The image of the fish above is for my MC Benjamin, and little Cassie? She’s this!
(really thanking Tagxedo.com this morning, for making such a great, great thing) ❤
A Little Book of Holiday Comfort
Benjamin Webster had never seen anything as colorful as the little girl who was shouting at him and running up the dune. She was dressed in the most unusual outfit patterned in starfish and seahorses and her paper parasol had been blown back by the wind. The black and white speck he’d been hunting for all morning was nowhere to be found. His pockets were filled with shells he’d picked up that had been churned from the heaving sea and the storm the night before. Scallop shells that had been painted inside like watercolors. The beach was littered with lovely things and there were no footprints except his. Nags Head was closing down for the season, and he had arrived at the beginning of that close. Last night in Pelican’s Lair they had mentioned that, and the summer crowds.
“Hey Mister, my name is Cassie.”
“My mom wants to invite you over for dinner tonight.”
“She’s making seven kinds of brownies for dessert.”
“Is that where you live?”
The Mermaid Castle looked like something out of a fairy tale. Not only was it the hugest and tallest building in the neighborhood, but it was festooned with carved mermaids on every floor, and there were flags of every possible kind, in every possible color flying off of it. It had turrets, and bay windows, and well, frankly, it was a girl’s place. He’d seen Cassie’s mom unloading the groceries. Who on earth would be wearing heels like that on a crisp Fall morning when Wellies were in order?
“Do you want a doughnut?”
“I haven’t had one in years,” he said. “That’s very kind of you.”
“Come and meet Mommy. Daddy said your house was haunted.”
“That’s what he told me. Nobody ever stays there.”
“How old are you?”
“You know what? I stated there with my dad when I was ten.”
“You were my age?”
“Uh huh. It was my birthday and Dad brought me down for a fishing trip. We had so much fun.”
“Did you catch anything?”
“Not the first day.”
“I never get to see my dad.”
“No, he works in Boston.”
“That’s too bad.”
“Did you go fishing yet?”
“I’m going to today.”
“Mommy can cook fish.”
“Well if I catch one maybe I can bring it by for supper.”
Benjamin combed his hand through his silvery hair. The wind had picked up again. Cassie grabbed his hand and started to tug him down the dune to Mermaids Castle. “We have Krispy Kreme Crullers we just got.”
“I’d like to meet your mother.”
“Come with me then,” she said. Parasol in hand she led him down the dune toward home.
Tina Pinkerton was struggling with the last of her bags when she saw Cassie pulling that handsome new neighbor down the dune. Oh no, she thought. I hope she hasn’t made a bad impression on him. My daughter is the most adorable thing on earth.
“Mommy, mommy this is Mister…”
“Cassie did you introduce yourself as I taught you?”
“I guess I didn’t,” she smiled sheepishly. “Mister, I’m Cassie, and this is my mom.”
“Tina Pinkerton,” she said. “Sorry I can’t shake your hand.” She had four shopping bags and was struggling to get the last of them up the steps.
“I’m Benjamin,” he said. “I guess I’m your new neighbor for a few more weeks. Hey, do you need some help with those?”
Tina burst out laughing. “I can’t believe it,” she said. “Thank you!”
“I told him he was invited for dinner and we have doughnuts, Mom.”
“Well, I guess we better share those honey and give Benjamin a cup of coffee. He can tell us whether or not he’s seen the ghost yet.”
“Everybody says the house is haunted. You’re the first person we’ve ever seen in ten years.”
“Make yourself comfortable,” Tina said to Benjamin. “Here is where we breakfast.”
Benjamin Webster had never in his whole life seen the likes of the mermaid palace breakfast room. In the first place it was the biggest room he had ever seen. 500 people would have been comfortable in there. But it was the decorations that really caught his eye. It was a room dedicated to the pirates and galleons that had cruised the coast in the earliest years of the colonies. Everywhere he looked was a siren calling to a sailor. The bows of old wooden boats had been copied and adorned the four corners of the walls. Banks of windows for what seemed like miles looked out over the sea. Twenty five bags from Super Tigers were stacked next to each other on the polished gleaming hardwood of the floor. It was something.
“Krispy Kremes,” said Cassie. “The ruffled kind.”
“Those look fantastic,” was all Benjamin could say.
“Benjamin are you a movie star?” Tina Pinkerton laughed, bending over the counter in a flirtatious way, but still with a modicum of reserve. “You are handsome enough to be one.”
“No,” he stuttered a little. “I’m not.”
“Where are you from?”
“I came down to fish.”
“We wondered who you might be.”
“How long have you lived here?”
“Ten years. My husband likes to build houses for me.”
“I can see.”
“He likes it when Cassie and I have fun decorating.”
“Well, you certainly have with this room.”
“Oh, this is tiny compared to the other ones.”
Benjamin had come to the Outer Banks to get small. He actually wanted to have his feet on terra firma instead of the skyscraper life he had lived for years.
“My whole cottage would probably fit in the bathroom,” he laughed, taking a doughnut from the plate Cassie slid toward him.
“Tell us about that ghost in there.”
“Oh, I’m not sure there’s a ghost, unless it’s the ghost of myself when I was a little boy.”
“Are you the ghost?” Cassie asked, with her head turned quizzically up at him. She was smiling. “Or is the kitty the ghost?’
“I’m trying to catch that poor little thing and give it some cream.”
“We heard you this morning.”
“I hope I didn’t wake you up, but I was so worried about that lttle cat all alone on the beach with a storm like that.”
“Daddy said I could have a cat, didn’t he mommy?”
“Well, look, thank you for the doughnut but I need to put out some cream for the kitty and head on down to Wanchese for the day. I want to check out the Fisherman’s Wharf down there and get the lay of the land.”
“Mommy’s making brownies for dessert.”
“Will you keep an eye out for that little black and white speck while I’m gone Cassie?”
“That’s the name so far…” Benjamin started laughing at the idea of the little girl up on the dunes with that pink paper parasol in hand calling to the wild kitten. “Could you Cassie?”
“Tina maybe if I catch something today I can bring it over tonight.”
“That would be wonderful.”
“Those brownies sound fantastic.”
Maybe I am the ghost Beth, he thought. Ever since you’ve been gone I have felt like one.
Benjamin waved goodbye to the two of them and crunched his way across the gravel toward home. Home was “Dreamers and Seahearts” a cottage so tiny it would fit in a corner of the house he’d just been in. The truth is size never matters when one makes a home, even if temporary. A home is made by the hearts inside it. You’re just perfect for me, he thought. Me and my memories of being ten again and that little black and white speck I found.
“Here, kitty, kitty, kitty,” he called again. “Here Speck.”
He poured out a giant saucer of cream and left it on the steps. Maybe the little cat would find it while he was gone. The day was brisk and beautiful and he unloaded his pocket full of shells onto an old Adirondack chair by the front door. Little did he know that Speck had been watching him the whole time. The saucer of cream was a very rare delicacy to the cats left to fend for themselves. Kindness in humans was a rare thing when it happened. Speck could tell that Benjamin was kind. Even from the distance she had been keeping.
Maybe you and dad are my ghosts, Beth.
Benjamin Webster was in the place of in-between that people feel after losses of those most dear to them. In those places sometimes people feel like they are walking in a dream, as if nothing is real and tangible anymore. He’d been doing that now for fourteen years. Work was what he had thrown himself into, and work had worked for awhile, to take his mind off things. But what Benjamin Webster could not believe was that in the span of just 24 hours he had met all kinds of very kind strangers. He’d already made friends with the neighbors and with the bartender in Pelican’s Lair. It had happened so fast. It was almost like being back in the land of the living again. And he wasn’t even counting Cassie, who was the most precocious little girl he had ever met.
As Benjamin descended the stairs for the trip to Wanchese, he saw Speck at the saucer contently lapping away.
In just 24 hours, not only have I made all these new friends, but it looks like I might have myself a cat too.
Life is like that, when people re-enter the world of the living after great, great sadness. All of a sudden all the doors are flung wide open again, and life itself rushes back in.