General Fiction posted April 2, 2024 Chapters:  ...15 16 -17- 18... 

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A chapter in the book Saltwater Ghosts



Eleven year-old Heddy can communicate with her deceased grandmother, Nonni.
So far, Heddy meets a mysterious man who is hiding on the island. And she meets a new friend named Lester. Her family finds out that her older brother is coming home.


Momma and I walk to the post office just before lunch. She fixes two extra sandwiches for Lester. When I told her how quickly he ate the food I brought him yesterday, she put her hands on her hips and got the most determined look on her face.

"That boy isn't going to starve if I can help it."

"You think Mrs. Collette would let him starve? He's her kin. She wouldn't do something like that, would she?"

Momma's face softened and she leaned close to me. "No. Your momma is just being silly. Don't pay me any mind. Maybe I can convince Mrs. Collette to let him come over tomorrow."

I hope she can, but I have my doubts. The way Mrs. Collette looked at me yesterday makes me think she hasn't forgotten what my momma said to her.

There is some leftover chocolate cake on the counter. It teases from its glass platter. Without a word, Momma pulls a plate down from the cabinet and lifts the glass dome from the cake. She slices two pieces of cake and deposits them on the plate.

"He gets two pieces of cake?" I ask. I feel my mouth start to water. I hope one of those slices is for me.

Momma shakes her head. "One is for Lester and the other is for Mrs. Collette. Maybe she'll take it as a peace offering."

Momma winks and carefully puts the food into a basket on the counter. "Ready?" she asks after draping a clean dish towel over it.

The walk is much nicer when you have someone with you. It doesn't feel nearly as long and even the scenery seems more interesting.

Momma points up. "Look, Heddy, there's a woodpecker."

I follow the direction her finger is pointing. There on the side of a tall thick pine trunk, the oddest looking bird is banging its beak into the bark.

"Isn't that fascinating?"

"How come he doesn't get a headache? That's got to hurt."

Momma shrugs. "That's nature. Nature sometimes just doesn't make sense to you and me, but God knows what He's doing."

We continue along until we can see the roof of the post office just ahead. I watch as Momma stops walking for just a few seconds. Her shoulders rise and fall rhythmically.

"Momma? Why are we stopping?"

"Sometimes you need to take a deep breath and take a moment to gather your thoughts before you do something."

I nod but not because I understand what she's saying, but I feel like she needs someone to agree with her. I draw in a deep breath too.

"Okay, let's go check on Lester."


Mrs. Collette bristles when she sees us come in. She busies herself with a pile of mail and starts tossing them into smaller bushel baskets around her. "Ferry just left. Haven't had time to go through all the mail sacks yet."

Lester peeks out from the back room and waves quickly before disappearing again.

"I'm guessing you haven't had time for lunch either," Momma says, lifting the basket and placing it on the wooden counter.

Mrs. Collette looks at the basket then at my momma. A frown creases her brow. "What's this for?"

"I figured you both are working through lunch and you might be hungry. I thought it would be the neighborly thing to do."

"Well, that is quite neighborly." She lifts up the dish towel and spots the cake. "Chocolate cake. Mmm. Haven't had a good piece of cake in ages."

"This is my grandmother's recipe."

"It's real good, Mrs. Collette," I say.

Her eyes flicker over to me then back to the plate with the cake. "Lester, come on out here. Heddy and her momma brought us lunch."

Lester walks out from behind the curtain and comes over to stand beside me.

"Mrs. Collette, I just wanted to apologize for my comments the other day. I shouldn't have called you a vile woman. I'm worried about my boy and the terrible things going on in the world right now. I know it's no excuse ... anyway, I'm sorry."

Mrs. Collette tilts her head, makes a little sniffing noise then nods. "I don't go through your mail. I'm not a dishonest woman."

"No, of course not."

"Well, please enjoy this food and we'll come back tomorrow to collect the mail ... after you're done sorting it." Momma touches my arm and motions to the door.

Mrs. Collette is already digging through the basket. "Well, now, hold on. Maybe Lester can bring it once we've gone through and sorted it."

Momma's smile couldn't have been any brighter when she heard that.

"Would it be alright if he stayed for dinner?"

Mrs. Collette shrugs. "Fine by me."

Lester nudges me. He puts a letter in my hand and then closes my fingers around it. "I'll bring your mail after I'm done here," he says.

Sliding my hand behind my back, I say goodbye to them both and follow my momma out of the post office.

We make it around the bend in the road before I look down at the letter I'm holding. "It's from Willis."

I hold out the envelope for my momma.

"Where'd you get that?"

"Lester slipped it to me."

She stops and studies the envelope. "I guess I should open it. This looks like your brother's handwriting." Her fingers shake as she tears the flap open. I watch her face as she reads. The serious intent replaced by sheer joy as she reads further. "Heddy, Willis wrote this. He's okay. He says he's coming home. Oh, sweet Jesus, my boy is coming home."

As the tears roll down her cheeks, she holds the paper to her breast. "He's coming home."

For the rest of the afternoon, she's humming and smiling. It's good to see her happy.

But, why didn't Lester just hand it to her? It was like he was hiding it. And there is only one person he could be hiding it from. Mrs. Collette.

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