The Leaning Cow

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I found Lydia Wickham – well, at least her story

February 13th, 2015 ·No Comments

One day in February Lydia Wickham went missing. She was a spry and healthy 87-year-old retired schoolteacher. Never married, she was what was known in the era in which she began her career as a spinster. In fact, fiercely independent yet demure in behavior, she had almost single-handedly carried that term into the 21st century.

Schoolteacher is how Miss Wickham referred to herself. On first meeting, strangers assumed the tall, angular lady had spent a lifetime shepherding an endless flock through one of the early grades.

Actually, Lydia Wickham had earned a Ph.D. in English Literature at Yale University, and had held the Rudyard Kipling chair at Malcolm Falls College until her retirement at age 80. She had spent a lifetime shepherding fledgling freshmen through the poetic geography of the “Ballad of East and West.”

Her home was a small cottage on Old Church Lane where she gardened, read, watched “Two Fat Ladies” on the Food Channel and listened to music. Without fail, every Sunday she completed the New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle.

One day the postman, Hal Metford, rang the bell, but she didn’t come to the door. He wasn’t surprised; Miss Wickham was one to go out often for a “bit of air,” as she would say. He left a note about a certified letter along with the rest of her mail in the box and headed down the sidewalk to Olivia Hayworth’s.

The next day he found the mail untouched. After hesitating a minute, the postman rang twice. Again no one came to the door. He felt the fear inside him that she was lying in there – had been since before he’d rung yesterday.

Things started to happen. Inquiries of neighbors and calls to family members resulted in Deputy Sheriff Wigbey and her brother Thad Wickham going inside to look around.
Their fear that they would find her ill or worse was not realized. She simply was not there. Nothing was missing, nothing at all . . . well, except for Miss Wickham.
Relatives and friends called each other and all the places they could think of where she might possibly be. Nothing.

Former students in all walks of life accessed their databases – Jane Doe hospital admissions, police records for mention of a confused elderly woman, airline schedules . . . even car rentals. They found nothing.

Newspapers ran articles. Her picture was on TV. Nothing. Lydia Wickham was missing.

One day her sister Laura came into the cottage and just sat, breathing in the scents of her sister’s life and noting, sadly, that there was a musty stillness settling in.
She looked slowly around the room: the embroidered pillow showing the lighthouse at Two Tree Point, the fireplace mantle with the host of silver-framed pictures of family and friends and former students, the old wicker rocker – it’s back draped with the afghan their grandmother had made, the wall that was all books.

The books drew her to them. So often she and Lydia had stood there discussing novels, history books, biographies, anthologies. Laura let her fingers run along the spines of the books and thought, “Oh, Lydia, where are you?”

A book Lydia had purchased in Bermuda caught her eye. It was up and to her right. Laura sighed and dropped her head down . . . and then in the corner of her vision – to the left – was the well-thumbed copy of “Mimi of Miami.” Way to the right of that, nestled up against “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire,” was a little volume, “The Bridges of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Suddenly she started to feel disoriented. Where was she??? In the back of her mind the words “Bermuda, San Juan, Miami “floated round and round.

She knew! It was the Literary Bermuda Triangle and it had her almost in its grasp!
She staggered back. Sinking into the chintz-covered club chair, she stared at the wall of books and wondered in what dimension her sister now lived.

Tags: This and That at The Peanut Butter Cafe & Roadhouse

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