Near 500 words: TW and the Scholar

Episode 22 of The Writer.

Dr. Christine Baxter looked up from her text, showing a face that did not like to be interrupted. “Yes?”

TW (aka The Writer) felt intimidated. Who was he to interrupt a scholar at her very important work? Then he remembered. He was someone who needed help with a puzzle. The puzzle being the ancient text on Sylvia’s postcards.

He introduced himself and apologized for missing his appointment that morning.

Dr. Baxter sighed a sigh that said, “If I have to be interrupted, I might as well give the interruption my attention. Otherwise I won’t be able to get back to the text.”

“Well, have a seat.” Her blue eyes seemed to say, “This had better be good.”

TW followed her instruction.

“Now,” Dr. Baxter said. “Tell me. What is it I can do for you?”

TW explained about the postcards he had received for some thirty years from Sylvia. He didn’t mention Sylvia walking from inside one postcard to the next when they were in order. “Below Sylvia’s signature is a strange text. I’ve looked through the library’s books but I can’t find anything like it. Other than Sanskrit. And it’s not Sanskrit. At first, I thought it was ancient Hebrew because the words move from right to left. But there are differentials.”

“Let me see the postcards.”

“I only have the one. The other twenty-nine were stolen.”

“Stolen? Why would anybody want to steal postcards?”

“I don’t know.” He pulled the most recent postcard out of his suit jacket. “But this is the latest.” He passed the card over to Dr. Baxter. As she took it, he noticed she had long fingers. His eyes glanced over at the bookshelf next to the desk. On the top of it was a photograph of a young woman at the piano. “Do you play the piano?”

She looked up from the card and smiled. “Not so much anymore. I used to. And some say I was quite good. But not good enough to pursue a career. I didn’t have the passion for it.” Her eyes returned to the postcard. “Are you trying to pull my leg? If you are, you might as well leave my office.”

“I’m sorry,” TW said, apologizing for what he wasn’t sure.

“There’s no ancient text on this card.” She passed the card back to TW. “Why don’t you just leave.”

She stood up and walked to the door and opened it and gestured. “Please. I don’t have time for nonsense. I get enough of that from my students. Now go.”

TW hesitantly stood up. “B-b-b-but.”

“Please,” she insisted.

He looked at the card. There was Sylvia’s latest message, ““The end of the rainbow. Shangri-la at last. Sylvia.” But the ancient script was gone. The script was gone. How could that be? He turned the card over. Sylvia was no longer in the picture. Only the older woman dressed in red.

“Wait,” TW pleaded. “You have to help me.”

Dr. Baxter went to her phone and picked up. “I’m calling security.”

“The script may have disappeared. But I can remember enough of it to write it out. If you’ll let me.”

“Security, can you come to Dr. Christine Baxter’s office? I have an intruder.” She gave the building and room number. Then she hung up the phone.


In Praise of the eReader

The eBook has taken a bad rap over the years. Like so many readers, I like the feel of a physical book myself. Especially if it’s a graphic novel or an art book or a book of photographs or a book that’s well designed. There’s nothing quite like cozying up to a good physical book. In fact, I have several book shelves stacked with “me beauties”. And I still enjoy browsing bookstores and libraries.

When the kindle and the nook first came on the market, I was resistant. I thought it was just a fad. There wasn’t going to be a large supply of eBooks. The eReader was going to be like that pet rock I adopted in the seventies. Boy, was I wrong.

After a bit, I downloaded the kindle app on my computer and gave it a try. I was surprised how much I enjoyed my experience. So I bought my first kindle and the experience didn’t hurt. It didn’t hurt at all. In fact, it was downright pleasurable. This was back in Ought-twelve. These days I carry my kindle everywhere the way I used to lug around books.

So here are ten reasons why I fell in love with the kindle and keep the affair going on.

1.Out-of-print books available.

2.Very portable.

3. Lightweight.

4. I don’t have to struggle to read at lunch at work. There’s no universal bookholder for paperbacks, large books and epic war-and-peacers.

5. My reading speed improved.

6.It’s an ecological thing to do. Think of all the trees saved.

7. Libraries have gotten on the bandwagon, offering eBooks through apps like Overdrive.

9. Price. Through programs like bookbub, very inexpensive books. Many of the classics are free.

10.Unpublished writers now have a chance to become successful authors.

So, as you can see, it’s not an either/or. I have the best of both worlds. The physical book for my sitting alone reading at home and the eBook for my carrying around reading and for research projects. Whoopee!! I am a happy camper. And may I wish all of you Happy Reading!

Near 500 words: TW and Sylvia

Episode 21 of The Writer

“Have you let Sylvia go?” TW (aka The Writer) wasn’t sure he was imagining the question until he heard Helen ask a second time, “Have you let Sylvia go?”

It was then that TW remembered the postcards. “I’m afraid not.”

“Then I’m sorry,” Helen said. “I was thinking maybe. But now I realize things aren’t going to work for us. Even casually dating. I’m not up to competing with another woman. I’m much better than that.”

She stood up. “Thanks for the breakfast. I’ve got to go.” Then she was out the front door and gone.

He paid for breakfast, then made the walk back to his house. It was a mile or so but it gave him some time to think. What’s moving on going to look like?

By the time he walked up his driveway, he had decided. The best thing was to keep busy. And the first item of his agenda for keeping busy was finding out more about Sylvia’s postcards.

Standing on the front porch, he opened his mailbox. There was only piece of mail. Another postcard from Sylvia.

Inside he sat down. On one side of the postcard, Sylvia sat beside an older woman dressed in red. The woman’s hair was long and white. The two were surrounded by children. Behind them was a Buddhist temple with blue and white and yellow and green flags flying above them.

On the other side was Sylvia’s short message: “The end of the rainbow. Shangri-la at last. Sylvia.” Then the ancient text below her signature.

As he looked at the  photograph of a smiling Sylvia, shivers shot up and down his spine. Then a calm came over him.

He sat the card down on the table, then pulled the box down from the hall closet. He opened the lid of the box. And the postcards were not there.

He searched through the other things in the box. Everything was the way he had left it. With two exceptions. Sylvia’s carvings of the robin and butterfly and the mustang.

He dumped everything in the box onto the carpet and rifled through the ingredients a second time. Nothing. Nada. The missing postcards and carvings were gone.

He sat staring at the items on the floor, then at the empty box, struggling to think what might have happened to them. He started questioning if he had put them back in the box. After several minutes of doubt, he was sure. They had gone back in the box.

He remembered his appointment with Dr. Christine Baxter. It had been for ten a.m. that morning. He looked at his watch. Two p.m. Maybe he could still catch her.

He grabbed the postcard and out the door he went. Thirty minutes later he pulled up into the parking lot for the social sciences and language disciplines. He locked his car and headed inside the white stone building and up the stairs to the third floor and Dr. Baxter’s office. He found her office and knocked on the door, then opened the door.

At her desk sat a pale, thin woman stooped over a text behind a wall of papers and books.

TW knocked again on the door and the woman looked up.

“Dr. Baxter? Dr. Christine Baxter?”

She slipped off her glasses and looked up. “Yes,” she said, her voice sounding like music.


George joined his father, Alex, at the cafe table. The older man finger-brushed his large bush of a white mustache. A tattoo of numbers from his gulag days littered his arm.

George took a sip of his dark coffee.

“Good, eh?” the older man asked.

George swallowed his sip. “Yes, yes.”

“See. I told you this place had the best joe around.”

“You did. But it looks like a dump.”

“Keeps the riff-raff away,” Alex said. “None of that Starbucks gang here. Only we coffee connoisseurs. Right, Nick.”

The white haired, pot-belied man at the next table nodded his head. “Best in the whole darned city.”

Alex laughed. “And the aroma makes me homesick for my Siberian days.”

George went on. “Papa, have you been getting your mail lately.”

“Yes. No problem with the mail.”

“I’ll tell you it’s getting worse and worse. It took two weeks for me to get a birthday card from Olga.”

“Two weeks?” the older man said. “That’s nothing. It used to take six months for me to get my utility bill.”

“Six months?” his son asked.

“Oh, yes. The utility company would call up and threaten to cut off the electricity.”

“Why didn’t they?”

“All I had to say was that I hadn’t received the bill. As soon as I told them, they said, ‘We understand.’ I told them that even if I had received the bill. Got us through the winters.”

“Why did they believe you?”

“Everybody’s mail was slow in those days,” Alex said, then lifted his mug in the air. The waiter saw him and brought another mug of coffee over.

“Why was the mail so slow?” George asked.

“It took forever for the secret police to read our mail. They were slow readers but good at beating people up.”

“It’s not that way anymore. The secret police are all college education. They do next day service. Or so I’ve heard.”

The old man raised his mug to his lips and drank and swallowed. “I think I like the old days better. Every thing has gotten so fast we hardly have time to think. And now they’re saying we have five per cent unemployment. Can you imagine?”

“C’mon, Papa, that’s the best it’s been in years.”

“You call that good. Why, in my day, we had full employment.”

“Did not.”

“Oh, yes we did.”

“I don’t believe you,” George said.

Accepting the challenge, Alex said, “Comrade Stalin had a very good solution to the employment problem. If you didn’t have a job, he shot you. I sure miss those good old days.”

Near 500 words: TW and the Doorbell

Episode 20 of The Writer.

TW (aka The Writer) shook himself awake. The clock above the TV read 7 a.m. The doorbell rang a second time. More insistent than the first time.

“Alright, alright,” he called out and pulled himself out of his comfy chair. Who could be ringing my doorbell this early in the morning?

A dog barked. It sounded like the bark came from down the street.

He opened the front door. There was no one there. That’s strange.

His eyes searched the street and the neighbors’ yards. There wasn’t a motion anywhere. Except for a neighbor walking his cocker spaniel.

A silver Lexus pulled up into his driveway and stopped. The door opened and Helen stood up. As he watched her walk toward him, he realized how attractive she was. Not stunning but attractive. She’d put on a few extra pounds the way some women do after they’ve had children, but not that many.

Her hair had turned gray from the dark brown when they had first dated. But it was the smile she always wore that had made him want to date her. She wore that smile, and she was asking him to breakfast.

“I’d like that. Give me a few minutes.”

She followed him into the house.

On the way to the neighborhood diner, they discussed the weather and how the vet hospital was doing.

As she parked her car, she asked, “How’s your writing going?”

He stepped out of the car and said, “I’m still searching for a subject.”

They ordered their eggs and coffee, then Helen asked, “How are you doing?” Her green eyes were warm and concerned.

“I buried Cat last night, then I fell asleep in a chair. I can’t get over it. She’s gone, and life has to go on.”

“I was worried about you after you left. Some people take the loss of a pet hard. But I haven’t seen any take the death as hard as you have.”

“I’ll be okay.”

The waitress brought their food.

After she was gone, TW asked, “Did you see anyone leaving my house? When you drove up the street?”

“Can’t say that I did.” Helen took a bite of her egg.

“That’s weird.” TW sipped his coffee.

She finished chewing. “Weird?”

“Just before you drove up, someone rang my doorbell. When I answered the door, they were gone.”

“Are you sure you weren’t imagining things?” She dipped a slice of her toast into her coffee. “Or dreaming it?”

“That was what I thought at first. But no. When the bell rang again, I was wide awake. Darnedest thing.”

As the waitress refilled his coffee, TW could feel that he was getting nervous. But then he decided to go ahead with what was on his mind. “So you and Frank are getting a divorce.”

“Got a divorce. It’s over between us. Sonny’s death was just the last straw. He’d been having an affair. I knew it but I kept hoping. When Sonny died, Frank went crazy. So much so that I couldn’t deal with it. I have the girls to take of care. I don’t need another child.”

TW reached over and put his hand over hers. “I’m sorry.”

“Thanks. I haven’t gotten over Sonny’s death. That’s going to take a long long time. If ever. Me and the girls are starting to pick up the pieces and move on.”

She turned her palm upward, and he squeezed her hand.

TW’s words finally came out. “Would you like to go out sometime?”

She took back her hand and asked, “Have you let Sylvia go?”