The winter wind blew snow flurries down the deserted street. The sound of the wind was like hellhounds on the marshes howling at the sky. The moonless night was dark and angry but seemed like a storm passing. The Writers’ Café was empty now with the windows boarded up. It wasn’t the boarded windows or the café chairs stacked in the corner that made the café feel empty as we stood there. It was the fact that he was gone and the table where he held court barren of his coffee cup and moleskin journal.
The air was heavy with the smell of old coffee and books. The room echoed from its emptiness as we walked across the room to pull out the dust-covered chairs and sit down at his table leaving one chair empty where he would be sitting. The silence was so strong as to suck the air from the room. It mocked us daring us to find the right words to fit this sacred moment.
You could hear the old wooden building creaking as we walked up the stairs of the Writers’ Café and entered his inner sanctum, a place where few people were ever admitted.
If you closed your eyes you could hear his old Royal typewriter clicking out the words that flowed through his fingers and the cracking of ice cubes as he poured warm Bourbon into his glass. A glass that still rested on his writing desk.
Pauline walked over to his desk pulling the paper out of his typewriter, holding it close smelling his Sandalwood cologne and vanilla flavored pipe tobacco. She held the paper out in front of her for all to see then handed it to Ricky. Ricky was my lifelong friend from Myrtle Beach, and he read the words to us in his soft-spoken voice. It said, “Pauline, Did I ever tell you that it was Hemingway who said I should name you after his wife, Pauline? Many people thought you were his daughter, but the truth is you are my daughter. Forgive me and know that I gave you all that I could except the one thing that you needed. You always asked me about your father, and I told you great stories about Hemingway and the magic of Cuba leading you to speculate who your father might be.”
Ricky took a pause. He was a big man and was dressed in his biker’s leather, yet he couldn’t hide the tears that filled his eyes. He held her close as tears racked her body, and the awful sound of pain filled the small room. She slowly and purposely sat at his desk, touching his favorite ink pen, holding it in her hand. She placed her hands on the keys and started typing. Today my world is dark like the forest at night. Today my words are sad like the barren branches of trees in the winter where crows gather and mourn their departed. Today I am sad and helpless like angels with broken wings. Today I am sad because my father is gone and me with only his words to remember him by.
Ricky held the paper up again and finished the message he left behind. The Last Manuscript I wrote telling your story is finished. I have procured arrangements with the publisher Dennis Pitocco to publish this my last story. All the royalties from the book belong to you with a big advance waiting for you when you reach out to him.
The unedited copy of the manuscript is in my office at The Writers Café. Reach out to Larry Tyler, a storyteller and my old friend from many years ago, and my new friend, Raissa Urdiales, who is a great and inspiring writer and artist. They will help you find your way. Ricky let the pages fall from his weathered hands and Raissa picked them up, took Pauline’s hand and said let’s go downstairs to the Café and see if we can find some coffee and sit at his table.
Ricky and I, with a quiet reverence, walked into his office. This is where the business of The Writers Café begins. The desk was cluttered and drawers were open but this was normal for him. The last manuscript was not here, the last manuscript had just become the lost manuscript. Ricky was going through the stacks of mail and found a letter from Richard Harnett, a former football player, student, and writer. Out of all of us that were friends during high school, Richard showed the least talent and mainly hung out to meet the girls that were friends with the poets and writers.
Richard wrote for a literary magazine doing book reviews and articles of interest on published authors. He always wanted more but that was not to be. His letter stated that he would be in Saint Simon to talk about publishing one last book for Theodore. Perhaps if we could track Richard down, we could get the manuscript back. Ricky had a contact with the Georgia State Police and went to make a call.
Raissa brought in the morning paper and there in the literary section in bold letters, “Theodore B Grant crossed over quietly in his sleep.” Pauline slowly read the tribute to her father, poet, and writer. Meanwhile, Ricky received information from his state police friend that Richard had booked a room at the La Concha Hotel in Key West.
It seemed that we would be heading south and threading in the steps of Hemingway. We would all go back to where it all started after saying one last goodbye and putting Theodore B Grant to rest. We would find the lost manuscript and Pauline would have her legacy.
Part Two by Raissa Urdiales
Raissa and I sat at his table in silence. What was there to say? There were so many unanswered questions that one sheet of paper with his last words posed. Would the answers be revealed in the Last Manuscript? Where was it? What happened to it? Why is it gone, and where did it go?
She felt like she was robbed twice. Once by not recognizing, he was her father and twice by the story with his last words now missing. It would be his final gift to her. She was reflecting on the distance they had for so long and how wonderful it had been that they were finally able to connect through art. Something else was missing, what was it that was gnawing at her soul?
Regardless of the manuscript being missing, she may be able to find that, but he was gone forever. Why do we not realize what we have until it is gone? Those words were now becoming so much more vivid to her, realizing he, in fact, will never sit in that chair again. He will never smoke that cigar, tap the keys of the typewriter, scratch one more passage into the moleskin journal again. He was gone.
His spirit will live through his words, but he, her father, the father she had never considered hers, was now gone.
This final truth never to be allowed the many questions she had. She must find that manuscript. It had little to do about the money she would receive. It had everything to do with discovering the wealth of where she came from.
She and Raissa sat in silence. A quiet that was deafening with the multitude of questions that one sheet of paper posed. The manuscript must be found. We must come up with a plan and gather a team that will be able to assist in the new quest, the quest for the lost manuscript.
Coming soon, Pirates, Poets, and Goodbyes.
This is the fifth installment in a series called The Long Journey Home