A Writer’s World Beckons by Charles C Cole

A Writer’s World Beckons
Charles C Cole

Bull D’Moose wrote and drew many marvelous children’s books with a community of whimsical creatures who, except for resembling the fevered imaginings of toddlers, were very much a mirror of humanity. By any measure, he lived a long productive life.

Bull’s fictional citizens were perfectly imperfect: made embarrassing mistakes, unexpectedly argued over the most trivial of matters, were stubborn, were reluctant to ask for help, had inflexible biases, but ultimately wanted to learn and to be good neighbors.

During the peak of Bull’s career, titles with his black bowler logo were in every major bookstore. A local college-age fan painted a mural on the living room wall of the author-artist’s rural home depicting downtown Mooseville with the chief characters coyly hiding behind cars and buildings and newspaper boxes, a familiar paw or tail or feather or hat just peeking out, daring to be discovered.

Late in life, the creator devolved to a quiet observer, as opposed to the socially aware activist of his early career. Rather than look out the sliding glass door over his second-floor deck, down the mountain over Cedar Springs, his quaint home of more than fifty years, Bull often stared for hours at the mural and genuinely wondered what his old friends (the myopic capybara or the chronically fickle coati or the passionately vegan dragon) were up to.

The phone rang, an unexpected sound. Bull didn’t so much ignore it as unconsciously filter it out from his immediate sensory perceptions.

Janice, his housekeeper of more than a decade, gently lifted his right hand from his knee, placed the phone against his palm, and curled his fingers around the object. She whispered close to his ear: “Mr. D’Moose, it’s your daughter, Liv. I think y’all should come back out of that painting for a while and visit with your real-life grownup baby. Don’t you? Your talking animal friends will still be where you left them when you go back.”

Bull blinked, blinked again. He glanced at the phone and back at Janice. “Liv called?”

Yes, sir. But she ain’t gonna hear you too well, unless you speak into the receiver thing.” She manipulated the hand with the phone to the side of his ear, like adjusting a store mannequin. He didn’t resist.

Daddy?” came Liv’s soft voice. “Hope I’m not interrupting your writing.”

Janice stepped out of the room to give the two private time, shaking her head and adding: “The idea behind phones, Mr. D, is you got to talk now and again so the other party knows you’re there.”

A light went on behind his eyes. He smiled up at her, then wagged a finger: Information received.

Livvy, everything alright?” he said at last, his voice hoarse from underuse.

We’re fine. Janice messaged you’ve been kinda quiet of late. I thought we should catch up. We haven’t talked in days. The last two times I rang, Janice said you were napping. When’d you start napping?”

I don’t,” he lied. “She was exaggerating.”

Anyway, I was wondering if you wanted to come for a visit. We’d love to have you. We’ve been reading all your books to your grandson. Remember him?”

Callen.”

Color me impressed. Apparently, you have a new number-one fan. Warning: I think he’d like to discuss some ideas with you for future tales. ‘The further adventures of’ and spin-offs, that sort of thing. Whaddya say?”

Sounds good. Maybe when the snow melts.”

That could be two months from now!”

Do you know how many people my age slip and fall on the ice? Last winter, when I was a volunteer greeter at the hospital, I think I saw half our white-haired parishioners! I’ll come when it’s safe.”

Changing subjects. “You working on any new stories? Can I give Callen a sneak peek of your next book?”

Sure. Tell him Calliope the Caterpillar gives up coffee and gets a caffeine headache.”

Daddy! I hope you’re kidding.” Silence. “I love you! Please consider the offer. And be nice to Janice; she’s my eyes and ears. I don’t want you chasing her out of the house.”

Bull felt a wave of exhaustion. “I gotta go.” He hung up. His lungs felt like they were refusing to let the air in that he needed, like they were working against him. He closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. Stupid doctors!

#

Bull opened his eyes. There was a bright whiteness, as if he was staring into a high-powered flashlight, then the room dimmed to normalcy like a movie fade-in.

Calliope, as real as pain, was sitting in the chair opposite him. He was not surprised to see her; she’d been visiting more and more, a spokesperson for Mooseville. “You okay, Mr. D?”

Been better.”

Your daughter worries about you.” Though she appeared just as vibrant as ever, bright pink and furry, Calliope sounded weary. “Sometimes pretending to be happy is almost as good as the real thing.”

That from one of my stories?”

Come to think of it, I believe it is.”

How’s everyone? Impatiently waiting for a new book, I bet.”

We’re fine with reliving the old adventures: least we know things always work out in the end. You were rather prolific in your day.”

Calliope, old friend, my pen and my paints have run dry. I think you should write the next story. Is there an adventure left for me?”

We were hoping you would visit, maybe stay for a while.” He considered. “I promise there’s no snow. Charisma Capybara says you could be honorary mayor. Every afternoon we’d have a concert in the park in celebration of Bull D’Moose Day. Doesn’t that sound delicious?”

Later, Janice returned with Bull’s afternoon coffee. The room was empty and the deck door ajar. There were no footprints in the snow, thank Goodness.

Janice walked by the mural on her way out. Something caught her eye that she hadn’t noticed before: someone in a black bowler sitting in the backseat of a taxi.

Ain’t that something,” she said.

A Writer’s World Beckons by Charles C Cole 1

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