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Meeting Jack Kerouac by Jonna Ellis Holston

I was about to meet Jack Kerouac, pioneer of the beat generation, the man who wrote On the Road in twenty days on Benzedrine, typed it on a 120 ft. scroll of tracing paper taped together like only a person high on Bennies would do, the guy who practically invented the style of spontaneous prose. Was this the most exciting night of my life? Alas, I was just a seven year old girl. Meeting Jack impressed me less than knowing that I could stay up late that night at Aunt Mary’s party.20160118_125848_resized

A man in a wrinkled trench with a Florida tan, a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other, he stood before me. Auntie Mary handed me paper and a pen, told me to ask for his autograph. He was creepy, his undershirt was showing and he was… wobbly. With trepidation, I did as told.

“What do you want me to write?” he asked Mary, cigarette hanging between lips and acting as though he’d been pestered by a bug.

“Write something nice about Jonna,” she said and spelled my name for him. He wrote just that. Jonna… just Jonna and tried to hand it back to me. “Come on, Jack write something nice,” she goaded. He wrote more words, signed the page and handed it to Auntie for perusal.

“Jonna is a goner in Glockamara. Oh Jack, you’re so silly,” she laughed and passed the page to me.

I may have been only seven but I knew that this guy wasn’t normal. I thanked him and retreated. With signature in hand I ran to my place, my place behind the large potted plants to try and figure out, with my seven year old mind, what the heck the famous writer meant by Jonna is a goner in Glockamara. I knew about alcohol. I liked when the people at Mary’s parties got wobbly, everyone laughed and danced. There was even some old lady who would sing when she was wobbly. I could watch everyone from my little secret place but tonight I was keeping an eye on him, this guy… Kerouac, this weirdo that everyone seemed to be so gaga over, I mean… somebody had to.

What was so great about him? Look at how he was dressed. People wore their best at Mary’s parties, how come he got to wear dirty old clothes? And he was wobbly but he wasn’t singing or dancing or having fun. He wasn’t… enjoying wobbly.

“Oh, Jack, let me fill your drink.” I heard from somebody.

I spied Uncle Dino, crossed the room and climbed onto his lap. He explained that Jack was an alcoholic and I comprehended that notion pretty well. “Well if he drinks too much then why is everybody getting him more?” I asked… when life was still simple.

“Watch what he does. He takes his drink then he sits over there.” He pointed to the chair next to my place in the plants. “Watch him”. Jack sat; hunched over, sipped his drink. I soon got bored and started playing with Uncle Dino’s face. “There.”

“What?”

“You missed it. Go watch him from the plants like you do.” Well this just floored me. How did Uncle Dino know about my place? People never paid attention to me at a grown-up party. Wasn’t I invisible? I skulked back to my place, as close to Jack as a plant to dirt.

“Jack, let me freshen your drink,” said some lady I knew. I looked across at Dino. He nodded and I realized that Dino was sitting in his place. That seemed pretty funny to me, that Dino had a place where he watched people too. We smiled knowingly, one observer to the other as she served Jack his drink; he took a small sip and held the glass precariously in his lap. I watched this old guy sip his drink and it was still boring, but a small leather notebook peeked from his pocket and it caught my eye. Jack shifted his weight and it stuck out a bit more, then he may have crossed his legs or something and it was right there…

I can’t say for sure if the book fell out of his pocket or if I helped it out. I may actually have picked the pocket of Jack Kerouac and then I hid the journal between the pots. Uncle Dino gave me a stern look from his place then tipped his chin for me to watch Jack. That was about as exciting as watching ice melt. His drink of amber, still half full, Jack lifted his head sharply, looked around then he dumped his drink into the plant beside him. What? Why did he do that? I looked to Dino for answers.

Jack jumped up to argue again with someone about something and I flipped through his book, his book of scribbles. I couldn’t read any of it but I recognized one symbol, the crucifix and it was on most every page. I guessed it was a prayer book and I reverently placed it in his chair and made for the shelter of Dino’s lap.

Jack died about ten years later, in 1969, of cirrhosis. I refreshed that memory with Uncle Dino several times and he confirmed that not only did he witness Jack dump drinks frequently but that he often saw him transform from nearly passed-out drunk to completely sober within seconds in order to read a passage or a poem, perfectly enunciated, for the crowd.

That was also the year when I first read On the Road I understood none of it. I’ve re-read the work several times since. What holds me to the pages is the rawness of his words, the feelings of how never did anything ever go right, the desperate a search to find meaning in a messed up life. In that way, I suppose, it’s every man’s story.

We were from Lowell. In 1959, the year I first saw Jack, Lowell was a distressed mill town of greyness and brick. Our family home overlooked greenery. About forty years earlier, he grew up near the smelly Merrimac which rippled its flotsam and side-floating fish. Everyone in town called him Jack… just Jack.

You can swim in the Merrimac River now. The mills are museums and trendy shops. Kerouac Park, downtown by the river… there, the homeless sleep. Monoliths engraved with exquisite quotes of his work shade the drug deals and wear spray paint graffiti. Somehow I think he’d be okay with that.

Jack claimed that his stories were about his search for God. I only know that I saw the crosses in his journal with my young impressionable eyes. To me his work will always be about hope, hope for the disenfranchised, hope for the oppressed, for the different, for the mad.

Glockamara, next I heard of Glocca Morra was from Finnian’s Rainbow. It’s a sentimental song about a fictional Irish town with little brooks, willow trees and a carefree boy with twinkling eyes. It sounds heavenly, doesn’t it?

So, how are things in Glocca Morra, Jack, since you’ve been gone? I imagine that you are resting by a gentle stream with a cool breeze on your face. I hope you found peace and I hope you found God, because when I saw you, Jack, you drank alone.

 

Pictured above, Charles G Sampas (my uncle and Godfather), my beautiful mother, Rachel Ellis and Jack.

 

 

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Sometimes you have to let go

I had to give up a child this week. Not literally, of course. But, I had invested a certain amount of time and effort into a project and I had loved it in my own way.

It began months ago when I was struck with a wonderful (I thought) idea for another novel. I was already working on a manuscript when I had this epiphany. The new idea took up residence in my mind and stayed there until I finally set aside one novel and started working on another one. I was excited about it. I was convinced it was ‘the one”.

Months passed (because, after all, I have a full-time job) and I started stumbling. I still thought it was a good idea, I still believed in the premise, but I was having trouble getting my thoughts organized and onto paper. I knew the beginning and I knew the end, but everything in between kept jumping around. The first week of January, I decided the story was falling flat and I had to find a way to jazz it up, so I outlined it again with some major changes.

As soon as I started to go with the new outline I developed a bad taste in my mouth. It didn’t feel right. It went against the idea which had excited me in the first place. I dropped Plan B and returned to Plan A.

Several weeks later, I had to sit myself down and have a good stern talk with myself.

Me: Ugh! What am I going to do? I’m getting nowhere with this.

The more logical me:  Sucks, doesn’t it?

Me:  But, it was such a good idea! How come I can’t make it work anymore?

The more logical me: Do you think if you keep hammering away at it the story will get better?

Me: I thought so – at first – but now even I’m bored writing it. And if I’m bored, what about the people who have to read it?

The more logical me: Exactly. I think you’re starting to get it.

Me (in a whiny voice): But, I’ve spent so much time on it already. I really liked the premise. Do I have to just throw it aside? Do you know how hard it is to do that?

The more logical me:  Sure. But, sometimes you just have to know when to let go. Do you really want to keep working on something that’s become tedious and boring?  Think back to when you started writing. Think about what you liked about it. Wasn’t it fun?  Wasn’t it something you enjoyed doing? Are you getting any pleasure out of this exercise now?

Me (hanging my head in shame): You’re right. I wrote myself into a rut.

The more logical me: So what are you going to do about it?

Me (straightening my shoulders): I’m going to set it aside and come up with a better idea.

As soon as the decision was made, I felt better. In short order, I worked up another idea and started a new novel.  And, guess what? I wrote more in one day than I have in the past six weeks. Even better, I loved every minute of it!

***  A.J. McCarthy is the author of Betrayal, a suspense thriller published by Indigo Sea Press.

 

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January’s Paradigm Launch—J. Conrad Guest

Launch for January’s Paradigm is tentatively Monday, February 15.

What started in 1990 as therapy for a bruised and bloodied heart soon turned into a passion to see it published. It took eight years to achieve that desire, well worth the wait.

Like most of my novels, January’s Paradigm is a very non-traditional romance. Or as Current Entertainment Monthly, Ann Arbor, Michigan, wrote: “J. Conrad Guest has taken the heartbreak of sexual betrayal and turned it into a romance-fantasy.” Current Entertainment Monthly also wrote, “Readers will not be able to put it down.”

Below appears another excerpt.


 

Seven

I arrived at The Oasis at eight-forty. Two of the three members of The Tri-Stars—Shauna was not one of them—were onstage doing a sound check. I’d hoped to arrange a chance meeting with the dark-eyed beauty before the first set. A quick reconnaissance of the establishment, already near-capacity, merely served to disappoint; she was nowhere to be found.

I paid the doorman the cover charge.

Porter’s bankcard had come in handy. From whence my knowledge of ATMs came, like my inherent ability to operate the computer, I ignored. The access code to the bank machine was something I attributed to a lucky guess. Porter and I shared the same date of birth forty-six years apart, so stated the driver’s license tucked away in the wallet in my back pocket. I simply punched in the number “10” and, adding forty-six to my own birth year, “56”, and walked away from the ATM a hundred dollars richer, taking comfort in the fact that Porter was going to finance this little vacation in 1992.

I pushed my way through the crowd toward the bar.

My fruitless attempts at locating Porter had increased my thirst. I needed to unwind with a good, stiff shot of bourbon chased by a beer.

Suddenly the populace surrounding me parted, and I came face-to-face with Shauna. She was shorter than I imagined she would be. What last night I’d taken to be stage makeup turned out to be natural; her complexion was dark and flawless. Her jaw was square; her high cheekbones were tinged with rouge. Beneath the finely-arched twin prosceniums of her eyebrows, her eyelids were shaded green; and they highlighted to perfection the fathomless brown eyes now studying me as intently as I was studying her.

The moment seemed long; it was long, I dimly noted, and threatening to go on even longer. If I didn’t find something to say, the moment would be lost.

Fortunately she came to my rescue.

“Don’t let me get in your way.” Her tone was husky, the measure playful.

My heart beat rapidly, but I managed to blurt, “Aren’t you the lead singer?”

Smooth, real smooth—like a kid meeting his idol for the first time.

“Shauna.” Her smile was as white as it was wide. And genuine, I was pleased to note.

“Joe January.” I offered my hand and was delighted when she took it. “Can I buy you a drink?”

“No thanks, I don’t drink.” And then, perhaps in response to the hurt look I was certain she couldn’t help but notice, she added, “How about a cola?”

I smiled and led the way through the crowd to the bar, where I ordered and paid for the soft drink. Shauna, accepting the glass I proffered, smiled her dazzling smile and I reflected, for the mere price of a cola. I’d gladly pay a thousand times that amount to bask in the warmth of that smile in a more secluded place.

“You going to be here awhile?”

The question at once both surprised and pleased me. “Actually I just got here.”

“Wait here. I’ve got to finish the sound check. It shouldn’t take but a minute or two, and I’ll be back to visit a while before our first set.”

As if to prove her probity, she left her glass on the bar in front of me.

I watched her departure, fascinated by the gentle motion of her hips, snug inside the leather pants that perfectly accentuated her perfect figure. I couldn’t help but be taken aback by the way she’d so completely managed to disarm me in so brief a time.

I watched her on stage, her manner supremely confident, her voice clear and resonant in its purity. Her interpretation of the lyrics, even though it was just a sound check, was genuine. She sang from the heart.

I suspected that her contentment stemmed from being on stage and that getting paid was simply the icing on the cake.

What served to perplex me was my sudden intrinsic capacity to decipher this. Never before had I cared or taken the time to perceive anything beyond the superficial. Yet now I was mystified by the warm and comfortable feeling, the security that accompanied the very pleasant discovery that something beyond exterior could entice me.

Typically a woman of such depth would only intimidate me. Now, however, something inside of me thrilled at the expectation that she could somehow appease the malaise I’d recognized last night while in the embrace of another; and that instead of providing the comfort I so desperately sought, last night’s encounter had afforded the catalyst that had resulted in my encore appearance here tonight.

Shauna finished her sound check and, true to her word, was making her way back through the crowd to where I waited at the bar, nervously turning my shot glass around and around in my hand. My heart rate picked up as she approached.

“You sound terrific.” I’d never been any good at making small talk, but I spoke the truth.

“Thanks.” Her tone was sincere.

But then she probably accepted the same compliment dozens of times nightly in the same affable way. Talented as she was, it hadn’t gone to her head.

“I’m surprised to see you back tonight.” No accusation, just an observation. “You left after our second number last night. I was afraid my singing had been an affront to your musical palate.”

She was teasing me now, and that was something I wasn’t used to. I had no idea how to respond to her jest. When I failed to reply, she pushed her advantage further.

“I’m surprised at the company you keep. She didn’t look to be your type.”

Feeling totally outclassed and outmaneuvered, I stammered something about my friend having taken ill and requested that I take her home early. If Shauna saw through my smoke screen, she gave no indication.

“Well, you’re back tonight,” she said. “And my confidence in my singing has been restored.”

In the span of a heartbeat, she’d managed to break and then restore my self-assurance. She looked at her watch.

“You going to be here after the first set?” She sounded accusatory.

I smiled and nodded my acquiescence, ecstatic at the prospect of her return.

“Oooh,” she purred, setting down her empty glass. When had she time to finish it? So lost in the depths of a gaze that was at once innocuous yet mischievous, I hadn’t even noticed her drinking it. “He can smile,” she playfully provoked. “Now if I can just get you to loosen up and talk, you might be able to help me pass an otherwise long and boring night on stage. And as long as you’re buying, I’ll need another of these.” She indicated the empty glass. Her smile positively beamed, and I felt my heart leap into my throat. She winked and was gone.

The first set ran nearly an hour. Near the end I found myself squirming in anticipation. Several times I’d refused the advances that a man alone in a singles bar in 1992 seemed to invite. Finally they stopped, my propensity toward the barstool duly noted by the female patrons who’d hoped to lure me into tending to their lonely needs.

I watched as Shauna manipulated the crowd. Instinctively she sensed their mood and knew what they wanted to hear, providing respite, usually in the form of something she and the band wanted to play, at just the right moment. Her movements were sensual, yet not vulgar. And her voice was magnificent in its range and flexibility. She rocked, finding somewhere within the raw power to rattle the chandeliers. Her interpretation of the two blues tunes that provided a reprieve from the intensity of the rock-and-roll intonated the pain of the lyrics, while the sole ballad of the set was sung with the pure innocence of an altar boy during Sunday morning service. She had a natural affinity for people.

I didn’t think for a minute that she was bored with performing.

The breaks between sets, I suspected, were from her point of view a chance for the band to catch their breath and slake their thirst, but more for the sake of the dance floor patrons who discovered the ten or fifteen minutes between sets enabled them to recharge their batteries.

Feeling that I’d simply serve as a diversion until the next set got underway, I felt the ego that Shauna had managed to build up nearly an hour ago deflate.

Shauna was just now telling everyone to sit tight. The band would be back in a few minutes to rock down the rafters. Those on the dance floor shouted their approval.

I signaled the bartender for a refill for me and a fresh cola. I’d just finished paying for the refreshments when Shauna slid up onto the stool beside me. I was startled; the thought that she might seek company elsewhere had briefly crossed my mind.

“Thanks,” she said, slightly out of breath as she took the soft drink and downed nearly a third of it. “How’d you manage to keep this stool empty?”

“It wasn’t difficult.” I’d never found difficulty in maintaining my distance when I wanted to.

“Not with a scowl like that, I imagine it wasn’t.”

I felt the heat rise in my cheeks. Her eyes sparkled as she laughed and my embarrassment turned to ire. I didn’t like being the butt of someone’s jest.

Shauna placed her hand on my knee in reassurance. I was amazed at the lightness of her touch; and just that quickly, my anger was defused.

“We sound okay?”

I was grateful for the change in direction to another topic. Perhaps now I could maintain control of the conversation for a while. I nodded and queried, “You do any original material?”

“One or two.” Then, in response to my raised eyebrows, she added, “People come to hear what’s popular, and popular is what gets air play; and unfortunately, since we get no air play, we aren’t popular.”

“I find that hard to believe.”

“Hard to argue with statistics. We play anymore than we do, and the dance floor tends to thin out.”

I decided to take a risk. “Don’t tell me; the ballad was yours.”

It was her turn to look surprised.

Yes. How did you know?”

“It seemed your style.” I was beginning to regain my balance; but before I could pose my next question, Shauna once again changed tack.

“How come you weren’t out on the dance floor?”

And just that quickly, my advantage was lost.

“There’s no one here I care to dance with.”

She bestowed her laugh upon me for the second time, a wonderfully-melodic sound.

“You weren’t so choosy last night.”

My face burned with embarrassment.

She didn’t call my earlier bluff, I thought, helpless. Just my luck she now thinks I’m lying.

I wanted to say, “That was before I met you,” but my discomfiture held me in check. In the end I settled for a shrug that said, What can I say? She laughed again. I felt myself redden further; and then, just in time, she put an arm around my shoulders and apologized.

“I’m sorry, Joe.” It was the first time she’d used my name, and I marveled at the mellifluous way she said it. “It’s just that you’re so easy.”

I waved my empty glass at the bartender. I hadn’t been aware that I’d even been sipping it since she’d joined me, let alone that I’d finished it. Shauna checked her watch.

“Listen, buy me another cola.” She laid her hand on my arm. “I’ve got to go backstage and freshen up. You know, do the things we women have to do to keep guys like you watching us.” I doubted she had to work very hard at it. “Be right back.”

I was struck by the energy level she was able to maintain.

Adrenaline, fueled by caffeine, I guessed as I held up her empty glass. It certainly isn’t alcohol.

During her absence I tried to think of some way I could arrange to meet with her in a more neutral setting without seeming like I was coming on too hard, something with which she was probably quite adept at dealing. My efforts frustrated me.

I can’t hold an intelligent conversation with her. How can I land a date?

Suddenly I feared her motives.

What makes you think she’s even interested in you? More than likely she picks someone out of the crowd nightly just to keep that caffeine high going.

I felt compelled to leave.

Here I was a man out of time twice removed, sitting calmly in a bar without a clue as to how I got here. I sat, a man in doubt of the actual authenticity of his own reality, trying to deal some broad who gets her kicks out of watching me squirm in discomfort. No one had ever been able to do that before, which only added to my feeling of inadequacy.

Without a doubt, I should be back at Porter’s trying to figure a solution to the equation, not how to get this self-styled rock queen between the sheets. I can get sex anytime without having to go through this.

And then I remembered last night, how lonely and unfulfilled I’d felt, despite the level of physical gratification I’d attained.

Well, I rationalized, settling myself back down onto the stool. Maybe there are answers to my questions that can be ascertained through an association with her.

Any chance to argue myself out of staying disappeared with Shauna’s reappearance; her smile immediately convinced me that I’d made the right choice.

“I’m delighted to see you haven’t abandoned me.”

“To be easily replaced, I’m sure.”

She took my sarcasm for humor and leaned over to whisper, “Save a dance for me?”

Then she was gone, leaving me with an uncomfortable sensation of comfort.

My thoughts swam. I was experiencing emotions and input to those emotions never before encountered. I was attracted to this Shauna, but not in the usual sexual sense. Not that I didn’t find her alluring. There was a time, in another century perhaps, when all that I would care to concern myself with would be the exploration of the dark, deep secrets concealed beneath the sexy attire that served to promote the image of a rock star. But that image spoke in terms of a rather warped reality.

Here I am, it said, on stage for the adulation of one and all. Welcome to my fantasy. A fantasy that guarantees stimulus to senses of sight and sound; listen to my voice, watch me move. Now, if you dare, try to emulate my undulations. You are all a part of my fantasy, for without you I am nothing. Yet I remain apart from your fantasy. Here I stand, symbol of your want, your hunger, your desire and your lust—one and all, male and female—but rest assured you can never have me.

But equally disturbing since my arrival in 1992 was my troubled sleep, dreams plagued by a demon and haunting images of another, alternate self. One that was weaker, more emotional than I.

Yet even in my conscious state, I was being tormented by uncertainty, accosted by unfamiliar feelings of denial, distrust and betrayal. And now I’d discovered that a new passion had been awakened—a passion heretofore unknown—a passion for emotional intimacy.

Yes, I had to admit that my attraction to Shauna went far beyond the superficial. It exceeded my rather curt allegation that perhaps it was she who held secret the knowledge that would empower me to see past the barriers that had so surreptitiously been placed before me.

To be sure, she fascinated me. Certainly the package she came in was enough to turn the head and raise the blood pressure of any red-blooded American male, but there was more. Something mysterious—and God knew I loved a good mystery, almost as much as I loved endeavoring to sate the needs of my sexual appetite.

Part of the enigma was the simple fact that I found her to be a puzzle; and that was something I’d never before equated with the fairer sex, preferring instead to imagine them as merely an end to a need.

I couldn’t deny that Shauna had awakened in me two needs: a need to be in her company—for in that company, I presumed to find comfort to ease a loneliness that until last night, in the lazy afterglow of sex, I hadn’t been aware even existed—as well as a need to discover more about the conflicting passions she seemed to have brought to the surface.

I felt unguarded, helplessly open to her scrutiny, and I found that threatening. Something inside me told me that in order to more fully understand these new sensibilities, as well as my attraction to Shauna, I would have to become more open and vulnerable. That insight served to further threaten me; yet my instinct seemed to promise an end result that could prove more gratifying in more ways than any other result I’d previously sought as an end.

But what of her needs? What if I were simply a diversion? Her interest in me, the way she looked at me and the interest I purported to be in that look, seemed to be genuine; yet she was a performer.

I tried to picture her nightly selecting a different paladin to keep her supplied with caffeine while amusing herself with small talk at their expense and couldn’t.

I took note of the dance floor, filled to capacity with dancers, most perspiring profusely as a result of their exertions while the empty stools down the length of the bar confirmed that I was among the scant few who weren’t out on the dance floor.

On stage Shauna was also perspiring heavily, the result of her aerobic efforts as she and her band mates rocked vehemently. I watched, entranced, as she worked the dancers, feeding off them and then, almost as if in grateful acknowledgment, gave it back to them. The energy she emitted was then caught by the dancers, where it was held for a moment as they basked in its warmth, before being sent back magnified a hundred-fold.

No doubt about it, I thought. She’s in her element.

Suddenly I knew. And just as suddenly, I knew that Shauna knew.

This was her fantasy, her escape from whatever trials and tribulations that defined her own personal reality. Her sincere congeniality simply mirrored that reality. She was completely at peace with herself, and her contentedness grew from within. Her self-assurance came not from performing, as I’d originally imagined, but instead from the serenity that comes with being totally quiescent with oneself.

I breathed a sigh of relief. I now knew that whatever doubts I’d had concerning Shauna’s integrity were now unwarranted. While she seemed to enjoy teasing me incessantly, I knew she would never knowingly hurt me. She was honest, a rare commodity even in 1947, as well as trustworthy. Perhaps it was seeing mirrored in another my own strong ethics that had attracted me to Shauna.

Shauna.

Suddenly that name didn’t fit her, and I knew it was assumed. I was now more than ever driven to find out more about her.

I regained my composure and confidence. I could only hope she wouldn’t knock me flat on my ass ten seconds after she seated herself on the stool next to me. She had a way of keeping me off-balance, and I couldn’t deny that I enjoyed her playful ridicule. I couldn’t help but find myself amused by it, as well as challenged.

She evidently felt comfortable in my company, despite the ponderous disposition I’d displayed. Maybe she was just trying to get me to loosen up. The idea of her playful affection warmed me.

Well, I concluded, two can play at that game. I’ll just have to even the score.

On stage Shauna was introducing the next song, a ballad to be sung by her backup singer, a knockout blonde named Melody, in whom I wasn’t the least bit interested.

Shauna locked eyes with me as she put the microphone back into its cradle and, with a slight motion of her head, invited me to join her on the dance floor.

A moment later she slipped into my arms and nestled herself comfortably into my embrace, nothing vulgar, just comfortable. I led, marveling at the soft texture of her hand.

Is it really that small?

My heartbeat quickened as she moved her other hand up around my neck, her head now resting on my chest; my own head was aswirl with myriad sensations, all of them pleasant. I contented myself with the moment, knowing it would be over all too soon, finding solace in the hope that there would be many more such moments. If I never found a way back to my own time, I could think of worse places with less desirable people to spend the rest of my life.

I inhaled the sweet fragrance of her hair; somehow, miraculously, it had managed to escape the fate to which Chrissie’s had succumbed. I sighed and tightened my hand around hers.

In response she gazed up into my pale green eyes with her own brown ones, alive with mischief, and accused, “Boring you to pieces, am I?”

I only smiled my pleasure at her and pushed her head back down to its rightful place.

A moment later the song came to an end and with it the moment.

Her eyes alive with mirth, she promised to join me at the bar in just a few minutes, where she would proceed to “drink you under the table.”

“No mean feat,” I countered. “Considering the alcoholic content of cola.”

She left for the stage, while I, feeling ten feet tall, headed for the barstool I’d been keeping warm all night. The envious glances from the other male patrons in the establishment did nothing save to inflate an already-swelling ego.

While I waited for the set to end, I tried to think of a way to arrange a more intimate meeting with Shauna. I didn’t wish to come on too strong, too desperate; yet playing it too insouciant would risk looking like I was simply coming on.

As a result of this new dilemma, I became aware of the delicate nature of what I was contemplating. Never before had the consequences of rejection weighed so heavily. In the past, rejection simply meant moving on to the next most likely candidate; my needs had always been easy enough to accommodate. Never before had I been faced with the perils associated with the failure to attain that which I so desperately aspired.

Desperately?

I was beginning to sound like a man smitten. And the implication that I affiliated with that malady left me with a feeling of mounting inadequacy.

Needs: I needed to find out who I was and why, for the first time in my life, I was being harassed by moments of anxious apprehension. Furthermore, I needed to explore the uncertainty of the reality of my existence.

I should catch a flight to Michigan, if that’s what it took, and try to locate this Robert Porter character. I was convinced more than ever that he could better provide answers to the list of questions that seemed to lengthen of its own volition than Shauna could. But I seemed paralyzed by fear, a never-before faced debility because until now I’d never encountered it. And it was safe to say that the basis for that fear was the revelation of that which my endeavors might unearth.

Wants: I wanted to explore my uncharacteristic fascination with the mystery girl on stage. I’d initially thought that she might possess answers to questions and I still thought that, but to which questions?

I began to reassess the nature of those questions. I wanted her but for more than just her body.

Through her, I felt certain I could learn something of myself; yet what that lesson might be, I had no clue.

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Strange Times and Weird Holidays

 

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Billy Pilgrim came for Thanksgiving then swiftly became unstuck in time. He travelled onward… or back.

Those of you who remember Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five know that when time came unstuck for Billy, he could spring forward to a happier place or he could fall back to appalling happenstance, like the bombing of Dresden during World War II. Billy had no say when it came to the matter of time. We, however, have a modicum of control over ours.

We even time travel- to an extent, not physically like Billy, but we can remember… relive what that shiny red bike looked like on that best Christmas ever, recall what it felt like to hold a newborn. We think ahead, hope for better, and manifest our dreams. The Pilgrim within gets to choose where we travel. We don’t have to visit any of the ugly stuff, past present or future if we don’t want to.

In one of my favorite parts of Slaughterhouse-Five, Billy’s fiancé flashed her diamond ring at Mr. Rosewater, “Billy got it in the war,” she beamed. Did she know that the gem came from rubble which once was Dresden; the rock was a spoil of war? To her it was a symbol of love, her dream of upcoming happiness, her time travel forward.

Mr. Rosewater’s reply could not have been challenged, “That’s the wonderful thing about war. Everybody gets something.” I get it, Mr. Rosewater. Some people get diamonds and others get dead.

Without understating the sufferings of war by comparing them to holidays, I have to admit that similarities do exist… especially this particular Holiday Season.

And as I travel back to our family holidays, they were like a series of tiny Napoleonic battles. We shouted, pounded on tables, about politics, social issues… religion, we dug up past resentments… said hurtful words. There is no doubt that we loved each other, we loved each other like mad, but with the collective holiday anger of my crazy family? Unite us, add one case of brandy, a few bottles of Ouzo and we could have invaded Canada.

That’s the thing about holidays, everybody gets something. Some get arguments and some get loved, some get the Lexus and some stand in line for a meal. Some children get a bike and others get shot.

So as the month of gratitude gives way to peppermint truffles and decadence I will live my moments more deliberately, select my thoughts carefully, choose the kindest words possible when speaking about our world as it is. And with my memories, I guess, I’ll be selective. After all, those impetuous relatives are sorely missed now. So it goes.

I look forward with hopefulness, to a time when peace on planet earth is achievable. I’ll dream that everyone everywhere has food, clothing and shelter. I’ll imagine that it’s so. And I will accept what I get this year (thank you very much for the lovely brown socks) with grace.

I hope for patience and tolerance from all of the people I love. No gifts for me this year, there’s nothing I need, except one favor from all. I need an advance on forgiveness, like a caveat, a hall pass or a ‘get out of jail free’ card. Those will do very well for me, please. Because I, like Billy Pilgrim, have a history… and probably even a genetic pre-disposition to becoming unstuck… just a little.

Happy Holidays to everyone.

Enjoy Christmas present.

Take time for love!

Slaughterhousefive

And maybe re-read an old favorite,

 

Jonna

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You Are What You Ink by LeeAnn Elwood McLennan

I’m getting my fifth tattoo today. Some of you may smirk at the measly amount of ink adorning my body while others will wince with dismay at the whole idea. To tattoo or not tattoo — a great way to get people talking, isn’t it?

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Tattoo # 1

When folks hear I’m getting a new tattoo, the natural question is what am I getting? True to writerly form, all of my tattoos are literary — specifically from Alice in Wonderland. My ink-marked road began back in 1992 with the Caterpillar smoking his hookah tattooed onto my left thigh. A few years after that, I balanced things out with the Mad Hatter on my right thigh. Later on, I added the Cheshire Cat on my back and more recently, a playing card painting roses on my foot. For my next tattoo, I’m branching out into Through the Looking Glass for the White Queen, along with her wonderful quote ‘sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast’.

I considered the Red Queen but as I explained to a friend, the Red Queen has taken on menacing connotations since appearing in Through the Looking Glass. Anyone who has read Frank Beddor’s The Looking-Glass Wars series or watched Resident Evil knows what I mean. I’m not sure how I feel about putting something sinister on my body. Would it imply I’m sinister? Reveal my dark side to the world?

This got me thinking about what drives folks to choose what they have tattooed on their skin. If you ask someone about her tattoo, you’ll hear a story in return. The story could be about the design — be it a Chinese character denoting a name, an Egyptian symbol for Osiris drawn on a napkin at a bar by a tipsy friend, or a favorite piece of art reimagined just for you. The tattooed person might choose to reminisce about the experience — perhaps the ink was drawn by a renowned artist, maybe the tattoo shop clientele was rougher than expected tinging the experience with a little fear, or possibly close friends came along as support during the session. Sometimes the story is about why she got the tattoo — it could be in memory of a parent, to commemorate a momentous event, or a reminder to be strong. The stories are as varied as the human experience.

A tattoo is more than ink cut into flesh. For most folks their tattoos express how they think of themselves, who they present to the world. I’m a fantasy author and one of the first stories I remember loving was Alice’s crazy journey though Wonderland. Tattooing her world on my body tells the world a little bit about who I am and what I like. Some folks want original art on their bodies, while others sport family portraits. A gorgeous design of flowers twining around your arms could lure you to the tattoo parlor chair while your friend would rather have words from a favorite movie coiling around her arms.

Oftentimes, a non-tattooed person will mutter, “I don’t know what I’d get” — I think that’s a sound reason not to get a tattoo. You’d better like what you pick — because it’s going to hurt and be permanent. Tattoo removal notwithstanding.

Tribal designs, Chinese symbols, family photos, movie characters, album covers, favorite foods, a lover’s name, a child’s birthdate — anything can be mined for ideas. If someone chooses a menacing, evil design, be it historical, religious, literary, or simply violent, he is embracing a philosophy, declaring an affiliation with something disturbing. It’s a deliberate choice.

Of course, the Red Queen isn’t all bad in Through the Looking Glass, but she gets bad rap since she’s often confused with the Queen of Hearts from Wonderland. You know, “off with their heads’ — that Queen of Hearts. In fact, The Red Queen even helps Alice become a queen and celebrates with her near the end of the book.

Mmmm — perhaps # 6 will be the Red Queen after all. A kinder version of the character.

I’d love to hear your stories about your tattoos in the comments.

With thanks to Amber Hettman for the title. In addition, a shout-out to Brynn Sladky at Blacklist Tattoo (http://blacklisttattoo.com) for designing and inking tattoo number five.

Tattoo # 5 or at least the original design before Brynn worked her magic

Tattoo # 5 or at least the original design before Brynn worked her magic. She added the ‘six impossible things ‘quote as well as some other wonderful details.

LeeAnn Elwood McLennan 05 Color (2)LeeAnn Elwood McLennan is the author of Dormant, the first book in the Dormant Trilogy available on http://www.secondwindpublishing.com, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. She’s diligently working on Root, book two in the trilogy. Follow LeeAnn on Twitter @atticusmcl and on Facebook at LEMWrites.

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Crazy little thing called blog

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By Jonna Ellis Holston

You know how when you meet somebody at a party who sells insurance and you suddenly want to be as far away from this person as the room will allow? Quick, find an excuse. Run away, fast, before you hear the words ‘indemnity’ or ‘term’, you think. Your eyes scan for an exit and then you spot, Sue.

“Oh there’s Sue, I need to go and say hello,” you say… in spite of the fact that Sue reported you to the HOA for the pot of begonias on your door step, and has breath rancid enough to kill a pterodactyl.

Now I tell you, my family brimmed with columnists and authors. Even the great Jack Kerouac married my uncle’s sister, Stella. I remember him and I remember how it used to be, years ago, when new authors were revered. If someone we knew had a book that was about to be published, everyone wanted to know them. We welcomed them, invited them, immediately, to our next party. Now, it seems that everyone has a book. Even I have a book.

A sane person would be discouraged, right? Not me. I find it immensely satisfying to know that this many people have stories so compelling and that they, courageously, sat at a desk for a year or more, perhaps typing with just two index fingers, and wrote their truth. I’m thrilled to know that the publishing industry now provides more options for these emerging authors.

So, recently, I met an author at a party. When I shared with her that my book would soon be published, I saw her eyes scan the room for escape. She settled on doing the polite thing and asked me what my book was about. “It’s a funny account of divorced women who are looking for another chance at love,” I told her.

“Oh,” she said as she took a step back, “that’s a tough sell. Everyone wants murder these days. Violence, madness, they only want to read about twisted serial killers. That’s what sells.” And she walked off to talk to someone else (probably an insurance agent). I had to laugh.

Does she not know that books are magical? They’re not autumn leaves that fall on cold ground only to be crushed by footsteps. Books are the blowpuffs of spring’s new dandelions, seeds propelled onward by angel’s hair that have the potential to soar on towards forever. They find their place; caress fertile soil, cultivate ideas and nurture others who may someday write their own stories, their personal truths.

Blogs, like these, are a wild willing breeze. You never know who will read them. They can make all the difference on earth… to us and to another, would be… story teller.

Write on, authors! Write more… more sex, more murder, more mystery and more love triumphant, because when Nationwide happened, State Farm thrived. And readers, my friends, abound. The world of literature is now limitless.

Note to reader: No insurance personnel were harmed in the writing of this blog.

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Sea of Destiny – Part 39 by Dellani Oakes

sea of destiny coverKyle wakes the next morning to find Vera gone, but she left a note telling him thank you for the night, asking him to call her. He makes his way back to the ship, with a horrible hangover, only to find himself confronted by Carmelita.

“Michael Kyle Scott!”

“Don’t call me Michael. Don’t ever use that name again. Okay? Never.”

“What’s wrong with you?”

“I’ve done something really stupid and self-destructive. Can we just drop it? Please? I just totally screwed up the best relationship I’ve ever had and that’s all you’ve got?” He

shook his head, trying to figure out where he left his aspirin. “If Emily ever forgives me, maybe I can put it back together.”

“Why wouldn’t she forgive you?”

“Because I got drunk and screwed another woman. The first time in thirteen months and it wasn’t with her. It was Vera something….”

“The company rep?”

“Yeah.”

Carmelita slapped him. Once his ears stopped ringing and his eyes quit tearing, he shook his head to help his vision clear.

“I deserved that.”

“You deserve to be horse whipped! How could you?”

“I’m asking myself the same thing.”

“You say you’re falling in love with Emily, but go out and get drunk and fool around with another woman? The girl had cancer! You’re a total heel, Kyle. I don’t even want to see you right now.”

She started out the door, but he called her back.

“He’s my father!”

She turned, looking at him. “Who?”

“The priest. The damn priest was my father—is my father….”

“The healer? Father Michael?”

“Michael Kyle Scott, Senior.” He said each name slowly and distinctly.

There was a long, echoing silence as Carmelita digested that information.

“Does Emily know?” she asked quietly.

He shook his head. “I didn’t find out until afterward. He told me he wants my forgiveness. I don’t think I can do it, Lita. I don’t think I have any of that left in me. Obviously, I didn’t deal with the news terribly well.”

She didn’t say anything, but her expression agreed with him and then some. “What about you and Emily?”

“How am I going to tell her about this? I don’t mean about my father.”

“I know what you mean.”

“I have to tell her. I can’t just disappear out of her life. How do I tell her?”

“I don’t know. There’s no good way to say it.”

“Is she going to hate me forever?”

Carmelita didn’t say anything, looking away. Kyle’s eyes filled with tears. He’d cried more in the last four days than he had the last six months. Everything hurt, inside and out. He couldn’t breathe properly. Just thinking about how angry and hurt Emily would be when he told her about Vera made him want to puke.

“How could I do this to her? This is what he did to her! I’m a horrible person, Carmelita. I’m the worst kind of man there is.”

“You’re getting yourself all worked up, Kyle.”

“Maybe I should just hurl myself off the side of the ship.”

“Now you’re talkin’ crazy. What you did was lousy, but if I’d been through what you’ve been, why I might do something similar. Yes, it’s rotten and it stinks, but there are worse things you could do.”

“Like what? Kill her dog? Rape her cat?”

Carmelita faced him, arms crossed, full lips pressed tightly together. “Lying about it.”

She slammed the door behind her, stalking down the hall to the elevator. Kyle threw himself face first on the bed wishing that a hole would open and suck him to the bottom of the ocean. Lying there, castigating himself, he heard the phone ring. He didn’t want to answer it, but if it was Emily, he needed to talk to her.

“Hello?”

“Kyle? Oh, thank God.” It was Thad West.

“Hello, Doctor. How’s our favorite patient today?” He tried to sound lighthearted.

“She’s great. I’ve got a few tests to run to be sure, but I’m convinced she’s on the mend!”

© Dellani Oakes

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Sea of Destiny – Part 38 by Dellani Oakes

sea of destiny coverAfter healing Emily, Father Mike gives Kyle some news he wasn’t expecting to hear. It isn’t good news and sends Kyle into a tailspin. By some quirk of Fate, Kyle has finally found his long, lost father—the man who left when he was a kid. The story he tells greatly upsets Kyle.

He left the room, resisting the urge to slam the door. On the way down in the elevator, the pain hit. It felt like his heart was exploding, but he knew it was the anger and grief he’d been holding in for the last twenty-six years. He couldn’t break down and cry in public. He wouldn’t embarrass himself like that. He wanted a quiet place to get drunk and forget the man who had given him life.

He couldn’t bring himself to call the man his father. Maybe one day, but not today. Stumbling out of the elevator, he nearly ran over the young woman from the tour company. She caught him, helping him stand.

“Mr. Scott, are you all right? Is Emily okay?”

“Emily’s fine. The priest did what he promised. She’s healed.”

“That’s wonderful! But you don’t look well. What’s wrong?”

“Is there somewhere we can go for a drink? I need a drink.”

“Sure. Come this way. There’s a lounge. We can have a couple drinks and I’ll take you back to the ship.”

“Thanks. I can’t remember your name, but you’re a real peach.”

She smirked. “Thanks. My name is Vera. Let’s get that drink, Mr. Scott.”

“The name’s Kyle. So, Vera, how long have you worked for the company?”

They laughed and chatted through the dinner hour, sharing quite a few drinks. By 10:00, Kyle was very drunk and Vera was nearly as bad off. Kyle was amazed at how witty she found him. He didn’t think it was just because they were drunk, he was really being very charming. Vera loved to dance, so they took advantage of the dance floor in the lounge and he used his skill to seduce her. By the time the bar closed, she had invited him back to her place.

However, since it was obvious that neither of them could drive, they took a room at the hotel. Completely forgetting his children, his late wife and Emily, he took Vera to bed.

* * *

Kyle woke the next morning with the mother of all hangovers. Vera was gone, having left a note for him beside the bed.

“Had a fab time last night! You’re a great dancer and even better in bed. Call me next time you’re in Cozumel! Vera.” Followed by her phone number.

“Oh, God. What have I done?”

He showered, then realized he had no fresh clothing to put on. It was pretty wrinkled and he’d spilled something on his jacket that looked like it had left a stain. He walked back to the ship hoping that the morning air would clear his head, but it was already hot and humid. It only served to make him nauseous. He returned to his cabin while Carmelita and the children were at breakfast. Taking another shower, he dressed in clean clothing and ordered breakfast to be served in his room. He was just finishing when the family arrived.

“Cindy, you take them up to arts and crafts,” Carmelita said after one look at Kyle.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I wanna see Daddy,” Mindy protested.

“You can see him later,” Randy responded. “Come on, munchkin. I’ll race you to the elevator.”

Their voices faded down the hall. Carmelita slammed the cabin door, hands on hips. Every line of her body radiated fury.

“Where the hell were you?” she bellowed.

“Don’t, Lita. No third degree. Give me a second for my head to stop spinning and I’ll tell you.”

“Don’t give me any lip, boy. Your kids were frantic when you didn’t come in. I thought little Mindy was gonna have a conniption this morning when you didn’t show up at breakfast.”

“I’m an irresponsible, insensitive prick. Okay?” He yelled. “Are you happy now?” He stopped yelling because it hurt his head. “Emily’s fine, thank you.”

“I know that already, Thad called last night. She woke up and was asking for you.”

“There were complications afterward.”

“With Emily? Is she okay?”

“She’s fine. The complications were with me.”

“You got drunk.”

“Yeah. Very drunk. I danced awhile and I’m pretty damn sure I got laid. Considering how my back feels, I overdid that too.”

© Dellani Oakes

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This Party is So Much Fun, I Wish it Never Had to End by Sherrie Hansen

We’ve been saying a lot of goodbyes lately. Last weekend, we drove 350 miles to help Mark’s aunt and uncle celebrate 50 years of marriage and to see relatives who came from Mississippi, California and North Dakota for the festivities. It was fun being with them, but then, after just a day and a half, we had to say goodbye.

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Yesterday, we celebrated my parents 60th wedding anniversary on the farm where I grew up. For the first time in years, all of their kids, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were together. They came from Boston, southern Brazil, Florida, Indiana, Illinois and Iowa. Cousins from Ohio, Washington, Colorado, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Denmark also came for the fun. What a grand time we had – and then, we had to say goodbye, until who knows when. Maybe never, since we’re so scattered. And because, sadly, nothing lasts forever.

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Today, we’re leaving for London, Devon and Cornwall, and then, Romania. It’s hard to say adieu to my bed and breakfast and tea house, and the people at church (my husband is a pastor) for three long weeks. I’m already having separation anxiety. Saying goodbye, even for a short time, is difficult for me. That’s probably the reason I keep revisiting castles, kilts and stone cottages in my Wildflowers of Scotland novels. I’m just not ready to say goodbye to Rose and Ian (Wild Rose), Isabelle and Michael (Blue Belle), or Violet and Nathan (Shy Violet).

Shy Violet

But there are much harder goodbyes to anticipate, and I dread them. A few months ago, we attended the funeral of a family friend whose son was just one year older than I am. We were close in junior high and high school, but have lost touch since he lives far from our home town. After our brief reunion,  when we were saying goodbye, he very candidly said that this was probably the last time we would see each other – with his parents both gone, he has no reason to return to the area. The finality of the moment made me sad, yet it was nothing in comparison to the goodbyes he’d said to his father early that week.

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We’ve had entirely too many funerals lately. This week, another dear family friend passed away. While I believe, as a Christian, that he will be reunited with his family and loved ones again one day in heaven, it’s still a hard adjustment to go from being together in the moment, to waiting years – perhaps even decades – to be together again.

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When we were dancing and having fun at Uncle Frank and Aunt Pat’s anniversary party up north, our six-year-old granddaughter said, “This party is so much fun that I wish it could go on forever.” I felt that way yesterday at my parent’s party, too.

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The thing is, everything in this life is transitory. One party ends, and we say goodbye, and then we’re invited to another, and another, and new things spring up from the old. A tree that we’ve grown to love falls or is cut down, and then, a few months later, there’s a wildflower, or a new tree growing out from what’s left of the stump. We hope for the harvest in the long cold winter, and then come spring, we plant our fields again.

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Knowing that something beautiful will rise from the ashes doesn’t make saying those final goodbyes easier, but it does keep us looking up, moving on, and always looking forward to the next party.

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So for now – so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye. I’m winging my way to Europe, but I’ll be back before you know it. And, I promise, we’ll party until the sun goes down… or maybe I should say, until the sun rises on a new day.

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Sherrie Hansen’s Bio:
Twenty-four years ago, Sherrie rescued a dilapidated Victorian house in northern Iowa from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a bed and breakfast and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn.  Sherrie has also lived in Colorado Springs, CO, Augsburg, Germany, Wheaton, IL, and Bar Harbor, Maine. She grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota. After 12 years of writing romance novels, Sherrie met and married her real-life hero, Mark Decker, a pastor. They now live in 2 different houses, 85 miles apart, and Sherrie writes on the run whenever she has a spare minute. Sherrie enjoys playing the piano, photography, traveling, and going on weekly adventures with her nieces and nephew. “Shy Violet” is Sherrie’s eighth book to be published by Second Wind Publishing.

Links:

http://www.facebook.com/SherrieHansenAuthor
https://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/
http://www.BlueBelleInn.com or http://www.BlueBelleBooks.com
https://twitter.com/SherrieHansen
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2870454.Sherrie_Hansen

https://www.pinterest.com/sherriebluebell/

Books Titles: Wildflowers of Scotland novels – Thistle Down (a prequel novella), Wild Rose, Blue Belle, Shy Violet. Night and Day, Love Notes, and the Maple Valley Trilogy – Stormy Weather, Water Lily, and Merry Go Round.  

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Sea of Destiny – Part 37 by Dellani Oakes

sea of destiny coverThe healing complete, Father Michael has to recover his strength. Although it seriously tests his faith, Kyle has to admit that Emily looks better. He can only hope and pray that she truly is healed.

“I’m not the one you should thank. Your Heavenly Father is responsible for this, not me. I’m just the conduit.”

Kyle dropped to his knees, praying quietly, giving thanks to God for Emily’s healing. He knew she was well, he could feel it. Underneath his joy, something lurked. There was the matter of payment that the priest had mentioned.

“You told me at the mission there was something I must do for you.” Kyle rose, his eyes wary.

“Yes. Gentlemen, I beg your indulge once more. I need to speak to Kyle alone.”

“Certainly, Father.” Pablo bowed respectfully, leaving immediately.

Sighing heavily, Dr. West followed him. Once the door was closed, Fr. Michael focused on the door for a moment before turning back to examine Kyle’s face.

“Before I begin, you have to promise not to lose your temper or raise your voice.”

“Why would I do that?”

“Because what I have to say is going to make you very angry.”

“If you’ve done something to hurt Emily….”

“No. No, son, nothing like that. If I had the strength to move right now, I’d take you outside, but I don’t. You have to promise.”

“Is it something I can talk to you about tomorrow?”

“No. This is the last you’ll see me.”

“For Emily’s sake, I promise.”

Nodding, the priest accepted the statement. Taking a sip of his wine, he tried to get his troubled thoughts aligned before he began.

“I have a story to tell you. It began, oh, about thirty-four years ago when I was a young man. I met a beautiful woman. She had hair like spun gold and the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. I fell into those eyes, drowning in her beauty. Then I did something very bad. I took that woman to my bed before we were married and she got pregnant. Both of us were Catholic. Determined to do the right thing, I married her. She gave me a son and we named him after me. I loved that child more than I had ever loved his mother. I was fond of her, but my son was the light of my life.

“A few years later, we had another son. By this time, the marriage was in trouble. We were so young when we married, barely eighteen, that we were completely different people by then. My wife and I had a horrible argument. We were furious with one another. I stayed out most of the night drinking with my friends. When I got home, she threw me out. I took a few possessions with me and left. I never went back, never explained, never apologized to my wife or my eldest son. He was seven at the time.”

Kyle’s lip trembled, tears fell from his eyes. His breath came in shuddering gasps as he heard the story. He said nothing, keeping a lid on his tumultuous emotions as he’d promised. He waited for the priest to finish, denying what he knew in his heart was the truth.

“I had our marriage annulled. There were grounds since we were coerced into marriage by her pregnancy. A short time later, I entered the seminary and became a priest. When this mission opportunity came available, I asked for it. I wanted to put as much distance between myself and my old life as I could.” He stopped, laughing weakly. “And then you walked in my study and my old life came back to haunt me with a vengeance.”

“Why didn’t you ever call? You never explained to Chris and me. Not that he’d have understood, he was three. You left me to pick up the pieces of our lives after you ran away. She didn’t even have a job!” He wanted to yell and throw things, but he’d promised not to get angry. “I always wondered what I would say to you if I ever saw you again. I had all these pretty speeches planned about how sorry I was that I drove you away. I blamed myself….”

“It was never about you or your brother. Your mother was a beautiful, selfish and demanding woman. Nothing I did was ever enough. Then I got the call to become a priest, something I had put off, thinking it wasn’t for me. It became too powerful to put aside anymore. God was calling me to do this work for Him. When I quit fighting, everything worked out.”

“Except for us.”

“I don’t deny that, son.”

“I’m not your son. You gave up that right when you annulled your marriage to my mother, declaring me a bastard.”

“I’m asking your forgiveness, Kyle. I need to hear you say it.”

“You can keep on needing it, Father Michael, because I’m never saying it. I thank you for what you did for Emily. That was the miracle she wanted. For that, I’m grateful. But I can’t find it in my heart to forgive you. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go before I really lose my temper and break my promise.”

© Dellani Oakes

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