As my editor works on my novel, The Rocky Orchard, I may have been struck with a possible idea for my next book…
I hated that school. That hated school in that dreadful town. That dreadful town in the part of the world where winter was not even winter. Not the light snowfalls that dusted each twig of each tree and lay spread out across the hills where I had grown up. Where the tiny footprints of birds and chipmunks and squirrels left their perfect imprints across our yards. In this feckless land, winter was nothing more than an endless gray sky that spit intervals of drizzle. The drizzle froze on the ground, making the school an ugly and hazardous wasteland of ice. A wasteland that tripped us and made us fall down and spit on us as we lay on the ground.
A year so bad that I passed the time mainly by drinking too much. A year so bad that I got an ungodly amount of pleasure from barfing out the window of my fourth-floor dormitory room. I didn’t plan this, and was likely too far gone in my misery to have thought of such a magnificent metaphor. I had drunk most of a bottle of Southern Comfort and was, quite simply, too drunk to make it to the bathroom. Being that drunk also meant, as it turned out, that I could not lean my head very far out of the beautiful Gothic window without losing my balance. I held on to each side of the window frame to steady myself and leaned my chin on the sill. Hence, the vomit cascaded down the entire length of the side wall, where the winter temperatures froze it in place.
And where it remained for a very long time. A slight warming of the temperature, or a sleety mix, would cause sections of the whole to rain down, creeping its way through the brick and ivy as the mass oozed farther down the wall. Sometimes, a larger chunk would break off all at once and hit the ground below. I checked my vomit every day, as if it were a pet, as if it were something precious whose care was my honor and responsibility. By early spring, the last vestiges of the only Southern Comfort I would ever drink were gone.
I wanted to leave so much that I had been counting down the days, making large X’s on an enormous wall calendar like a child marking the time until Christmas, or the end of a school year with a teacher whose dislike of teaching was only surpassed by their hated of children.
It was my last night on campus. All I wanted to do was say goodbye. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye. It was time; it was finally time. I had nothing left to do but take my victory lap around the campus and hug hug kiss kiss the assorted souls who had weathered the winter of my discontent along side of me. I was gleeful. I was drunk. I was pressed for time.
I could not find my friend Patrick. John hadn’t seen him. Sandy hadn’t seen him. Brent had seen him earlier, but…. Charlie said, yeah, he was just here. I’m pretty sure he’s in the bathroom. As I mentioned, I was drunk. And pressed for time. I flung open the door to the men’s bathroom on the floor of his dormitory, and found Patrick unzipped and just beginning to eject an impressively forceful stream from what seemed to me, having little to no experience here, to also be an impressive distance from the target.
Patrick turned his head at the recognition of my voice, as I began the delivery of my goodbye message. Then the overall nature of the situation seemed to occur to him, as he registered – in rapid succession – shock, surprise, perplexity, amusement, and all-out mirth, as evidenced by an open-mouthed belly laugh. My own emotions, amazingly enough, ran much the same gamut, but in reverse, as Patrick had continued to pee an enormous, unwavering stream the entire time that I had been talking and he had been laughing.
I was amazed, and felt like it was one of the most interesting and significant and noteworthy things that had happened to me in that entire year. I remarked on this to Patrick, who continued to both laugh AND PEE. A small crowd had gathered in the men’s bathroom, as word passed about this event; so there was, in fact, a group of people watching me watching Patrick Killarney pee while I said my last goodbye. He zipped up and we hugged and I practically skipped back to my room knowing I would leave this awful world behind me the next morning.
How was I to know that forty-five years later, Patrick Killarney would tell me that I had changed the course of his life.
For those of you who are following the blogs postings of my fourth novel, The Rocky Orchard, each one is meant to be a stand-alone snippet that piques your interest. Like the majority of my writing, the past and present intermingle freely; memory and reality can be indistinguishable; both first- and third-person narration are used to underscore these themes. It’s not meant to be a jigsaw puzzle to figure out, but rather, an appetizer to whet your appetite for more.
My brother looks at the floor when he has to walk past me so he won’t have to make eye contact. I don’t need to see his eyes to feel the fire that is there, the disappointment, the stony disapproval. He is furious. At me. Doug is, too; but at least Doug will look me in the eye once in a while. I see weary pity for me.
My brother chose sides, and he didn’t choose mine.
I was born with my eyes locked onto my big brother. I followed him around and watched everything he did and wanted to do all those things myself. And now, it’s like I am forced to watch as he gets into a car, locks the doors, and keeps driving farther and farther away while I just stand here.
Of course our after-school foursome broke up. I am home by myself today, just like I am every day while my mother picks up my brother from his after-school stuff. The doorbell rings. The doorbell rings at 2:30 on a weekday afternoon, and I am sure to the marrow of my bones that it’s Tim. I’m sure because Tim always hits the doorbell button twice in a row, with no pause in between, so the bell dingdongdingdongs in a manic blur.
My heart pounds. I have a hard time swallowing the lump that’s blocking my throat. I’m terrified to turn my head toward our front door, to see if Tim has already seen me, if I’m directly in his line of vision as he stands at our front door, and I sit on the couch in our living room, having thought that I was safe, safe in my own house on a random afternoon.
I stare at the living room curtains, floor-length, heavy old drapes that I picture wrapping myself within, smelling their pleasant smell that enfolds all the smells of our family’s cooking, pets, fireplace, fresh laundry, dirty socks. If only I can get to the drapes without Tim seeing me. I can envelop myself, clutch them in my hands, breathe them so deeply into my nostrils that—
The doorbell rings again, two more times.
Tim’s face is pressed against the small glass pane of our front door. He’s staring directly at me. He has that wry half-smile that used to stop me in my tracks and melt me into a heap. My legs shake when I stand. I run my hands along my jeans as if I were smoothing a skirt, which is completely inane. I clear my throat but have no confidence that I’ll be able to utter sound, form words, talk when I need to.
My hand grabs the ancient glass doorknob on the inside of the front door. I don’t turn it right away, as if I still believe I can prevent this whole scene from going any further. But the door is open, and Tim says, “Hey, I thought I’d hang out with your brother.”
I nod. I feel like a complete idiot for being so scared. But just for a split second, because I realize that Tim knows my brother isn’t home. He knows he stays late after school. He knows that my mother goes to pick him up because there aren’t any buses.
He knew that I would be alone.
He meant for this to happen.
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The summer that we were twelve years old, my girlfriend Karen and I spent the whole afternoon at a swimming pool I’d never been to before. We sat in the sun, and talked about boys, and laughed, and swam, and splashed each other, and waited for our favorite songs to get played over and over on the transistor radio we’d brought with us. By the end of that afternoon, I felt a kind of deep peacefulness. Like my insides had uncoiled and lay still in a new way. Karen’s mother had rented a convertible for a special date with Karen’s dad, and she came to pick us up from the pool in that convertible. First time I’d ever been in one. The three of us sat crowded into the front seat together. Karen’s mom had gotten her hair done in a fancy French twist for the date, and she tied a chiffon scarf around it for the ride home. Karen turned on the radio, and her mother cranked it up even louder. My body had that cool feeling that stays deep inside of you when you’ve been in the water all day. But your skin heats up from the warmth of the sun, and you feel the hot and the cool all at once. When we hit the road, the wind tossed Karen’s and my long, soaking wet hair all over the place, occasionally smacking ourselves and one another in the face. All of those feelings together, it was thrilling, like nothing I’d every felt before; but the peacefulness was still there, too. That’s what it was like meeting Eddie. Just exactly like that.
This is one of the latest sections of my novel The Rocky Orchard. Once in a while you have a good writing day, a day where one single paragraph works exactly the way you wanted it to work when the idea appeared in your head. That’s how we keep going.
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In previous blog entries, I have touched on the ephemeral, ethereal phenomenon that we refer to as “inspiration,” which the Oxford dictionary defines as “The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.”
We know that inspiration can point its magic wand at the most unexpected times; still, I was taken by surprise when the recovery from my first total hip replacement last November transported me to a “place” that became the basis for the novel I am currently writing, entitled A Rocky Orchard. Currently recovering from my second hip replacement, I have a solid start on the novel, and am thrilled to be back at work on it.
You lean your head towards mine. You are going to kiss me. How many times have you kissed me, and my stomach still does a little leap. Your head jerks. “What was that?” you say. “What was what,” I say. I didn’t hear anything. “I definitely heard something,” you say. “You didn’t hear that? Sounds like someone is throwing something — balls or something like that — one after another. Listen, you say. I hear it. Sounds like it’s getting closer, you say. Sounds like it’s coming from the orchard. You hear it, right? You ask me. Yes, I hear it.
Stay here. I’ll check it out, you say. Probably some kid having a little fun, you say.
Don’t be silly. I’ll come, too, I say.
The short step down from the porch, my bare foot on the hot summer grass, I am hit by a wall of humidity. The full, fertile feel of the air that marks a Pennsylvania mountain summer. Thick, wet, ripe with a steaming, green life. “I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul.” That poem, the Pablo Neruda poem that you recited. The humidity reminds me. Down on one knee in an old-fashioned gesture I never would have guessed. Holding my hand and you said, “I love you as the plant that never blooms but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers.” The wall of humidity pushes against me. Your arm reaches out and you tell me to stay back. Please, you say. Please stay back. “Thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance, risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.”
I see him, you say.
Then I see him, too.
I wonder what in the world he is doing here.
Without thinking I start to call out to him. I want to laugh. I want to wave and ask him what in the world he is doing here.
I think this section from my new novel THE ROCKY ORCHARD makes an especially good flash piece.
Sick. I felt sick, fucking sick, when the telephone rang. I wanted to snatch the old 20-pound, rotary dial monstrosity of a phone right out of the wall and fling it through the window. I wanted glass to shatter and fly in a million directions and create rainbows of light in mid-air. I wanted the shards to rain down razors and cut the room into little ribbons. I’m too young for this, I thought. I’m fourteen years old and I am too young for this. For this shit, for this utter shit.
“Hello,” I said into the receiver.
“I’m pointing a knife at my stomach,” Tim said. “Tell me why you broke up with me.”
Suicide was just a word, a vague concept. Something whispered, read about in books. Nothing that had ever come near my own world, just a specter keeping itself hidden and far away. I had not even read The Bell Jar, hadn’t thought of Sylvia Plath turning on the stove in the apartment where she lived every day. Had not been stuck with the picture of her putting her head into the oven with the gas jet running, her two young children sleeping in their beds on the other side of the wall.
Daddy Mommy, I thought. I don’t know what Tim is going to do. I’m scared. I think he’s going to do something to himself. Help me, Daddy Mommy. I need your help, I thought.
But I didn’t say anything. Not to my parents, not to anyone.
Tim’s younger sister, the one that was in my grade, the one that I knew, was the first one home that night. She found him. Still alive, but unconscious.
It’s a blur after that. I can picture flashing lights and sirens and a lot of people and a lot of running around, but that doesn’t really make sense, does it? They wouldn’t have been at my house; all of that would have been at Tim’s house. Still, I have a sense of a million faces looking at me. It seemed as if the whole world was staring at me – a vast sea of expressions. Such concern. Some people blamed me; I could see it in their faces. Most people were torn, anguished even, between the part of them that wanted to stare at me, and the part of them that wanted to look away. I’d become scary to people somehow. So many different things that people felt when they looked at me.
All I’d done was broken up with a boy. A crazy boy.
It was not her first foray into the parallel universe of online dating. Madeline had been divorced for more than ten years. She had braved a string of relationships that progressed from interest, to the first tingle of excitement, to the exhilaration of genuine possibility, to the frightening, heady, joyful moment when the roller coaster passed the peak of its climb and in that split second, there was no going back: momentum had taken over; it was utterly and completely out of anyone’s control, because at that moment, there was love. There was real love.
And then there wasn’t.
Madeline took time to lick the wounds of disappointment. She allowed the lesions of dashed hopes to scab over. She understood that persevering was an ongoing matter of keeping one’s optimism just enough ahead of the injury of experience to keep going.
After a time, she would go back online, pouring over profiles, scrutinizing descriptions, gathering courage. As crazy a universe as online dating was – she recalled a friend aptly calling it The Wild West – it was essentially the only path to meet people. Since Madeline worked alone, had never buddied up to a man in a bar, and didn’t attend church, she reconciled herself to the necessary methodology.
Madeline worked hard to extinguish the flame she had carried for Jeff. But the feeling of being part of something larger than herself – everything from the ongoing sense that life was bigger and mattered more, to the immeasurable joy of small, everyday moments – was a living spirit inside of her.
I am up to my eyeballs in re-writing/editing my novel Pushing the River. The above snippet is excerpted from an early chapter. The first paragraph remains from the original draft; the remainder was written yesterday. It struck me that it could stand on its own as a Flash. It also struck me as being remarkably similar to the Flash I wrote entitled “January 2,” which suggests that I still endeavor to get it right. WATCH FOR THE RELEASE OF PUSHING THE RIVER THIS SUMMER!!!
Yesterday’s twinkling lights quit working and now fill garbage cans. The festive flourishes that merry-makers painstakingly hung in windows and yards and around doors have been ravaged by time and weather. My Christmas tree has become so dry that every time my dog brushes it with her wagging tail, needles rain forth in a downpour of fire hazard.
The season of cheer, of good will, of hopefulness, is past. Not even the brain-scrambling, body-slamming, wretched but familiar hangover of the New Year remains to keep us company.
January 2nd. Nothing ahead but bleak, relentless winter, as far as the soul can see. A landscape of emotional white out.
I have wandered around this landscape for too many years – this relentless tundra of January 2nd status. But it is a New Year. And with whatever mixture of revelry and reflection we rang in 2018, here we stand. We renew our vow to begin again.
Oops, I missed last Friday due to connectivity issues in Tulum, Mexico (!!). Here, then, is the third installment from the “September” section of my novel PUSHING THE RIVER. Watch for the fourth next Friday!
“Now, exactly what is our role here, Madeline?” Auggie was barely able to contain his delight. “What do you need from us?”
After the walk with Ellie, Madeline’s renewed burst of enthusiasm for the prospect of Living in the Moment manifest in the form of shooting off a text to Dan: “Hey, no idea what you’re up to this evening, but having some friends over for dinner. Join us later if you’re free. I made pie.” He had texted back that he’d love to come by, but didn’t want to infringe on her time with good friends. He suggested he stop by around eight-thirty.
“Auggie, you’re being weird,” Madeline said.
“No, no. I’m serious. We want to bethere for you. We just need to know what our role is.” Auggie radiated a decidedly boyish quality, in the best sense. And in his unbridled enthusiasm for the task at hand, he was adorable. Beth nearly always found him adorable, and made this obvious in frequent, glowingly loving glances at him. Across the dinner table from Madeline, the two of them radiated exuberance, good will and love. It delighted Madeline, and made her misty, and wistful, and, as her son would have said when he was a little boy, sickenated.
Auggie continued: “I mean, are we chaperones here? Do you want us to stick around until after he leaves? We would love to do that for you.” He put his arm around Beth, and pulled her head over to lean against his own. “Wouldn’t we, babe? Chaperones!” He caught Beth mid-sip with her wine, and as she gurgled an assent into her glass, he said, “Or wait. Do I have the wrong idea here? Maybe you want us to leave right away! Maybe you’re dying to be alone with him! Maybe the whole ‘why don’t you come over while I have friends here thing’ is just a ruse to make it seem innocent.” Beth could barely get her wine glass safely onto the table, she was laughing so hard.
“Auggie, seriously, don’t do anything one bit differently than if Dan wasn’t here. Really. Stay as long as you want to stay. Leave when you want to leave! Like always!! ”
“What about a sign? Maybe we should come up with a sign – two signs – one if you think it’s going well, and you want us to leave so the two of you can be alone; one if it’s not going so well, and you want us to stay.”
“It really doesn’t matter what I say, does it? You’re deep into your own thing here.”
“F I N E,” Auggie said. “Mission aborted.”
“More pie, Auggie?”
By the time Dan tumbleweeded through the front door and into the dining room, Auggie and Bess had pushed their chairs back from the table in healthy respect of keeping a certain distance from the remaining rubble of pie. Auggie and Bess looked Dan up and down while Dan looked the tumult of plates up and down, and before fifteen minutes of interesting conversational tidbits had criss-crossed the dining table, Auggie turned squarely to face his wife and said, “Well, honey, we really need to get going.”
“What?!?” Madeline said, nearly before the words were fully out of his mouth. “Really?!?”
“Really. Come on, babe.” And with an incredible efficiency of movement, he grabbed Bess’ hand, pulled her up from her chair, and led her towards the front door while both of them exclaimed the virtues of the food and the wine and the company, until the door shut behind them and their continued words drifted into the evening air. On the other side of the door, the entire atmosphere inside the house shifted by the time Madeline took the twenty or so steps back to sit at the dining room table, side by side with Dan. He gave a faint chuckle. “Nice folks.”
“The best.” Madeline said.
They sat facing the table laden with the evening’s detritus. As if he had read the crusted plates like so many tea leaves, Dan said, “This house is so you. You are everywhere.”
“Really?” Madeline retorted, more than a tad skeptically, as he had arrived less than a half hour before and seen only two rooms. “How’s that?”
“It’s so clear what this house is. It’s the place that you created, and have worked hard to protect – a haven to encircle all of the people you love.”
“Geez,” Madeline thought to herself. “Just how much longer do I have to wait to fuck this guy?” But what she said aloud was, “Huh.”
“There is love everywhere,” Dan said, still looking down at the plates.
“Maybe not quite yet,” she considered. “But soon. Very, very soon.” The thought exhilarated her, thrilled her, yet also filled her with quiet apprehension. She said in a pitch that was tauter and higher than usual. “Would you like a house tour? Want to see the rest of the Haven of Love?”
Strolling the myriad of rooms, Dan remained decidedly quiet. Madeline ran her fingers along walls and gestured with giddy abandon as she dug up tidbits of historical facts about the 100-year-old house, and recounted treasured memories of her thirty years within the confines of its walls. Dan nodded once or twice. He knit his brow now and again.
The house tour completed, Madeline plopped down beside Dan on the sofa, their thighs pressed together. The arc of the evening – the deep pleasure of Auggie and Bess, the astonishment of Dan actually getting it about her house, the chance to tell its stories – had left her in woozy, buoyant spirits. She sighed aloud and rested her head against Dan’s shoulder. He reached his arm to encircle her, kneaded her shoulder, then withdrew it.
“Are you feeling it? Are you as totally uncomfortable as I am?”
For a split second Madeline thought he must be pulling her leg. An attempt at a bit of ha-ha hipster ironic humor; but one quick look at his face persuaded her that this was not the case. “What?” she said.
“You can’t tell me you’re not feeling the same. How completely different this is from last night. How awkward.”
“No…I…I’m so sorry that you’re feeling uncomfortable.”
“Last night just flowed. Every minute. Flow.” Dan sat forward on the couch, leaning as if ready to spring.
“You look like you’re thinking pretty seriously about leaving,” Madeline said.
“I am. Thinking about it. This is just so…weird. I’m not sure what I should do”
Something old, and very deep, within Madeline felt a profound shame. She tamped down the instinct to apologize over and over, to do anything, to do everything, that might possibly make Dan feel better, like her, want to stay, want to hold her, want her. She was also aware of a flash of rage, an intense desire to slap Dan’s flow-spouting face. Inside, a part of her screamed, “Fuck you, you arrogant fuck!” Alongside the shame, and the blind anger, the most profound feeling of all was a wish that something, just one thing, could be simple. Clear. Easy. Known.
With swift and precise movement, Madeline pushed Dan backwards on the couch, threw her leg across his lap so she fully straddled him, and gripped his head between her two hands. “Want to know what I think you should do?” Madeline moved in, her lips, tongue, teeth showing all of the threat, and all of the promise, of a wild and starving animal. She threw her head back, panting hard. “Any questions?” she asked.
Taking Dan’s hand, she led him to the staircase. With her back to him, Madeline ascended with measured, deliberate steps, resting their entangled fingers against her ass, with every intention that he pay keen attention to it. She took her time lighting the two candles on her bedside table, her back still to Dan, waiting for the match to burn all the way down before she blew the slightest puff of air. Standing behind her, Dan reached one hand out to caress her buttocks, took a step forward, and cupped her breast with his other hand. They stood for a time, motionless, listening to one another’s breathing; and that marked the last instant of anticipation, or of anything languorous. Madeline ground her ass into Dan’s pelvis, hard, and rocked it from side to side. His fingers dug into the crotch of her jeans.
Clothing flew. Hands could not explore fast enough, could not cover enough ground. Lips, tongues, saliva were everywhere, all at once. The air in the room thickened to a fecund hothouse from the blossoming of body parts and ooze of fluids.
Dan gripped her haunches and pulled her onto him, astride him as she had been on the couch. Madeline ran her hand along his cock as she slid him inside her, and shut her eyes tight to block out any thought, any hint of any sensation, that was not the feeling of his cock reaching into her. Dan seized her hand and enlaced his fingers with enough force that Madeline’s eyes snapped open. Her first inclination was to gasp. She had never seen a look quite like the one on his face. His impossibly blue eyes wide open, his body trembling, Dan looked right at her, right into her, with a hungry yearning that pronounced there would be no place for a single part of her to hide. A sound arose from deep in her gut, a sound she was not even sure was her own. And when that sound reached up through her body and spilled from her mouth, she was gone.
A first draft of this chapter was originally posted in 2013, in three installments.
The bulk of my novel Pushing the River takes place within the confines of a house, over the course of four months. As promised, I will be posting a chapter each Friday (oops) from the “September” section of the book. Here is the first chapter:
It was certainly not her first foray into the parallel universe of online dating. Sadly, it was quite far from it. Madeline had been divorced for more than ten years by this time, and had watched a string of relationships move from interest, to the first tingle of excitement, to the exhilaration of genuine possibility, to the frightening, heady, joyful moment when the roller coaster passes the peak of its climb and in that split second, there is no going back: momentum takes over; it is utterly and completely out of anyone’s control, because at this moment, there is love. There is real love.
And then there isn’t.
After a time, she would be back online, pouring over profiles, scrutinizing descriptions, gathering courage.
There were less than a handful of people in the “neighborhood bar,” each one sitting at a measured distance from the others, making the throbbing lights and disco music seem thoroughly pathetic. Even the bartender looked as if she would rather be somewhere else. Anywhere else.
A first glance around the room didn’t turn up anybody she thought resembled his online picture. Certainly nobody came close to what her daughter-in-law Marie had called The Underwear Model upon seeing his photo. “Oh! My! God! He’s an underwear model!”
“Do you know if there’s anybody here waiting for somebody? A guy?” she screamed at the bartender, leaning as far as she possibly could over the bar in order to be heard.
“Are you kidding?” The bartender retorted, “Everybody here is waiting for somebody.”
She gestured with her arm, waving her hand around the room in a need-I-say-more sort of way.
“I mean, not that I know of. You’re just gonna have to look.”
And then she saw him. QuantamLeap. Standing in a dark shadow, pressed against the back wall as if pinned there, minutely nodding his head in time to the music in a good-soldier effort to not look as thoroughly uncomfortable as he clearly was. Off-white, baggy, mid-calf length shorts that could have passed for gangsta, could have passed for j. crew. Collared shirt.
(“Collared shirt?” she thought. “I did not see that coming.”) She had pictured: T-shirt. Definitely. Very faded. Possibly with the name of an early punk band, but more likely touting some esoteric, highly left-leaning thing. Noam Chomsky, maybe. But nope, collared shirt it was. And striped. (Striped?)
“Dan?” she yelled.
He was tall. 6’3”, maybe even 6’4”, so had to lean way, way over to get his ear in the general vicinity of her mouth. He nodded, minimally, in time to the music, as if he were not sure he wanted to acknowledge his identity to the person who had chosen this particular bar.
“Let’s get out of here,” she said. Knowing full well that he couldn’t hear a word, she made exaggerated pointing gestures toward the door.
With the last beam of blue light evaporating across his arm, Dan emphatically pushed the bar door closed behind them. The instant the door was closed, they stood unmoving, still on the stoop, as an exhilaration of relief – to be outside, out of the blue light, out of the inescapable throb of long-forgotten music, out of the scene of utter desolate encroaching loneliness — washed over them.
Madeline said, “Oh my God, I am so sorry,” and laughed out loud. “Oh! My! God!”
There was something just a little goofy about him, the stoop of his shoulders, the enormity of his feet in the ultra-white gym shoes she later learned he had bought that day at Costco. A mortal after all. Thank God, she thought, or he would be too impossibly good looking.
She suggested they walk to a nearby place that she ardently wished she had remembered in the first place — a low-key homage to the 60’s that still sold tie-dyed shirts, incense and bumper stickers in a little shop adjoining the restaurant. It also boasted a lovely outdoor area, a giant screened-in porch strewn with twinkly lights that was heavenly on a summer night.
Though she was less than two miles from the house she had lived in for nearly 30 years, she got lost. Damp with fretful sweat that grabbed at her mauve silk blouse, she surreptitiously scrutinized him for any sign of frustration aimed at her. They had met in person less than fifteen minutes before, so she had no cache of information that could tell her whether his good-natured reserve was just that, or if, perhaps, he had already decided that these two particular people, him and her, would not be seeing one another for much longer on the evening of September 1, 2013. Or ever again.
A version of this chapter was originally posted on 7/23/13 with these same pictures.