He sighs as he stands at the window. The morning sun brings sparkles to the grass as it passes in a wave over the lawn. It spits and shines each blade and magnifies with silver pearls each tip.
It’s no use. We’ll have to go soon.
Already he has heard rumors of the threat of Hitler’s troops invading the innocent, sleepy French villages. He never imagined war could come so soon after the first conflict. Though France has offered its charms to him and his family, he can’t keep his wife and children in harm’s way.
He strides across his office, stopping to shine the frame that hangs above his desk. A tiny spot of mud has stuck to the edge of the glass.
Probably one of the girls.
They come in from the back garden, their shoes, hands, and faces speckled with French soil. Romping with them relieves his dreary monotony of putting words to paper, day in and day out. He focuses on the words beneath the protective glass.
“Pulitzer Prize for Literature…Early Autumn…by Louis Bromfield.” He sighs again.
It was the happiest day of his life, the day these framed letters came to live with him. But since, it has been a friend and a foe. Whoever can live up to this kind of glory? The accolade frees and tethers him at the same time.
His eyes fall on the bulky leather bindings that contain the hallowed manuscript, leaning casually against its neighbors in the bookshelf, fully unaware of its importance in the row.
I wonder…will I ever gain this kind of stellar achievement again?
He hears Mary and the girls come in from outside and he greets them at his office door. Their bodies bring with them the smell of spring and the shine of the sun. He inhales deeply. When his wife shoos his daughters to the breakfast table, their giggles wane as they run to place the first blossoms of lilac in water. She glances at him as she passes. She pauses when she sees him remove the manuscript and place it carefully in a cardboard box on the floor. He looks up and their eyes lock.
“This is it then?” Her voice wavers only a little.
He nods. “The Germans have invaded Austria. We can wait no longer. The consulate can’t guarantee safe passage for many more days.”
Her eyes widen but she takes a deep breath. “All right. Good thing you got the farm when you did. We can go now.”
“I don’t know if it’s ready, but…”
She shrugs. “If our choice is living in war or living in an old dump of a farmhouse, you know what we have to do.”
She follows his gaze as his eyes rest on the box. “Louis, it’s not the place, you know. It’s not this office or this village.”
“Yes. My mind tells me that, and I know I earned this before I ever came here…before I left the States all those years ago, but here—” He breaks off and gestures to the window. “These scenes and sounds, well, what little I have attained since, I feel is due to all this.”
She shakes her head, a sympathetic smile covering his doubts like a balm. She crosses the hall and brushes his cheek with a sweet kiss, her lips soft and warm as her breath sweeps his skin. “You worry too much.”
She leaves him standing in the middle of the room, his thoughts swirling and muddled. He leans down and grips the manuscript. The heft of it causes the memory of writing it to come alive. He remembers the late nights and hurried typing…the frustration and fear as each page uncurled itself from his mind.
I worry too much? Humph. I don’t think I worry enough about the words any more.
He shifts the heavy bulk to his other hand and gazes once again out the window.
If she only knew how fragile this is. If she only knew how close I am to total failure every time I sit at that desk.
His mind is drawn to the farm. He recalls the smell of the earth; the memories of his boyhood home. He considers the rolling hills and the feel of the soil under his fingernails. He can’t deny its draw. He places the manuscript in the box and gives the cardboard cube a gentle nudge.
Perhaps it will work out after all.
NOTE: Bromfield wrote many more successful books and two were made into movies, but he never received another Pulitzer Prize.
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