Wayward Ep. 2

II.         THE ONE

I took five courses in my first semester of my third year at Windsor and I had brought my attention, my focus and my best to every class. But not that week. I blamed it on Lewis, of course, and his silly unmentioned provisions for happiness. I sat in the hollow halls in the middle row or whatever seat was empty and within hearing distance to the professor, scanning the faces of the girls, eligible or not. I came to the conclusion after History of Great Thinkers on Wednesday that philosophy majors were as unattractive as the professors. I had two other classes to attend that week so I kept my eyes ready.

Lewis invited me to lunch alone on Thursday and we met at the mantle in the Den and I asked how his classes were going, to which he replied: “Painstakingly boring. I want to fall asleep more than the students do. I feel bad for you.”

“Why? I’m not becoming a lawyer.”

He was wearing his usual gray suit, but this time with a blue and white checked shirt and no tie. I looked at his watch for the majority of our meeting, its pearl face glowing amidst the sparkle of the band.

Lewis managed a laugh in spite of my comment and asked me how my “progress” was going. “Why do I have to confine myself to the campus?” I asked.

Lewis winced while thinking on it. “You don’t,” he said finally. “It’s just the easiest.”

Easy things were more appealing, I thought, agreeing with him enough to listen to his theory.

“Let’s take a tour,” he said, setting down his drink on the nearest table and then waving his arm toward the restaurant door.

Windsor College was ancient. It produced more working lawyers, doctors and teachers than any other school in the county. Its performing arts academy, something the “real” students despised being associated with, was even revered. Its campus wound and stopped and began again throughout the public conservation area and had its own community in which if you did not attend you did not enter. Potter’s School for girls was established before the legacy of Windsor began and hence, Lewis took me there first.

We looked up at the dormitory, a colonial house with a large porch, and it stared back at us. “They only accept the best in the province,” Lewis said.

“The best?” I asked. “What does that mean exactly?”

Lewis frowned. “I don’t know.”

The best looking? The best dressed? I didn’t know but as girls rushed out of the white front door, I knew it meant both. They filed out like a military brigade, proper and refined, looking too fierce to approach and passing us both without a second glance. I looked at my own clothes, wondering if they were the cause for the shunning response. I was wearing jeans, dark-washed and just the right length. I had a button front shirt; white with two breast pockets, rolled up on the sleeves because they were too short anyway.

“Too cold?” I said about the girls.

“I was going to say too young,” Lewis said. “But that sounds about right too.”

He took me to the theatre next, saying, “Actresses, they have to be nice to look at.”

We sat in the back row of the dark auditorium watching auditions for The Importance of Being Earnest. We slumped in the cushioned seats, unimpressed, watching one girl after the other. They recited their lines from the center of the wooden stage, shouting at us; their voices cracking with every enthusiastic note. I frowned and concluded: “Too loud.”

Lewis and I took to the grass outside to watch field hockey practice. We stood, arms folded, squinting under the sun, as we watched the girls team; a bunch of brawny-looking girls running the length of the field in red plaid skirts, forcefully pushing one another out of the way. Before I could react, Lewis shook his head and pushed me aside, saying, “No. No, no.”

Defeated, we walked outside the main dormitories, new complexes built to blend in with the old Victorian cityscape. “We have to go where you’re not used to going,” Lewis said as he looked around us. Then: “Library,” he concluded as he snapped his fingers with his moment of epiphany.

“Are you making a jab at me?” I asked.

“At you?”

“At me not being a scholar.”

“If you were one you’d be studying law or medicine.”

“My major isn’t a result of my ability but more about my interests,” I defended. Lewis continued to stare at me blankly. “I go to the library a lot,” I confirmed.

He inhaled, frustrated. “Where to then?”

I didn’t want to go anywhere with him after that so I waited until he came up with another suggestion or until I had to say, “I have to go to work.”

“Café,” he said, suddenly smiling. He was already half way down the street where a small coffee and paper shop sat. I reluctantly picked up my feet to join him, hoping he’d see that the venture was a waste of time and I, for once, would be the right one.

The location was, yes, a place I rarely entered. It was full of loud, bubbly girls high with caffeine dressed in the latest fashions, and smart-looking boys, too smart for their own good, alone in solitude and dressed in black and tight scarves with dark-framed glasses.

“I don’t think so,” I said after we stepped inside.

Lewis smiled and patted me on the back. “Let’s get a drink.”

“I don’t like coffee.”

He looked disapprovingly at me and glided into the line-up in front of the cash counter. We stood by the newsstand and there was a girl there, scoping out fashion magazines, who I nearly bumped into. Unbalanced as I was, with my hands in my pant pockets, she scooted behind me in the crowded space to get a better look at the autumn/ winter issues. She excused herself so I did too, which really didn’t sound like actual English words at all.

Lewis watched her and I didn’t want to because I knew from the look on his face, he was ready to pick her. The quizzical frown he had when examining her was so obvious, I hit him in the arm. He relaxed his brow and asked, quietly: “Do you know her?”

“No.”

He shook his head casually and shrugged. “Seemed like you knew one another.”

My eyebrows sunk down into a frown. “How?”

The queue was shrinking in front of us; the magazine girl took a spot behind us with her choice from the paper shop, staring absently into space. I turned to see her quickly, to get some kind of impression of her, before darting my eyes away.

“What do you want to drink?” Lewis asked me.

“I don’t want to drink anything,” I told him, annoyed he didn’t understand me the first time.

“Hurry up, I need to meet Alice.”

“Then what are we doing here for? Let’s go.”

Lewis smiled at the magazine girl, gently moved me aside and said, “You can go ahead.”

She smiled politely. It was all of her expression I saw because I looked away again with only the tiny curve of my lips.

Lewis stood with me. “We’re leaving?” I asked, hopeful.

He held up his finger, telling me to wait, as he watched the girl pay for her magazines. I finally looked at her; she had a smart jacket on which floated around her middle, showing no sign of her shape. Her jeans were the only thing tight and maybe her flat shoes, revealing the top of her foot, looking too white against the black leather. She had dark hair, I wasn’t sure how long it was because it was pulled back. She had a brown leather tote and I couldn’t see inside it. She walked past us, bringing a breeze so fast I couldn’t see her face.

Lewis’s eyes followed her, watching through the large storefront window pane, eager to follow her so much so he suggested it.

“What?” I exclaimed. He was already half way out the door. “You can’t be serious.”

He smiled and went outside. Rolling my eyes, I followed him. He scanned the faces and the backs of students’ heads before catching a glimpse of the magazine girl at the intersection. “There,” he said, walking too swiftly to be inconspicuous.

“This is stupid,” I declared when he stopped to pick her out from the crowd again.

He huffed. “I lost her.”

“What does Alice think of you chasing girls?”

“I’m not chasing her for me. I’m chasing her for you.”

“How do you know I’m even interested?”

“Marty,” he said firmly. “I know.”

I never quite understood what he meant when he said that and he said that often. I frowned on the sidewalk. I could see the magazine girl quite clearly, but I wasn’t about to point her out. She looked both ways before crossing the avenue in front of the dorms, the setting sun catching the plains of her face.

I sighed loudly.

If my brother said she was the one, then…she was the one.

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New Story Series Begins Today

WAYWARD

or

ALL HE ATE BEFORE GRACE

“Vanities of vanities,” says the preacher, “all is Vanity.”

I.     Lewis and Alice

My brother always told me that it all depends on how you look at it. His advice, he told me later, applied to everything; an over-priced leather jacket, an expensive meal, a back-up television, life—girls. It all depends on how you look at it. Or her in this instance. This instance being this story.

My brother, whose name is Lewis and who is a minor four years my senior, prided himself not in his work or wisdom—his work being law and his wisdom being the fear of the Lord—but in his possessions, undoubtedly thinking too highly of his taste and opinion.

That being said, his house and all his earthly assets were fine. His house was a country dwelling built some hundred years before he bought it and its furnishings just the way I would have them if I were to have a home and a family to occupy it; large wooden things, dark and traditional with fancy linens and fine china. He owned a car that was black, sleek and shiny which he drove to the office wearing one of his various suits; usually of grey twill that he paired with a shirt sometimes of small plaid, and a skinny coloured tie with matching gingham pocket square.

Even his appearance, to match his clothing, was fine. He was a tall man built like my father with a good jaw and a healthy hairline; a crown of light brown hair kept short and parted to one side. But it was not his hair or suit or house he ranked the highest, but a wife named Alice.

Alice was a farmer’s daughter who seemed to mysteriously have everything of an aristocratic upbringing. To me, she was ideal; a honey-haired, brown-eyed woman; a pretty thing so much so her height and weight were of no consequence in the matter. She was agreeable and caring; never weak, never over-bearing. She was coated in grace and she liked me a lot. She often made Lewis look better than he really did and when asked on the subject my brother always replied that her attraction to him was a result of exactly that reason.

Lewis was a bachelor through most of his years at Windsor College where our father and our father’s father studied architecture. He was in his last year of studying law, mind you in the middle of his class (something he manages to leave out when telling the story) when an English major crossed his path and she, innocently thinking nothing of their eyes meeting, never engaged in a pursuit, not realizing he already was. He followed her around campus in the fall, waited outside her classes in the spring, learning a great many things about her. Upon graduating and starting low in the ranks at Doyle and Doyle, Lewis never forgot about his college girl and that’s when he finally employed her in his life. They weren’t inseparable as almost are romantic couples are; they dated only three years, engaged for one and wed the next. My brother, nearing thirty and his wife, four years younger, had been married two and a half years when he entered the gates of Windsor again.

It was determined before either one of us were born that we’d attend Windsor, Mum’s hopes for us becoming just like our father, and we agreed that our time behind desks and in the lecture seats were going to be ours alone. And my years were—until my brother Lewis became guest lecturer Lewis Wahlton in the law department.

Luckily enough for me I wasn’t in law. I was enlisted at Windsor to study Philosophy and had been for three years, passing my twenty-first birthday six months before my sophomore year. I got along quietly, rooming in a red brick Victorian townhouse with my cousin, and managing to pay tuition with the money earned working as a nightly secretary for Loney and Wills, undoubtedly because of word sent by my brother in the law world. It was October when my satisfyingly dry life at Windsor ended.

I had just barely past my mid-term examination in Topics in Contemporary European Philosophy and I was sitting in that very class, listening to Professor Mayseck discuss phenomenology and its approach to classical philosophy problems (Today: the distinction between “knowledge by acquaintance” and “knowledge by description”) when I realized I should have read the recommended texts.

I chewed the end of my pen as I stared at the clock on the wall, high above the teacher’s bald head. I was torn between counting down the minutes and wanting them to drag on and on and on. I knew at precisely 12:46 pm Prof. Mayseck, who was never late and never early, was going to dismiss us, some one hundred students, and I was going to have to run across campus to my housing, drop off my books and run all the way back without working up a sweat.

Alice had invited me to lunch.

The clock struck the time mentioned and I was off. My shoes skidded along sidewalks and I stopped cars at crosswalks, a few of my unconfined papers blowing away in the wind. I climbed steps to the townhouse, fumbled with my keys, my pen still between my lips, and I stomped up the winding staircase inside to my apartment. I tossed my textbooks and my book bag, ignoring my cousin on the sofa, and grabbed my tie from the back of one of the kitchen chairs. I was back on the sidewalk, crossing avenues and slow students on the way, all while pulling the black tie over my neck, watching my fingers fiddle with the silky fabric.

The Den was a dining hall at the college, one I liked because of a sentimental photograph of my father as a student standing by the mantle with his mates and raising a glass.

I raced over the terrace and stopped.

I took in a deep breath, clearing my head and straightening my tie.

Through the French doors, I could see them, sitting at a table on the other side of the hall. I cracked my neck and the doors opened for me as if by magic.

I sat, staring at the mantle in the Den; six feet wide with a mirror overhead, reaching the excessive height of the ceiling. The fire in the hearth was flickering. My brother and my sister-in-law sat across from me in the wide room barely busy with the autumn sunlight catching the crystal on the empty tables. Lewis was reciting a story about when we were boys, one he forgot to tell at Thanksgiving the week before, as he finished his meal when I realized that this reoccurring lunch was going to happen daily for whatever time Lewis was given as lecturer.

“Are you working often?” Lewis picked up his drink and showed off the cuff of his shirt sleeve; navy and red check which he paired with Dad’s skinny black tie and navy pocket square.

I inhaled deeply as I looked from the mantle to his face and let out my breath slowly. “Not enough.”

“Spending your time getting to know any new friends?” Alice asked, hoping; her delicate hand sweeping away her blond hair which had fallen into her eyes. The rest of her hair was pulled back, revealing her earrings, the ones with the grey stones she had imported from Barcelona.

“No,” I admitted. “Studying too much.”

“And how is Dan?” Lewis asked next, leaning back in his seat. “You should invite him to eat with us next time.”

Next time, I knew it. Dan was our cousin and my roommate. He was a good-looking lad with dark hair and a giant smile all the girls swooned over. He wasn’t involved in any extracurricular activities like me so our time together was frequent.

“Is he setting you up on any dates with any of the girls from Mallory?” Lewis teased.

I laughed out loud. “Of course not. All those girls are too young, taken or if they aren’t, there has to be a reason why.”

“Marty,” Alice said, disappointed.

Marty. It only sounded sophisticated when she said it. Martin Theodore Wahlton was the only way my name could sound important.

“There are tons of pretty girls here,” Alice said. “You can’t tell me that you’re not fond of one of them.”

Pretty girls. Sure, there were pretty girls here. There were plenty of pretty girls everywhere. Pretty wasn’t what I was aiming for. I smiled at her politely, avoiding an answer.

“We’ll just have to find you one,” Lewis chimed in, looking around the room as if to pick one right there and then.

“There may have been a lot of beautiful girls here when you were in college and you picked the best of them,” I said, watching Alice grin bashfully at the compliment I paid her, and smiling too. “But it’s like all the girls here are too disinterested in me and I don’t really mind.”

“Well, have you shown any of them encouragement?”

By this time my brother and I were both sitting exactly the same way, something our mother always laughed over. We leaned with one elbow bent on the back of our chairs and the other arm resting on the edge of the tabletop, looking far too unimpressed with one another.

“No, why would I?” I asked. “I don’t know any of them.”

“That’s not the point, Marty. Listen,” Lewis got excited about it, leaning over the table with both arms, destroying the symmetrical image. “Girls like it when boys show up first.”

I truly had no idea what he meant and I sat out of sorts for the rest of the meal until the conversation unfortunately continued outside on the terrace.

It was warmer outside than it should have been, nevertheless leaves on the trees lining the paved walks and gravel footpaths amidst the parks and tennis court were changing and giving the dull limestone buildings a perk.

Alice was back in her cardigan, her heels clicking in between my brother’s long strides. I walked along with them, my hands in my pant pockets like they usually were—something my mother told me was a terrible, terrible habit. I was wearing a pair of chinos, rolled up a bit to reveal the high top of my sneakers, and a blue chambray shirt with my tie looking too much like Lewis’s.

“You can’t tell me you’ve spent three years here and not one of these girls has caught your eye,” Lewis said.

I frowned, watching my feet as I thought about it a while before answering. “Not really,” and I shrugged.

I didn’t know if it was my looks or my personality that didn’t cause a frenzy of girls to giggle or surround me when I was in the presence of any. I didn’t feel that it could be either. I wasn’t as good looking as Lewis or as smart but I was…good enough. I didn’t look like my father, Lewis did. I looked like Mum who had tanned skin and blue eyes. Her hair was darker than mine but it framed our faces similarly, and to my regret I still looked too boyish. Mum said I would always look like a boy and never a man. Sadly, Lewis agreed, probably basking in his manliness entirely.

“I’m going to find you one,” Lewis said as we walked closer to his parked car, that beautiful smart-looking car that I envisioned speeding down the highway in my shiny aviators and loving life finally.

I sighed longingly as Alice laughed at her husband’s declaration. I opened her door for her and she patted me on my shoulder, thanking me for coming. After shutting her up inside the car, her flowing skirt sliding on the leather, I looked to Lewis on the other side of the car. He leaned over the top with his key in his hand.

“Trust me,” he said. “I’ll have you head over heels for some lucky girl by the end of the week.”

“Why are you so intent on it?” I asked, smiling at his ridiculous bet.

He shrugged and opened his door: “I want you to be happy.”

His words struck me kind of funny and I frowned, watching him hop into the driver’s seat, saying, “Tell Danny I said hello,” before shutting the door.

If anyone could find me a girlfriend it would be Lewis, and because I respected him with a little too much esteem, I had no problem letting him.

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Letters to Elliot Hawthorne Ep. 8 (end of Volume I)

[3]

Elliot Hawthorne’s letters outnumbered his birthdays. They outnumbered Grandpa Samuel’s too. Elliot had written ninety-two letters to his father and ninety-two letters to his mother, each set with the same words exactly. He kept those letters (having no address to send them) under his bed until the day he ventured out onto the parkway with only his guitar and a week’s worth of clothes.

The first letter he had ever written was on his sixth birthday. In his letter, he explained what he and Grandpa Samuel did to celebrate that year, in fact it was what they did every time the two had a birthday to celebrate.

It went like this:

Dear Mom and Dad. I turned six today. Grandpa took me on the ferry to see the windmills up close. It was raining and cold. P.S. I think I would like to meet you someday. Love, E. H. Hawthorne.”

Elliot sat on the bench on the edge of the highway. In view, across the lake, were those windmills, staggered along the horizon of his treasure island. In his hand was that letter. He leaned over his knees, his guitar case leaning against the old wooden bench, and he watched the ferry part from the dock and drift to the middle of the lake.

After that first letter, Elliot decided to write one every birthday, every month or just when he felt like it. One went like this:

Dear Mom and Dad. Do you believe in God? Do you believe in him like Grandpa and I do? I suppose you do. I imagine if we don’t find each other here on earth maybe we could find each other in heaven. What do you think? Love, E. H. Hawthorne.”

As he got older, his letters grew in words and wisdom, one went like this:

Dear Mom and Dad. Today is my eleventh birthday. Grandpa took me out on the ferry again so we could see the windmills up close. I’ve seen a lot of that island across the lake, it seems better over there. I like to call it my Treasure Island. It’s silly I guess. Have you given any thought to our plan to meet yet? I hope I see you soon. Love, E. H. Hawthorne.”

Another went like this:

Dear Mom and Dad. How are you? Although it has been a while since I last wrote there is nothing new to tell you really. It’s summer now. Dad—Grandpa has been telling me stories about Mom when she was a kid. I find it interesting to hear things about her because I am forever wondering if I am more like you or more like Mom (most people tell me I’m a mirror image of Grandpa Sam at my age). But Grandpa can’t tell me much about you. I don’t say it’s because he doesn’t want to, but I like to imagine you would give me much advice about girls and other things that are on my mind. Grandpa tells me you used to play the piano. I tried the other day and well, I guess it wasn’t in me like it was you. So I bought a guitar and guess what? I’m pretty good. I took music class this year in school. Mr. Horner told me to try out for the band. They put me on percussion. I can play the violin too, just like Grandpa people tell me. Anyways, I will be fourteen in a few months, maybe then you and Mom can come to the house for an hour or two. Love, E. H. Hawthorne.”

And another:

Dear Mom and Dad. I wonder if you two like music as much as I do. I hadn’t really noticed how much I did until Grandpa’s Hi-Fi broke last week. So I’ve decided to take up reading. Grandpa tells me it’s a rather valuable hobby to have. Do you have a favorite book? I’d sure read it if you did. I’ve read through all Grandpa’s books (I do like that Frankenstein and I can’t say that Dickens and I get along very well, but Keats and MacDonald are my favorite.) and most of Grandma’s (Except for those Jane Austen’s. I tried, I really did but I just couldn’t justify it.) I haven’t taken too much interest in contemporary authors (“Not too much imagination”, Grandpa says of New York Times Bestsellers). I’m beginning to think that this growing up thing is going to be a lot harder than I had imagined. I sure would have liked it if you two were here for it. I hope I am making you proud. Love, E. H. Hawthorne.”

A more recent one went this way:

Dear Mom and Dad. They’re making us apply to colleges this month at school. I don’t know what I want. I don’t have any real goals. I don’t think I want to make jam for the rest of my life but I don’t know what else I could do (maybe play my guitar). What do you think I should do? Grandpa’s friend Art took us out on his sailboat last weekend. Art told me I sailed better than his own son. He said I could have his sailboat if I ever needed it. I thought that nice of him, wouldn’t you say? Maybe when you come to visit, I’ll take you out on the lake. Love, E. H. Hawthorne.

The letters seemed to go on forever, but the last letter he wrote went like this:

To Mom and Dad. Today I am eighteen. I am sorry to say that I have given up trying to meet you. I know that hurts me a lot more than it will hurt you. I can guarantee that. Grandpa is getting sicker and I know that I will be on my own soon. But I know this won’t upset you because that was your original intention, wasn’t it? I might stop writing you soon; I haven’t quite made up my mind. But I don’t think you will mind either way. Good luck. E. H. Hawthorne.”

Elliot folded up the wrinkled letter and put it in his jacket pocket before standing up. He tore his eyes away from his Treasure Island, mounted his garage-sale yellow bicycle again and steered it back onto the road. And to his much needed delight, around the crook of the road, his new beginning awaited.

This concludes Volume I of LETTERS TO ELLIOT HAWTHORNE.

But never fear, he will return. He always does.

New Story Series begins next week

WAYWARD (1)

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Letters to Elliot Hawthorne Ep. 7

[2]

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

“Wayward”

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Letters to Elliot Hawthorne Ep. 6

Chapter 2

THE POSITIONS

(in regards to the plot)

[1]

Elliot Hawthorne was thinking about windmills. He was thinking about jam jars too, but the jam jars just made him mad. At least the windmills were helping somewhat. Of course, the jars were still in plain sight, all recently washed and dried, sitting in a crate on the kitchen counter in Grandpa Samuel’s one-man cabin. When Elliot finally had enough of their prying nostalgia, he got up from the breakfast table, picked up the wooden crate and carried it out the back door. Then he was alone with comforting memories of tall, sleek wind turbines and their blades slicing through humid August air. But still, he was leaving anyway. No memory, no matter how comforting, could make him stay.

Out on one side of the backyard, knee-high grass looked yellow in the sunlight and on the other side blackberry bushes made short walls of leafy knots and dirt pathways. Birds seemed louder than normal, and Elliot considered scaring away a robin who was stealing newborn berries not ripe enough to pick. He stared and squinted—it was very sunny—and clapped once. The bird stopped, twitched, and carried on.

Inside the cabin, Elliot’s luggage guarded the front door. He packed light. A week’s worth of clothes. Jeans, T-shirts, button-fronts, khakis. When it came to which instrument he was going to take he would have preferred the banjo, but he chose his guitar because he figured people were less likely to judge a guitar like they would a banjo. He stared at the gray flannel duffle bag made by his grandmother and Elliot frowned, even though it was not sunny inside, and he felt for a moment he might not be able to breathe ever again.

It was the birds, I think, that inspired him because a few more tweets from outside forced Elliot to blink and pick up his bag. He wore the strap over his shoulder so the body rested on his back. Then with the neck of his guitar firmly gripped, he opened the screen door and it bounced shut behind him. He made it to the end of the dirt driveway, looked up and down the lineless asphalt road, and then walked back to the porch. The guitar was useless, he thought, and he was afraid people might expect more from him than he was really able to offer. He truly wasn’t outgoing. He locked the instrument inside the cabin and the screen door bounced again when he walked outside. And yet:

He jogged back, grabbed the guitar and never looked back, believing in his heart he was never coming back.

The country road was dead. Only birds playing in the treetops and bugs buzzing in the bush could be seen or heard. Neighbours, alone for miles in both directions, didn’t appear until the sun was high in the midday sky. And as Elliot’s sweat mounted and his feet burned inside his sneakers, his regrets piled high in his mind, somewhere in front of Grandpa Samuel’s lingering words of wisdom. Until he saw a looming mirage on the foreground.

A couple sat listlessly on lawn chairs, guarding vintage, sentimental garage sale gifts. There were tacky velvet paintings, cross-stitch in a frame and a few lamp shades made entirely of stained-glass. A sign, taped to an old typewriter, declared it all for sale, and the only thing Elliot stared at was a yellow bicycle leaning against a cardboard box.

He approached the couple as they protected their precious giveaways; he said Hello and they said Hello, questioning him with their glaring eyes, thinking he was some sort of drifter or gypsy, and in all likelihood wanted to snatch their shotgun from inside the garage before it was too late.

Elliot knelt down beside the bike and thumbed the metal spokes. “How much for the bike?” he asked.

With the husband ready to make a beeline to the garage, the wife said, “A tenner would do it.”

Elliot straightened, smiling with one corner of his mouth as he strapped his guitar strap over his chest. He bounced the bike on its skinny tires and sampled the cushioned seat. His smile grew wide as he finally straddled the yellow frame. Elliot handed the man a ten dollar bill and said Thank you and the couple said nothing.

Elliot pedalled a ways away, wiggling and worming, trying to get the hang of riding a bicycle again. And once he did get the hang of riding a bicycle again, Elliot Hawthorne was pretty pleased with himself. He and his garage-sale yellow bicycle were fast friends, venturing down stretches of highway, zooming across bridge-covered brooks and winding around bended lanes. He was smiling still, pedalling fast and hard, forgetting about the jam jars entirely and narrowing in on those wonderful memories of windmills.

Now, it was known that Elliot Hawthorne was naturally an outcast. Soon it was by choice, though he did everything in his power to conform. He spent his days keeping his mouth closed unless spoken to; something he wasn’t taught to do but became accustomed to at a very young age. He avoided crowds and public places as best he could without being a hermit (something Grandpa Samuel told him wasn’t very becoming). So, of course, Elliot would have avoided the Town he was now currently disrupting with his bicycle-riding if it weren’t for the fact that the parkway, which was leading him out of this place, was the only way out.

Leaving the stares and gasps of mothers and their children, the teenagers and young adults he had known so little about, standing on the sidewalks of the village, near the convenient stores and the coffee shops, Elliot pedalled out, down the bridge, over the brook and onto the next long, paved stretch of highway. It was about this time, that three university students, Gemma Lumley, Tom Doyle and Bridget Welles were found inside St. David’s conservatory, singing and playing in the college choir something about the love of an orchestra.

Returns next Tuesday

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Letters to Elliot Hawthorne Ep. 5

[5]

Gemma Arnold, the original Gemma Arnold of the Worthing, who married Thomas Lumley of Lumley Farms, had two sisters and they were like this: Rosy and Elaine. Elaine Arnold was the oldest Arnold. She went about her life as if she was the best because she was the oldest, that she deserved the best because she was the oldest and this didn’t surface until it was time for her to select a spouse. And it was selecting to Elaine Arnold, who was pretty and delicate and high-strung, because she believed her ability to select something very superior. When this day came, a certain young man travelling through Bower stayed at the Worthing and doted on the Arnold’s oldest daughter. This wasn’t the factor which caused Elaine to make up her mind and give herself a ring on his behalf, no, it was the information from the front desk that his name was Joseph Finkle and that name was the only name she needed to hear.

The Finkles were wealthy landowners and very old. Their oldest son, Joe, was in the position to inherit. He fell for Elaine’s manners and looks and they dated and were wed and just in time too. Joe’s mother had died and left her house in Devonsfield to the newlywed couple. But it wasn’t the house Elaine was after; it was the contents. For inside she found numerous treasures including a Herrington Man portrait of Dowager Countess Amelia Throthing, a signed Thomas Hart Benson lithograph, and a hundred-year-old Cartier brooch made of rubies and diamonds. She needn’t keep these finds, plus others of more or less value, but auction them off at a high price, so high in fact to make the new Finkles the richest couple in the county.

Elaine began to have children and her second oldest daughter, Lillie, was something very different. She wasn’t impressed by her mother’s expensive taste or lust for style, she wanted to get out; to be adventurous, but when men were shipped off to exotic countries during the war, her heart wasn’t it in anymore. She tamed her wildness to become a nurse and serve her country. After the war, at the nice age of twenty-three, she came home to celebrate with her friends at the New Town Public House in St. David’s. She chatted and laughed and sang and danced and when the night had almost burned out, she met the love of her life. Lillie Finkle sat down on the same stool Ethan Doyle had intended to claim and she nearly landed in his lap. They both laughed, excusing themselves, never minding the fluttering of nerves and heartbeats.

Ethan Doyle was a pilot. He flew for the army and then came home. His rank gave him a steady job at the School of Aviation teaching other young flyers how to pursue the sky. That winter night in St. David’s lakefront restaurant, a young woman fell into his life just as she had fallen into his lap. He never let her out of his sight and before the night was over, he had kissed her and vowed to be her man for all of her days. They travelled, getting the longing for voyaging out of their minds before having a son, and his name was Tom.

Tom Doyle was a red-headed boy and no one knew why. It must have been the Scotch in his family’s heritage, Mr. Doyle always said. He was hyper and the doctor told Lillie there was nothing to be done about it. She didn’t mind because she and her husband were happy sorts of people, sometimes pokey and sometimes quibblers, but her son was a happy toddler with very little to vex or annoy him. They raised him in a city away from the countryside of St. David’s and the town of Bower while Lillie worked as a nurse and Ethan rose in the position at the School of Aviation and Flight Training. Tom didn’t seem to mind being a city child but it was because he had never known the freedom of living in wide open space.

His parents moved many times from house to house, causing him to attend five separate schools before they thankfully moved back to Bower. Mr. Doyle bought a large piece of property with good incentive from his father-in-law, a Finkle, and started his own school of aviation; repairing old War Bird planes to use instead of text books.

Tom went to St. David’s Public instead of Bower Public; their green-sided farm house was just ten feet past the school board’s dividing line where one half of the county went to Bower and the other half to St. David’s. He developed a stutter, nothing too severe, but Lillie, being the perfectionist that she was, taking after her mother, forced Tom to outgrow it faster than necessary; taking him to speech therapy and ordering him to spend long hours reading out loud. The Doyles, being dependant on God, suggested the Bible, and Tom became well-acquainted with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as well as the Apostles, the Psalms and the Proverbs. Tom never minded because he thought the Bible to be something very true and very poetic. It was then at the young age of seven or eight that he became accustomed to loving songs and, in turn, music.

It didn’t happen overnight, it came surely and smoothly, a mounting inkling to hear music, to sing and to write lyrics every day. It wasn’t until he sat down at his Grandmother Elaine’s house on the Thanksgiving he turned twelve that he realized there was much more to life than he figured.

His index finger fell onto the Middle C and then D, E, F and so forth until he became aware of how the notes could sound together and back and forth and over and under and simultaneously, and the music resounded in the empty living room, alone in the quietness of himself yet in the boisterous noise of the keys. After that it was hard for him to apply his energy to anything else. School became a burden except for music class and spare period when he would jam with his buddies (Matt Sleeth, Joe Finn and Jasper Lauzon, who I will tell you about when the time is right) who also loved music the way only Tom Doyle loved music. He thought he was pretty set in life because all the girls at his school thought he was cute and because he played with a band called Tom Doyle and the Parade at the Campus Pub every Tuesday and Thursday.

And that’s how Tom became Tom Doyle as you might know him, attending St. David’s College playing trumpet in the school’s orchestra presently behind Bridget Welles who was playing the violin near Gemma Lumley who sang like birds in the springtime in the choir in Conservatory Hall. The Tom Doyle who wore a lot of plaid; his dad’s old capped Oxfords and played the piano like Billy Joel; the Tom Doyle who lived in the apartment above his parent’s garage only because it was within walking distance to the college campus. The Tom Doyle who had no idea he would befriend someone like Elliot Hawthorne.

 Returns next Tuesday

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