The Twilight Zone

By Stella Haffner   |   March 11, 2021

Dear Montecito,

Did you know you’re not supposed to start a piece of writing with a rhetorical question? Yea, something about it being a cliché. How many English teachers are rolling their eyes right now? It’s okay. Trust me. I know what I’m doing. Or else, I’m a dedicated faker. 

Let’s start again. How many of you know the show The Twilight Zone? You remember the presenter, Rod Serling? That’s who I feel like when I write the introduction paragraphs for this column. The feeling is two-fold: One, it’s a rhythm thing. Chunks of writing that are 150 words or fewer have finite organizational possibilities. Two, it’s the ending. You people want to know where you’re going before you get there. I understand. That’s why I led with this bit about The Twilight Zone.

The events of today’s story are true and happened three weeks ago, to be precise. It was my mother’s birthday and, with limited pandemic-safe celebratory options, we found ourselves on a long drive towards Calabasas. I’ll spare you the deleted scenes – no one likes the director’s cut anyway – and simply say that we landed in a bizarre corner of Southern California known as the Los Angeles Pet Cemetery. It looked as you might imagine: rolling grass hills studded with polished marble tiles that displayed names like “Buster” and “Roxie.” At the crest of the estate stood a square, heavy looking building with the number 1921 written above the door. 

Ask any graveyard aficionado and they will tell you that every A+ cemetery has at least one A+ mausoleum. I just hadn’t expected to find one in a pet cemetery. 

A two-foot wall of stone kept the inside of the building cool. The mausoleum was small but splendid, with rows of beloved pets, many of whom probably dabbled in show business themselves. As is the temptation in places like this one, my mother and I perused the plaques, looking for the oldest of the bunch. We found our boy in the left artery of the mausoleum. Sammy, 1919-1935. 

Stepping outside again was like sipping lime juice. We squinted in the sunlight and climbed down the grassy hill, past the rows of plastic flowers and back to our car. On our way out, we passed the property’s overseer who was standing on a raised veranda. In describing her, I foresee accusations concerning my candor. But at the risk of seeming hyperbolic, I’ll recount her as I remember. 

The overseer was a grey-haired woman, with locks twirled back into a band and her skin a healthy glow. Her cheek bones were sharp, her eyes were ripe, and she was altogether quite striking. 

“Hello, ladies,” she said. I stood there wondering who or what had placed that sudden chill under my shoulder blades. Yet, she was delightful and disarmingly frank about today’s new arrival. To be honest, it was not easy to decide what to feel. Perhaps a tear catches in the corner of my eye, but the whole experience had a bit whimsy to it. I can only imagine this is not an uncommon occurrence when one decides to visit the Twilight Zone.

Sincerely,

Stella

P.S. Parents of Montecito children, if you have recommendations on people to feature in “Dear Montecito” please contact me, stellajanepierce@gmail.com

 

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