Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Postcard Phyllis

Spouse and I had come to our last day in Ireland.
It was after midnight and our flight was scheduled for early morning. Most inconveniently, it struck me all of a sudden that I needed a postcard, post-haste.
"What sort of a postcard?" Mike wanted to know as he rooted through drawers and flicked through some of his books in hopes of finding a tucked-away card that would suit.
"Anything," I declared, "but it has to be blank so I can write on it and send it. Otherwise it doesn't matter. One of an Irish landscape, if it's at all possible."
"I do believe I've got one hidden somewhere, but now I think of it, you probably wouldn't like it for sending to anyone."
"I'll take it."
"I don't know." The rummaging halted. "It's only an old postcard of Phyllis Hunt McGowan, anyway."
I announced that I'd never heard of Phyllis Hunt McGowan, but would be most happy to accept the postcard if Mike could find it.
I saw her in my mind's eye:
Late fifties, short grey hair, tweed skirt, green wellington boots, fond of horses.
Stubborn; incorrigibly so.
She'd do superbly on a postcard, especially given the late notice.
Mike was curious. "You've never heard of who?"
"On the postcard. I don't know who she is. Is she famous, or something?"
I'd been living away from the old homestead for a whole decade, you see, so I thought that maybe in the interim, I'd missed something fashionable or oft talked about in Irish culture. I was certain she wasn't the Irish president, but other than that, she could have been anybody, really, and I'd have had no clue.
There was a puzzled glint in Mike's eye. He admitted to me that he didn't know what I was talking about in saying I hadn't heard of her.
She must be Somebody, then, I decided. I hoped she wasn't an old ancestor of mine, although I was sure I'd have heard of any family members that had made it onto a postcard.
It turned out, in the inevitable moment of enlightenment and explanation, that the hearty, solid, horsey Phyllis Hunt McGowan was resident only of my mind, and she'd never set a toe outside it until that night.
The postcard Mike had been thinking of was one of "fellas hunting cows," and I'd spectacularly misheard him.
Poor Phyllis. I had quite liked the idea of her, vivid and startling as I'd imagined her to be.
Still: when such invented characters have chanced to dip their proverbial toe once into the real world, they don't ever go back to where they came from- not entirely. Which is why the fellas hunting cows have all but been forgotten, and she's still horsing around waiting for me to thrust her, perhaps, into the depths of an equestrian mystery story.
I look forward to working with her.

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