[Title Page: overlay on “In”]
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A Literary Journal
[Centered under tunnel entrance, 20 pt, Italic BF:]
(November 5, 1943 – August 2/9, 2013)
To all our writing mentors –
Welcome to this inaugural issue of Walkabout: A Literary Journal. We’ve chosen as our theme, “Mentors,” as a way to commemorate David Trembley, the mentor who helped birth the writers’ group to which all the contributors to this issue belong. We have a tradition of celebrating David’s memory and his birthday with some special event connected to writing. This year it is the launch of Walkabout.
Each of us has been guided and inspired by other writers, who have knowingly (and even unwittingly) mentored us. Some of our mentors may never know the full extent of their impact, but they are the reason we write, and the influence for the kinds of writing that we do.
A word about the format of this issue . . . All of the contributors will begin with a celebration of the personal mentor(s) whose influence has made the biggest impact on their writing lives. As you will see, the “who” and the “how” varies widely. Nevertheless, we all share a deep sense of gratitude for the writers who have shaped — and continue to shape – us as writers. We hope they will feel we have done them proud. We are delighted that you have found your way to these pages, and we hope that you will be delighted by what you find here.
- Z. Trembley, Editor
[“Woodland Walk,” here]
Table of Contents
Woodland Walk, (pencil drawing) – L. Z. Trembley
Mentor Musings – Heidi Surprenant
For Laura (poem) — Heidi Surprenant
Road to Emmaus (poem) — Heidi Surprenant
To Messiaen (poem) — Heidi Surprenant
Haunted (poem) — Heidi Surprenant
OIC – Mandala, (watercolor, pen and ink) – L.Z. Trembley
Jim’s Last Song (short story) — Heidi Surprenant
Biographical Sketch — Heidi Surprenant
Agave (pencil drawing) – L.Z. Trembley
A Writing Life – In Outline –L. Z. Trembley
Rizpah (pen and ink drawing) – L.Z. Trembley
Lament of Rizpah (poem) – L.Z. Trembley
Beyond the Door (poem) – L.Z. Trembley
The Castle—Labyrinth (pen and ink drawing) – L.Z. Trembley
The Silver Hands, A Fairy Tale (short story) – L.Z. Trembley
Biographical Sketch – L.Z. Trembley
Garden Path (pencil drawing) – L.Z. Trembley
Table of Contents, continued
My Unintentional Mentors – Bob Young
Vessels (pencil drawing) – L. Z. Trembley
A Vacation Upgrade (short story) – Bob Young
Mandala – Sun-Moon Exchange (pen and ink drawing) – L.Z. Trembley
Better (short story) – Bob Young
Biographical Sketch – Bob Young
* * *
Cover Art: “In” (watercolor) – L.Z. Trembley
— Heidi Surprenant
With joy and gratitude, I recall the many mentors who have guided me along my path, spiritually, personally and artistically. The works I’ve contributed to the first issue of Walkabout were written to honor these amazing people. I will share their particular influences by way of introducing the work they inspired.
In the realm of spiritual/personal growth, I owe much of who I am today to a former pastor of Heritage Presbyterian of New Berlin, WI – Rev. Laura Loving. I wrote “For Laura” as a parting gift of admiration and thanks to Laura before she left Heritage to begin a teaching career.
— Heidi Surprenant
What I know of graciousness,
what I know of hope,
what I know of generosity,
I have learned from you.
What I know of truthfulness,
what I know of faith,
what I know of service
and drawing circles wide,
I have learned from you.
What I know of empathy
and eloquent high spirits,
of subtlety and paradox
and absolute acceptance,
I have learned from you.
How is it then
you make me feel
you’ve learned these things
I began my (music) compositional career at the no-spring-chicken age of 43. The teacher/mentor/friend who gave me the courage to step into this new realm of creativity and personhood was my composition teacher, Mike Kamenski. I wrote this piece in his honor, and later changed a few words to evoke the famous Road to Emmaus story from Luke 24:13-35.
Road to Emmaus
— Heidi Surprenant
You say you’re on a mission
(Well, good for you.)
You might as well
attempt to empower
We are all
basket cases here:
Our most embarrassing moment,
our most disastrous date;
these create our
Our foibles make us human;
our failures make us wise.
You savor passion and inner strength.
Well, I hate to break it to you,
but we’re fresh out.
We might have had some
Once upon a Time,
but the lakebed is dry now –
dry as our souls.
There’s nothing left:
not a drop;
not a lick.
(“Road to Emmaus” continues)
We’re shrinking violets in need of a shrink.
We own no inner pluck.
We have no gall.
Instead we have complexes –
complexes, syndromes and psychoses.
Oh, we are very complex.
We call ourselves
but we are
oblivious to our own identity,
satisfied with mediocrity,
at peace in captivity.
We have no stomach for empowerment,
no appetite for liberation.
Our shades of gray are infinite,
and the coins we flip
(simple heads or tails, you’d think)
Yet when you speak,
the wheels in our heads (long static)
begin to turn –
slowly at first
but gaining ground
in spite of
we (inertia incarnate)
(“Road to Emmaus” continues)
We feel it in our quickening pulse,
our sudden dizzy wordlessness,
the ground that shakes beneath our feet.
And you say,
even as you disappear.
Two composers who inspired me with their artistry and integrity were the great French composer, Olivier Messiaen and the contemporary Milwaukee-born composer, Jerome Kitzke.
I never had the opportunity to meet Messiaen, but his astonishingly beautiful Quartet for the End of Time changed my aesthetic world forever.
— Heidi Surprenant
I’ve fallen under your spell, Olivier.
You call me from beyond the grave,
beyond the bounds of time and space,
beyond all earthly understanding.
You sing eternal truth.
Take me to the squalid camp
where you announced the End of Time,
your purple-orange chords
vaulting over guard posts,
soaring over searchlights.
Let me touch the strings
of your battered violin.
Let me turn the pegs of your
un-tunable, untenable ’cello.
What manner of music
can such instruments make?
Teach me the language
of your war-torn clarinet.
Tell me the secrets
of your ravishing, ravished piano.
(“To Messiaen” continues)
Then whisk me up into your
of angel-songs and birdcalls
and rapturous ecstatic unity
with Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
I’ve fallen under your spell, Olivier,
and have no wish to free myself.
I met Jerome Kitzke while I was pursuing a Master’s degree in Music Composition at UW-Milwaukee. Although I’m sure he doesn’t remember me, I’ve never forgotten him, and I wrote Haunted in celebration of his music and his deep humanity.
— Heidi Surprenant
You came to town, haunted,
asking what haunts us;
lanky, longhaired white man
dressed in red man’s clothes
wearing red man’s scars
red man’s sorrows
on your face
in your bones
in the tendons of your hands.
We sat on padded chairs while
you squatted on sinewy haunches
to speak with us
with enough integrity to
fill the Plains
and oh so haunted,
oh my brother
there are ghosts
in every note
As a poet, I find inspiration, wisdom and beauty in the works of other poets. I wrote the following poem after reading Billy Collins’ Nine Horses in one sitting.
— Heidi Surprenant
I read your book of poems last night,
hungrily gulping down poem after poem
like a famished beast,
barely breathing between mouthfuls,
stuffing my mind silly,
unheeded from my open eyes.
[OIC – Mandala, here]
As I began to take the art of writing seriously, I joined the Broken Walls Christian Community Writers’ Group. There I met the friends and fellow writers who have shaped me as a writer. The following short story is dedicated to them. Here’s how it came to be…
Several years ago, Milwaukee Public Radio announced a Ghost Story Contest. Writers were encouraged to submit a brief ghost story; the prize: an on-the-air reading of the top submissions. I’d never written a ghost story before, but the idea intrigued me. When I mentioned it at a Writers’ Group meeting, David Trembley suggested that I take a stab at it. Although my story was not among the chosen few, I brought it to Writers’ Group the following month. David restored my confidence, saying that Jim’s Last Song “ought to have won,” since it was “chilling, just like a ghost story should be.” Thanks, David!
* * *
Jim’s Last Song
— Heidi Surprenant
Aug. 1, 1980
I woke up this morning with strange-sounding music in my head. I can’t remember the exact melody, but it was definitely weird. I don’t mind; I’m a composer, and any source of inspiration is welcome. I’m hoping to write a string quartet this month, although life as a single mom is unbelievably hectic!
Can’t wait to meet you in person. I’m so glad my neighbor asked if I’d like a pen pal. Hope life is sunny in Foggy London Town.
* * *
Sept. 6, 1980
Today was my daughter’s first day of kindergarten. She picked out her own clothes: green sandals, pink shorts, and an orange tank-top.
It’s been horrendously hot here in Nashville lately, without the slightest breeze. Still, when Jenny and I walked to the bus stop, the wind chimes in the front yard began jangling a tune. I was so startled I nearly fainted. Luckily Jenny calmed me down with her adorable laugh. I guess she enjoyed the jangly tune.
Thinking of you,
P.S. Thanks for the photo; I love it!
* * *
Sept. 9, 1980
The music in my head is back, but now I recognize it; it’s the wind chime melody. I’ve gotta go; Jenny won’t settle down this evening. I can’t imagine what’s up with her. I’ll write more next time.
* * *
Sept. 12, 1980
It’s been great getting to know you via Air Mail. Here’s a little more about me. As I mentioned, I’m a composer. Before I met my husband, I bounded out of bed each morning, eager to embrace the music that came to me with such passion and urgency. I swore I was a channel for someone else’s creative spirit, and I savored the power and conviction of whomever (whatever!) had chosen me.
After I married Jim, I turned a deaf ear to that mysterious, exhilarating presence. I felt guilty about jilting my muse, but I had no choice. Jim was a songwriter, and we spent all our time and energy collaborating on one, elusive hit song.
Inspiration finally struck Jim the day he died. The police found a blood-spattered notebook in his car. He’d scribbled down a title and a set of lyrics, along with chords and a melody line. A song must have popped into Jim’s head while he was driving. I can picture him trying to steer and write at the same time.
I’ve never had the strength to give Jim’s last song more than a quick glance. Deep-down, I blame it for Jim’s accident, so I hate it without ever having heard it. I carry Jim’s notebook with me everywhere, though. It makes me feel close to him.
That’s enough gloom for one letter; I don’t want to scare you away! Hope all is going well for you.
P.S. Thank you for the beautiful flowers. Roses! Really Leo – you shouldn’t have. (You might not believe this, but the title of Jim’s last song is September Roses. I get goosebumps just thinking about that.)
* * *
Sept. 13, 1980
Now it’s me who can’t settle down at night. I know this sounds crazy, but what if Jim’s accident wasn’t an accident? What if someone or something deliberately put that song in Jim’s head at just the right moment, knowing it would be a dangerous distraction? Maybe the crash was someone’s twisted way of punishing Jim – or me – or both of us. Or maybe I’m going crazy. I hear the wind chime melody everywhere.
Wish you were here…
* * *
Sept. 20, 1980
Thanks so much for recommending an audiologist. Who’d have thought a Londoner would know an audiologist right here in Nashville!
Unfortunately, my appointment only made things worse. When I arrived at the clinic, a nurse escorted me to a soundproof booth and gave me some high-tech headphones. As soon as I put them on, that dreadful chime melody assaulted me. I ripped the headset off and scrambled for the door, but it was jammed. For the next ten minutes, I pounded on the door, screaming. When the audiologist finally came to check on me, I was writhing on the floor, my hands cupped over my ears. What’s happening to me?
* * *
Sept. 27, 1980
Today after Jenny left for school, I played Jim’s melody on our old, upright piano. It’s the wind chime melody, Leo. I couldn’t stop shaking.
When Jenny came home, she started racing around the kitchen, singing Jim’s last song; she knew every note, every word. I felt the blood drain from my face and grabbed Jenny’s arm to make her stop. “Who put that song in your head?” I shrieked.
I scared her half to death. Her face contorted, and she whispered, “I made it up myself, Mommy. Don’t you like it?”
* * *
Biographical Sketch – Heidi Surprenant
Heidi Surprenant is a musician, author and educator from New Berlin, Wisconsin. She teaches music theory at Alverno College in Milwaukee and serves as the accompanist for two Milwaukee-area churches – Heritage Presbyterian and Bethel Lutheran. Together, Heidi and her late husband Michael raised four amazing children, now grown and lovingly launched into the world.
Heidi’s experiences as a musician are diverse. After graduating from UW-Whitewater with a degree in music education, Heidi joined the Army Band, serving as a horn player at Fort Sheridan, IL and Camp Zama, Japan. Later, she taught general music at a K-8 school in Milwaukee and then returned to school to earn a master’s degree in music composition from UW-M. In her spare time, Heidi enjoys writing poetry, composing music, and creating books, stories, and games for her grandchildren.
A Writing Life – In Outline
— L. Z. Trembley
My writing life began when I was a little girl, before I was four. I know because I learned to read at four and got my first library card by signing my name — in cursive. My father had what was once called “a beautiful hand” trained in old-school penmanship. I would try to write like him; I would scribble lines in imitation and then take my pages of “writing” to him for deciphering. I was always amazed by what I had written.
As a sophomore in high school, the English teacher, Mr. Phillips, used an overhead projector and colored transparencies to teach us the intricacies of good writing. The many colorful overlays might just as easily been scribbles because it all seemed meaningless to me. I could understand the principles of outlining, but the formal practice seemed overly rigid: no A without B; every major point begins with a capital and constitutes a complete sentence; create an outline and submit it for approval. Outlining evidently served some inscrutable purpose of the teacher, but as a pointless exercise it was mainly an imposition on my time. I developed my own secret system for composition.
I would scribble out my thoughts filling pages in my spiral notebook. After this random writing, I would create an outline ordering my arguments or observations. I felt guilty about my surreptitious practice, but I just couldn’t create the outline first.
Fast forward two decades. It is time for me to write my Master’s thesis. My husband, David, and I have cooperated on writing projects before, but this piece is to be my work. For the first time, I confess my guilty secret to my real writing teacher, the man I have happened to marry.
“I have to do it this way,” I say. “I can’t make an outline until I’ve written out what I’ve got.”
“Yeah,” he says. “That’s how the writing process works. What you’re doing is called ‘pre-writing’.”
“Yup, and it’s what every writer actually does, before s/he begins to write.”
“Oh my God! I always felt like a failure or like I was cheating because I didn’t make an outline first.”
“Nope. Nothing to feel guilty about. Shaping your material, as with outlining, is the second step; after pre-writing.”
Then David introduced me to “the writing funnel”: pre-write, shape, write, edit, revise, publish. (If you’re interested in the steps of the writing process, you can access David’s writing curriculum at www.stepstowritespirit.com) I was greatly relieved. “All these years I thought there was something seriously wrong with me because I couldn’t do it the way Mr. Phillips and his transparencies said I should.”
“Teaching writing and real writing aren’t always the same. Many teachers don’t actually write, and, of course, lots of writers can’t teach what they do.”
I can’t say that the eventual thesis was a stellar example of well-wrought prose. In fact, at one point, my thesis advisor groaned, “The passive voice is driving me crazy!” It was, however, the launch of my adult writing career. Writing the thesis was a breakthrough. Writing
was no longer the mysterious equivalent of those long-ago squiggles. The process finally made sense, and I could work with it. Over time, even my style improved . . . though punctuation remained problematic.
I would give David a piece of writing; he would take up his marking pencil and begin to edit, muttering, “I see you’ve been using the comma shaker again.”
I went to college as an English major with the intention of becoming a writer. That fond hope was put on hold by a years-long bout of writer’s block. Writing my thesis freed me to write again. Now after many years (and multiple revisions) I once again consider myself a writer.
My writing mentor still guides me through the process of tightening structure and focus and refining phrasing. I confess I still wield my comma shaker. Writing is a project central to my life’s meaning and while I must rely on other editors now, it is my mentor who drives me to provide them with copy.
* * *
Lament of Rizpah
(2 Samuel 21:1-14)
— L. Z. Trembley
Atah, Atah, Atah! You, You, You!
I stand opposed to you, Creator of Cosmos.
I am your dark counterpart, Unmaker of a world.
Six month’s mockery of maternal devotion –
My once variegated life, now monochrome pain.
By day scattering carrion crows:
by night defying jackals
to keep my offspring safe.
A mother nurtures her children’s with milk from her body;
In reversal, I have nursed my children’s bodies
through stages of putrefaction.
I bore my service to another’s pleasure,
and delivered young into his hands.
I forbore violation by that dog’s head, turncoat general.
Now I bear unspeakable grief at your hands.
When will I have borne enough?
Answer me, O Great Verb of Being!
How do you differ from the gods of unbeing, Chemosh, Milcom?
They, too, demand mothers’ sacrifice
to their insatiable appetites for blood,
accursed fruit of woman’s womb.
Your new beloved king betrayed them to their deaths –
My beautiful Armoni, child of royal palace;
My broken Mephisboseth with his poor crippled feet.
Your king promised my son, “You will always eat at my table.”
Yet when Gibeonites came with their claims of blood guilt,
he handed over sons of Rizpah, sons of Merab,
to be impaled upon this mountain.
(“Lament of Rizpah” continues)
Give back my sons; return them with my life.
Give back the past six months –
from barley harvest to autumn rains –
spent on this rocky, sackcloth-covered couch.
But you cannot; all are lost.
Since you cannot; since you do not show yourself or answer,
I call upon all gods to make you know
the depths of my suffering.
From your impassible throne, high and lifted up,
May you be brought down to such a place of execution, death
on this or some other mountain.
Let a son of yours be hung in shame – sacrifice
to political expedience, betrayed, abandoned,
dying in agony.
Only then will I be satisfied, and your atonement made.
* * *
Beyond the Door
— L.Z. Trembley
More than imagination:
Scuffling, scratching, snuffling;
Muffled thumps, bumps
Looms large, larger
in dark –
Needle spines, snatching dactyls,
thousand malignant eyes.
Trembling fingers reach;
[“The Castle – Labyrinth,” here]
The Silver Hands – A Fairy Tale
— L.Z. Trembley
Once upon a time, there were two people who were introduced to each other by their mutual friend, Nick. It was a perfect match. They fit each other like lock and key, hand and glove, Scylla and Charybdis.
At the engagement party, Nick was congratulated for his match-making.
He brushed it off with modesty, “Nick, knack, paddy whack.” He snapped his fingers, “Simple as that!”
“Now that I’ve brought you two together . . . Heh-heh-heh! . . . I want you to promise me that if you have a little girl, you’ll give me her hand in marriage. Heh-heh-heh!” said Nick.
“Heh-heh-heh,” laughed the man.
“Heh-heh-heh,” laughed the woman.
Nick left; they didn’t see him again for many years. They tied the knot, and were so tightly knit with their fangs in each other’s throat, that when they married and had a daughter, she could find no way into their bond. She walked a circle around them looking for an opening, but could find none. So they created a position for her, a job for her to do.
The father was a lycanthrope, the mother a Magyar vampir. Every month at the full moon, he would change into a raging, ravening wolf. The woman was not actually afraid of him, but she shrieked for effect and ran about in mock horror. She was the director of these little scenarios of domestic violence, and as a vampire, she was in no danger of death. Their monthly impromptu dramas when the lunacy was upon him diverted her.
The task they gave the girl was to pet his heaving sides, scratch his ears, and convincingly say soothing phrases, “Good doggie. Nice doggie. What a good boy!” But seeing his bared fangs, her voice shook, her hand shook, her whole body shook.
When the girl had turned into a maiden, Nick reappeared one day.
“Heh-heh-heh,” Nick cried. “Long time no see!”
“Nick, where have you been?” asked the man.
“What have you been up to all this time?” asked his wife.
“Been to London to visit the queen. . . . Going to and fro on the earth, walking up and down on it. . . . Time to settle down, get married, have some kids.”
“That’s great,” said the man.
“That’s fine,” said his wife.
“Who’s the lucky woman?” they asked.
“Heh-heh-heh! I thought you knew. We had an understanding.”
“An understanding?” the man said.
“About what?” his wife asked.
“An understanding that I would have your daughter for my wife.”
“But that was just a joke,” said the man.
“We thought you were kidding,” said his wife.
“No. It was no joke. I am in deadly earnest.”
“You can’t mean it!” said the man.
“Oh, but I do,” said Nick.
“You can’t be serious,” said the wife.
“Oh, but I am,” said Nick.
“But what if she won’t have you?”
“She’ll have me. I’ve come for your daughter’s hand in marriage.”
“We can’t allow such a thing.”
“I have come for your daughter . . . Nick, knack, paddy whack,” he snapped his fingers. “Simple as that.”
“What if we refuse?” said the man.
“I’ll take her. I’ve come for your daughter, and I’ll have her or her hand.”
“Are you insane?” said the wife.
“No, just insistent. We had a bargain.”
“But we didn’t think you meant it.”
“Nonetheless, I did mean it, and I do.”
“We won’t give you our daughter.”
“Very well, I’ll settle for a hand each of yours.”
“You are insane.”
“Which is it to be?”
“We need a little more time.”
“Yes. You’ve waited this long, can’t you wait one more week?”
“One week, seven days, I’ll be back.”
As soon as Nick was gone, the wife started in on the man. “A fine friend he’s turned out to be. Where did you pick him up from?”
“Me? I thought he was your friend”
“Don’t lay this at my door.”
“You’re the one who’s always flirting and making eyes at all the men.”
“Spare me that old song and dance number.”
“If you weren’t such an old alley cat none of this would have happened.”
“If you were more of a man, you mean, with a decent job and decent friends. All your friends are shiftless, white trash, no-accounts.”
They were at each other’s throats, held in tight embrace. They sucked each other dry. When seven days were up they were too weak to offer Nick more than token resistance.
“Heh-heh-heh. Here we are again. What’s it to be? The hand of your daughter, or one each of yours?”
“I need both mine, I’m a handyman.”
“I need mine for fancy handwork.”
While the parents could not be said to love their daughter, they could not be said not to love her either. They would have said they surely did. The problem was that they didn’t know what love was. What they called love was closer akin to possession, and when one owns something it is theirs to do with what they wish. They didn’t want to part with the girl – she belonged to them . . . and was useful. But, to give the devil his due, here was Nick insisting on his share of the spoils. Nick saw them exchanging furtive glances.
He said, “I see how it is to be, so then . . . Nick, knack, here’s an axe; take some whacks. Simple as that!” He snapped his fingers. “Heh-heh-heh.”
They called the girl and told her what was to be done. She was terrified and began weeping.
“It’s for your own good.”
“We’re trying to protect your interests.”
“You’ll learn that you have to make sacrifices for those you love.”
“It has to be done.”
“There aren’t any other choices.”
“Don’t be such a pantywaist.”
“After all we’ve done for you. . .”
“You have nothing to complain about.”
The man took her out back and chopped off her hands. She returned with bloody stumps. The father handed over the pair of hands.
“Keep the axe,” Nick said. “If her hands grow back, I’m taking her.”
“Let me bandage your wounds,” the mother said. “You’re bleeding all over. Just look at the mess you’re making.”
From time to time the hands did begin to grow back. The timing seemed to coincide with developments in the girl’s life – teaching herself to ride a bicycle, walking home from school alone, making a new friend. The new growth of tiny fingers sprouting from the stumps looked like an infant’s fingers peeping out from sleeves of a baby sweater. The mother would notice and inform the father; he would chop them off.
But then he died. An animal control officer shot him with a silver bullet through the heart under a full moon when he got out and ran howling through the streets. The girl was relieved when she heard. She felt lighter knowing she would never again need to face that snarling muzzle, but she felt sadness, too. She would not ever again pet the warm silky silver pelt of his panting sides.
So the mother took charge of the chopping. By then the axe had grown dull, so she made a botch of it. She became enraged with the girl. “What’s the matter with you? Show some self-respect; take care of yourself. Give yourself a manicure.”
Some of the neighbors, though, were very kind. They bandaged the maiden’s wounds as best they could and fed her nourishing tidbits.
‘Tis said we can learn from our pain and suffering, and perhaps ‘tis so, for the maiden learned. She purchased a guillotine and by clever manipulation of the rope with her teeth, was able to raise the blade and chop off her own hands when they began to grow.
Much to the maiden’s mortification, whenever the mother entertained company, she would insist that the maiden play piano for their guests. When the maiden demurred, the mother would say, “You shouldn’t be ashamed of your accomplishments. The problem with you is that you have an inferiority complex. Now play.”
So the maiden would push the piano bench into position with her toe, sit down at the keyboard, and play: BAM-BAM-BAM! a thumping cacophony of tritones and tone clusters. Then the mother would say to the guests, “We always saw to it that she had every advantage.” To the girl she would say while everyone was listening, “You are so wonderful. You are perfect.”
When they were alone, however, the mother would chastise the daughter. “You’re lazy. I work my fingers to the bone, but you don’t even lift a hand to help.”
One day, the maiden wandered off. It was impossible that she should leave on purpose. She walked aimlessly into the forest. Nick snuck up behind her and whispered in her ear, “You’re old Nick’s bride; don’t forget it.” She shuddered. Dazed, and lost, and very weary, she lay down at the side of the path and curled up in a nest of tall grasses.
A beneficent Spirit enwrapped her in caring arms and cradled her while she slept. When the maiden woke, the Spirit led her to a Garden of Earthly Delights. Fruit trees of every description curtsied to her, bending down to offer her fruit to eat from their branches.
In the morning, the owner of the garden, a certain prince (among men) was walking in the garden and saw that something was amiss. Leaves lay scattered on the ground and the core of a pear hung where a whole fruit should be. The same occurred the next night. On the next morning, the prince resolved to keep watch and solve the mystery.
That night he hid among the shadows and waited. At midnight, the maiden appeared led by the friendly apparition. He watched as the trees curtsied, proffering their fruit, and the maiden ate standing on tiptoe. He observed the ghostly companion enfolding the maiden in a protective presence. When the maiden had finished eating, the prince stepped into the moonlight revealing himself.
The maiden gasped.
“So it is you, who has been visiting my garden and eating my fruit.”
She had no words to explain herself. She fell to her knees and raised her stumps in supplication.
He studied the handless stumps and the maiden’s disheveled appearance dispassionately.
He took her forearms in his hands and helped her rise. He smiled at her. The Spirit glowed brighter than the moonlight.
Events went on apace from such a promising beginning. The prince asked the maiden to be his wife, and their marriage was solemnized in the palace chapel. By way of apology, the prince explained his circumstances, “I am only a second son. I will probably never succeed to the throne. Such being the case, only two routes were open to me – the military or the church; I chose the latter.”
The maiden responded to this confidence, “You are the king of my heart.”
The prince replied, “You are my queen.”
The prince had a pair of prosthetic hands built for her. They were so well contrived that when you could not hear their tiny motors, you could believe them to be real, normal hands. He taught her to hold a pen and to write – song, verses, stories. He loved her very well and never deprecated her for her disability.
She, for her part, was very grateful and loved him with all her heart. She told him the whole of her past. He could not fully comprehend it, nor could she. “I am not a werewolf, but I do like dogs; I am not a vampire, but I do not like mirrors.”
They moved into the palace. One day the maiden climbed the staircase to the tallest turret. There she found a bright and airy chamber. “Welcome, my dear. I have been waiting for you.” The speaker was a woman neither old nor young with golden hair and eyes the color of sapphires.
“‘Waiting’? For me?”
“Oh yes, waiting for many weeks. I have observed you exploring the castle in my scrying glass. I am Aurora, your fairy godmother.” She rose and revealed herself to be of elfin stature as she crossed the room to embrace the maiden.
“I didn’t know I had a fairy godmother.”
“Ah, yes. Such is the sad state of the world in which we live. Many persons do not know they have fairy godmothers. But now you do. I am so glad we have found each other.”
And so began a wonderfully satisfying relationship for the maiden. Aurora taught her many helpful things and reassured her about secret qualms. She encouraged the maiden toward wholeness – in spite of her history and the loss of her hands.
“Dearest, Aurora, I am so grateful for all your kind guidance.”
“You are welcome, my dear. You are, you know, a pearl of great price.”
The maiden wept to hear words of such kindness. They sounded strange, like a foreign tongue, upon her ears. She whispered, “A pearl of great price.”
The prince did eventually assume the throne, and the maiden was acknowledged as his queen. Whenever he made a royal progress through the realm or paid official visits to other monarchs, he relied on Aurora’s reports of the queen’s well-being. For this purpose, Aurora kept a dovecote of snow white birds to carry messages back and forth.
So it was that the king went on a difficult diplomatic mission. Before he left, he obtained Aurora’s assurance that she would keep him regularly apprised of the queen’s welfare.
The queen was deeply saddened by the king’s absence, reminding her as it did of times passed in which those closest to her, while physically present were emotionally absent. Aurora sent the king her first message on a scrap of parchment sealed in a tiny capsule tied to a dove’s leg. The message read:
SHE FEELS GREAT PAIN
OF THE PAST
Aurora was concerned for her charge who pined not only at the king’s extended absence but from her painful past.
Nick was up for playing tricks and intercepted the message. Though he was not capable of creating anything of his own, he took satisfaction in warping and distorting the works of others. He altered the message to read.
SHE GRIEVES NOT
NOR FEELS GREAT PAIN
OF THE PAST WEEKS
When the king received the doctored message, he was deeply wounded, but he wrote –
I AM NOT
Before this message could reach Aurora, Nick intercepted it and changed its wording:
I WILL NOT
Aurora was horrified by this message. Reluctantly, she shared it with the queen, and then hastily sent off her answer:
SHE HOLDS YOU
IN HER HEART
AS NO OTHER
ALL IN SADNESS –
SHE IS SILENT
TO THINK YOU REGARD
HER SO UNKINDLY.
DO NOT BE, O KING,
Nick was thoroughly enjoying his little game. He tampered with this message so that it read:
SHE HATES YOU
IN HER HEART
AS NO OTHER.
ALL IS MADNESS!
SHE IS VIOLENT;
SHE THINKS YOUR REMARKS
O KING, SHE IS
The king was distraught over this message, yet he immediately wrote to Aurora:
WHAT CAN SHE MEAN?
I CANNOT BEAR HER
I WISH HER ONLY WELL
I LOVE HER
BEYOND ALL THOUGHT
Nick cackled and snapped his fingers as he rewrote the message to say:
WHY IS SHE SO MEAN?
I CANNOT BEAR HER
I WISH HER ONLY ILL
I MOVE HER
BEYOND ALL THOUGHT
Aurora saw matters running toward disaster. She was shocked by the king’s vengeful message. Nevertheless, she tried to soften the king’s ferocity toward the queen.
SHE FEARS YOU
JUDGE HER HARSHLY
AND THINK HER
LIKE HER MOTHER.
EACH DAY SHE LOVES YOU
Nick adjusted Aurora’s appeal until he turned it into a damning piece of evidence –
SHE HEARS YOU AND
LIKE HER MOTHER.
EACH DAY SHE LOSES
The king was prostrate with grief when he received Aurora’s presumed message. In pain, he wrote:
SHE IS NOT
LIKE HER MOTHER
SHE DESERVES TO
OF THE MISTAKEN NOTION
IT CHAFES MY HEART
SHE WOULD BELIEVE
Nick snickered and snapped with evil glee as he twisted the king’s words, warping them to his cruel intentions . . .
SHE IS JUST
LIKE HER MOTHER
SHE DESERVES TO
AT THE STAKE
IT CHAFES MY HEART
SHE WOULD BE FREED –
O HER WILES!
Upon receiving this alarming communication from the king, Aurora was convinced he was afflicted with some madness. She resolved to take action to save the queen. Aurora helped the queen quickly pack a few items of clothing; she slipped into the queen’s prosthetic palm a small heart-shaped container. “It holds precious Balm of Gilead. Rub it into the skin of your stumps if they should pain you.” With that she blessed the queen and kissed her on each cheek; she commended her to the care of the blessed Spirit.
Led once more by the beneficent Spirit, the queen journeyed deep into the heart of the forest. The trees blocked the way standing in close ranks. After days of weary walking, they, at last, stumbled upon a faint track. They followed the path for many miles more before it led them to a clearing. In the midst of a golden meadow, nestled a humble inn. Its thatch roof overhanging the windows so that it looked like it wore a head of hair hanging into its eyes. The queen took refuge in this hidden place.
As soon as the queen was gone from the palace, Aurora swept the ashes from her grate into a small casket bound with silver and secured with a lock and key of gold. When the king returned from his embassy and asked for the queen, Aurora brought the casket and carried his three messages in a velvet reticule. Bowing low with cold politeness, she presented the casket to the king.
“What may this be?” he asked in puzzlement. “And where is our pearl?” He opened the casket and saw the ashes within. “Lady Aurora, what is the meaning of these ashes?” Aurora looked at him, and said nothing. “What is the meaning of this cryptic casket?” His voice rose. “Where is my lady wife?”
In a hard voice Aurora replied, “There in your hands you hold her, as was your wish.”
“My wish? What do you mean?”
Aurora showed him the messages that he allegedly had sent. “I never wrote these.” He examined each one closely. “These are forgeries. Look carefully; you can see where the original has been scraped from the skin.” Suddenly, the realization struck that he had inadvertently been the occasion of her death. Great heaving sobs wracked his body for both grief and guilt.
When Aurora saw that he truly loved the queen. She comforted him, and told him that the queen was alive. Still in his travelling attire, he set out to search for her. It took him seven years and seven months and seven days to find her.
The king was wandering like a wild man in the depths of the forest when he came upon a hidden inn in the midst of a golden meadow. By this time his hair had gone gray and was hanging long and shaggy over his shoulders. His gray beard fell to his waist and was entangled with twigs. His clothes were tattered, and travel stained. He was exhausted. As he crossed the threshold of the inn, he collapsed.
When he opened his eyes again he thought he must be delirious because as he looked at the face watching at his bedside, he thought it the face of his beloved queen. He stretched out his hand toward that face; we wanted to trace the eyes and nose and lips. He wanted his fingertips to inquire into the identity of that face. His had slowly extended a single finger to traverse the distance and when he contacted warm flesh, the strangely familiar face did not flinch or turn away.
But then, he realized his mistake even as his eyes filled with tears and he could no longer see clearly. The person who belonged to the face covered his hand with her own. The hand touching his was living flesh rather than whirring mechanism. He dropped his hand in desolation. It was not she.
Then she spoke and in his disbelief he heard her voice. “Oh my dearest, it is I.”
She rose from her place and crossed the room. When she returned she bore in her hands the other prosthetic pair. And then she told him of daily rubbing her stumps with the Balm of Gilead and how Aurora’s gift had brought healing and wholeness. Her hands had grown back – first as baby hands, innocent and vulnerable; then as little girl hands plump and playful; and finally as a grown woman’s hands filled with caring compassion. With these last words she reached out her woman’s hands to caress his face, and both their faces were wet with tears.
Were this an ordinary fairy tale, it would end here with the words: “And they all lived happily ever after.” But this is not a fairy tale of the usual sort. They did return to the palace and lived happily together for a very long time . . . though not long enough.
One day the king died, and the queen knew a pain far greater than having her two hands severed. She thought she might die of the pain. Her grief was cruel; her anguish deep. With the king’s death, part of her very being was ripped from her; she was less than half a person in her loss. Alone in her chamber, she howled like a tortured animal.
Nonetheless, day after day, she rose and made her way to the throne room where she attended to the business of the realm, because it was her duty . . . and there was none else to do it. The queen grew old, and perhaps wise, and sometimes knew herself to be happy in the midst of her grief. When the queen looked at her hands she saw the hands of a crone — spotted, gnarled, with blue veins snaking across their backs. In the secrecy of her chamber she would take out the pair of prosthetic hands which the prince had given her, and she would hold them, palm to palm, wrapping fingers around fingers, as though holding the hands of another.
* * *
Aurora kept watch over the queen and continued to companion her and advise her in the ruling of the realm. One day she chose one of her sturdiest doves to carry a particular message which she fully expected to be intercepted. She tightly wrapped the strip of parchment and slipped it into its capsule. The laden dove flew from the open window.
As Aurora had anticipated, Nick was lurking in the surrounding forest. He snapped his fingers and snatched the dove from the air . . .
Look at that!
Like an acrobat.
Fortunately, the dove had already flown free and was in midair when he began to read, otherwise he would have wrung its neck in sheer spite. As it was the message vaporized in his fiery fingers, but before it did, he saw Aurora’s message: “Love never ends.”
Biographical Sketch — L.Z. Trembley
Poet, writer, musician and visual artist, L.Z. (Lo-Ann Zohra) Trembley is the author of Green Blade Rising: Reflections on Grief and Grieving (2014) and Singable Psalms: Versified Psalms Set to Familiar Tunes (2016), both available at www.stepstowritespirit.com; she recently completed Flashback: A Scrapbook of Triumph over Trauma. Previously, Lo-Ann and her husband, David, co-authored three books – Emmaus Eyes: Worship with The Mentally Challenged (Eden Publishing, Keizer, OR, 1996), Pray with All Your Senses: Discovering The Wholeness Jesus Brings (ACTA, Chicago, IL, 1997), The Gratitude Attitude: A Joyful Christian’s Guide to Living More Richly with Less, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2003), and a six-booklet series Drama in the Church, (Educational Ministries, Prescott, AZ, 1994).
A 1974 graduate of the University of Toledo (OH), BA-Theatre, cum laude and The Chicago (IL) Theological Seminary, M.Div, 1978, Lo-Ann also holds an MA – Theatre and Interpersonal Communication, from Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI, 1991. She is an ordained American Baptist clergyperson, currently serving as pastor of Broken Walls Christian Community – a congregation comprised of persons who happen to be recovering from serious mental illness or addiction.
Lo-Ann plays recorder with the Wilson Park Recorder Ensemble and MARS (Milwaukee Area Recorder Society),” in addition to teaching violin/viola with the Milwaukee Center for Strings and coaching with Music Makers. In her capacity as pastor of Broken Walls Christian Community, Lo-Ann serves with the Religious Leaders Caucus of MICAH and the Interfaith Cabinet as a representative for the American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin. She is a member of the American Baptist Ministers’ Council. In her free time Lo-Ann enjoys reading in many genres, and for the past eighteen years, she has played both Yang and Wu t’ai qi styles.
[“Garden Path,” here]
My Unintentional Writing Mentors
— Bob Young
For the longest time I’ve been attracted to classic movies and have made a pest of myself in my family for tuning to the Turner Classic Movie channel as my default choice on T.V. Unfortunately, my wife and children ask me when we are watching together, to choose any movie as long as it’s not in black and white.
What originally attracted me to old movies were the performances of Bogart, Crawford, Powell, Gable and their ilk. Like most human beings I’m drawn to the shiny things in life. Extraordinary acting lured me to those old flicks shining on the silver screen.
But, as a writer, I noticed that it was actually the scripts that made the actors shine. The words the actors spoke and the emotions they created came from words fashioned by a scriptwriter. The actors’ performances on the screen were due in large part to good writing. I began to look at the writers who made my favorite movies so endearing. The fact that these old films could affect me so completely, made me realize that people I had never met could become my writing mentors.
Take the movie Humoresque starring Joan Crawford and John Garfield, and directed by Jean Negulesco, for an example. Wikipedia informs me that the movie is based on a story by Fannie Hurst, whose “work combined sentimental, romantic themes with social issues of the day, such as women’s rights and race relations; . . .for a time in the 1920’s she was one of the highest-paid American writers.” The screenplay was written by two men, Zachary Gold and Cifford Odets. Gold was educated at the University of Wisconsin, and was known both for his short stories and his screenwriting. Gold’s colleague, the famous Clifford Odets, is known for (what Wikipedia calls) “socially relevant dramas.” These three writers, Hurst, Gold and Odets, created the script that became the powerful, tragic romance, Humoresque.
The inspiration of these unintentional mentors made me eager to write more effectively. Little did they know that their cinematic writing in 1946 would inspire a writer in 2017. I aspire to such an implicit accolade for my writing as this comment on the liner notes for the Humoresque DVD: “In this acclaimed and profound exploration of desire, Crawford makes Helen a rich, layered character torn between selfless love and selfish impulses.” These three writers provided Joan Crawford with material to shape her performance, but they also gave me the motivation to write and to grow as a writer.
A Vacation Upgrade
“How about lunch in Turner’s Corner?” Tom said.
“Turner’s Corner? It’s too small to have more than one?”
“After driving the blue line roads on this map for three weeks of this vacation you should be ready for Turner’s Corner, Nora.”
“Lunch it is.”
“It seems the corner turns because the road has to go around the Marshall Creek Military Reservation.”
“That obstacle might take us out of our way?”
“We still should get to Aunt Edna’s for supper tonight. There aren’t many other small towns to slow us down the rest of the day.”
“A light lunch is in order.”
“With Aunt Edna in our future.”
“The last time we were there she had enough food for a family reunion.”
“Our cooler will be healthy again.”
“Sure. When we move on, she’ll stake us with enough cold chicken, potato salad, and rhubarb pie to get us all the way home.”
“A pit stop in Turner’s Corner and then Aunt Edna’s.”
Our lunch stop was typical of so many we made. There was a place to gas up the car, buy groceries, stamps, and a newspaper. The convenience store was next to the feed-store-hardware combo and across the street from a luncheonette next to a community hall. Houses filled in a really short main drag, interrupted by the beauty parlor barber shop sharing an entrance, a grade school, and an insurance agency. The bank was the most permanent looking structure. A side street cut by it into a neighborhood of front-porched family homes garnished with flowers and cushioned gliders. Children played in small front yards.
It was middle-America.
We were sensitized to the pace and the atmosphere of Turner’s Corner because Tom and I worked hard to create enough time to wander the county roads over six states. We went looking for everything but city life, and we found it. Reaching Aunt Edna’s house meant we would be in the vicinity of home in a night or two. We went home in the style with which we ventured out taking two weeks for the return trip.
“I’m going to pay for this gas, Nora. Want anything?”
“No. I’ll meet you at the restaurant.”
I walked past a few homes once I crossed the street toward the diner and greeted an older man standing at his gate.
“To the devil with you.” He turned to spit into a rose bush.
I tried to formulate a response, but he was quicker.
“Don’t sass me now! I already expect you know it all.” His back was already turned to me as he toddled on a cane toward the only house on the street that seemed to need care.
My eyes left his retreating back and swept the street, his sharp greeting begging a reassessment of his town. But all I saw lifted me. Here was a little town obviously loved by an industrious people. Homes were well kept. The streets were clean. Gardens were tended and imaginatively organized. Children played happily.
I wrote the old man off as the town curmudgeon. I walked into the diner full of wonderful odors and a buzz of conversation.
The place struck me. It was full of young adults. Both the clientele and the waitresses were our age, except for one fellow who was beginning to show some crow’s feet around his eyes. He seemed to be the center of attention.
“Hi. What would you like?” an ebullient waitress offered.
“I guess I’d like to join this party.”
“Birthdays are fun,” she purred.
“Looks like a good segment of town turned out for this one, too.”
“Yep. George is fifty today.”
The street door slamming pulled me around. Tom stood plastered against it to avoid being run over by a pained and angry seventy-year-old woman as she barged past him.
“George McHenry, get back to work.”
The diner erupted in laughter as the older woman dragged the birthday ‘boy’ from his place of honor. With a laugh and a shrug of his shoulders, he waved goodbye. A chorus of salutes and laughter sent him on his way.
“What was all that about?” Tom asked as he sat down next to me.
The waitress answered, “Lavinia doesn’t like George hanging out in the diner. She’s afraid he’ll get involved with one of us single gals.” The waitress handed me the menu.
“He looks old enough to know better,” I replied.
“But he’s young enough to get in trouble,” she quipped.
“If I had a mother like George has, I’d take her meddling a lot less jovially than he does,” Tom commented, taking a look at the special of the day.
“That’s not his mother, that’s his wife.”
“Is that right?” Tom said, confused by the stark age difference.
“No wonder she’s worried,” I offered. “This is a younger crowd. Does your place cater to the young adults in town?”
“We’re the place to hang out.”
That certainly seemed evident. Tom and I commented on the statistical oddity that Turner’s Corner was. Unlike so many rural communities, the young people had stayed. Their commitment to their little town was clear. Their energy and intense loyalty kept almost everything in sight well maintained, bright, and shiny. A few crabby seniors seemed to be the only break in the pattern.
Our food appeared through a stainless steel hatch near our seats, and was delivered by another ancient looking man. We had asked for ice water with our meal, having had our fill of diet sodas from our cooler during the morning’s drive. Our waitress seemed to be apologizing to him for making him come out of the kitchen with the order. Her attempt at friendly exchange fell on deaf ears. He gave her a withering look and creaked with a decided limp back through the kitchen doors.
We ate, paid our bill, and walked back to our car. We both simultaneously noticed that we weren’t going anywhere. All four tires were flat.
“You’re more stupid than the people who live here.”
We turned to see the crabby curmudgeon I had encountered. Both of us hesitated. His comment interrupted any normal reaction to our sorry situation. I glanced at Tom who was looking more and more wounded that his precious car was hobbled. Tom was put off by the cantankerous senior.
“Don’t just gape at me. You’d think people from a big town like Milwaukee would have enough sense to stay on the Interstate.”
“We’re just passing through.” I kicked myself for sounding like a matron in a ‘B’ movie.
“To where? This is the end of the world.”
Tom eyed the codger and muttered, “I’ll go to the service station…”
“They won’t give you a tow, even though there are young ones there. I own the place.”
I was beginning to lose my cool. “There’s nothing friendly about that.” Involuntarily I kicked at a flat tire.
“Why expect friendliness here? This town’s going to hell in a hand basket.” The old man was laughing so hard, his cane might not keep him upright.
“Everyone at the restaurant was super. They treated us…”
“Not everyone,” he pointed out. “They let you drink the water with your meal. You’re a part of Turner’s Corner now.”
Tom muttered through unmoving lips, “This guy’s wacko, Nora. I’ll find some help at the diner.” He walked away swearing under his breath, and frustrated by this nightmare that had suddenly broken out at midday.
“Now, Nora, let him go.” My head snapped toward the old man when I heard my name. “He’ll find out what’s going on in his own way.” I took a couple of deep breaths to keep from ripping into him — especially when he smiled as he saw me getting a better hold on myself. “You’ll never be the same now that you’ve drunk water from our system.”
“The Army contaminated it years ago. It was a big scare at the time. Experts from Washington and top brass from the nearby base were crawling all over Turner’s Corner.”
“Everyone seems fine.”
“That’s what they concluded at first. After a few years, we started to see the results of their fooling around over there at Marshall Creek.” He started to walk away.
“Where are you going?” My voice was almost a whisper.
“It’s time for my nap.”
“There’s got to be more… .” Emotion thickened my throat as I ran after him.
“There sure is. But I’m not going to tell you.” He turned and smiled at my startled face. I could feel tears welling in my eyes. “Go see Markee Rutherford, 212 Oak Street. She’ll tell you the rest. After all, she’s the oldest person in town.”
With that, he left me on the sidewalk, heart pounding, wondering whether a stop in Turner’s Corner was going to cost me more than a late arrival at Aunt Edna’s.
I met Tom coming out of the restaurant. He looked more frustrated, but seemed determined to get repair for his tires. I dragged him along to Oak Street. He was babbling his amazement that his plea for help had received only laughter at the lunch spot. Tom was still spluttering out confusion when I knocked at 212.
“Yes?” A woman about thirty years old asked through a screen door.
She eyed us – a moody thirty year-old. Not very reassuring.
“We’re just visiting town and wanted to meet your oldest resident. You know, we wanted to talk with her about the history of this town and things like that.” I’m such a lousy liar. Tom and this woman obviously thought I was crazy. Tom didn’t want to talk to anyone about history. This person behind the screen door knew we were in trouble or about to make some.
“Mrs. Rutherford is in the backyard. She’s partial to the sandbox these days.” The woman slammed the front door in our faces.
I walked around the house following the sounds of happy chatter of many children. Approaching a wooden gate in a fence, I looked over into a spacious playground formed of several adjacent backyards where at least a dozen children roamed. The grassy playground contained some lovely trees along with a variety of play equipment. I let myself in through the gate, and noticed Tom following at a distance. His heart just wasn’t in it, but he would catch up. I sauntered into the yard confident that one of these children would lead me to Markee Rutherford.
The children nearest me looked up from their play and froze. They stopped to look over this stranger who was definitely invading their turf.
“Is Mrs. Rutherford out here with you somewhere?” Another group of playmates turned to see the stranger. “Is she a member of your family?” The children were unsure whether or not to help me. They weren’t even looking at each other. There seemed to be a code of silence here. “The lady in this house told us we’d find her with you.” A group of children from almost two houses away started to run towards me, the leader, a boy, was carrying a baseball bat. The boy was about eight and clearly the oldest child in the group. As the boy approached, Tom picked up his pace and came through the gate. The boy stood right in front of me, resting the bat on his shoulder but gripping it with both hands.
“I’m just looking for Mrs. Rutherford,” I spoke gently, sensing a potential playground riot.
Slowly, from back of the pack that had just run up, a young girl stepped next to the batter.
“I’m Markee Rutherford.”
Tom touched my arm. “Let’s just get the car fixed and get out of here.”
“Wait, Tom.” To the girl, I asked, “You’re the Markee Rutherford that the owner of the service station told us was the oldest person in town?”
“Floyd sent you?”
“Is that his name?”
“Yes, Floyd’s had it pretty hard. He did something to your car?”
Tom’s face reddened as he quickly explained, “Flattened all four tires.” Markee looked at both of us for a minute.
“You deserve to understand more about what we’ve been through,” the child’s voice sounded sad.
“I’d like that, if you’re willing.” My voice softened.
“Sure. Come on over to the picnic table and I’ll try to explain things to you.”
As we moved to the table, most of the children went back to their games. But four other children stood around the table as Markee, Tom, and I sat together in the shade of an old maple tree. Markee’s shoulders and head barely cleared the table top.
“A strange gift has been given to us. It’s strange because it is a gift only for some and because it came from the military reservation in their attempt to build a new weapon.”
Tom and I shot quick looks at each other, drop-dead amazed that this story was coming out of the body of a five-year-old child.
“Something got into the water?” My voice was even softer.
“Yes, but before we realized that, the changes began to appear. We would reach fifty years of age and if we had left blame behind, we would grow younger.”
“Blame?” My eyes surely showed confusion.
“As far as we can tell, blame is the key.”
“What do you mean?”
“Those of us who look at each other as opportunities, and not the cause of the problem, began to see changes.”
Tom threw up his hands in protest. “Most people have some troublesome acquaintances in their lives who plague them,”
“We found a discernable, definable level of maturity in some of us. We looked at each other, even at Floyd, and saw gift.”
“But all of these changes and observations didn’t sink in until after the Army had the accident?”
“Quite a while ago their scientists and a handful of officers told us a germ warfare experiment entered the stream that supplies our watershed.”
“They were surprised we weren’t dead.”
“Good thing it failed.” Nervousness colored Tom’s voice.
“The scientists had a hard time masking their disappointment, actually.”
“The Army’s worked with us over the years as we became more aware of the changes that were taking place.”
“Not everyone gets younger again?”
“There’s been some friction.”
Tom’s mouth twisted wryly. “We noticed.”
“Learning not to blame is difficult.” Markee sounded weary. “It’s a realization that comes in the midst of special experiences.”
“Haven’t you built it into the school curriculum or something?” Tom continued to struggle.
“The gift doesn’t seem to come easily. There also isn’t complete agreement to try to help everyone have the experience?”
“Why?” Wonder infused my voice with emotion.
“We don’t know what will happen when I reach birth age.”
“Oh…” The realization came in tandem to Tom and me.
“That’s right, if you’re the oldest…”
“I’ll be the first one to get back to infancy.”
We sat there; silently absorbing her statement. The other “children” at the table, being close in age to their friend, rustled nervously without comment.
Empathy bubbled up in me. “Just the physical changes you have gone through to return to five years of age must have been challenging.”
“More than I could begin to share this afternoon.” A knowing murmur from the rest of the children suggested a community of spirit that went deep.
“Are you sure you are getting enough help from the Army? We could research any more assistance you might need.”
“There’s a more pressing decision.” She looked unflinchingly into my eyes.
“You see, you’ve drunk the water; you’re a part of Turner’s Corner now… a part of our gift and our curse.”
Tom’s defensiveness escaped. “We just had one glass of water with our meal,”
A taller boy slid a little closer to Markee. “That’s all it takes.”
A little smile appeared on Markee’s face. “We’ve picked up some rather talented people for our town this way. A terrific insurance broker and a crackerjack attorney,”
“I have other plans.” I was not ready to decide my fate.
“Think about it. I suspect, at the very least, you’ll want to stay in touch.”
“I can write you?”
“Of course. Someone will always write back,” she offered without expression. Her friends, cognizant of Markee’s situation, froze in place.
A chill ran through me; and my throat thickened with emotion. It seemed right to say goodbye with hugs.
We walked back to the car. Our pace matched Tom’s nervous recital and analysis of what we had experienced. As we walked, my eyes scrutinized the face of every child and young adult I saw. Some of them had been through more life than we could imagine. There was so much to discover about this town, but I knew I didn’t want to stay.
Markee insisted that gas station attendants put air in our tires. There was a boy on the truck along with a crew who appeared older. As the crew worked on the car, I studied the boy. He didn’t speak, but I didn’t think it was because of shyness. He was in charge and acted like an experienced mechanic. I think he was more interested in the strange visitors than in the mundane task of filling four tires.
Tom was trying to give his helpers money.
The boy replied, “We don’t want nothing.’” There was no bitterness in the response.
Neither of us wanted to delay our departure with arguing. The mechanics silently got back into the truck and drove away.
My nerve endings were alive. I felt intensely aware of my surroundings. The car trembled to life; I shivered to my backbone. Tom drove silently. His driving reassured me. He drove carefully through the town, but as soon as the speed limit allowed, he took off.
As the miles separated us from Turner’s Corner, I sagged into my seat. I kicked off my shoes, propped my feet on the dashboard, and put a CD in the player. Tom smiled at my selection. He asked for help reading the map on our display so he could keep his eyes on the road.
He had to turn right ahead and then we would go west again, and on to our destination.
“Aunt Edna will wonder why we’re late.” My mind was trying to embrace my former life.
“I think I’ll give her a call when we get to that town on the Minnesota border.”
“That’s the one; pretty big, isn’t it?”
“Umm, yes, it’s very big by rural standards.”
“A little civilization wouldn’t hurt right about now, huh?”
“You could say that again.”
“Well, we followed the blue-line highways to find America…,”
“Nora, it’s just crazy everywhere, isn’t it?”
“Markee’s had the same struggles we have.”
“Sadly, for longer.”
“She’s living the dream of many an older adult.”
“She’s young again and yet she still knows everything she ever learned.”
“If I knew then what I know now…”
We sped quietly along the blue-line highway. The summer day looked like a perfect sunlit postcard of the heartland. The sun broke through in joyous bursts, parting the clouds. Lush green fields assured the eye that a grand harvest was on the way. Rolling hills invited the mind to the languid repose most vacations anticipated but never achieved.
I drifted mentally; pondering the work challenge with my co-worker, Ronnie, that awaited me. I shared responsibility for our circle of engineers with a man who had become impossible. When I left for vacation, I wanted to ignore how difficult working conditions with him had become. We had functioned satisfactorily for a time, but communication had failed. I found myself wishing for Markee’s long life. Yet, I wondered whether longevity was everything. As long as I lived, my nemesis could find a way to avoid change. Ronnie seemed to think nothing was wrong; there was no incentive for him to try new things. He believed less communication with me — and others — made work more efficient. Ronnie shrugged off my attempts to show our area’s under-performance. Many others were satisfied by Ronnie’s success at protecting our department from layoffs — despite our low productivity. A few of us were chafing at the mediocrity . . .
“What was that?” Tom’s voice brought me back.
Something whizzed past our car waking me from my day dream. “Look out!”
A dark vehicle roared past us going west and then another.
“There’s another one right behind us.” Tom rigidly gripped the wheel expecting to crash. The two trucks ahead suddenly showed brake lights; Tom slowed to avoid
ramming them. Two vehicles pulled up, one on either side; the one on the right straddled pavement and apron and struggled to hold the road. Boxed by the black trucks, we slowed to a stop. Soldiers leapt from the vehicles; with weapons drawn they waved us from our car. We had no choice but to comply.
“What is your name?” the camouflaged face shouted just inches from my nose.
I couldn’t speak. He asked me again and again without giving me time to respond.
“What were you doing in Turner’s Corner?” Another question for which I had no answer. “Why did you drink the water?” While this angry person was barking at me, I could see that the soldiers were searching the car.
“Leave it to the military to screw up even that,” Rashly, I wanted to defy the bounds of this very rude conversation.
“What does that mean?” the angry face shouted.
“You did a number on that town.”
“It seems you were looking for trouble in Turner’s Corner.”
“We were on vacation.” A little more energy erupted from me. I was frosted by the abuse.
“Pretty far off the beaten path, wouldn’t you say?”
“We thought we were finding America. But this feels more like we’ve found Germany during World War Two.” My voice rose in exasperation.
“Which news organization do you work for?”
“We’ll have to see about that.”
“New York Times, Washington Post, CBS?”
“Morley Safer’s in the trunk.” I smirked as I found my equilibrium.
“Ma’am, you’re in deep trouble as it is…”
My jack-o-lantern grin didn’t fade.
A jeep roared up and drowned out his authoritarian tone. My inquisitor’s posture changed, too. He backed off, and I had a chance to look for Tom. From across the hood, I could see his forearms and hands stretched out on the ground. He was lying very still. My anger was eroded by panic. Another figure emerged from the lately arriving vehicle and strode toward me.
“Miss, I’m Captain Stonebeck, the officer on duty here at Marshall Creek Reservation. And you are…?”
“One angry taxpayer,” I sputtered; Tom’s situation frightened me.
“You must understand that some very important …”
“Look around you. Here we are at gunpoint on a state highway.”
“You’re in no danger …”
“Captain, my fiancé is lying on the highway getting a close look at the yellow line and wondering why he ever consented to this vacation. I’m breathless from defending myself to your toughs, and you expect me to think I’m safe?” I looked him sharply in the eye.
“I’d like to change all that and offer you the hospitality of the officer’s club on base.”
“I just want to get to Aunt Edna’s.”
“All in good time.”
“She’s expecting us this afternoon, and we’re already late.”
“We have a very special civilian community on base here. I thought since you had visited Turner’s Corner you would want to consider its benefits.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Over the years, travelers have happened upon that little town and become a part of its special magic as you have.”
“Whenever someone shares in the unique charm of Turner’s Corner, we invite them to stay with us for a while. Many have stayed for a long time. We apologize for the roadside encounter. Our man in town was indisposed today.”
“You mean you…”
“We have a very interesting civilian community on base that enjoys the best benefits Army life can offer, a steady government income, and an attentive scientific staff that looks out for your every need.”
“You let unsuspecting visitors drink the water there so you can kidnap them for scientific purposes?”
“Kidnap is a bit strong…”
“It’s. Not. Strong. Enough. Bucko.”
“I know this seems rather abrupt, but think of the advantages. It would be a very comfortable life, especially for you.”
“I don’t believe you…”
“We would fit you into our world so that your every career desire could be fulfilled.”
“I’d never see the real world again.”
“Our people travel but this situation is very easy to come home to.”
“I don’t know…”
“You would be a very popular addition to the community.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, let’s just say a person your age would complement the profile of people in our little enclave right now.”
“A person my age?”
“The fact that you are young for the first time, it would be helpful to see you interact with some of the people who are young again.”
“Live together in community.”
“Is there a gentle but firm way to tell you that I want to get in that car with Tom and drive away never to see you again?”
“Please think about what you are doing…”
I pushed past the officer to pull Tom his feet, right in the midst of the soldiers and their weapons.
“It’s a beautiful part of our base right by the creek,” the Captain continued selling.
“Get in the car, Tom.”
“Think about it…”
I walked past the captain, certain he would take me into custody. He let me sit in the car. My ears were ringing as his face appeared at my open window.
“The invitation will remain open for quite a while. We’ll stop by and see you every so often to check if you’ve changed your mind.”
The vehicle blocking us pulled off to the side of the road; we were free to drive away. We drove as far as we could before emotion overcame us. Tom stopped in a rest area to pull himself together. We held each other crying and shaking until we were exhausted. Recovered, we drove on to spend a few days with Aunt Edna.
Captain Stonebeck was true to his word.
The invitation is still open.
Monthly visits from a short, balding career sergeant were frightening, at first. The man drives up on the same night each month, at almost exactly the same time. His arrival is more regular and annoying than any other routine I have ever known in my life. His message is always polite, brief, and delivered from outside my screen door. But always frightening.
I finally sat down and wrote what happened in Turner’s Corner. I’m actually looking forward to the sergeant’s visit tonight.
Because I have, at last, decided what I’m going to do.
— Bob Young
I always listened to Carla, the other staff attorney at the State Election Commission where I worked. The woman knew the best restaurants, the most reliable driverless car services, and the best departure times to catch the maglev train to the Twin Cities to beat the rush. She never steered me wrong on cultural matters. There was one thing I kept to myself. I never let her find me dates. Until now.
I actually no longer had a reason to take the thirty-five minute maglev trip to St. Paul. I took an early train last week and walked in on my ex with his drone technician, Mike. I’ve always been quite accepting of diverse lifestyles having grown up a preacher’s daughter in Milwaukee. My mother had always pastored inner city parishes, so my last boyfriend’s preference for another guy didn’t shock me intellectually. Honestly, I surprised myself by how emotionally bruised I felt after discovering them.
Carla had picked up on my distress as soon as my vizstream appeared on her air panel in her work station. We worked on different floors, but we kept in constant touch vizstreaming personal stuff and business as we dealt with legal issues for our department. Monday morning, Carla saw I had had a bad weekend, even though she was looking at me as a two-inch square vizstream image.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said denying the obvious.
“Don’t bullshit me. You look like crap. Who died?”
“No one died…” I heard whining with an edge of annoyance in my voice.
“What happened when you went up to see Alan?”
“When I arrived, he had a guest with him who I didn’t expect to see.”
“What did she look like?”
“He was a young, quite ripped gentleman.”
“I’ll say, ‘Uh oh.’”
Throughout the day, Carla and I discussed the sudden end to my relationship. She morphed from commiserating friend to nagging match maker. I was so unhappy, I took her advice on men for a change. With some takeout Mexican food on my fork, I opened an account on my home air panel at a site called ‘Men Person to Person.’ I slowly tapped on the keyboard sheet on my coffee table reluctantly syncing my ID profile that undergirded my on-line presence into the data flow of the dating website. These days, with heavy encryption and multiple passwords, I felt perfectly comfortable signing up with a service Carla recommended. It took only a minute for my profile to pull into a queue to review a list of six men from my area whose algorithm matched up with mine. This site’s hook was a five minute self-guided tour of a single man’s home. They were pre-recorded but, according to friend Carla, always revealing. Supposedly, the videos were very helpful in deciding whether to arrange a date.
I took another bite of my taco and a sip of wine and clicked the first ‘person to person’ stream. He was certainly handsome enough. Maybe it was the newness of the process but my first match created by the logarithm of my profile didn’t move me. I moved on to number two. No spark. I reluctantly watched three more and was not rewarded for my effort. I was disgusted with Alan’s duplicitous behavior, and the lack of promise in my list of matches depressed me. Happily the phone allowed me to change the subject.
“Emily, it’s Carla.”
“Oh, hi Carla.”
“Have you picked out a boy yet?”
“I wish I had your enthusiasm for this match-making business. The guys that match up with me are a disappointing bunch.”
“I can’t believe they’re all terrible. I want to see their videos and pick one out for you.”
“I can come over tomorrow night after work. I expect you to make dinner.”
“I’ll cook, but you are wasting your time…”
“I think you are just being too hard on the boys.”
“You’ll see for yourself.”
“See you at work tomorrow.”
“Good bye.” I was happy to have her gone.
My dinner was finished but after Carla’s call, I felt the need to refill my wine glass. As I sat down again, I glanced at my air panel and was reminded there was one more profile to view. I sipped my wine and reasserted my disappointment with this process. Halfway through my second glass, I got into a ‘why the hell not’ mood — which is no surprise wine being wine. I gave the voice command to start the last video profile.
“Hi. I’m Corey Harris. Let’s take a quick spin through my home and then I’ll make dinner for you. I live in a cozy loft-style condo near downtown. This is the living room. The dining room is toward the back, which accesses a patio door, and a nice little deck outside with a great view of Lake Mendota. There’s a master bedroom off the living room with a big bathroom. Upstairs is the loft bedroom with its own bath including a cute triangular shower. In here is my kitchen where I am going to make you dinner. I cleaned these shrimp before you came and I’ve melted some butter in this skillet. I’m going to add some garlic and lemon pepper to the butter. The shrimp goes in next and gets sautéed. I’ll pop two pieces of this wonderful 12-grain bread in the toaster to soak up any extra butter when the shrimp gets plated. Over here I’m gently heating up some broccoli. I have a light cheese sauce to add to the tender-crisp florets. I think you’ll like it. I also have a terrific pecan pie from my favorite bakery. A nice little slice of this will finish off the meal. Of course, I have a generous glass of white wine to go with your dinner. I love the massive size of these wine glasses, don’t you? Here’s what your plate will look like if you let me make you dinner. My five minutes are almost up. Consider having dinner with me and afterwards we can go out on the deck and finish our wine and watch the sunset. Thanks for visiting my home. Bye-bye.’
I was amazed. He seemed adorable and a cook, too. I shook my head at the crappy attitude that almost prevented me from watching his profile video. I toggled the box that would send Corey my video. The women on this site did a two minute video simply introducing themselves. Included would be my email address through which we could arrange a date for coffee . . . if he was moved to contact me.
I shut down my air panel and picked a movie from my classic movie service as background while I did some chores. I was able to follow the plot and still pick up around my apartment. As I worked, I kept thinking about Corey’s openhearted attitude. Whoever had done his recording had tilted the camera to show a close-up of the sautéing shrimp, and then zeroed in on that yummy-looking pecan pie. It was smart of Corey to make the condo tour brief, and instead focus on the meal preparation. He’d hooked me with his presentation and lifted my spirits. I tried not to worry about whether or not he would email me for coffee.
I carried some crackers and taco dip into the living room and settled in front of the movie I’d chosen. Even though I enjoyed all of the modern conveniences of life in 2027 Madison, finding and keeping a boyfriend was an old-fashioned problem. I questioned whether advancing technology could actually help me find a trustworthy mate. The movie plot gradually drew me in; I was almost finished with my wine, when my air panel materialized in front of me. I had an email; it was from Corey.
There were his hologram lips forming the words: “Thanks, Emily, for responding to my video profile. I enjoyed yours as well. How about coffee at 6 p.m. at the shop in your lobby tomorrow? Let me know if that works for you. Goodnight. Corey.”
I sat staring at the email. My evening was going to end happily, after all.
I answered him in text-only format, “Sounds perfect. See you tomorrow.”
* * *
“Did you give that site a second try last night?” Carla asked when she saw me walk into work.
“Good morning to you, too,” I replied with an edge to my voice.
“Who has time to be polite when I’m trying to ease your pain and keep you from slipping into depression?”
“You’re so thoughtful but you can go off duty for now, counselor.”
“You found someone,” she announced triumphantly. There’s no one prouder than a successful busybody.
“We’ll see after coffee tonight.”
“Do you want me to come along or send you a rescue text?”
“No and no.”
“You shouldn’t just trust this guy.”
“You were the one who sent me the link. Besides, he picked my favorite coffee shop for our meet up.”
“Oh, you’re safe there. The baristas all know you and would knock the guy on his ass if he looked at you sideways.”
“That’s what I thought.”
We started our work day. I was quickly immersed in the legal issues facing my department. The appointment minder on my phone rang a rude alert that I should leave for my date. I could log on when I got home to finish the brief I had been working on. My boss would be looking for it first thing tomorrow, and he was an early riser. But for
now . . . .
I walked into the coffee shop. Corey was sitting at a table facing the door with a big smile on his face. I walked up to him and thought, “This is a good man.”
“Hi, Corey.” I sat across from him. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“I hope you don’t mind; I ordered your coffee for you.”
“You did, did you?” I gave my barista a knowing look and the man fixing my drink just laughed at me.
“I enjoyed your brief video. You are quite lovely.”
“Thanks. I was impressed with yours, too. Was that shrimp scampi you were making there?”
“Yes. Do you like scampi?”
“I’ll make it for you. So you’re an attorney?”
“Yes. I work for the state election commission. And you’re a programmer for Automatrix 2080? What do they do?”
“We do manufacturing automation.”
“Not like the kinds that walk around?”
“No. My father owns a business that consults with companies that are perfecting humanoid robots. He’s an engineering professor at UW.”
“What does your mom do?”
“I don’t have a mom. My father’s husband is Bertram.”
“But you do like girls, Corey?” I asked with a quizzical smile.
“Very much so.” Corey smiled back.
Our coffee date went really well; Corey suggested we get some dinner. He picked the restaurant, and it just happened to be my favorite. When we got there, he ordered dinner. He chose my favorite meal on their menu. Corey drove me home, and walked me to the door of my building. He asked me if he could see me again; I said yes. He leaned in and gave me a warm, lingering kiss before leaving. I had to admit to myself that I had been hoping for that kiss after only five minutes into our coffee date.
I went to bed totally impressed with how attentive he had been.
We continued to date; Corey was wonderfully attuned to my interests. He anticipated my needs in uncanny ways. Once when we were shopping at West Town Mall and passing a rack of women’s clothes, he startled me.
“Why did you return this dress?” He pulled it off the rack. “You would look good in it.” I looked at him in shock. “You’re probably wondering . . . ,” he said seeing my face.
“This conversation is making me uncomfortable,” I didn’t try to hide the alarm I was feeling. I walked away from him and out into the mall.
“Emily . . . ”
“How?” I turned to look him in the eye. A testiness rose in my voice.
“When I knew we were coming to the mall, I just did . . . a little . . .”
“You did some market research on me?”
“I just like taking care of you.”
“You’ve been talking to Dad #2 a little too much, I think. You don’t have to worry about my taste in clothes that intensely. Just say you like the way I look.” I turned to walked away. He caught up with me and slipped his hand in mine. We walked a while.
“How about stopping at Denny’s for dinner before we go home?”
“You just did it again. I never told you about my obsession with Denny’s. How do you know about that?”
He stood nervously silent for a minute. “I had some help from Dad #1,” he said quietly.
“You data mined my buying habits?”
“Yes, you will. You’re creeping me out.” I stood there trying to decide whether to call a Lyft ride. He calmly looked his adorable self and I melted. “Okay, Corey. Take me to Denny’s.”
For one whole week he stopped obsessing about my interests and proclivities and seemed to relax.
* * *
After we had known each other a couple weeks, we had been making out on my couch. I always made him leave at the end of our dates. I yearned for a complete tumble, so eventually I walked him into my bedroom and we made love. Once again, Corey startled me. He helped me realize my favorite sexual fantasy for the first time ever. He caught me off guard. Supposedly he had sworn off mining my online history. Yet, he knew I repeatedly read a particular female-oriented soft porn story. I felt conflicted — simultaneously humiliated and thrilled. Corey precisely replicated my favorite story-line. His attentions assuaged any anger I had for him over breaking his promise to me.
Corey rolled off me with his face close to mine.
“You promised . . . ,” I said huskily, even as tears of joy rolled down my cheeks.
“But I love you . . . and that’s what lovers do for each other.”
“How did you ever find out my secret?” I asked feeling vulnerable.
“It’s all in your online history.”
I put my arms around his neck, and kissed him hard. I was enjoying the intensity of the kiss, when I felt several small bumps on the back of his neck. Corey kissed back, but I was now focused on what seemed to be growths.
“What is that?” I reached to feel for the moles on the back of his neck.
“What is what?”
“These growths on the back of your neck.”
“Those aren’t growths. That’s my portal.”
“Portal? Lay flat on your belly.” He complied. The light from the candles on my night stand clearly revealed two capped off USB ports. As I felt around these strange upgrades to his body, there was some other larger implant I could feel. “Corey, what is all this?”
“The other object is my Artificial Intelligence processor.”
“You’re kidding . . . ”
“I’m not kidding.”
“You mean . . .”
“Much better than surfing on my phone.”
“While you’re walking around, you can surf in your head?”
“How did you get the upgrade?”
“Corey, you’re a . . .” I paused, hesitant to say what I was thinking.
I rolled onto my back, silently watching the candles’ flickering light patterns dance across the ceiling. I was trying to comprehend who and what I had allowed into my bed. Into my life. The thrill Corey had just given me, faded.
I lay there reviewing my options – beat the crap out of him or call the police. Before I could decide, Corey slipped a hand onto my belly. The move was bold and self-assured. A multitude of thoughts raced through my head. Minutes passed as I reflected on my situation; until his touch clarified my assessment of my very strange lover. “So you also know my second favorite sexy story?”
“Of course, Emily.”
* * *
Biographical Sketch — Bob Young
Bob Young was born in Pennsylvania to Bob, Sr., a master printer, and Betty, a high school secretary. He graduated from Neshaminy High School, Muhlenberg College, and The Lutheran Theological Seminary (Philadelphia, PA). Bob also has a certificate in desk-top publishing from Milwaukee (WI) Area Technical College, and admits to being a thesis shy of his Master’s degree in Theatre from Marquette University (Milwaukee, WI).
A prolific author – six books in four years! – Bob has been writing for Class Act Books since early 2013. His first writing success came in 1986 when he published a play, “Power in the Cross,” with the Division for Parish Services of the Lutheran Church in America. Even beyond his playwriting, Bob’s favorite genre remains historical romance set in WWII. Lately, he’s caught the futuristic bug. In January, 2018, Class Act will release his latest romance, Kiki and Conner Are Both from Mars. Bob explains, “It’s a love story about two engineers who meet while creating the first space vehicle large enough to carry groups of colonists to their company’s outpost on Mars.” Bob greatly appreciates his publisher’s willingness to allow his experimentation with other genres.
Beside that first play in 1978, Bob has also written others. “Committed” was converted into a musical and was performed as part of the Broken Walls Writers’ Group 2015 “Steps to Write Spirit” celebration. The conversion was the result of collaboration with Writer’s Group colleague, Heidi Surprenant.
Bob’s four children are the prototypes for his action-oriented, adventurous heroes. His relationship with his wife, Shari, is the deep resource he accesses for inspiration in describing love between two people — in good times and bad — in his romance novels.
Having done customer service for non-profits and commercial enterprises his whole work life, Bob has recently embraced a new identity. Recently retired from his full-time job, Bob now works only twenty hours a week as a warehouseman for a Wisconsin business. He feels blessed to have more time to write. You can check out Bob’s website at www.bobyoungauthor.com.