Near 500 words: TW and His Friend

Episode #25 of The Writer

TW (aka The Writer) left Christine Baxter’s office late. He looked at his watch. It said 6 p.m. As he got into his car, he realized that he was starving. When had that happened?

The time he had spent in Dr. Baxter’s office had passed way too fast. As they discussed the postcard and what it revealed, the two of them came to the conclusion that they had to get together the next day in the library to continue their research. Where it would lead neither knew. But they knew it would lead somewhere unbelievable. They were on the edge of a major discovery. All because of a postcard.

There was a steak in the freezer. He’d thaw it out and throw it on the grill This was the first time he’d wanted to eat since Cat died. What had she gotten herself into and what had happened to the postcards?

He veered to the right, barely missing a pedestrian. Get your mind on your driving. You can think about Cat and the postcards and Dr. Baxter’s information after you get home, he told himself.

He turned into his street and saw Buddy’s car parked in his driveway. Good. He would have a chance to discuss the recent events with Buddy. He pulled over and parked on the side of the road because there was no room in the driveway behind Buddy’s car.

Then he saw the body. It was Buddy.

He jumped out of his car and ran over to see Buddy lying on the grass. Buddy was shaking his head.

TW kneeled down to see if Buddy was okay.

“Give me a hand,” Buddy said.

As TW lifted Buddy off the grass, he asked, “What happened?”

“Damned if I know.”

TW waited till Buddy cleared his head, then he helped his friend inside. Buddy sat down on one of the dining room chairs. TW went into the kitchen and poured water onto a washcloth and took a bottle of water out of the refrigerator.

Sitting across from Buddy at the table, he listened as his friend gave him the story. “I had some papers to give you. They’re from Dr. Hollings. As I got out of my car, I saw two men leaving your house. I dialed 9-1-1. When the dispatcher picked up, one of the s.o.b.s slugged me. Where’s my phone anyway?”

“I’ll get it.”

A minute or so later, TW laid the pieces of Buddy’s phone onto the table.

“Shit,” Buddy said. “I just got that phone too.”

“Why don’t I take you to the hospital, then I can call the cops.”

“Guess that’s best. I sure have one hell of a headache.”

A half hour later, TW was talking to the doctor. “Is he going to be all right?”

“I think so. But it’s best he stay overnight and we do some x-rays in the morning.”

“Can I see him?”

TW walked into Buddy’s room. “You’re going to be alright. I just saw the nurse who’ll be taking care of you. Maybe I could get hit over the head and she’d take care of me.”

“You’re not going to steal–Damn this head.”

Buddy’s chin dropped to his chest.

TW rushed out into the hall, yelling, “Nurse, nurse. Someone.”

 

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Near 500 words: Library Work

Episode 24 of The Writer.

Librarian Buddy Grady had been a colleague of TW’s (aka The Writer) for fifteen years. In that time, they had become close friends. Maybe the only one TW had at work. Now that TW was taking a year off, Buddy wondered who he would talk to about all his women problems. Two divorces and he was still looking for that perfect woman that would bring paradise to his life.

These thoughts went through his mind as he searched the archives for a thesis on Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea. It was called “The Old Man and the Big Fish.” The author, a former graduate student of Dr. Morale’s, argued that Ernest Hemingway’s novella was actually his Moby Dick. The old man was Captain Ahab; the boy was “Just Call Me Ishmael”; and the fish was the White Whale.

After doing a half hour search in the archives, Buddy didn’t see it.

“Dr. Grady,” Seymour called.

Buddy looked up. “Yes, Seymour,” Grady said to the sad sack of an intern.

“Dr. Hollings is looking for you.”

Grady straightened his tie. He never came to work casual but always wore a tie. To prove that he was serious. Not only to others but to himself. Though he was a competent librarian, Dr. Hollings always intimidated him. Grady felt the director didn’t think he was up to being a “real” librarian. Little did he know it but the director made all his staff feel that way as he talked about the way libraries used to be back in the days of card catalogues.

And it wasn’t enough that Hollings wanted him to take up the slack for TW, but now he was going to make Grady his personal whipping boy. It was five p.m. and he wasn’t up to any more distractions. He had several other orders from faculty to fill before he could head home.

Dr. Hollings stood beside Grady’s desk.

Standing at attention, Buddy asked, “How can I help you, Dr. Hollings?”

“I’ve got some paper work to be signed.” He passed the papers over to Grady and asked if he would get TW’s signature.

“Of course.” Grady let out a sigh of relief and took the papers and slid them into his briefcase. “I’ve been meaning to get over and see him anyway. I have several books he asked for.”

“Good.” Then Dr. Hollings smile his satisfaction that he had again put the fear of the Lord into Buddy He turned and began whistling as heheaded toward the front door and on his way home.

The paperwork was as good an excuse as any to leave for the day. He’d get back to the faculty requests the next day.

On his way out, he stopped and flirted with the new librarian. Just out of college, she was what was known as “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.” He gave her one of his boyish smiles and she returned with a smile of her own.

“Would you care to go out for a drink Saturday night?” he asked.

She hesitated.

“Oh, it’s okay,” Buddy said. “Don’t want to date a co-worker.”

She laughed. “It’s not like that.”

“Oh?”

“You see, I,” she hesitated, then her voice dropped to a whisper, “I like women.”

Buddy Grady laughed. “I’m so sorry. I just got a divorce and I’m only now getting up the courage to date. Well, goodnight.”

As he opened the door and stepped into the late afternoon, he said, “Too bad.”

On the way over to TW’s, the radio played “Another One Bites the Dust” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” “Yeah, right,” he said.

He drove up to TW’s house and pulled into the driveway. TW’s car was not there, but two men came out of the house. “What they hey,” he said and jumped out the car.

The two men saw him taking out his cell  and punching in 9-1-1.

Before the dispatcher could answer, one of the two tackled Buddy. The other grabbed his phone and smashed it against the concrete.

Near 500 words: TW and the K’lggsh

Episode 23 of The Writer.

TW (aka The Writer) nodded his head. He would leave Dr. Baxter’s office. He held up the card once more, staring at it, trying to force the text back under Sylvia’s signature. The light through the window lit on the postcard in a certain way. TW saw the script.

“Dr. Baxter,” he said. “You have to look at the card again. The text is back.”

“I really don’t have time for this. Leave please.”

TW realized he had to do something. Otherwise he would be the laughing stock of the campus and lose what chance he had to get help. Right then and there, he decided he did not want to be seen for a fool. So he did the only thing he could think of.

He walked past the professor, turned, took her wrist, and spun her around, her back facing him. Then he held her with one arm, while his other hand placed the card at an angle in front of her face. The light shone through it, and the text appeared.

“What,” Dr. Baxter said, her body stopping its resistance. She took the card from him and stared at it. “This is K’lggsh. Oh, my God, this is K’lggsh. I don’t believe–this is K’lggsh.”

TW let go of her and she dropped into a chair staring at the card. The script disappeared.

Two security guards grabbed TW from behind. TW resisted, then realized it was no use. They had him pinned.

“You’re coming with us,” one of the guards said. “We’re turning you over to the cops.”

Dr. Baxter woke from what seemed like a hypnotized state. She stood up. “No, no. It wasn’t him.”

“What?” the guard asked.

“Yes, he stopped the intruder. The intruder ran down the hall and out the back stairs.”

The two security guards turned and ran down the hall, chasing a phantom.

Dr. Baxter raised the card to let the light hit it. The script returned. Then she laughed. “This is K’lggsh. Amazing.”

“K’lggsh?”

“Yes. Let me show you.”

She went over to the bookcase and pull down a large book, her hands shaking. She dropped it twice before she was able to set it on her desk. Then she rifled through the pages until she found what she wanted. She pointed to a picture of a fragment. “Here. Read this.”

She reached into her desk drawer and pulled out a magnifying glass and passed it over to TW.

TW looked through the glass. He saw a fragment of a brown scroll of script. On the scroll were a partial group of words. What might have been incomplete sentences. Some of the few words half erased.

“K’lggsh,” Dr. Baxter said, her voice overjoyed.

TW stared at the photograph, then looked back at Dr. Baxter, then back at the fragment. The script looked similar to the script on the postcard. Not the same but similar.

TW sat down on a chair at the side of the office, shaking his head. He recognized one of the words in the fragment. It was one of the scripts on the card. “What does this mean?”

“That fragment in the book,” Dr. Baxter said. “That’s the only thing we have of the K’lggsh language. And now this.” She signified the postcard.

She turned the card over and saw the woman dress. “No. It can’t be….This is–“

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.

 

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.