By Raji Singh
‘THE literary romance of the 19th century.’
How a trusty bird made the romance take flight. In honor of National Pet Appreciation Week.
From the Fiction House Archives
~ ~ I watched her for so many consecutive Sunday mornings. It was the mid 1830’s. I think I was 11, maybe 12. Just before daybreak, I’d rise; look out the porthole of the wharf-shack where I grew up. By the banks of the Ohio, she’d be standing, arms outstretched. Her long black hair, an ebony river all its own, flowed in the breeze. Or maybe her hair was a flag, waving in the bird that flew up the Ohio and landed on her shoulder just as the sun started its rise. Her frame was post-straight, like the sensuous figureheads on the ships bows that I imagined beckoning me to accompany them on adventures as they departed the docks.
I was entranced by this woman, not like a boy with his mother, aunt or sister; or a near teen with a female not more than ten years his senior. She was mystical, magical. Someone, I just knew who harbored secrets of emotions few others did. I wanted to breathe in full the scent of those emotions; to caress, to hear their siren call, somehow even taste their culinary delight. I knew, at that moment, she would lead me to the vast banquet that is pure, virginal joy.
‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained,’ Mariner so often ‘adaged’ me as we spun tales of our days, by night’s lantern light of the crate-wood wharf-shack – Home. (Mariner was my father, friend, brother, teacher. Every book I ever voyaged into was because of this man who couldn’t read a word.)
Today, I would venture to meet my living bow figurehead.
“Hello,” I shouted, but the word came out barely a whisper. She turned as I approached. She was unwinding a paper from around the bird’s leg.
She smiled. “A letter from my soul mate.”
I wasn’t disappointed. “How did the bird find it?”
“She’s a carrier pigeon. She brought it. All the way from a ship, thousands of miles away. In a few days, she’ll return to my Charles with a reply. Charles is such a keen man. He’s trained them to do things one would think unimaginable.” She put her finger to her mouth, giggled, and then put her finger to the pigeon’s beak. “Shh! Our romance is a secret from our papas. For now. But one day we’ll tell them.”
“Did his ship launch from Cincinnati? What’s its name? Maybe I know your Charles.”
“You’d not have met. He left from England, on HMS Beagle.”
Maybe one day we’ll meet.”
We sat on the rocky bank and talked for hours that Sunday. And for countless hours on what seems now like hundreds to come. My – banquets of Sundays.
“I’ve seen you tell your tales to the gathered dockworkers,” she said. Their smiles are a joy to behold as they listen. How many nickels and dimes do they fill your capper with?”
“Sometimes six, ten, once even a dozen bits.”
“You should write down your tales, and sell them. Think of all the others who could wear such smiles also. If you tell better than you write, there are scribes for hire.”
Thus did Harriet Beecher plant the seed in my thoughts.
Fiction House Publishing would be the thriving result. ~ ~
Read Blackjack’s story; and, how Harriet Beecher Stowe came to write, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, in Tales of the Fiction House. Published by the resurrected Fiction House Publishing.
(Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment. Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures. You can read of their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE. They are completely different stories. My novel is available at Amazon, (Kindle and Trade Paperback) and Barnes and Noble.)
©2017, 2013 Raji Singh
© 2012 by Raji Singh