The sun had decided to not come out today, so neither did they. They were both getting along in years, both in their eighties, and a walk in the cold and damp wasn’t a good idea. So they both remained inside the cottage where it was warm and dry.
As he dozed in his easy chair near the fireplace, she got up slowly and went to the large cedar trunk in the corner. There was something in there that she knew would help them both pass the time, something neither of them had looked at for a while. She thought it might be interesting to recollect.
“Dear, are you awake?” she asked.
“Hmm,” came his response.
“Well, I have that letter by Lillie from Duluth, written in, let’s see, oh yes, written in late 1983. Do you remember that far back, dear?” she went on, already knowing the answer.
“Hmm, 1983, huh? That was a long time ago, dear,” he replied.
“Well, let me read you Lillie’s letter, dear. Maybe it will spark a memory or two:”
‘Dear Mr. Bromley,
I am a widow in my mid-twenties and for years I have
suffered from depression and anxiety, the causes of
which are many and varied. Anyway, I take meds
every day and the result is that I can function, but I am
removed from my feelings, from my emotions, that is,
until I read your story about The Children.
From the very first word, my feelings came flooding back.
And with every rereading, I got the same result. It is the
only thing that connects me to my emotions nowadays. I
can’t explain it and neither can my doctors, but it’s true.
Thank you so much for the story about The Children. God
bless you, Mr. Bromley, your story has made my life worth-
while even though I cry every time I read it.
Lillie from Duluth’
“Now, wasn’t that nice of her to write that letter, dear? You do remember writing that story about The Children, don’t you?” she went on.
He sat up a bit, cleared his throat and reached for his pipe.
“I wish you wouldn’t smoke, dear,” she asked, disapprovingly.
Putting down his pipe, he reflected, “Of course I remember writing it. The story about The Children and their diet of only green beans and how it turned their skin green, right? My grandfather from the east of England told me a similar story and I just adapted it to our time and place, that’s all. Really, just a fable, nothing more.”
She smiled and reread Lillie’s letter again and then wondered, “But why do you suppose your story had that very unusual effect on Lillie from Duluth? I mean, she’s telling us that it put her in touch with her emotions, emotions that her medications had suppressed. Can you explain that dear?”
He absent-mindedly reached for his pipe again, but at the last minute remembered his wife’s request. Sitting back again, he said, “No, I can’t explain that dear.”?”
She nodded and took out a small packet of letters wrapped separately from the rest in a silk ribbon. “Well, as I recall, she wasn’t the only one the story had that effect upon. Weren’t there more letters in there with more or less the same message. I remember for that reason I kept them separated from the others. It seems like there were nine such letters from other women, either from Duluth or nearby, and all written in 1983.”
He said nothing, hoping as always, she’d just drop it and move on to something else.
“Dear, your sales route took you into and around Duluth back then, didn’t it?” she stated, knowing full well the truth of the matter.
“Hmmm,” he muttered.
“And you never wrote your stories here at home, only when you were on the road. So, maybe it was something about Duluth and what was going on there that urged you to write that story about The Children. I wonder if that was it?” she went on, a new tone to her voice.
“Hmmm,” he replied.
“And what’s odd is that I’ve read and reread that story many, many times, and it’s never had that effect on me. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a very good story, but it’s just a story,” she added. “So, I’ve always wondered if that’s really what these women were writing about, or was it something else? Any ideas, dear?”
He sighed, closed his eyes, and replied, “It was a long time ago and it was just a story, dear. That’s all.”
She smiled slightly and placed the tear-stained packet of letters wrapped in a silk ribbon back into the cedar trunk in the corner. As he watched her out of one eye, she returned to her chair, sat down, took up her knitting and without looking up, added, “Well, we’ll take another look at those letters again, maybe next year, dear.” She knitted away for a minute or so, and then said, “Maybe your memory will improve.”
But he was already asleep, dreaming of all things about Duluth in 1983.