Saturday, August 29, 2009


(for Janeen)

He said, “I ask, my darling, that you look through what you see, through this salt-silvered shell, what I have and what I've been, and peer as deep as down into my heart. It’s open here for you. It is yours for the taking.”

Helen served and cleared at a seafood stand in Mystic. Billy Rydall stopped there with his sister, Jill. Every summer, since they were young, the pair had vacationed together. It was Jill’s turn to pick the destination and she chose Mystic after seeing it in on TV. They went to the seaport, the village and then the aquarium, they rode the ferry and shopped downtown. The day before they were scheduled to leave, Jill said she wanted to try fried clams. They went to a roadside grill on the bank of Davis Cove. Helen brought their order—clams, fries and chocolate shakes. Billy fell in love and introduced himself as William.

He said, “If you’d only let me, I would melt around your feet, a pedestal for your beauty.”

She was wonderful, but tired--so damned tired. Trouble seemed to have worn her down. But he was crazy and cute and acted like a gentleman and Helen didn’t have anyone else. She accompanied them back to his home in Florida. Two months later, they were wed. Billy gave her what he could and promised her the rest, but it only left her wanting and it wasn’t her fault.

She stopped talking altogether. Her days ran into nights. She disappeared with people that no one had seen before. She locked herself away, one afternoon, in the study. Billy wanted to see her and hold her and help. He went to the shed for an 8lb. sledge, ignoring the look his pool man gave, but, when he returned, the door was open, and Helen, his own true love, was gone.

She said, “Hello? Billy? Hi, it’s me. Yeah. I know…Look, I’m sorry and I hate to call you like this, but I’m afraid I’ve gotten into it…There’s a bad, awful man who wants me for himself. Not like you. In a bad, bad way…I have something of yours that I’ve kept from you. The only thing that I ever wanted. It’s a boy, sweet William. A handsome boy. And he’s so much like you it’s like having you here…I had him, once, but now I don’t. He’s gone from me. Forever, I think…See, the bad man came and took him away. He pulled that boy right out of my hands. ..God, he talks like you in that sweet, crazy way and he combs his hair with a part in the side and I’m scared to death and I want him back and I just don’t know what I would do without him….”

She was found in the street the next morning. A detective from the Florida Highway called. The policeman expressed his condolences and they set up a day for him to come to the house.

Billy Rydal summoned two of his most trustworthy ranch hands, gave them each a million dollars and a name. They did things to the kidnapper that caused one of them to lose his mind. The bad man had poisoned Helen’s Sangria. It had always been her favorite drink. They found what was left of him floating in a tub of it.

Billy said things that he didn’t want to say, that he’d been taught to never say about a woman. Then he gave that up and went to their room and cried into a sweater she’d left behind.

He said, “I know you don’t know me and have never met me, but, as luck would have it, I’m your father, son. Your mother had to leave, but she asked me to mind you. Have a look around. What’s mine is yours. She didn’t love me like I loved her, but hearts are something that can’t be helped. Once, I believe, she needed me, and that will have to be enough.”

[A slightly different version of this story was originally published in Shoots & Vines Issue #3.]