THE VISITOR

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: DOWN-HOME

Getting up in age, having lost a high profile job, then his wife to cancer, Hoyt settled on a small farm in Northeast Georgia. Living day to day, and alone, being charitable to people in his general area, he hardly knew that a man would appear from the blue to change his life forever.

THE VISITOR

Story & Painting by Virgil Dubé – Copyright 2021

 

The five-acre farm lay in the gentle hills of Northeast Georgia. It was in bygone years a parcel of a large agricultural enterprise. 

This midsummer Monday morning 2018, only subtle sounds prevailed on the Brandonshire Farm parcel. The name had clung but the farm wasn’t worked anymore, former operators and occupants blown to the four winds. Of the sounds permeating the stillness across the rolling valley, an occasional farm animal announced his/her presence. Or an s-w-i-s-h of wind would rush down from distant highlands and across the old farmhouse cabin front porch, the structure in old times inhabited by sharecroppers. In addition, one would hear ever so often a distance car or truck on the asphalt back road running affront the property, or an airplane fly high in the sky to or from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport due west. For the present, these were the rudimentary sounds to permeate this sector of country little changed over eons as the man inside his cabin began his day. 

Hoyt Clarence Holmes was the farm’s only human occupant, quite capable for his age of sixty-five to do the many necessary chores. Finished with his usual morning rituals inside, he had loaded his arms and maneuvered himself precariously between the doorsill and screen door to go outside his wood plank cabin a second time, the hinges squeaking responsively. Wearing overalls, casual shirt, and a wide brim hat, he nudged into the space, used his shoulder and then turned to push his back against the door to open it further and outward. 

Hoyt’s latest trip outside the past minutes was to carry a hefty stoneware jug filled with lemonade. He had prepared a couple gallons of pumped water with fresh squeezed lemons and funneled-in crushed ice, a drink to refresh him a majority of the morning, stay cool even into the afternoon should he linger that long on his porch, and maybe, to have later for supper. 

He shoved the door with the toe of his right brogan shoe, cleared the door threshold, and allowed the door to shut freely. He paused momentarily to take a deep breath of fresh northeast Georgia air before stepping across the porch, careful to avoid spilling a steaming cup of coffee he perilously held in his right hand, doing a balancing act since he carried in addition a can of dog food with a spoon buried in the meaty muck, a freshly heated muffin, and a murder mystery novel tucked tightly under his left arm next to his ribs. 

Hoyt bent over and carefully placed the coffee cup on the plank floor next to his rocking chair. Bending further and wary not to spill coffee and drop the can, he relaxed arm pressure on the book allowing it to drop from next to his body. It fell nicely on the binding to open at his bookmark and last page read. He rose, placed the muffin on the rocking chair arm brace, and straightened back to stretch out kinks, noticing in the process his joints cracking. Then he removed his hat and hung it on the rocker back upright and stepped from the porch. After spooning dog food into the feed bowl on the top step, he placed the empty can and spoon casually aside on a porch plank. Entering the cabin a third time, Hoyt, a skilled man of several crafts, strolled to his bedroom closet. He removed three rolls of cotton yarn from a shelf stacked with multiple rolls in several colors; two crochet needles from his crocket basket, and a shawl he had been crocheting the past week with special purpose. Back on the porch, he placed these items of importance near his rocker and sat to situate himself comfortably. 

Finally positioned, he glanced up at the hornet’s nest in the ceiling rafters near the corner post. The insects abuzz were no danger stinging him since he never bothered them and they had grown accustomed to his presence. He enjoyed their company, admired their harmonious lifestyle yet another wonder of nature he was fascinated, wasn’t in the least bit prone to disrupt their active little home.

As Hoyt began to eat his muffin and sip coffee, his old hound dog Toby appeared from around the house corner, sniffing fervently for his own breakfast. Spotting it spooned out for him; Toby looked upward and greeted Hoyt with wagging tail and a few gratifying grunts. Once he devoured the muck, Toby slumped on the weedy ground next to the porch steps to continue where he left off napping in his backyard dog bed, that was conveniently close to the hand pump where Hoyt always supplied him a fresh bowl of water.

An early morning hour, the sun had risen brightly to hover and colorfully bathe fleecy clouds just above eastern mountain ridges. Humidity hung in the air from yesterday’s rain shower; otherwise the weather was splendid, though somewhat warm this early. All in all, the stage was set for Hoyt and Toby, and wandering chickens pecking mindlessly the corn kernels Hoyt had at the break of dawn thrown them on the front yard. Except for the clouds’ sweeping beauty, the day promised to start little different from any other weekday, Hoyt’s unremarkable routine predictable morning to night. Within the hour, he would gather hen eggs and milk Becky the cow in the barn a short distance from his house. Perhaps late afternoon if not sultry hot, he would fetch his hula hoe and weed his small vegetable garden of turnips, carrots, squash, rutabaga, and radish within the thirty-foot-square fenced-in boundary just off from his house. The task normally took little time, but needed doing two or three times weekly, Hoyt alternating with house cleaning, today his garden day, the soil embracing fresh weeds popping up after the rain. Approximately every ten days he pulled the old Craftsman push mower from the tool and feed shed and mowed his spacious yard, but only when yard weeds had grown mid-calf, or beautiful wildflowers had started to wilt beyond visual gratification. Once he completed essential chores, he had yet another day of free time to indulge his crocheting, or leisurely to think about his forthcoming weekend Good Samaritan activities downtown. 

Much of his time Monday thru Friday was spent outside on his porch, where in reminisces he delved on his eventful past, or maybe to work on a woodcarving, another craft he enjoyed and a hobby he had recently adopted, and when taking a break, to divulge a murder mystery novel. Around five o’clock, he usually prepared a modest supper, oftentimes leftovers he had cooked in batches, for instance, vegetable and meat soup blends, his favorites. Following supper he enjoyed additional reading while tucked in his front room Lazy Boy secondhand chair, later maybe a couple hours of selective television viewing, and then a shower and off to bed around ten p.m., his body tired and mind mostly uncluttered this late in the day and sleep rarely a problem.

Finished with his muffin and coffee cup emptied, Hoyt got up and proceeded to do his errands. Chores completed in forty minutes, and mid-morning, he refreshed his cup with lemonade and then settled again on the porch rocker to enjoy a second heated muffin. After reading several paragraphs from an Agatha Christie murder mystery, a sudden distance movement caught his eye. He peered over his spectacles to observe a lone man walking from the country road at the head of his property and into his immediate yard. The man strolled casually up the rutted drive, seemed in no hurry, probably a drifter supported by the backpack he carried. 

Hoyt glanced sideward making sure his shotgun was handy; better safe than sorry, his motto. Rarely did he forget to place it outside against the house wall in the event a varmint or pest manifest unexpectedly for target practice.

Hoyt stood. He stepped behind the rocker better situated to reach his shotgun should the stranger display hostility. You just never know these days with so much callous behavior occurring around the country and world, Hoyt acknowledged silently.

The stranger appeared late thirties, maybe early forties, tall and lean built, fair complected, neatly cut and thin beard and mustache and sandy colored head of hair. The man paused ten feet from the side porch, smiled, nodded at Hoyt, then unstrapped his backpack and dropped it to the weedy ground. Then he removed his hat, threw back dropping curls and wiped his brow with a handkerchief produced from his pants’ pocket, and said in an accent Hoyt recognized as a Northerner, “Hello, mister. Please relax; I’m no criminal here to harm you, just hiking the country, meeting people and making friends here and there. I’m definitely not armed. However, I am thirsty if you can spare a glass of cool water.”

In his many years dealing with sometimes-strange people on his former high profile and public job, Hoyt could read most people’s character right off, and this fellow’s casual demeanor and general appearance fit a person he could trust. Still, you never know; thieves, cutthroats, and devious people can lurk in sometimes-obvious places and strike faster than a rattlesnake, he thought. 

Hoyt studied the man briefly, thought him remotely familiar, also recognized he was rather distressed by the days’ early humidity and heat generated from his hiking. “Yes, stranger, you seem a proper gentleman. Come on up, place your backpack on the porch floor against that corner post, but not to briskly to disturb my hornet friends above your head. Then we’ll step inside so you can dodge this heat and drink a refresher.”

The man placed his backpack carefully against the post and stepped onto the porch, followed Hoyt. Inside, he introduced himself, “I’m Jim Fremont,” and he offered Hoyt his hand.

Hoyt accepted the man’s strong handshake; dismissed any recognition of him sweaty and covered with road dust. “I’m Hoyt Holmes, Jim. Let me get you a glass of ice tea, if that’s okay.” Pointing to an adjacent room, he added, “Also, you can step to the bathroom in there and wash up if you desire.”

“A glass of tea would be just fine. And thanks, I’ll do that.”

As the man strolled to the bathroom and rinsed his face and hands, Hoyt called out, “Jim, would you like fresh lemon added? I bought a large bag at the grocers and squeezed some to make lemonade I have outside.”

The visitor called back, “Sure, lemon would be splendid, Hoyt.”

As Hoyt prepared the drink, Jim dried his face and hands with a clean towel in the standard bathroom: sink and medicine cabinet, toilet, and compact shower. Curious, he stepped out the small rooms’ door to scan the bedroom, the bed made properly and colorful quilt clean. He noticed a short wood table next to the head of the bed was darkly stained with three drawers, and an electric clock and plain lamp rested atop. Near it, the closet door was closed and no clothes lay about … very neat. As he returned, the visitor browsed the rest of the houses’ simple furnished interior. There were just two rooms plus the bath, the extra-large one they stood served as primary living space, was warmed by a cozy stone fireplace near the back left corner. Sprawled across the front a big screen television sat atop a wide chest situated against the rustic plank wall, sofa and lazyboy chair affront it, and to one side near the corner a large antique radio; no doubt, the man was adequately entertained. In the opposite back corner a common kitchen held a four-burner electric stove. Upper cabinets cattycorner on two walls were stained oak color. A twin stainless steel sink divided a length of counter to each side, a toaster and microwave oven on them. There was no dishwasher, so the basic refrigerator rounded out the appliances. A simple table with two sturdy chairs and draped with a checkered plastic covering, marked the adjoining dining area. The rather rustic farmyard did not reflect the interior kept faultlessly tidy and clean. No evidence of a woman to keep house drove the visitor to appreciate the man’s simplistic and clean habits, a mark of good character.

Hoyt handed Jim the large mug of iced lemon tea. “Jim, this will cool you off for now, and there’s usually a gentle breeze outside. Let’s step out and sit in the rockers, chat a spell before you resume your hike.”

“Hoyt, thanks, mighty fine of you. Yes, I’d enjoy a chat and visit with you awhile on your porch. I’m curious, you don’t seem alarmed with that big hornet’s nest out there.”

Hoyt chuckled, “The bugs don’t bother me, I don’t pester them. You’ll be fine near me as long as you don’t rile them.”

Stepping out and enjoying the breeze Hoyt had promised would curb discomfort from mounting heat, plus the chilled drinks to add gratification and enough for both in the lemonade jug, the men sat quiet several moments. Cozy in each other’s company, Jim broke the lull after studying the hornets and relaxing soon to accept their presence, “Since you’re retired Hoyt, do you farm much? I ask because of that distant sunflower field beyond your classic Ford pickup and the shed.”

Hoyt twisted in his seat to gaze beyond the shed. He pointed, replied, “That sunflower field belongs to neighbor Oscar Plank. It’s a small portion of a much larger crop. Oscar is contracted to sell the seeds, does quite well.” He turned about to face Jim, “I don’t grow crops, just keep up a small vegetable garden. However, I was raised on a farm down in Lowndes County near Valdosta, was orphaned and reared by foster parents. I’ve worked several jobs during my lifetime, but all that’s behind me … wholesale farming isn’t in my blood.”

“I don’t mean to pry where I shouldn’t. But I’m curious you living here alone that would be a challenge for most people. You appear easygoing, very much situated and content. And I can see you are pretty handy crocheting that handsome shawl, a skill rare for men, though I’ve crossed paths with a number of men proficient at crocheting. Your place is neat and very homey, you seemingly well adjusted despite one growing up orphaned, perhaps not knowing your natural parents.”

Hoyt thought the comments a tad personable, but understood his visitor’s curiosity; hence he chuckled, poured additional lemonade from the jug into his cup, reached and did the same for his receptive guest, then sat the jug back on the floor. In the same motion he picked up a ball of yarn on the floor, lobbed it up and down in his hand, truly appreciating the visitor’s candor, his friendliness in inquiring of his hobby that might surprise most men, especially women. 

“Well, I suppose I am rather easygoing, Jim. I can relax and enjoy crocheting, making shawls from a ball of yarn like this one: plus, mitts and caps and such. Crocheting passes the time of day for me in a productive manner. Many recipients of my items are appreciative country or even city folk that go out of their way to supply me extra balls of cotton yarn, my supply presently dwindling. The all-American shawl I’m making is for a sweet old friend in Harper’s Care Facility in Cleveland. The daughter of one of my schoolmates, she’s only forty-eight and about to go into Hospice next week with stage four breast cancer. I’ll give it to her Saturday morning as I visit her and spend some time with others at the care facility.

“And, Jim, no reason you to feel awkward asking me about anything, so rare to have a walkup visitor. My life is an open book; I don’t mind sharing my past with most anybody that’s interested. I sit here daily to crochet, or carve on wood, settled often in deep thought delving on old times and my foster parents and adopted siblings. I’ve never known my birth mother separated from me when I was an infant, my father a mystery to her. Destitute, she couldn’t keep me, so she abandoned me on the church house steps in Valdosta and fled the state of Georgia. She wasn’t sure of three men she associated whom might be my father.”

“Sorry to hear that; not a good start in life.”

Appreciative, Hoyt nodded. He returned the ball of yarn to the floor but kept the long string pulled and looped several times in his lap along with the shawl, sipped more lemonade, and after swallowing and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, settled back in his rocker to begin to crochet, commenting, “Yeah, my foster parents weren’t award winners in the child-rearing department. They worked a passel of adopted kids to the bone on their farm doing in instances tough chores, when big enough to plow behind a mule, a task that makes a little one grow into a robust man or woman. I suppose by the farming us kids experienced, I developed good work ethic, a value that’s kept me above murky waters throughout my life.”

The visitor’s head dropped. Solemnly, he commented, “Tough to hear, Hoyt.”

“Yeah, being tough, resilient … that’s how young people acquire values early on, Jim, good habits over bad choices later in life.”

“Got a point.”

Hoyt nodded, rocked as he continued to work the hooked crochet needle. 

During another interlude, the visitor realized Hoyt was use to solitude, wasn’t the least bit uneasy his presence and the ensuing quiet. He finally said, “I see you love to read, a rewarding practice, and noticed several high-end magazines on your sofa table, seem to be an educated man of humble means.”

Hoyt shrugged. He paused working to say, “Well, I try keeping well-informed of things in an ever-changing world, suppose living in a simple cabin on a has-been farm would strike anybody as a surprise of my range of interests and activities.”

“Humble means isn’t meant to be a putdown, Hoyt, more a compliment that reflects what I see as your good character.”

Hoyt looked curiously at the visitor and then he smiled, “Jim, you are quite the gentleman. No, I’m not offended, nor am I the country bumpkin I appear, if you don’t mind me explaining.”

“I got some time, Hoyt, would like to hear.” 

Hoyt looped the shawl back over the chair arm, stuck the needle in the ball of yarn and replaced them on the floor. Straightening in his rocker, he said, “Okay, well, age sixteen my first job away from the farm was for a Tanner Food Store, where I worked as a bag boy and stocked items late after store hours. Then I moved on to a roofing job during my early twenties. A friend with influence got me a job working for a road construction company in Atlanta, stayed with it working a bulldozer on the expressway system until age twenty-five. During these jobs I saved money and in time paid for a college education, computer science my major. Ultimately, I became an electrical engineer.”

“That’s quite an accomplishment, Hoyt.” 

Hoyt shrugged, thanked Jim, and continued his tale, “During college at age twenty-nine, I became acquainted with a well-to-do middle-aged man from Atlanta, Nesbrook Pendleton. Enabled by family and parental guidance, he started a business consultant company home-based in Atlanta he named Bright Horizons, and invited me to join him as the Computer Department Manager in charge of database operation and especially setting up business management systems to offer clients continued guidance within specified times, and limitations. Nesbrook the negotiator and overseer, his law department, and mine; we assisted clients for a contracted fee for companies to improve their business performance; to bolster net worth and expand calculated net growth over specified periods. We did management consultation from broad sources within their business framework, especially to solve problems involving troublesome mismanagement, and, them bleeding big money with disgruntled clientele bailout, most companies on the verge of liquidation. We worked locally initially, expanded throughout the Southeast and eventually locked onto many oversea contracts, especially Europe and Australia. The Pendleton Family out of Marietta as primary shareholders fundamentally owned and controlled our company, Nesbrook at the operating helm. I had worked within a growing employee pool of competent workers, the company ultimately bursting at the seams as a result. Then one day down the road Nesbrook personally entered each of our offices and gave us a severance check — wham, bam, and thank you ma’am … so long, people. He did in the process, apologize; said as affably as he could under our glaring detestable eyes that his far-reaching investing family and he had decided to shut down operations, dissolve the company, move on into other unrelated business ventures. Of course we knew this was being done without viable cause, the vultures looking for fresh kill elsewhere. Nesbrook passed out checks quickly and disappeared soon thereafter, practically fled our home office building before mass rebellion manifest in his luxurious office. Just like that, the blow knocked the wind from our sails. Hundreds of dedicated employees from executive to support who gallantly did their part and produced billions of dollars over years to put into Pendleton Family pockets, received in return paltry sums, were dropped like flies sprayed with insecticide. It was at this point I became totally disgusted with corporate America, the greedy millionaires and money mongers without empathy of the slightest degree draining opportunistically the lifeblood from underlings.”

Stone-faced, Jim stared several long seconds at Hoyt, his head shaking slow and deliberately. Finally, he responded, “Wow, Hoyt, I’m sorry to hear this malfeasance first-hand, your pain still lingering and very much evident.” 

Several silent moments the visitor looked away, uneasy, as he gazed with overt concern outward beyond the porch, withdrawn in thought as his eyes surveyed fleetingly the broad countryside. Collected at length, Hoyt in the meantime merely rocking, also gazing outward, the visitor added offhandedly without making eye contact with his host, “Hoyt, I really doubt every millionaire mirrors the devious person Nesbrook postured of himself, in addition, the Pendleton Family.”

“Jim, when you put your lifeblood into a corporation as I and my coworkers did, and get stung callously, it hurts deep down and can linger until you are put six-feet under. That happens, any sane person might think the worse, different from before when the world was an open book and prosperity surely lay ahead, to conclude afterward that life sucks after working years under another’s dominion to be treated like garbage at the end.”

Jim nodded, “True,” the sad expression on his face reflecting his empathy entirely. His considerations at the moment stirred him deeply, for he understood in that moment the man’s heart was deeply scared, a pity indeed. 

It was obvious to Hoyt the wheels were turning in his visitor’s head, though he did not reflect inner thoughts. “Anyway,” he continued, “Nesbrook moved to Miami. He lived in a mammoth mansion; the man never to labor another minute of his life that I’m sure would ultimately turn sour minus goals and purpose. True to life, I understand his wife Henrietta, for whom I knew as a fine person, up and divorced him five years later. She was awarded a hefty settlement and then moved to England … good for her. 

“In contrast, Nesbrook’s former workforce, including me, drifted our separate ways, though some of us kept some contact. We had a severance check pocketed but not enough to sustain most of us for more than a year, depending on any particular persons’ house mortgage or rent, prior savings, and other lingering financial obligations. 

“Vanessa Blatts, my personal secretary, fell on hard times and ultimately committed suicide one night in a dark Atlanta alley. Starved half to death, she was found by other vagrants holding two empty bottle’s, one of sleeping pills, the other of whiskey to wash them down, and she was laying next to her shopping cart loaded with skimpy whatnots valued by her.

“I was fortunate for a period. Age thirty-six, I met and married a wonderful but accomplished medical woman from Macon, Claire Ogden, an obstetrician my age. Three years into our marriage Claire began to look frail, explaining why she hadn’t yet conceived. From an MRI, doctors discovered a tumor on one of her ovaries. She underwent a hysterectomy, suffered prolonged chemo, which ended prospect for a family with kids unless we adopted, which in the medical profession Claire and I had a chance. But before adoption procedures could commence, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, hypothetically from a rouge cell having migrated despite her operation and treatment. At that point and the seriousness of her ailment, adoption was off the table. The impending years of her unremitting suffering and costly healthcare insurance finally becoming insurmountable, our once hefty bank account finally dried up. Can you imagine that in this prosperous country, a well-accomplished doctor is drained of finances? Claire’s death, and physical and emotional consequence, crushed me, the cost of it all driving me into despair and unavoidable ruin. Disgusted with the corporate world that had so effectively ruined me prior, now this, I sold our very comfortable home in Byron Georgia for a decent price since the mortgage was paid off, and looked to downsize, finding this simple vacated property advertised by a Gainesville real estate agency for a price I jumped on. I’ve lived on this farm ten years, missing Claire every day, but made some changes physically, mentally, and have lived comfortably. Mid-sixties, I exist primarily on Social Security. I do make money from local produce markets when I sell my vegetable items to spend on necessities such as electricity; leisure’s like free television with an antenna, the newspaper, and magazine subscriptions you noticed earlier. Believe me, I do not waste a dime, not even to have the Internet hooked up.

 “Jim, I’ve spoken openly of my past, now, what about yours.”

The visitor had listened, was solemn, merely shrugged. He didn’t respond immediately to Hoyt’s story, pondered how to react. Jim looked about at his host’s property, his eyes sweeping from Toby the hound lying slumped carefree on the ground, to a nearby chicken roaming freely, then to look in his direction and meet Hoyt’s anticipated gaze. 

The visitor stood from his rocker. He walked carefully to the porch corner under the hornet’s nest, convinced they wouldn’t harm him as long as he stayed near Hoyt and was cautious. He stooped, sat on the floor his back leaning against the post. Looking up into the elder man’s eyes still reflective, he said, “Hoyt, I’ve had a damned good run at business, and I know many outstanding wealthy people. However, not under the same circumstances as you, I still have developed a dislike for down in the dirt business operatives and their crookedness mostly protected by loopholes and federal tax law … and there are a bunch of such white-collar crooks, believe me. The disproportionate wealth they devour from this country considering under the table shiftiness, seventy-two percent of total wealth controlled by five percent of the population, market profiteers banking reinvested money gains into foreign banks and massive sums locked from redistribution within American Society consequently not in general circulation, is breaking the back of so many Americans in dire need and living day by day, a shocking number actually starving. Our forefathers didn’t expect this class differentiation when they formed our republic, small businesses the norm in their day. True, many businesspersons work hard and develop their wealth honestly, aren’t total vultures … and that I must concede. Nevertheless, I did some soul searching and voluntarily withdrew from a mighty good thing to begin to travel, because I wanted to live and function in the real world and meet down to earth people like you. I’ve studied your property here, your home, and the animals. I don’t see poverty at all, instead, a simplistic richness few people actually possess, even those bagging billions and destabilizing the American economic structure behind protection of corporate lawyers, prejudice judges, career politicians, and in the process prematurely killing themselves.”

Jim’s butt had become numb sitting on the hard planks. He stood using extra care and returned to sit in his comfortable rocker. The two talked a couple hours, straying from their histories to discuss mostly domestic or personable things, seriousness sidelined and enjoying each other’s company. Around eleven-thirty Jim looked at his wristwatch and finally informed Hoyt, “I sincerely hate to leave you and our splendid conversation, especially your good tea so refreshing and lemonade to follow, my friend. I have to get to Gainesville before nightfall with some business of my own to attend.”

“It’s not yet noon; I can fix us a nice lunch, even truck you to Gainesville.”

“No thanks, appreciate your offer, Hoyt. I enjoy walking, thinking, and the exercise is great. Besides, I’ve plenty of eats in my pack.”

“Well, this visit has been a nice surprise for me. I’m pleased you chose to stop by and us meet and chat, the visit meaning much to me and breaking the daily routine, very pleasant. Sure wish you would drop in again if you wander back to this part of the country.”

Jim smiled, “I’ve been to Maine, all the way down the eastern seaboard to Miami. My travels began with my goal in coming years to meet other people just like you, wander clear to Washington State. So, this may be our first and only meeting. I wish you well, truly hate to hear of your misfortunes, and wish you better luck in the future.

“Likewise, please travel safely, Jim.”

“I’ll do, and you take good care and keep crocheting your nice items. One thing; I’ve met some scoundrels in my day, people much like the insensitive boss you explained. And I’ve met many sincerely honest men and women. However, genuine honesty is a rare virtue that you my friend possess.”

Hoyt thanked him as the two shook hands. Jim stepped from the porch, bent over to give Toby a brisk rub, the dogs’ tail wagging and him groaning delightfully. Jim straightened up and pointed toward the hornet nest, chuckled, saluted Hoyt and left as direct as he had approached several hours earlier.

The second evening later just prior to sundown, Hoyt walked to the shed to gather feed for the animals’ evening meal. He entered the simple structure, and to his left, picked up an armload of hay to feed his cow. Turning about to exit the narrow space, he halted, an oddity catching his eye. A handsome rectangular mahogany wood box lay atop the lid of the feed box that contained corn kernels for his chickens. He dropped the hay, bent over and peered close to study the fancy gold script lettering inscribed on the shiny box lid lined with gold stripping, JEF. He lifted the box and released the simple gold latch, opened it to see a legal-size letter situated on burgundy-color felt that lined the boxes’ entire interior. The upper left corner of the envelope next to a fancy logo, stated in black type: first line, ‘From Fred Millinghouse, Chief Financial Officer, Fremont Investments’, underneath and second line, ‘James Edmond Fremont, President and CEO’, and centered to the right was handwritten, ‘To Hoyt Holmes from Jim’, a hand-drawn smiley face added. 

“Oh, my goodness,” Hoyt exclaimed. “Fremont Investments is a famous Wall Street investment company I’ve read about in financial reports and magazines, buying and selling and creating businesses of all sorts worldwide. Jim is actually James E. Fremont, a behind the scenes multibillionaire. Should have recognized him right off. Slippery to the press, he wasn’t about to disclose his true identity to me. What better disguise for Jim than to pose as an ordinary drifter in casual manner, was too dang obvious for me to pick up. But why did he approach me specifically?” 

Box in hand, Hoyt stepped over the hay he had dropped and exited the shed. He walked quickly to the porch, where he settled in his rocking chair. He placed the box on the floor next to his rocker and slit open the letter with the blade of his pocketknife. Very peculiar - what is going on with Mr. Fremont? He wondered, eager to read an enclosed folded letter and a slip of paper tucked within.

Hoyt Holmes sighed heavily. He looked keenly toward the property front and paved county road passing before it. But he saw not a soul as he might have expected that very moment that somehow he sensed might change the course of his life.

The next moments situating himself better, were anxious, as he unfolded the letter to see the slip of paper was a check that blared at him, officially endorsed by the Chief Financial Officer Fred Millinghouse of Fremont Investments. The checks’ upper seven-figure amount made him gasp, was almost too much to comprehend, made out to him Hoyt Holmes from the Visitor Trust Fund. A hand-written letter accompanied the check, and he began to read to understand the meaning of the generous man he would likely never share company with again.

The letter read …

Dear, Hoyt, my friend,

Our visit was so refreshing and educational for me. As I looked initially about your home seeing ordinary things swell in my mind to purposeful placement, intimate importance, and absolute meaning, I began to appreciate that they together with you make a splendid picture of a truly good man. And, out on the porch of your simple little structure I listened to your every word, which reinforced what my assistant and I had previously researched and learned of you. I savored the time first-hand to listen to your grievances and triumphs, to grasp that your charitable heart is paramount to the needy in your community broadly ranged, that is in increasing contrast to instances of cold-heartedness being accepted by misguided people across our society that should concern all Americans. Please pardon my indulgence and scrutiny into your privacy; it can’t be helped to further satisfactorily my all-inclusive mission, not just to the beneficiaries of my gifts as I travel but to whom they affect ever far reaching.

To everybody I deliberately research/meet/interview, I am simply Jim Fremont, the drifter. I make no inference to my real life identity as a financial philanthropist seeking to right wrongs and bolster well meaning in most occurrences. My approach and effort thus works out not to complicate my mission interviewing a person such as you; it provides me personal insight to reinforce my endeavor. The accompanied item in this envelope is a check issued you and signed by Fred my corporate financial officer, my assistant, a topnotch gentleman I happened to grow up with in our Baltimore neighborhood. He is available upon request though your bank to install the sum appropriately. Please take a deep breath when you comprehend the meaning and magnitude of this, sit in that cozy antique rocker on your porch, look all about at your wonderful domain, and relive our visitation in totality that was so dear to me, personally.

I have worked years as a prosperous but honest stock investor on Wall Street, have directed an international company to soaring heights, yet have kept low profile purposely, my wealth so sizable I don’t have any idea my actual worth. Fred probably knows, hundreds of billions surely. Inspired two years ago by Warren Buffett, his elder sister Doris, and Bill and Melinda Ann Gates in their stalwart roles of charity, Fred eager to back me, I wished to deviate from Wall Street and my corporation for however long to share my wealth clandestinely with a broad sector of decent people more worthy of a genuine lift in life than me and my rich in-laws, and of course, the federal government. I have accomplished this thus far without press coverage, thwarting any snooping effort that has manifest. Therefore, Fred and I research through reliable sources prospective deserving people in everyday walk of life that deserve a clean break. Freddie remains in my compact headquarters that I will not disclose the whereabouts to anyone, while I travel, approach, and listen to prospective recipients’ stories first-hand as I did yours. 

My friend, by now you must realize ours was not an accidental meeting. It was casual, as I had hoped; the two of us relaxed in each other’s company a necessity for me to assess my gift to you. Enclosed is a sizable sum that if you do accept will set you up the remainder of your life, as long as your manage it wisely as I am sure you will based on your experience working for the consulting firm serving you until it turned rogue. This gift isn’t meant to degrade you and your life and make me look the hero. You have an option; you can tear the check up and discard it, or covet it in a constructive manner. You can build a mansion, but I don’t see materialism in your makeup. What you do with it is your choice. However, I wish that you in not destroying it to use a portion of it in charities that you are presently active and partially mentioned that I am amply aware: your dedication in your church food kitchen to feed your community homeless, care for the elderly, ill and maimed in local nursing homes and hospitals and assisted living facilities, visitations to the streets and alleys to be amidst impoverished people, lending them a direct helping hand and bringing them food, providing shelter with tarps, donating garments, and making your crochet items more available to comfort wanting human beings no matter whom their color or creed … to ward off their deep and personal despair others are either unaware or unashamedly do not care. Yes, I am aware your present activities mostly on weekends, and they have potential for you to move charity even farther up the ladder of generosity, and the funds to do so are at your disposal to organize as you see fit, even to invest and grow upon to further your ambitions. Yes, I trust you will make the very best use of my gift to you, and in doing so I wish you to remain in your present good health your remaining years. I meant what I said about your cabin and property; it is a paradise most anybody would covet. No, it isn’t an upper floor Manhattan penthouse, beach or lakefront resort property, an English abbey or castle, nor is it a Long Island estate, much of these showy examples of wealth and waste. What it represents to me is a treasure of its own kind, that’s in stride with you the private person that so inspired me to walk onward after leaving you and do what I do for others needing a helping hand, ultimately in most instances to help minimize or cure oppression and intervene the poverty.

In finality, our meeting, conversation at all levels, and the check is solely confidential between you and me, an understanding I demand and have no doubt your will uphold as the only thank you to me from you. 

Hoyt, please take good care. Enjoy this gift of gratitude for you inspiring me, keeping me on the right path … if you see fit to keep it. Maintain charity in your heart, and good luck in your gallant endeavors. 

Your friend always, James E. Fremont, for whom enjoyed your fine home and companionship never to be forgotten.

***

From the former sharecropper five-acre farm never to change in the Northeast Georgia backcountry, the mystery man with inexhaustible resources extended his golden hand. Clandestinely, he touched the needy within his reaches with miracles big and small. Clair’s spirit beside him, the scar on Hoyt Clarence Holmes’ heart soon healed, and the gift box always on his fireplace mantel remained a tribute to the one man he owed his salvation and gratitude, his friend, the visitor.

THE END, NO,

THE BEGINNING, YES.


Submitted: January 04, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Virgil Dube. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Serge Wlodarski

Well done.

Mon, January 4th, 2021 7:44pm

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