There’s no return address on this letter. I rip it open. A check! One thousand dollars written on a Virginia bank. From Whit! I look closely inside the envelope for an explanation, but there’s nothing. Not one single word.
A while later, Layton comes by and we sit at the table on the patio. I try to put my thoughts about the check aside for now.
I’m glad Layton is here. Does he know how happy I am to see him? I try not to show my feelings. We talk a few minutes about many things, but nothing in particular. Chit-chat.
“Calypso, tell me how you got your name.”
I laugh. “My dad once met Jacques-Yves Cousteau.”
“The ocean researcher?”
“Yes. Dad went aboard his famous ship.”
“I’ve heard of his ship. He called it Calypso, didn’t he?”
“That’s right. Dad was impressed with Cousteau and he really liked the name Calypso. When he suggested the name to Mother, surprisingly she agreed. I would have thought she would give me a dripping-sugar Southern name.”
“So you are named for a ship. Suppose that’s why you love the ocean?”
“Actually, I’m also named after Cousteau himself.”
“My middle name is Yvette, the feminine form of Yves.”
“Calypso Yvette. Pretty name.”
“Thanks. I’ve been told it fits an artist.”
“You are a very good artist.”
“So good that thieves steal instead of buy?” I try to make light of the horrible theft, but Layton is not smiling. “Whit liked to tease me about selling the seascape when our bank account got low but he knew I’d never part with it.”
“That was a beautiful painting. I’m sorry it was stolen.”
“If you’ve never had anything stolen, you can’t imagine how vulnerable it makes you feel.”
He nods. “Do you mind telling me how long you and Whit were married?”
“And you? How long were you married?”
“Thirteen years,” he says and looks away.
He shakes his head.
“Whit and I never had children, either. If we had, I wouldn’t be alone now.”
“Do you think you’ll ever see Whit again?”
“I don’t know.”
“A few days ago, you mentioned getting a divorce. Do you plan to go through with it?”
“Yes.” I can’t even imagine how devastating that will be.
Suddenly Angelique’s red Mustang whips into my drive and comes to a quick stop. She gets out and strides over to the table. Layton–gentleman that he is–stands until she is seated.
The sun’s rays slant through the leaves of the pepper tree and brighten the table top. Angelique pushes her sunglasses to the top of her head. Her thick blonde hair cushions them. Layton shoots her an admiring glance. She is attractive. I recall telling her she should spend some time looking for Mr. Right. She always came back with, “He doesn’t exist. You’ve already got him.”
I clear my throat and shut my eyes tight. I don’t have him anymore. When I open my eyes, Layton smiles at me. I force a smile and turn to Angelique. “So how are things at the sheriff’s office?”
“Usual stuff. At least, we’ve not heard any more out of you. So that means things are okay?”
I nod, not trusting my voice to sound reassuring. Things have quieted down though. Rex Gentry unnerved me but I haven’t heard any more from him since he bought the painting. And I’ll be getting a report from the detective soon.
Angelique looks at Layton. “I have a habit of dropping in to check on my best friend. I hope I’m not interrupting your visit.”
“Oh, no. It’s nice to see you again.”
Angelique turns to me. “When did you say your Aunt Helen will be here?”
“She’ll be good for you. Her sense of humor will definitely lift your spirits,” Angelique says.
I turn to Layton. “Helen is my favorite aunt. I want you to meet her.”
“I’d like to meet her.”
After a time, Angelique leaves. A short while later, Layton says, “Time for me to leave, too. Is our date at the beach still on tomorrow?”
“Yes. I’ll be there mid-morning with my canvas and paints.”
“I’ll bring our lunch and see you at noon.”
When I’m alone, I look at the check again. The familiar signature of Whit Langley brings to mind how much I loved him. Love him. Maybe he still loves me. He sent this check for some reason. Didn’t he?
Don’t count on it, Calypso.
But why did he send it? Why? After all this time. I’m getting by, selling a painting now and then. My savings account though is dwindling. I need to look for a job. Or maybe I should sell this house and move back to Texas. Back to the cabin.
The cabin and acreage would bring a good price. Maybe I should sell the cabin. I don’t think I’ll ever want to go back there to live.
I wouldn’t be happy far away from the ocean.
I wouldn’t be happy.
© Copyright, 2013, Freeda Baker Nichols
(This is a middle portion of my short story-in-progress)
Blue wings flutter!
He aims his shotgun,
index finger firm against the steel.
They flush, moving upward
In one split second
He feels the impact of an artist’s color wheel.
Carefully, he squeezes the trigger.
Shot scatters, blue wings flap higher–
Imprints on the canvas of the day.
They peel skyward
as the report of his shotgun dies away.
c Copyright 2012, Freeda Baker Nichols
From: Poems for sharing, Arkansas Magazine,
and Poems by Poets’ Roundtable of Arkansas
They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. But I wonder if maybe you can. The colorful painting for “Call of the Cadron,” my first novel, which was painted by artist, Yvonne Baker Hall, (who happens to be my sister), seems to depict some conflict, some sadness, some happiness, perhaps. Despite that, the cover looks peaceful, like an invitation to sit down and read a while. Find out what happened in the lives of Jordan Maxey, Garrett Jones and Michael Younger in the little place called Old Piney Town in Arkansas, in 1983.
The dust jacket for my novel was illustrated by my sister, Yvonne Baker Hall, an artist who lives in California. Her award-winning paintings have been displayed at galleries in California and in Tokyo, Japan. She paints all subjects, including murals. Her training includes art classes taught by prominent instructors in Alaska, Minnesota, and California. Yvonne is inspired by nature’s beauty, and she tries to capture the beauty on canvas to share with others. Listed in American Artist of Renown, 1981, her work is published in “Art of the American West,” Rockport Publishers, 1999.
Yvonne volunteered to illustrate the jacket for my book. I’m grateful to her for providing such a beautiful painting that depicts a scene in the novel.
Through email and telephone conversations we made decisions on the jacket. I was reminded of our childhood days on Banner Mountain.
Back in those days, Yvonne and I cut out paper dolls from The Sears and Roebuck Catalogue. For hours, we played with the paper dolls on the front porch. We created our own toys at a period when all the other kids we knew did the same.
Now, years later, I’m pleased to announce that my sister illustrated the cover for my first novel. Hopefully, the beauty of the dust jacket will invite the reader to open the book and read the 200-page mainstream novel.
Set in Arkansas in 1983, my book is aimed at a general audience. My teenage grandson calls it a western. It does have an element of “The West.” Guns, horses and stampeding cattle offer adventure in modern times. The story also has an element of romance. I call the novel a family story about a college graduate holding to traditional values as she strives to help her family through a crisis.
More about the new book later . . .
by Freeda Baker Nichols
(Journal entry) Thursday, November 17, 2011, 2:50 P.M.
As I write this in the barn studio at the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center, the sun is shining. The weather is cool. I’m at the Fall Creative Writers’ Retreat and for the fall session, Roland Mann, of Oxford, MS, is the Mentor. Most of the attendees are writing in the Educational Center. (Roland’s Ramblin’ Weblog may be read at www.rolandmann.wordpress.com )
One other retreat attendee is here in the barn studio, also writing. Her name is Kayla. I’ve been here before and I’ve written here before but today I want to write something about Calypso for my short story. I want to write at least one line for that story as I sit here in Hemingway’s restored studio. (End of Journal entry)
February 27, 2012.
I completed one chapter of the story and that portion of the fiction piece was printed in the anthology “New Thresholds,” November 14-18, 2011.
I’m writing this story in first person, present tense, using the viewpoint of the main character, Calypso. She is an accomplished artist who has never sold or even given away any of the paintings she’s created over the past twenty years. There comes a time in her life when she must sell some of her art work. When her favorite painting is stolen, Calypso sets out to find the thief and discovers a trail that leads her into a life-threatening situation. My story is getting a life of its own and leaning toward a mystery. New to me but it’s beginning to be fun to write.
In Calypso’s story, after an intruder leaves her house, she finds a crumpled piece of paper. On it these words are highlighted: Her hair is brown, lined with copper stripes; she will disappear, too, just like the dew on the red, red rose at the Villa Claire.
So, that is a peek into my files and a glimpse of my true sentence.
cCopyright, 2012, Freeda Baker Nichols