From First to Final Draft: The Challenges of Completing Scarecrow on the Marsh by Jonathan Weeks

scarecrow-on-the-marshFrom First to Final Draft: The Challenges of Completing Scarecrow on the Marsh

By

Jonathan Weeks

Unless you’re an editor, it’s not very often that someone drops a partially completed manuscript in your lap and expects you to finish it. This is a daunting task for anyone, but when the project represents the lifelong dream of a deceased loved one, there’s even more pressure. That’s the situation I found myself in last year when I offered to complete my father’s novel.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not complaining. It was something I wanted to do. It was the least I could do for a man who had served a dual role as my mentor and best friend for most of my adult life. But I knew it wouldn’t be easy.

I spent more than six months researching, editing and writing new chapters for Scarecrow on the Marsh. Every paragraph reminded me that my father was gone. Every addition or alteration invoked profound feelings of guilt and self doubt. There were countless tears. There were bouts of anger and frustration. And though it’s something I would never want to go through again, I feel that I have grown as a writer and a person.

Basketball great Michael Jordan once said: “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. When you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it or work around it.” In the case of Scarecrow on the Marsh, there was a great deal of climbing and circumnavigating before the final draft was complete.

 

DECIPHERING MY FATHER’S HAND-WRITEN NOTES

Thoughts don’t always flow smoothly from brain to page. My Father felt that his ideas were more lucid when he wrote them longhand. The manuscript he left me was entirely handwritten. The margins were crowded with tiny notes. In some cases, there were notes about the notes. The pages were filled with scribbles, cross-outs and insertions. Some of the pages had subtitles—Page 157a, Page 157b and so on. Though I’m sure it all made perfect sense to my Dad, I found it puzzling at times.

 

GETTING THE FACTS STRAIGHT

My father chose Cape Cod as a setting for his novel because he had been there many times and was intimately familiar with the place. I myself was not. For months, my desk was littered with street maps and travel brochures. I used Google Earth to examine the physical characteristics of various towns and beaches. Since a significant portion of the novel deals with terrorism, I had a lot to learn. I knew very little about the language, religious beliefs or customs of terrorists. I knew even less about how they go about blowing things up. I performed so many Google searches on the topic I actually became a little paranoid about drawing the attention of Homeland Security.

 

KEEPING MY FATHER’S STORY INTACT

Let’s face it—a rough draft is far from perfect.  This was my Dad’s first book so he was still finding his way as a writer. I had never worked on a mystery novel before, but I had read plenty and it definitely helped. My father’s premise was solid.  Unfortunately, there were elements of the story that didn’t quite work. I struggled to determine which passages needed to be omitted or rewritten. This was a grueling process that caused me immeasurable grief. At times, I felt as if I was betraying him. I wanted to keep his ideas intact. I wanted to make him proud. And though I managed to preserve every nuance of the story, the final product is drastically different from the original manuscript. I hope that’s okay with him.

 

CAPTURING THE INTEREST OF PUBLISHERS

Ask any writer and they will tell you that this is the most difficult part of the process. There are roughly 2 million books released every year. Most are self-published works that fail to sell more than fifty copies. I felt that my father’s work deserved a better fate. I could have published directly to Kindle, but I knew he would have preferred paperback over a digital format. There aren’t as many traditional publishers out there nowadays and, without a literary agent, most of the major publishing houses were closed to me. The submission process can be brutal. You wait months for a response and consider yourself lucky to even get a rejection letter. Due to the high volume of submissions, most publishers employ the “if you don’t hear from us in three to six months, we’re not interested” model. After shopping my father’s manuscript around to thirty different editors, I got a few bites. In the end, I opted for a Print-On-Demand format, which reduces publishing costs and allows authors a higher royalty rate.

 

For three decades, my father worked hard to raise money for the annual WGY Christmas Wish Campaign, which benefits a wide variety of causes in the Capital Region of New York State. I didn’t want to keep any of the profits from his book and figured that Christmas Wish would be an ideal fit. All author royalties will be donated to this year’s campaign. Won’t you please help me honor my father’s memory by picking up a copy of Scarecrow on the Marsh?

About the Author

don-weeksFor over thirty years, Don Weeks was among the most popular radio personalities in the Capital District region of New York State. He received a Marconi Award for radio excellence in 2005 and was inducted into to the New York State Broadcasters Hall of Fame four years later. He had just completed a rough draft of Scarecrow on the Marsh when he died of Merkle Cell Cancer in March of 2015. Author royalties from this project will be donated to the WGY Christmas Wish Campaign, which benefits a variety of charitable causes. Weeks worked tirelessly over the years to help raise money for the campaign.

jonathan-weeksJonathan Weeks has published several books on the topic of baseball–four non-fiction projects and one novel. His latest work, a mystery-thriller entitled Scarecrow on the Marsh, is a posthumous collaboration with his father–former radio icon Don Weeks, who passed away in 2015. Weeks finished the book in fulfillment of a promise he made to his father before he died.

Visit Don at:

FACEBOOK

About the Book:

When the mutilated body of renowned cosmetic surgeon Randall Landry turns up at a secluded bayside marsh in the town of Sandwich, Police Chief Thom Burrough’s life is turned upside down. While investigating the murder, he and BarnstableCounty coroner Abby Rhodes will uncover a plot more sinister than anything they could have imagined. On the outskirts of Chatham, a group of terrorists has assembled to unleash destruction on Cape Cod.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

 

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A Conversation with David Lamb, author of ‘On Top of the World (Until the Bell Chimes)

david-lambDavid Lamb is a native New Yorker, born and raised, bitten with the writing bug since he was in elementary school and had handwriting nobody could decipher. Like Charles Dickens, David grew up a poor boy in the big city who found that the pen really is mightier than the sword. In middle school Lamb’s hero was David Lampel whose velvet voice could be heard reporting the news over David’s grandmother’s radio. Whenever he heard him on the radio, David would substitute Lamb for Lampel and pretend he was delivering the news. Sure that he was destined to be a famous reporter David was happy to go to a high school with a journalism program. Like most kids, by the time he finished high school he had a whole new career in mind. After high school he went to Hunter College and majored in Economics because he wanted to be cool like that college kid who came to speak at his last year of high school. He was an Economics major, he was dressed sharp and above-all the girls thought he was the man! So like any unreasonable high school boy fueled by overactive hormones David figured if he majored in Economics they’d think he was cool. After finishing college David went on to law school at NYU, but all the time writing was still his heart. While working as a lawyer by day, at night he transformed into a writer and eventually wrote and produced the award-winning hit off-Broadway romantic comedy Platanos Y Collard Greens. Being a writer and having the chance make people laugh out loud while challenging them to think about the world around them, and inspire each of us to believe in the power of love and our own ability to overcome life’s challenges is a great gift that David truly enjoys and thanks you for allowing him to share with you in On Top Of The World (Until The Bell Chimes).

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | GOODREADS

About the Book:

2016 BEST FICTION-Pacific Book Awards. FROM THE FUNNY AND NATURALLY BRILLIANT DAVID LAMB, award-winning playwright of the New York Times celebrated play, Platanos Y Collard Greens, comes a modern spin on Dickens’ classic tale that perfectly combines humor and romance in a story re-imagined for our digital, consumerist age.  This version of Scrooge and Belle is familiar, yet unlike any you’ve come across before. Scrooge, or rather Scrooje, is music’s biggest superstar, with one hundred on-top-of-the-worldmillion albums sold, fifteen million devoted YouTube subscribers, two and a half million Facebook likes, and twenty-five million fanatical Twitter followers known as Scroojites. Belle, is a legal shark who gulps down her opposition voraciously and whose beauty and stunning figure causes traffic accidents as she zips through the sidewalks of Manhattan stylishly adorned and taking no prisoners.   They never imagined being music’s most powerful couple, but that’s exactly what happened when Belle fell head over heels and gave the Coke-bottle glasses wearing, plaid and stripe attired, scrawny, biggest nerd on her college campus the ultimate makeover, turning him into a fashion impresario whose style sets trends from Milan to NY Fashion Week and who can be seen courtside at the NBA Finals sporting a perfectly-fitted cashmere suit.   Then it happens. Belle realizes too late that she’s created a chart-topping monster as Scrooje’s ego explodes and he starts acting a fool.   Now, it’s been three years since they ve spoken. But tonight at Hollywood s biggest red carpet event, with the whole world watching, they’ll be given a second chance.   Will Scrooje listen to the ghostly-advice of Marley, his best friend since the fourth grade, who at the time of his untimely drowning at his Brazilian poolside birthday bash was as big a star as Scrooje? Will Scrooje finally do right by his number one artist, Cratchit, a genius comedian, who Scrooje invariably rip offs every chance he gets?   And with twenty-five million viewers tuned in will Scrooje finally shed his ego, jeopardize his image and declare his love for Belle, the one he betrayed and let slip away?   Second chances don’t often come around. Will Belle even give him a chance?   Mixing heart, soul, bling and romance in a fresh, original satire about race, class and celebrity worship Lamb establishes himself as one of the most talented and amazing writers today. And leaves no doubt that the Pacific Book Awards chose wisely when they selected On Top Of The World as the year’s Best Fiction.

Purchase Information:

Amazon | iTunes | B&N

I’d like to know more about you as a person first. What do you do when you’re not writing?

Hang out with my wife and daughter. Pretend to learn to play the trumpet J

What do you find fascinating about the Modern Romantic-Comedy satirical retellings genre?

That you can take the bones of a classic story, like the story of Scrooge, re-imagine it in a modern context that puts a whole new spin on it and infuses it with laughs and love that comment on what is going on in America and the world right now.

When was the adrenalin rush – writing that first chapter or the last and why?

Writing that first chapter. Because in the original incarnation of Scrooge it was written in third person, but I believed that if I could render it in first person, as a modern egotistical music star, that it would be funny, touching and romantic and when I saw that it worked I was ecstatic!

What is the most important thing about your book that we as a reader should know?

Over the years as audiences left my play Platanos Y Collard Greens (which is also a romantic comedy) they would tell me over and over. I didn’t know I could laugh so hard and learn so much!  And On Top Of The World is the same it is downright hilarious and very romantic. But it also has a lot to say about race, class and the vacuous obsession of Americans with celebrities.

Can you give us an excerpt?

PROLOGUE

Belle

The devil doesn’t wear Prada, he wears Sean John and I was the idiot who taught him how to shop.

That was what I got for reading Frankenstein in college. I’d been turned into a mad scientist without even realizing it. Just my luck, I was a math major and the one literature course I took had tricked me into creating a monster.

When I first met Scrooʝe, he—like most humans with XY chromosomes—was a fashion emergency. Awkwardly walking around campus—lost, desperately in need of a haircut, and for some strange reason wearing glasses so big he looked like an owl hunting for prey. He was just plain pitiful.

Though I have to confess, from the moment I saw him my heart sang a happy song and I couldn’t look away. Something between us was magnetic.

What can I say? I was always the kind of girl who liked rescue projects. When I was eight years old, I turned my family’s garage into a makeshift animal shelter and damn near gave my father a heart attack when a hungry pack of strays rushed at him as he pulled into the driveway.

So naturally, one look into Scrooʝe’s sad, puppy dog eyes and I felt right away—he was the one.

Before I knew it, we were college sweethearts and the best of friends. Of course, I had to clean him up; but after a few months under my tutelage, everyone noticed his transformation. They saw that with his gorgeous toffee skin, deliciously full lips, and sexy broad shoulders, he was the cutest boy on campus. Pretty soon I had girls telling me I needed to start a makeover service.

That was how it all started. Who could’ve known a simple makeover would unleash the devilish genius of the sweetest, shyest, most socially awkward boy I’d ever met? Or that he’d be transformed into music’s biggest superstar with an ego the size of Texas yet more fragile than an egg yolk?

Certainly not me.

What’s next for you?

Turning On Top Of  The World into a play an working on another re-imagined novel.

 

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First Chapter Reveal: Save the Last Dance by Eric Johnson & Eva Ungar Grudin

Save The Last DanceTitle: Save The Last Dance
Author: Eric Johnson & Eva Ungar Grudin
Publisher: Hargrove Press
Pages: 360
Genre: Literary Fiction

A tale of the power and peril of first love rediscovered.

Adam Wolf and Sarah Ross were teenage sweethearts who grew up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio in the late 50’s and early 60’s. They set a wedding date when they turned fifteen. The day came and went. For most of their lives the two were out of contact.

With their 50th high school reunion approaching, Adam and Sarah reconnect. Email exchanges – after the first tentative “hi”, then a deluge- five, ten- by the end of the week twenty emails a day. Soon Sarah admits, “All my life I’ve been looking for someone who loves me as much as you did”.

Written entirely in email and texts, Save the Last Dance allows the reader to eavesdrop on Sarah and Adam’s correspondence as their love reignites. It also permits the reader to witness the reactions of significant others, whose hum-drum lives are abruptly jolted by the sudden intrusion of long-dormant passion. Can Sarah and Adam’s rekindled love withstand the pummeling they’re in for?

For More Information

 

First Chapter:

 

From: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Paul Bishop <Paul.R.Bishop@dewey.com>

March 11, 2014  9:40 pm

Subject: The timeline

 

Paul,

 

I know a little about classical music, a little about film, a little about baseball, hockey and I can recite the presidents, in order, in 15 seconds. But I admit there are things I still don’t understand. Death, for instance.

 

I would like to get your advice on it. Not Death so much as the State of Being Dead. I’m not afraid of death, you know. I’m afraid of being dead. Incidentally, Paul, I don’t happen to believe in transubstantiation.

 

God forbid my parents are waiting for me on that Golden Shore:

 

“So I told you, son, you should have gone to med school. But a disc jockey at a 12-watt station? I don’t know. Why did I ever bother sending you to college?  Now, go get your rest and get cleaned up, son. We’re going to dinner with the Karl Marxes. I’m teaching them to speak English. The only trouble around here – the goddamn Trotskyites.

 

I ask: “Leon Trotsky made it here? How the hell did that happen?”

 

Paul, I don’t feel old. I don’t think I look old. I’m not sick. But lately I picture my marker on the far right of the timeline.

 

One day, when I was 28, alone on a Greyhound, late at night, I couldn’t stop thinking about what it really meant to be dead. I couldn’t shake the idea of being insensate, of not existing. I had a full-fledged panic attack, Paul – heart racing, sweating.  And for whatever reason, my mind reached out to Rick Marsulek, the resident juvenile delinquent from my high school days. My pal. Black leather jacket, complete with the wrench he always carried, in case anyone tried to mess with him. Duck’s ass haircut. Angelic face that could darken instantly. In my panic I called out to him, “Rick, help me.” He materialized and responded with little prompting.

“Fuck it, Adam, by the time you die, say when you’re 70, you’ll be okay with the idea. So stop sweating it.”  It calmed me. The panic dissipated. The advice has followed me all these years, and I learned to push the thoughts of death away.  Until now.

 

Today the announcement for my 50th High School Reunion arrived. And dark thoughts seem to be gathering on the horizon again.  But they’re not just about being dead. They’re about the sensation of being carried along on a conveyor belt.  To Waldheim Cemetery.  Feels as if life has become all predetermined ritual: the ten pills in the morning, the commute to the station, the commute back home, the same forced pleasantries in between, the six pills before bed. Lights out by 9:00.

 

I looked at the list of people on that reunion roster and one name jumped off the page. It conjured a time when death and ritual were far away. When we were free and invincible. When my pulse raced at even the mention of her name.

 

Here’s my question, Paul – Do you think there’s a way off of the conveyor belt or do you think I should just stay on it and go along en route to Waldheim?

 

– Adam

________________________________________________________________

From:  Greg Dillon < g.k.dillon30@comcast.com>

To: Sarah Ross < sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 22, 2014  1:17 pm

Subject: 50th REUNION – JUNE 22nd

 

Sarah, Sarah, Sarah – what’s the matter with you that you won’t let us see you in Cleveland? We have a blast planned. Party Friday, complete with Genelli’s pizza. Dinner dance at the Beachwood Country Club on Sat. night. A tour of Heights High that morning. Pastrami or corned beef lunch, your choice, at Corky and Lenny’s. If only the Indians were playing on Sunday, we’d do that too. Everyone is asking for you. Sherrie, Madeline, Frank, Doug (who still looks good). And, above all, Adam.

(Spoke to him last night. He wondered if he could have your email address. Here’s his – adamwolf1402@gmail.com)

 

Everyone’s coming. You’re the only one letting us down.

 

xoxo

Greg

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross < sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Gabriella Fratelli <gabriella.fratelli@orange.it>

May 22, 2014  7:29 pm

Subject: darling, I am growing older

 

Cara Gabriella –

 

I think of you always, my bastion of sanity, and I always wish you were near again.

 

Gordon pursues me. After these years alone, flattering.  Attention, companionship not to be minimized, I suppose. And I count myself lucky for it. But it’s not like the days with you when my heart leapt with anticipation of our togetherness.

 

It’s so odd. A lot of folks I see around me, my age, even younger, are ready to close up shop, or already have. I’m working hard to stay in life – my painting, the boutique, and a good time now and again. With nice people like Gordon, who don’t need to be wound up in the morning– still fun. It’s such a chore, though, to adjust to age. We become invisible – a shock when you lose your looks. You wouldn’t know. You’re forever young. But one day it happens. You look down and suddenly your dance card is empty. Guys look past you, eyes locked on some chick behind. Just as I was about to open a vein over this fate, the other day a not-bad-looking fellow, younger than I, lured me into one of those lingering eye-to-eye flirtations. Did me good. Remember when I could simply bat the baby blues and charm my way out of a speeding ticket? Now? Even tears don’t work.

 

Tried botox, only once. Maybe I told you already. Bruised my right eye, made the left one droop for weeks. When I first walked into the shop with it, Nicole screamed, thought I had had a stroke.

 

My 50th reunion is coming up. I suppose, if botox had agreed with me, I might be going.

 

My love, my love to you,

Sarah

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross < sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 23, 2014  10:13 am

Subject:

 

 

hi

 

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 23, 2014  11:21 am

Subject:

 

Hi yourself – I’m sorry to hear that you won’t be there in June.

I was looking forward to seeing you. How are you?

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 23, 2014  12:46  am

Subject: why I’m not attending reunion

 

It’s been a while hasn’t it? Decades. When was it? 1966? I don’t think I would have had the courage to write to you, after all this time, if Greg hadn’t written me saying you’d like to get in touch. He’s knocking himself out, isn’t he, organizing all those get-togethers. Lucy and Mira too.

 

I’m nudging Greg to arrange a meeting next year for just a few of us: you, Greg, Chris, Gail Krasner, and who else? Ah, me. New York City., Cleveland, Fargo – where doesn’t matter.

 

Forgive me for not attending the reunion. I wasn’t aware you’d be there. But I decided that I couldn’t stand just a glimpse of the people I long to know again.  That’s the fear that keeps me away. (That and the spectacle of Phyllis Mendelson using the occasion to hawk her latest book. What’s this one called?  “Beauty Tips for the Ugly Duckling”? Or something like that.)

 

Can I tentatively begin to ask about you?

 

Your parents? I remember them. Wolf’s Drug, Saturday afternoons, chocolate phosphates, sitting on those ratty red naugahyde stools with rough tears. And your father – formal, wearing his drug-store face – good-natured, though. I remember you used to rail about how fake it was. We always giggled that the smiles were really intended for Ruby in her pink apron.  And don’t you miss jukeboxes?  I remember the song we played over and over on the one jukebox at the drug store. Do you?

 

And of course your mother and her propensity to complain about your father. I found it poignant.

 

Are you okay? Your present family?

 

Me? Lots happened/happening. I’ve been living here in La Jolla for the last twelve years. My friend Nicole and I opened Naughty Niceties in 2010, a French lingerie shop in town. More amusing than lucrative. I’m a widow now. My husband Harold died 4 years ago. No kids. You know, I’m glad I didn’t change my name. It felt wrong to disappear from the face of the earth, from people like you who knew me as Sarah Ross.

 

Adam, if I knew where the cockles of my heart resided, I would say they’re warmed by your being on my radar screen again.

________________________________________________________________

From: Lola Wolf <lola.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 23, 2014  4:14 PM

Subject: Please answer

 

Adam – I’ve tried to call you 10 times already and you, for some reason, decided not to pick up. Please don’t insult me by not answering. If Her Highness still has you tending court, just wrench yourself away for five minutes so you can get back to me.  What if I had an emergency? Adam, could I count on you to answer? I suppose not.

 

Remember the party at the Dorman’s. 8:00. I’ll try to call later cause I know you’re going to forget. Pick up this time.

 

Do you have anything decent to wear? Don’t forget, no late stuff tonight at the station.

 

The way you just left this morning, without a look or a goodbye, or a sign of human recognition, made me sad and angry. Always the same story – that goddamn station. Your needs are first and the only thing that seems to matter to you. I know you’re in your “turmoil” right now about the reunion. So anxious, insufferable. “Will I look ok? What will they think?? Blah blah.” How about giving your wife the same consideration as those people you haven’t talked to in 50 years?

 

Adam, I’m still an attractive woman at age 64, even if you don’t think so. I got compliments at the grocery store this morning. “Mrs. Wolf, we think you’re the most elegant woman who comes into the store.” That’s the woman at the check- out!  I wore my old coat and hardly any makeup and she still thought I was elegant.

________________________________________________________________

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 23, 2014  5:57 pm

Subject: and back to you

 

I don’t know why, but I feel strangely nervous writing to you.

 

Sarah, I knew a little about an opening of a watercolor show and of landscape courses you were giving, I’ve followed you on the internet, so you were in some way already on my “radar screen”. Do you ever get back to Cleveland Heights?

 

My brother David retired from his real estate business, lives in the western suburbs. My mother died back in ’97. My father, the World’s Foremost Druggist, died in 2003 – managed to screw up his meds and had a stroke. I’m sorry, I don’t know whether your parents are alive or not. What I vividly remember was your father’s string quartet sessions on Sunday afternoons at your house – among a million other things. How’s your sister? Is she still in Cleveland Heights? And you? It must have been difficult when your husband died.

 

I’m fine – live in Evanston, remarried since the last time we talked in 1979. I have a son 28, Michael, in IT, now in Houston. When he visits we still go to the batting cages. We swing and miss for half an hour and then pizza and sports talk.

 

I’m now Program Director at WCMQ – 95.2 on your dial – boasting dozens of loyal classical music fans throughout Chicagoland. I still host “Your Classical Coffee Mate” (title’s not mine). We’d have more listeners if only our signal could be picked up beyond the parking lot. The “on the air” gig is the only part of the job I still enjoy. For an hour every day I get to ad lib. I’m considering basing an entire show on composers whose last names begin with “X”?

 

I’ve been here eons. No reason to stay, no reason to leave.

 

The song you challenged me to remember? Save the Last Dance for Me, of course.

 

Can we stay in touch and talk?

________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

 

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 23, 2014  6:35 pm

Subject: catching up

 

Let’s see – what else? Not that long ago I entered into a relationship with a special man, a retired marine biologist. I think he may be a “keeper”.

 

Esther and Herman still live in Cleveland. I don’t think she’s ever stepped a foot out of Cuyahoga County. She doesn’t think she needs to. I love my sister, but I still can’t stand to be near her. All that yakking about the bargains at Beachwood Place, the envelope licking for the Sisterhood.

 

I’m touched you remember the Hausmusik – so old world. Glad you witnessed it. My father and all his immigrant friends lived for those Sundays. He became remarkably civilized when he played his violin. Perhaps that’s one reason I was attracted to you, Adam. I loved the way you devoted yourself to the piano. Do you still play?

 

My father died in 1987. My mother is 95, in a nursing home near Esther and not doing so well. I try to be back in Cleveland at least once a month to see her, but I’m no longer convinced she can distinguish me from her phlebotomist.

 

I’m touched you’ve been stalking me on the internet. And yes, I’d love to keep on writing, if that’s what you mean by “talking”.  I need to fill in the gaps slowly. But no phoning. Okay? Can we just stay emailing for now? It’s a miraculous way to communicate, isn’t it? Easier than letters – instant gratification, not days between. And somehow I’m less shy, less inhibited just writing. Disembodied I feel emboldened, find it more intimate than the phone, for example.

________________________________________________________________

From: adam.wolf1402@gmail.com

To: sarahross64@gmail.com

May 23, 2014  7:03 pm

Subject: Re:catching up

 

Yes, let’s write for now. You know, I’ve never really carried on a personal email correspondence. My friend Paul, we exchange chapter-length emails once in a while – fantasy film scripts, the escape from the everyday. But this “intimacy” is new. Like you, I’m already discovering the freedom to be myself.  So forgive me if I’m awkward. I think I already messed up. My phrasing about following you on the internet was a little inartful, I admit. “Stalking” is too strong a word I think – more like “curiosity”, then quiet admiration and interest.

 

You know, about 10 years ago I was in La Jolla several times.  I went there with the station owner. We used to go to the West Coast on business. Unfortunately, or fortunately, we don’t take those trips anymore.  If I had known you were there, I would have tried to see you.

 

Tell me more about how you’re doing now. Piano? I dropped Schubert, picked up Cole Porter, some Gershwin. it’s my palliative, but I guess not so much other people’s. So I keep it to myself.

 

Actually I have a thousand more things I want to tell you — if that’s OK. I’ll write again tomorrow if I can–

________________________________________________________________

 

________________________________________________________________

From:Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: S.Gordon Wilson <S.Gordon.Wilson@csulb.edu>

May 24, 2014  8:22 am

Subject: this weekend

 

Sorry I couldn’t get back to you yesterday. Nicole and I didn’t sit down all day. The new line of “amethyst” lace boy shorts and “anthracite” demi-bras brought in a flock of floosies. Do you believe these marketing people? I’d like the job – to invent the irresistible colors du jour. Almost as clever as “Häagen-Daz”.

 

Yes, an afternoon on the new boat would be grand. Sounds relaxing. Believe me, I need that badly right now. How about I pack us a lunch? We can christen (or should I say baptize?) the boat with some Sauvignon Blanc.

________________________________________________________________

From: S.Gordon.Wilson < S.Gordon.Wilson@csulb.edu>

To: Jerome Mahoney <Jerry.Mahoney2028@verizon.net>

May 24, 2014  10:05 am

Subject: THIS AND THATS

 

Hi there, Jerry –

 

Got the new boat! Going to christen her this weekend. Thinking Sarah Ross might like to come along. I invited her and wish you and Mae could come down here and help us celebrate. You and I would have a lot of yucks. Anyway, there’ll be a chance to get together this fall. There’s a conference up your way.

 

Heard a good one I think you’ll appreciate:

 

Why don’t blondes wear miniskirts in San Francisco?

Their balls show.

 

Here’s another one I can tell you, but wouldn’t tell Sarah:

 

What does a Jew with an erection get when he walks into a wall?

A broken nose.

 

Your chum,

Gordon

 

  1. Gordon Wilson, PhD.

Founder and Editor of The Ichthysaurus

Fellow, American Academy of Underwater Sciences

Professor of Biology, Emeritus

California State University, Long Beach

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com

May 24, 2014  9:16 am

Subject:

 

Oh, the trouble with email is that it has no tone of voice. The “stalking” was a jest. Hyperbole R Us. “I’m touched by your curiosity” is a sappier way of saying it, I suppose. And a thousand and one things, by all means – a thing at a time, and back to you. I look forward to it.

 

After college? Your life trajectory?

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 24, 2014  9:34 am

Subject: hmmm, my life

 

Trajectory? Mine is sort of like the Challenger spacecraft. Graduated from U of Chicago ’68 and the Cleveland Heights Selective Service Board thrust me into a deferment as a VISTA volunteer. The remains of my Command Module came down in Bluefield, West Virginia. What did I do there? Same as anyone in any community action program – sat around contemplating how to connect with the poor. I sold the idea of a radio show to the public station there. Conducted interviews, sang some folk songs – short-lived – I guess too radical and too Jewish for W. Virginia. Careened back to Chicago in ’69, stringing together occupational deferments – mainly working in psych hospitals. Auditioned unsuccessfully for radio jobs. First classical try-out I screwed up the German. Tripped on the Einführung aus dem Serail.  Then ’83, had success auditioning for this small classical station as the overnight announcer. The owner’s wife, Amanda Schreiber, supervised the audition. Gave me the job and whispered afterward that I was too cute for radio. So here I am, parked in stationary orbit for the past 30 years.

 

Trajectory?  Two marriages. One brief, fling-like. The current one, almost three decades. In neither case am I sure what prompted me to get married. Pretty boring, huh?

______________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 24, 2014  1:29 pm

Subject: don’t be hard on yourself

 

Boring? Never to me. Need to know who you are now. Sounds like an adventure – West Virginia, psych hospitals – can’t wait for the stories. Radio celebrity to boot. Send an autograph. Make it personal and I can get more for it.

 

Do you think there are patterns to mistakes we make in relationships? I’m somehow attracted to men, and they to me, unfortunately, who dislike their mothers.  That’s one of the patterns that repeats. There are others.

________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

 

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 24, 2014  1:40 pm

Subject: Re: don’t be hard on yourself

 

That’s no pattern. Doesn’t every man tell his girlfriend that he doesn’t like his mother? What other patterns would you mean? Are they patterns that began with us? Was Sandy Chapman part of your pattern?

________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 24, 2014  1:43 pm

Subject: patterns

 

My other patterns?  People who are hypersensitive. Like you were. Smart and funny. Like you were. Prone to jealousy. Like you were. Maybe so, maybe our relationship has always been my template. Yep.

 

Now your turn. I ask again – your patterns?

_______________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 24, 2014  1:46 pm

Subject: Re: patterns

 

My patterns? I can’t think of any. Let me see. Maybe short skirts.

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 24, 2014  1:56 pm

Subject: Re:Re: patterns

 

Really? Glad you’re so forthcoming. Come on, Wolfie, fess up. Any patterns that have to do with us?

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 24, 2014  2:03 pm

Subject:  who I’ve become

 

A pattern? Okay. I confess. Passivity maybe. But, Sarah, that’s not a pattern that started with us, not what I remember. But me? For many years since us, it’s been different. Pattern: letting myself be pulled into someone’s orbit – then staying put – fearful to disrupt the daily sameness – afraid of being cast off into the cold if I opened my mouth. Could it really be that my last successful relationship was at 15?

 

Incidentally if I really was the template for all your relationships, how the hell did you wind up with Sandy Chapman after we broke up? (Hey, why did we break up anyway?)

________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

 

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 24, 2014  2:19 pm

Subject: breaking up

 

You mean, how could you ever have broken up with me? Let’s see . . .

 

1) Your raging hormones

 

2) Darlene Cutler’s short skirt

 

and

 

3) My desperate need to be with you every waking hour, which, I’m sure, would have gotten on anyone’s nerves. I never again in my life have been that way. I’ve learned to keep a distance in my relationships. I’ve learned not to be dependent. Have suppressed the desire to be fused to anyone. But I recall I felt amputated without you by my side. Perhaps I became too independent after us. I hope it to be different with Gordon. I would like to be less autonomous, less mistrustful and submit to someone who I think would take care of me. Wish me luck.

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 25, 2014  12:04 pm

Subject: Gordon

 

You used the word the word “keeper“ describing your relationship with Gordon. Sounds like partnership with a future.

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 25, 2014  12:34 pm

Subject: Re: Gordon

 

I met Gordon a year ago when we co-chaired the fundraiser for the La Jolla Center for the Arts. He’s a strong, comforting presence. An old-fashioned gentleman. And he’s taken me sailing a couple of times. Best of all, he can whip up some of the best bouillabaisse on this planet.  So I made him one of my new best friends. People have begun to think of us as a couple. We’re invited out together. I don’t know how else to summarize my relationship with Gordon except to say we’re comfortable with each other.

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 25, 2014  12:48 pm

Subject: Fish Aversion

 

Bouillabaisse on the high seas. I’ve got to confess that’s lost on me. My appetite for seafood is, as always, nil. He could have seasoned the bouillabaisse with Drano, for all I knew, and I would have been none the wiser. The only time in recent memory I had a taste for seafood was on Yom Kippur, late afternoon, when I started eyeing Lola’s fish tank. Last week, you’ll be thrilled to know, I ordered the tuna panini at Arby’s. So, looks like you and Gordon are a good match. I’m happy for you. Incidentally, I would be jealous about the boat, except I get seasick just driving past Red Lobster.

________________________________________________________________

 

 

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 25, 2014  1:00 pm

Subject: Re:Fish Aversion

 

You inlanders, poor things, don’t know what good fish looks like. Or for that matter, what it smells like. After those obligatory cruises in elementary school on the Cuyahoga River, with the dead fish floating on the scum, and the stench of rotten eggs wafting through the air, it took years before I’d go near anything fishy.

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 25, 2014  1:11 pm

Subject: Re:Re: Fish Aversion

 

I’m glad you’re so ichthyologically sophisticated now that you’re with Gordon. Makes sense with a marine biologist. It’s not everyone so lucky that they can eat their work at the end of the day. I’m happy for you. Gordon sounds perfect. Any flaws?

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 25, 2014  1:34 pm

Subject: flaws

 

Any flaws? I wouldn’t call them flaws exactly. Just annoyances. Okay, just between us, Adam, he doesn’t make me laugh. If he has humor in his repertoire, I haven’t discovered it yet. Odd, but when he tells jokes, I don’t hear anyone laugh. I guess that’s my most serious criticism. We don’t laugh at the same things. In fact, he has an annoying habit of not laughing and, if there’s something real funny, he’ll just say, “That was very funny”, and never laugh. You know what I mean. It’s hard for him to open up. I don’t want to complain, because for his age, you know, 73, he’s remarkably active and engaged. I think it’s the medication, and not the years, that sometimes make him distant and dispassionate. But he’s a great human being. He says that he’s so lucky to have found me and I tell him the same.

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 25, 2014  1:55 pm

Subject: Re: flaws

 

It’s difficult to imagine Sarah Ross with someone humorless. But then no one could make you laugh the way I could. That’s one of the reasons I was crazy about you. Anyway, is there no Sandy Chapman in the wings if you decide to break up with Gordon?

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 25, 2014  2:45 pm

Subject: Sandy Chapman?

 

Adam, I never even knew you noticed me with Sandy after the break up. Just happens that last time I was in Cleveland, just this winter, we ran into each other pumping gas at the Shell station on Fairmont. He recognized me. I didn’t him, not at first – grey hair, not much of it. But for 70 doesn’t look bad. He was telling me about his career in engineering (fluid engineer, whatever that is). Anyway I didn’t really understand – something with hydro this or that.

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 25, 2014  3:03 pm

Subject: Re: Sandy Chapman?

 

Sandy Chapman? Hydro? Probably something involving hydrocephalics. Sorry, just flashing those days I spotted you with him. In that gaudy red T-bird. Well, anyway, you seemed real happy. I heard you spent weekends with him in Columbus. The older guy.  I wondered who’s teaching her how.

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 25, 2014  3:31 pm

Subject: Jealousy

 

Adam, cut it out or I’ll invoke memories of that Cutler slut.

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 25, 2014  4:16 pm

Subject: My son Michael

 

Just heard from Michael that he’s coming in for the weekend – new girlfriend in tow. He had a bit of a wild time at Wisconsin as an undergrad – stayed on in Madison for a Masters in Environmental Science. Came back to Chicago and spent a season hunting down microbes in the Des Plaines River. Chased a girl to Houston. He stayed. Girl didn’t. Now with Exxon. An I.T. job I never quite understood. Needless to say, his nascent crusade to Rescue the Environment from Capitalism is officially on hold.

_______________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 25, 2014  4:25 pm

Subject: Re: My son Michael

 

If he rails against capitalism, I know he’s your son and Manny Wolf’s grandson. I looked for Michael on the internet. Think I found his Facebook picture – looks so much like you as a young man – beautiful, the curly blonde hair, the angular face, even the Adam’s apple. Ah, to see you again in him!  Makes me think of your broad shoulders and narrow hips. Sigh!

______________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 25, 2014  4:40 pm

Subject: Re:Re: My son Michael

 

People do say he looks like me. I can’t see it. Happy you can. I think the shape of his face is more like Lola’s. Not much of a resemblance to me when it comes to classical music. Michael never showed much interest. Lola insisted for years my playing opera for the kid was a hazard to his auditory nerves. Maybe that’s why. But you might like to know he’s good at art. I should send you the link to drawings from his sketchbook. He posts that on Flickr. Just felt pen on scratchpads, the passing scene – likes to capture the world rushing by – some evocative images of workmen at the refineries – filthy, sweating in the sun.

 

Incidentally, what are you doing these days with your art? Or would you rather we talk more about your liaison dangereuse with Chapman?

_______________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 25, 2014  5:28 pm

Subject: flash of memory

 

Adam, enough Sandy crap!

 

I love it that Michael and I have art in common. I’m eager to see what he’s doing. As for me, I’m teaching a bit, painting when I can. But you don’t make a real living as an artist (or very few people do).

 

The shop keeps me busy. I’m in there 3x a week. Hate the accounting part, but rather like the income. Meager but it pays my Medicare supplement. Most of all, I love to go to Fashion Week in New York and discover the latest styles, colors. Long leggy models. Lovely to watch them glide unselfconsciously down the runway. Their thongs hugging the groove of their butts so compact that even I could grasp both cheeks with one hand.

 

One of them, when I saw her last fall, had hair so wavy and so wild, someone described it as “storm-tossed”. And I have to admit, I thought of you. The 14 year-old you, your tossled hair and runway thin hips. And not just that image came through – but a passage from Homer, a day in 8th grade English class. I quote this one, when I tell people one of the reasons I fell in love with my first boyfriend. Remember, Adam, we all had to memorize the same damn lines from the beginning of some translation of the Odyssey.

 

Then Tubaugh had us stand at our desks and one by one recite it. Boring. The same damn lines. (All that memorization back then sticks with us, doesn’t it? That’s the fun part.) “Tell of the storm-tossed man, oh Muse, who wandered long after he sacked the sacred citadel of Troy.” Over and over.

 

And then it was your turn: “Tell of the storm-tossed man, oh Muse, who wandered long after he sacked the sacred citadel of Troy, and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper .  . . ” and we were all on the floor.

_______________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 25, 2014  10:21pm

Subject: Goodnight, my Sarah

 

Pardon me, but I’m a bit preoccupied here – your hand on the model’s rear?

Yes, our days together have always been an anchor, a reference point for me too. Inevitably a phrase, a look, pulls me back to us. Programming Mozart’s early operas, I think of how we inspired ourselves to finish homework by saying Mozart had written 13 symphonies by the time he was our age.

 

Or something as simple someone saying, “Meet my girlfriend”, and I have always thought of you. “Girlfriend” has always meant only one thing to me. It meant Sarah. Isn’t it strange?

 

Do you remember we could carry on entire conversations across a room? I knew what you meant – every wink, twitch and flutter. And I think I still would.

 

I’ve tried it with other people. Amanda (the station owner) and I might have had some moments of primitive non-verbal communication. During a meeting, say, but ultimately it didn’t work. Usually ended up with her shrugging her shoulders, “I don’t know what you meant”. I doubt we’ll ever master it. ________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 26, 2014  9:12 am

Subject: Good morning to you

 

Yes, I only wish other people were as sensitive to me as you were. Then I wouldn’t have to be so blunt. “Blunt” is a good word to describe me, a flaw I’m not proud of. Some people are better than I at being circuitous. Criticism comes easily to me. I struggle, though, with how to couch it nicely. It doesn’t come naturally. The students in my watercolor classes learn a lot, for instance, and I’m enormously patient with those who try. But the grousers, no matter how talented, set my teeth on edge, and I come close to growling at them. Klaus the Stubborn, in particular – retired, red-faced – probably a storm-trooper in his past life. Last week, down by the marina, at the little studio where I hold classes, I thought to mix things up and have the group work with the paper oriented vertically and not in the usual landscape format.  Klaus resisted and resisted until I exploded and told him just to shut up and do it. Turned out to be his best work ever. A composition of lines and arcs – compelling – a sliver of the pier and its masts, as if glimpsed from the edge of a window. Praise for real talent does come easily to me, though. And it made Klaus feel good, I think, to hear me applaud him. The exercise inspired me too. I’ve gone out every day since to capture a slice of life in longitudinal section.

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 26, 2014  11:45 am

Subject: Speaking out

 

Stealing a moment on break to be avec toi.

 

I always adored your bluntness and independence back in our day. I never learned to speak out. I remember that I secretly relied on you to speak my feelings when I was angry. In my house it was my role, wasn’t it, to mediate conflicts all the time. Between my parents: “Tell him his supper is ready.” “Tell her I’ll get the window fixed on Saturday.” (My parents once went a full year without talking to each other.)

 

Constant tensions between my father and brother also rode high. Once at the table when David got his first and only B+ on a report card, the usual belittlement got out of hand and before long my brother had my father in a strangle hold. (My mother ran out of the room, of course.) And it was my role to make peace. I stepped in between them, pushed them to their respective chairs. They sat seething. And I interjected myself into the silence by imitating the voice of the Gillette Friday Night Fight’s ringside announcer: “No real damage inflicted in the first round. They’ll be coming back out soon for the second. The Champ seems a bit shaken. The Challenger has put together some brilliant combinations.” Then they would eventually smile and laugh.

 

That was me then and me forever – conciliator, appeaser, mediator. It’s who I am today. I turn away from conflict and equivocate whenever necessary to spare people pain. I needed you. You were the other part of me. Spoke out. Spoke up for me. Spoke my feelings because I couldn’t and because you understood them. I have not had my “other half” since those days.

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 26, 2014  12:09 pm

Subject: what you were for me

 

Don’t underestimate the gift for making people laugh. It carried me through some rough times at home, in America. I was mistrustful of people ever since my parents lied to 5-year-old me about leaving Vienna. They told me we were just “going on vacation in the mountains via a big ship this time”. In fact, I landed in an alien country, lost in translation. Eventually you were my verbal, educated, loving and oh so funny protector. AND a real American. I totally trusted you. Needed you.

 

I suspect masking your feelings creates problems. Leads to misunderstandings?  I’m sorry about that, if it’s true.

________________________________________________________________From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 26, 2014  3:28 pm

Subject: My troubles

 

I’m in trouble all the time. Right now I’m not ready to give you all the details of the trouble I’ve created for myself in my old age. Suffice it to say I feel like an outsider in my own life.

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 26, 2014  3:50 pm

Subject: let’s hear it for cyberspace

 

Details can wait. But I feel like I should be there to rescue you. Forgive me for staying away so long. You know, Adam, it’s amazing to me how quickly we can confide in each other again. This magical forum – email. I doubt talking or phoning would have brought us together in such an intimate way. I keep marveling at that.

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 26, 2014  5:28 pm

Subject: The Cleveland Indians

 

Do you remember how exciting it was to go down to Municipal Stadium together on a summer afternoon? Rocky Colavito? So cute. Tito Francona? You taught me how to fill out a scorecard, how to shout insults at the ump: “His seeing-eye dog could have called that one.”

 

Hey, Adam Wolf, my parents subscribed to the Plain Dealer. But let’s hear it for the old Cleveland Press!! Best reason to have grown up in Cleveland. Get straight A’s, bring down your report card, and we’ll hand you seven sets of tickets to the Tribe’s games. I would have flunked out of school, I’m guessing, if I hadn’t aimed for those tickets. Seven pair!! And two were box seats. Of course you remember. You got them every year. Me? Only in 9th grade – cause I cajoled Mr. Scott to change my B+ in Algebra to an A- because the Indians tickets were on the line.

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 26, 2014  5:58 pm

Subject: THE TRIBE

 

Still at work.

 

Can you believe in those days we never thought twice about what an affront Chief Wahoo was? Even worse, he’s still around.

 

But now here’s a question. I’m sure you remember where you were when Kennedy was shot. Or on 9/11. But can you recall exactly where you were the moment you heard that Herb Score had been hit in the eye by a line drive?

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 26, 2014  6:30 pm

Subject: Re: THE TRIBE

 

Ah, my dear Adam – you know me for the nerd I was – of course I remember. I was in bed. It was a night game. The Yankees. My radio was tuned to the game. Jimmy Dudley announcing. Herb Score pitching to Gil McDougal. And I recall hearing the crack of McDougal’s bat and the screaming from the crowd. Herb Score. Poor Herb Score! Hit in his eye! Rookie of the Year the year before, right? Oh, I remember a lot of that moment. Early in the season. The Plain Dealer photos of him crumpled on the pitcher’s mound. But did the game continue? Did the Yankees win?

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 26, 2014  7:20 pm

Subject: Re:Re: THE TRIBE

 

Home at last.

 

May 7, 1957.  Herb Score still played after that, but was never the same. Became an announcer for the Indians. Aren’t you glad you we didn’t see it on TV, in “living color”?  A most gory sight, they said. McDougal was so distraught, said he’d quit baseball if Score lost his vision.  Hey, Sarah, I love that you love baseball.

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 26, 2014  9:44 pm

Subject: sleep tight

 

Just back from dinner. Tuckered out. Off to bed. Goodnight, Adam.

 

Gee, to be with you again, with our set of common experiences – comforting, extremely comforting.

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 26, 2014  10:04 pm

Subject: Re: sleep tight

 

Goodnight, my Sarah. I’ll write to you in the morning – as soon as I am conscious.

_____________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 27, 2014  7:32 am

Subject: Familiarity

 

In all the years since us, I must confess, I have never again felt a sense of belonging, the “oneness” we had, Sarah. Strange, huh? As children we experience a kind of love that we then spend 50 years looking for and can never find again. But I shouldn’t speak for you.  I should say that “I” looked for and that “I” could never find again.

_____________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 27, 2014  9:15 am

Subject: Re: Familiarity

 

I’m touched Adam by your memory of us. It’s been mine too, you know. All my life I’ve been looking for someone who loves me as much as you did.

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

 

From: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Paul Bishop < Paul.R.Bishop@dewey.com>

May 27, 2014  11:36 am

Subject: Reunion Craziness

 

Paul,

 

I hope that crappy weather doesn’t ruin the Baroque Festival for you. Playing outdoors in a driving thunderstorm with a priceless cello might get you some welcome notice. The Asheville Times: “From where I sat, I was unable to hear Mr. Bishop’s interpretation of Telemann over the thunder claps and howling wind, but his fingering technique “wet” my appetite for more.”

 

I need to catch you up on the latest madness with me – not just “50th Reunion Insanity Inc.”, but something else. It involves Sarah, yes, THAT Sarah. I told you about her long ago – the “awakening of love”. We’re in touch again, all brought about by my old high school friend Greg, you know, the chess hustler who used to come to Chicago every summer (hate to remind you). He informed me that Sarah Ross wasn’t coming to the reunion, and wanted to know how I was doing. So that started an email correspondence that’s been clipping along for days and days. Paul, I’m nervous. At first it’s pleasantries, then some innuendoes – although, Jesus Christ on a cracker! she owns a shop in San Diego that specializes in upscale panties. Not married – her husband died – so far, so good.

 

Each word to her I weigh a hundred times – so strange – so exciting. To keep Lola from knowing, I stay at the station til late, writing, waiting for replies. Every night now my heart pounding every second – reading into her language, so tentative. Paul, it’s like on the ice, skating to the corner – you never see the hit coming – you don’t feel it at first –  you’re flying, falling, submitting to the force.

 

I’ll admit I’m insane. Incidentally, I’m going to call my urologist and suggest he return to medical school. He told me I was unlikely to achieve verticality without a pharmaceutical assist. All I have to do now is think of Sarah to prove him wrong.

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Esther Lehman <estherlehman88@yahoo.com>

May 27, 2014  11:36 am

Subject: Guess who’s back?

 

Esther, do you believe it? I actually had a real talk with Mom today. She seemed to know who I was. Encouraging. Perhaps the exercise regime really does help.

 

Now for my news – at lunch today Nicole asked me why I looked so, how did she put it, radiant. And I smiled and shrugged and I didn’t answer.  But if you really want to know, it’s because I’ve been in touch with Adam Wolf again. Yep, after all these years. He’s remarried, so don’t worry, it’s all on the up and up. He seems to be interested in staying in touch, and that, I guess, is why the glow is there. Okay, okay, call me mushy. Why not “sappy” or “schmaltzy” while you’re at it? Throw it at me. Tell me to concentrate on Gordon. I will, I will, but for right now I’m buzzing over this back-in-touchness with Adam. I’ve had so many pretend conversations with him over the years that real ones are heady. And when Harold betrayed me, my impulse was to find Adam again and have him reassure me that I was still loveable.

 

But I won’t let him see me because I’m not 21 anymore. I wouldn’t want him to run away in horror. What he’ll get is the disembodied Sarah. We’ll leave it at that, only email, no Skype, certainly no meeting, ever. Let him picture me as I looked then. Much better than the reality of 68. Maybe I can send him a picture of me at 36 and pretend that’s the way I look now.

 

Anyway, hug Mom for me. And hugs to you and Herman too, of course.

_______________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 27, 2014  3:29 pm

Subject: Our ESP?

 

Sarah, this may sound loony, but in our day weren’t we able to communicate, to talk to each other telepathically? I remember lying in bed at night hearing your voice and speaking to you. Did it really happen?

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 27, 2014  4:00 pm

Subject: Re: Our ESP?

 

Gee, now I do recall attempts at telepathy. But don’t remember its working, though. What do you remember my saying?

 

Will write again in a while. Off to teach a class.

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 27, 2014  6:15 pm

Subject:

 

And I’m off to a charity auction. More later.

______________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 27, 2014  9:21 pm

Subject: Telepathy

 

Scored a Wheaties box at the auction – with Sammy Sosa on it. I’ll resell it and retire.

 

Hope your class went well and that Klaus suppressed his Hermann Goering imitation.

 

Up in my room. Can’t bear another second of “Dancing with the Stars” blasting, rattling the mirrors.

 

You asked me before what you said to me telepathically. Oh, just something soothing, comforting, your soft voice, something like, “It’s okay. I’m here.” Or just, “Adam. It’s me.”

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 27, 2014  9:41 pm

Subject: Re: Telepathy

 

Class fine. We worked on still-life drawings. No Klaus.

 

Adam, should we try this telepathy business again? I must confess, some years ago I did have an extraordinarily close friend who moved away to Italy and we seemed to be able to signal each other telepathically. I knew when she needed me. I haven’t seen her in years, but we still correspond – a confidante.

_______________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 27, 2014  9:44 pm

Subject: Telepathy Tonight?

 

Sarah, how about 1:15 am your time? I’ll send a message. See if you get it. I’ll ask you tomorrow what it was.

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 27, 2014  9:48 pm

Subject: Re:Telepathy Tonight?     

 

Okay, let’s try. I’ll be asleep, deep asleep, but primed to receive you. _____________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 27, 2014  9:55 pm

Subject: Re:Re:Telepathy Tonight?

 

How about a dry run right now? You think of something – a word, a place.

And I’ll tell you what I received.

__________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 27, 2014 9:59 pm

Subject:

 

Okay. Sent.

_____________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 27, 2014  10:03 pm

Subject:

 

Wait. Wait. I think I got it. A hit. Is it something in Cleveland?

_____________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 27, 2014  10:07 pm

Subject:

 

Gosh, amazing. It is.

_________________________________________________________

 

 

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 27, 2014  10:16 pm

Subject:

 

Don’t tell me, don’t tell me. Ummm.  It’s about water. Dirty water. Cuyahoga River!

_______________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 27, 2014  10:20 pm

Subject:

 

Close. I sent “Corky and Lenny’s Delicatessen”. Their water wasn’t dirty, though, was it?

_______________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 27, 2014  10:28  pm

Subject:

 

See. See! The place started with a “C”.  A little more concentration and we’ll have it perfected. Tonight send some romantic thought. I bet that works.

___________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 27, 2014  10:49 pm

Subject: sweet dreams

 

Goodnight, dear Adam. I’ll do my best.

______________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 28, 2014  5:47 am

Subject:

 

I didn’t set the alarm, but somehow woke up at exactly 1:30. Did you receive my romantic thoughts?

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 28, 2014  6:47 am

Subject:

 

That one’s easy.  The same as we used to sign our notes to each other, right?

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 28, 2014  7:45 am

Subject: exercise

 

Right!

 

I’m getting ready to go to my NIA class. It’s a non-impact aerobic dance/martial arts exercise. Jane, a great teacher. About a 45-min. drive, but worth it.

 

I also take a yoga class 3x a week. What do you do to keep your heart from attacking you?

________________________________________________________________

 

 

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 28, 11:33 am

Subject: Re:exercise

 

What I do for “exercise”? It’s ice hockey. Taught myself to skate about 20 years ago when Michael played youth hockey. Now, about once a month, I play with some younger guys in their 50’s. (Ah, to be 50 again!). Only one injury that needed stitches, only knocked unconscious once. Not as therapeutic as your NIA – only 2 hours of a grueling workout after 60 hours of butt shifting on the way to and from work. I’m likely to end my life stroking out on the ice.

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 28, 2014  12:14 pm

Subject: hockey!

 

What a way to go! Dying when wearing sexy tuchis pads, no matter how sweaty? I’d take it. Fun to think of you moving quickly cross the ice – remembering how fast you moved around the track. But hockey? You mean you can stop on a dime and send ice chips flying? Be still my heart!

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 28, 1:19 pm

Subject: Re:hockey!

 

Hockey, more humbling than romantic, certainly not sexy. I play with guys who started skating at the age of one and have played hockey every night of their lives since. They tolerate me, the lone Jew among the Catholic rink rats. Actually, by the time I get all my gear on, I’m too tired to play. Some nights I can’t even make it to the first puck drop without begging for a substitute.

 

Even if I’m alone at the net with a wide-open shot, I miss most of the time. I hang around the net a lot, get to know the goalie very well. There ought to be rule that old Jewish players are awarded a point for amusing the opposing goalie. Let’s call it a schtick shot.

 

But I’m a pretty good skater, can skate backwards as quickly as forwards.

_______________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 28, 2014  2:21 pm

Subject: Re:Re:hockey!

 

Now you’ve done it! Next I’ll have to ask you what you’re wearing.

_______________________________________________________________

 

 

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 28, 2:45 pm

Subject: What I’m wearing

 

You can ask me what I’m wearing any time you like. Right now I have on my day uniform. It consists of a pale blue broadcloth dress shirt, with yellow stripes, a thin-whaled tan corduroy jacket with leather patches at the elbow, a faded pair of straight-legged Levi’s blue jeans, over pink satin thongs – floral pattern of tulips and peonies appliqued at the crotch, and naturally, a matching bra.

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 28, 2014  3:02 pm

Subject: Re:What I’m wearing

 

Adam, don’t you know? These days they don’t have to match.

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 28,  3:16 pm

Subject: Back to work

 

I’m on the air – covering for someone – playing the Bruckner Fifth – long enough for a quick hi. And bye.

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 28, 2014  4:00 pm

Subject: classical music

 

You know, Adam, I can’t imagine a person better at classical programming than you. Even when you were 15 you loved telling me about Vivaldi and Mozart. I trust you would be proud of me now that I’ve embraced Bruckner and Wagner. Gordon, who often indulges me, and does like classical music, declined my invitation to Tristan and Isolde when the San Francisco Opera came to town. He dismissed it as “noise”. We had a fight. I said only people who’ve never bothered to listen to Wagner write him off that way.

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 28,  5:01 pm

Subject: Re:classical music

 

Yes, I’m always taken aback by people’s dumb-ass response to Wagner. You’re right, Sarah, they’ve never listened. I’m excited you like it. Incidentally, lots of people could do a better job programming classical music than I – like a nine-year-old throwing a dart at the Grove Encyclopedia of Music.

________________________________________________________________

 

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 28,  8:33 pm

Subject: The seats for the blind

 

Long day. Demanding meeting. I was musing on the commute home, thinking about our times. About Cleveland. Do you remember when we went to see Don Giovanni at the Auditorium? My grandmother’s Society for the Blind free tickets when the Met came to town. God forbid anyone should actually pay for tickets. God forbid anyone should ever have taken my grandmother herself. Even for the blind they were bad seats. We sat in that section upstairs against the wall where, when we were lucky, we spotted Leparello smoking a cigarette in the wings waiting for his cue. We never got to see Don Giovanni himself, no matter how much we strained. To this day, despite that, the end of Don Giovanni is still my favorite ending to an opera.

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 28, 2014  8:51 pm

Subject: Re:The seats for the blind

 

You bet I remember that excursion. I went again with my mother to see Tosca when the Metropolitan Opera was in town (tickets, yet) from her cousin, the choral director at the Met, Kurt Adler. He must have seen us as his pitiful mishpoche. Wrangled complimentary tickets for us.  ALSO IN THE BLIND SECTION!  Almost got to see Renata Tebaldi. Actually did see her backstage. She looked exhausted after hurling herself off the parapet. An icepack on her ankle.  She was furious. Apparently some stagehand fell asleep on the mattress that was supposed to catch her.

 

Hey, Chicago has a great opera house. Do you ever get there?

_______________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 28,  9:07 pm

Subject: The Lyric Opera

 

Actually, the station gets tickets, but I rarely go anymore.

 

For years, back in the 70s, I had a subscription to the Lyric. Went with a man I knew from the old Lincoln Park neighborhood. Let me describe the guy. Good-looking is too bland a word for it. Strikingly handsome. Think Jude Law with a Chicago accent. Wore Armani suits. Tall. Slender. When we walked into the lobby, everyone would turn to look.  Of course both of us were completely heterosexual, but I liked being thought of as his date.

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 28, 2014  9:10 pm

Subject: Re:The Lyric Opera

 

Completely heterosexual?  Pity.

________________________________________________________________

 

 

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 28,  9:19  pm

Subject: Re:Re:The Lyric Opera

 

I guess you caught me there. If I were so completely heterosexual, I wouldn’t have had to mention it.

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 28, 2014  9:50 pm

Subject: nightie night

 

Off to bed.  Early morning meeting.

 

Goodnight Adam. I’ll compose more emails to you in my sleep.

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 28, 2014  10:04 pm

Subject: Re:nightie night

 

Goodnight, my Sarah. I’ll be with you again in my sleep.

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 29,  9:10 am

Subject: My novel

 

Thought a lot about opera last night.

 

A few years ago, I wrote a short novel – 25,000 words – and one scene involves a group of opera singers, including Renata Tebaldi, lost in space.

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 29,2014  9:25 am

Subject: Re:My novel

 

What became of your novel?

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 29, 2014  11:23 am

Subject: Re:Re:My novel

 

Nothing came of it. I’ll never show it to anyone, so don’t ask. I now think it’s dumb.

________________________________________________________________

 

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 29, 2014  11:56 am

Subject: Please send the book

 

Adam, I’m sure it’s not dumb, and I really do wish to read it. Please. I remember a great novel you wrote when you were only 16. Thought you so brilliant. Trust you still are.

 

A memory flash – your backyard, a Scrabble game, you laid down a word on the triple-score squares – “queue” – a gazillion points in one simple move. I’ll never get over learning the word right then and wondering how it ever got to be pronounced the way it was pronounced. And recall thinking back then how brilliant Adam Wolf was.

 

Just about a month ago, I was back in Cleveland going through the box of my mother’s stuff – the one with my fading report cards and potato-print wrapping paper. And I came across a stash of letters written in study hall from you to me. Most went something like this: “Dear Sarah, I love you, I love you, I love you. The proof to Theorem #6 is . . . ILU, Adam”. And again I remembered thinking how brilliant Adam Wolf was and how lucky I was. (Though now I know, why I didn’t do so well in 10th grade geometry. You did all my homework for me.)

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

May 29, 2014  1:37 pm

Subject: The ILU notes

 

Oh — the notes in study hall, notes after class, before class, during class. When I try thinking about those days it’s like a dream — as though we were lost in the stars.

 

I saved your notes and photos too. I remember putting them in a box and hiding them in the crawlspace behind the rafters in the attic at the Silsby house. I wonder if they’re still there where I left them. I never retrieved them, I’m sorry to say. The house was sold while I was away at college.

 

In the deluge of memories, a constant one for me through all time is a moment somewhere back in a classroom – don’t know where or what day – when I looked at you and you looked back with your sweet quiet smile, touched your finger to your eye, made an “L” with your finger and pointed back at me – ILU – I think other people saw – but I remember that I didn’t care. That was the start of our special sign.

 

I think they did see.  At the reunion before the last one in 1994, I only went to the Fri. evening get-together. Early in the evening, someone (I don’t remember who), a woman who I almost recognized (from English class, I think), very animated said to me, “We’ll always be grateful to Sarah and you. You taught us about love. I just wanted you to know that.”

 

I don’t remember if I responded. All I could think of at the moment was our signal: ILU – ILU2.

 

Sarah, talking to you could go on forever and I wouldn’t miss sleep.

________________________________________________________________

 

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

May 29, 2014  4:51 pm

Subject: Re:The ILU notes

 

This time we will never stop. I won’t take for granted that you’re near again.

 

Yes, I remember the moment, the first ILU. It’s why I looked forward to English class. I think about what we radiated. It was as if everyone else in the room was a pale shadow and only we were in living color.

 

I’m off to teach my evening class. Then another night out. So I’ll write tomorrow and the next day and the days after that.

________________________________________________________________

From: S.Gordon Wilson <S.Gordon.Wilson@csulb.edu>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

June 2, 2014  2:22 pm

Subject: get well soon

 

Dear Sarah,

 

I hope you’re feeling better. These summer colds can lay the best of us low.

 

I’m sure you’ll be back in tip-top shape by Saturday. Would you give me the honor of dining with me at the Ocean Terrace that evening?  Please call when you feel up to it.

 

Get better speedily!

 

Yours,

Gordon

 

  1. Gordon Wilson, PhD.

Founder and Editor of The Ichthysaurus

Fellow, American Academy of Underwater Sciences

Professor of Biology, Emeritus

California State University, Long Beach

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

June 3, 2014  4:51 pm

Subject: remarkable talent

 

Bravo!!!!  A most wonderful novel. I’m so flattered that you entrusted me with it. I was drawn in from the start – absorbed by those characters, especially that piece-of-work Katya. The thought of being trapped in a small spacecraft with her for a year? Makes me want to open a vein.

 

You’re still an astronomy buff, I see. Reading the book, I recalled how you were always oriented to the sky.  How you tried to teach me about outer space. But the stars were too grand for my pea-brain to comprehend. Still are. We were standing by Boulevard School’s playground. It was night. And you pointed to a star and told me how many millions of years it took for the light from it to reach us. You said the star we were looking at probably didn’t even exist anymore. Long gone. Yikes!  I didn’t want you to go on. It felt as if I’d been socked in the stomach.

 

I wonder, though, if we got out in space far enough and had a telescope powerful enough, could we see Adam Wolf and Sarah Ross right there, in Cleveland Heights, July 28, 1960, standing by the playground, looking up? Time-travel. Would you want to go back there?

 

Anyway, a great accomplishment, this novel. I think you might wish to show it to an agent, no?

 

I’m delighted to know you’re still so talented and clever.

_______________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

June 3, 2014  7:12 pm

Subject: Re:remarkable talent

 

Thanks for such a sweet response. I’m so glad you liked the book. But no, no agent. Let this be a secret between us.

 

Time-travel – back to you, to us, Sarah? I’d do it in a flash, but not if parents and curfews and homework came with the territory. Then even the lure of you wouldn’t be enough to draw me there.

 

Well, and thanks for the compliment. I’m glad somebody still thinks I’m smart. But, in truth, I found out I’m not as brilliant as people once thought. Univ. of Chicago was a humbling time and since then I’ve had enough experiences that I’ve learned to accept my limitations.  Anyway, I’ve had people around to remind me of them.

 

Just about daily Lola tells me I’m stupid: “What kind of idiot are you? You went to U of C and you can’t separate recyclable from regular garbage?”

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

June 3, 2014  7:23 pm

Subject: I’m sorry

 

In the name of domestic tranquility, I won’t comment on Lola’s remarks. But just to say, I hope she doesn’t have a penchant for belittlement.

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

June 3, 2014  7:35 pm

Subject: Re:I’m sorry

 

In the name of full disclosure, Lola actually goes beyond belittlement. More like mortification when she publically wants to put me in my place. She posted a video of the massive snowstorm we had last winter. The video featured me clearing the driveway, then falling flat on my face, and lying there in exhaustion. You could hear her laughing as the camera zoomed in.

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

June 3, 2014  7:41 pm

Subject: Re:Re:I’m sorry

 

Geez!

______________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

June 3, 2014  8:06 pm

Subject: Mo Spiegel

 

And then there’s Maureen Spiegel. Remember her? She and her husband moved to Chicago and we saw each other a couple of times and then not at all. She had landed some big shot position as a vice president at Quaker Oats. The last time I saw them was five years ago at a barbeque at their McMansion in Glencoe. And that’s also the last time I spoke to her. She let me know how limited I was. At the party she took me aside when the others were jabbering – wondered what had happened to me – that I’d been such a “golden boy” in high school – that everyone had great expectations of me. She looked at me pityingly. I saw it coming. “How is it”, she wondered, “that you didn’t amount to more”.

 

When I tried to point out my few accomplishments at the radio station, she shrugged and walked away.

_______________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

June 3, 2014  8:27 pm

Subject: Mo the Ho

 

That sniveling little bitch Mo Spiegel. Lemme me at ‘er! Your work makes people’s lives fuller, gives them a way to transcend the tedium of the everyday. Is that not tremendously valuable? The arts are the oxygen of my life, many people’s lives. What? Quaker’s breakfast mush trumps Beethoven? I don’t think so.

 

Your commie upbringing, I’m guessing, would lead you to avoid corporate America. Anyway, where were you supposed to get the money for grad school? Even if your father ever had a cent, he wouldn’t have sent it your way.

 

Who the hell does little weasly Maureen Spiegel think she is? Feh! Sounds like she’s still part of the Wiley-snob clique, the girls who took greater pleasure flaunting their cashmere sweaters than wearing them. In history class she always enjoyed knocking my books off my desk as she passed. Liked to see me scramble for them. A bully then. A bully now. Just ignore her. Leave it to me to be the one to tear her limb from limb. For old time’s sake. Do you think you’ll have to run into her at the reunion?

________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

June 3, 2014  9:23 pm

Subject: Re: Mo the Ho

 

The more I think about the last reunion, the more hesitant I am about the upcoming one. I debate with myself about it – I’m still a little undecided whether to go. I went to the one 10 years ago and I did enjoy the repartee with Greg and Steve et al. Mostly though I recall people lodging grievances they had harbored for 40 yrs – slights I didn’t intend or remember. It seemed like every 5 mins. someone who I barely remembered would challenge me. Mike Newman asked me if it was true that my father was a Communist and did he raise us as Commies too? Greenblatt remembered how he caught me in the school parking lot, letting air out of the tires on his father’s Caddie. And, oh, whether it was a political statement or something. I told him I didn’t recall it. (I did and it was.)

 

And the strangest thing of all, Ellen Thomas, I think that’s her name, asked me why, when she flirted with me in Chemistry, I never asked her out, etc., etc. When it was over I had a portrait of myself as an arrogant, insensitive asshole – and I guess people wanted me to know that. So I dutifully apologized and they seemed satisfied that I wasn’t the same person they knew.

 

More tomorrow. Goodnight, my Sarah.

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

June 3, 2014  10:43 pm

Subject: spare me reunions

 

These tales of reunion are rather chilling. I can imagine the horror of a list of grievances. It makes me giddy to be not going. I still carry a satchel of grievances myself and would have the impulse to dump them on Janice Price. She always managed to make me feel unwanted in any group.

____________________________________________________________

From: Harold Weinstein <Harold.W.Weinstein9933@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

June 4 2014  10:55 am

Subject: relocating

 

FYI. Leaving Ashland. Took 1 yr visiting post at St. Olaf’s in Minnesota, beginning Sept.1. New email address to follow. H

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

June 4, 2014  11:32 am

Subject:Our last telephone call

 

Sarah, this morning I thought about the last time you and I spoke – in 1979.  I don’t know if you remember – you called to tell me that Susan Cantor had died – and as we were speaking my wife (at the time) interrupted me, purposely, on some ruse – and we never finished the conversation. When we do talk to each other again, I promise no interruptions, at least not for the first 4 hours.

________________________________________________________________

 

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

June 4, 2014  1:51 pm

Subject: Re:Our last telephone call

 

Yes, I remember the call. Your mother gave me the number – groused about your father, maybe about you, and added that she always thought you and I should have gotten married.  Mothers. . .

I didn’t just call you then to socialize. I was back in Cleveland that week and low – about getting older, about my parents deteriorating. Things were falling apart in my family. Esther was overwhelmed and screaming a lot. I needed comfort and I really needed to talk to someone, actually to you. My mother who, as you know, never recovered from what happened to her family in the War, had just been institutionalized. Went off the rails – listening to the radio, waiting for her name to be called, to be herded “to points East”.  She got better, eventually, somewhat, but that day I longed for a connection to someone who had known me as her child. And no one had known me as well as you.

And Susan Cantor dying on the operating table, so young, so unnecessarily. Too much. But I felt certain that your voice alone could comfort me. It did. But I do recall the painful and abrupt end to the conversation. I took it as a clear message, to stay away. Anyway, from that talk you knew I had dropped out of grad school, that I was married to a literature guy, that I was trying to get pregnant, but couldn’t, that I was working with the Art dept. at San Diego, monotonous work, ordering supplies, making sure enough conté crayon was in stock, that sort of thing.  Didn’t last long. Anyway, you would have heard more if it hadn’t been for that startling interruptus to the conversation.

 

There were things that I might have talked to you about had you stayed on the phone longer

 

1) That I had been held hostage by enemy aliens of the UFO sort, in their mother ship, for the better part of 1969 (or was that the LSD speaking?).

 

2) That after college I had tried going on with painting, on my own, but ripped up all the canvases deciding that I had no talent. Zero. That the only reason I thought I did was because Morris Nolinski at Bennington praised me to the sky, even named a painting (now in MOMA) after me, Buena Sarah I (there was never a II, cause I stopped the affair. Later, I discovered that Amazing Grace I and II, and Katydid I, II and III all lived in my dorm).

 

3) During grad school earned some chump change talking dirty on the dial-a-slut circuit.

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

June 4, 2014  6:35 pm

Subject: Re:Re:Our last telephone call

 

Nothing so arousing here.

 

Thanks for jogging my memory about that call.  Maybe I’ve repressed it. As a matter of fact, I do recall the scene, if not the talk – tethered to a wall phone, the cord one foot long. Brenda, who had answered the phone, so knew it was you, was literally in my face the whole time – challenging me to do anything – mocking every word I said. Needless to say Brenda was insecure. She knew how important you had been to me. All the intensity we felt. You may want to know that our aborted conversation back in ’79 was a kind of turning point for Brenda and me. I was humiliated, enraged – and I snapped – for the first time in our marriage I wasn’t Adam the Conciliator. Things changed after that and I guess I stopped being intimidated by Brenda. We split up six months later.

 

Tell me about Harold if you want. Sorry that you lost him.

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

June 4, 2014  8:13 pm

Subject: Harold?

 

Adam, I had no idea about Brenda. Sorry I got you in trouble, or perhaps I’m not sorry, if it helped extricate you from such a one. Is rescuing Adam Wolf my life’s actual calling?

Let’s see, what can I tell you about life with Harold? The 70’s, first his bucking for tenure, us needing to be pleasant to some boors in the senior ranks of the department.  In particular, one who always greeted me by running his hand down my back and snapping my bra. Geezers. But I pretended to like that frat-boy vulgarity. Full Professors, whiskey-breathed by 9:00 am. For Harold’s sake I had to giggle at their toilet jokes. I hated those years.

The only one of the senior faculty I could stand was Timothy Fielding, an evil sense of humor – once said if Harold got tenure he couldn’t be let go, “even if he buggered a goat on the steps of the post office at high noon”. Harold did get tenure. I don’t believe he ever fucked a goat, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

Well, you see, guess I’m not saying all that much about Sarah Ross in those years. (I still have a hard time talking about myself.) I didn’t feel all that present in those days. It was all about Professor Harold Weinstein, PhD, the smiling, the entertaining. Once he got tenure I needed to get away from that. Quit my job in the Art dept., took fencing lessons, learned to deal blackjack at the Diamond Star Casino. Harold was embarrassed by all of it. He insisted I mention it to no one at the university. And I agreed to cease and desist. Me? I was transmogrified from the feisty Sarah you knew and loved, into the dutiful, robotic faculty wife.

Luckily some consciousness-raising group I joined jolted me back into myself. Began painting again and gave a fuck about dinner parties. Spent some time adventuring in Europe with my best pal. She stayed on in her family’s home in Terni. And I almost did too. So you see, you’re not the only one who’s gotten themselves in trouble. Are you ready to talk more about your troubles?

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

June 4, 2014  9:00 pm

Subject:

 

Wow! Forever the feisty Sarah, the adventurer. I want to hear more, much more, but can’t right now. Duty calls. Lola’s car broke down. I need to go see what’s up. More tomorrow.

Promise.

________________________________________________________________

 

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

June 5, 2014  9:55 am

Subject:

 

Happy June 5th, Adam. It hasn’t even been two weeks, but it feels to me as if we’ve never been apart. Odd, don’t you think?

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

June 5, 2014  11:33 am

Subject:

 

Happy June 5th to you too, my Sarah Ross. And it feels as if we’ve never been apart because we haven’t been.

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

June 5, 2014  4:51 pm

Subject:

 

I won’t be able to write at any length until later in the evening. Command performance. Her Royal Highness, A. Schreiber, insists I redo next month’s program schedule by tomorrow. Forgive me.

______________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

June 5, 2014  9:41 pm

Subject: Possessed

 

Now, to get back to what I’ve really been wishing to do all day, schmooze with you. Anyway, the short version of my troubles, as promised.  After Brenda, several years of frenzy, then a thirty year marriage of separate lives, little intimate contact, appeasing and enabling my new wife’s self-destructive impulses. And then the day job – keeping the peace at all, and I mean ALL costs. Accommodating that woman’s professional and personal expectations of me.

 

Whatever happened to you in those years, the Sarah I knew and loved seems to have reemerged in full force. Sure hope Harold also tried consciousness-raising. Still, it must have been difficult for you when he passed away.

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

June 5, 2014  10:21 pm

Subject: how I fell for you

 

“Difficult” is too thin a word for what I went through.  I’d rather not go there.

 

You know, Adam, I think my attraction to Harold in the first place had a lot to do with you. Literature. You planted the passion for that in me. Harold picked up where you left off – explaining Milton and Joyce, to me, the way you had Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky.    You liked Russian literature, didn’t you?

 

I need to tell you a story. You were a guru of sorts to me, the literate American who could finally teach me what to read. I was 14. Before you, I had no guide. We had no books in the house, at least no books in English. Before you, I would go to the library and close my eyes and run my hand along the shelf and take out any 5 books my hand landed on. Very funny thinking about it. Roosevelt Jr. High. We had a book report due, one we had to deliver, orally, in Tubaugh’s 8th grade Honors English class. I did my usual five book gambit. Three were geography or history books. The other two? One was Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (which I couldn’t make heads or tails of, of course. Still can’t). The other book, a trifle. See Here, Private Hargrove, an amusing book about a bumbling private in WWII. So I ended up giving a report on it. Afterwards kids laughed at me for picking a stupid book. But what did I know? As I was returning to my desk one whispered, “Ever hear of Mark Twain?” Another, “You could have picked Dickens”. When I tell the story of why I’ve been in love with my first boyfriend, I say he never made fun of me, the way the others did. But two days later gave me a copy of Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath and I was so grateful. I joined a paperback book club, and you helped me select books. It’s there I discovered Nabokov, whose writing still makes me melt.  It is you who made me literary.

 

Goodnight, my Adam. Please, more tomorrow.

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

June 5, 2014  10:25 pm

Subject: Re: how I fell for you

 

What a story! Of course more tomorrow. Goodnight, my dear Sarah. ILU

_______________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

June 6, 2014  7:10 am

Subject: Steinbeck

 

Up early to be with you and talk.

 

The Steinbeck – that was my father’s. I took it from his shelf. A used book. I was with him when he “bought” it. One Saturday my father spent some rare time with me – not the ball game, no, not my father. We went to the Saint Vincent de Paul thrift shop. He picked the book off the shelf and showed me that the price inside was 10 cents. He winked at me, took out a pencil, carefully erased the 10 cents and neatly wrote 5 cents in its place. And when we got back in the car, he gloated as if he had just pulled off a big Brinks heist.

 

Your memories are so vivid, funny how memory works. Now I remember when I gave you the book your look made my heart leap up. Your smile – hard to describe what happened to me, but it was a trance. The feeling – a profound warmth that surged through my body. Since we started writing I too have been awash in memories – and intense feelings – actually I’ve been unable to concentrate on anything else – nervously waiting for your replies.

________________________________________________________________________

 

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

June 6, 2014  7:34 am

Subject: Another flash of the past

 

Sarah, as long as we’re on the topic of memory, can you recall the one time before that 1979 call when we talked?

 

Maybe because today’s the 6th, I do remember the date – June 7th 1968. I can picture exactly where I was standing in that old dumpy apartment of mine on 55th St., by the railroad tracks, staring out the window. And I know I was surprised that you called – and that you told me it was a predetermined day for us to reconnect. I can still feel the emotions. I was about to head off to West Virginia to become a Vista volunteer – kept me out of the draft – so I must have been anxious. And after the call, I had a sense of longing, maybe remorse, but I can’t remember what we said. Can you?

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

June 6, 2014  8:34 am

Subject: June 7th

 

Yes, I do recall phoning you June 7, 1968, missing you terribly. I was about to take off to Europe for the summer. First trip back there since childhood. Exciting!

 

  1. Do you remember, two years earlier, we spent one golden day together? A date. We hadn’t seen each other since high school and we were about to go into our junior year in college. We were 20. It was the last time we ever saw each other.

 

So the call that day in ’68? Before the phone call I had no idea we would stop communicating. After the phone call I chose to go into radio silence – at least for a decade.

 

It’s odd what is coming back to me about that conversation. I now remember telling you I saved your love notes to me, and the childhood pictures you had given me. I felt very close to you that day. And you said you had put my pictures and letters to you in a hiding place in the attic of the Silsby house for safekeeping. (I didn’t believe you, not until now.)

 

I supposed you didn’t like my calling because when I tried to reminisce, you brought up Darlene Cutler and all that she had meant to you. And when I got off the phone I kept muttering to myself something like “Darlene Cutler? Darlene Cutler? That slut?” In the girls’ locker room, we used to have a nickname for her, you know, “The Human Sperm Bank”. I marvel that the call with me meant anything at all to you. I’m very touched to know now that you remember not just the call, but also the date.

______________________________________________________________

 

 

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

June 6, 2014  11:18 am

Subject: Re:June 7th

 

I guess I know now why I felt a sense of loss or remorse after that call. Forgive me if you can. What prompted me to push you away and talk about anyone else, I couldn’t know.

 

Tell me what was so special, though, about June 7, 1968.

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

June 6, 2014  11:29 am

Subject: Re:Re: June 7th

 

My diary records that you asked me to marry you on Feb. 15th 1961, when we had just turned 15. And we picked June 7, 1968 as our Wedding Day. ________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

June 6, 2014  12:25 pm

Subject: Golden day

 

I certainly remember holding you in the sunroom of your parent’s apartment when I proposed to you and we set a date. I just forgot it was that day. Of course, June 7th was and maybe always will be our anniversary. And now too I thought all day about our last time together – that “golden day” all those years ago. I do recall a sweet time, but not many details. Are there more that will trigger my memory?

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

June 6, 2014  1:18 pm       

Subject: Re:Golden day

 

I do have other details, but I’ll wait until I figure out how to formulate them, if that’s okay.

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

June 6, 2014  11:18 pm

Subject: Re:Re:Golden day

 

Okay. I’ll be patient. Long day – business dinner – this time with some potential sponsors. It could have been a nice time, were it not for the talk of politics – Tea Party line – ship immigrants back, they said – perhaps meant to include wetbacks like you, for all I know.

 

Goodnight. ILU

________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

June 7, 2014  4:56 am

Subject: Anniversary

 

Happy Anniversary, my Adam.

 

A sudden flash of that golden day, that last day we were ever together, an experience that’s so private and internal, it won’t jog your memory at all. We spent the day at the Cleveland Art Museum, their 50th anniversary show, 1966. Then we were in the car, at night – the parking lot of our Roosevelt Junior High School. The street lamp the only illumination. I was next to you, with you, intimately. Looking into the side window, I saw my own reflection, but it wasn’t my face I saw, instead it was an amalgam of both our faces – I couldn’t decipher the parts, couldn’t separate one from the other.

 

It’s hard to put such a mystical moment into words. It cheapens it too much. But the vision had temperature, a warmth to it – beatific, glowing, with some interior golden light. Most amazing. It felt so right.

 

I never dreamed I would have a chance to mention it to you.

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

June 7, 2014  8:08 am

Subject: Golden day too

 

Happy Anniversary, Sweets!

In the silence here – I’ve read that message now a dozen times – that vision of us as one – I don’t have words, only now a sensation (of longing I think) that I can’t really describe. When your earlier note said you didn’t know how to put the details of our “golden day” in words, I thought that something ominous had happened or I did or said something unredeemable. How the image stayed with you, Sarah – that image – is making me want to cry – a release of feeling – not sadness.

 

And then there are the years and years in between – all the June 7ths – which, if you wish, I could tell you about later.

  • _______________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

  • June 7, 2014 10:19 am
  • Subject: Re:Golden day too

 

Maybe I just need to hold the stillness a while longer. I’m a bit overwhelmed too by the memory – and for the occasion of being able to share it with you – and by my own reaction of tears – streaming tears – a weight off my heart too – and I know I could never have delivered this vision by phone – certainly not in person – so I’m glad we write – it will always stabilize the feelings now – always re-readable – I’m so glad you know now how deeply inside me you have lived.

 

More later, promise

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

  • June 7, 2014 11:01 am
  • Subject:

 

You should know, Adam Wolf, the joy I feel when seeing your name in my inbox. No matter who else wants to get to me, I leap to you.

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

June 7, 2014  12:54 pm

Subject:

 

I’ve spent the whole morning daydreaming of what I was going to say to you today and tomorrow. I think I would be in your inbox all the time, if I could.

____________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

June 7, 2014  1:29 pm

Subject: Distracted

 

All along these many years I knew that no one could replace you. The idea of you. The fit. I see now how we fit. I feel the fit and marvel at it. I’m crazy and distracted. Nicole jabbers at me. I pretend to be listening, but I’m itching to get to your emails. I resent having to leave the screen for a customer. Don’t they know I have better things to do with my time? Don’t they know Adam Wolf might be there waiting for me? Fools.

_______________________________________________________________

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

June 7, 2014  2:48 pm

Subject:

 

I’d like to be on the computer for a few hours with you too. But I have to go on the air in a few minutes. Hold that thought. I’ll do a little work and touch your inbox in a while.

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

June 7, 2014  5:17 pm

Subject:

 

Just wondering, Adam, is your email, our correspondence, secure from prying eyes?

 

I won’t be able to write much more today. Gordon’s invited me out to dinner and I better get ready.

_______________________________________________________________

 

 

From: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross<sarahross64@gmail.com>

  • June 8, 2014 8:57 am

Subject: Trustworthy

 

To answer your question about our privacy. Sure. Absolutely. No one here would snoop around. I trust them.

 

Does Gordon know we correspond?

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

June 8, 2014  10:48 am

Subject: Re:Trustworthy

 

Yep. I mentioned you and I were in contact. How about Lola? Does she know we’re in touch?

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross<sarahross64@gmail.com>

  • June 8, 2014 10:53 am

Subject:Re:Re:Trustworthy

 

No, but she knows who you are.

________________________________________________________________

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

June 8, 2014  11:02 am

Subject: Amanda?

 

Tell me about Amanda. She scares me. Does she know about us?

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross<sarahross64@gmail.com>

  • June 8, 2014 2:14 pm

Subject: Re:Amanda?

 

No, Amanda doesn’t know about us, but she thinks I’ve been acting strange lately. Asks me a dozen times what’s the matter. Keeps suggesting we meet over drinks to talk this over – that we don’t spend enough time together anymore. Forget about it. Nothing to be scared of, Sarah. We just have a long relationship at the station. We’ve travelled together. We’ve worked on the program guide for years and years.

 

Lola has me doing hateful jobs around the house today. But most of my time has been spent chasing a chipmunk out. The cat likes to bring them in as souvenirs for us. You should see me with a wastebasket trying to swoop down on the scurrying, frightened thing. This isn’t the first time. But just now the neighbor stopped over and mentioned that I could get it out by laying a trail of peanuts to the open door. And sure enough, it worked.

 

So I’m back with you, where I really need to be.

________________________________________________________________

 

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

June 8, 2014  4:23 pm

Subject: Re:Re:Amanda?

 

You do talk about Amanda a lot. “We” this and “we” that. What do you wish me to know about her? Are you trying to tell me something?

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross<sarahross64@gmail.com>

  • June 8, 2014 5:28 pm

Subject:Re:Re:Re:Amanda?

 

Nothing to tell. Promise. I guess she’s conditioned me to call it a “we”.

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

June 8, 2014  7:08 pm

Subject: Off for a week

 

Adam, I may have forgotten to tell you. I’m getting ready for a wonderful vacation, beginning tomorrow. I’m going up to Kennebunkport, Maine – an artist’s retreat, with a teacher I had before. I do especially good work with him, learn a lot. Alas, dear friend, I kind of doubt they have internet there. I’m there until the 14th.

 

I’ll write as soon as I return. Promise.

_______________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross<sarahross64@gmail.com>

  • June 8, 2014 8:05 pm

Subject: Re:Off for a week

 

Oh. How come you didn’t tell me? How nice for you. Not so nice for me. How am I supposed to survive even a few days without you? Write if you can, but perhaps the whole point is to concentrate on your painting, uninterrupted.

 

I’ll miss you. Hurry back. Are you going alone?

 

Goodnight dear Sarah. ILU

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

June 9, 2014  9:17 am

Subject: Re:Re:Off for a week

 

Bye bye, Adam. It just slipped my mind. I’ll miss you too! Remember me. Remind me there’s good reason I’m leaving on this trip. I’ll contact you if I can.

 

Yes, alone.

______________________________________________________________

 

 

From: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross<sarahross64@gmail.com>

  • June 9, 2014 9:28 am

Subject: Have fun!

 

You’ll have a grand and rejuvenating time. Enjoy yourself. And no worries, I haven’t forgotten you all these years. I’m not about to now. BYE, SARAH. Would you try to get the plane to touch down in Chicago, if only for an hour. I could meet you at O’Hare and we could hoist a few.

______________________________________________________________

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

June 14, 2014  5:44  pm

Subject: Back from Maine

 

I just walked into the house, Adam, grateful that I can finally be in touch again. Wonderful, productive time. I think it stretched me. I worked with watercolor, pen, pencil on the same page. Maybe I’ll get up the courage to send you some pictures. Pleasant people on the trip. Their critique was gentle, but to the point and constructive. Great fun.

 

How have you been?

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross<sarahross64@gmail.com>

  • June 14, 2014 7:58 pm

Subject: Re:Back from Maine

 

YOU’RE BACK!!! HURRAH. YOU DIDN’T FORGET ME!

 

The blackout was impossible.

 

So glad you had a great time. By all means let me see what you’ve produced!

 

Me? I’ve been okay this week. Same old drudge. My life is not as varied and exciting as yours. I wish I could change that. I spent most of the week longing for you.

 

The reunion’s coming up soon. Text and emails come everyday – an on-going pep rally. People trying to convince me it’s going to be transformative. I’m working myself up to it. Only a week til it’s over with.

 

Welcome home,

 

Your Adam

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

June 14, 2014  9:52 pm

Subject: Re:Re:Back from Maine

 

I just unpacked. I’m not one of those people who can put that off.

Wiped out. A long day. First getting to Boston, and then a 5-hour flight from Logan. I think we might have flown over your house. I should have waved.

 

Good night, dear Adam.

 

As far as I’m concerned, the reunion is already underway. And it IS transformative. And permanent. You and me.

_______________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf < adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

  • June 15, 2014 7:56 pm
  • Subject: Back from the future

Sarah, my love, picture this filmic episode:

 

We’re 14 years old. It’s 1960, a late spring afternoon. A path. Cain Park. I’m there waiting for you.

 

The dialogue begins:

 

Sarah: “Adam, where on earth have you been? I’ve been frantic. Your parents have been frantic.”

 

Adam: “Been away, far away. Actually I’ve travelled to the future. Landed in 2014. Guess what? Everybody has air conditioning. Everyone has a phone you can keep in your pocket. Anybody can order movies and watch instantly on their portable televisions.  And, guess what else, my love? Cleveland still hasn’t won a World Series. But most important, you and I are together. What do you say to that?”

_______________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

  • June 15, 2014 8:04 pm
  • Subject: Re:Back from the future

 

I would have said, “You mean we’re together six feet under, in adjoining plots?”

________________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross<sarahross64@gmail.com>

  • June 15, 2014 8:17 pm
  • Subject: Re:Re:Back from the future

I’d tell you to hold on to your hat and not to be upset.

 

I’d say: “Except for one day and two phone calls, we haven’t been together since high school – for most of our lives. Half a century later, though, we’re back together again! Come to the future with me now, Sarah, and we’ll skip the years in between. They’re not worth it anyway.”

 

Sarah, would you have come with me then, into the future? What would you have said?

  • _______________________________________________________________
  • From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

  • June 15, 2014 8:31 pm
  • Subject: Stop pulling my leg

 

No, I certainly would not have come with you. And I would have said, “Okay, Mr. Looney Tunes. Adios. Aufwiedersehen. You’re crazier than I ever guessed. I’m not going with you anywhere, not now, not in the future. I’m going home.”

 

I would have added, “Fess up and tell me the truth now. Where have you really been since Monday afternoon?” That’s what I would have said,

 

And furthermore, I would have thrown in, “Oh, I get it, you’re breaking up with me. Your voo-doo glimpse into the future, HA! Just a cover so you can wander off into the sunset with Claire Carlsen. Yeah, and when you turn old and your girlfriends don’t want you anymore, then you’ll expect me to push you around in your wheelchair, right? No deal.” I would say, “See you, chum!”

_______________________________________________________________

From: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Sarah Ross<sarahross64@gmail.com>

  • June 15, 2014 9:13 pm
  • Subject: Not pulling your leg

 

But I would insist I was telling the truth: “Au contraire, my Sarah. We may be in our late 60s, but not decrepit, not at all. A few ailments, but we avoid doctors, so we don’t dwell on them. Besides you and I have Medicare”. (And you would have asked me what Medicare was.)

 

“Most amazing, Sarah,” I would continue, “I never would have believed it either, if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. Two septuagenarians rolling around the bed all night, a blowjob every morning.”

 

What would you have said then, if I had promised you that?

________________________________________________________________

From: Sarah Ross <sarahross64@gmail.com>

To: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

  • June 15, 2014 9:27 pm
  • Subject: Re:Not pulling your leg

 

1960? I would have asked, “Adam, what’s a blowjob?”

________________________________________________________________

 

 

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First Chapter Reveal: One-Way Ticket Home by K.C. Hardy

one-way-ticket-homeTitle: One-Way Ticket Home
Author: K.C. Hardy
Publisher: Casbury Lane Press
Pages: 262
Genre: Christian Inspirational Fiction

Days before boarding the plane to Italy for her daughter’s wedding, Julie Whitaker receives an unexpected phone call from her past. The memory of Mark Jennings, a handsome and charming Top Gun pilot, had haunted her for decades. Their fairy tale wedding was everything she’d ever dreamed of, but it quickly turned into her worst nightmare.

Starting a new a life without Mark proved to be much harder than Julie had imagined. But in her darkest hour, God revealed Himself in a miraculous way, giving her the strength she needed not only to battle depression, but to face a diagnosis of breast cancer that threatened to cut her life short.

Now, amidst the splendor of the Italian Alps, on the eve of her daughter’s wedding, Julie’s thoughts are catapulted back to Mark and the reason for his call. After thirty years, will Julie have a chance to see him once again? And would she even want to?

Based on true events, One-Way Ticket Home will take you on an unforgettable journey of love, loss, hope and forgiveness. With grace, candor and an indomitable wit, K.C. Hardy reminds us that it is often in our darkest hours, that the strength of the human spirit shines the brightest.

For More Information

  • One-Way Ticket Home is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

First Chapter:

Chapter 1

San Antonio, Texas

June 6, 2008

It happened just as Julie Whitaker turned off the last set of lights in the office. The ever-present amber glow from the receptionist’s desk lamp cast long shadows that gave the normally bustling workplace an eerie, ghost-like feel. Always the last to leave, she stayed long after coworkers had darted off to cart their kids to soccer practice or squeeze in last-minute runs to the grocery store. Having successfully raised two independent daughters, Julie no longer had such obligations. There were no children to pick up from school, drive to soccer, piano, or basketball. There was no husband who expected her to have dinner hot and ready when he walked through the door. She answered to no one…that is, except Clark O’Brien, her boss, mentor, and friend for the past ten years.

And Julie liked it that way—the freedom…the independence…the idea of being able to jet off on exotic vacations whenever she pleased. An idea that always enticed her but which she never had acted upon. Ironically, there still was no time for such luxurious pursuits. There were interviews and database checks at the court house. Deadlines and court dates always loomed. Which was exactly why the grating, high-pitched ring of the phone was even more irritating than usual.

It could only be coming from one place—her desk. She could ignore it, activate the alarm, turn the key in the deadbolt, walk the twelve steps to her car, and be done with work for the next fourteen days. Or…she could answer it. Julie knew who was on the other end of the line. Just before shutting down her computer, she’d shot off a last-minute email to Clark. The message was short, and should have come as no surprise.

Clark,

The Sanchez case has been completed and sent to the D.A.’s office. I’m shutting down my computer after I finish typing this and will see you in two weeks. The offer still stands for you and Jodi to join our family in Italy if you would like. Let me know, and I’ll overnight the tickets to you.

Ciao,

Julie

Why couldn’t she just ignore the ringing like any other rational person on the eve of their first vacation in over two years? Why?

Dedication. The trait that had helped guarantee her job during the recent string of layoffs was now irritating her. She zigzagged across the room, dodging cubicles that impeded a straight shot to her office. Defiantly determined not to be here a single minute longer, she didn’t bother switching on the light in her office, much less sit down. Breathless, she answered the phone before voicemail picked up.

“This better be good, Clark, because my vacation actually started three hours ago!”

“Then what the heck are you still doing at work, Whitaker?”

She almost dropped the phone and had to smother the gasp of shock that made her knees buckle. It wasn’t Clark. There was no mistaking that deep husky voice that sent her heart pounding and her head reeling from the instantaneous churning of emotions. It was a voice she hadn’t heard in over twenty years.

“Jules, you there?”

Running her tongue over her lips to both lubricate and pry them apart, she answered his question with a question of her own.

“Mark. What a surprise! How’d you get my number?”

Working as a private investigator, Julie knew how easy it was to locate anyone, anywhere. And if she was being perfectly honest with herself, she’d secretly longed for this call. Yearned for this somewhere inside the most private chambers of her heart. The lack of closure had left a gaping wound that hemorrhaged for years deep within her soul. A casualty that resulted from the swift, premature severing of their relationship. Forcing emotions and memories to be buried so deep, only Roberta Flack’s sultry voice, late-night showings of Top Gun, or the familiar, nostalgic, musky scent of his signature cologne could unearth them. Still, a part of her wondered: why now? Why after all this time?

“How are you doing?” Julie mustered in the most nonchalant voice possible.

“No complaints. And you?” Typical Mark Jennings. He could’ve been in a Tomcat,

taking fire from all directions, and if someone would have asked how he was doing, he would’ve responded “piece of cake.” It was part of what made him so good at his job.

“I’m doing great.”

He cleared his voice. “So you’re into the Sherlock Holmes thing now, huh?”

“Yep…gotta keep an eye on everyone like you out there,” she teased.

“I bet you make one heck of a private eye.”

“You’re darn right I do,” she laughed. “What about you? You still flying with the Navy?”

“Still flying. But now I’m with American. Been with them nine years. In fact, that’s why I’m calling. I bid the San Antonio run at the end of the month and was wonderin’ if you’d like to meet up for dinner? For old times’ sake?”

Typical Mark, cutting right to the chase. She knew what she should say, what she had rehearsed saying over the years, if this opportunity ever came along again. The phone call from him twenty years ago unraveled the cocoon she so carefully and meticulously constructed. The sound of his voice sent years of therapy, healing, and pieces of her splintered heart swirling erratically into oblivion.

Twenty years ago she had every reason to say no. Back then there was too much to lose. But now things were different. And yet, for some unknown reason, Julie found herself hesitating.

“I don’t know if that’s such a good idea, Mark…” She couldn’t believe her own words even as they left her lips. Every part of her yearned to see him. To get lost in his hypnotic eyes and run her hands through his unruly, thick, sandy hair. She yearned to trace her fingers across his full lips and down his toned arms.

He was quiet for a moment. “What have you got to lose?” he asked, breaking the silence as if reading her thoughts.

Everything, she wanted to say. This time there was no longer a marriage, a husband, or children—lives that could be ruined. All the reasons for not meeting him before no longer applied. And yet she wavered, for the one life that could still be ruined was her own.

“I’ll think about it, Mark.”

“That’ll work I guess.”

Suddenly, she was anxious to cut the conversation short before she was reduced to the vulnerable woman who still lurked inside. Even decades later, Julie feared succumbing to the seductive charm of the man who somehow always managed to make her weak in the knees. “Mark, can I get back to you? I’m not trying to cut this short, but I was actually about to

leave—”

“For vacation. I gathered that,” he laughed but with zero mirth. She sensed a tinge of annoyance creep into his voice.

“I thought you were my boss.”

“Wow! You must be really comfortable with your boss!”

“I am.” Julie knew Mark well enough to know exactly what he was insinuating, that her relationship with Clark must extend beyond business. It couldn’t be further from the truth, but she decided to let him squirm a little in the realm of the unknown.

“Well, think you could have an answer for me when you get back?”

“Sure…I’ll let you know in two weeks.”

“Two weeks?”

“I’m going to Italy for my younger daughter’s wedding.”

“Your three year-old’s getting married?” he teased.

“My twenty-six year-old is getting married.”

He let out a long whistle. “Time certainly flies, doesn’t it?” His voice took on a somber tone.

“Does it ever!” Julie sighed, nostalgic. It was a sentiment she had felt a lot lately—

one that had sent her to Sam’s on more than one occasion to stock up on economy packages of Kleenex.

“Jules…”

“Yeah…”

“I really hope we can meet up…”

She didn’t say she hoped so too. “I’ll call you when I get back. And thanks for calling. It’s great hearing from you.”

“Be safe over there.”

“I will…thanks.”

Julie sank deeper into the chair after putting down the receiver. The blinking green light on the laptop bounced off the beige walls in the dark room, sporadically illuminating the framed pictures of her girls. Baby pictures. Pictures of them riding their first bikes. Pictures of their proms. Identical pictures taken at their graduation from the University of Texas with the tower lit up behind them amidst a sea of fireworks. There were so many accomplishments, milestones, other loves, and other losses. She had lived a life largely without looking back. Mostly free of regrets.

That is, except for one….

About the Authors

kc-hardy

Kristie Hardy, whose life is the inspiration behind this book, holds a B.S. in Education, a minor in English, and is a former teacher. But her most recent profession as a private investigator spawned a desire to unearth the long-suppressed details of her own personal story. She is a mother of two, and a thirty year metastatic breast cancer survivor. Kristie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas with her husband.

Cate Hardy, Kristie’s daughter and co-author, is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. Cate lives in San Antonio, Texas with the loves of her life: her husband and two children.

Kristie and Cate are the mother/daughter writing team of K.C. Hardy. Their latest book is the Christian inspirational fiction, One-Way Ticket Home.

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First Chapter Reveal: 23 Minutes Past 1 A.M. by Robert J. Dornan

23 Minutes

Title: 23 Minutes Past 1 A.M.
Author: Robert J. Dornan
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 550
Genre: Historical Fiction

In the early morning of her sister’s wedding day, Mila Kharmalov stared in stunned silence at the coloured sparks streaming from Reactor Four of the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant. At that very moment, her life and the lives of everyone she knew changed forever.

Years later and on another continent, Adam Byrd was writing biographies for everyday people looking to leave their legacy in book form. When the woman he loved phoned from Kiev offering him the chance to write the story of a lifetime, he jumped at the opportunity not realizing that his voyage would be a bumpy ride through a nations dark underbelly. With the help of his friend’s quirky cousin, Adam is nudged into a fascinating adventure of love, greed, power and psychotic revenge, culminating with a shocking finale.

23 Minutes Past 1 A.M. is a work of fiction based on factual events from Chernobyl and villages throughout Ukraine.

For More Information

  • 23 Minutes Past 1 A.M. is available at Amazon..
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

First Chapter

 

Byrd Brain

“Oh, for the love of God… shut up!”

Okay, I didn’t actually say that, but I was thinking it. Trust me, if you were in the same situation, you would be thinking the same.

My name is Byrd. It’s a surname that has inherited a great amount of teasing from a young age but if there’s any consolation, it’s spelled with a “Y” like the Renaissance composer and not an “I” like the Boston Celtics basketball player or your common flying rodent. My friends get a kick out of it and have recently begged me to join Twitter because whenever I send a message, my followers can brag they received a tweet from a Byrd. When trends are catching up to you, you gotta know you’re riding the edge of something or worse – falling off the aforementioned edge.

My tiny name insecurity has led to me ask everyone I meet to call me by my first name, which is Aaron. Yet, like everything else in this world, when you think you’ve got it bad, you can rest assured that someone has it worse. I have suffered the à propos amount of name calling but nothing – and I mean nothing – like my cousin, whom I adore simply because of the courage she has to wake up in the morning. Why you ask? Her first name is Robin.

Some parents don’t deserve their children.

A few years ago, I had an epiphany of sorts and decided I would go into business for myself, writing biographies for average, everyday people who wished to leave some sort of legacy for their children and family. Pretty good idea eh? Not really but I guess Lady Luck shone upon me as the business took off fairly quickly. Word of mouth spread and I was soon juggling three clients a month. When I launched an Internet site half a year ago, my clientele shot up to eight a month. Do the math at fifteen hundred bucks a crack and minimum costs. Even I can’t believe how fortunate I am considering any other writing adventure I have finished in the last decade has been a dismal failure.

Auto-biographies is not difficult work as long as my recorder functions properly and since I’ve created a template of questions, I’ve found I can complete a minimum one hundred page life story in five days or less if the customer doesn’t call with new information, which of course was often the case. Hey, I was taking a crap this morning, and I remembered a crazy night that involved magic mushrooms and a fat chick named Glory. Experience has taught me that editing for future generations of grandchildren is a gentle topic.

My workload is divided between the very interesting and those who had nothing much to be proud of other than offspring who I figure will eventually turn out just as boring. Today’s client fit the latter profile to perfection.

Rhonda Greenberg was pretty for a middle-aged housewife. Actually, she was drop-dead gorgeous and defining her as a housewife is a misnomer. Her hair was dyed blond to hide the grey that sprinkled her natural brunette but to be fair, the blond suit her. She jogged every day and bragged that she could do two hundred sit up’s in a row. Based on what I was staring at whenever she looked elsewhere, I had few doubts of her exercise routine. In fact, before I learned more about her, I would have considered dating the woman if she wasn’t married. That’s the beauty of attraction, ain’t it? Once we get to know someone better our hormones take a nose dive. Well, not always but if I was a betting man I would lay down my cash each and every time.

Anyway, Rhonda fit the profile of someone I would have dived into if she never said a word but once that mouth opened and she started to drop the f-bomb every second sentence, I kind of went limp. I felt like asking her where she hid the moonshine and straw hats but in the end, fifteen hundred bucks will never be something I’ll say no to, so here I was sitting in the expansive dining room with the posh motif listening to Rhonda talk about her cheerleader days.

Yah… big surprise there.

Not surprising was that this gorgeous woman had found herself a sugar daddy and lived in a home that could only be illustrated as a mini palace. Chandeliers hung from the front hall, in the kitchen and oddly enough outside the first floor bathroom. Clearly, sugar daddy did not pay much attention to Rhonda’s lack of vocabulary or design skills and hell, I don’t blame him.

My buxomly client was about to detail how she lost her virginity to her second cousin while their families were observing a religious fast when mercifully my cell phone rang. Looking at the call display, I saw a very long phone number, which looked more like Bill Gate’s paycheck than any phone number I was accustomed to reading. I was tempted to push the Ignore button but my curiosity got the best of me and I answered hello while lifting a finger, asking Rhonda to hold on.

“Aaron, it’s Lena,” the sexy voice began.

I nodded my head after figuring out the long string of digits was coming from Ukraine. Realizing a need for quiet and privacy, I excused myself from the mammoth dining room and headed to the equally huge front hall. I rolled my eyes when a brooding Rhonda exhaled an exaggerated long sigh.

My friend Lena mentioned last week that she had to fly to Kiev but did so in a rushed text message, which was something that has always bugged the shit out of me. I have told her a countless number of times that it is so much easier to pick up a phone and call but for some unknown reason she is more comfortable with impersonal typing on tiny buttons. Personally, I think she’s conscious of her accent and preferred this mode of communication but I gotta tell ya that this is just silliness because Lena’s voice is both soothing and alluring with only a hint of inflection. I’ve never struggled to understand what she’s saying, so that being said I have to believe she persists on texting just to irk me.

I met Lena at a lackluster conference about three years ago and we immediately hit it off. I can’t recall exactly how we met but we sort of bumped into each other and have remained friends since then. We tried dating but something didn’t click and agreed to stop before our friendship suffered. In hindsight, I wish I knew why things were so awkward at that specific time but no matter how I try to piece together those few months, I can’t find an answer as to why we couldn’t make it work. One thing for sure, I’ve always found Lena rather guarded and not willing to share more than she has to. There were other obstacles of course and many had to do with my experiences with Eastern European women. Don’t get me wrong, Lena is extremely attractive and at times hilarious but in the back of my mind I always waited or expected for the crazy temper to burst through. A temper I have witnessed all too many times from pampered Russian princesses. Aside from that, there was a weird stigma attached to these girls, like they were all con artists working for the mob or some Russian pimp.

“Hey Lena,” I answered, “Good to hear your voice. Wassup? Where are you?”

“I have arrived in Kiev yesterday but had no manner in which to call you,” she answered.

Okay, I’m flattered to say the least but not quite sure why she found it necessary to contact me while on vacation.

“Aaron, my aunt is very ill. The doctors insist she has only three weeks, maybe less to live.”

“Oh,” I said still dumbfounded and wondering what this had to do with me.

I felt a pang of despair for my friend realizing that these situations are never easy. I peeked around the corner into the dining room and saw Rhonda staring at me with blank eyes wondering when I would be done talking so that she could continue talking.

“I’m sorry to hear this but it’s good that you’re there with her.”

Damn, that was lame. I never have any clue what to say in these circumstances.

“This is the aunt I told you about,” Lena replied, fully realizing that I wasn’t following her. “She lived in Pripyat before the nuclear reactor accident.”

Bells whistled in my head and my attention was now focused entirely on the phone call. Lena had once mentioned that if ever I should write a biography on anyone, it should be her aunt.

“Oh yah, I remember now. Pripyat is close to the Chernobyl nuclear plant.”

“Aaron, she has agreed to speak with you but you must leave immediately. Is your passport up-to-date?”

“Say what?” I replied almost too comically. “You want me to fly to Kiev? Are you kidding me?”

“No, I am not kidding you”, she answered back with a hint of anger. “There is a flight leaving Pearson Airport tonight. I checked for seating and there are still some spots available so if you hurry there will be no problem. Call my friend Anna, she is a travel agent and she will book it for you. I will text you her phone number in five minutes.”

I was uncertain how to reply other than, “Another text Lena?” I knew in my gut that this could be the story I had been waiting for since the day I began writing biographies. More than likely, every other piece of work I had written beforehand would pale in comparison.

“This is gonna max out my credit card,” I blurted sheepishly.

My response did not please Lena and I could hear her grumble thousands of miles away. I coughed hoping she would quickly forget my unintentional rudeness.

“This is going to change your life, stop being so indecisive. Text your flight number and I will meet you at the airport. You will stay with my relatives. If anything Aaron, you will do this for me and our friendship.”

She said goodbye without giving me a chance to defend my position and I was left shaking my head in wonderment as was often the case when dealing with Lena.

I hurried back to the dining room, apologized to an extremely displeased Rhonda, packed my laptop and then sped to my apartment. Lena had already text her friend’s phone number and I called the travel agent the second I walked through my front door. The midnight flight was booked fifteen minutes later. The first thing I did following my phone call was surf the Internet for weather in Kiev and then packed accordingly. I was to expect lots of rain and temperatures between ten and fifteen centigrade, which was normal for mid-April. After throwing whatever clean clothes I could find into a suitcase, my final task was the most difficult, and that was of course, calling my mother and letting her know where I would be. She approved of Lena but not of the culture she came from. No matter how many times I explained that Lena was Ukrainian and not Russian, my mom could not let go of her antiquated beliefs. I took most of this with a grain of salt especially since the day she described Russia as the land that nurtured Stalin and John Lennon.

At six a.m. the next day I was flying over the English Channel, eight hours from Kiev.

As anticipated, Lena met me at Kiev International at 9pm Kiev time. Her blond hair was hanging free of her normal head bands and she wore a short blue skirt that accentuated her near perfect body. When she wrapped her arms around my hips the smell of her hair excited me to no end and I was suddenly wide awake. She didn’t normally dress so revealing so I was surprised, albeit very happy.

“Kiev agrees with you,” I complimented.

Judging from her puzzled facial expression, I could tell she was not certain what I meant but had a general idea and it pleased her. After seventeen years in Canada, Lena had still not caught on to many simple expressions.

“I am worried of gaining ten pounds a day. If the prepared food is not sweet, it is filled with mayonnaise. You’ll need new pants by the time we return home.”

Well, in your case it’s ending up in the perfect spots, I thought to myself. “We’ll have to take long walks after each meal. I’m looking forward to meeting your family.”

Lena smiled at the long walk comment. “And they are excited to meet you; I said some nice things. I should warn you that they may have mistaken my words as you being my boyfriend. My Russian is not as strong as it used to be and not only that, many of my family refuses to speak Russian and will only speak Ukrainian so that makes it even more difficult for me.”

“Don’t worry about it. I liked being your boyfriend when I was actually your boyfriend so you won’t hear me complaining.”

Lena looked me in the eye and half-grinned shyly before turning away. Okay, what I am about to say will sound incredibly vain or perhaps over hopeful but I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t believe it. Truth be told, I believe that Lena is in love with me and has been for at least the last two years. For whatever reason, she prefers to remain friends and as I said earlier, I don’t get it, as it makes no sense. From what I know from our circle of friends, she has never discussed her feelings with anyone even though many suspect that she wishes that she and I were still together. Anyone who ever saw the two of us chatting at parties or over dinner would come to the same conclusion. The comfort level, the laughter and the obvious sexual tension are as evident as the nose on your face.

I didn’t sleep a wink on the flight and never do on an excursion with moving parts. I once stayed awake throughout a two-day train ride to Moncton. My girlfriend at the time said that by the end of the trip I resembled a ninety-year old Robin Williams on Quaaludes. After a quick stop at a washroom – yah, I was feeling the effects of eight coffees – we stepped outside and found a taxi almost instantly. Lena got in the smallish vehicle first and told the driver where we were heading. I found it odd, and to a certain degree annoying, that she kept looking out the back window. I decided to keep this to myself as arguing half an hour after arriving was never a good idea.

“We can’t visit my aunt this evening,” she said, buckling her seatbelt while advising me to do the same. “It is much too late but I have asked permission for tomorrow morning.”

I didn’t understand the permission remark and like the rear window scenario, my Spiderman senses told me it would be better not to inquire.

“How is she doing?”

“Considering her situation, I would like to say as fine as expected.” Lena replied. “She is in good spirits and burst into tears when she realized who I was. It was very touching Aaron, a moment I will never forget.”

This perplexed me a bit, so I had to ask the obvious. “She has no photos of you?”

“Yes she does but face to face is different. She has been living in the Exclusion Zone for the last fifteen years.”

This piece of information confused me even further and Lena caught on swiftly.

“In time Aaron, there is much to learn. For now I will explain the Exclusion Zone as surrounding villages in and around Chernobyl. It was a very lonely life for her and for the few that choose to live there.”

I wanted to ask why she had preferred such and existence but decided to wait. Even if I had asked, Lena could only have answered what she had been told by her relatives. So instead, I asked the most palpable of questions.

“How does she look?”

Lena shrugged. “She looks like someone who has lived with radiation for twenty-five years. Most of her hair is gone…she has yellowish skin and a few open sores on her arms. The nurses have wrapped the wounds with gauze but she scratches nonstop as if she is filing her nails. She looks like a dying woman, a woman who is prepared and welcome to die yet she has summoned the energy to speak with us.” Lena looked out the rear passenger window for a few seconds and then glanced back at me. “What has both intrigued and disappointed me Aaron is that my relatives are not as anxious to visit her as I. It is disturbing to say the very least and when I question my cousin Boris as to why, he refuses to answer. I want to slap him…but he is a grown man and I am sure he has his reasons.”

Strange, I thought. “I did some research last night, which seems like an eternity ago, but I read that the citizens of Pripyat were not very welcome when they were evacuated.”

“Let my Aunt Tania tell her story,” Lena said quietly. “Hearing it first hand is better than an article off the Internet.”

I agreed and held Lena’s hand. Thankfully, she did not push away and instead held my hand tightly.

Within half an hour, we arrived at the home of Lena’s cousin, a heavy set man with one brow that seemed to begin and end at each ear. He was much darker than everyone else in the room and appeared to me as someone with a Gypsy heritage. He was introduced as Boris Kharmalov, a merchant who owned a successful cell phone store. It was obvious the man was doing well as his apartment in central Kiev was very large with every imaginable luxury. I was amazed at the size of the dwelling considering contradictory stories that clearly said most residents of this city lived in one bedroom apartments. This home had three bedrooms, a spacious chrome kitchen and a living room the size of six pool tables. Original paintings hung on most walls and a large television graced the wall in front of a leather lounger. I was graciously welcomed by several of Boris’s friends including a couple of stunning women who hung on every word Boris spoke. Before I had an opportunity to shake hands with every guest, I was handed a shot glass of Vodka.

“Drink,” Boris said with a heavy accent. “Welcome to my home, Aaron.”

It didn’t take me long to notice that Boris was near fluent in English although I didn’t ask where or when he learned a second language. Three hours and several shot glasses later, I was allowed to say goodnight and sleep came very quickly. The only thing I cared to remember this morning was that Lena never left my side the previous evening and more amazingly, was lying next to me when I awoke.

About the Author

Bob Dornan

Robert J Dornan is someone who wishes to leave a better world to his children. He realizes that the odds are slim but he will do whatever he can to increase the probability of success. He is always open to discuss new and innovative ideas and hopes someday to see the building of a functional solar city as well as a fair and community-driven compensation system.

 

Robert’s latest book is the historical fiction, 23 Minutes Past 1 A.M.

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First Chapter Reveal: 23 Minutes Past 1 A.M. by Robert J. Dornan

23-minutesTitle: 23 Minutes Past 1 A.M.
Author: Robert J. Dornan
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 550
Genre: Historical Fiction

In the early morning of her sister’s wedding day, Mila Kharmalov stared in stunned silence at the coloured sparks streaming from Reactor Four of the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant.  At that very moment, her life and the lives of everyone she knew changed forever.

Years later and on another continent, Adam Byrd was writing biographies for everyday people looking to leave their legacy in book form. When the woman he loved phoned from Kiev offering him the chance to write the story of a lifetime, he jumped at the opportunity not realizing that his voyage would be a bumpy ride through a nations dark underbelly. With the help of his friend’s quirky cousin, Adam is nudged into a fascinating adventure of love, greed, power and psychotic revenge, culminating with a shocking finale.

23 Minutes Past 1 A.M. is a work of fiction based on factual events from Chernobyl and villages throughout Ukraine.

For More Information

  • 23 Minutes Past 1 A.M. is available at Amazon..
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

First Chapter

Byrd Brain

“Oh, for the love of God… shut up!”

Okay, I didn’t actually say that, but I was thinking it. Trust me, if you were in the same situation, you would be thinking the same.

My name is Byrd.  It’s a surname that has inherited a great amount of teasing from a young age but if there’s any consolation, it’s spelled with a “Y” like the Renaissance composer and not an “I” like the Boston Celtics basketball player or your common flying rodent. My friends get a kick out of it and have recently begged me to join Twitter because whenever I send a message, my followers can brag they received a tweet from a Byrd. When trends are catching up to you, you gotta know you’re riding the edge of something or worse – falling off the aforementioned edge.

My tiny name insecurity has led to me ask everyone I meet to call me by my first name, which is Aaron. Yet, like everything else in this world, when you think you’ve got it bad, you can rest assured that someone has it worse. I have suffered the à propos amount of name calling but nothing – and I mean nothing – like my cousin, whom I adore simply because of the courage she has to wake up in the morning.  Why you ask?  Her first name is Robin.

Some parents don’t deserve their children.

A few years ago, I had an epiphany of sorts and decided I would go into business for myself, writing biographies for average, everyday people who wished to leave some sort of legacy for their children and family. Pretty good idea eh?  Not really but I guess Lady Luck shone upon me as the business took off fairly quickly. Word of mouth spread and I was soon juggling three clients a month. When I launched an Internet site half a year ago, my clientele shot up to eight a month. Do the math at fifteen hundred bucks a crack and minimum costs.  Even I can’t believe how fortunate I am considering any other writing adventure I have finished in the last decade has been a dismal failure.

Auto-biographies is not difficult work as long as my recorder functions properly and since I’ve created a template of questions, I’ve found I can complete a minimum one hundred page life story in five days or less if the customer doesn’t call with new information, which of course was often the case.  Hey, I was taking a crap this morning, and I remembered a crazy night that involved magic mushrooms and a fat chick named Glory.  Experience has taught me that editing for future generations of grandchildren is a gentle topic.

My workload is divided between the very interesting and those who had nothing much to be proud of other than offspring who I figure will eventually turn out just as boring. Today’s client fit the latter profile to perfection.

Rhonda Greenberg was pretty for a middle-aged housewife. Actually, she was drop-dead gorgeous and defining her as a housewife is a misnomer. Her hair was dyed blond to hide the grey that sprinkled her natural brunette but to be fair, the blond suit her. She jogged every day and bragged that she could do two hundred sit up’s in a row. Based on what I was staring at whenever she looked elsewhere, I had few doubts of her exercise routine. In fact, before I learned more about her, I would have considered dating the woman if she wasn’t married. That’s the beauty of attraction, ain’t it?  Once we get to know someone better our hormones take a nose dive.  Well, not always but if I was a betting man I would lay down my cash each and every time.

Anyway, Rhonda fit the profile of someone I would have dived into if she never said a word but once that mouth opened and she started to drop the f-bomb every second sentence, I kind of went limp. I felt like asking her where she hid the moonshine and straw hats but in the end, fifteen hundred bucks will never be something I’ll say no to, so here I was sitting in the expansive dining room with the posh motif listening to Rhonda talk about her cheerleader days.

Yah… big surprise there

Not surprising was that this gorgeous woman had found herself a sugar daddy and lived in a home that could only be illustrated as a mini palace. Chandeliers hung from the front hall, in the kitchen and oddly enough outside the first floor bathroom. Clearly, sugar daddy did not pay much attention to Rhonda’s lack of vocabulary or design skills and hell, I don’t blame him.

My buxomly client was about to detail how she lost her virginity to her second cousin while their families were observing a religious fast when mercifully my cell phone rang. Looking at the call display, I saw a very long phone number, which looked more like Bill Gate’s paycheck than any phone number I was accustomed to reading. I was tempted to push the Ignore button but my curiosity got the best of me and I answered hello while lifting a finger, asking Rhonda to hold on.

“Aaron, it’s Lena,” the sexy voice began.

I nodded my head after figuring out the long string of digits was coming from Ukraine. Realizing a need for quiet and privacy, I excused myself from the mammoth dining room and headed to the equally huge front hall. I rolled my eyes when a brooding Rhonda exhaled an exaggerated long sigh.

My friend Lena mentioned last week that she had to fly to Kiev but did so in a rushed text message, which was something that has always bugged the shit out of me. I have told her a countless number of times that it is so much easier to pick up a phone and call but for some unknown reason she is more comfortable with impersonal typing on tiny buttons. Personally, I think she’s conscious of her accent and preferred this mode of communication but I gotta tell ya that this is just silliness because Lena’s voice is both soothing and alluring with only a hint of inflection. I’ve never struggled to understand what she’s saying, so that being said I have to believe she persists on texting just to irk me.

I met Lena at a lackluster conference about three years ago and we immediately hit it off.  I can’t recall exactly how we met but we sort of bumped into each other and have remained friends since then.  We tried dating but something didn’t click and agreed to stop before our friendship suffered. In hindsight, I wish I knew why things were so awkward at that specific time but no matter how I try to piece together those few months, I can’t find an answer as to why we couldn’t make it work. One thing for sure, I’ve always found Lena rather guarded and not willing to share more than she has to. There were other obstacles of course and many had to do with my experiences with Eastern European women. Don’t get me wrong, Lena is extremely attractive and at times hilarious but in the back of my mind I always waited or expected for the crazy temper to burst through. A temper I have witnessed all too many times from pampered Russian princesses. Aside from that, there was a weird stigma attached to these girls, like they were all con artists working for the mob or some Russian pimp.

“Hey Lena,” I answered, “Good to hear your voice. Wassup?  Where are you?”

“I have arrived in Kiev yesterday but had no manner in which to call you,” she answered.

Okay, I’m flattered to say the least but not quite sure why she found it necessary to contact me while on vacation.

“Aaron, my aunt is very ill. The doctors insist she has only three weeks, maybe less to live.”

“Oh,” I said still dumbfounded and wondering what this had to do with me.

I felt a pang of despair for my friend realizing that these situations are never easy. I peeked around the corner into the dining room and saw Rhonda staring at me with blank eyes wondering when I would be done talking so that she could continue talking.

“I’m sorry to hear this but it’s good that you’re there with her.”

Damn, that was lame. I never have any clue what to say in these circumstances.

“This is the aunt I told you about,” Lena replied, fully realizing that I wasn’t following her. “She lived in Pripyat before the nuclear reactor accident.”

Bells whistled in my head and my attention was now focused entirely on the phone call.  Lena had once mentioned that if ever I should write a biography on anyone, it should be her aunt.

“Oh yah, I remember now. Pripyat is close to the Chernobyl nuclear plant.”

“Aaron, she has agreed to speak with you but you must leave immediately. Is your passport up-to-date?”

“Say what?” I replied almost too comically. “You want me to fly to Kiev? Are you kidding me?”

“No, I am not kidding you”, she answered back with a hint of anger. “There is a flight leaving Pearson Airport tonight. I checked for seating and there are still some spots available so if you hurry there will be no problem. Call my friend Anna, she is a travel agent and she will book it for you. I will text you her phone number in five minutes.”

I was uncertain how to reply other than, “Another text Lena?”  I knew in my gut that this could be the story I had been waiting for since the day I began writing biographies. More than likely, every other piece of work I had written beforehand would pale in comparison.

“This is gonna max out my credit card,” I blurted sheepishly.

My response did not please Lena and I could hear her grumble thousands of miles away. I coughed hoping she would quickly forget my unintentional rudeness.

“This is going to change your life, stop being so indecisive. Text your flight number and I will meet you at the airport. You will stay with my relatives. If anything Aaron, you will do this for me and our friendship.”

She said goodbye without giving me a chance to defend my position and I was left shaking my head in wonderment as was often the case when dealing with Lena.

I hurried back to the dining room, apologized to an extremely displeased Rhonda, packed my laptop and then sped to my apartment. Lena had already text her friend’s phone number and I called the travel agent the second I walked through my front door. The midnight flight was booked fifteen minutes later. The first thing I did following my phone call was surf the Internet for weather in Kiev and then packed accordingly. I was to expect lots of rain and temperatures between ten and fifteen centigrade, which was normal for mid-April. After throwing whatever clean clothes I could find into a suitcase, my final task was the most difficult, and that was of course, calling my mother and letting her know where I would be. She approved of Lena but not of the culture she came from. No matter how many times I explained that Lena was Ukrainian and not Russian, my mom could not let go of her antiquated beliefs. I took most of this with a grain of salt especially since the day she described Russia as the land that nurtured Stalin and John Lennon.

At six a.m. the next day I was flying over the English Channel, eight hours from Kiev.

As anticipated, Lena met me at Kiev International at 9pm Kiev time. Her blond hair was hanging free of her normal head bands and she wore a short blue skirt that accentuated her near perfect body. When she wrapped her arms around my hips the smell of her hair excited me to no end and I was suddenly wide awake. She didn’t normally dress so revealing so I was surprised, albeit very happy.

“Kiev agrees with you,” I complimented.

Judging from her puzzled facial expression, I could tell she was not certain what I meant but had a general idea and it pleased her. After seventeen years in Canada, Lena had still not caught on to many simple expressions.

“I am worried of gaining ten pounds a day. If the prepared food is not sweet, it is filled with mayonnaise.  You’ll need new pants by the time we return home.”

Well, in your case it’s ending up in the perfect spots, I thought to myself.  “We’ll have to take long walks after each meal. I’m looking forward to meeting your family.”

Lena smiled at the long walk comment. “And they are excited to meet you; I said some nice things.  I should warn you that they may have mistaken my words as you being my boyfriend. My Russian is not as strong as it used to be and not only that, many of my family refuses to speak Russian and will only speak Ukrainian so that makes it even more difficult for me.”

“Don’t worry about it. I liked being your boyfriend when I was actually your boyfriend so you won’t hear me complaining.”

Lena looked me in the eye and half-grinned shyly before turning away.  Okay, what I am about to say will sound incredibly vain or perhaps over hopeful but I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t believe it.  Truth be told, I believe that Lena is in love with me and has been for at least the last two years. For whatever reason, she prefers to remain friends and as I said earlier, I don’t get it, as it makes no sense. From what I know from our circle of friends, she has never discussed her feelings with anyone even though many suspect that she wishes that she and I were still together. Anyone who ever saw the two of us chatting at parties or over dinner would come to the same conclusion. The comfort level, the laughter and the obvious sexual tension are as evident as the nose on your face.

I didn’t sleep a wink on the flight and never do on an excursion with moving parts. I once stayed awake throughout a two-day train ride to Moncton. My girlfriend at the time said that by the end of the trip I resembled a ninety-year old Robin Williams on Quaaludes. After a quick stop at a washroom – yah, I was feeling the effects of eight coffees – we stepped outside and found a taxi almost instantly.  Lena got in the smallish vehicle first and told the driver where we were heading. I found it odd, and to a certain degree annoying, that she kept looking out the back window. I decided to keep this to myself as arguing half an hour after arriving was never a good idea.

“We can’t visit my aunt this evening,” she said, buckling her seatbelt while advising me to do the same.  “It is much too late but I have asked permission for tomorrow morning.”

I didn’t understand the permission remark and like the rear window scenario, my Spiderman senses told me it would be better not to inquire.

“How is she doing?”

“Considering her situation, I would like to say as fine as expected.” Lena replied. “She is in good spirits and burst into tears when she realized who I was. It was very touching Aaron, a moment I will never forget.”

This perplexed me a bit, so I had to ask the obvious. “She has no photos of you?”

“Yes she does but face to face is different. She has been living in the Exclusion Zone for the last fifteen years.”

This piece of information confused me even further and Lena caught on swiftly.

“In time Aaron, there is much to learn. For now I will explain the Exclusion Zone as surrounding villages in and around Chernobyl. It was a very lonely life for her and for the few that choose to live there.”

I wanted to ask why she had preferred such and existence but decided to wait. Even if I had asked, Lena could only have answered what she had been told by her relatives. So instead, I asked the most palpable of questions.

“How does she look?”

Lena shrugged. “She looks like someone who has lived with radiation for twenty-five years. Most of her hair is gone…she has yellowish skin and a few open sores on her arms. The nurses have wrapped the wounds with gauze but she scratches nonstop as if she is filing her nails. She looks like a dying woman, a woman who is prepared and welcome to die yet she has summoned the energy to speak with us.” Lena looked out the rear passenger window for a few seconds and then glanced back at me. “What has both intrigued and disappointed me Aaron is that my relatives are not as anxious to visit her as I. It is disturbing to say the very least and when I question my cousin Boris as to why, he refuses to answer. I want to slap him…but he is a grown man and I am sure he has his reasons.”

Strange, I thought. “I did some research last night, which seems like an eternity ago, but I read that the citizens of Pripyat were not very welcome when they were evacuated.”

“Let my Aunt Tania tell her story,” Lena said quietly. “Hearing it first hand is better than an article off the Internet.”

I agreed and held Lena’s hand. Thankfully, she did not push away and instead held my hand tightly.

Within half an hour, we arrived at the home of Lena’s cousin, a heavy set man with one brow that seemed to begin and end at each ear. He was much darker than everyone else in the room and appeared to me as someone with a Gypsy heritage. He was introduced as Boris Kharmalov, a merchant who owned a successful cell phone store. It was obvious the man was doing well as his apartment in central Kiev was very large with every imaginable luxury. I was amazed at the size of the dwelling considering contradictory stories that clearly said most residents of this city lived in one bedroom apartments. This home had three bedrooms, a spacious chrome kitchen and a living room the size of six pool tables. Original paintings hung on most walls and a large television graced the wall in front of a leather lounger. I was graciously welcomed by several of Boris’s friends including a couple of stunning women who hung on every word Boris spoke. Before I had an opportunity to shake hands with every guest, I was handed a shot glass of Vodka.

“Drink,” Boris said with a heavy accent. “Welcome to my home, Aaron.”

It didn’t take me long to notice that Boris was near fluent in English although I didn’t ask where or when he learned a second language.  Three hours and several shot glasses later, I was allowed to say goodnight and sleep came very quickly. The only thing I cared to remember this morning was that Lena never left my side the previous evening and more amazingly, was lying next to me when I awoke.

About the Author

bob-dornanRobert J Dornan is someone who wishes to leave a better world to his children. He realizes that the odds are slim but he will do whatever he can to increase the probability of success.  He is always open to discuss new and innovative ideas and hopes someday to see the building of a functional solar city as well as a fair and community-driven compensation system.

Robert’s latest book is the historical fiction, 23 Minutes Past 1 A.M.

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First Chapter Reveal – Killer Pursuit by Jeff Gunhus

Killer Pursuit banner 2

Title: KILLER PURSUIT
Author: Jeff Gunhus
Publisher: Seven Guns Press
Pages: 352
Genre: Thriller

When a high-society call girl is murdered in her Georgetown home, investigators find two cameras hidden in the walls of her bedroom. One has its memory erased, presumably by the murderer. The second is connected to the Internet through an encrypted connection…and no-one knows who’s on the other end.

Special Agent Allison McNeil is asked by beleaguered FBI Director Clarence Mason to run an off-the-record investigation of the murder because of the murder’s similarity to a case she worked a year earlier. Allison knows the most direct path to apprehending the killer is to find the videos, but the rumors that the victim’s client list may have included Mason’s political enemies has her worried about the director’s motives. As she starts her investigation, she quickly discovers that she’s not the only one pursuing the videos. In fact, the most aggressive person racing against her might be the murderer himself.

For More Information

Killer Pursuit is available at Amazon.

Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Killer Pursuit

First Chapter:

Allison McNeil tensed when she spotted the first shadow dart through the mist and take cover behind a tree. In the early-morning light it took her a while to pick out all six members of the Hostage Rescue Team approaching the cabin, but within a minute she could clearly see the tactical team converging on their target.

The small building stood on a rise, up from the swampy, flood-prone land around it. Wood-slated walls tilted precariously inward, twisting the windows into deformed rectangles. Moss and dead leaves covered the roof. The place smelled and looked like decay, well on its way to inevitable reclamation by the weeds and vines choking the cabin to a miserable death.

And, if Allison was right, the place deserved what it got. Hell, if she was right, she had half a mind to take a match to the place after everything was done.

She hunkered down behind a fallen tree, her head barely clearing the top to see the building and the team closing in. A trickle of sweat started at the base of her neck and went the length of her spine. She adjusted the Kevlar vest, under her light windbreaker emblazoned with large yellow letters. FBI. It felt ridiculous to wear the windbreaker when it was in the ’80s before daybreak with the Louisiana humidity hovering at about a thousand percent, but if it meant that the hotheads with assault rifles could more easily identify her as a friendly, then she was happy to have it.

Garret Morrison shifted his weight next to her, stretching out a leg and rubbing his knee. She gave him a sideways look.

“You all right?” she whispered.

He scowled at her. They both knew she didn’t give a damn about him. The comment was intended as a dig at the fifty-three-year-old Garret who prided himself on being in better shape than the agents beneath him. Even though he ran the Behavioral Analysis Unit, home of the FBI’s fabled profilers who spent more time in the heads of the criminals they chased than in the field, he required an aggressive physical program for his people. Everything about Morrison is a throwback to the old male-dominated Bureau. A slicked-back head of hair with just the right amount of grey to lend him gravitas without making him look old, a square jaw out of a mountaineering magazine, cold steel-blue eyes that seemed to look through people instead of at them. Unless they were trained on an attractive female, in which case his eyes gave their full attention to the area below the chin and above the waistline.

“Worry about yourself,” Garret grumbled. He turned to Doug Browning, a junior agent who followed Garret around like a little puppy. “Jesus, Doug. Not so close.”

Allison turned back to the cabin and raised her binoculars, not bothering to hide the smile on her lips. Garret was a legend in the Bureau for his work hunting America’s worst criminals, but Allison’s own legend had grown since her work on the Arnie Milhouse case a year earlier. While that case had given her credibility, she knew she was just as likely to be referred to as the woman who’d broken Garret Morrison’s nose when he’d made one too many unwanted advances while she was a trainee. And, while she wanted to be known for her work, she didn’t mind that piece of fame following her around.

“Alpha team in position,” said a voice through the small speaker in her ear. She noticed Garret put a finger to the side of his head and nod. He looked over at her.

“You better be right about this,” he whispered.

Allison shook her head. For all his brilliance—and, regardless of how she felt personally about him, she recognized that he was brilliant—Garret’s transparency could border on the inane. What he was really saying was that if the lunatic Allison’s research had tracked to this location wasn’t holed up in this backwoods cabin, if the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team had been activated and deployed for no reason, then the blame would drop on her like a bag of bricks. If Sam Kraw was in there, Allison knew it would be Garret standing in front of the cameras taking credit for the HRT mission and the capture of America’s most wanted fugitive.

She pushed the thought away. As long as they caught the bastard and ended his multi-year killing spree in the Southeast, she didn’t give a damn who got the credit.

Allison moved her binoculars. The tactical team was in place around the cabin, peering through scopes with infrared capabilities. If there was someone hiding in the shadows of a window or doorway, they wouldn’t be hiding for long.

On some signal unseen by Allison, the men began a steady, crouched advance to the building. She realized she was holding her breath so she blew out her air slowly between pinched lips.

“Relax, McNeil,” Garret muttered. “You’re making me nervous.”

The two members of the tactical squad approaching from the front reached the deck that wrapped around the front of the building. As they strode across it, the old wood floorboards groaned. The men froze. The seconds stretched out. Allison became suddenly aware of the hum of insects in the air around her. The dampness of her own skin. The sound of a bird calling in the distance. All of her senses were wired tight. An entire year of her life was wrapped up in the next few seconds. And if she’d got it wrong, Garret would have the ammo he’d been looking for to get her out of his unit once and for all. But she wasn’t worried about herself. What really bothered her was the chance that she had it right, that this was Kraw’s hideout, but that somehow they’d spooked him and he’d already slipped away. If that had happened, he’d be hundreds of miles away by tomorrow, scouting for his next victim as he traveled.

Movement in the cabin. Just a flutter. Like a bird trapped in a cage. Only her intuition told her it was more than a bird. It had been an arm. A human arm. Sam Kraw.

Based on the lack of movement from the tactical team, she realized no one else had seen it.

“I’ve got movement,” she whispered into her mic. “Window to the right of the front door. An arm.”

“I didn’t see anything,” Garret whispered.

Allison ignored him. The men around the cabin responded immediately, reorienting to the front door. Guns pointed at the window.

One of the men produced a miniram, a high impact, brute force breaching tool. Coordinating with his partner, he crouched next to the door while the other man readied a flash-bang grenade.

There was a pause, as if someone had pressed a button on a TV remote. Everyone was in place. The air seemed to still as if the world knew something was about to happen. Allison had her binoculars trained on the window where she’d seen the movement. If Kraw was inside, then the nightmare was almost over. She’d know in a few seconds whether that was the case or not.

But in that second, she saw the movement again.

Only this time, she knew something was wrong.

It was a man’s arm, she saw it clearly this time. But it was too stiff. The color was off. And, attached at the shoulder, she saw a coil of wire.

A mannequin arm on a spring.

Meant to make them think someone was inside.

It was a trap.

About the Author

Jeff Gunhus

Jeff Gunhus is the USA TODAY bestselling author of thriller and horror novels for adults and the middle grade/YA series, The Templar Chronicles. The first book, Jack Templar Monster Hunter, was written in an effort to get his reluctant reader eleven-year-old son excited about reading. It worked and a new series was born. His books for adults have reached the Top 30 on Amazon, have been recognized as Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Finalists and reached the USA TODAY bestseller list.

After his experience with his son, he is passionate about helping parents reach young reluctant readers and is active in child literacy issues. As a father of five, he leads an active life in Maryland with his wife Nicole by trying to constantly keep up with their kids. In rare moments of quiet, he can be found in the back of the City Dock Cafe in Annapolis working on his next novel or on JeffGunhus.com.

His latest book is the thriller, Killer Pursuit.

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First Chapter Reveal: Girl Within Girl by S.P. Aruna

girl-within-girlTitle: Girl Within Girl: An Erotic Thriller (Book 1: Unraveling)
Author: S.P. Aruna
Publisher: BookBaby
Pages: 170
Genre: Erotic Thriller

Katrina is never alone. She is bound to others inside her, tighter than any Siamese twins could ever be: Cherry, the freewheeling photojournalist, Anisa, the covert spy-assassin, and others as yet unknown, all sharing her body and mind as she goes about her work in a psychiatric hospital. But she is starting to unravel, and her sole hope is the handsome Dr. Sean Paisley, the only one who can make her whole again.

Girl Within Girl is a dark erotic thriller that wanders through a sensual maze of mind control and torture.

For More Information

  • Girl Within Girl is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

First Chapter:

That morning, April 11, 2016, could very well have been a turning point in my life, the morning I awoke and didn’t know where I was, and even more frightening, who I was.

In my bed, I was rising out of a foggy void that separated dreams from drowsy wakefulness, when, in a flash of alarm, I bolted upright to sit up, frantically looking around me. I could almost hear the whirring of the cogs in my head as my mind searched its recesses for the answers. My surroundings slowly focused into a scene of familiarity: my Hemnes six-drawer dresser, my Morvik wardrobe with the full-length mirror, the Gaugin print hanging on the white stucco wall just beside it; the cream-colored low-pile carpeting covering the floor up to my bathroom door, and the window to my left adorned with the lace curtains I had bought at Jack’s Second Hand Furniture.

My name is Katrina. I’m in my apartment. I think it’s a Monday.

I got out of bed and stepped over to the full-length mirror with a curious urge to examine myself. The first thing I noticed was my dirty blonde hair flowing in waves to my shoulders. With my not-too-wide forehead I have no quarrel with, but my bushy eyebrows get away from being too distracting only because of the fair hair. My eyes though, I hate them, cold and grey, even spooky, making me look away for a moment.

But then I had to look again. My sharp nose, like a bird’s beak, pointed at me from the reflection. Nondescript lips told me that I was plain. My pointed chin only bolstered that impression.

Yet my body wasn’t too bad: softly sloping shoulders, my breasts the shape of delicate bowls, a waist that flared into wide hips, and legs that were shaped into long perfect curves. And why shouldn’t my body be so ideal, after all I’m only…I’m only…shit…twenty-three…twenty-four?

My surname is Novak. In Czech that means, “The New One.” That’s what somebody told me once.

I turned abruptly and went into my kitchenette, hoping that a cup of coffee could bring me to a more functional state. While brewing it, I fell into an instinctual routine mode, somehow intuiting that I had to be at work by nine.

I’m a nurse at a psychiatric hospital.

That’s not exactly a pleasant job, I agree. Even the building I work in, the Gottlieb Memorial Institute, is spooky in its Gothic, horror castle type architecture: roughly hewn grey stone capped by roofs that slanted at ridiculously sharp angles; and yes, I mean more than one roof, each corner having its own tower-like extension melding into the main one, each pointing like spikes into the sky. Inside is not much better; with the reception room painted a drab grey, and the corridors leading to those unfortunate souls interned within enveloped in white ceramic tile and neon strip lights. The place was noisy as well: shrieks and moans always serving as a background clamor which we staff regularly ignored. But still, I like my job because it fills me with the satisfaction that I’m doing something meaningful.

Entering the hospital, I faced the day with stoic acquiescence.

Sometime in the afternoon, at the nurse’s station on the third floor, I encountered Dr. Babcock. Tall, balding, a long face highlighted by a pencil thin silver mustache, his scholarly spectacles giving him a fatherly look, his lips severe, I felt an inexplicable attraction to him, as if pleasing him was a priority. “Yes, Dr. Babcock?”

“I think it’s time we transfer Mrs. Wheaton to the Sleep Room.”

“Yes Doctor.”

If there was a place in the hospital that I loathed more than the Electro-Shock Room, it was the Sleep Room, and as I wheeled Mrs. Wheaton, already out of it to the point of drooling, her head rocking back and forth with every slight turn of the gurney, an icy shudder zipped through me. With one hand on the gurney, I opened the door. Inside were eight other patients, comatose as zombies, some having been unconscious for three months or more. After depositing her there, I spent the rest of the day engaged in my usual duties of administering drugs, taking care of bedpans. and shuffling patients to and fro.

But then, while I was in the female staff dressing room, something strange happened to me. I lost track of time and felt myself a participant inside a sexual fantasy. I was naked upon a bed… my breasts were tingling as if they had just been bitten and suckled, and a hairy brute of a man was looming over me, snarling and growling and even shouting at me, and I could feel a pleasurable hammering in the middle of my body, and even though it hurt, it was giving me an incomparable gratification. A sharp sensation pierced me, stole my breath, and caused me to wake up gasping, where I found myself back in the hospital changing room, my loins embarrassingly moist.

“Tough day, I bet,” said one of the nurses who was also coming off-shift, a bleach-blonde called Sheila.

I was ashamed to be so discombobulated in front of her, so my only response was, “Yeah.” I really didn’t want to talk to her. In fact, I hardly ever want to talk to anybody.

People describe me as distant, shy, aloof… I am what I am: a cautious, sensitive person who avoids contact with others at all costs. I don’t know what made me so; I just accept my nature as it is.

“So where were you last week?” she asked.

Where was I? Wasn’t I here?

“At St. Lukes?” she proposed. “I heard that you rotate between here and there.”

Do I? “Yes, St. Luke’s’,” I said, only because I didn’t want to prolong the conversation.

After that, I made haste to get dressed, anxious to head back home. Before I left, though, I checked my duty roster from last week. There was nothing unusual about it – it documented that I was here. Silly woman must have been confused.

Back in my apartment, I was still disturbed by these events. First, that strange reverie I had, so sudden, so unexpected…and yet, it was somehow familiar. Pain and pleasure, a sweet feeling of submission, a breath-taking fascination at being dominated…now where did that come from? And Sheila’s impression that I had been absent last week was disturbing to say the least, and that too still continued to hound me.

After a shower and a chamomile tea, I finally felt relaxed. Then the phone rang. The only phone in the apartment is on the wall of my kitchenette, where fortunately I was sitting nearby at the foldable metal card table. I got up and reached for the receiver. “Hello?”

“Tick-tock… tick-tock… tick-tock.”

About the Author

s-p-aruna

Half French, half Khmer (Cambodian), I’m a woman whose head is filled with fantasies and intriguing stories, and who wants to share them with others.

S.P. Aruna’s latest book is the erotic thriller, Girl Within Girl: An Erotic Thriller: Book 1: Unraveling.

Visit the author on Facebook.

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First Chapter Reveal: Killer Pursuit by Jeff Gunhus

Killer Pursuit banner 2

Title: KILLER PURSUIT
Author: Jeff Gunhus
Publisher: Seven Guns Press
Pages: 352
Genre: Thriller

When a high-society call girl is murdered in her Georgetown home, investigators find two cameras hidden in the walls of her bedroom. One has its memory erased, presumably by the murderer. The second is connected to the Internet through an encrypted connection…and no-one knows who’s on the other end.

Special Agent Allison McNeil is asked by beleaguered FBI Director Clarence Mason to run an off-the-record investigation of the murder because of the murder’s similarity to a case she worked a year earlier. Allison knows the most direct path to apprehending the killer is to find the videos, but the rumors that the victim’s client list may have included Mason’s political enemies has her worried about the director’s motives. As she starts her investigation, she quickly discovers that she’s not the only one pursuing the videos. In fact, the most aggressive person racing against her might be the murderer himself.

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Killer Pursuit is available at Amazon.

Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Killer Pursuit

First Chapter:

Allison McNeil tensed when she spotted the first shadow dart through the mist and take cover behind a tree. In the early-morning light it took her a while to pick out all six members of the Hostage Rescue Team approaching the cabin, but within a minute she could clearly see the tactical team converging on their target.

The small building stood on a rise, up from the swampy, flood-prone land around it. Wood-slated walls tilted precariously inward, twisting the windows into deformed rectangles. Moss and dead leaves covered the roof. The place smelled and looked like decay, well on its way to inevitable reclamation by the weeds and vines choking the cabin to a miserable death.

And, if Allison was right, the place deserved what it got. Hell, if she was right, she had half a mind to take a match to the place after everything was done.

She hunkered down behind a fallen tree, her head barely clearing the top to see the building and the team closing in. A trickle of sweat started at the base of her neck and went the length of her spine. She adjusted the Kevlar vest, under her light windbreaker emblazoned with large yellow letters. FBI. It felt ridiculous to wear the windbreaker when it was in the ’80s before daybreak with the Louisiana humidity hovering at about a thousand percent, but if it meant that the hotheads with assault rifles could more easily identify her as a friendly, then she was happy to have it.

Garret Morrison shifted his weight next to her, stretching out a leg and rubbing his knee. She gave him a sideways look.

“You all right?” she whispered.

He scowled at her. They both knew she didn’t give a damn about him. The comment was intended as a dig at the fifty-three-year-old Garret who prided himself on being in better shape than the agents beneath him. Even though he ran the Behavioral Analysis Unit, home of the FBI’s fabled profilers who spent more time in the heads of the criminals they chased than in the field, he required an aggressive physical program for his people. Everything about Morrison is a throwback to the old male-dominated Bureau. A slicked-back head of hair with just the right amount of grey to lend him gravitas without making him look old, a square jaw out of a mountaineering magazine, cold steel-blue eyes that seemed to look through people instead of at them. Unless they were trained on an attractive female, in which case his eyes gave their full attention to the area below the chin and above the waistline.

“Worry about yourself,” Garret grumbled. He turned to Doug Browning, a junior agent who followed Garret around like a little puppy. “Jesus, Doug. Not so close.”

Allison turned back to the cabin and raised her binoculars, not bothering to hide the smile on her lips. Garret was a legend in the Bureau for his work hunting America’s worst criminals, but Allison’s own legend had grown since her work on the Arnie Milhouse case a year earlier. While that case had given her credibility, she knew she was just as likely to be referred to as the woman who’d broken Garret Morrison’s nose when he’d made one too many unwanted advances while she was a trainee. And, while she wanted to be known for her work, she didn’t mind that piece of fame following her around.

“Alpha team in position,” said a voice through the small speaker in her ear. She noticed Garret put a finger to the side of his head and nod. He looked over at her.

“You better be right about this,” he whispered.

Allison shook her head. For all his brilliance—and, regardless of how she felt personally about him, she recognized that he was brilliant—Garret’s transparency could border on the inane. What he was really saying was that if the lunatic Allison’s research had tracked to this location wasn’t holed up in this backwoods cabin, if the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team had been activated and deployed for no reason, then the blame would drop on her like a bag of bricks. If Sam Kraw was in there, Allison knew it would be Garret standing in front of the cameras taking credit for the HRT mission and the capture of America’s most wanted fugitive.

She pushed the thought away. As long as they caught the bastard and ended his multi-year killing spree in the Southeast, she didn’t give a damn who got the credit.

Allison moved her binoculars. The tactical team was in place around the cabin, peering through scopes with infrared capabilities. If there was someone hiding in the shadows of a window or doorway, they wouldn’t be hiding for long.

On some signal unseen by Allison, the men began a steady, crouched advance to the building. She realized she was holding her breath so she blew out her air slowly between pinched lips.

“Relax, McNeil,” Garret muttered. “You’re making me nervous.”

The two members of the tactical squad approaching from the front reached the deck that wrapped around the front of the building. As they strode across it, the old wood floorboards groaned. The men froze. The seconds stretched out. Allison became suddenly aware of the hum of insects in the air around her. The dampness of her own skin. The sound of a bird calling in the distance. All of her senses were wired tight. An entire year of her life was wrapped up in the next few seconds. And if she’d got it wrong, Garret would have the ammo he’d been looking for to get her out of his unit once and for all. But she wasn’t worried about herself. What really bothered her was the chance that she had it right, that this was Kraw’s hideout, but that somehow they’d spooked him and he’d already slipped away. If that had happened, he’d be hundreds of miles away by tomorrow, scouting for his next victim as he traveled.

Movement in the cabin. Just a flutter. Like a bird trapped in a cage. Only her intuition told her it was more than a bird. It had been an arm. A human arm. Sam Kraw.

Based on the lack of movement from the tactical team, she realized no one else had seen it.

“I’ve got movement,” she whispered into her mic. “Window to the right of the front door. An arm.”

“I didn’t see anything,” Garret whispered.

Allison ignored him. The men around the cabin responded immediately, reorienting to the front door. Guns pointed at the window.

One of the men produced a miniram, a high impact, brute force breaching tool. Coordinating with his partner, he crouched next to the door while the other man readied a flash-bang grenade.

There was a pause, as if someone had pressed a button on a TV remote. Everyone was in place. The air seemed to still as if the world knew something was about to happen. Allison had her binoculars trained on the window where she’d seen the movement. If Kraw was inside, then the nightmare was almost over. She’d know in a few seconds whether that was the case or not.

But in that second, she saw the movement again.

Only this time, she knew something was wrong.

It was a man’s arm, she saw it clearly this time. But it was too stiff. The color was off. And, attached at the shoulder, she saw a coil of wire.

A mannequin arm on a spring.

Meant to make them think someone was inside.

It was a trap.

About the Author

Jeff Gunhus

Jeff Gunhus is the USA TODAY bestselling author of thriller and horror novels for adults and the middle grade/YA series, The Templar Chronicles. The first book, Jack Templar Monster Hunter, was written in an effort to get his reluctant reader eleven-year-old son excited about reading. It worked and a new series was born. His books for adults have reached the Top 30 on Amazon, have been recognized as Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Finalists and reached the USA TODAY bestseller list.

After his experience with his son, he is passionate about helping parents reach young reluctant readers and is active in child literacy issues. As a father of five, he leads an active life in Maryland with his wife Nicole by trying to constantly keep up with their kids. In rare moments of quiet, he can be found in the back of the City Dock Cafe in Annapolis working on his next novel or on JeffGunhus.com.

His latest book is the thriller, Killer Pursuit.

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John Sibley Williams Talks About Newest Book, Disinheritance

john-sibley-williamsJohn Sibley Williams is the editor of two Northwest poetry anthologies and the author of nine collections, including Controlled Hallucinations (2013) and Disinheritance (2016). A five-time Pushcart nominee and winner of the Philip Booth Award, American Literary Review Poetry Contest, Nancy D. Hargrove Editors’ Prize, and Vallum Award for Poetry, John serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review and works as a literary agent. Previous publishing credits include: The Midwest Quarterly, december, Third Coast, Baltimore Review, Nimrod International Journal, Hotel Amerika, Rio Grande Review, Inkwell, Cider Press Review, Bryant Literary Review, RHINO, and various anthologies. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

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Our guest today is John Sibley Williams, author of the new poetry collection Disinheritance.

What made you decide to become a published author?

I’m lucky to have been passionate about books since childhood. Perhaps it’s in part due to my mother reading novel after novel over her pregnant belly every day. Perhaps it’s in part due to my own restlessness, my need to make things, and my love of words. But I began writing short stories in middle school, and I continued in that genre until my early twenties. A handful of those stories found publication in literary magazines, which was eye-opening and oddly humbling.

I was 21 when I wrote my first poem. Before that, I had never enjoyed reading poetry and had certainly never considered writing one. It was summer in New York and I was sitting by a lake with my feet dragging through the current caused by small boats when suddenly, without my knowing what I was doing, I began writing something that obviously wasn’t a story. What was it? Impressions. disinheritanceColors. Emotions. Strange images. I didn’t have any paper, so I used a marker to write a series of phrases on my arm. Then they poured onto my leg. Then I realized I needed paper. I ran back to the car, took out a little notebook, and spent hours emptying myself of visions and fears and joys I don’t think I even knew I had. That was 17 years ago. Since that surreal and confusing moment by that little city lake, I’ve written poetry almost every day.

Would you consider your latest book, Disinheritance, to be a one of a kind?  How so?

Well, I suppose every book is one of a kind. But in my case, Disinheritance is a bit different than my previous collections. Most of my work is not overly narrative or overly personal, so it was an exciting challenge to write from a part of my heart still raw and healing.

Disinheritance is a collection of tender, lyrical poems exploring the various voices of grief, including those of the broken, the healing, the son-become-father, and the dead. These poems acknowledge loss while celebrating the uncertainty of a world in constant revision. Though many are based on personal experiences, the poems speak to larger, universal human concerns about how to approach mortality and what role we play in each other’s’ lives.

Although I’m sure countless other poets have written on similar themes, Disinheritance is definitely unique to my own body of work.

Where is your writing sanctuary?

I don’t really have a specific location or time of day. Ideas and phrases and images emerge at the oddest times, so I’ve taken to carrying a pocket notebook everywhere I go. During my daily work commute. In the hospital visiting an ailing friend. While walking my dog. Even in the middle of a live concert or film. Though I tend to write best when outside, inspiration can come from anything. At its core, I think creativity is all about curiosity and how one chooses to communicate with the world. As adults, we’re programmed to think linearly, reactively, and, dare I say it, boringly. But if we retain a bit of that childhood innocence, that unabated curiosity, then we can find metaphors in everything. Why look at the night sky and think “sky, moon, stars”? Why can’t the sky be a river? Why can’t the stars be that part of our hearts we leave open to love?

My process (and my “sanctuary”) is a bit different with every poem. Some pour forth as if on their own, leaving me the easier task of revising for sound and clarity. Other poems take serious effort, time, and struggle. But generally my approach is to have one or two notebooks filled with phrases and images splayed out before me. Whenever I feel stuck, I reread my old notes and see if any fit the poem I’m working on. Interestingly, that approach tends to yield results that even surprise me.

What inspires you?

Not to sound coy, but I believe everything is a storehouse of inspiration. It all depends on the author’s curiosity and on retaining an open mind. From other books and current events, from overheard conversations and history, from memories and mythology and the way a bridge sways against the sky and my son’s hand brushing against mine. And I’m heavily inspired by the landscape itself, from weather patterns and bridges and rivers and animals and cityscapes. And sometimes ideas seem to materialize from the ether, as if they never existed until that moment.

But I think most of my ideas stem from how things interact with other things. Be it people in love or coyotes sniffing a deer carcass or clouds darkening the sky or trains shooting through the night, warming the rails. The effects one thing has on every other thing are astounding, ever-changing, and so very inspiring.

What is one thing you learned about your book after it was published?

Although it’s not a new lesson as I’ve been writing for decades, still I am always surprised and enthused by the reactions readers have when first encountering a poem that speaks to them. We have all read poems or novels that truly moved us, that made us reconsider ourselves, that illuminated the beauty and power of language. It has been indescribably rewarding to know my work has touched others in that way. When a total stranger who perhaps stumbled across your book or had it recommended to her contacts you out of the blue to say how much it inspired her, that is a potent feeling. When you’re giving a reading and you can see that glow in the audience’s eyes, that is unforgettable. Even after around 50 or so readings across the country, I am touched every single time someone goes out of their way to express their thoughts on my work. That’s what it’s all about. Trying to use language that lifts up off the page and resonates with people.

Did any real life experiences find their way into your book?

Disinheritance was inspired by a few pivotal moments that occurred within a few months of each other, namely the illness and passing of my mother, a terrible miscarriage, and my wife and I’s struggles to move forward and redefine the landscape of “family”. To explore grief more fully, I adopted the voice of our miscarried child, along with the hypothetical boy he might have grown up to be. I adopted my mother’s voice and my father’s and my wife’s and my own.

Aside from writing, what’s your passion?

I sort of feel like I’m always writing. Even when at work, when driving, hiking, reading, listening to music. Inspiration can come from anything, so wherever I go I carry a pocket notebook and pen, just in case. But apart from writing, most of my time these days is spent raising my wife and I’s newborn twins. Fatherhood is a full time job, as is writing, so my various other passions have taken a back seat for the time being. Before that, I spent most of my non-writing time reading, watching films, exploring the gorgeous mountains and rivers and deserts of Oregon, and supporting my local literary scene by attending various readings and literary conferences.

What’s next for you?

I have just completed a new book, Skin Memory, which I’m currently pitching to publishers and submitting to book awards. Skin Memory is a collection of free verse and prose poems that tackle some of the same themes in Disinheritance, including family, grief, and American culture, while adding a slightly harder edge, risking a bit more personally and creatively, and exploring in a deeper way those fears and joys that haunt me.

 

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