Letters to Elliot Hawthorne Ep. 7


The road started in Karlsford and followed the Lake all through Dearborne, Claradon, Marlsborough, Grenville, Sterling and Bower until it ended in St. David’s, a complete drop-off into the Lake where a ferry must take you to the other side; a whole new road and series of small towns beginning there with their own citizens with their own stories (and that is another novel entirely). But all you need to do is follow the Lake through and through, it following you or you following it; with the horizon divided by an island, giving the illusion of it being a canal or a loch, but it is the same water hugging all the islands, the entire border banks and even the edge of the United States.

The scenery was like this: farmland on either side for a good ten miles; then only trees to your right and the lake to your left; after that there was farmland on your right and a park to your left (the Lake still following, you remember); and you hit a town or two with B&Bs, gas stations, one-stops and roads to developmental housing; Union Jacks flying on telephone wires all through. And then it starts again. Farmland, trees, Lake; farmland, Park, Lake, Town until you reach Bower. The hills that want to be mountains and the valley and wind and the sheep and the Lake are there still and The Worthing and then more land but it’s not farmland; it is grass melted over hills and hills. There are some flat spots but it goes on until St. David and its university town and city-like landscape.

St. David’s College and its campus spanned five blocks of the downtown area and it gave the misconception of it being much larger than it really was. The dormitories are the most expansive building and the library had the most sprawling lawn. Everything was within walking distance, but there was a bus that ran from the Worthing to the main street in St. David and to then the campus chapel and the admission office and then finally to the ferry (the utter drop-off from all things ST. DAVID) three times a day. The conservatory was a hollow building adjacent to the library and one block from the church. Buildings One, Two and Three, mainly lecture halls and auditoriums, were dedicated to Science, Art, and Literature. Then there were classrooms and offices located in old Victorian houses spread about and in between local businesses and shops. Navigation was crucial to maintaining punctuality and time management. A map of the campus was posted on every block corner to help the freshmen during their first year.

Tom Doyle drove his red AMC Gremlin onto campus every morning because he did not live in the dorms or student housing. He lived in the loft above the outbuilding on his parents’ property, hearing soaring War Birds fly overhead daily. Tom left early that morning, eating a sandwich Lillie Doyle had made, with new material (music material because he was always composing, always writing; even if he was speaking with you, having a real conversation, a part of his brain was always working out a melody) to present to his band mates and peers (Matt Sleeth, Joe Finn and Jasper Lauzon; it still isn’t the time to talk about them) at the New Town Public House, or the Campus Pub as the students call it. He left early because he was always late, but besides that he had to be at the college conservatory for choir and band practice at noon. And it wasn’t without a basket of laundry to take to the laundromat; Lillie insisted, if he was going to continue to live at home, Tom must learn some responsibility and use his money for something other pencils and guitars.

Gemma Lumley did not ride the bus or have a red AMC Gremlin to drive around St. David’s; she lived with Bridget Welles in the girls’ dorm. Their twin room was busy with girlish details of drying undergarments, athletic wear and magazine cut-outs of formal dresses in the common area; vanities cluttered with perfume bottles and make-up brushes and unmade beds with homemade quilts and eyeleted sheets and pleated pillows in their bedrooms; and stacks of books and music on every wooden surface.

Gemma had been drinking tea since she woke up because Gemma could not attend choir practice without warming up her voice. Stained tea cups and saucers piled by her bedside. Connie Francis played on her stereo and she sang along to “Frankie” as she curled her hair. Bridget never sang; she only hummed and she hummed from the corner of the room, tuning her violin because tuning her violin, even when it was already tuned, made Bridget less nervous Bridget was always nervous for choir and band practice.

Gemma, Bridget and Tom came together only twice a week, four times this week because the band was scheduled to perform for this year’s commencement next week. They were selected after receiving a standing ovation during the Christmas Pageant and Professor Hurtz’s production of Benjamin Britten’s “A Ceremony of Carols Op. 28”. Gemma was a soprano and she stood, when facing you, to your far left-hand side; the basses behind her and the tenors behind the altos in a SBTA formation (girls in front and boys in the back).

The chamber orchestra was, of course, front and center; Professor Hurtz or plainly Conductor as he requested, waving and moving and feeling before the audience as the head of the hierarchy. The string and brass sections each had a concertmaster; one of which was Tom Doyle who played the trumpet and whose trumpet all others had to accommodate to. Bridget Welles on the other hand played her violin in correspondence to Felicity Carmichael, the principal violinist who thought herself very superior, something Bridget could despise with a unique animosity if dwelled on thoroughly. However the case, the concert orchestra and its harmonious chorus behind made for a carefully planned show, decorated with boisterous highs and smoothing lows; an endearing warmth of perfection as well as passion.

Twelve o’clock ticked on the clock tower of the admission office, sounding through St. David twelve long and loud gongs. There, as you already know, Gemma, Bridget and Tom were found inside the conservatory, singing and playing something about the love of an orchestra (go ahead; listen to it again. It’s really good) and Elliot Hawthorne and his garage-sale yellow bicycle grew nearer and nearer.

As Elliot rode, he thought the windmills were helping but as soon as the fields, beyond the road’s ditches, turned into the shore and the lake stretched on for miles, those windmills turned his stomach upside down.

He skidded to a stop on the sandy shoulder of the road and dust kicked up behind his tire. Down the bank was the rocky shore, beyond the shore was the lapping water and across the water was an island causing him more grief than sentiment.

Elliot wheeled his bike to the guard rails of the road where a single bench sat vacant. He watched the ferry push across the body of water. The view was nice and beautiful; the lapis blue sky, the mainland teeming with lush summer foliage and that island sprouting those tall, sleek windmills with their blades slicing through humid August air.

He couldn’t pack up the windmills, hide them in a crate or cart them out the back door like the jam jars. His tower of happiness, created by the short stint of anticipation for his new beginning, toppled over at the sight of them.

Easing down onto the bench, he set down his guitar and his duffle which weighed more than he could carry because of the contents inside. He had to bring them. He couldn’t have left them to fade away, to decay and yellow. Underneath his red plaid shirt, his brown corduroy pants and his faded blue button-front were Elliot’s letters.

Returns next Tuesday for the final episode of Volume I

New Story Series begins on October 16th



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