Spirits of Mobile
by Bonnie Hoffman
University of South Alabama
Silent spirits slip unseen along the sidewalk making their way to Bienville Square.1 Selecting a spot in the shade of a spreading oak, they place a blanket on the grass to sit once more among those in whom life’s blood still flows.
No shrouded specters these, no wandering wraiths–a gentle gathering of sympathetic souls passed, come to delight in a summer afternoon salon while listening to light jazz at Brown Bag in Bienville.2
This mid-week outing was orchestrated by Eugene Walter.3 “Time to jazz things up,” the invitation read. “The-Not-Really-Departed,” they call themselves, for if you are alive in memory, you have never really departed. They have come to laugh, to remember, to linger a while in a world no longer theirs.
Adelaide Trigg ties the ribbons of her sun hat and opens the wicker basket which holds their repast.4 “Mama’s tea sandwiches,” she says, parting a linen cloth. Caldwell Delaney takes a seat by her side.5 “Here, Caldwell, have the first.” “These are my favorite,” he replies, taking two. He leans to her shoulder, “What is the secret to these?” he whispers.
“My dear,” Adelaide hesitates, inspecting the inside of her sandwich, “I believe the recipe is in the Termite Hall cookbook Eugene compiled.”6 Eugene shrugs, “Can’t remember much these days. We could stop by Bienville Books before we return.7 I hear it is much like the old Haunted Bookshop after all.”8 Adelaide sighs at the mention of her former bookstore. “Maybe next time,” she replies.
Grey squirrels hoping for a picnic tidbit creep ever closer to the blanket. Eugene turns sharply and barks sending them scuffling through the grass. Adelaide admonishes, “Eugene, you go right now to the Peanut Shop and fetch some hot roasted peanuts.9 And when you come back, you share with the squirrels and pigeons.”
Julian Lee “Judy” Rayford comes to join the group with Joe Cain hanging on to his arm.10,11 Judy shakes Eugene’s hand, “Love the music; great idea Eugene.” “Where are the crowds?” asks Cain. “I thought there was going to be a parade.” Judy jumps in, “Forgive him, nodding toward Cain, “he’s still recovering from Mardi Gras and one too many widows.”12
Father Abram Ryan approaches with an armful of roses from the rose garden at St. Mary.13,14 “For you,” reaching out to Adelaide. She welcomes the flowers into her arms. “Father, they are lovely, and from your garden, too. Tell me, I have always wondered, was Ethel the rose in some of your poems?” Father Ryan looks past her, far away into his childhood. He does not reply.
Remembering himself, he addresses the group. “I invite you all to join me on the second Friday of this month for the LoDa Art Walk.15 Julian, I know you will particularly enjoy the sculpture. We can meet on the west side of Cathedral Square, in front of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.”16,17
Eugene slaps his knee, “Why, I haven’t been there since 1998.”
“Do not be morbid, Eugene, that was your funeral,” says Judy.
“Yes, and a fine one it was, too. And the wake at the Scottish Rite Temple was something to see. Best decorated casket ever!”18
“Fine, my children,” Father Ryan nods, “I shall see you there.” He turns to leave, then pauses and looks back. “I shall say a prayer for you, Eugene, and you too, Joe.”
Caldwell holds up his hand. “Father, before I forget, please plan to meet with us at the Mobile Carnival Museum on October 15 for a literary tour of Mobile.” “Perhaps, we will see if they get it right,” remarks Adelaide. “If it involves history and a bit of gossip, no one could top you, Caldwell,” laughs Eugene.
As the afternoon salon draws to a close, the music ends, and the brown-baggers disperse, the party prepares to return to their posthumous abodes–silently strolling, each in his own direction, each in his own thoughts, shadows in a world of light, away for now, but not departed. 20, 21, 22
To learn more about these vibrant if not still alive characters, please browse the links below that Bonnie Hoffman used as references. Some links will tell more about the specific places and others about the people. The people of Mobile, past and present, have built the character of the city as much as the beautiful landmarks. Spirits of Mobile is the second entry being published out of the special writing project being conducted through several English classes of Dr. Sue Brannan Walker this semester at the University of South Alabama. Walker and her students will attend the the 2014 SELTI Tourism Fiction Award Presentation at the Mobile Carnival Museum on October 15, where Walker will give a brief presentation about teaching tourism writing to literature classes. Never visit a city without checking out its main city tourism website for easy links the best attractions, hotels, and restaurants. The city of Mobile runs a great tourism website here.
1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bienville_Square (Bienville Square)
2 http://www.ncsmobile.org/calendar.php (City of Mobile Special Events Calendar)
3 http://alabamaliterarymap.lib.ua.edu/author?AuthorID=61 (Eugene Walter)
4 http://mobilebaywiki.wikidot.com/termite-hall (Termite Hall)
5 http://www.lib.ua.edu/Alabama_Authors/?p=1015 (Caldwell Delaney)
7 http://www.bienvillebooks.com/Site/Home.html (Bienville Books)
8 http://blog.al.com/live/2008/10/adelaide_trigg_cofounder_of_mo.html (Adelaide Trigg)
9 http://ampeanuts.com/ (A & M Peanuts)
10 http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Article.jsp?id=h-2588 (Julian Rayford)
11 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Cain (Joe Cain)
12 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mardi_Gras_in_Mobile,_Alabama (Mardi Gras)
13 http://alabamaliterarymap.lib.ua.edu/author?AuthorID=152 (Father Abram Ryan)
14 http://www.stmarymobile.org/cms/index.php/about-us/church-history (St. Mary Church)
15 https://www.facebook.com/pages/LODA-Artwalk/127195567316716 (LODA Artwalk)
16 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathedral_Square,_Mobile,_Alabama (Cathedral Square)
18 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Temple_Downtown (Scottish Rite Temple)
19 http://www.mobilecarnivalmuseum.com/(Mobile Carnival Museum)
20 Adelaide Trigg, Caldwell Delaney http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnolia_Cemetery_(Mobile,_Alabama)
21 Eugene Walter, Julian Lee Rayford, Joe Cain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_Street_Graveyard
22 Father Abram Ryan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Cemetery_(Mobile,_Alabama)
More Mobile Bay SELTI Tourism Writing
The Ghost Fleet on the Tensaw River by Brittany Clay, University of South Alabama
Poet Laureate Promotes Tourism by Dr. Sue Brannan Walker, University of South Alabama
Raisin’ Cain by Mary S. Palmer (winner of the Mobile BAY SELTI Tourism Writing Contest)