“When the wind hauls, you can hear the Indians come,” my cousin Billy had said. Apparently, he said it often, he was a drunk I suppose, and rather useless in his little hometown somewhere in Arizona. Now I had never met him, we lived in The Netherlands, but his mother wrote her brother, my father, letters, describing her hard life in the cooking hot desert, living with her awkward son. She made it a tradition to tell us about how often Billy had been in trouble with the local police, how he ruined the roof one day setting fire to it, how he was found more dead than alive in a well and so on.
“He is getting weirder and weirder,” she wrote one day. Her monthly letter had, for some reason, been lost in the mail and travelling for weeks before it finally got delivered and we all were anxious to know what he had done this time.
It was Summer, a hot day had ended in a thunderstorm and the lamp flickered. We sat around the table drinking lemonade as my father read on. “He now thinks he can see ghosts. He claims he has befriended a man with a Stetson on a horse, riding towards the horizon every night. He calls him Abe.”
“He must have seen too many John Wayne movies, “ my mother chuckled. “That part of your family has always had a screw loose.”
“There is no movie theatre where they live. Nothing there but sand, rocks, snakes and#3p” His voice went silent, abruptly. He stared at the window.
The lightning put everything in a flash, and for a second we could all see the arrow, sticking on the windowpane. Then it was dark for a moment. Thunder made speaking impossible. The lamp had died.
My mother found a candle and matches. My father went to take a look at the window.
There was no arrow to be seen.
“Read on,” my mother said, she was hoarse. My father’s hands were trembling.
“Billy is getting worse and worse,” my aunt had written. “What am I to do? I think I will have to send him over to you. ”
“No way!” my mother immediately exclaimed. “He can’t stay here! Why, he can’t even speak Dutch! We haven’t seen him since he was a little boy!”
“Tomorrow I will send her a telegram that it is out of the question!” my father said. “Now all of you, go to bed!”
At that moment, there was some knocking on the door. A visitor at eleven o’clock in the evening?
My father put the door ajar.
“Yes?” we could hear him ask.
We stared at each other. An American?
My father let him in.
“My name is Abe,” he said. “I just want to tell you that your sister’s son Billy decided to stay in Amsterdam. Good evening.”
He left as quickly as he had come. We stood in disbelief as we heard horse hooves running away.
The telegram was never sent and no one ever heard of Billy anymore. My aunt died that same year.