost of the Mission completed.

Guy brought himself back to the present, to this chapel.  There was so much good in this place.  The building itself, in all its splendor and the people, those who worked here and those who came here to try and feel what he had felt the first time he had come with the cast and crew.  It deserved all that these people were giving to and for it.  It deserved to continue to stand, not only for those here, but for the future, forever.  He felt pride that this mission was benefiting in his name, even as he felt it was more than he deserved.  It was all more than he deserved.  He had been fortunate; so very fortunate to have received the role of Zorro.   At times he had not felt that way, but now he felt intense gratitude. 

He stood near his family and heard what was being said.  Again Guy felt pleasure at words, which spoke of the influence that his character had had on so many children.  He saw a little boy in a Zorro costume and he chuckled softly.  He heard himself referred to as the ghost of the mission and jerked his head up in surprise.  Me, the ghost of the mission? he asked himself in astonishment.  That sounded like something Sue Schuck would say and he smiled again.  Well, yes, he was here and he wasnít alive, so he supposed that the appellation would fit.  And he came here often.  More than anywhere else, he supposed.   Here he felt solace. 

Guy went outside with everyone else and stood near his family again.  He had read the inscription on the bronze plaque before, when it had been set in the ground and he had been touched.   What lovely sentiments for someone who had only been doing a job and supporting his family.  He watched his grandson sprinkling the holy water and he reached out to touch him, then drew back.  This was their moment, not his and he didnít want to do anything to detract from it.  It was enough that they were here and he was here and there was so much happiness and joy.   He watched his son don the costume, draw the sword and become the character, the hero of so many children and adults.  He laughed with joy as he saw the happiness that Steve was bringing to those here, and had brought to so many over the years and he felt the swelling of pride once more. 

Yes, he thought as he withdrew, it was enough to see the happiness that he had brought others and he was content.  He was very content.




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