honing: the seven

big river gulls

At a table in Mona’s, the one and only bakery/cafe in the remote California coastal town of Carmeline Creek, the December morning drizzly and cold, Ephraim Spinoza and Paul Windsor chat about their lives and await the arrival of huevos rancheros.

Ephraim is seventy-one with a big mop of curly gray hair and wire-framed glasses, his brown suit and pale blue dress shirt and purple bowtie anomalous for Carmeline Creek where jeans and sweatshirts and down jackets are the more usual attire. A native of Spain, Ephraim and his wife Tivona moved from Zurich, Switzerland into the building three doors down from Mona’s just two weeks ago and are in the process of opening a business called honing, the nature of which has yet to be revealed.

Paul is fifty-eight, a native Californian with a minimal gray coif, his default expression a tender smile. He has lived in Carmeline Creek for eons and is married to Elisha, the manager of Mona’s, she who knitted the plush green sweater Paul has worn every day for the last year.

“So…” says Paul, gazing fondly at Ephraim, “how are you finding life in Carmeline Creek.”

“I like that expression,” says Ephraim, his English excellent, his accent essentially Spanish, but touched with the German he spoke for twenty years in Zurich. “How am I finding life? How do we find life? How do we learn to find life? Are we taught how to find life or is it our inherent nature to explore? But in answer to your question, I find life here dreamlike, in a good way, as if the dream Tivona and I woke from on the Summer Solstice has yet to end. The dream that brought us here.”

“You and Tivona had the same dream?” asks Paul, nodding his thanks as Miyoshi Takahashi serves them their huevos rancheros—Miyoshi the morning waitress at Mona’s for the last three years.

“Anything else for now?” asks Miyoshi, her long black hair in a ponytail.

“I would love some more coffee,” says Ephraim, smiling at her.

“Tabasco?” asks Paul, hopefully.

Miyoshi saunters away and Ephraim says, “Yes, the same dream.”

After breakfast, Paul and Ephraim walk with Paul’s two big mutts Pooh and Zorro to the beach at the mouth of the creek for which the town is named, and while the dogs chase gulls, Ephraim begins to tell Paul the dream that brought him and his wife Tivona to Carmeline Creek.

“Tivona, as you know, is Moroccan, though she came to France with her mother and sister when she was five,” says Ephraim, loving the roar of the raucous sea. “Even so, all these many years later, her dreams often take place in Morocco, and that is where our dream began, in a village on the edge of the desert.”

“A brief interruption,” says Paul, as a woman walking a Golden Retriever approaches.

“Hey Paul,” says the woman, her accent distinctly Texan, her blonde hair peeking out from the hood of her puffy blue jacket. “How you?”

“I’m well, Jasmine,” says Paul, giving her a gentle hug. “Have you met Ephraim yet? Ephraim, Jasmine. Jasmine, Ephraim.”

Seen Ephraim,” says Jasmine, extending her hand to Ephraim. “Welcome to Carmeline Creek.”

Ephraim takes Jasmine’s hand and bows to her. “Thank you.”

“I went by your place yesterday,” says Jasmine, blushing at Ephraim’s gallantry. “Love the name. Honing. That could mean all sorts of things, couldn’t it? Your wife said you weren’t open yet.”

“Soon,” says Ephraim, nodding. “In January, we think.”

“You gonna be a gallery?” she asks, nodding hopefully. “‘Cause if you are, I’m a painter and I’m always looking for open walls.” She laughs. “If you know what I mean.”

“I do,” says Ephraim, enjoying her. “We are still fine-tuning our concept, but regardless of what we become, we would love to see your work. Please bring us your portfolio.”

“Oh I haven’t had a portfolio since I escaped LA,” she says, looking up at the sky and sighing with relief. “Twenty-seven years ago. But you can come by my studio any time. I’m just a couple streets away from you. Paul knows where I am.”

When Jasmine departs, Paul reminds Ephraim, “So… your dream begins in a village on the edge of the desert.”

Tivona and I wake in a small room with a single window in each of the four walls, but there is no door. The windows are large square holes in the thick mud walls. No glass. Our bed is a stack of blankets atop a rickety wooden platform, and when we get out of bed, the platform collapses.

Now we are walking through the village of whitewashed mud houses. We are using umbrellas to shield ourselves from the harsh sun. My umbrella is red and Tivona’s is yellow. Several children are following us and singing A gang of Moroccan children are following us and singing ‘Frère Jacques’.

Tivona asks me in French, “Do we know where we’re going?”

I reply in Spanish, “I believe we are leaving.”

Now we are coming out the front door of the house in Zurich where we lived for the last twenty years. I am wearing a fine gray suit and fanciful red shoes. Tivona is wearing a blue evening gown, silver slippers, and a necklace of large diamonds. These are not clothes or shoes or diamonds we possess in our waking lives.

We walk down the familiar brick walkway toward the street and the walkway becomes a narrow footpath winding through a forest of tall trees. We come to a wide shallow river and Tivona climbs on my back and I wade across.

Gaining the far shore, we are greeted by an elderly woman with brown skin and wiry gray hair. A beautiful little parrot, blue and green, sits on her shoulder.

“You must go to California,” she says in Spanish, beckoning us to follow her. “Come. I’ll show you the way.”

Now Tivona and I are sitting beside each other in a jet high above the earth, sunlight glinting off the clouds below us. Tivona opens a map of California and the only town on the map is Carmeline Creek.

Now we are holding hands and walking toward the building we have leased, and the sign above the front door says honing.

“This is where we belong,” says Tivona, speaking slowly in English.

“Our first visitor will be one of the seven,” I say, also speaking English as we arrive at the front door.

“And you and I are two of the seven,” she says, opening the door.

“Leaving four to find,” I say, following her inside.

“Or they will find us,” she says, leading me to the center of the large empty room.

“A remarkable dream,” says Paul, as they climb the long stairway from the beach to town. “Do you and Tivona often dream the same dream?”

“Never before this one,” says Ephraim, laughing. “On the contrary. Our dreams are usually as different as dreams can be.”

“And you made your dream come true,” says Paul, smiling in amazement.

“In Tivona’s version,” says Ephraim, stopping halfway up the stairway, “she does not say, ‘Or they will find us.’ She says ‘Oh they will find us.’ Otherwise our dreams were identical.”

“How will you recognize the other four?” asks Paul, who feels both honored and mystified to be one of the seven.

“I don’t know,” says Ephraim, resuming the climb. “But I trust we will.”

“Was it difficult to leave your friends behind?” asks Paul, who can’t imagine ever leaving Carmeline Creek.

“We thought it would be,” says Ephraim, breathing deeply of the sweet ocean air, “but so far… no. We were, I think, perfectly ready to go, like perfectly ripe apples ready to be picked.”

mystery pastiche


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