"'When Father Morgan joined us several years ago, he, too, came in the summer and was expecting a nice holiday at the beach. I'm sure you've been warned that summer is our busiest time, what with the tourists who swell our little church to bursting and push us to two services! We all take our rest in the winter when one must hunker down and live off the nuts we've gathered!
"'Bishop Harvey was thrilled to learn from Bishop Cullen how greatly you and Father Kavanagh were appreciated by your parish in Mitford! We shall all do our utmost to make you feel as welcome as the flowers in May, as my dear mother used to say.
"'Goodness! I hope you'll forgive the length of this letter! Since childhood, I have loved the feel of a pen flowing over paper, and often get carried away.
"'We wish you and Father Timothy safe travel.
"'Marion Fieldwalker, vestry member of St. John's in the Grove, and Pres. Episcopal Church Women
"'P.S. I am the librarian of Whitecap Island Community Library (35 years) and do pray you might be willing to give a reading this fall from one of your famous Violet books. Your little books stay checked out, and I believe every child on the island has read them at least twice!'"
His wife flushed with approval. "There! How uplifting! Marion sounds lovely! And just think, dearest -- trellises and old roses!"
"Not to mention new saucepans," he said, admiring the effort of his future parishioners.
She drank from her perspiring glass and continued to sort through the pile. "Timothy, look at his handwriting. He's finally stopped printing and gone to cursive!"
"Let me see...."
Definitely a new look in the handwriting department, and a distinct credit to Dooley Barlowe's Virginia prep schooling. Miss Sadie's big bucks, forked over annually, albeit posthumously, were continuing to put spit and polish on the red-haired mountain boy who'd come to live with him at the rectory five years ago.
"'Hey,'" he read aloud from Dooley's letter, "'I have thought about it a lot and I would like to stay in Mitford and work for Avis this summer and make money to get a car and play softball with the Reds.
"'I don't want to go to the beach.
"'Don't be mad or upset or anything. I can live in the basement with Harley like you said, and we will be fine. Puny could maybe come and do the laundry or we could do stuff ourselves and eat in Wesley or at the Grill or Harley could cook.
"'I will come down to that island for either Thanksgiving or Christmas like we talked about.
"'Thanks for letting me go home from school with Jimmy Duncan, I am having a great time, he drives a Wrangler. His mom drives a Range Rover and his dad has a BMW 850. That's what I would like to have. A Wrangler, I mean. I'll get home before you leave, Mr. Duncan is driving me on his way to a big meeting. Say hey to Barnabas and Violet. Thanks for the money. Love, Dooley.'"
"Oh, well," said his wife, looking disappointed. "I'm sure he wanted to be close to his friends...."
"Right. And his brother and sister...."
She sighed. "Pretty much what we expected."
He felt disappointed, himself, that the boy wouldn't be coming to Whitecap for the summer, but they'd given him a choice and the choice had been made. Besides, he learned a couple of years ago not to let Dooley Barlowe's summer pursuits wreck his own enjoyment of that fleeting season.
It was the business about cars that concerned him.... Dooley had turned sixteen last February, and would hit Mitford in less than three days, packing a bona fide driver's license.
"Knock, knock!" Emma Newland blew down the hall and into the study. "Don't get up," she said, commandeering the room. "You'll never believe this!"
Text © 1999 Jan Karon. Reproduced with permission of the publisher, Viking.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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