Book Two, Chapter 22: Man of Mystery

In weeding out Ernie’s business drawer, I’m becoming aware of his habit of writing down stray thoughts on the backs of envelopes or on an old bill. What other Ernie-thoughts will I find?

I flip through a spiral notebook, mostly empty, but one page stops me. He’s written a news story, given it a headline: Man of Mystery. In the first sentence of this article — really a news release, I soon realize — he identifies the author and then writes: “He’s a man of mystery — mystery novels, that is. His Missing Faces, the first in a series starring Appalachia’s first female sheriff, Canyon Combs, is being published by Leisure Books, an imprint of Dorchester Publishing, New York. The novel, a mass-market paperback, will be in bookstores and retail outlets on or about ____________.” Ernie left the date blank.

This is a bit of pretend news, a flight of fantasy, a fervent wish, a deep hope. Ernie did write this novel. It is what he says it is. He did send it to Leisure Books, but they didn’t buy it. That never happened.

Ernie’s notebook in hand, I sink to the floor. I feel his ache, his deep need for recognition, validation. I feel his optimism and his disappointment.

He is no longer such a man of mystery to me, yet what I’m uncovering brings on pain for me because I didn’t help him talk of his pain. I didn’t help him to release it. I didn’t help him to . . . heal.

My writer husband’s favorite nickname for me was Ernestina, so in this 3-book memoir, he is Ernie. This is his story, our story, and my story. I invite you in.