Poetry from John Grey

 

WATCHING MY FATHER SHAVE

 

Though I’m a willing audience, he doesn’t give a blow by blow.

His mouth is clenched. The lesson is up to my eyes.

Never seen such hairy hands, such huge knuckles.

The razor shrinks inside his fist, its blade peeking out

like a captured sparrow.

What hope has it against the whiskers on that jutting jaw,

the cheeks that fill the bathroom mirror.

He lathers his face with gobs of bright white foam.

Then, with blade close as a kiss, he scrapes along

that relief map of a face,

his fingers like trackers guiding the razor

over bone, under lip, across the red leather of his cheeks.

Miraculously, he doesn’t cut himself.

I swear that razor wouldn’t dare.

Next step, he slaps his skin into submission

with a hot wet hand towel, braces each subdued pore

with smelly stuff from a tube.

He then takes a step back, admires his morning masterwork.

He pats me on the head and leaves the room without a word.

Shaving begins with fascination and ends with an unerring lesson.

And, in between, years I have to grow, and no one saying much.

 

 

WHO AM I EXACTLY

 

Mistakes are made –

I can easily be taken

for my younger brother

but I am not him.

Don’t listen to faint voices

bouncing off the walls

of your conclusions.

First remove the skin.

have me flattened, lifeless,

flesh to flesh, sweat to sweat.

Sometimes identity is exactly that.

 

But soon it won’t matter.

Other people will have moved into this space.

Misidentification will be replaced

by people who know each other.

Or even emptiness – although

nothing is truly empty- molecules of air

will bump against each other –

bounce this way and that.

 

Human shape gets some people every time.

Coming together

flutters its visions nonsensically.

What flows sweetly through the head

sounds dumb in the mouth.

Some of my

“No I’m not him” may even remain.

 

I’m in a new place by then,

not diffidence or solipsism

but because where I’m going

has a future, beyond where my latest step

has taken me.

And there’s my thoughts,

playing to a gallery of one.

Yes, it’s me and not my brother.

Footsteps crackle on all the leafy evidence.

 

 

MOON BOY

 

Art class was a failure.

My moon was half the page

and sat on the roof of the house.

The people outside

were small and fleshless.

The moon’s heft almost drove them

off the edge of the page.

 

I couldn’t draw what the teacher asked.

There was no separation between my head

and what my hand could do.

I knew the moon was a midget in the sky

and people and buildings towered over me.

But facts never did sit well

with my imagination.

 

The teacher leaned over my shoulder

but made no remark.

But the girl behind me was rated aloud.

“Very good work, Sandra.”

 

The teacher had never been where I live.

She hadn’t seen it at night

when I was in bed,

eyes wide and staring out the window,

and the moon was crushing me.

 

Sandra’s old man beat her mother

and she hadn’t witnessed that either.

Teacher was just pleased that Sandra

had everything in proportion.

 

MOTHER TREE

 

When pregnant,

she felt heavy,

like a tree trunk

and its spreading roots.

 

Her upper branches

bore the baby.

It fluttered out there

with the leaves and the lightning

but she couldn’t budge

from her own hard grounding.

 

Baby blossomed so far away

she could barely see.

It grew into fruit, ripened,

maybe fell,

but more likely was picked.

 

But what did scarred bark

know of that?

Or thick strands

of tired wood

nuzzling the dirt?

 

When pregnant,

she joined a forest

of like trees.

 

Life after that

was either songbirds

or woodpeckers,

seasons or axmen.

 

And, of course,

the wind,

the redundant shaking.

 

John Grey is an Australian born poet. Recently published in International Poetry Review, Sanskrit and the science fiction anthology, “Futuredaze” with work upcoming in Clackamas Literary Review, New Orphic Review and Nerve Cowboy.

Poetry from William Doreski

Running in Place

 

Running in place on the treadmill

in my basement I note a mouse

creeping up the concrete wall.

 

Black, short-tailed, thick as my fist,

it clings to the vertical

like a gravestone lichen. I stare

 

at this mobile punctuation

until I’m running the bases

in a sandlot game. I run so hard

 

I knock down the first baseman,

second baseman, shortstop, third

baseman and catcher, yet scoop up

 

the bases themselves and tuck them

in a muscular compact bundle

like a football under my arm.

 

The mouse applauds with tiny paws

without losing its grip on the wall.

The basement groans and splits open

 

to admit the sunlight and bathe me

in post-Easter glory. The ballpark

crowd roars and wriggles in its seats.

 

The treadmill whines as I reach

unnatural speed. Belt and pulleys

strain to accommodate such force.

 

Metal snaps and I tumble

into the dust between home plate

and first base, and the catcher

 

tags me out, out, out. Yet still

I’m clutching the bases, including

home plate, so I’ve won anyway,

 

won without a team to back me.

The mouse has reached the top of the wall.

It disappears into a crevice.

 

The ballpark crowd has departed

in disappointment, the home team

defeated and the April light

 

bruised deep blue. I run awhile

longer, but tire so easily

I know all this effort’s in vain.

 

Drugstore Logic Applied

 

As I drive in the rainy dark

to the drugstore, the houses

of my neighbors flash as TV

charms them in shifting colors.

 

Impoverished by fading eyesight,

cooped behind troubled glasses,

I feel rather than see the road

tuck under itself in the thaw.

 

Snowbanks tall as defensive guards

still flaunt. But they’re knuckling slowly,

crystal by crystal, failing to hold

their form against the keening of rain

 

and the flop of calendar pages.

I arrive in a huff. The lights

of the chain store fortify products

in which I otherwise have no faith.

 

As I purchase overpriced drugs

a crowd of pubescents buying

candy and chips hogs the checkout.

Back on the road, lurching through rain,

 

I wonder if the hidden landforms

survive the torpor of the dark,

or if they fold themselves away

for times when I really need them.

 

 

 

First Outing of a Troubled Year

 

 

Eating recycled plastic

at your picnic makes me feel

manlier than the men who munch

organic produce and smile.

 

The day pouts and blusters.

The lake cringes as the ice cracks

to reveal the first open water

we’ve seen in five months. You pour

 

wine into my two cupped hands.

I gargle it down and sneer

at men whose dainty fingers,

manicured by smirking experts,

 

fondle stemware without risk.

Their wine, made from ordinary grapes,

leaves their senses tingling,

while the swill you’ve served inflames

 

passions that follow the bell curves

of earthquakes. No more, please. The light

in the treetops shivers with fear.

Soon the lake will sprout bass boats

 

puttering close to shore. Later,

speedboats dragging skiers will comb

the water, scoring fatal wakes.

The cottages will flower. Music

 

will hush the birdsong, and kids

will taunt each other to drown.

We’ll avoid the lake all summer

and return in the fall when silence

 

drapes the heaving trees. Your picnic

has saddened me. Maybe it’s the wine,

or maybe chewing the plastic

has loosened all my fillings; [stnza break]

 

 

but the passion that could have shaken

the world has faded, leaving a dead

fish stink and crackle of ice

that render me too manly to bear.

 

Amnesiac Again

 

Abandoned rather than lost,

memory has abstracted itself

like a pasture buried in snow.

 

This bedroom with a cairn of clothes

on the floor, an expensive watch

glowering with diamonds and dials

 

on the nightstand, a woman snoring

in a heap of cats, puzzles me

with its lack of useful clues.

 

I stuff myself inside the clothes

and creep down a long green hallway

to a stainless steel kitchen

 

only the rich could afford.

Copper-bottomed pots dangle

as if condemned. A gas range

 

big enough to roast a hippo

smolders in grim self-confidence.

A woman in uniform asks me

 

what I want for breakfast. A name,

a place, a green thought to take

outdoors to think in green shade.

 

The woman breaks eggs in a pan

and sets it hissing on the range.

Something in me broke like those eggs

 

sometime last night as stars aligned

in obsolete configurations

I’ve never learned to identify.

 

How clear the boundary between

knowing my name, knowing my place,

and erasure of all but outlines.

 

I stand in the snowy pasture

and moo and bleat and grumble

while the cook flips the eggs because [stanza break]

 

she already knows I like them

easy over. This gothic moment

prolongs to enable me

 

to avoid the reverberation

that would shiver this house to its soul

if I thundered too abruptly.

 

 

Canoeing Up the Penobscot

 

Canoeing up the Penobscot

with a lanky mob of Indians,

I split the current stroke by stroke,

straining every sorry muscle.

The Indians do no better.

Their faces warp as they wrestle

 

the snowmelt pouring downstream

from the complex of lakes to the north.

I have no money to pay them,

but they feared I’d drown myself

if I ascended the stream alone.

The cloud-casual afternoon hisses

 

with effort. Spring rain promises,

but withholds until we’re ready

to camp on a cringing stretch of shore.

A highway nearby snores with trucks.

A railroad trills with steel on steel.

Why didn’t I ship my canoe

 

to the lakes and ride the friction

back to Old Town in studied ease?

The Indians don’t ask. We chatter

and share a dinner of boiling fat.

They like being Indians. I like

being with Indians while the dark

 

smolders with self-contained rage.

As we lie in our tents the rain

sizzles through the eloquent trees

and defines everything it touches.

At dawn we breakfast on more fat

and mount our canoes. The current

 

retorts, and midstream I lose myself.

The Indians wave and chuckle

as my canoe reverses and speeds me

downhill with my paddle flailing.

Down, down, past Chester, Lincoln,

Howland, Olamon, Old Town, Bradley, [stanza break]

 

 

Orono, Veazie, Bangor,

and then Winterport and Bucksport

and with a heave and sigh into

the bay, Islesboro dead ahead.

I beach my canoe, flop on the sand,

and marvel that I’ve traveled

 

almost seventy miles this morning.

The Indians must be laughing

as the bay and bare sky are laughing—

the spruce rim of the island

dour as the skirts of ruffed grouse

settling at last on their nests.

Doreski’s work has appeared in various e and print journals and in several collections, most recently The Suburbs of Atlantis (AA Press, 2013). 

Poetry from Valentina Cano

Trust’s Melting Point

He talks as if from on-top an iceberg

that’s disappearing from under his feet.

His words are clipped,

a tap-dance of ice following his lips.

I’m supposed to trust,

to string his words into a necklace

good for every occasion,

but they melt away,

syllable by syllable,

leaving only stains on my dress.

-Valentina Cano

Flame

From snowbrains.com

I will set this house on fire.

I can feel it,

the anger lapping,

running up and down the hallways,

the rustling of flames.

Smoke, dark feathers of it,

filling the pillowcases,

the empty cups and bowls,

as walls begin to blacken.

Day by day,

the house surrenders to flammability

until even its dreams are scalding and red.

-Valentina Cano

Organ

This moment is rubber,

twisting slowly into shape.

The glare of it reminds me

of the tear that passes for a canal at home

with its trash-bag doilies.

The water still enough to be pus.

This morning,

with its smell of scraping matches

and unwashed hair

is molding itself into an organ.

A replacement

for the one I didn’t know I’d lost.

-Valentina Cano

Postcards from Anorexia-Land

Stepping on and off a scale

I lost what I was thinking.

It disappeared like the tissue and fat

that used to curl up like snails

around my hipbones.

Like the clumps of ashen hair I pick up,

spider webs clinging to bathroom tiles.

I have gone away,

handing skin and teeth and bone

to numbers and buttons and zippers.

I have lost.

Myself to myself.

-Valentina Cano

Betrayal

From ElizabethKreutz.com

The bicycle slips from under her,

as sleek and agile as she’ll never be.

It lands on the grass

with an exhale of gnats,

handlebar turned to the sky.

She kicks the spinning wheels,

the grinning chains,

jabs a stick into the links and snaps it.

The sound of it like a slap.

She leaves the bicycle there,

stabbed and staring,

and walks home.

-Valentina Cano

Valentina Cano is a student of classical singing who spends whatever free time either writing or reading. Her works have appeared in Exercise Bowler, Blinking Cursor, Theory Train, Cartier Street Press, Berg Gasse 19, Precious Metals, A Handful of Dust, The Scarlet Sound, The Adroit Journal, Perceptions Literary Magazine, Welcome to Wherever, The Corner Club Press, Death Rattle, Danse Macabre, Subliminal Interiors, Generations Literary Journal, A Narrow Fellow, Super Poetry Highway, Stream Press, Stone Telling, Popshot, Golden Sparrow Literary Review, Rem Magazine, Structo, The 22 Magazine, The Black Fox Literary Magazine, Niteblade, Tuck Magazine, Ontologica, Congruent Spaces Magazine, Pipe Dream, Decades Review, Anatomy, Lowestof Chronicle, Muddy River Poetry Review, Lady Ink Magazine, Spark Anthology, Awaken Consciousness Magazine, Vine Leaves Literary Magazine, Avalon Literary Review, Caduceus,White Masquerade Anthology and Perhaps I’m Wrong About the World. Her poetry has been nominated for Best of the Web and the Pushcart Prize. You can find her here: http://carabosseslibrary.blogspot.com

Short Story by Carol Smallwood

Making Things Better

Carol Smallwood

Excerpt from Lily’s Odyssey (print novel 2010) published with permission by All Things That Matter Press. Its first chapter was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award in Best New Writing.

http://www.amazon.com/Lilys-Odyssey-Carol-Smallwood/dp/0984098453

The next session, Doctor wore a suit for the first time, and asked, “How’d you like my new office?”

“It’s very nice,” he said, looking around the stucco room for anything that looked familiar.

A few years ago, the businessmen in town had decided to capitalize on the name, “Avon Creek”. The storefronts and municipal building were redone to resemble Shakespeare’s birthplace, and his comedies were performed at the fairgrounds during the summer. Restaurants offered old English fare and jesters and jugglers in colorful costumes gave street performances for tourists.

“Cal got angry because I was out picking apples with the kids and wasn’t home when he got home, so he shoved me around.”

“Did he hurt you?”

“He didn’t leave any marks.” I didn’t consider them marks because my sleeves covered the bruises on my upper arms.

“Do you think you were right in going?”

“It was right but not right in the relationship of marriage.” I sighed, and added, Cal doesn’t want me to get a job.”

“It isn’t wise to come to any crisis now.”

While canning corn relish, I thought again of what Doctor said about the law of compensation- when you lose something, you gain something. And I smiled at the comforting sound of canning lids sealing–no matter how many times I heard the ping, it satisfied an instinctual need. Kerr glass pints and quarts with neatly printed labels were very attractive when filled with pickles, relishes, pears, tomatoes–proof I’d accomplished something.

But the next day, I couldn’t stop thinking about worms dying in a can that Cal left on his boat after he went fishing; the only way to stop was to imagine being with Doctor. When I went anywhere, I looked at men to see if their nose, mouth, or walk in any way resembled his; I kept saying, hang on, hang on–remember the tree in the woods? Near the barbed wire fence of my grandfather’s- that was all dead, except for one branch? For the last two years, I’d gone to stare at it while the kids made a game out of not stepping on any sticks while chasing each other.

A few months later, I went for a walk with Mark and Jenny, muffled in my jacket, leaving the snowmobile suit matching Cal’s–Uncle Walt’s and Aunt Hester’s Christmas presents. The wind made it too cold to walk along the shore strewn with giant blocks of ice; a red strip on a lone freighter in the distant channel was the only thing preventing it from being a black and white painting. When I went to look for patches of moss on trees, Mark pointed out depressions in the snow, and told Jenny they were Bigfoot’s; Jenny pretended to be scared, and then smiled at me.

When we returned to the road, a sunbeam shone on the top of a large bent pine, and I walked back and forth looking at the large green question mark, till a hawk began circling. Mark had been scrambling up and down the snow heaped by the snowplow with Jenny trying to keep up.

We walked to the tree-lined winding stream, among the overhanging branches, until I heard water running under the ice. When I heard the water but couldn’t see it, I felt a great relief–a Plan must exist–things did make sense- and had a pattern; there was a way out, even if I couldn’t see it. I’d be OK. I followed the gurgling water to the lake and stood smiling in the biting wind while the flowing stream became part of the lake, and tears froze to my face.

At the next session when I told Doctor, “I’ve decided to stop coming,” his chair squeaked, and I knew how much I’d miss the sound. “I’ll always wonder what’s on the other side of things, but it’s equally bad not to enjoy what’s under my nose. Things are better with Cal because I want them to be, and if I left him, I’d still be searching–my feelings for you happened because I needed them to.”

After looking like he was trying to convey something he ended the long silence with, “You can come back.”

“There’s a job coming up I may be able to get,” I said, tasting the blood from biting my cheek. “I’ve enjoyed the sessions and will have to find something to replace them with.”

His face was still flushed when he said, “Maybe studying Hinduism would interest you and give some direction; I’ve told you about how meditation helped me. Begin with the Upanishads and books like this.” He reached for a book with a bald man in a gown, sitting cross-legged with thumb and index fingers joined, to form circles. He named strange-sounding men, but meditating by staring at a point between your eyes had little appeal for me. The Hindu women I saw on PBS didn’t look very well-off–and what did it matter if people may have had a third eye? Doctor concluded, “Take lots of walks because they may teach you more than books.”

On the drive back, I tried to forget his laugh when I’d said, “Things are better with Cal because I need them to be.”

 

Kimberly Brown on Alison Nancye’s Note to Self

 

 

Alison Nancye’s Note to Self is the perfect book for any individual struggling with making life work for them: school, career, family life in general.
(Main character) Beth shows up and checks out, then rediscovers her own life.
Through her transformation, she shows us that it is okay to live our lives according to our own standards. Living up to others’ expectations can leave you stagnated. Beth allows us  to see that simply going along with how others think that we should live, will leave us in a painful, sorrowful and dead-end life.  Beth allows us to see how we can just end up hating our lives and others if we fall into the grips of what others think we ought to be. Beth gives us the courage to stand up to our assailants, whether family, colleagues or foes. She shows us that we can call on God, even when we are not relentless churchgoers, and He will answer our calls. She demonstrates how in her story, time after time, she has called upon God, and how He is so anxious to guide her to a new and improved Beth, and a new life.  She also is exemplifying the need for God’s direction and help, as to what to do next and God is sure to show her that the answers are all inside of her. If and when she decides to follow her own heart, she will then have the mind and capacity to live and make a new life.
  
Beth is the perfect example of many people in the world, young or old, who have yet to find their life’s purpose. Stuck in a world where demands and expectations are already set by both family and society, we need, along with Beth- to learn to let go, and love ourselves, and most importantly, to live. Through the freedom of self-will and living like Beth, one can discover a strength that one didn’t know was there. Whatever it is that we are searching for in life- it will never be obtained or become reality without our stepping out and doing it for ourselves. We were all born to live, but how can we live if we are not living for ourselves, when our mind and body and thoughts are not our own? 
Beth teaches us to live the way that we should, to welcome love, compassion, and growth; to make decisions that we can live and be happy with. Beth teaches us how important it is to live and to focus, and to love the positive players that influence our lives. These are the things that will keep us on track. Regardless of who we’ve grown up with, or who gave us our job, if these people don’t feed our souls with positive reinforcement, we must break contact off with those types of people, to allow an army of positive figures to come in and fill our lives. Beth is brave and courageous-she steps out in life, leaving her old dragged down life behind, after discovering that little voice in her head, along with some loving and compassionate people along the way who cause her to think differently.
Beth is clearly mindful of who she is- she had yet to live with who she was, so she is telling and teaching us that we should remain clear in mind at all times. Although people in life can be critical, it’s better to make choices that best suit our lives and the lifestyles that we want to live.
Beth also reminds us to take pride in our appearance. We never know who’s watching us and who we are attracting, and we want the best – not neck bones that were left over, from the trash. We are all in this life struggle together-if you teach a soul and take time to encourage a soul, it becomes better for your own.
Regardless of how hard the struggle, keep going. No one ever made it to their goal in life by being idle, so when opportunity knocks, go for it. Go for your dreams. They may seem impossible to obtain, but with dedication and consistency, you can reach them. There is nothing in life that is impossible.
Appreciation for life, no matter the state that you are living in, plays a huge part in your happiness. Take the time to see where you are at, and learn to appreciate what you have and work towards better things in life. Anything is obtainable.
With the help of God and good people, you are your ultimate guide, with the power to do anything that you desire on earth. If you are feeling like a carbon copy, this boo, Note to Self, shows you how to access your inner dreams and enjoy yourself and the life around you, by just living. Not just existing and living for other people and their beliefs, but creating your own goals, finding a path and walking it alone, leaving your own tracks.  
Beth, just as I do , believes that we are all Stars. Small or big, rich or poor, everyone has a story and beautiful life, or past experience and wisdom to offer to the world. All we have to do is show up, and reap the great benefits of living, by living from OUR HEARTS rather than anyone else’s…
Go out, good people, and just as Beth did, use your instincts and rational thinking to learn, build and find yourself.
Kimberly Luves is a writer and critic from Palo Alto, California. She appreciates feedback and may be reached at kimbrown_kimronice@yahoo.com 

Poetry from Virginie Colline

 

Photograph by Hengki Koentjoro

 

Inky Milk

I’m lying on that beach
Frozen to the heart
What am I to do
In this sand this quick
In this night this dark?
The sea is crying over spilt milk
Black silk and sweet lactescence
Wave after wave
Song after song
Languid poems are rolling on the shore
A whisper, a caress and nothing more

 “Inky Milk” first appeared in The Electronic Monsoon Magazine, March 2012.
Virginie Colline lives and writes in Paris. Her poems have appeared in The Scrambler, Notes from the Gean, Prune Juice, The Mainichi, Frostwriting, Prick of the Spindle, Mouse Tales Press, StepAway Magazine, The Indian Review, Overpass Books, Dagda Publishing, Silver Birch Press, Yes, Poetry and Poetheadamong others.

Poetry from Danny P. Barbare

The Oyster Shell

Beauty
is
that
much
more
true

when
a
pearl
is
found
in
a
oyster
shell

grown
from
a
grain
of
sand.



Music

On
a
rainy
day

listening
to
the
radio

classic
songs

as
if
yesterday

hearing
the
years.


The Janitor’s Self-Portrait

As
if
to
have
purpose

the
janitor
creates

with
a
broom
and
a
mop

till
the
floor
is
clean

shines
with
a
smile

like
a
work
of
art

his
masterpiece.

Poetry from Dave Douglas

Limitless [a pantoum]

As another chip melts off my shoulder

I see there are no limit signs in Heaven –

I wonder, when I see the petals of a flower

In places which are desolate and graven

I see there are no limit signs in Heaven,

The creative stroke of word and deed

In places which are desolate and graven

Find themselves spreading to each need

The creative stroke of word and deed

Rooted by planting from our knees

Find themselves spreading to each need

And tower beyond the greatest of trees

Rooted by planting from our knees,

Branching from the vine of our salvation

And tower beyond the greatest of trees

By living water, sustaining our perfection

Branching from the vine of our salvation

I wonder when I see the petals of a flower –

By living water sustaining our perfection

As another chip melts off my shoulder

Dave Douglas is a poet and avid cyclist in Northern California. He may be reached at carpevelo@gmail.com 

Short fiction by Scott Archer Jones

Bear Among the Dogs

Scott Archer Jones

 

I used to work for the Bear when he was young and strong. It hurts me to see him old and half-lame. But he’s still the Bear. I was there in Archie’s last year when he took on the gringo.

I talk about those times with Bear to anyone who will listen, but some of it is mierda. My wife, she says, “Old days fade and turn into mentiras.” Now I live behind these thick glasses and work in a hardware store in Raton, and the Bear . . . . he never figured that age would catch him. He planned to be young forever. Nowadays a big bushy white beard hangs on his chest, and his hair is white too, and his back kills him most of the time. Bear, he is like the rest of us. He never saved a dime, so here he is at sixty-three still taking people from the city out to fish and sometimes to hunt. He lives in a single-wide he bought in 1972, lives there with his third wife Jennie, the only smart one he ever married. Or she married him.

That last time I saw him, before they took him away, I was in Archie’s Beer Barn, like I said. Archie’s real name is Celestino Archueleto and he runs this bar in a metal building out near Cimarron, mostly for us Latinos. Sometimes Bear would come by.

Bear, he’s white and a guide in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. Used to be one of the best. In the old days, we ranged all seasons and all country. We carried pale white men back into the mountains for their moment of glory, their cuento de muerte. Bear was part of the mountain – he knew where the animals would feed, where the fish would hide, where the turkeys, they would roost. He acted like a bear too – you could never tell what he was thinking by looking at him.

That day in Archie’s, Bear wore what he always wore, a big dirty coat made out of an Indian blanket, with jeans and boots. Pushed back on his head he had a sweated-out felt cowboy hat with a snakeskin band – a snake he killed himself, years ago. His big belly hung out and he shuffled along like his back hurt, but he had a wave and a hello for everyone. I had hunkered down with some of my friends in the corner, and Bear stopped to talk for a bit. He told us he was down to one truck and one tent.

En buenos tiempos, we kept a full camp, horses and a couple of jeeps. It was our job to pick the sportsmen up at the airport, set up their tents, feed them and pour liquor in them. It was our job to throw them up on the horses, take them to the animal, skin and slaughter the animal once it was dead. Nothing in this was a bad thing. Bear, he respected the animal and its death. Also, the kill by the sportsman – en júbilo for the hunter and good to see. Most of these rich white men, they wanted to be Bear’s friend, so that was okay too. I was Bear’s Mexican, there to cook and wrangle horses, but I’m pretty agringado myself, white enough to keep everyone comfortable. The big thing for me? I got to work in la hermosa tierra de mundo. Until Bear went broke.

Like an animal, Bear doesn’t live in the past. So we visited about what he had coming up. Outside of coyotes near his casa, he hadn’t shot anything in months – still, he thought he’d make an elk hunt in the Fall. He also thought he’d go fishing soon, and we made noises like we would go too. Then he clomped over to the bar to visit with Archie.

Archie’s doesn’t see many outsiders, but every once in a while, guys out on a road trip together pull up. They park their cars or their bikes or their RVs and they stroll in to soak up Archie’s beer. This day, a bunch of Anglo guys out of Albuquerque had driven up in their Corvettes. They must have been in some kind of car club, a club based on how much they could spend on a toy with four big wheels and a cloth roof. They all chose tables way across the room from us and Archie waddled out from behind the bar to take their orders.

Things went fine for a while. There’s always unbuen tipo who can talk to anybody, and so it was this time. This nice guy in shorts and a big fat nose wanders over and we visit for a while. He was retired, but he used to be in the concrete business, so we talked about that, about pouring foundations in the winter, about how far you can truck a wet load. He visited with Archie too and spoke to Bear. His buddies and him, they milled around for about an hour sloshing down the beer.

But if there’s a nice guy in a crowd, there’s also someone ugly, who gets uglier when he drinks. These Corvette drivers had a loudmouth in a nylon jacket, dark hair slicked back from his face. He sat there wavin’ his hands and talking up his opinions pretty estridente. It turns out he was muncho importante, and of course we weren’t. He had been in lots of great places, and this wasn’t one of ’em. He drove a great car, and the folks around here, we drove rusty pieces of shit. He was right – we drive what we drive and we buy what we can afford – old men and old trucks.

So Mr. Slick Jacket trots up to the bar to order another round of beer and he talks to Bear while he’s there. First, he calls him “Cowboy” and then he calls him “Old Man”. Two other guys amble up and lean on the bar too, one beside Bear and the other near his friend, just to be close to Hombre Muncho Importante. Mr. Jacket, he asks Bear, “Do you know you look like Santa Claus with a ponytail?”

Bear takes all this real mild, just sits there on the bar stool. Then the stranger starts in on the White Thing. He says, “Do you actually drink with those dirty Mexicans in the corner?” Meaning me en mi amigos.

I thought Bear was an old man, that he was past all this, but once an animal learns something, it must not forget. Bear jabbed out at this pendejo, fast like a snake – he slammed the heel of his hand into the guy’s nose. Then he grabbed him by the back of the neck and threw la cabeza del hombre down onto the bar, uno, dos, tres. Bam bam bam! The guy folded up like a pile of clothes on the floor at Bear’s feet. The other two Anglos, they closed up quick on Bear and he jumped to his feet. He spun on his toes to face the one and then to face the other.

A long time ago, I’d seen a pack of dogs corner a bear up against a cliff, and it looked just like this. Them hounds would charge in on the bear’s back and he would spin around to try and catch them. This bear grabbed two or three perros and mauled them up quick. This was casi lo mismo, as Bear twisted from one to the other. He held them off with his mal de ojo and his stone face.

Archie had been caught sleeping, but he hustled out from behind the bar with a baseball bat in his hands. He sidled in between Bear and the other guys at the bar and waved that bat around saying, “Now – Now – Now.” The whole crowd of Anglo guys all jerked up from their tables and came running over. The young ones turned all red-face-angry and the old ones grey-shook-up, but they added up to a pack. We Latinos, we nailed our colillas to the chair. Bear might have been my boss once, but brown skins don’t have brawls with white skins and get away with it. I felt real bad about it, but I didn’t do nothing dumb.

Archie stuck the bat out to let them know he’d handle things, and not them. The friendly gringo we first talked to helped Mr. Jacket to his feet, got him a bar rag to hold on his face. We could all tell this loudmouth needed the medics – he had left a couple of his teeth stuck in the bar. If Mr. Jacket got hauled off to Emergency, there would be a police report. So Bear, he’d have to have a long talk with the Sheriff.

Bear stared at the bloody-faced man, and he smiled like the sun come up. He turns to Archie and says, “After you call the ambulance and the police, maybe I can call my wife? I bet you they send me to County for this one. Jennie will want to know where I am tonight.”

That loudmouth, he got his cuento del vergüenza, beat up by an old man, and Bear got to feel young again. All of us in the corner, we were surprised. We had never known what Bear was thinking. All those years, him the Anglo and us the Mexicans. But somewhere in there he must have been thinking we Latinos were okay. Or at least we weren’t the dogs. Bueno.

Elizabeth Hughes’ Book Periscope column

First of all, Elizabeth has  written an original poem to start off this month’s column, and to celebrate some upcoming positive changes in her life:
I wake up in the morning feeling sad and blue,
Then I remember I will have an apartment soon…this is true!
All of the frustration, all of the praying,
So, listen to what I’m saying….
The apartment will be mine
Then I will be so happy, thankful and feeling oh, so fine.
I won’t have any furniture, no, not even a bed,
However, more importantly, I will have my very own roof over my head!
So, when I wake up in the morning, feeling sad and blue,
Then I thank our Lord Jesus, because I will have an apartment soon…this is very true!!!!!!
Review of The Seventh Distinction: The Path to Personal Mastery, Leadership and Peak Performance
by Luis E. Romero
The Seventh Distinction: A Path to Personal Mastery, Leadership and Peak Performance, by Luis E. Romero, is a really great self-help book. It talks about how to bring yourself to your “peak performance” through “personal mastery.” In the introduction is a parable by Mr. Romero. I absolutely loved the parable, it really makes you think about how you view the world around you.
I would recommend that one reads this book with highlighter and pen in hand to highlight and underline parts that they want to study and memorize. One can definitely learn a great deal about overcoming any obstacles in one’s life that will keep one from achieving success. I have highlighted sentences and paragraphs on practically every page.
Thank you Mr. Romero for a really great book! I recommend this book to anyone who wants to achieve much more in their life. The Seventh Distinction is definitely “my cup of tea!”
Review of The Darker Side of the Sun, by Nina Wornham
The Darker Side of the Sun is written about the author’s life as she went through a very ugly separation and divorce. Her ex went through an assortment of terror tactics to try to get her to agree on the lowest settlement possible. This book has some very good advice by the author. I feel that The Darker Side of the Sun can help female or male alike when it comes to dealing with vindictive spouses. I highly recommend this book. Ms. Wornham has written a very enlightening book of courage you must read. This book is most definitely “my cup of tea!”
Elizabeth Hughes is a reviewer and animal lover from San Jose, CA.

Artwork and a short story from W. Jack Savage

 

It was as if there’d been a mix up at the hospital when she was born. April was the second child born to Agnes and Herb Redding. Her older sister Ruth, along with the three younger girls, Helen, Elizabeth, or Betty and Barbie didn’t do well in school. April was at the top of her class from the word go and when they threatened to hold Ruth back a year, putting her in April’s class, April learned the new math she had never been taught in one week, tutored her older sister every night in addition to doing her own homework and quizzed Ruth every morning at the breakfast table. With April’s help Ruth managed to get caught up. The younger girls struggled as well and April helped them. All the girls had jobs along the way but April was the only one to keep hers. She worked at St. Patrick’s Guild as a clerk two nights a week after school and all day Saturday. In addition to high end chalices and gold-plated adornments for churches, the Guild also sold Catholic Missals, Bibles- of course, and all manner of scapulars and spiritual medals and chains. By the time she graduated from high school, April had also acted as the Guild’s chief buyer and was sorely missed when she graduated. They were good Catholic girls and went to church every Sunday. Herb stayed home but mother Agnes went while the girls were in grade school but only on holidays after that.

Anyone who valued effort and intellect admired April. She was a born leader in school projects and frankly, anything that needed to be done. She was not as pretty as Ruth but she would, it was felt, grow into a handsome woman and whose work ethic, intellect and optimism would make her the prize catch of the Redding girls. Ruth graduated from high school and got a job. A year later, April graduated with honors and was awarded a four-year scholarship to a prestigious private college two states away. She hadn’t been gone four months when the family seemed to fall apart. During that brief time, Ruth had married and divorced, Helen had gotten pregnant, Betty, it was learned, had been molested by the father of the family she had babysat for, and Barbie, then a freshman, had simply stopped going to school altogether without telling anyone. And it was clear who was at fault: April.

A variety of solutions were suggested, but none of them involved April continuing in college. She simply had to put that business on the back burner and come home because the family was falling apart without her. April did come home long enough to inform her parents and her sisters that “life without April,” would continue unabated and that everyone needed to grow up and get on with their lives without her. She went back to school that night.

When Christmas came and went without so much as a Christmas card from anyone in her family, a lesser woman may well have reacted impulsively. But April took it in another direction. She got together with teachers and administrators and proposed a shortened time frame to achieve her Bachelor’s Degree. With four months behind her, she told them she could do it in two years from that moment if they would cooperate. She outlined the plan in detail and included all of the electives she would need to fill up by independent study. This allowed for classroom instruction in all of her mandatory classes and amounted to an average of seventy hours a week including study time. When some of them reacted with shock, she told them that while this schedule was concentrated, it indeed represented twenty percent less than the time she had put in the previous four years going to school, tutoring her sisters and working part time. And finally, she told them that family considerations would simply not allow her to continue at a four-year pace. The faculty had a meeting that included interviews with her current professors and a long distance conference call with her high school guidance counselor. Finally, there was a call to her parents.

April was informed that a decision had been made, and that her proposal with certain adjustments amounting to an extra half-semester, had been recommended for approval by the committee, and all that remained was the approval of Dean Andrew Winslow and that involved her going to see him.

April Redding was not only intelligent, she was also smart. She knew how to get her way while navigating through the obstacles that were in her way and that included men. She was just attractive enough, she knew how to win men over long enough to convince them that her way, was the best way for everyone concerned.

“Your family seems to be crumbling without your influence to guide them,” he said. “It seems to me that if you were really as smart as you think you are, you might have prepared them better for life without you.”

“I agree,” she said. “But I have considered how I might have done that better and the fact is, they’d have never gotten as far as they have without me. The whole thing would have collapsed and I’d have been left among the ruins, trying to get my own life in order. It was easier to prop them all up along the way: for them and for me.”

He took off his glasses and considered her for a moment. When he did, April could see that he was not as old as she was expecting: mid to late thirties or so she guessed.

“I can imagine,” he said dryly. “I was guessing something along those very lines. Do you think they’ll survive it?”

“Well,” she began, “I do love them. But if “each according to their gifts” is any barometer, then I don’t hold out much hope. That’s why I made the proposal. I’m hoping the attrition won’t be too bad in just over two years than it would be in four.”

“You don’t think that’s shortsighted?” he said. “What are you going to do, prop them up forever? They have to grow up sometime.”

“What would you suggest?” she asked.

“That I reject these damn theatrics,” he said, “and that you concentrate on the four-year program we offered you. If it were as bad as you claim, and I have no reason to doubt it, four years would allow them to find their own way better than two. Besides, how do you think you’re going to do in business after this is over? I’ve seen families reach up and pull good people back down and keep them down in perpetuity. Frankly I have serious misgivings about academically preparing students for the real world only to see them fail over issues such as these.”

3

 

“Are you saying I should grow up, Dean Winslow?” she asked. “Because if you are, then I suggest it is you, it is you who is naïve and I would be frankly shocked to learn that one of the finest private Liberal Arts colleges in the country would take such a parochial view when it comes to considerations of the family.”

“That’s good”, he said. “I’m glad to know we’re still entitling the brightest and the best. And the implied threat of legal action was just the right tone, also.”

With that, he sat up and took out a fountain pen, unscrewed it, and signed his consent for the arrangement and signed a copy for April and handed it to her.

“If you come in here,” he began, “and say you no longer need this kind of a schedule, that will be fine. However, there is one issue I’m not sure you’re aware of yet, that may present a problem. As you know, the Bertrand Library is only three stories high, but with four levels underground and the connecting tunnels I’m afraid there are security issues that I’m just not comfortable with. May I call you April?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Are you what you’d call a feminist, April?” he asked.

“Depends on the issue,” she said, “Dean Winslow.”

“In the simplest of terms,” he said, “we do have what some might call a sexist regulation here that I’m afraid there’ll be no getting around in your case. We had a rape here a couple of years ago. It took place on the third level of the library and the men- there were several, made their “escape” if you will, in a variety of directions, and while we had our suspicions of at least two of the alleged rapists, there was not enough evidence for a prosecution. The ensuing lawsuit was settled out of court and the consultant we hired to see such a thing never happened again, recommended we counter-sue the architect who was long dead, of course, and restrict access to the lower levels to female students after hours. That seemed unfair on the surface of it until I listened to the security tape of the rape of that student. The camera lens had been covered in some foam, but the audio was somewhat haunting. That will never occur on my watch again- ever. Therefore, you may find your demanding schedule to be hindered, for lack of a better word by this “sex-specific” regulation. So I’ll make this as clear as I possibly can. I will not retreat from this position for any reason. And April, if you get pissy with me over it, I assure you that your endeavor, and your scholarship to this institution will suffer. Have I made myself clear?”

“Very clear, yes,” she said. “May I ask what happened to the girl?”

“You may indeed,” he said. “The two-point-one million dollars we paid out had a wonderful effect on her psycho-therapy. It stopped almost at once. She went into real estate speculation.”

He paused and it seemed to April, specifically for effect.

“She and I had a conversation once,” he said. “I made her think I was gay because I could sense she had an agenda. It turns out I was right, but it was not enough to insulate this college or myself from responsibility or liability.”

“I’m sorry,” said April, “Right about being gay, or right about her agenda?”

“It was not that poorly worded,” he said. “I think you know what I meant.”

“Perhaps it wasn’t,” she said. “But I’m not sure I understand. She had an agenda regarding you?”

4

 

“I believe so, yes,” he said. “And at least one of her other professors as well. She sort of made it known she was available, to the two of us at least. It’s not uncommon but she didn’t deserve what happened to her.”

“May I ask,” she began, “do you harbor some sort of guilt about this matter, over and above your responsibility to protect the students? That is, some personal responsibility?”

“I believe we’re done here, Miss Redding,” he said. “Good luck with your ambitious schedule.”

April left the Dean’s office, still keyed in on one line of Dean Winslow’s strange confession.

‘It’s not uncommon, but she didn’t deserve what happened to her.’

It was the “but” that seemed wrong. She played with it for a while.

“It was not uncommon for the victim to make herself available to one of her instructors or even the Dean.” That meant, of course, not uncommon for students in general to say, develop a crush on a professor. That seemed understandable. It was as if the “but” would indicate that some form of “dealing with it” should be invoked, “but” nothing as severe as a gang rape. This would also seem to indicate at least the possibility of a prior knowledge of the events before they had taken place. And he had been guilty on a personal level, he as much as said so. There was something else. Why would the police play the security tape audio for the Dean? Had he been a suspect in some way? What could hearing a woman being ravaged by several students reveal to the police? A recognizable voice perhaps? But then, surely one or more of her instructors would more likely be able to pick out the voice of a student. That is, unless he was being asked to try and pick out the voice of an instructor.

Several days later, April was told that the Dean was too busy to see her when she stopped by in the morning. That afternoon she was told he was still in meetings.

“Good,” she told his receptionist. “That means he hasn’t left for the day. I’ll just wait.”

“Sometimes he doesn’t come back to the office,” she offered.

“Will this be one of those times?” April asked.

“I don’t know,” she said.

“Then your uncertainty gives me at least a chance of seeing the Dean,” she said. “I’ll be taking that chance, thank you.”

Twenty minutes later, April heard a door close in the dean’s office.

“I guess I’m lucky then,” she announced.

“I’m sorry?” she said.

“Tell Dean Winslow that April Redding would like to see him, please,” she said.

At that moment, a light on the phone blinked, and after picking it up, she put it down again without speaking and said, “The Dean will see you now.”

“How do you know all this?” he asked.

“Research,” she said. “Nearly everything is on microfilm down at the public library: newspaper accounts mostly. The rest I was able to dig up here and there. I’m only trying to protect myself. If you believe it’s possible that one or more of the instructors of

 

5

 

this institution is, or could be involved with what happened to Janine Rademacher, I would like to know.”

“I don’t know,” he said.

“What do you think?” she asked.

“I don’t think I can comment further,” he said standing up.

“Do you have personal knowledge,” she began, “of anyone who may have played a part in the gang rape of this girl?”

He remained standing but said nothing.

“I can see that you do,” she said getting up. “I’m not sure where that leaves us with Dean Winslow but I’m sure this has been eating at you pretty badly or you wouldn’t have inadvertently blurted out your complicity. For my part though, I can deal with students and I can protect myself, as far as it goes. But I’m afraid any institution…”

“Sit Down, April,” he said.

She sat down.

“I had a sense,” he said, “that one of our professors may have had a hand in it, yes. There was evidence that pointed to several students who were…shall we say, friends of this instructor.”

“And this professor was Doctor Johnson, I believe?” she said.

The Dean looked at her with amazement.

“Yes,” he said. “He had been the professor I spoke of, who Janine expressed an interest in, as well.”

“And it was he, who was gay?” she asked.

He nodded and said, “It’s not as if he’d given into it, actually. He had a family and took a great interest in some of our student athletes. I had suspected for some time that something was wrong. In the past, some of our student athletes had problems meeting our academic standards. We could expect some attrition because of this, in the range of ten to twelve percent a year. That number started going down; let’s say, enough for us to look into it. Anyway, Paul Johnson had been helping several of them in exchange, we believed for sex. But as I say, Paul had not actually given in to his urges and nothing untoward had taken place. However, he had been passing marginal student athletes and they became very loyal to him. In fact, he expressed concern to one or two of them that Janine had “come onto him” as a matter of bragging about it, I suppose; you know, building himself up for their benefit.”

He walked around and back to his chair.

After sitting back down he said, “That was the genesis of it. Paul had confided in me about Janine; it’s somewhat policy here to do so. And at that meeting, I told him that he had to stop this business with these young guys and that we’re an institution of learning, and maybe, I didn’t handle it as well as I could have. He became very upset. The next thing I knew, Janine had been raped. We used those suspicions of mine to clean up the athletic program and dismissed a number of students over the matter. Naturally, the police questioned a few of them as well. On the tape, one of her attackers inadvertently referenced a saying Paul used in some of his lectures. He’d present an argument, and without affirming it one way or the other, he’d say “possible.” When I heard it, I felt sure it was some of Paul’s athletes. As I’m sure you know, Paul took his life

6

 

last year. He was much older than me and had been one of my instructors in graduate school. He had been a mentor to me at one time, but if he held any resentment over my success, he never showed it. I’ve thought a lot about it. I might have been more help to the police. I might have but I wasn’t, and you’re right, it has bothered me for some time. And you’re the only one who knows.”

“On the contrary,” she said. “The men who raped her know. At least one of them went on to do it again. He’s in prison for it now. Do you remember Eric Stampier?”

“Yes, I do,” he said. “He was one of them?”

“Yes,” she said. “The three likely others were: the Blake twins, Ken and Kelly, and David Christensen.”

“How did you find all this out?” he asked.

“ I play to win, Dean Winslow,” she said. “If something is going to threaten me, I find out who or what it might be and how they might come at me. As I said, I can handle students. If I had to worry about the instructors too, that was another matter.”

She got up. Dean Winslow got up with her.

“Thank you for seeing me,” she said.

“Would you be interested in a job?” he said.

April smiled and said, “You needn’t worry about me, Dean Winslow. This matter is between us, and frankly, I think you acted about the way anyone else would have acted under the circumstances. By the way, I thought you might be interested to know that Janine Rademacher is back in school: Wisconsin: River Falls.”

“Really?” he said. “Good for her. But my offer is a legitimate one, and may be the kind of thing you can handle, as well as keep your ambitious schedule.”

Back at the dorm, April laid out some chapter notes, and thought about the Dean’s offer. In the end, she thought, it didn’t matter if it was in the nature of a payoff. The truth is, she was the person for the job; she was perfectly suited for it, and if the flexibility he promised was true, she could easily handle it. The problem was the pay, and the beginnings of an idea began to form in her mind.

 

“As a matter of fact we do: Blair House and Baggs House,” he said. “Why do you ask?”

“Have you ever used both homes at the same time?” she asked.

“I think so,” he said “But that was before my time. It was at the centennial, I believe. Again, why do you ask?”

“I’m considering taking the job as your assistant,” she said. “But I had some ideas and I thought we might talk about it.”

“Fine,” he said and beckoned her to sit.

“No, not here,” she said. “I’ve been here too much as it is, and for me to be effective, I have to be seen as more of a student than the “The Dean’s Girl”. Let’s have dinner together, and I’ll outline what I’ve been thinking. I will tell you, however, that if you agree, I’d be switching back to the four-year program. That’s the only way I could be of any real use to you anyway. Do you think that might interest you?”

“Yes, it would,” he said. “Where would you like to go for dinner?”

“Someplace nice,” she said. “Someplace the average student couldn’t afford.”

7

 

“I know just the place,” he said smiling back. “Shall I pick you up?”

“No, I’ll meet you there,” she said.

It was too far out of town for that, and so April met Dean Andrew Winslow at a theater downtown and after she got in his car, she noticed that he was not wearing his glasses.

It had the effect of making him look younger.

“Yes, I know,” he said. “The truth is, I’m one of the younger deans in the country. The glasses help, and I do need them for reading, but they age me a bit, and that’s not a bad thing, in my business. I like your dress. It’s lovely.”

“Thank you,” she said. “It’s not a bad thing in my business either.”

“What business is that?” he asked.

“The ‘getting people to come around to my way of thinking’ business, of course.”

“How’s business?” he asked.

“Pretty good, actually,” she said.

The Chelsea was one of the oldest and finest restaurants in the state. But with the sudden death of the original owners’s only son, a company that would buy up high-end restaurants and maintain them under their original name had taken over. To many in the area, it would never be the same, and business had fallen off just enough to guarantee a reservation during the week.

During dinner, Andrew almost forgot it was not a date, as April was as charming as any woman he had ever known. That concerned him only inasmuch as what he felt April could do for him as the chief administrator of the college. He had been married, and found it less than rewarding and basically didn’t trust the women he had been attracted too. He was attracted to April, but regarded her somewhat differently. For one thing, she was still very young, and seemed to have her share of baggage, with this dysfunctional family and all.

“The lease on the Baggs House is almost up,” she began. “I checked the charter and it’s no longer automatically renewable. What’s more, it’s not on school property. The truth is, if the lease lapses the school will have no claim to it at all.”

“I suppose that’s right,” he said. “I believe it’s on the agenda for the next board meeting.”

“Yes,” she said, “but the board meets on the eighteenth. The lease is up on the twelfth of next month. If you don’t commit to renew before the final thirty days, a bidding situation could develop. And according to what I’ve heard, that’s just what will happen. Are you willing to give up a home that’s been a part of this college for seventy years?”

“How do you know this?” he gasped. “How the hell do you find these things out?”

“That’s what I do,” she said. “I find things out, and try to use them to my advantage. Here is what I propose. I’ve discovered a loophole in the lease that stipulates a usage clause. If the prospective leaser wants to get “pissy” as you call it, he could prove that you’re not meeting that need and since the land is off school property, a judge would be likely to rule in his favor. Then, it’s back to square one and your bidding situation. The

 

8

 

truth is, you’re not using the house and it’s doubtful that your board will want to pay a lot for a building not in use. But when the smoke clears, you’ll be “the Dean who lost the Baggs

House”. That’s where I come in. You will make me caretaker of the Bagg’s House and pay me a modest sum to maintain it. This serves two purposes. First of all, you save the house and secondly, you get me as an assistant, without having to budget for one. That way, I get the house and you get an assistant without anyone knowing you have one.”

He just sat there.

“What do you say?” she asked.

“I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop,” he said. “You see I have a PhD. I’m quite certain that this has something to do with your family, but I’ve only formed the outline of an idea.”

“No,” she said. “On that you’re wrong. It has nothing to do with them at all. But there’s more. In order to be effective, I need to get to know your faculty, without them knowing I’m working for you. That’s why I think we should schedule regular events at the house. It’s just off-campus, rich with tradition, and a more congenial place for the faculty to gather. You will host these events: tea and scones, the occasional cocktail party, and I will see to everything else. I’ll maintain a room at the dorm, but to begin with at least, I’ll stay at the Baggs House. If you agree, you will move the board meeting up to this Thursday, and explain to them the situation with the lease. You will tell them that for the time being, you are bringing in a caretaker to address the usage issue and that next month’s regular board meeting will take place at the Baggs house to be followed by cocktails and a buffet dinner. State in no uncertain terms, that the days when this college could afford to ignore assets like the Baggs House is now over.”

“Will you be there?” he asked.

“No,” she said. “You need to be seen as having taken charge of this situation in the nick of time, so to speak, and will further reinforce their choosing a more youthful presence to be Dean. But I am thinking of a faculty get-together some time later, at which you will introduce me as the caretaker and official hostess of the Baggs House. You will say that you are instituting a tradition where the Baggs House is concerned, whereby scholarship students with exemplary grades after one full semester shall be chosen to act as Caretaker/Host or Hostess for a term of one year and that only incoming freshman shall qualify. Because no one can dispute my qualifications to be the first student chosen, this makes the most sense. After a year, I’ll know all the faculty well enough to be all the use to you that you will need.”

“How much will I pay you?” he asked.

“That remains to be seen,” she said. “We’ll have to see what the house needs. That’s why you’ll need to budget more for the first year in any case. After that though, considering the student chosen gets to live in a beautiful house, I wouldn’t think it would amount to much. The honor of being caretaker should precede everything else.”

He looked at her.

“Do we have a deal?” she asked.

“Of course we have a deal,” he said with a laugh. “It’s brilliant. You’ve thought of everything. But I’m going to feel a little awkward taking all the credit.”

 

9

 

“You’ll get over it,” she said. “Anyway, that’s why you’re hiring me, and this is only the beginning. Now, let’s have a liqueur and our coffee.”

 

The board stole looks at each other more then usual, and frankly, reacted with a certain amazement, as Andrew Winslow laid out his plans for the Baggs House. He had been an adequate Dean, certainly, but this smacked of an assertiveness none of them had ever seen before. Moreover, he had answers for every question, and without hesitation. By the time he announced that the next board meeting should be held at the Baggs House, followed by drinks and dinner, several were actually shaking their heads.

Then it happened.

“That will be a perfect opportunity,” Haley Madison said, “To meet our first Caretaker/Host.”

“Hostess, actually,” was all he could come up with, and he new he’d made a mistake. In his enthusiasm, he had perhaps prepared too well and they were suspicious.

“Wonderful,” said Florence Greeley. “And I feel confident that I can speak for all here when I say this is a fabulous idea. So often our deserving scholarship students, coming from diverse backgrounds, as they do, never get the social opportunity you’re providing. And to lose the Baggs House, Dean Winslow, you have our undying thanks.”

After adjourning, Andrew faced another problem as all wanted to know where this was coming from.

“A student came to see me on another matter,” he began, “In passing, I mentioned our two properties and that tripped something off in my mind. I remembered there was to be, I don’t know, something new about the lease arrangement, and I’m sure glad I did. I wouldn’t want to be remembered as the Dean who lost Baggs House.”

“As indeed you would have,” said Anthony Beckwith. “Good work, Winslow.”

 

After listening on the phone to Dean Winslow’s account of the board meeting, April had been so quiet that Andrew actually said “Are you still there?” several times before getting to the part where the board wanting to meet her.

“Well,” she said quietly, “it sounds to me as though you didn’t handle this very well at all. In fact, it sounds very much that you invited this kind of scrutiny by acting so out of character. Would you agree?”

“May I remind you that I am the Dean?” he said. “Yes, I do agree, but you’re at least partially responsible. I’ve never been that prepared in my life, and I got a little carried away, I suppose. In any case, it will be fine. They just want to meet you as the inaugural student caretaker.”

“They’ll want a profile,” she said. “Would you mind if I wrote it and submitted it for your approval? It has to be travelogue: bland as can be. Too much interest, and they’ll have reporters coming around. That wouldn’t be good, you know.”

“Yes,” he said. “They asked for one. Go ahead and write it.”

In the weeks that followed, April determined what was needed at the Baggs House, and set about stocking the bar with liquor, cleaning and polishing the coffee maker and cookie plates and saw to the things she couldn’t do herself, such as the carpet and drapery cleaners and window washers, and had the furnace serviced and the like. The initial

10

 

outlay of money would be less then she originally thought, but told Andrew it would be best if she had her own school charge account to deal with these things as they came up. He agreed and why not? April was always right, it seemed. She had wanted to wait before the announcementthat she was the inaugural Caretaker/Hostess of the historic Baggs House, but under pressure from the board, she relented and composed that as well.

April charmed the board just enough to get through the evening, displaying a demure shyness that Andrew had never seen and indeed, knew was an act. With the board gone, and the last of the brandy put away, Dean Andrew Winslow made a confession.

“I miss you,” he said. “When I asked you to be my assistant, I thought we might actually see more of each other, not less.”

“I’m flattered,” she said with a smile, “But I believe this will be best in the short term. Once I’m acquainted with the faculty, seeing more of you wouldn’t seem unusual. But we would want to avoid the impression that anything else was going on between us. Would you agree?”

“Well, yes,” he said. “All I meant was that I just missed seeing you, that’s all.”

“I could tell,” she said. “The board could tell also. Do you think that’s a good thing?”

“What do you mean?” he said.

“May I call you Andrew?” she said.

“Please,” he answered.

“You couldn’t take your eyes off of me tonight, Andrew,” she said with a smile. “I feel it was rather clear to many of them that you have a crush on me. Again, I’m flattered. But in the future and for the future of this program, I think you should try a little harder not to show it. From the way Mrs. Greeley talked tonight, I could envision a scenario where every Caretaker/Host that follows me would be a minority who couldn’t tell a knife from a fork. You instituted this program, and now you’re going to have to fight to keep it from turning into something else.”

“No,” he said. “I didn’t institute this program: you did. This is your vision, not mine. If we had more contact, I think I could better understand what you have in mind and use that understanding to fight for it. And I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t take their eyes off you tonight: all the men could not either, certainly. You’re quite attractive, you know. I don’t see why we couldn’t meet every week, at least. If you’re going to have this kind of influence on me, I need more exposure to you: and for the college too.”

“All right,” she said. “We can make it part of the Caretaker’s duties, if you like. I enjoy your company as well.”

 

The faculty functions at the Baggs House were not well attended at first, but began to pick up in the spring. By then, April knew all the department heads and several of the key players under them. Several of her instructors began to stop by as well and before long, it was becoming clear that it was more than the Baggs House. It was April Redding, and as her year as the inaugural caretaker/host was nearing the end, she suggested that of the promising scholarship freshman to succeed her, Andrew make a list of five candidates and that she would indoctrinate all of them in their duties and attend several of the

 

11

 

functions leading up to the selection of the winner. But April had set the bar too high for one student and after talking it over with the candidates, she suggested Andrew amend the program to include one male and one female: a sort of “host/hostess” format. He agreed, and as the holidays approached, April had seemed rather distant during one of their weekly sessions.

“Is something wrong?” he asked.

“Just this time of year, I guess,” she said. “Which reminds me, I think we should host Christmas dinner for members of the faculty without families. I’m thinking if only half of them showed up, we’d have at least eight.”

“Aren’t you going home for Christmas?” he asked.

“No,” she said. “What do you think?”

Dean Winslow took a deep breath.

“I think it’s a good idea,” he said. “But I think the candidates should host. It will be their first hosting function and provided that we have a commitment from enough of the faculty, that would be best.”

“I’m not sure how many will stay here for the holidays,” she said.

“ Well,” he said, “however many there are, then they can do it. I’d like to ask you a question. I’d like you to spend Christmas with me- at my parent’s home upstate.”

“Do you think that’s a good idea,” she asked.

“Yes, I do,” he said. “I’m not particularly caring about appearances anymore. I’m very fond of you, and I want you to meet what’s left of my family, and spend Christmas with all of them and me.”

April smiled and nodded her head.

“Is that a yes?” he asked.

“No,” she said. “I was just nodding an affirmation. I’m fond of you too.”

“Then will you come?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said. “Thank you. I’d love to.”

 

At the final board meeting of the year, a motion was made to renew and rework Dean Andrew Winslow’s contract even though he had a year to serve under the present one. The contract proposed was for five years, instead of the present three at a ten-percent increase. Andrew thanked the board for their vote of confidence, and said he would give it every consideration over the holidays, and give them his decision after the New Year.

Three of the five candidates would be staying on campus for Christmas, and agreed to host a Christmas dinner at Baggs House. April suggested an eggnog social for Christmas Eve as well, and all were amenable to that. The arrangements all made, April packed her suitcase and had just come out to catch her cab downtown,when she saw someone hand the driver some money and the cab drove off. It was Andrew.

As his car turned onto the interstate, April’s eyes still registered disapproval. But she wore a slight smile.

“You’re getting pretty bold,” she said. “Am I going to have to lock my door tonight at your parent’s house?”

“No need for that,” he said. “Didn’t I tell you we’re sharing?”

“Very funny, too,” she said. “You weren’t this funny when we first met.”

12

 

“I wasn’t a lot of things when we first met,” he said. “That seems long ago now. The board offered me a new contract last night.”

“I know,” she said. “Florence Greeley told me last week they were going to.”

“My God,” he said shaking his head. “My own board is consulting you now. Any other matters I should know about?”

“There is one,” she said with a smile. “But let’s not talk shop anymore. You invited me to spend Christmas with you and your family. You even picked me up for the whole world to see. Someone might think you’re sweet on me.”

“I should wonder at their impertinence,” he said. “The respected Dean of a prestigious private college, sweet on a co-ed? An undergraduate co-ed at that! I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

They smiled at each other.

“I was wondering,” he asked, “If you’ve heard from your family?”

“I received a letter from one of my sisters last August,” she said. “Why do you ask?”

“I was pleasantly surprised to learn you weren’t going home for the holidays,” he said. “I just wondered why?”

“Last year I never got a Christmas card from my family,” she said. “At first I was hurt. I knew they were mad at me for staying in school. But then I realized it had nothing to do with that. I always took care of those things at home: Christmas cards, birthdays and “get well” cards. With me gone, there was no one to do it. I’m fairly sure it never occurred to them. When I was a little girl, I remember reading a story about a woman who described the filthy conditions she had to live in when she was growing up. One night while she was sleeping, she was bitten by a rat. She said she began wishing she could live in a cage where the rats couldn’t get at her. It was as though it never occurred to her to simply clean the house. It would be easier to live in a cage. I love my family. But looking back, so much of my day seemed to be taken up with plugging holes in the dyke. It wasn’t all bad. In some ways that sort of preparation helped me develop some very useful habits. With me gone, you’d think one of them would step up and do what was necessary. But that hasn’t happened.”

“So, the family considerations were not the reason you requested a two year program?” he asked.

“No,” she said. “I just wanted to accelerate the rest of my life. When you offered me a job as your assistant, I realized there was no hurry. When the Baggs House jumped out at me when I did my research, I realized I could contribute to the college as well. School has never been much of a challenge for me. I do better in a multi-task mode.”

“I’ve noticed that,” he said with a smile.

 

With still a hundred miles to drive, Dean Andrew Winslow made a decision.

“You know,” he began, “we’ll be getting in kind of late as it is: probably just time enough to meet my parents and go to bed. There’s a wonderful restaurant I know of. I thought we’d stop for an early dinner there.”

“That sounds nice,” she said. “Can I ask you a question?”

13

 

He nodded.

“You seem a little nervous today,” she said. “Is something wrong?”

“No,” he said, and he said it too fast, he knew. “I mean no. I’m just kind of excited and anxious for you to meet my family, that’s all.”

After a pause, he said, “No, that’s not it. That’s not it at all. I’m just very much in love with you and I’m hoping that, in time maybe, you could love me too. I know I’m older and well, I’ve been married before. I never thought I would feel this way again. I mean, you don’t have to make up your mind right away, but I’d like to know if you will marry me?”

“Take this exit, Andrew,” she said.

At the top of the ramp, and with no one behind them, she said, “Put the car in park.”

He did.

“I’m going to finish my education and will most likely win every argument we will ever have,” she began. “If you think you can deal with that, I’d love to marry you.”

Andrew was ecstatic, but not exactly clear on her acceptance. After kissing and kissing some more, they got back on the highway.

“I was going to wait for the restaurant,” he said, “but I was getting too nervous. Can I give you the ring when we get there? And, I mean, you’re going to marry me now, or soon, aren’t you? Not after you graduate? That’s not what you meant, is it?”

“You are so adorable,” she said. “I fell in love with you the night we went to dinner at the Chelsea. I was hoping I wasn’t too intimidating. And yes, I’ll marry you anytime you like. But I think, well frankly, Florence saw this coming. I’ll confess I was hoping she was right. In any case, it’s Blair House. With the use and success of Baggs House, some of the board members felt that, should you balk at a contract extension, they’d vote to refurbish Blair House and make it the Dean’s residence. I’m sure they’re thinking the newly married Dean and his wife will entertain with some regularity, and well, they’re talking about Blair House.”

“It’s a beautiful home,” he said. “But I don’t know. I don’t want anything intruding on our life away from school. How do you feel about it? I mean I’m only the Dean. As Caretaker/Hostess of Baggs House, you’ve had more time to mull it over.”

“I’m not sure,” she said. “It is a lovely gesture, though. But I’ve never been married. I really don’t know. I do think it would be unwise to refuse if it comes to that, and so in my estimation, the best course is to simply accept the contract, and if Blair House is offered, we’ll deal with that when it comes up.”

“Yes I think you’re right,” he said. “I just want you to be happy. I want us to be happy.”

“I am happy, Andrew,” she said. “I’m very happy.”

 

It was a joyous Holiday as Andrew had told his parents he was going to propose. When April walked in wearing the diamond, his mother screamed with delight. Her soon-to-be in-laws were cerebral and somewhat quiet ordinarily, but this would be a Christmas to remember.

 

14

 

They were married in a relatively small ceremony that spring, in the college chapel with the reception at Baggs House. They decided to honeymoon in Cancun at the end of the semester. Their return would coincide with the conclusion of the Blair House remodeling project, and the Dean and his wife would take up residence then. As they did, questions as to why they married three months earlier, were answered with the announcement that Mrs. Winslow was with child. The following January, April gave birth to Melissa Ann Winslow, who would be the apple of her father’s eye for all of her days. April stopped taking classes for Melissa’s first year. After that, a nanny was employed, and April returned to school, graduating with honors, three years later. She would spread her graduate studies over three years to accommodate the arrival of Andrew John Winslow III. Dean Winslow decided not to accept an offer from another, larger private institution, and was rewarded with a new eight-year contract by the board.

April had always remained active in the affairs of Baggs House, acting as unofficial mentor for those yearly candidates, and of course, Caretaker/Host couples. After staying home with young Andrew for the first year, April retuned to her graduate studies and having lost two years along the way, one of the early Caretaker/Hosts that followed her had caught up and was now her classmate. His name was Milt Peterson; a very bright, good-looking young man two years younger than April. She had always been fond of Milt as far as it goes, but as her final year of graduate studies began, there were whispers that Andrew had been seeing a lot of a young history professor named Emily Levitow. This was new territory for April, and she confronted her husband directly. He denied it, but during a faculty reception at their home, April felt certain they had shared more then “looks across a crowded room.” So that when Milt, sensing an opening, facetiously suggested they go away for a weekend, April surprised both of them by saying yes.

“Really?” he said.

“I said yes once, Milt,” she said. “Don’t make me say it again.”

“Of course,” he said. “But your situation poses the complications. Tell me what works for you? Shall I meet you? Can you get away for the whole weekend?”

April nodded and then paused.

“You know, Milt,” she said, “I’m not sure I can, and if I wait for the weekend, I’ll probably change my mind. But I’m ready to be your lover right now. Do you know of someplace we could go?”

It was a portion of Lyon’s Hall, where temporary office cubicles had been set up during remodeling, early that year. That portion of the building was vacant, but being the basement, sound carried, and Milt lowered his voice to a whisper, when they entered the far cubicle. When he did, April kissed him, and as they fumbled to take off each other’s clothes, she realized she had never known passion like this. She had never known some of the things Milt was doing either, and she struggled to keep from moaning out loud.

Afterwards, they kissed and cooed, and got started again, and when it was over, Milt seemed suddenly filled with the sense that they were pushing their luck.

“I think we should leave separately,” he said zipping up his pants.

April was a little behind and said in a whisper, “You go on.”

 

15

 

They kissed passionately once more, and Milt left. There in the dark of the cubicle, April seemed in no hurry. It had been deliciously naughty and wildly passionate – two things she had never known as a twenty-five year old mother, who came to her husband as a virgin. Her slacks back on, she hummed a little tune to herself as she picked up her bra. She had never heard a thing and as the hat came down over her head, and the hand covered her mouth, she knew she was going to be raped.

There were two. It happened very fast and it was possible there were more, but she felt sure there were two.

“If you make a sound, we’ll hurt you,” one said, and took his hand away from her mouth. Then he tied a scarf around her eyes, and pulled up the hat to her nose, while the other one pulled down her pants.

It lasted nearly a half an hour. As she lay there sobbing softly afterwards, she thought that was strange. They were in no hurry, as if not worried at all that someone might come along. They didn’t seem to mind her making noise either. The only other thing was the metal. When they were done, they took off the hat, and scarf from behind. As he did he leaned in toward her ear and whispered, “Don’t turn around,” and she felt the cold of some metal on her shoulder. Then, they began walking quickly and finally one broke into a run. She got up and dressed as fast as she could and left.

“What were you doing down there?” Andrew asked.

“I shouldn’t be surprised,” she began, “that that question should be the first one out of your mouth. I was down there with a fellow student, giving him and getting for myself a little payback for you and Ms. Levitow.”

“I told you that never happened!” he barked.

“Oh, for Christ’s sake, Andrew,” she said. “Have you forgotten who I am? You owed me a denial! But do you think I’d ever bring it up without knowing the facts? My God, you two were as discreet as school children: the Chelsea, the Best Western, that goddamn bed and breakfast off the highway! So let’s stop playing games, shall we. Two men in the basement of Lyon’s Hall raped me. And if I were you, I’d be very careful how you word your solution to this matter.”

“No, you’re right,” he said. “I’m very sorry. I’ll call security. I’m terribly sorry.”

“I don’t think you should do that,” she said.

April told Andrew about the metal and that the possibility existed that they might be security guards. She was examined at the emergency room and then questioned by police. In spite of the embarrassing details, Andrew insisted on being at his wife’s side through the entire process. That afternoon Milt Peterson sat with the police detective downtown.

“Mr. Peterson,” he began, “After you left April Winslow this morning she was raped by two men.”

“What?” he said.

“Yes,” he continued. “We’d like to ask you a few questions about your activity this morning.”

Milt looked away and shook his head and then sat up straighter and leaned forward.

16

 

“Yes,” he said. “Of course.”

“Why did you decide to leave early this morning?” he asked.

“April,” he began, “Mrs. Winslow is the Dean’s wife. I was nervous we’d get caught. We were there for a while, and I was just getting nervous.”

“Have you been in that area of Lion’s Hall before?” he asked.

Milt shook his head and said, “No.”

“If we interview some of your classmates,” he said, “Are we gonna find out that was not your first time down there?”

“Yes,” he said. “I mean, not for sex. They, me and this guy went down there, and smoked a joint once. It seemed pretty abandoned, and there was just this caution tape.”

“Then why didn’t you just say that?” he said. “Did you ever see any other students, or anyone else down there?”

“No,” he said.

The Lyon’s Hall construction area was sealed off, and guarded night and day. An announcement that another rape had occurred on campus was made immediately, and students were being encouraged to look out for one another, and report any suspicious behavior. The next day, a female student came forward, saying that she had been raped the year before, and only hoped that her silence in the matter had not further empowered her attackers. There were similarities in the two attacks, but after two weeks police were willing to concede the rape of April Winslow may have been a crime of opportunity by two students who happened to have heard April and Milt. When Peterson left, they simply took advantage of the situation. The security personnel were interviewed and released, and as a police matter, it may have ended there.

For his part, Dean Andrew Winslow stood by April and had begun to beat himself up pretty good over his affair with Emily Levitow. He’d been sleeping in the study only two days, when April got up to check on the children, and Melissa was not in her bed. She found her curled up in her father’s arms, sound asleep. That ended the separate sleeping arrangements, and after a couple of weeks, April had started to put things behind her, as best she could. Andrew could not. Naturally, it caused him to reflect on the rape of Janine Rademacher and April’s impressive research on the subject. That kicked off something in his mind, and he decided to do some research of his own.

It amounted to cross-checking the names of the student athletes dismissed in the Paul Johnson affair, with the current security personnel employment list. The names of the twin brothers, Ken and Kelly Blake came up. He picked up the phone and called the police.

After being dismissed as student athletes, the brothers had gone into private security, and stayed in the business of attacking young women from time to time. Their big mistake, it turns out, was working together at several colleges over the years, where rapes had occurred, and finally, returning to the scene of the original crime, to do it again, twice. But with only circumstantial evidence, and little else to go on, prosecution seemed doubtful. Then one morning, Kelly Blake waked in, and confessed to sixteen rapes over a ten-year period, and implicated brother Ken in every one. He said he had found God but

17

 

brother Ken had not, and left town, and would remain at large for nearly a year before being picked up down south.

April had gone to see the police detectives to thank them personally for the job they did.

“Your husband did all the work, Mrs. Winslow,” he said. “Without his establishing a connection to the college with those ex-jocks, I doubt we’d have caught them.”

And so April and Andrew Winslow sat down one evening to talk about the rest of their lives.

“You know,” he began, “The irony of it is, I’d have never cheated on my first wife. I didn’t have the confidence. You gave me that and built me up in ways I’d never imagined. And I betrayed you with it. I accept responsibility for everything that’s happened. I don’t know if I can ever make it up to you. But I do love you April, and I always have. There was never a question of that. I just got too full of myself, and I’ll be sorry about it for the rest of my life.”

“There’s blame to go around, Andrew,” she said. “My family turned their back on me, and I let them do it, even though I knew they didn’t know any better. And I didn’t build you up, Andrew. I just helped you to be the man you always were. I loved you then, and I love you now. But I went in the basement with a student and tried to be the woman I never was and well, look what happened. But now we have another problem, Andrew, and I’m not sure we can weather this one.”

“Whatever it is,” he said taking her hands in his, “Ill be here for you.”

 

Little William looked like a baby. He was quick to smile and looked like an angel asleep. Andrew had gone out of his way to be first, the doting husband to his pregnant wife, and second, a loving father to his third child. That it probably was not ‘his’ third child was an option he simply would not allow to take hold. He would be the only father ‘young Bill’ as he would call him, would ever know.

While April kept trying to see Milt Peterson in her new baby, she never did, really. But he was a bright, lovely child and was loved by his brother and his sister, his mom and his dad. The good Catholic girl that April was raised to be, would have never considered another alternative. As was the custom in the Winslow family, April spent the first year with her new baby, and finished her Master’s Thesis along the way. Though she toyed with the idea of pursuing a doctorate, by the time young Andrew entered grade school, she had become comfortable as an Associate Professor. She reluctantly conceded that she would not have had time to teach more than two classes a semester, and still keep up her duties as the Dean’s wife, and the mother of his children.

April answered the occasional correspondence from her sisters and her mother, and wrote them long letters every Christmas along with the latest pictures of her growing family. Dad was never one for writing, but she called once a month and eleven years after her ‘life without April’ speech, the Winslow family made a visit to Mommy’s home, two states away.

If April had any misgivings about going home, they were all realized within minutes. Her parent’s house was as she remembered it: the newspaper strewn about,

18

 

overflowing ashtrays, dirty dishes and a bathroom she’d have not ordinarily allowed her children to use. Andrew had been warned ahead of time, and may well have been shocked, but he hid it well. The children however, were fascinated. They had never seen creatures like their grandparents, never been allowed to wander from room to room, eating cookies, never heard a smoker’s cough, looked for change down in the couch, drank whole milk or knew a man who could fart when you pulled his finger. Grandma poured the milk, and passed out Hershey Bars, and showed Melissa her ancient jewelry box, with lots of cool stuff, while Grandpa pulled out his medals and memorabilia from the Korean War.

April did what she always did. She began filling the sink with water, to do the dishes. Grandpa gave Andrew a beer and though he nursed it as best he could, had downed three by the time his sister-in-laws and their children arrived, with the buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken. He concluded these were good people: very loud good people, even if they had certainly taken home the wrong baby when they picked up April. Her older sister Ruth, was a vamp, and never missed one chance to rub her breasts against him in any door jam she just happened to be going through, every time he was. The rest of the sisters were non-descript, but their children were not, and with a few tattoos and worse teeth, could have passed for Hell’s Angels. Two of the husbands showed up and one was a very personable fellow. Andrew thought that had he not run afoul of the law in his early twenties, he might have had a chance to be the sportscaster he had always dreamed of being. The other fellow hardly spoke, but that was okay. In fact, everything was just fine, because Grandpa had kept Andrew’s hand filled with a cold one all day, and he was blasted. He dare not pass out though: not with Ruth around.

Sometime around ten-thirty, April kissed all her sisters and mom and dad, saying she’d see them all at the restaurant the following afternoon, and drove her family back to the motel. Her husband was basically drunk, and her children’s experience with their nephews could be summed up when young Andrew asked his mother what a ‘cocksucker’ was.

By the time dinner at the Golden Dragon Buffet was over, and the Winslow family was on their way to the airport, April told her family to take ‘a good look around’ because they probably wouldn’t be coming back. But her family had a different experience and they reacted with disappointment. Even Andrew launched into a diatribe on ‘the strength of diversity in families.’ April began to look at her family differently. Her children and her husband had been more than ‘good sports.’ They were family. They were accepting, and accepted, and by the end of the day, on a first-name basis with cousins, and aunts, and grandparents they had never known. She suddenly felt sad that the reconciliation hadn’t come sooner. But the doors had been opened, and her family now had another family to be a part of.

 

In the years that followed, the Winslows watched their children grow, and Andrew and April rediscovered each other. There had been intrigues, and mistakes on both sides, that had been enough to destroy other couples. They knew they were lucky.

Their children grew into fine young people, and before they knew it, Melissa was graduating from high school, and young Bill was just starting. Andrew had been Bill’s protector in grade school. But in his junior year in high school, Andrew bit off a bit more

19

 

than he could chew with one student, and had taken a beating. Freshman Bill called the junior out the next week and kicked his ass, earning him a suspension. But when he returned, there was no more trouble for the Winslow boys in schools, and the brothers would remain close all of their lives.

‘The man Andrew was’ would stray twice more, before turning sixty. It would happen far from home, and years would pass in between, and if April ever knew, she never said a word. While she was a handsome woman in her twenties and thirties, she had grown stunning in middle-age and ever optimistic when a small lump was detected in her breast. Her doctors agreed, and for that reason, she didn’t tell Andrew. While she waited for the test results, a letter came. The return address was a hospice in San Francisco, and inside the envelope, another one, with the word, ‘April’ written on it.

 

Dearest April,

 

I can only hope this letter find you and your family well. I am writing this from a care center, where I am in the final stages of AIDS, and will not live much longer. But I feel I cannot face whatever may be next, without confessing to you the greatest failure of my life and to ask for your forgiveness.

I waited for you to come out, after I left the basement area, where we met that day. I waited and waited, and when you didn’t come out, I went back. I heard what they were doing to you, but I was too frightened to act. I left to find a phone or a security guard, but I have always known that I ran away because I was too scared. I have never told anyone, and for twenty-three years since, failing you that way, has haunted me. I would give anything, if I could just get that moment back, and help you. But I cannot, and if you’re reading this, I have passed this life. I only hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.

I was always an insatiable flirt, but knew I was gay from an early age. Those women who called my bluff never knew, as I assume you never did, and I am a coward in this as well. I never made love to a woman again, and I am so deeply saddened that I let you down as a lover, and a fellow human being. I know you are a Catholic, as I am. If you can find it in your heart to forgive me, perhaps you could light a candle for me sometime.

 

Love

Milt

 

 

As Andrew arrived home that afternoon, he found April sobbing uncontrollably, and couldn’t speak. She pointed to the letter on the dining room table, and after reading it, Andrew cried as well. That night, they drove to St. Benedict’s Catholic Church, where April lit a candle for Milt Peterson.

Two days later, came the news that the biopsy was positive, and the lump in her breast was malignant. Milt Peterson’s final letter had seemed an ill wind, and while she had been hopeful, she wasn’t surprised. There was the lumpectomy, and the radiation, and the chemotherapy, as well, and she went into remission for a while. But when the cancer came back, she put on a bright face, but started preparing her new family for ‘life without

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April.’ The cancer had spread enough, that the doctors felt that with a radical mastectomy, and a full course of treatment, they could extend her life two years. April said no, and in the months she had left, planned and hosted several family ‘get togethers’ and made specific plans for her departure. After telling Andrew, when he’d stop crying long enough to have a conversation, she insisted that he remarry, within two years. To that end, she wished to be buried back home, so there’d be no danger of his haunting a cemetery. The children would be allowed one visit to the hospice, nearing the end, but not their two grandchildren, who she said were too young to see grandma in such a state. She told Andrew that if he liked, he could light a candle for her at St. Benedict’s on her birthday each year. She asked that if he did, he was too light one for “poor Milt Peterson,” who had suffered all those years over her indiscretion.

In her final week, April made a confession to Andrew, and the couple shared a final laugh.

“There never was a prospective buyer for Baggs House,” she said. “I made that up.”

April Redding Winslow was laid to rest in her hometown, two weeks later. She was only 49. Andrew Winslow would remarry six weeks shy of two years later, and he would retire with honors as the longest running Dean in the prestigious school’s history. His final act as Dean, would be to preside over the official renaming of Baggs House, to be henceforth known as ‘April Baggs House.’ Yearly reunions of former Caretaker/Hosts and Hostesses would see bright young men and women raise their glasses to April Redding Winslow, who continued to leave her mark from two states away.

 

 

 

W. Jack Savage is a retired broadcaster and artist. He is the author of six books (wjacksavage.com) To date, thirty-two of Jack’s stories have been published by various online and print magazines, and eighteen of his pictures have been published as well. Jack and his wife Kathy live in Monrovia, California.