A Thousand Words
whirled around to confront the man behind me as I walked away
from the Farmer's Market.
"What is it, Sir? The lady at the plant booth told Alice
I could borrow the wagon. Look at this," I waved a hand toward
the houseplant settled cozily in the small red wagon I was pulling.
"It's practically a tree." My best friend, Alice, had
just convinced me that I could use it on my deck to screen off
the overly interested lady in the condo next to mine.
no." He came to an abrupt halt and flashed a grin that almost
made me willing to listen. "I want to take your picture."
He held up a camera. It wasn't one of the cameras that news people
carry around. It was just a small camera. Which made me wonder
I'm not way overweight. I read all the articles about the healthy
things to eat and follow most of them and I exercise regularly
with Alice. But chocolate ice cream and a good mystery novel take
the edge off the sudden lonely evenings I've had since my husband
died two years ago.
Let's just say that it's been a long time since I've worn a bikini.
So why would a complete stranger want to take a picture of a middle-aged
woman wearing a floppy red hat and pulling a red wagon? Especially
a complete stranger with a cute young lady standing very close
to him, who looked young enough to be his daughter (and who could
very beautifully wear a bikini).
I didn't return his smile when he pushed the button on his camera,
but he acted as if I had. Holding up his camera he called, "I'll
bring the picture to this very spot one week from today. You and
I have a date. Don't be late."
you will," I muttered, as with a cheery wave he loped off
to the parking lot, his young companion never leaving his side.
I was curious enough to watch them get into an expensive looking
car and drive off, before I went to my own compact. The ungracious
thought wandered through my mind that if he were a gentleman,
he'd have waited and helped me wrestle my plant into my little
that next week I told myself that he wouldn't be there on Saturday
and neither would I. Meeting a stranger could be dangerous even
if I were interested in meeting that particular stranger again,
which I wasn't. Not him or any of the men Alice kept trying to
introduce me to.
I discussed it with Alice, over our three-times-weekly morning
exercise and tea on my backyard deck. "I feel foolish, Alice,
even thinking about it. He probably wouldn't even be there if
I did go. Or, he's a fly-by-night selling candid pictures and
I don't know that I want a picture of me pulling a little red
wagon, and wearing a floppy hat."
put her barbell down with a resolute clunk. "Callie, you're
getting much too sensible in your old age. Of course you're going
to go. What else that interesting has happened this week?"
brought out a pitcher of tea, iced because of the hot day. Alice
rustled around in her outsize bag for homemade cookies, and we
settled down to discussing our latest mystery novel, which took
some of the pain off the exercise program.
that week when I was doing my twice-weekly walk in Grove Park,
I saw the man and the sweet young thing again sitting on a park
bench. Something about the way they were sitting close together
told me that she was no way his daughter. We pretended not to
see each other as I walked past behind them, but when curiosity
got the best of me and I turned to look at them, they were both
watching me. They quickly turned around as though hoping that
I hadn't seen them.
I did," I told Alice that afternoon over a small square of
brownie. "They were watching me. Alice, what is going on?"
chewed her brownie thoughtfully. "Probably just wondering
if you're the one he took a picture of last Saturday, " she
decided. "You're getting weird. You need to let me introduce
you to that widower I met at the Country Club yesterday."
ignored her, the way I'd been doing for about a year now. "Well,
I don't know about them. Remember in Rachel Comb's last book how
this couple scoped out Miss Thelma with evil ideas about her silver
snorted. "I could write a better book myself. You got a silver
no, but remember Sadie Forrest's book where this couple followed
our heroine to her old mansion full of secrets in the Smokies?"
get an old mansion full of secrets in the Smokies I'll guard it
for you. Relax, Callie, it's just happenstance."
called Alice early the next morning. "Come over quick."
over? Now? You've got hot coffee? Fresh baked sweet rolls?"
yes. Anyway I will when you get here." I reached behind me
and pulled a box of cinnamon rolls out of the freezer. "And
something else I want to show you."
call this happenstance?" I asked as soon as she threw open
my kitchen door. "Just look what came this morning."
took the note from my hand and read it a couple of times before
she handed it back and sat down at the table. "How did it
come?" she asked.
was stuck in my door when I went for the mail."
it doesn't sound very scary. 'Don't forget Saturday morning.'
Just a reminder, isn't it?"
took the cinnamon rolls out of the oven. "Remember in Samuel
Rich's book how this couple kept pressing the heroine to meet
them and they took her away in her Rolls to this dark mansion
on the moors?"
got a Rolls, Callie? How close are we to the moors? You think
he'd prefer your little car to the one you saw him get into?"
slid a sweet roll onto a plate and tossed the icing into the garbage.
"We're not eating the icing. Do you know how many calories
there are in icing?" I poured coffee and sat down across
from her. "I'm not going Saturday morning. I just want to
read about brave women fighting off evildoers. I don't want to
really do it."
"Callie, you'll be in broad daylight by the Farmer's Market.
The most he's going to do is charge you an exorbitant sum for
a simple snapshot. But I tell you what. I'll go with you. I'll
be in the background. Maybe standing by one of the stalls looking
over cantaloupe. I'll have my phone in one hand and my car keys
in the other. If he drags you away to his car and races off, I'll
follow you, tires screeching and horn honking."
She wiggled off a bite of sweet roll. "You know these rolls
are really better with the icing. But, hey, I've got an idea.
My nephew is in the police department and I happen to know that
he's off Saturday. I'll get him to come with me. Please go, Callie.
You know how I hate to not know the answer to things."
I agreed reluctantly. "If you promise to have the policeman
morning was hot and cloudless. I wore the same hat, and feeling
extremely foolish, drove over to the Farmers Market. If he had
a picture, I promised myself, I would pay him whatever outlandish
price he wanted and he and his perfectly-capable-of-wearing-a-bikini-girl
could just go away. If he was there.
was there. Standing in the same place where he'd taken my picture
before. Smiling that smile when he saw me. Making me almost want
to smile back.
stopped, unsure, but feeling a thrill that was surprisingly close
to pleasure when he came toward me. "Callie."
almost turned and ran. How did he know my name? I looked to be
sure Alice was watching, ready to protect me. She was walking
toward us, a mile-wide smile on her face.
this is Bryan Fraser," she said.
know him?" I stammered.
yes I do and I promise I won't have to chase you down the highway
with my tires screeching." She looked thoughtful for a moment.
"Though that would have been fun."
a coincidence," I murmured, letting my hand nestle into his.
laughed. "Coincidence, schmoincedence," she chortled.
how I've tried to get you interested in several men and you wouldn't
even meet them? Well, this time I wrote a little scene to get
you interested. See, I told you I could write a mystery. I even
threw in a sexy young girl to give it pizzazz. She's engaged to
my nephew." Alice nodded toward the booths where the young
girl waved to me from the arm of a handsome policeman.
for Bryan, he seemed to only be looking at me and he hadn't turned
loose of my hand. I found that I liked that. I found that I liked
following this mystery all the way to whatever future it may have.
Colln writes in Franklin, Tennessee, where the natural beauty
and sense of history encourage her interest in earlier times and
the care of the world we live in now. Louise, who is secretary
of the Council For The Written Word, speaks at seminars. She has
four books published by Heartsong Presents and has adapted three
children's classics. Her short stories and poetry are published
in magazines and anthologies.