Mariposa lilies dotted the hillside overlooking the harbor, their white petals and yolk-yellow centers bringing to mind perfect fried eggs. Orange-yellow fiddlenecks harmonized in vibrant silence, while scarlet Indian paintbrush, as though waiting for an artist’s hand, garnished the display. As imperious as two queens on a red carpet, Beatrice and Brunhilde, hindered not in the least by their ample size and not at all incongruent with their surroundings, ambled through the wildflowers. Their destination, the shore and the large boat moored at the dock.
“It is so beyond my imagination that we are finally going to make this sojourn, my dear,” Beatrice rumbled in her contralto voice.
Brunhilde merely nodded her head in agreement. The two, being best friends for so long, hardly needed to speak their thoughts to each other.
Beatrice, known however for her stream of consciousness type of expression, mused, “Just to think that Great-Grandmother came here for the first time back in 1924. She supposed it would only be for a couple of weeks. All for the chance of stardom! My, how exciting that must have been.”
Beatrice turned to see what basso grump had interrupted her historical recital. “Oh, Bartemas, I was not aware that you would be embarking on this journey as well.”
Bartemas, his shaggy brow lowered, grumped further. “There was no stardom, nor any promise of such, and you know it. Your great-grandmother came with thirteen others as nothing more than extras. Besides it wasn’t as though they had a choice. And yes, I’m coming too.”
The throaty humph issued just then by Brunhilde alerted them to two young eavesdroppers who now emerged from behind some large boulders at the side of the path.
“Auntie Bea! Where are you going? What’s Uncle Bart talking about? What are extras? And why didn’t they have a choice?” asked Buster and Bronwyn speaking in stereo.
“Have you never heard our history of origin, children?” Beatrice asked.
Bronwyn wagged her head solemnly while Buster nonchalantly flicked a fly off his back.
With a snort, Bartemas lumbered past the lagging ladies. “See you on the boat. Better not be late,” he warned. Mashing lilies, fiddlenecks and paintbrush underfoot, he tossed over his shoulder, “No sense in wallowing in the past.”
Beatrice rolled her eyes dismissively. “Brunhilde,” she said. “It will be alright for the children to accompany us to the dock, will it not? There is just enough time to tell the story.”
Brunhilde shrugged her broad shoulders in acquiescence.
In a hushed reverent manner Beatrice described how the Hollywood filmmakers came to the island. The movie they intended to make needed authentication with some special characters.
“Thus they brought in ‘The Fourteen’,” Beatrice breathed dramatically. To her gratification, the whites of her young listeners’ eyes shone around their brown irises and their nostrils flared. She could tell they were fully as star-struck as she.
“The filming took just a few short weeks but oh, my, what an impact ‘The Fourteen’ would have in it. Who knew what fame and fortune would be theirs.” Here Beatrice’s voice faltered. Her eyes filled with great tears. “But alas, it was not to be. All the scenes featuring ‘The Fourteen’ were cut from the finished cinematic product. No one would ever see the beauty and majesty of our great-grandparents’ contribution to the arts.”
Two very disappointed faces stared up at her.
“The saddest thing, children? Not only was all chance at stardom eliminated, the filmmakers, after the completion of The Vanishing American, had not the funding to send ‘The Fourteen’ back home. A few weeks has turned into years and ‘The Fourteen’ has become hundreds. Too many for this island to sustain. Recently it has been decided that periodically a few of us be chosen to return to our homeland in a place called North Dakota. That is where Bartemas, Brunhilde and I are going. I will miss this Santa Catalina Island.” Beatrice lifted her eyes to the wildflowers. “Think of us, will you, children, and remember? And ‘The Fourteen’, those handsome bison whose brush with fame and fortune was so short-lived. I fear no one else ever will.”
“We will, Aunt Bea,” chorused the two shaggy-haired youngsters, stamping hoof prints in the sandy shore, as Buster’s tufted tail flicked another fly off his back.
“Never-has-been wanna-bes,” harrumphed Bartemas, plodding up the gangplank. He turned his gaze across the channel towards the California coastline to hide from Beatrice and Brunhilde the tear sliding down his wooly face.
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