Moves from Afar

So for my first story (these stories are going to have introductions, by the way), I chose one that I have been tinkering with, on and off, for a decade. The first version of this story was done for a Creative Writing class my senior year of High School. I liked the idea of the epistolary novel, and wanted to try the form on a short-story scale. Over the years I’ve come back it; adding, editing, changing elements of the characters and the story. Ultimately I have come up with something that I’m reasonably proud of (or at least willing to post on the Internet).  I hope you enjoy it.

 

 


 

 

10/6/93

Dear Ricky,

 

 

It is with much warmth that I write you this, as today I have been blessed with the birth of my first grandchild! Who would have thought, all those years ago, that I would be sitting here, grey-haired and potbellied, reading up on old histories while a baby plays at my slippered feet. I surely never would have, and I doubt you would have either. Unfortunately they’re all going back down to New Jersey on Friday. How is Enid? I hope her operation went alright. I know it’s just a knee, but hospitals scare me to death (ha ha).

All humor aside, I think it is wonderful that we have been able to revive this correspondence these past few months, despite the distance. Lately I have to admit that your lovely “villa” (or is it “condo”?) in the Keys seems like the smarter choice than my cottage in Brunswick. While Maine’s crisp summers may be nice, the winters leave more than a few things to be desired. Winter’s these days I’m dry, which is more than we could say back then.

I actually ran into Happy Jack a few days ago, he was home visiting his brother, who has never been the same since his wife died. We had dinner and he told me of how everything is going with him in New York. I swear; unlike the wrinkled, pickling effect warm weather seems to have on people our age, the hustle and bustle of the city has kept the pep in his step. He’s got crow’s feet out now, but that same wide grin, and we actually wiled away most of the night chatting. He has step-children and grandchildren from his new marriage, and suddenly thinks he knows it all. Hope Enid is doing well.

 

Rook to A8

 

Best,

 

Jeffrey Buckhalter

 

——————————————————————————————————————————————

 

10/13/93

Jeff,

 

 

You know me, any place I call home is a castle, whatever else it may be called. Ha! I’ll tell ya, this sun, this sand, and the girls on the beach sure have kept a “pep in my step” (ha ha). Enid is fine, and should be back up and walking in no time. Who knew so much could come from stepping on a man-o-war! She’s taking it well in stride (especially for a woman with a bum knee) but Charlie felt he had to come out and check on his darling mother just the same.

I will never understand how a lad like Charlie was created from Enid and I. But he’s a good kid, in his own way. Got promoted down at that firm he’s working at. Who’d have thunk that? My kid, hob-nobbin it down in Miami. With God knows what kind of people. Then again, you’d never know he was mine, looking at him.

I cannot believe that you saw Happy Jack, the ol’ sonofabitch. I bet he is tearing up New York. You know, I just got a letter that they are having a reunion for all the boys for the 50th anniversary. We should go. You could get out of that shack you live in (assuming you can dig your way out through that snow) and fly down here. Reunion’s in Miami. We can catch up and I can see just how ugly you’ve gotten over the years.

 

(By the way, try to be more subtle. Rook to A8? I’m half-deaf, not full-dumb.)

KnightB6 to A8

 

Richard O’Connor

 

——————————————————————————————————————————————

 

10/19/93

Dear Ricky,

 

 

Yes, come to think of it I have that letter as well. At first I wasn’t going to attend, figuring it’d be a lot of old Navy farts in some warehouse getting silly on cheap wine and cheaper stories. I didn’t make the Miami connection; my first thought was that I’d probably need to catch a connecting flight. Maybe that’s a sign of my aging. It would be nice to see the boys again… it might be fun. Truth be told, aside from visiting the kids in Jersey and everything…I haven’t left this place since Mary passed.

She’s buried in Georgia, you know, did I ever tell you? She wanted to be buried in Georgia, among the peach trees, in the place she grew up. I can visit her on the way down, maybe. I don’t know. Maybe once I leave this place I’ll just never come back. I’ll take the plunge and move to the Keys! With you and Enid. We can play chess on the beach, instead of via letter. Though considering my sorry state of affairs its good I can have a day or two to consider the pieces before I have to make a move.

And I don’t know what you were thinking,

except maybe that you wanted to throw a game to an old man,

Bishop to A4 and that’s Check, Richard.

 

Best Regards,

 

Jeffrey Buckhalter

 

P.S. Give Charlie a break, sure he seems a bit light in the loafers from what you’ve written me, but heck, he’s turned out alright. A promotion? He really is doing well.

 

——————————————————————————————————————————————

 

10/28/93

Jeff,

 

By god man – if you finally make the move down here because of a reunion…well, I guess that’d be just like you. You fight me tooth and nail (for years!) to stay up in Freezerville just so, on a lark, you can decide to move down here.

I didn’t know Mary was buried in Georgia… if I recall her parents lived in southern Georgia, right? Beautiful country from what I’ve heard. As I still like to talk aloud as I write, Enid has been listening in. She wants to tell you that, “You never know what Georgia spring will bring!” and that since the reunion is in March you should pack “accordingly.” It’ll be good to raise a little hell again though.

Don’t worry about me and Charlie, I’m just a sour old man, right? Probably because I was a sour young man! Ha! Enid says that’s not funny. Told her she better hush or I might get sour on her! Ha! Enid says that isn’t funny either (but she’s smiling this time). She also wants to add that she, “Would love it if you’d come down and live here with us.” She said we can be like the three musketeers!

I asked her if she was so sure about that, since she’d definitely draw “Porthos.”

Enid says to tell you that I’m an idiot.

Check, Eh?

PawnB6 to B5

 

Richard O’Connor

 

——————————————————————————————————————————————

 

11/8/93

Dear Ricky,

 

I did it, I reached out to a realtor. We are going to meet in a week to discuss what would go in to possibly, maybe, selling the place. I want to find a family for it, not just any people willing to pay the asking price. I’m not sure how the realtor is going to feel about that.

I want the rooms to be filled with laughter again, instead the quietness of an old man, alone. I feel like I’ve started to unshoulder a burden I’ve been carrying for awhile now.  I’ve been so stupid. I should have gone down there ages ago. Did I mention I haven’t been down there since we buried her? You two were close when you and Enid still loved up North, it’s silly that you haven’t seen her. She’s under the most gorgeous peach tree, it’s absolutely splendid.

Listen to me, I sound like a doddering old man. I am a doddering old man I suppose.

 

(Even a doddering old man still has a few tricks)

Bishop to B5

Best Wishes,

 

Jeffrey Buckhalter

 

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11/14/93

Jeff,

 

 

You old dog! Enid said, when I told her, that she, “Knew it all along.” That you always were the smart one, and I says yeah, well, I always was the pretty one so she still picked right. Now, how she figures that you’re the smart one when I’ve been down here in the sun and sand for years is beyond me, but I don’t ask go barking up that tree.

Yeah, life is pretty tough here for me, what with the sun and the warmth all the time. Though I will say this sassy 5’3 she-devil throwing things at me sometimes has me wondering. Kidding! I said that out loud but she made me write that I was kidding in the letter so “Jeff wouldn’t be confused.” You should have Eric and the girls fly down after you make the move, and I’ll get Charlie to come down for a weekend. It’ll be a blast.

 

 

You know that I never think more than one move ahead.

How do you think Charlie was born?

I forfeit.

Ricky

 

——————————————————————————————————————————————

 

11/19/93

Dear Ricky,

 

 

First off, don’t forfeit, I was just getting started! Secondly, don’t needle Enid so. I know it’s all your fault, you have always had the ability to bring out people’s crazy side.

So, the realtor looked at me a little sideways when I first said I wanted to find a good family for my home. However, we agreed to tackle that part later, as I don’t need to move fast. No one does much house hunting in the middle of winter in Maine anyway. It turns out that the market is starting to pick up, and I might make myself a little nest egg out of the whole business, if I do it. I’m supposed to meet with him again in a few weeks, which is just as good because I have been feeling this cold more this year than usual. Maybe it’s my age, but the more I think about it, the better the idea of not being surrounded by cold sounds.

 

I was white last game so you make the first move this time.

 

Best Wishes,

 

Jeffrey Buckhalter

 

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12/2/93

Dear Mr. O’Connor

 

 

At 3:30pm 11/23/1993 EMS was dispatched in response to a 911 emergency call coming from 1037 W. Maple Grove, where a man had reported finding a body, after arriving at the house for a scheduled appointment with his client and finding the door unlocked.

Jefferson Roth Buckhalter was found collapsed on his floor and unresponsive. Paramedics on the scene pronounced him Dead on Arrival, and transported him to Mount Fairview Hospital, where an autopsy was performed. The determination of that autopsy was that Mr. Buckhalter died of an apparent stroke, sometime the evening before.

In his will, Mr. Buckhalter named you, Mr. O’Connor, multiple times. In light of this, it has led us to send you this personalized note as opposed to the general summons to the reading of the will sent every named party. I would just like to say that I am very sorry for your loss. I had seen Mr. Buckhalter just a few short weeks before his passing, I have known him for many years, and this has come as a shock to everyone who knew him.

The funeral is going to be held in Georgia, per Mr. Buckhalter’s recent changes to his will. From what was written, it is clear Mr. Buckhalter would appreciate your presence. His son and his family have asked me to add that they echo this sentiment. I will be attending as my firm has had the privilege of counting Mr. O’Connor as a client for years. Once again, I am very sorry for your loss. Attached to this document you will find papers detailing the logistics of the funeral service and the reading of Mr. Buckhalter’s will.

 

Sincerely,

Francis R. Martin, Esq.

 

Franklin, Lloyd, & Martin, L.L.C.

 

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