Character growth may not be essential
to good story telling, but it is certainly an important theme.
Without it, a plot may seem somewhat pointless. Why should our
protagonist do these things if she or he ends up the same?
Well, maybe just to provide us with
some excitement and entertainment. Or maybe to provide a vehicle to
make points about something else entirely (politics, philosophy, you
name it). Not that there is anything wrong with totally escapist
Now in my soon-to-be-released fantasy
novel, THE CROCODILE’S SON, our central character, Qala the Pirate
Queen (retired), has very little, if any, personal growth. Those
around her, the secondary characters, do. This is a valid way to go,
and happens with some frequency in a series, where the main
protagonist is already well-realized. Tarzan did not ‘grow’ after
the first couple novels but he went on to have twenty-some further
adventures in book form, with varied characters who changed in some
way (and, of course, Burroughs also used his novels to drop in more
than a few observations on humanity).
We all do grow. Time changes us in some
way or another. If nothing else, we become more knowledgeable. People
come and go in our lives, births, deaths, arrivals, departures. We
love and cease to love. It can be subtle but every character should
reflect this fact.
One sees a fair number of fantasy
novels (and RPGs) using Orcs as characters. I would never employ that
word nor that ‘race’ in my work. Why? Because, one, it belongs to
the ‘world’ of Tolkien and, two, the word was essentially
invented by him and is not traditional.
But it does derive from a Latin word
for a sort of demonic creature. From that word, via French, comes the
name ‘ogre.’ In other words, orc equals ogre. So ogre is my
choice, not that I have used it much. In fact, there is only one
appearance in any of my stories so far, in ‘The Song of the Sword,’
my first book of ‘Donzalo’s Destiny.’
There a lone individual takes part in
the attack on Sir Paren’s keep, along with a group of kobolds and
trolls who are aiding the human outlaw band. I describe him as an
over-sized kobold, which is pretty much where ogres fit into my
scheme of fairy-folk.
And what are kobolds, you might ask?
Another name for goblins, essentially (the words are related,
linguistically). I have used kobold instead of goblin to avoid
certain connotations of the g-word. Note that Tolkien originally used
‘goblin’ to name the beings he later called orcs.
One may, of course, use whatever words
one wishes, however one wishes. That is your choice. I do want to
keep my stuff reasonably consistent with tradition and, therefor,
never have and never will write an orc into any of my tales. But
expect ogres and kobolds and trolls and dragons and plenty more.
Here's a version (somewhat low-rez) of the map that goes in the front of my soon-to-be-released adventure fantasy, THE CROCODILE'S SON:
This is pretty much the same map used in THE EYES OF THE WIND, adapted to the new tale which takes place shortly after. Created essentially for use in the book and therefor kept simple and in B&W, I used Corel Draw (my graphics program of choice) to lay it out. I'll be uploading all the finalized (I hope!) files to the printer and distributor shortly, to have everything out and available by the official release date of June 3.
The bouncers were buddies of mine. We
all worked out at the same gym, Larry's place out by the airport.
Yeah, the one with no AC.
Larry sometimes bounced at The Gold
Nugget, when he wasn't wrestling for some minor league promotion
in Fort Meyers or Clewiston or Lauderdale. I never played that club
but knew guys who did, guys in country cover bands, which is okay, I
guess, but not my thing.
Neither was going to bars, for that
matter, unless I had a gig. I'm not much of a drinker, even less of a
dancer, and as a conversationalist — well, forget it. If it was a
matter of meeting the ladies, I did a much better job of it from on
stage. Not that ‘better’ means much.
There were girls eying us right now.
Women, maybe I should say. No one underage allowed in this venue but
there might be some out in the parking lot. Blow jobs and blow for
those who wanted it.
I left the pursuit of any female fans —
and we did have our groupies — to my band-mates. I had a girlfriend
at the time and took that seriously. Who? Oh, I was with Christine
then, Larry’s ex.
Let’s not get into that. Has nothing
to do with this story and this wasn’t The
Gold Nugget. Other side of town, the east side. Yeah, over near
the industrial park. You could see the lights from it if you stepped
outside, shining over tenement roofs.
We launched into “Margaritaville.”
We all hated the song. Ted, especially.
Ted was a pretty good singer. Too good,
maybe, for what we were doing. Good-looking guy, too, a surfer who
appeared younger than he was, long sun-bleached hair, fit and tan.
But Ted had demons. We all knew that.
Me more than the others, maybe. I had
known Ted since I was a little kid, when he would hang with my older
sister. I had seen some of what he kept bottled up, even then.
It was a good night at The Pelican,
a good crowd for a Wednesday. And, yes, there were women eying us but
most were with boyfriends. That didn’t keep us from eying them now
and again. After all, the bouncers were my friends.
“Check the skank up front,” mumbled
Kyle, our latest lead guitarist, as the search for that lost shaker
of salt ended. “I think she’s got designs on you, Bran-man. Mmm,
Kyle was annoying. Come to think of it,
maybe lead guitarists are in general.
“All women are sexy,” chimed in
Ted, backing off from his mike, “but some are more sexier than
others.” He finger-picked the opening chords of “Peaceful Easy
Feeling” and the rest of us followed him into the song.
As best we could. No one ever accused
Ted Carrol of being a great rhythm guitarist. Nor could he sing
harmony if his life depended on it, so I held up that end of things
while holding down the bass line. It was our band, really, mine and
Ted’s; the other guys came and went.
We played The Pelican on
Wednesdays and Fridays, and maybe Saturdays if the club didn’t book
some touring band. I guess we were sort of the house band, but we
would take other gigs now and again. The name? At that point we were
using “Synthetic Men,” which came from an Edgar Rice Burroughs
Yeah, lame, I know. Anyway, we didn’t
get to play ‘our’ stuff at The Pelican. It was all soft
rock and crossover country and that sort of thing. That’s show-biz.
The air had cooled outside by our
second break. One more set before we could load up, head out, grab
some sleep before the day jobs, those of us who had them. We would
hang in the alley behind the club, usually, where the tamarinds hung
over the weathered privacy fence. I had picked up the seed pods from
those trees there, fallen onto the faded-black pavement, taken them
home to plant.
Nick and Kyle lit up as soon as we were
out the door. “Are we gonna have a practice this weekend?” asked
the guitarist. “I have some ideas for new songs.” Kyle was just a
kid, and too enthusiastic.
“I won’t be in town,” Ted
informed us. “I’m heading over to the east coast to do some
That was enough for Kyle and the
drummer. They drifted toward the parking lot, smoking and talking
about something or another that wouldn’t interest me. I looked at
my bud Ted. It wasn’t the first time he took off for four or five
days to work for some surfboard company or another on the other side
of Florida, sometimes glassing, sometimes shaping. Ted preferred the
latter but did meticulous glass work.
“Are you thinking of moving back?”
I asked him.
“Maybe. But, you know, I don’t want
to leave my folks.”
“Yeah.” I did know. That was pretty
much why Ted stayed in this town. “How’s your dad?”
He shrugged. “Has his ups and downs.”
I could only nod. Ted didn’t want to
talk about it and that was pretty much normal for him. I needed to
stretch my legs so I followed Nick and Kyle down the alley toward the
There would be people hanging in the
parking lot. It was discouraged, of course, and now and again someone
would come out and tell them they couldn’t loiter there. Maybe
they’d move on, some of them, go hang somewhere else a while, but
they’d be back. Unless they got rowdy it wasn’t a big deal.
I could see Kyle leaning against the
hood of someone’s truck, chatting up a couple girls. Too young to
come in, probably. Nick had disappeared.
Over to my right was the neon-lit entry
to The Pelican, orange and green flashing. Ernie was on the
door. Squat, black, and about twice as wide in the shoulders as a
normal man, Ernie Pitts was a perennial runner-up in ‘seniors’
bodybuilding competitions. He was one of those guys I knew from
He was also one of those guys that made
me recognize I would never compete myself. I didn’t have the
genetics and I didn’t have the desire. I gave him a wave and
wandered back up the alley.
I hadn’t seen Short Stuff in a while.
She was one of those youngsters who sometimes hung outside the club.
I didn’t know her real name but she was definitely short. A bit
chubby in a way that can be cute at that age, blond, from someplace
up north. Ohio, was it?
She had told me she was eighteen, not
that I believed her. Too young. I ignored her flirting.
After all, she was maybe half my age.
Or half Ted’s anyway. Ted was the oldest guy in the band, though no
one would have guessed it. He wouldn’t hit on her. That wasn’t
his style at all. Ted mostly stood and looked at the sky during our
breaks. I never saw him start a conversation.
Short Stuff — I’d step outside and
there she would be, waiting. For me? Probably not; just for any guy
who’d come out and put his arm around her shoulders, listen to her
The usual shit — abusive stepfather —
living with a friend — could she have a smoke? Maybe I could bring
her out a beer?
Why don’t I ever try anything with
her? She wouldn’t mind.
No, Short Stuff, I’d say, not me. You
find a job yet? Don’t make such a face, girl, it wouldn’t kill
you – better than giving blow jobs in someones backseat.
Yeah, I knew what she was up to. And
yeah, there were tears when I put it that bluntly. It didn’t
matter, did it? I couldn’t feel responsible for every kid I ran
into. I slipped inside, the first of us. Not much to do before our
last set except make sure Ted had his set list, so he didn’t get
lost. I fell into a plastic chair in the hallway.
Ron came in and leaned back against the
wall, balancing on one muscular leg. Ronny Rotten he was when he
wrestled; there isn’t a lot of originality on the minor league
circuits. I didn’t think I had ever heard his actual surname.
“Hey, Bran,” he said, and nothing
more for nearly a minute. “Ya still doing that sub thing?”
“Sometimes. I think this year will be
it for me.” I turned my eyes up to his broad, deeply-tanned face,
adding, “I’m never planning to be a full-time teacher.” I had
tried that and it was not for me.
He nodded slowly. “I hear Larry is
thinking of going back to teaching.” I had heard that too.
“Has to pay his alimony somehow,” I
The rest of the band drifted in, Ted
last in line. He’d probably waited for the other guys and followed
them. My friend seemed distracted, even more than usual. Was he
thinking of changes too? Maybe we were all restless.
Or maybe it was just that time of year,
spring coming. Even in southern Florida, the change of the seasons
makes itself felt. People would be leaving, heading north. Some
Ron accompanied us to the edge of the
stage and took up his post off to the left. Our left. It was barely a
stage at all, really, low enough we could step up onto it, but the
speakers were up high and filled the room well. The sound was what
mattered here; we didn’t delude ourselves that the band mattered to
much of anyone. Well, maybe Kyle did but he would learn.
If he lasted. “Good evening, folks,
we’re The Synthetic Men,” announced Ted and launched directly
into the first number. “I Hear You Knocking” that would have
been. We were ragged; we really did need to practice more.
Kyle leaned in and whispered, “Nick
can’t swing.” I nodded in agreement. Nick scowled at me. At both
of us, I guess. I just shrugged, and we headed into the next number.
He wasn’t the best drummer but he showed up and that counted for a
lot. Maybe that was true of all of us.
By midnight, the crowd was thinning
out. Expected on a Wednesday or I guess it was Thursday by then. Half
an hour more and we could load up. Aside from Nick’s drums, there
wasn’t much to that.
We all pretty much agreed he brought
too much kit with him. I guess it was part of being a rock star for
him; Nick reveled in that sort of thing. Right now, he was mugging
for a table of older women up close to the stage. Knowing Nick, he
would be fantasizing about going home with one or all of them. Or at
least as far as the parking lot.
Even Ted was getting annoyed by his
showboating. I could tell just by the way he was hitting the strings
harder on his tele. Passive-aggressive had a poster boy in Ted
Hell, we’d be out of here in a few
minutes. No sense in letting it get to me. The ‘girls’ were
giving Ron the eye now, where he stood, impassive, arms folded, over
by the exit. Whisper in each others ears all you want, ladies; it
won’t make Ron the bouncer any less gay.
We churned through the last of the set,
mostly repeats from our first of the evening. The crowd had turned
over by now or wouldn’t care anyway. There wasn’t a lot of energy
left in the room. “This will be the last for us, folks,”
announced Ted. I had tried to break him of that ‘folks’ thing but
he persisted. “We’re The Synthetic Men and we want to thank you
being here at The Pelican this evening.”
He struck a D chord. “Dream, dream,
dream,” Ted sang, with me on harmony. We had sung that song
together so many times over the years and Ted still sometimes threw
me off with some improvisational phrasing. We got through it okay
tonight, but we didn’t sound much like the Everly Brothers. There
was a smattering of applause.
“Your groupies deserted you, man,”
Kyle informed our drummer. “Okay to unplug?” We pretty much had
to run our own sound, which meant that I was the one who went over
and muted the channels on the mixer. I gave him a nod.
The kid unplugged his Casino and
slipped it into its case, and then conscientiously wound up the cable
in proper over-under fashion. Which I had taught him. Ted had taught
me when I was even younger than Kyle. Aside from our instruments and
cables and a few pedals and floor boxes, we didn’t have much. I put
my own P-bass away in its bag.
Nick had gone to gab with a couple
girls at the edge of the stage. If I started breaking down his drum
set he would be sure to hurry over. But he wouldn’t be happy about
Oh, wait, Ted was talking to the owner
about something. I should most definitely be a part of that
conversation. “Hey, Bran,” he said as I walked up, “Estelle
needs someone to run sound on Saturday night and, um, I’ll be out
of town, you know.” He glanced at the woman and back at me.
Of course she had wanted Ted. Older
women doted on him. I don’t know why. Maybe the combination of
boyish looks and shyness. “I could handle it if you need me, Mrs.
Patterson,” I said.
She nodded. “We’ll talk on Friday.”
Estelle turned back to Ted, smiling. “Thanks.”
“Let’s get out of here,” I said
to him, as she walked away. Kyle and Nick were breaking down the drum
kit now, mostly Nick while Kyle watched.
“You could just leave it here for the
karaoke crowd,” suggested Ted. “They’d have lots of fun with
If I had said that, I suspect Nick
would have given me a dirty look. Instead, he only chuckled and went
on with his job. “Let’s get our stuff out of here,” I told
Kyle. We carried our cases and bags down the hallway to the rear
entry. Ted was crouched beside Nick, assisting the drummer,
“Do you think we’re gonna keep at
this?” Kyle blurted, before we headed back to the stage. “You and
Ted, I mean. You’re the band.”
I could only shrug. “It’s a good
gig.” Or did he mean something more, something beyond playing two
or three nights a week at The Pelican? “All bands break up
someday,” I added.
“Yeah.” He was silent for a few
seconds, staring at the worn maroon carpeting. “I don’t think I’m
gonna be staying in Genoa.”
“Maybe none of us will,” I
We helped get the drums into their
cases and took them down the hallway to sit with the rest of our
gear, while Ted backed the van up. His van, an ancient forest-green
Econoline. I don’t think it was the original color.
“Need any help, guys?” asked Ron.
“We’re good,” I told him. “You
have any rasslin’ gigs coming up?”
“Aah, the promoter wants me to work
security some nights but he won’t give me any matches.” I nodded
in sympathy. Ron was not much of a success, too stiff to be a good
jobber, not enough personality to be marketable.
“Hey,” I asked, “do you remember
that little blond girl who hung around here? Short Stuff, we called
“Yeah, I do,” Ron replied. “I
heard she moved back to Ohio. Ain’t that right, Joel?” he asked a
skinny guy in a server’s vest who had just joined us.
“Short Stuff? Yeah, she’s gone. A
friend drove down and picked her up.” Joel went on by us with a bag
of trash for the dumpster.
Nick turned to us, all his gear squared
away in Ted’s vehicle. “Too bad,” he laughed. “She was a good
little fuck. Gave me some memorable breaks out here!” Nick leered
at me. “You coulda had her anytime, y’know. The girl liked you.”
“Aah, screw you, Bran. You gonna make
It had been enough. This, the
whole night. My left shot out, just one jab, and Nick was sitting on
the pavement, blood flowing from his nose.
Ron stepped between us, afraid I would
do more damage maybe, but I wasn’t mad anymore. That had gone out
of me with that one punch. Hell, Nick didn’t deserve it — no more
than anyone else.
The drummer sat there holding his nose
and looking up at me. “My big mouth,” he mumbled. “Is it
“Doesn’t look it,” Ron told him.
Kyle and Ted just stood there, kind of uncertain about what had
“Sorry ’bout the nose, dude,” I
sighed. You should have known better. I should have known better.
Joel had ducked inside and returned
with a handful of paper towels. “Here,” he said to the
now-standing Nick, thrusting them into his hands. “It might be best
if you didn’t come in to clean up,” he continued, taking a look
over his shoulder. “Maybe Mrs. Patterson shouldn’t know about
“I’m not saying anything,” stated
“Okay,” agreed Nick. “Let’s get
going.” We all piled into the Ford and said nothing much as we
headed out. Kyle’s place was close and we dropped him — and his
guitar — first, at a little concrete block house in one of the
shabbier neighborhoods. I never asked but I think he lived with one
or another of his parents.
Nick shared an apartment further south.
We pulled into the dark parking lot; fortunately his place was on the
ground floor so we didn’t need to carry his kit up any stairs.
I turned to him and asked, “See you
“Yeah, sure.” He gave me a lopsided
smile. “To make up for this —” He gestured toward his nose.
“You need to carry in my stuff while I wash up.”
“Good enough,” agreed Ted, speaking
before I could. “You look pretty awful.” There was a fair amount
of dried blood on Nick’s face and teeshirt.
“Don’t do this again, okay?” Ted
whispered as we took the drum set inside. “Not that I blame you.
You liked that girl, didn’t you?”
“Not so much,” I admitted.
“Hmm, yeah.” Ted and I had been
friends long enough to understand each other. Perhaps better than we
understood ourselves. “Just, um, regrets, huh?”
“That’s about it.”
I lived furthest out, across the bay,
over near the airport. We turned east, Ted driving through the night,
and I thought about that little girl. Yeah, regrets. Too many
regrets,too many shoulds and shouldn’ts. And Short Stuff? I never
knew what became of her.
Sometimes I still wonder.
Note: This story would be set in the
mid-1980s. Yeah, I know some you probably weren’t even born yet.
Addendum, 4/26: Not surprisingly, this has seen a rewrite since I posted it. Much of the stuff I post here does. In this case, I noted a certain redundancy there in the second part and had to change out some words (which also added meaning).
I am currently onto a new round of
edits on THE CROCODILE’S SON, after setting it aside for a few days
so I might come at it fresh. At this point it is more proofreading
than editing and I am working with a formatted manuscript for the
print edition. No sense in working up the ebook version until I go
through it again and am satisfied. Last of all, I will generate a PDF
for the printer and go through that (again, after setting it aside a
short while) for the final proofreading. The ebook I can then
generate from my fully corrected original manuscript, primarily
adding heading styles.
Then, send them off, get a proof copy
of the print book in my hands to approve, and all should be ready for
the official June 3 release date.
What else is in the works? I should be
— or intended to be — back to the
mainstream-bordering-on-chick-lit novel I started before I felt the
urge to churn out CROCODILE. I shall get to it but who can say when?
Instead, I have been writing short stories — contemporary
mainstream short stories. They don’t come as easy for me as the
novels and I labor over them far more. The ones I have been working
on draw from ideas I had sketched out some time back. Maybe I’ll
even have enough related tales for a collection one of these days.
It is likely I shall tackle the next
fantasy novel shortly; whether before or after the mainstream effort,
I can not say. It would be the second installment of my Mora trilogy,
following GOD OF RAIN. Efforts — not very strenuous ones — are
also being made toward another poetry collection, probably not out
until late this year or in 2018. It will, incidentally, be titled
None of this includes any endeavors in
other areas, of course. Music and so on calls for my attention from
time to time. I might even listen. Also, I do hope to publish more
authors this year — not just myself, even if I do write a lot!
Eggshell Boats, the ‘literary’ imprint of Arachis Press, is
launching and I would like to put out some poetry collections. One of
these days I hope to call for manuscripts.
So, back to work, both the editing and
the new novel-in-progress and, yes, those stories. The novel, by the
way, will probably be titled ASANAS. I originally thought to publish
it under a pen name but if it’s good enough to put out, it’s good
enough to put my name on it. Folks will just have to expect a lot of
different genres from me!
I might posit that, in an infinite
multiverse, the gods (yes, all of them) not only could exist but must
exist — at least in potential. As with Schrodinger’s famous cat,
they both live and do not live for those in our universe until
someone actually observes them. This is the basic premise underlying
much of my fantasy writing.
It is also a concept used by Roger
Zelazny in his ‘Amber’ novels. He questions whether those other
universes preexist or are created by the powerful god-like Amberites
as they move among them. I admit to the influence, as well as that of
Michael Moorcock and undoubtedly others. One thing both Moorcock and
Zelazny do, however, is place those realities they created between
the poles of ‘order’ and of ‘chaos.’ That is a concept that
certainly arises from the whole Indo-European polytheistic tradition
— the gods came to create order from the chaos.
That is not a concept I buy into,
neither as a author nor as an individual. Nor do I go for the ‘good
versus evil’ of the Abrahamic religions. Not that chaos and order,
good and evil, do not exist, but they reflect a deeper duality, that
of being and nonexistence. One and zero, if you will. I have
mentioned this elsewhere, in writing of my personal beliefs, of
equating ‘God’ with infinite being. That lies behind my stories,
undoubtedly, but I don’t delve into it (not yet, anyway!).
So, the characters in my fantasy
novels* do exist in those other realities and some have the ability
to cross their boundaries, to varying degrees. Gods, demons, wizards,
etc. — all their ‘magic’ is based more or less on these
abilities. A god might traverse worlds at will; a powerful human (or
other sentient creature) might be able to ‘reach’ into those
worlds to find objects or to communicate from afar. It’s almost a
scientific explanation, though I take care not to explain it too
thoroughly. Leave that sort of thing to the sci-fi people! It just
needs to be reasonably plausible without a lot of details.
My upcoming novel, THE CROCODILE’S
SON (coming June 3 from Arachis Press!) takes me further afield than
my previous books, actually spending time in the world of a family of
gods. These are loosely based on Melanesian models — in an
infiverse, of course, there would be infinite variations on any
pantheon, so I am allowed to shape the characters as I wish. But I
must be consistent within any world I do create.
That is why all of the fantasy novels
so far are set in the same world, although at various times, with
only brief forays into other realities. This is not to say I have not
written fantasy stuff that does not fit that world — short stories
only, however. One might argue that they, too, exist somewhere in
that infinite multiverse, if one likes to argue.
But there is nothing to argue about.
They are just stories, after all!
*It might be posited that all fictional
characters ‘exist’ in other universes. Are authors, then,
creators or are they discovering those worlds? :)
I've seen drunken rednecks aplenty.
They can't compare with June’s family.
I know Yankees aren’t all like that.
Well, honestly, I’ve not seen enough drunken northerners to say. I
only know that those Michiganders were, if not rowdier than your
typical good ol’ boys, far less gracious.
No, no, I’m not putting down folks of
the Yankee persuasion, you understand, but I've seen enough to
suspect that there is a different attitude up north. Shoot, just look
at how the tourists drive when they come down here!
I loved June. That’s a fact. So, I
figured I had to at least tolerate her people for a few days of
family reunion and Fourth of July barbecue. Love’s like that,
Almost from the day I met June
Schiller, she talked about her family — her father, especially.
Looking down on the whole affair, from a perch a few years higher, I
can see that was a pretty darn clear danger signal. But I hadn’t
had any experience with a Daddy’s girl back then. I was kind of
dumb, I reckon.
But love’s like that, y’know? Yeah,
I said that already.
I’m okay with my siblings but nothing
like that. We dispersed in all directions and didn’t look back. As
for gathering us for a reunion — well, good luck with that.
It was a Sunday afternoon — I usually
spent Sundays at June’s place, over near Gainesville — when she
called me to the computer. “This is the tee-shirt I designed for
the reunion,” she told me. June, by the way, was a graphic
designer. I liked that about her. I like creative people.
I like to think that I’m creative but
let’s not get into that.
I looked over her shoulder at the
screen and the rainbow logo she had created. “You have the colors
in the wrong order,” I offered. “Remember ‘Roy G. Biv.’”
“It stands for
red-orange-yellow-green-blue-indigo-violet. I learned about Roy by
watching Sesame Street.”
“Oh. Okay.” Was that a bit of pique
in her voice? Maybe I should have just said it looked nice and
offered no more. Maybe some of my friends would have called it
‘man-splaining.’ I’m full of useless information, anyway.
She never changed it, of course, and
all the tee-shirts ended up with incorrect rainbows. I suppose no one
but me ever minded nor even noticed. My tee still hangs in the back
of my closet, a small white ghost to haunt me, if I choose to look at
it now and again. I don’t wear it.
It wasn’t just a celebration of the
Fourth, you see, or a family reunion. It was also June’s birthday
and that of her father, both clustered around Independence Day.
That’s pretty much my favorite time of the year, the heat of the
summer, the days of swimming in the clear, cool springs that well up
around Florida, the afternoons of thunderstorm, bringing fresh,
electric air to the evenings.
It may also have been the happiest time
in my life. I was thoroughly in love, in a way I had never been
before, and spent as many of those summer nights as possible with my
June. I would have moved in – the hell with my responsibilities –
if she had been willing. Oh, all those warning signs were there; they
had been from the start. I avoided looking at them.
The sassafras grew along June’s fence
line, standing as slender sentinels of her pasture. Inside those
fences were the big live oaks, old survivors amid the grass, jungle
gyms for her goats. It was the dead wood that had fallen from them we
gathered on more than one Saturday, for the bonfire she envisioned.
It was her vision, after all, though I
supported it as I could. The canopy from my art shows was at her
disposal for an outdoor family dinner, laid out on the folding tables
we brought home in my truck from a garage sale one Saturday. And her
extended family ate and drank and talked and it was all stuff I
didn’t much care about, nor even understand some of the time. We
spoke a different language and I’m not just talking about my
Still, I’ll always have pleasant
enough memories of sitting around the huge bonfire, the one for which
I spent those weeks dragging dead wood from her pastures, with the
family, playing guitar and watching that bunch of pyromaniacs shoot
off fireworks. Taking them all to Ginny Springs so they could tube
down the river. Listening to stories of people I didn’t know.
There are those who tell me I don’t
know how to have a good time. They could be right.
Did I see it as wasted time? Did I
resent it? It is possible, but there was too much else in my head to
sort that out, right then. It’s possible June sensed it too. Maybe
she could tell I didn’t much like her folks.
I mostly just sat at the outside of her
family’s circle at the bonfire, listened some, drank a little. I’m
not one to overdo that, nor did I share the joint that eventually
made its way around. “I shouldn’t. I could lose my job,” said
one cousin, or whatever he was, before taking a toke and passing it
along. No, I didn’t fit here; it was only because of June I let
myself be bored this way, attempted to be friendly — or at least
pretended to be.
But then, love’s like that, as I
There were fireworks one or another had
brought, or maybe more than one. It was just as illegal, whoever was
responsible. Or irresponsible. They didn’t seem to care. Ragged
drunken cheers rose with each sky rocket launched into the July
A rocket flashes and fades, a fire
burns down to embers. Scattered plastic chairs, their plainness
turned to ruddy chiaroscuro by the dying bonfire, threw dark paths
upon her lawn, her fresh-mown fragrant lawn, beneath summer’s
stars. Couple by lingering couple, our guests hugged and farewelled
and welcomed me to the family before flipping on headlights and
driving out of my life.
In the silent emptiness of then, I held
June to me, both of us too exhausted, both a little too full of Sam
Adams — her brother had brought a keg — to make love that
July night. I think that is when we, too, began to say goodbye.
“Thanks, Bran, for all you’ve
done,” she whispered. And I wondered whether it was worth it. I
still do. Then, I also was headed home, into the darkness, toward the
responsibilities of my life.
I can see from here that was the high
point of my relationship with June. Yeah, it too some time for it to
fizzle out and maybe I’ll get into that one of these days — into
that whole downhill slope. Or maybe it’s better just to leave it
all at this point.
Despite the time that has passed,
despite everything, I find myself misting up a bit when I think about
those days. Nostalgia? I suppose. Love? Maybe a part of me still
loves her. I think a part of me always will. Nothing wrong with that.
It would be far worse if she became just a memory that no longer
Love really is like that, y’know?
Something I've dabbled at for some time and finally sat down and finished...maybe