Thursday, December 22, 2011

Timing is Everything - an Excerpt from A Novel


Timing is Everything

            I thought I saw her when Lisa and William were running into the general store.  William came up to me and said, "Daddy, there are lots of horses out today.  I saw a girl riding a horse."  It's as though William thought that girls weren't allowed to ride horses.  I reassured him that this wasn't as unusual as he thought it was.  The horse looked strange, but the rider's silhouette didn't. 

On the first day, there was a man at my book signing that came up to me and told me that he was a good friend of Rachel Stephenson's.    I had mentioned in an interview along the way on television that I had stayed at Corkscrew Ranch which was part of the inspiration that helped me write Canon's at Dawn. He explained to me that he had been to Corkscrew Ranch as a guest.  Apparently he was there right before I arrived and that he makes annual trips to fish the Talisman River regularly. The man told me that he saw that interview…loved my books…and came here to get a new copy signed since he lived here in town.   He said that he wanted to personally give it to Rachel because he was going to travel there in a few weeks to fish on the Talisman for awhile.  He thought that she would appreciate that.  And believe me, I couldn't have had better timing.

            He looked familiar to me for some reason. I'm not sure why.  He just did.  I took the copy of the book that he had and wrote on the inside, "to the one that I really love." I wrapped the book up in brown paper and taped it.  I told the man that I didn't want him to read what I wrote to Rachel because it was a personal thank you for letting me come to enjoy the Ranch. He understood, took the copy of the book and went on his way back out of town.

            On day two, I had a break in the book signing and the kids were getting hungry.  By this time, I thought, Victoria was in New York doing great marketing things for Manus and the blazing sun on my face was amazingly bright.  

         I squinted my eyes against its glare as I walked down the street to the bed and breakfast to get the kids to go to lunch.  As I got closer tothe B&B,  Lisa and William were heading out the door.  Perfect timing again…they saw this horse and a girl rider and went running toward them. I couldn't see because the sun was in my eyes and hollered after them to get back here.  They stopped dead center in front of the girl and the horse.  After a few moments, as I continued walking, they rode over to the convenient store.  The horse almost got away from underneath it's rider which caused me to quicken my pace.  She almost lost control.  I thought to myself, "inexperienced riders need to be more careful…she could get really hurt." However, by this time, she had the horse tied off…was in and out of the store and gone.  I could swear that the rider looks familiar to me. William and Lisa were already in the general store….and the nice thing about being a famous author in a small town that over the course of a few days, people get to trust you and you them.  My kids were happy playing in the backyard with the owner's kids of the B&B and Pages and Parables Bookstore wouldn't open for another hour because they closed for lunch. I had a lot of time to wander around..and decided to take in some of the sights.

            Cemeteries always fascinated me. From the time that I wrote Chaos the stone statues were like a refuge from life for me.  I loved cemeteries because they always offered so much history about people.  Cemetaries are a leaping off point for a future history lesson.  In a cemetery you can see who died too young and too old.  Always peaceful with birds chirping in thedaylight with memorial benches and sunlight drenched on marble stone that reflected the light.  This is not a morbid hobby of mine – but they are fascinating to some degree.  I discovered the solemn beauty of cemeteries when I wrote Chaos and how the contrast of the living and the dead mix together.  To place a love story in the middle of a place like that I thought was an attractive concept that readers could visualize.

            The Cemetery was at the end of the main street road. This town was very original in it's buildings…like an old west town that just changed people and businesses over the years. The population here was only 950…but Pages and Parables was a famous bookstore.  I came here when I was little with my dad when he was writing some pretty good literature himself.

I knew a friend that bought some of the Pages and Parables Shakespeare plays in original manuscript that Yeats once had in his possession.   I saw it all dusty and old.  They went into Pages and Parables with the manuscript and set it on the table as they were going to the back room to get something.  Meanwhile, the owner's dog knocked the book on the floor, sniffed it, turned in circles and ended up using it as toilet paper!  My father was in shock, as was the owner of these priceless artifacts.  I think the dog lived.  They hurriedly soaked up as much as they could and took it home to dry out in the sun.  Even Shakespeare's worst critics weren't that rude!

I thought of this as I walked with the sun in my eyes down to the cemetery gates.  I wandered inside and was there for quite some time all by myself.  I wandered through headstones and grave markers and started to learn about the names in town and was getting a history lesson when I stumbled across a headstone that more than caught my eye.  The head stone said: Katherine Elizabeth Stephenson, Beloved Wife/Mother; 1948 – 1970.

Soft foot falls where coming up behind me.  I was nervous and went on with my business in learning more about who the once living were.  The foot falls became hoof like on the gravel road which paced around the quiet grounds.  A horse, a rider and that was all.  They stopped at Katherine's grave.  I wasn't far away and then I said, "Rachel, you are going to be alright. I can feel it.  Your mom probably misses you too." Rachel couldn't see me standing there for the sun was in her eyes this time.  I was planning my entrance and then Mark (why was Mark here?) came running frantically down the gravel path into the cemetery waving his arms frantically.  Mark sat down next to Rachel and took her hand.  Tears were in his eyes.

Lynne had died.

Mark delivered the news…and he was a far cry from the serene bartender that I knew from Talisman Creek Lodge.  He was rugged and handsome.  Worn by the weather. Tired for some reason.  Like he'd spent days on the river doing tours. Resigned to his duty to tell Rachel that Lynne had just died, she wanted him to leave her alone.  He quietly walked away.

The dead among the living and the living among the dead.  I'm not sure who was a statue in the cemetery that day. The dead seemed to have more life than the living because of the news that defeated a quiet moment trying to bridge the gap between family and loved ones who are deceased. Memories flooding heads and flowers planted into the ground trying to touch the past of others who have gone before. Rachel brought her mom a bouquet of flowers.  But I can't believe that flowers would even begin to touch the emotion that she had about not having her mom with us, in the living flesh to hold her when she sneezed as a little girl.  None the less…when a parent dies…even in death, by the gravesite, they still listen.  Even in death, you are still their children.  Even in death…they have life.

What expression should I wear? I still couldn't believe my eyes and the only thing I managed to say was, "how's thebiggest brown trough ever fished out of the Talisman River?"  I didn't even know where to begin or what to say.  Rachel was silent.  All the emotion that I ever had for her welled up inside of me like the Mississippi in flood stages and still rising.  With the way that Victoria and I had been getting along, I was surprised that I was feeling so much for her still.

Slowly and with intention and with some trepidation I wanted to touch her shoulders.  He hair was being wisped around and stray strands were blowing across her face when she turned her head slightly to the left.  A warm breeze from the north was setting in this late afternoon. 

Rachel didn't need me to say anything.  I glided up to her and slipped my hand into hers as I pulled out a folded piece ofpaper and gave it to her. I wrote it a long time ago.  It was the book dedication that said, "this is dedicated to the one I really love.  Her horse was grazing quietly as though he was watching my every move like he was her protector from harm. 

I told her that she tortured my heart. I told her how I felt about her.  I told her, "Oh my God!  The book signing" Rachel, I gotta go!  I will catch up to you later."  I turned and ran away from her and told her out loud, "Rachel, I love you". She didn't hear me…she sat there involved in her own thoughts about her best friend.  Maybe, I thought, I should just leave her alone forever.

All my speed couldn't get me back to the bookstore fast enough for the remainder of the afternoon.  She got the best of me... again.

The rest of the afternoon dragged on. The connection was still there and the realization that the man who said he was a friend of Rachel's, I figured out, was really her father.  The people in town at the signing knew all about C.W. Stephenson.  The timing that day was still perfect.

****
Written 1997 - "The Way of the Dancing Nova"  by M.C.G AKA Christine Rachel Bennet.

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