Chester Harper: Folly

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Chester Harper

“Columbine, I don’t think you should go. Think of the babies and yourself.” Jay looked into his wife’s eyes and saw that she wasn’t going to back down.

“I still have two months before my due date.” She then added the final argument. “Once the babies get here, I won’t be able to travel for quite some time.”

She sidled up next to Jay and stroked the chest hair showing out of his button up shirt. Looking into his eyes, she pleaded, “I’ve never been to Charleston, and you know how I love history. It will be so beneficial to my students. Besides, Mom and Dr. Redbud said it would be fine.”

Jay knew when he was defeated. “Ok, let’s get packed.”


The Southeast was experiencing an unusually active hurricane season. All of the named storms had already blown through, and they were now on the Greek alphabet named storms. Epsilon caused minor damage to the Charleston, South Carolina station, and before repairs could be made, Zeta, Eta, and Theta had hit in quick succession causing enough damage to call in the experts for repairs. Jay was one such expert.

Columbine and Willow had left Jay to work on the transpo station and took a car to one of the local beaches. They parked to the side of the road on the landward side of an orange and white striped caution barrier with a road closed sign posted on it. They walked past it on the sand-covered road and came to four-foot-high dunes that should not be there.

“I can hardly believe how much sand the hurricanes moved.” Columbine was saddened by the beach and dune erosion. “The dune grasses didn’t stand a chance against four hurricanes in such a short time.”

“No, I’m afraid not.” Willow looked past Columbine to a group of people gathered on the beach. “I wonder what they’ve found?”

Mother and daughter walked toward the small group and Willow craned her neck to see what had their attention. “Oh my God.” Willow raced to the group and snatched a child away to keep him from touching the objects of interest. 

The child cried and the mother whirled to confront Willow. “What do you think you are doing?”

Willow let the child go to his mother. “Those are Civil War era cannonballs. They could still be explosive and unstable.”

The mother visibly paled and pulled her son farther from the pile of cannonballs. The other spectators also backed off. “Thank you. I had no idea. I’m sorry I yelled at you.”

“No problem,” Willow replied. “We should call the authorities.”

While they waited for the experts to arrive, they made sure no one approached the cannonballs too closely.

“Do you live locally?” Columbine attempted to break the awkward silence. 

“Yes, we moved here right before Miles was born.” Suddenly she realized her southern manners. “I’m sorry. I haven’t introduced myself. I am Brittany and this is my son, Miles.” She presented an extended hand to Columbine. “We live on James Island.”

Columbine accepted the extended hand. “I am Columbine, and this is my mother, Willow. We drove across James Island to get here, I think.”

“That’s the only way to get to Folly.” Brittany smiled.

The authorities arrived and asked everyone to leave as they barricaded the area.

“Do you ladies feel like some really good seafood?” She smiled warmly. “I know a place.”

“That would be great, Brittany. I’m starving.” Columbine placed a hand on her belly.

“How far along are you, Sweetie?”

“Thirty-two weeks and four days.”

Brittany scrutinized Columbine’s abdomen. “You look further along than that.”

The horrified look on Brittany’s face made mother and daughter laugh.

“I am so sorry. That just came out. Please forgive me.”

“It’s ok. I’m not offended at all. I’m having twins.”

“You look great for that far along with twins.” Brittany tried to redeem herself.

“Thank you. Mom tries to make me do everything right, even when I don’t want to or have weird cravings.”

“I’m a nurse,” Willow explained.

“That explains why we hit it off so well. I’m an ultrasound tech at MUSC. Medical drawn to medical.”

“If I hadn’t gone into nursing, I considered radiology.” Willow nodded her head toward the parked cars. “Let’s go get some good seafood.”


Willow and Columbine spent the next two days sightseeing the Charleston area. Plantations took up one whole day as they toured Middleton Plantation, Magnolia Plantation, and Drayton Hall. Willow bought a handmade jug with a sculpted face on it at Middleton for Adam. She just knew it would appeal to his taste and love of history.

The next day, they visited the Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island. The only tea plantation in North America had a spectacular gift shop, and they bought presents and several different teas after sampling even more. The day was finished with a visit to the Angel Oak, a 400- to 500-year-old live oak. The majesty of the tree, whose shade covered 17,200 square feet, humbled them and made Columbine wish Jay were not working. He would love this tree.

That night Jay announced he had finished the repairs and the transpo was ready to carry them home, when they were ready. It was decided they would use the following day to sightsee with Jay and show him some of the more notable sights they had already seen. 


“That is one amazing tree.” Jay didn’t stop talking about the Angel Oak on the drive back to Charleston and then over the Ravenaugh Bridge to Mount Pleasant and Boone Hall Plantation. He kept talking about it as they went to the plantation store where they bought some Charleston blend coffee and some Boone Hall Good and Evil hot sauce. 

They parked at White Point Gardens then took a bicycle taxi to the City Market. They leisurely strolled the market and turned left on Meeting Street to walk back to White Point Gardens. Willow and Columbine admired the sweet grass baskets lining the sidewalk in front of the federal courthouse and post office while Jay took in the architectural beauty of St. Michael’s Church across the street as the malevolent spirit struck.

“I’s a gonna kill that demon spawn you be a carryin’.” The ancient black woman ran toward Columbine with an upraised, wicked looking knife.

Willow pushed Columbine in an attempt to save her from harm, but only partially succeeded. Adam was in time to catch Columbine as she fell with the knife in her thigh.

“I called 911. Help is on the way,” a young woman cried.

“Mom, they can’t take me to a hospital.” Columbine motioned to her swollen abdomen. “Not in my condition.”

Willow watched as blood steadily spread to cover the sidewalk under her daughter’s leg, in spite of the pressure she was holding. “Honey, we have no choice. You need treatment.”

“She be carryin’ a demon in her belly,” the old woman screamed from where the police were restraining her.

Willow leaned down to Columbine’s ear and Jay leaned in close to listen. “She has the gift and had a vision of the twins. In her mind, the recessive twin is a demon.”

“Mom, what if…?”

“It’s going to be ok. Don’t worry.” Willow rose from her daughter’s side to allow the EMT personnel to treat her.

Later in the surgery waiting room at MUSC, Jay and Willow waited for Columbine to wake up as the surgeon updated them on her condition.

“The knife severed a major vein in her leg and narrowly missed the artery.” The surgeon wiped his brow as he removed the surgical hat. “We will need to do an ultrasound to ensure the babies are healthy. She lost a lot of blood.”

“We can follow up with her O.B. once home.” Jay looked to his mother-in-law. “Right?”

“Yes, we can…”

“I’m sorry. I must insist that she have the ultrasound before I discharge her. Traveling could be detrimental to the fetuses.” The doctor turned to walk away. “I’ll arrange it.”

Jay ran his hands through his hair and paced. “What are we going to do? We can’t let them scan the babies. They will see.” He continued his nervous behaviors. “Good God, one of them looks like a baby monkey.”

“I will take care of it.”

The shocked look on Jay’s face made Willow chuckle. At least he had stopped pacing. He stuttered, “But it’s forbidden unless someone’s life is at stake.”

“I think this qualifies.” She looked grim. “She lost a lot of blood and had some major drugs. He is correct. We need to check on the babies.”


“Hi, I’m Brittany and I’m here to perform your ultrasound.” Columbine and Willow noticed the ultrasound tech had not looked at them yet. She was concentrating on getting the machine through the narrow doorway.

“Nice to see you again, Brittany.”

Brittany looked up. “Oh my. I didn’t realize you were the tourist that got attacked.”

“A very memorable vacation,” Willow said as Brittany got ready. “Antique explosives and knife attacks.”

Brittany chatted as she prepared the machine. “The cannonballs were dead and they haven’t moved them yet. Talk is, they may build something around them as a historical marker or something.” She turned the machine on to warm up. “That crazy lady that attacked you turned out to be a voodoo priestess on hallucinogens. I am so sorry this happened to y’all. I promise this is not common for Charleston.”

Willow had been using this time to gently probe Brittany’s mind and determine her likelihood of being able to influence her thoughts and actions.

“Let’s get started.” Brittany placed the gel-covered probe on Columbine’s abdomen. “There’s the first baby. Good strong heartbeat and good rate. Good movement.” She moved the probe. “There’s the second baby. Same good heart and movement. Larger than the other one but that is a normal variant. Seems a little blurry.” She adjusted some settings and tried again. “I’m trying to get a clearer picture. This makes the baby look like it is covered in long hair and we know that is not possible.”

Willow knew now was the time to use her powers of influence. “That seems to be clearer now. The baby is not covered in hair. Everything is fine.”

Brittany looked at Willow and her eyes glazed a bit. “That seems to be clearer now. The baby is not covered in hair. Everything is fine.”

“Call the doctor and tell him everything is fine. Use the phone by the door.” Willow spoke in a monotone. 

“I’m going to call the doctor and tell him everything is fine.” 

Brittany rose and crossed the room to use the telephone next to the door. While she talked, Willow used her knowledge gained from Brittany’s memory to erase the entire study from the machine.


The following day they all went back to Folly Island for one last look at the cannonballs and the impressive dunes created by the hurricanes. Large land movers were getting rid of the dunes, and a ranger told them that the cannonballs were being moved to a museum as a marker would likely be destroyed or damaged by subsequent hurricanes. 

“I love the ocean. The waves, the sounds, the smell, all of it. It’s just amazing.” The weather turned noticeably cooler and the sea and sky were gray on a misty, dreary day. It could be eighty and sunny again tomorrow. You just never knew this far south. Jay turned away from the waves. “But I miss the woods and the familiar scents of home. I want to visit again, but I’m ready to go home.”

“Me too.” Columbine rubbed her belly. “How long will it take to get home with the transpo repaired?”

“About four hours, give or take.”

Columbine relaxed and allowed her mate and mother access to her mind. Both turned amazed faces to her.

“I think I’m in early labor.”

“But, you still have at least six weeks before your due date.” Jay placed a hand on Columbine’s abdomen and felt it harden.

“Tell your babies that.” Columbine spoke through gritted teeth.

As they walked past the road-closed sign and got into the borrowed car, Willow asked, “Have you two named the twins?”

Jay looked at his wife before answering. She nodded. “Yes, we are naming them in honor of this…memorable vacation. She is to be called Jasmine, after the beautiful and sweet smelling Carolina Jasmine, and he will be known as Cypress, after the hardy swamp tree.”

“Good names.” Willow wiped away a tear. She was about to be a grandmother. “Get us home, Jay. We need to get these babies delivered.”

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