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Monthly Archives: November 2012

Redamntion – 9

~*~

Joe was sitting at his kitchen table when the first rays of sun lit up the street outside his apartment. It wasn’t that he’d gotten up early that brought him to the kitchen at dawn, but that he’d not gone to sleep at all the night before. He could easily blame the thunder for his sleepless night, but that wouldn’t be fair. The storm had passed off to sea by two o’clock and left only a constant, gentle rain behind it. The rain should have acted like a lullaby, gently tapping against the window as it did, but it only served to amplify the thoughts that kept him awake. Each time he closed his eyes, the word of the letters floated before him.

Three separate letters, each received on the same day, each delivering a different life-altering message; a holy trinity of change.

He spread the three on the table in front of him. The first: the letter from Auburn for Jimmy with an offer of a free ride through college. Next to that one, the crumpled letter Lindy had gotten, denying her request for a scholarship. The third, he had not mentioned to the kids. In fact he hadn’t even looked at it until they’d both gone to bed–the letter that was in the fat envelope Tony had given him with his pay check.

He picked it up and began to read it again, hoping to find a different interpretation this time, than he had the previous fifty times he’d read it.

“In light of the current economic conditions, it has become necessary for UpTown Taxi to reduce our current fleet. . .” He set the letter down and rested his head on the palm of his hand. The paycheck had included a severance settlement of six weeks pay. “Not even long enough to take me through Christmas. Cheap bastards,” he grumbled, flipping the letter face down on the table.

He lit the stove and put the kettle on. It was about the time he would be getting out of bed on any normal day, so he didn’t worry about waking the kids. They had to get up for school anyway. He flipped on the radio on the kitchen shelf, and tuned to WBZ to catch the scores and traffic report. “Keep it normal. Keep it calm. Things will work out.”

The station crackled into life. “It’s six fifteen . . . and the Sox lost another one . . .”

“Bone heads.” Jimmy yawned as he shuffled into the kitchen. “The curse reversed! It’s baaack.”

Joe chuckled. “Yea, well. That’s our Red Sox. Always ready to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. Toast?”

“Sure,” Jimmy replied sinking down onto one of the chairs. “Some storm last night.”

Joe nodded.

“I wonder if they’ll cancel school.”

“Why would they cancel?” Joe asked, placing a plate with toast down for his son. “It’s just rain, not snow.”

“Yeah, but the lights went out for a while. My clock is flashing midnight. How long were they out?”

“What?”

“The lights.”

Joe glanced at the clock on the oven, and noticed for the first time that it was also blinking twelve o’clock. The electric clock on the wall had hands, the only one in the apartment. It read six o’clock, straight up. “Well that one is fifteen minutes slow, so I’d say fifteen minutes.”

“Just long enough to kill my alarm. I’m glad I heard you or I’d have over slept.” Jimmy nodded toward Lindy’s bedroom door. “For once I’m up before Lindy.” He grinned. “Hot shower here I come!”

“Eat your toast.”

Jimmy picked up the toast and stuffed his mouth as he headed toward the bathroom. Joe’s termination letter floated to the floor. He scooped it up quickly and tucked it into the pocket of his robe. He wasn’t ready to tell the kids this bit of news. He’d wait until they came home. No sense ruining their day at the very beginning. Lindy was upset enough already without adding this to it.

He pulled the white business card from his pocket, and placed it on the table. For the first time he noticed it was not exactly paper, but something a little thicker, and not completely white but more of what Sandra would have called ‘ecru’. “Linen? Wow, they must pay the professors pretty good on that island.”

“What island?” Lindy asked with a yawn as she came into the kitchen.

Joe looked up and smiled, offering a cheek for his morning greeting. “Hey kiddo, did you sleep ok?”

She shrugged, reaching for bowl from the cupboard. “I guess.” She plopped down in the chair across from Joe and poured her cereal and milk into the bowl. “So what island?”

“Oh, Gibbons.” He pushed the card across the table. “Remember? I showed you this.”

She nodded, glancing at the card. “Yeah, it’s a pretty pricy school. I’m sure the profs are all rich and snooty.”

“This fellow didn’t seem snooty.” He took the card and read it again. “Logan . . huh, I wonder if that’s his first or last name.”

“It’s where he keeps his private plane parked,” she offered, a ghost of a grin on her face.

Joe was encouraged. “You think he’s got a plane?”

“And a yacht. Big enough to land his plane on.” She laughed, and Joe joined her. It felt good and normal. He wanted normal.

After a moment, she asked, looking up from her bowl, “So, do you think he’s the real deal?”

Joe considered for a moment, recalling the man’s demeanor. “I do. I don’t know why, but somehow, I really do. It’s that lining, you know?”

“What lining?”

“The silver one. You know, when everything starts falling apart. . . ”

“Daddy, I over reacted.”

“Huh?”

She smiled and sat back. “I am really sorry I turned into wonder bitch yesterday. I really lost it, and I shouldn’t have gone off on you and Jimmy.”

“Hey, kiddo, I can’t blame you—”

“There are plenty of other schools that do look at transcripts before biceps and I have plenty of time to apply.”

Joe reached across the table and grabbed her hand. “That’s the spirit. And you’ll have them lining up to get you in — Doctor Kelly.”

She blushed, but smiled. “Well that’s a few years down the road.” She picked up the card and turned it over. “What’s this symbol?”

“I don’t see anything.”

She angled the card, looking at it from the edge. “Look this way, you can see a watermark or something. See? It’s got a symbol. . . Oh, it’s infinity. See? The sideways eight.”

Joe adjusted his reading glasses and looked closely as Lindy had done. Sure enough there was a symbol on the back of the card, only slightly visible when the light hit it just right. “Yeah, there it is. Huh, what’s the sense of putting something on a business card when you can’t see it?”

“That’s what fancy rich people do. It’s a watermark. They do it on stationary and official documents and stuff, to prove it’s real.” She raised her brow. “Proof. He’s loaded. TWO yachts.”

Joe laughed out loud. “So you want me to call him? See if he’s got room on his island for a brilliant future rocket surgeon brain scientist?”

“Daaad. It’s brain surgeon, rocket scientist.” She rolled her eyes and laughed again.

“Right. I forgot. So you want I should call him? You even interested in Standish?”

She stood, picking up her empty bowl. “Sure, why not? Hey Jimmy.”

“Hey,” Jim replied, coming through the kitchen. “Shower’s all yours. I left you a half bucket of hot.”

“Gee, thanks, bro.” She started to leave, then turned at the door. “Hey Jim. . .sorry I went crazy-ninja-bitch on you.”

Jim smiled. “No prob, sis. I’m really sorry about your scholarship.”

“There are others.” She smiled. “I really am proud of you, little brother. Give em’ hell in Auburn.”

He grinned. “Thanks. I will. And I want you to know, that I’m not gonna blow of the education part of the deal.”

“Good.” She disappeared through the kitchen door.

Joe watched the conversation quietly. They’re good kids. We did good, Sandra. . .

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Redamntion – 8

~*~

Redamntion Coverart

Cover art by Lorrieann Russell

The morning dawned glorious on the island, bringing a golden sunrise and soft, steady breeze off the sea. The gulls busily patrolled the shoals for shell fish stranded by the tide, squawking greetings to each other as they kited above the beach. The ocean had gotten over its tantrum from the night before, and lapped gently at the shore, as if it had never seen a storm. The island itself, however, had plenty of scars from the night before.

Logan stood on the little deck that faced sea, sipping a cup of coffee surveying the damage left from the storm. Sand had whipped up and buried his walk way. The lone tamarack pine that shaded the cottage and stood tall and proud against the light tower, had lost its top and now stood humbled and dwarfed by the cottage. The power lines that connected his little cottage with the town lay in a tangle on the ground, wrapped hopelessly around the busted telephone pole that once supported them. The pole laid low his gate and part of the fence with it. The electricity would be off until the power company sent a crew from the mainland to replace the pole but he had his generator and his oil lamps, so Logan was not terribly concerned.

It had taken the repair crew from the Coast Guard only an hour to get the lighthouse back online. They restarted the generator, recalibrated the timing, and checked the giant bulb for damage. It flickered back to life only an hour after it had gone dark. It had been the only light on the island until the sun rose. Then it dutifully blinked off, and went back to sleep until it would be called back into service at sunset.

It would be more of an issue for the school if the power was out for long. There were generators there of course, but they would be used only in the common areas, and only for emergencies. The dormitories would be dark. He smiled thinking about the fun the students would make of that. The great black out of October! Classes would surely be cancelled as many of the teach staff relied upon the ferry to get to and from the island.

The phone line lay in a tangle on the ground, so there would be no use trying to call up to the admin office. He glanced off toward the cliffs edge where the school’s fortress wall and turret stood. All looked dark, as he suspected. He could rightly assume it was safe for him to stay home, cozy in his cottage for the day, and who would fault him?

He felt a brush at his leg and heard the plaintive chirp of “feed me, please.”

“Ah, good morning Thistle.” He reached down and lifted the gray tabby, cuddling her on his shoulder for the morning snuggle. “I see you fared well in the night. Hungry?”

Thistle nestled down on his shoulder, burying her nose into his collar, purring.

“What’s that? Stay home? Thistle, you temptress, you know I have a duty to attend all those young minds. . . what? Closed you say? Are you sure? Well then, home for the day it is.”

He set her down on the wide deck rail, stroking her long coat. The cat, impatient for her breakfast, jumped down and trotted back into the cottage, headed for the cupboard where her food was kept.

“Coming, my lady. No rest for the weary servant, I see.”

Logan dutifully poured some kibble into a bowl and set it down under the kitchen window, where he happened to see a frazzled looking Nettie coming up his walk.

“Logan? Are you home?”

He hurried to greet her. “I’m here, what’s wrong Nettie? Did anyone get hurt in the storm?”

Nettie stood straight and loosed a sign of relief. “Lord no, I came to make sure you were ok. I’ve been worried all night.”

“Oh, why? Come in, I’ve got a kettle on the wood stove for coffee.”

“Why? Look around!”

Logan had not taken a full survey of his little yard from the front. Indeed the damage was a bit more than he had first thought. The tamarack had not only shed a few limbs, but half it’s trunk. Amid the tangle of telephone line there were other bits of debris, lawn chairs, flag poles, mailboxes–none of which belonged anywhere near Logan’s end of Gibbons Island. In the middle of the lane, lay the wreckage of lobster boat that had been berthed in the harbor not far from the ferry dock the night before. Looking further up the lane, there were more bits of buildings and boats strewn far and wide, all the way into town.

“See?” Nettie said, tugging at his arm, pointing toward the town. “The store’s a mess. The front porch blew clear into the street and took awning with it. Other than that, I’m good. The gas station is out of luck though. The canopy over the pumps fell right down.”

“I had no idea. . . well then, I guess school really is off for the day.”

Nettie laughed. “At least! I’ll have that coffee if you’re still offering.”

“Of course, come on it.”

He led her to the table, and set out the cups. The cottage seemed normal to Logan, as he never used the lights much anyway. His wood stove sufficed for his cooking needs and his oil lamps lit his way. He rather enjoyed the quiet brought about by the absence of the refrigerator hum, though he did make a mental note to only open the door briefly in order to keep the milk cold for Thistle and the half-and-half from going off. All in all, Logan’s only reminder of inside the cabin of any storm was the window that had blown open, the remains of the broken lamp still scattered on the floor.

“Watch yourself, there’s glass there.”

“Well I can see why they used to build them this way,” Nettie said, giving the thick timber door frame a pat. “This old lighthouse and cabin are probably the best built things on the island, besides the school of course.”

“I’d say you’re right. Once I latched the sash I never felt a breeze.” Logan poured some coffee, then cup in front of her. As he set down the sugar and half-and-half, he noticed the look she was giving him. “What is it, Nettie? Are you sure you’re ok?”

“That lightning bolt lit up this whole end of the island…it sounded like an atom bomb. How…did you not get hit?”

Logan sat down silently. “Bolt?”

“Land’s sake, Logan, I saw it. Everyone saw it. We thought the whole point exploded. It looked like your cabin was on fire. Like a big ball of fire. I couldn’t even make out the lighthouse in the glare. And it lasted a long time.”

She’s seen the light? He looked toward the shelf where he’d placed the box after locking it. It looked innocent enough, just a wooden box with a rusted old hinge. “The coast guard.”

“What?”

“The coast guard, they sent a repair crew. They arrived just after I made it home. Perhaps it was the lights from the ship you saw? They were quite bright and their dock is right aside the cabin here.”

“It must have been but…sure looked like a fireball.” She set her cup down, not looking up as she spoke in a near whisper. “I thought I…I thought we lost you.”

Logan was taken aback, unprepared for Nettie’s tone, and not sure how to respond.

After a moment, she looked up with a little smile. “You didn’t call me to tell me you made it home, you silly ass.”

“Call—Oh! I promised and then…” he folded his hands and bowed his head. “Guilty. I forgot. I am truly sorry, Nettie. I had no idea you’d worry.” He smiled. “Thanks.”

She nodded, taking a sip from her cup. “Phone line was down anyway. Only thing on the island that’s working is the lighthouse. Fat lot of good that does the rest of us though.”

“Oh I don’t know,” he said with a raised a brow and a side glance. “It keeps us safe from the curse.”

“Oh, you!” She laughed, waving her hand. “I don’t believe that old curse. Do you?”

“Absolutely,” he said then sipped his coffee. “And so does Thistle.”

“Oh well then, it must be true. Cats know these things.” She pushed her cup away then stood with a sigh. “Well, thank you for the coffee, but I need to get back down to the store. I’m still open, even if the porch is gone.”

“Doing any business?”

“Well, there’s a run on candles, go figure. I left my niece, Lucy in charge. She’s got a wicked bit of huskter in her, and a nose for a profit. She’ll open the birthday candles and sell ’em one at a time for a buck a piece if I don’t rein her in.”

Logan led her to the door. “I’ll walk that far with you if you don’t mind. I need to get over to the school.”

Nettie’s smile brightened. “I’d enjoy the company. You goin’ to school anyway?”

“Half the staff will be stranded on the mainland. The students are going to need a bit of managing,” he said, pulling his jacket on.

“In other words, you’re worried they’ll go wild and run the provost up the flagpole by his underpants,” Nettie suggested with a wink.

“Indeed, you’ve guessed it. And after all, when they do, they’ll need my advice on how high to raise him.”

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2012 in NaNoWriMo

 

Redamntion – 7

~*~

The thunder started slowly, almost quietly, building from the near subsonic rumble to a rolling avalanche of

Redamntion Coverart

Cover art by Lorrieann Russell

sound. The clouds gathered forces, piling upon each other into thick mountains of atmosphere, not allowing even a sliver of moonlight to pass through. Even the lightning could not fully break through the curtain, showing only as haloed orbs that flashed then died. The wind that had played so hard against the ferry, had suddenly gone still, and it seemed the whole island had taken a deep breath, and was holding it in anticipation.

“That’s gonna be one mean storm,” Nettie said, breaking the silence. “Are you sure you don’t’ want to ride it out with us in the store? There’s plenty of room. Lights are still on here.”

Logan tore his gaze away from the darkened lighthouse, only visible as a dark silhouette against the occasional flashes in the clouds. “No, Nettie, thank you. I think I’d better get home. There’s a generator.”

She offered no further protest, though her grip on his elbow tightened slightly. “Does your generator have enough gas?”

He gave her hand a reassuring pat. “It does. I promise.”

A sudden crack of thunder, accompanied by a sizzling bolt of lightning broke through the clouds. The air was filled with the smell of decaying ozone.

“I’d better hurry.”

“Go! Logan, please be careful and let me know when you get home.”

He smiled. “Yes, mum.”

“Don’t mock. I worry.”

“Thank you for worrying, but I’ll be fine. I’ll give you a ring when I get there.”

“If your phone is up. . . Logan, please? Come inside, just until—what’s that?” She put her hand toward his breast pocket, then pulled back. “Sorry, I thought I saw… ”

“What?”

“Do you have a new cell phone? Your pocket is— was— glowing. One of those that just lights up instead of ringing?”

He put his hand instinctively over his pocket and felt the little box still tucked safely inside. “Uh. Yes.” He peaked into his pocket, he saw no glow, though he had no doubt Nettie probably did. “It’s stopped now. Probably just needs to charge. . .it does that when the batteries are low.”

“Well I hope it lasts long enough for you to let me know when you get home. Go on before it starts raining.”

He gave her a nod, and pulled the jacket closed. “Take care, Nettie. Go pull your shutters, I think you’ll need them.”

She waved, and went into the store, watching him from the screen door.

Logan did not, as a rule, enjoy running. He avoided it at all opportunity, but he could not have forced himself to walk up the lane to his cottage even if the weather was lovely and sunny, though it wasn’t the storm that urged his haste, but the warmth emanating from his pocket. He had to get it home, and get it safe, and he had to do it fast, before it decided to break out on its own.

The first drops of rain wet his face just as he passed through his gate. He’d made it to the front door, and managed to get inside, just as the bottom fell out of the clouds, and the rain poured down almost in one piece.

The storm moved in hard, shaking the windows, and rattling the crockery that lined his kitchen shelves. Logan was at home in the darkened cottage, and took his time about lighting the hurricane oil lamp he kept on the window. There was no need for it, really. The box, though still tucked inside his jacket, was glowing again, and provided him enough light to navigate the room easily between lightning flashes.

Logan removed took the box from his coat, shielding his eyes from the light. “Not yet! It’s not time!”

He set it on the table in the middle of the room, then tore open the door to the broom closet. He began rifling through the contents, tossing boxes and bags, brooms and buckets out into the room until he found what he wanted: a plain looking wooden box with small bronze hinges and a tiny lock shaped like a spade.

The light filled the room illuminating corners that even the sun had never shown in. Logan made a mental note to clean more often. “Calm down! I’m hurrying.”

A small key no bigger than his thumbnail, dangled from the light chain in the middle of the room. He smiled in spite of his urgency that such an important little trinket should be so haphazardly kept in plain view. He took the key and fumbled with the little lock until it sprang open.

The glow dimmed a bit. “Yes, I know it is disappointing for you, but please, I promise it won’t be long.”

He picked up the little box and carefully placed it inside the bigger wooden box, and carefully closed the lid.

The darkness was complete as soon as the lid was closed. With the darkness came a silence that overwhelmed him. “It won’t be long,” he whispered.

In the same instant, a boom of thunder poured through the cottage. Lightning replaced the glow, and the wind pummeled the cottage with rain and sand. The window he’d placed the lamp on, flew open, and the meager flame sputtered out. He rushed to the window to pull the storm shutters closed. He could see the lights in the village flicker, then finally succumb to the storm. With the lighthouse, the lamp and his little box all gone dark, and the streetlights out, he suddenly felt like the only soul left on the island.

But the feeling passed as soon as the fog horns began to blast and he heard the knocking at his door. The Coast Guard had arrived to fix the light.

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2012 in NaNoWriMo

 

Redamntion – 6

~*~

Joe Kelly was not a man given to fits of melancholy. He liked to try to find the bright side of things, no matter

Redamntion Coverart

Cover art by Lorrieann Russell

how dark things got. Most days, it wasn’t too hard to find at least a trace of light in his current circumstances, even if it was no more than a half-hearted flicker; finding an empty seat on the train, or a couple of extra bucks tucked into the pocket of a pair of pants he’d not worn for a while. Oh, the light was there, he believed, just waiting to be noticed. The trouble was, that sometimes the only way to see the light was for everything else to go dark.

He walked the block from the train station to his apartment building deep in thought, his hands balled into fists and jammed into the pockets of his jacket. The wind seemed particularly cold for October. More like November he thought. I sure ain’t ready for winter this year. With winter comes heating bills and Christmas. . . he smiled in spite of his gloom. Christmas was coming and no matter how downhearted he felt, Christmas always lifted his spirits. I’ll have to get the kids a nice tree this year . . . probably the last one we’ll spend together if Jimmy gets accepted to Auburn. Geez, how in the world am I gonna get him all the way to Alabama. . .

“I said, hello, Mr. Kelly.”

Joe looked up, startled. He hadn’t even realized he’d arrived at his building. “Oh, hey, Ms. Franzoni. I guess I did it again huh?”

The elderly woman standing on the stoop blew out the smoke from her cigarette and laughed. “All the way up the street. I don’t know who you talk to when you walk, but they sure must be interesting company.”

“I wasn’t talkin’ to no one but myself, and I gotta tell ya, I ain’t all that interesting.” He glanced up to his apartment window on the second floor. The living room light was on. “Looks like the kids beat me home again.”

“Jimmy did, not sure about Lindy” she said, crushing the butt of her cigarette into a sand filled ashtray. “Lord, I swear, these new no-smokin’ laws are gonna kill me. I’ll get me pneumonia standin’ out here.”

“You can smoke in your own apartment, just not in the hall or common room.”

“But then I’d never get out of the building at all, and I’d miss our conversations.”

Joe laughed. “I wouldn’t want that.” He glanced up to the window again. The shadow of a young man marched across the drawn shade, then made an abrupt about face and marched the other way, waving something in his hand.

Mrs. Franzoni followed his gaze, and grinned. “Letter came today. I saw him rip it out of the mailbox like it was the latest Penthouse and the forum had printed his letter.”

Joe looked at her feigning shock. “Oh, I get it, you read it for the articles right?”

“Of course!” she asserted, then added, “and the forum. Go on up. Tell him congratulations for me. Hey, I’ll send a over a nice Jello ring, you can celebrate.”

“Thanks, that’d be great,” Joe said heading through the door. He glanced back over his shoulder to tell Mr. Franzoni goodnight, but something caught his eye on the floor under the mailboxes. He reached down to pick up the remains of a torn and crumpled envelope addressed to Ms. Linden Kelly. The return address was missing, but Joe recognized the emblem of the institution Lindy had applied to for a scholarship.

His heart leapt. Two good letters in one day? He took the stairs two at a time, calling, “Kelly kids, here comes Pop, poppin’ to the top o’ the staaairs!” as he had since they were little enough to find that funny.

He opened the door to the apartment wide and stepped in with his arms out and a grin on his face. “Hello my little scholars!”

“It’s not fair! It’s just not fair!” Lindy stormed by, her face wet and her eyes red and puffy. “I should have just been born taller and stupider then I could have gone to school for free!” The door to her room slammed.

“It’s not my fault! I thought you’d be happy!” Jimmy raced by, oblivious to Joe standing in the doorway. “Lin . . . Come on, open up. I didn’t know ok? I just wanted you to be proud of me.”

The door flew open. “Proud? PROUD? You barely passed basic math! You’re highest grade in four years is a C plus!”

“I got an A in gym!”

“All you have to do is sweat and shower to get an A in gym!”

Joe backed out into the corridor and closed the door, then knocked on it three times. “Hello, Kelly kids, is anybody home?”

“There’s a lot more to it than that! Just because I’m not a brainiac like you, why shouldn’t I get a chance to go to college? What’s so unfair about that?”

“Just because you can throw a stupid orange ball through a net, you get to go to college for free? I make honor grades in science and math and I get nothing!” The bedroom door slammed again.

Joe entered the apartment quietly. Jimmy was standing outside Linden’s door shaking his head.

“Jim?”

“Hey, dad. I guess you heard?”

“Yeah, I heard. The whole block heard. Now suppose you tell me what happened?”

Jimmy handed the letter from Auburn University to Joe. “I got in.”

Joe read the letter, then reread it, and then a third time. “Full scholarship?”

Jimmy couldn’t help but smile. “Basketball. . . and you thought it was just a hobby.”

“Full . . . Oh Jimmy!” Joe flung his arms around his son and spun him around. “That’s great! That’s. . . oh, that’s terrific.”

“Thanks. I’m glad you think so. Lindy isn’t so impressed.”

“What happened? I found this downstairs.” He handed Jimmy the torn envelope. “I thought we’d all have some celebrating to do.”

Jimmy pointed to a similarly crumpled letter on the kitchen table.

Joe picked it up and read slowly. “. . . your fine credentials will no doubt lead to many other opportunities. . . however we regret. . .aw geez.”

“Yeah can you believe it. I thought she was a shoe in.”

“Me too. . . hey listen, let me talk to her. I still want to celebrate for you, but maybe we better keep it low key tonight. Ok?”

“Yeah. It’s cool, Pop.”

Joe knocked on Linden’s door. “Lindy? Honey it’s me, can I come in?”

The door opened.

Joe went in slowly. Lindy flopped down into the chair at her desk and began tearing pages out of her note book. “Stupid essay. I never know how to start. A thousand words on the meaning of ‘failure’ for philosophy. That one should be a cinch don’t you think?”

Joe sat down on the corner of his daughter’s bed, the crumpled letter still in his hand. “Honey, I am so sorry about this. But don’t you worry. I’m gonna find a way to send you to school. I promise.”

“Every college I want to go to tells me I need a good prep. . . what difference does it make. I may as well forget med school and just take the correspondence course on how to be a medical transcriptionist.”

Joe looked down at his hands feeling helpless. That silver lining was hiding itself pretty darn good this time.

“You think mom is disappointed in me?” Joe looked up to see Lindy holding a silver framed picture. Lindy traced her finger gently down the mocha image of her smiling mother. “She always told me I’d take the world by storm because I had your, you know — white is might, she said. I guess she never heard about basketball scholarships that go to the tall black kids, while their white sisters get left behind.”

Joe swallowed hard. It was the first time he ever heard Lindy call herself ‘white’. He never made the distinction with his children. He didn’t want them to grow up with the prejudice and hatred he’d gotten from his own Irish Catholic family when he announced his intention to marry Sandra Jones — a Jamaican woman, who stood head taller than him and was decidedly not the pale Irish girl his mother always hoped he’d marry. Joe never saw Sandra’s skin as anything but beautiful, another part of her incredible being. He only knew he loved her, and she loved him back. Sure they knew it wasn’t going to be a bed of roses with a lot of people, but they didn’t care. They had each other, and that’s all that mattered.

Sandra was the smart one too. She worked as a legal secretary on the hill, and was going to school to be a paralegal when she got pregnant. He never asked her to leave school or give up her dreams to be a mother. That was her own choice, and she never seemed to regret it. She took a lot of funny looks when she brought the kids to the park, one dark as night, the other fair as a lilly. “Baby sitting?” some would ask. “No, they’re mine. Twins.” Then she’d laugh at the reactions, though she’d not linger long.

The kids grew to love themselves for who they were, not what color they were. Joe made sure they knew they were loved. He ran interference when he heard catcalls or snickers, and he made sure Jimmy could take care of himself if he ever found himself in a scuffle. He and Sandra had done a good job together—and for the five years since the cancer took her, he had done a good job alone.

“She’s proud of you, honey. I know she is. And you know what?”

Lindy looked up, wiping her face with her hand. “What?”

“I’m proud of you too, and. . . I think . . . now I can’t promise though I would dearly love to tell you it’s a sure thing. . . but. . .” he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small white card and handed it to her.

“What’s this?”

“A fare I had today. Nice guy. Even said thank you. Anyway he said that Standish sometimes does scholarships. Told me to give him a call.”

“I thought you didn’t like it out on Gibbons.”

“If my little girl likes it, I like it. You like it?”

She smiled a little. “Yeah, I like it. Do you think it’s worth it? I mean, the guy wasn’t like, the janitor or something?”

A sudden gust of wind blew open the window knocking the lamp off Linden’s desk. For a moment the room was completely black until the moon shown through the window, casting the faintest white glow on the business card in Linden’s hand.

Joe smiled. “Yeah, honey. It’s worth it. We’ll call in the morning.”

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2012 in NaNoWriMo

 

Redamntion – 5

~*~

 

The ferry docked at Gibbons Island twelve minutes ahead of schedule, thanks to a stiff wind blowing against the stern. But the same wind that had hastened along the voyage from Boston Harbor would now prevent the ferry from making the return trip that evening. It was not uncommon for the ferry to dock, stranding tourists on the island, or islanders on the mainland. On this particular October evening, however, the only inconvenienced traveler was the ferry’s captain; but only slightly, as the Transit Authority provided a bunk and a shower at the station for such occasions. The lone passenger who left the ferry was fortunate to have made the trip home at all, given the weather warnings. Normally the captain would not have left the harbor with only one paying fare, when the gale warnings were so high.

As Logan left the ramp he extended his hand to the captain. “Thanks for the lift, Lyle.”

Lyle took Logan’s hand with a grin. “My pleasure.” He gestured toward the gate where a young woman wearing a long dark rain coat stood leaning against the fence. “Tough luck for me. Looks like I’m stuck for the night. Darn.”

Logan chuckled. “Yes, tough luck indeed. And I hear there’s more bad weather tomorrow. You poor man. You could be stuck here tomorrow night as well. That was quite noble of you to risk the crossing just for me.”

“I’m a man bound by duty, Logan.” He gave the girl at the gate a quick wave.

“Give my regards to your duty. But don’t keep her out late, please. She’s got a test in the morning.” He gave Lyle a clap on the shoulder and walked off toward the gate, greeting the young woman with a polite tip of his head. “Watch out for that one, Gertie. He’s a sailor, you know.”

“Professor Logan! Oh he’s not…that is, I’m not…he my cousin!” Gertie protested, while carefully pulling the coat closed by wrapping her arms tightly around her own waist. As she did, the lower flap caught the wind and billowed up, revealing a shapely fish-netted leg. “I’m just picking him up to bring him home to have dinner with my aunt and I.”

Logan leaned close, bringing his index finger up as if to make a point. “Gertie, I’m only going to warn you about this once…”

She backed away, affecting an innocent-looking, though nervous smile. “Yes, Professor?”

He leaned in again. “Lyle Cabbot is nearly twice your age, and has only half your wit. And you have a history test in the morning.”

“I’m nearly twenty-one, and I’ve studied, Professor. I can take care of myself.”

Logan smiled, and took a step backwards straightening up. “Good then. See you in class. Good night.”

“Good night,” Gertie called as Logan walked away. “Oh, Professor Logan?”

He stopped and turned. “Yes?”

“Thanks for caring.”

He smiled and tipped his forehead as if wearing an invisible hat then turned on his heel and hurried out through the gate.

The sun was just about down below the horizon by the time he’d make the twenty minute walk into town. The wind was picking up, and dark clouds were rolling in from the west, swallowing the remainder of the sunset, making the onset of night seem darker than normal. He glanced toward the east to see only the outer shadow of the moon, barely holding its own against the clouds.

He pulled his jacket closed and zipped it up to the collar. The little box he’d gotten from Todd, pressed against his chest, still safely tucked away in his breast pocket. He gave it a pat, as if to comfort it and assure it that it was protected from the coming storm—at least he hoped it was.

“Logan? Is that you?” A woman’s voice startled him from his thoughts. He looked up, surprised to find he had walked the length of Ocean Street and was standing in front of Nettie’s Dinette and General Store. Nettie herself stood on the front porch, broom in one hand, rag in the other as she peered into the darkened street. “Logan?”

“Yes, Nettie, it’s me.”

“Land’s sake, what are you doing out walking around? Don’t you know a gale’s comin’ in?”

“I was just on my way home. I was in Boston. Oh—” he reached into his outer jacket pocket and retrieved a small paper sack. “I’ve got your peanuts. Straight from Fenway, I swear.”

Nettie grinned and stepped off the porch. The steps creaked in protest at her ample girth. “Were they hot when you got ’em?” She asked extracting one perfect goober from the sack.

“Absolutely. Fresh off the roaster.”

“Boy, these take me back. Last time I had ’em hot. . . I was a kid. Carl Yastrzemski hit a homer that day, and the ball landed right in my lap.” She shucked a peanut with one hand and dropped the nut in her mouth, spitting out a shell. “Mmm nothing like ’em.”

“That must have been exciting. Did you keep the ball?”

“Hmm? Naah, threw it back onto the field.”

“You did? Why on Earth would you do that?”

She cracked another peanut and grinned. “Because the damned thing landed right on my sack of peanuts and scattered them all over the bleachers. I was pissed.”

Logan laughed, watching her savor the peanuts. “You know, Nettie, you can have those delivered. I’m sure they would fit on the mail boat. After all, they are not hot by the time I bring them.”

“Nope, it’s not the hot part. They just gotta come straight from the park. Gotta be in the sack.” She folded the top of the paper sack and carefully tucked the remainder of her prize into the pocket of her apron. “It’s the principle of it.”

“How do you know I didn’t just get them from any old street vender?” He asked, a mischievous lift to his brow.

“Because you’re a purest, same as me.”

He bowed, his hand upon his chest. “Guilty. You’re right as always.”

A sudden gust blew down the street, sending Nettie’s apron a flutter. Logan escorted her back onto the porch. “You best get back inside, Nettie. Storm’s comin’ in fast.”

“What about you? Don’t tell me you plan to walk all the way back to the lighthouse. It’s pitch black and that wind is wicked.”

“It’s not far now. I know the way. Even in the da— ”

As if to prove her right, the wind whipped around, roaring against their ears. Logan had to steady himself against porch railing to keep his footing. When the gust passed, Nettie grabbed Logan’s sleeve, but looked beyond his shoulder and pointed. “Oh my god! Logan, look.”

He turned to look up toward the end of the street, to where Nettie was pointing and Standish Lighthouse presided over the cliffs. A flash of lightning illuminated the clouds for only an instant behind the tower, as if to confirm the structure was still there, then faded leaving it black against the sky. The lighthouse had gone dark.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Redamntion – 4

~*~

Standish Preparatory Academy dominated the highest point on Gibbons Island, casting long shadows down the jagged slope that stretched all the way to the sea. The predominant feature of the campus, the old stone lighthouse, served as the island’s symbol of identity, appearing in one form or another on flags, souvenir plates, tee-shirts and, of course, the Standish official emblem. The lighthouse itself did not belong to the academy, situated as it was on a point about a mile away from the school, but still, if you asked any resident they would be quick to call it Standish Light.  Local lore told of its proud history, and of the many ships it guided through the shoals amid mountainous waves or a shroud of fog.

The light had burned above the cliff since long before the building that became Standish Academy was ever built. It stood sentinel, overseeing the construction of the stone and brick fortress that stood against British war ships during the 18th century, shining signals to neighboring islands that the ships were on the way.  It shone its beam over the prisoners held within the fortress during the war for independence under the watchful eye of Josiah Gibbons.

When the war was over, Gibbons saw to the conversion of the fort to an asylum. Gibbons ran the institution with a hard hand, and little oversight from the mainland. Though the institution was founded on the pledge of providing a safe and compassionate place of refuge for the mentally feeble and the infirm, compassion had little to do with the actual treatment that was given.  Well to do families who did not wish to be burdened or embarrassed by a mentally unstable family member, would pay Gibbons a handsome price to house and care for their problem progeny. It was also a convenient place to send away a wayward daughter who turned up in the family way without benefit of husband.

More often than not, the family would pay the monthly maintenance blindly, without ever inquiring on the condition or progress of their loved ones. Often the fee would be paid months, or even years, after the unfortunate inmate had died. Gibbons found little reason to inform, or console, until asked directly about any one patient. Then he would reply with a simple letter of condolence, “I’m sorry to inform you that your letter arrived only days after your brother/son/nephew/wife—passed away due to a sudden onset of influenza…”

The scam was successful and lucrative until 1825, when Wendell P. Standish had, under protest, sent his youngest son, who suffered debilitating seizures, to Gibbons for treatment. Gibbons himself arrived at the Standish estate to escort the lad safely to the island, insisting there was no need to worry.  After months of receiving now word on his son’s progress, Standish insisted on visiting the island himself and was appalled at the conditions he witnessed. He removed his son and filed complaints with the authorities in hopes of shutting Gibbons down.  He sent letters to the news printers of the day, posted plaques and bills all over Boston and even wrote to President Jackson all with little success. People just did not seem to care what happened on an island they could barely see.

Standish grew despondent as it seemed Gibbons would continue to thrive while so many suffered under his hand. Then, one terrible and stormy night in 1829, the lighthouse was doused by giant waves as a monstrous gale blew in over the sea.

By morning, it was clear the tower would need to be repaired as it was essential for the ships to pass safely. A work-crew employed by the Navy were sent to repair the tower. They arrived to find the asylum in ruin, and patients wandering the island dazed and wet, dressed only in rags. Word got back to the mainland that what Standish had been reporting for years was actually true, and in 1830, Josiah Gibbons at the age of eight-eight, was arrested and convicted of fraud. The asylum was shut down and in 1831 Wendell Standish bought the property with the purpose of establishing an academy which truly did operate with compassion.

The histories are unclear as to what became of the inmates after Standish took over. By some accounts, there were only two or three who had survived the storm, and they lived out their lives on the island. Other accounts say there were no such survivors, and still others paint Standish with the same black paint as Josiah Gibbons, claiming he imprisoned them and forced them to build the town. Local lore dictates the ghosts of the poor souls still haunt the halls of Standish Academy to this day. On stormy nights, if the lighthouse goes dark, it is said that the ghosts are once again calling for help from the mainland.

But the lighthouse doesn’t go dark anymore. Not since the early 1970s when the last of the lighthouse keepers retired and the light became automated. The Coast Guard keeps the light functioning and pays the light bill and collects the rent for the little cottage where the lighthouse keeper always lived.

Logan always paid the rent on time.

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Redamntion – 3

~*~

The end of the shift could not come soon enough for Joe Kelly. With luck, the last fare of the day would bring him close to the station, cutting down on the non-fare travel time that always cut into his pay numbers. Too much time on the road without a fare would count against him with the pencil pushers who weighed the cost of fuel and engine wear against the efficiency of the drivers. Joe’s paycheck took a hit if he had more than an hour of non-fare time logged in a week, so on days when he was on the wrong end of town near the end of the shift, he would look for anyone dressed in a suit coat, on the likelihood that they’d be headed toward The Hill, close to his garage, and not down to Southie or out to Jamaica Planes. It was a game he’d perfected over the ten years he’d been driving for UpTown Taxi, thus it was rare his non-fare time ever hit the hour mark.

Today he had been especially pleased with the last fare, the one that brought him all the way out from The Fenway to Faneuil Marketplace. But it wasn’t his skill at fare-spotting that had gotten him home today, it was just luck. The history teacher didn’t fit the game. He wasn’t dressed like the lawyers or the bankers who mostly populated the richer part of town. He wore a simple brown leather bomber jacket – well worn, but not ragged–faded jeans, and his hair was long enough to rest on his collar and cover his eyes in the wind. Joe had almost not stopped for him, but when the man stepped right out into the street, he had no choice. He was about to give the guy a loud lecture on traffic safety, but before he could even open his mouth the man was in the back seat.

But it turned out better than Joe could have ever guessed. What a coincidence, the guy not only took him in the right direction, but he was a teacher at Standish, and had given him a card and an invitation to call.

“You’re out of your mind, Joey,” he muttered to himself, thinking of how he would approach such a phone call. “The guy was just being polite. No one at that school gives a crap about gettin’ Lindy in to their hoity toidy . . .” he pulled up to the garage door and laid on the horn. A young man wearing an oversized orange vest over a shirt with UpTown Taxi stamped across it, and a faded Red Sox cap hopped out of the attendant’s booth and jogged over with a clip-board in hand.

“Hey Joe, whadda ya know,” the kid said, tugging on the brim of his hat. “Another series startin’, you think we got it this year?” He handed Joe the clipboard, a large manila envelope and a key with a round tag with Joe’s taxi numbers on it.

“Every year, Tony. The trick is convincin’ the rest of the league.” Joe unlocked the cash box, pulled the day’s receipts and tucked them into the envelope, then signed the time sheet and handed everything over to Tony.

“The curse is over, man. Mark my words, you heard it here first. Tony knows bo-sox and this is our year . . . again.” Tony looked down at the slip, initialed it, gave a carbon receipt to Joe then clipped the envelope to the front. “Wow, only ten minutes down time today?”

“Yup, it was a good one. Payroll come down yet?”

“Yup. Surprised they made it on time, being Columbus day and all.” Tony pulled a stack of envelopes, bound in a thick rubber band out of the inside pocket of his orange vest, and fanned through the edges until he found Joe’s. “Lucky you. You get the thick envelope this week.”

Joe felt a sudden panic run through his chest as Tony handed him his envelope. “Thick? Oh geez, don’t tell me. Ain’t cuttin’ the fleet are they?”

“Relax, it’s just the annual touchey-feely-management-loves-you-but-can’t-afford-to-give-you-a-raise-letter. You know, like last year.”

“Oh, is that all?” Joe tucked the envelope in his pocket.

“Yeah, I already read mine. Besides, why do you worry? You’re the man with the magic hours.” Another taxi pulled up behind Joe, and honked. Tony gave Joe a pat on the arm then jogged back to his booth. The gate opened, and he waved Joe through.

“Magic hours,” Joe said, laughing to himself as he pulled in to park his taxi for the next shift. “What I really could use is some magic money.”

Getting home was never as easy as getting back to the garage. He’d have to take the T nearly to the end of the line at South Station. He never seemed to mind the irony of his life; he was a man who drove a car for living, yet didn’t own one. He had also never been in a taxi that he was not behind the wheel.

The train was on time for a change; another sign this day was turning out to be a diamond. The lucky streak continued when he got on and found the car nearly empty, and was able to sit down.

With the landscape passing by and the skyline fading behind him, his thoughts turned, as they always did, to his kids. Jimmy would be finished with basketball practice and just about home by now, and Lindy would be helping the little girl in the next apartment with her spelling while they waited for her mom to get home from work–a nice little paying job she took very seriously.

“Good kids, both of them,” he smiled at the thought. “I did good.”

An elderly lady had taken a seat next to him at the last stop. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“Hm?” He turned to the lady with a sheepish smile. “I uh, sorta talk to myself.”

“Ah, do you ever answer yourself?”

“All the time,” he admitted with a chuckle.

“You have children?” she asked, pulling a ball of wool and a crochet hook from the large tote she carried.

“Two. Proud of both of ’em. It ain’t easy raisin’ good kids these days.”

“It sure isn’t,” she agreed with a sigh. “I’m glad mine were all grown and moved years ago. I don’t think I’d know how to do it today with all the drugs and violence and. . . I just don’t know how anyone does it.”

“Carefully,” he said. “And a liberal use of Tylenol and ear plugs.”

She laughed. “How old?”

“Both seventeen. Girl and boy. Seniors this year.”

“The hardest year. Any plans for college?”

Joe didn’t know what to answer, and just turned to look out the window. “Pretty sunset.”

“I’m sorry. I just don’t know what gets into me. I just find I like to talk and . . . well, it was not my business to ask. I’m sorry if I pried.”

Joe shook his head with a smile. “Naah, you didn’t pry. It’s just that college thing is sorta hanging over me like a two ton safe waitin’ to fall. But I made a promise and I’ll find a way to keep it.”

She nodded, wrapping the yarn around the crochet hook. “There’s no shame getting help.”

“I’m not ashamed—”

“Oh, there I go sticking my nose in again. Of course you’re not. You just love your children and want to do the best for them. I find that very admirable.”

“I do love them. They’re everything.”

She set the yarn work down and tucked it back into her tote. “My stop is the next one.” She offered her hand. “My name is Millie. Millie Jackson.”

Joe accepted the gesture, being gentle with the fragile looking hand. “Joe. Joe Kelly.”

“I’m glad to meet you, Joe.”

The train pulled to a stop. The doors opened, spilling out passengers to the left, and taking in new ones on the right. Millie stood up just as a young man in a hooded jacket swooped down the aisle, knocking her back to her seat.

Joe turned to reach out for the kid, but stopped dumbfounded to see the young man turn and apologize.

“Geez lady, I’m sorry. I wasn’t watchin. You ok? This your stop? Eddie! Hold the door! Lady needs to get off!”

Another kid, taller, and less friendly looking nodded and stuck his foot in the door.

“Oh, thank you. I don’t know what I’d do if I missed the stop.”

“You be careful now, this neighborhood is hard after dark,” the young man warned her.

“I’m well aware. Thank you, and thank you, Eddie,” she said as she passed through the door.

When she had cleared the door, Eddie let it close, then gave a nod to the other kid.

Joe watched a silent correspondence pass between them, and shook his head. They were good, but he’d seen it a thousand times. He didn’t drive a taxi in Boston and not learn some street smarts after all and he was fairly certain that one of these young men had just gained possession of Millie’s wallet.

He didn’t like the thought of the old lady alone without her wallet, and even though it wasn’t his habit to be heroic, he thought maybe he could pull the emergency brake and get off to find her. The train hadn’t started to move yet, so he glanced out the window and was startled to see her standing below his window, smiling up at him.

“There’s always a way, Mr. Kelly! Make that phone call!”

“Millie! Check your. . ” he turned, startled with himself for being so stupid as to warn the old woman by shouting when the thugs were still on the train. But they weren’t. In fact he was all alone again. He hadn’t heard the door open, or seen the two get off. He looked around up and down, but he was alone. He looked down to the platform, panicked that the kids had gotten off the train and were now going after her, but there was no one to see. The platform was completely deserted as the train pulled away.

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2012 in Uncategorized