PheoPhil Fly Reads Life Changing Letter

Carolyn’s Online Magazine



NOTE: The WordPress prompt for March 20, 2015, is Fly on the Wall: If you could be a “fly on the wall” anywhere and at any time in history, where and when would you choose? Since I’m heavily at work on my novel I pondered a while about what moment in it I would like to be a fly on the wall. I chose the moment when Mary Googins received a letter telling her her long-lost husband was alive.

Because of the setting I must adjust the prompt. The fly cannot be on a wall at the beach, but of necessity must be flying about freely among the birds. It will occasionally land on someone’s shoulder, head, arm, but will do no harm.

The importance of what this fly sees requires me to name it. I’m torn between Pheodora (Russian, Greek), meaning God’s gift, and Philomena (Greek), meaning powerful love. Is the letter God’s gift to Mary? Or will it bring to fore the powerful love of her first love?

Unable to decide—both are strongly appropriate—I settle for PheoPhil. Mary will receive God’s gift, and her powerful love is reignited, changing lives forever.

2003 LAM BEA 725 020-HE

The letter arrives on a boat arriving in Trenton (now East Lamoine) Maine from Boston, about 1818. People have gathered on the shore waiting for the boat to anchor, anxious to welcome passengers, and to receive their mail and other deliveries.  A few people have luggage, prepared to visit the big city south of them.

Mary is waiting too, the only family member free to meet the ship. She will pick up any mail for them, especially her father, the first Town Clerk in Trenton, who often received mail.

Mary became distracted watching the gulls swoop down, grab a mussel, then soar aloft to drop it on the rocks. They swooped down again, finding the exact mussel they dropped among the slew of mussels on the shore. How, she often wondered, did they accomplish this?

Mussel shells cover the bottom of high tide waters at Lamoine Beach, Maine

Mussel shells cover the bottom of high tide waters at Lamoine Beach, Maine

While composing a poem in her head she felt a tap on her shoulder, endangering PheoPhil.

“You have a letter,” her neighbor said.

Who would be writing to me? wondered Mary as she walked forward and retrieved an envelope from the delivery man.

As she stepped away from the man she glanced at the envelope. France.


That was curious. Although she was the widow of Louis des Isles, who came to the United States to escape the French Revolution, his family had never written her since she wed Joseph Swett in 1816. This always disappointed her because her children wanted to know about their father’s family. Thankfully, Joseph stepped in and accepted the 8 children as he did the child they had together, 2 year old Joseph.

Mary stepped slowly across the beach to her favorite rock, away from the crowd.

She settled herself in, letting the waves lap her feet. PheoPhil watched as she turned the letter over and over in her hand. This letter will change her life, he sensed.

Finally she began to open it, carefully removed three sheets, and looked for the signature.

Her body shuddered so violently that PheoPhil had trouble holding on. He noticed her face grow white and saw her hands shake.

Then PheoPhil looked at the signature.

Louis. And he almost fell off her shoulder with his own shudders.

Mary almost dropped the papers, tightening her grip on them just before they dropped into the cool water.

It cannot be.  Louis was lost at sea traveling to France at the beginning of the War of 1812.

PheoPhil wished he had a cloth to dry the tears that began to roll down her cheeks.

Finally her shaking subsided. She began to read the letter.

When I sailed from Boston our ship made good progress to France. Then, we were suddenly captured and taken to Dartmoor Prison in England. I barely survived. When the war ended I was released and made my way home in France.

She could read no more. Louis’ alive, he’s alive, the love of my life is alive was the only thought in her mind. Smiles mixed with tears as she held the letter close to her heart. The sun setting at the west end of the Narrows. The water reflected its brilliant orange and pink hues.

“Mary. Mary.”

Hearing her name roused her from her reverie.

“Mary, what is wrong?” her husband asked.

Joseph, dear Joseph. PheoPhil knew it was just like Joseph to come to find her when she didn’t return home. Mary was his forever love, just as Louis was Mary’s forever love.

Yes, PheoPhil thought as he flew off. Lives were about to be changed.640px-Musca_domestica_PortraitNOTE: Mary lived all her life in Downeast, Maine. Her first husband, Louis des Isles, disappeared while sailing to France at the beginning of the War of 1812, was captured and spent the duration of the war in Dartmoor Prison. When released he made his way to France. Read Enoch Arden and Louis des Isles: Story Plots


About carolyncholland

In several if my nine lives I have been a medical lab technician and a human service worker specializing in child day care, adoptions and family abuse. Currently I am a photo/journalist/writer working on a novel and a short story. My general writings can be viewed at My novel site is
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