This story is read aloud at: https://youtu.be/TBOeb0hPOjM
Synopsis: An uncommon woman allows her disability to be known to a controversial childhood friend.
“Would you please let this gentleman sit at your table?” asked the cook of a San Angelo restaurant. Annabelle and Karen Wendler nodded as a superbly dressed, slim man bowed to them.
“I think I recognize you as a childhood friend at the adobe schoolhouse of Ben Ficklin. Do you remember me, Ron?” asked Karen.
He scrutinized the odd pair of women. The younger of the two had a braid and was freckled. But Karen, the elder, was a picture of female perfection. Young Annabelle handed him a note after he was seated and had ordered his supper. The note said:
I am my sister’s slave.
I am a child whisperer.
I don’t recognize you, but
Who knows what I might discover?
The note drew a curious expression from Ron.
“Please excuse my sister. The flood ten years ago gave my Annabelle such a fright that she no longer is able to audibly speak. You see, we lost our baby brother and mom during that rampage of water,” Karen said.
“I haven’t seen you since that flood, as my family joined my grandfather in Fort Worth—because of the devastation. I am sorry for your losses,” he replied.
“Yes, well, we have yet another loss just recently, which is why we are here, away from our home in Temple. Our alcoholic father just passed away from cirrhosis of the liver. We are here to settle his accounts and bury him,” she explained.
He gave his condolences, then was handed another note:
Sis and I have made an existence.
Her dime novels, I complete them.
I have the pen, and she has the thoughts.
The readers, we mislead them.
“What kind of dime novels do you write?” he asked Karen, after he read the poem.
“Oh, I love stories of adventure such as The Independent Woman or the Indian Kidnapping or The Valiant Hero,” she replied. “I dictate the stories to my sister as they flow freely from my imagination. She records them in a binder, which I mail off to the publisher.”
“I remember your vivid thoughts from when we were ten at Ben Ficklin. You got in so much trouble every day. You were sent to the corner with a dunce hat frequently. Why were you like that?” he asked.
She pondered the question as they ate their meals. “I never liked school. It was so hard. Spelling bees were the worst. The only subject I loved was arithmetic. I know I seemed to be a bad girl, but really, I’ve just been misunderstood.”
“Annabelle here knows me and helps me,” she finally replied. “But tell me what you do, Ron. Where has your life taken you?”
“I am also a writer, but not fiction, as you—rather, I write political essays for the Fort Worth Weekly Gazette. My life has been there since the flood, and I can truthfully say that I’ve been successful in my writings.”
“But you know—I never really got over my infatuation with you, my dear.”
Another poem from freckled Annabelle said:
Ron loved Karen, Karen loved Ron,
Even though they were both only ten.
The flood took their love, my brother, my voice.
One writes in a cold, lonely bed.
Rod chuckled. “Now, Annabelle seems to think that you had a crush on me ten years ago. Tell me, Karen, that it is still true.”
“Oh, Ron, you were treasured by all the girls of the school, so dashing and proper, you were. Yes, I loved you and was so relieved when I found out that you had survived the flood. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered you’d moved away, without a note or any goodbye.”
“Here, here my dear—I had no way of communicating with you—but you were definitely on my mind for quite a while,” he replied. “But my grandfather’s strict Republican ideas were thrust upon my father, brothers, and me—for better or for worse. Then I just forgot my pre-flood affiliations. I’m so sorry, my dear.”
“Republican? You mean that you write Republican-based essays for the Gazette. I had no idea that you were of that shrewd political persuasion.”
The next note to Ron said:
If Karen could vote, her pessimism denotes
That she’d choose to be Democrat.
You a Republican, that’s what you’re publishin.’
Future marriage! The chance is fat.
Annabelle watched the two former friends give each other the stink eye.
She was left out of the loop, as usual, because her inability to speak always set the tone that she was stupid.
Karen generally had a way of ruining the possibility of a husband for both herself and Annabelle. And since Annabelle was now sixteen, she was afire with severing her ties with her Karen.
But Karen required Annabelle. The younger most likely would never be totally free of Karen’s hold.
Having finished their meals, they drank their tea and ate their dessert in an uncomfortable setting.
Annabelle handed Ron her last poem to him.
The honest truth would set Karen free.
This is what I have thought of.
If they come too close, she flees from the men
To make them each her lost love.
Then Annabelle left the table to deliver a sweet poem of thanks to the cooks.
Meanwhile, Karen began to scribble in the binder something that she suspected would dampen—even more—his enthusiasm toward her. Upon handing over the torn binder page with her name and address, Karen got up to leave the table.
The note said, Krane Wnelder of Tepmel, Texsa
Ron was shocked.
Ron caught up to Annabelle when she returned from the kitchen, saying, “It appears to me that you do more than just transpose Karen’s dictation.”
Annabelle gave him a sly smile and left with her sister.