ERNIE AND ERNESTINA: The Writer, His Wife, and their Afterlife

Book One, Part One, Chapter 63: Breaking News

When we enter the Salisbury car-rental agency, the clerk is on the phone. A TV, mounted on a high shelf behind her, is turned on. Ernie and I pay it no attention. She puts down the phone, and Ernie begins to tell her what we need — a much smaller rental car.

“Are you American?” she asks.

“Yes.”

“Have you heard what’s happened in New York, to the Twin Towers?”

“We were just there,” Ernie says. “I took a photo of them as we sailed out of the New York harbor.”

“They’re not there anymore. Two planes hit them and brought them down. It’s just happened.” She turns to look up at the TV screen, showing plumes of black smoke.

“Are people dead?” I ask.

“The people on the two planes certainly are,” she says. “Who knows how many more inside the buildings? This is a major catastrophe. This might start World War III.”

Ernie and I rent a compact from her. In a nearby village with thatched-roof cottages that look like an illustration from a fairy tale, we duck into a red phone booth and call Joshua. Ernie talks to him first, then hands the phone to me.

“I’m worried about you guys,” he says. “What if the terrorists had bombed the QEII? You were sitting ducks in the middle of the ocean.”

“The terrorists are mad at the U.S., not England,” I say. “We’re safe here.”

Yes, we feel safe in England — especially now that we’re driving a smaller car, which we plan to turn in once we reach Oxford.

But are Ernie and I safe with each other? Or, are we bringing each other down?

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My writer husband’s favorite nickname for me was Ernestina, so in this 2-book memoir, he is Ernie. This is his story, our story, and my story. I invite you in.

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Ernestina

My writer husband’s favorite nickname for me was Ernestina, so in this 2-book memoir, he is Ernie. This is his story, our story, and my story. I invite you in.