From Test Drive

    In 1939, Nick is a good-hearted wannabee actor who has to make a life-altering decision. He doesn’t
    know it, but The Spirit Guide intends to help him make that decision.

           On that particular night, two big lugs were sitting by the counter sipping egg creams. And while
    Herb was talking, the two guys sucked down on their straws so hard you'd think they were making
    noise on New Year's Eve. When I glanced over at them, I knew that trouble was heading right for me.
    And I was right. Sure enough, after they finished their pie and soda, they came over to Herb and started
    pushing him around and calling him names.
           Well, it didn't take me a minute to realize that these guys were some of Hitler's boys. They’d just
    gotten off the bus from an outing to one of the Nazi boot camps that they had set up on Long Island. And
    they were all fired up and ready to fight, just like the leader wanted them to do. So, they decided to
    follow Adolf's advice and make it hard on the Jews. And this quiet, helpless guy eating his sandwich in
    an empty café on a cold night was the perfect Jew for them to bother. Bothering Jews in the middle of
    Manhattan seemed like a poor plan to me. But these guys really didn’t look like they had finished all the
    rooms in the planning department of their brains. Know what I mean?
           Anyway, they gave Herb a few shoves; some soft punches and threats. They also warned me to
    keep out of it. But as I said, I was lean and hard and very tired on that night. So, I took them on. I beat
    them up, threw them out of the diner and warned that if they ever came back, I'd call the cops. Well,
    Herb Goldman was so grateful for my muscles that he started talking to me again. Only this time he was
    talking about me, not his friends in Frankfort.
           “Damn lunatics,” I said. “Thank God they didn’t go at my face. This face is my future, you know, on
    stage.”
           "So, you want to be an actor?" Herb asked his question with a nervous voice while wiping his
    face. The sweat and blood were mingled on his cheek. His hand was shaking, but he was trying to
    ignore it and make me pretend that I didn't see it. "And you've got the look, kid. You've really got the
    look."
           “So they all say.”
           “So they say, huh?” He put on his glasses, took them off once to blow his nose and, then again, to
    wipe the lenses clean. After his little ritual, he squinted at me while nodding. "Yeah, you got the look, all
    right. But can you act? Huh? On Broadway you got to be triple good, you know. You're out the door real
    fast if you're not good."
           "Sure I can act, just like any of them on screen, like Gable or Cooper or Bogart. Yeah, I'm not a bad
    actor. I got a few bit parts in the theater here. And who cares about critics? I wasn't bad. Anyway, I don't
    really care about acting. It’s not that important. No. I just want to make some big bucks, you know, some
    big dough. I can't box, so I figure that I'll get rich on the stage."
           "Big bucks? You want to get rich, huh? Well, how about Hollywood? If you really want to waste
    time here in New York, maybe I can put in a word for you. You know, I got a business here. So, it’s
    natural I got some connections. After what you did for me today, I figure I owe you."
           "Naw, you don't owe me anything." I spoke with a wave of my hand. I tried to sound mean, but I
    was licking the pain away from my knuckles like a wounded kitten. "Those two crumbs deserved it."
    "No, kid, I owe you and I'll pay up. Sure I will. I know some people here in New York. But I got a brother in
    the movies in Hollywood. Now, I'm not just gabbin' here. I mean it. I got a brother who'll give you a break
    just like that." He snapped his fingers.
           “Hollywood? A brother?” I actually salivated.


    From The Fishery

    Dottie Muldoon felt that she had lost everything in life. Yet, the Spirit Guide helped her to find a reason to
    live.

           My house stood at the edge of a cliff that fell to the Pacific Ocean on the rural coast of southern
    California. Except for a neighboring home that was vacant for years, nothing else could be seen along
    that cliff for a least half a mile. Now, my house looked so empty. However, even when suspended
    against the desolate backdrop of sky and sea, the house didn’t appear to be as lonely as I was when
    walking within its silent rooms. Yes, on that day I was lonely, grief-stricken and had no reason to live.
    And so, I stood at the edge of the cliff on my way to oblivion.
           By the way, my name is Dorothy Muldoon, "Dottie" to my friends, few as they are. And in the spring
    of 1945, it all finally ended. The war ended. The years of worry and rationing; the years when larger-than-
    life characters were humbled by the events that surrounded them; when everyday, ordinary folk
    became giants by the events that they had to endure. It all ended.
           It was truly a dawn… the beginning of a new era for the rest of America. The war ended. The
    season of joy had finally arrived for the entire world. At last, we were at peace. And nothing, animate or
    inanimate, should have been sad or lonely on that day. After all, a massive World War was over and
    won. So, the nation rejoiced. The world rejoiced. But I couldn't rejoice. You see, they were both gone
    now, my husband and my son, both gone. One died by his decision to perform the ultimate duty to his
    country. One died by my urging him to his death. And now, I decided to join them both.
           I spent enough time waiting for pain to turn into acceptance and grief into emptiness. But it never
    did. My pain endured throughout the war and still thrived after the peace. Little else but my own curiosity
    about the outcome of the Great War kept me alive. Now, it was all over. And the grief hadn't ended. And
    just like any creature who must choose between the comfort of sleep and the agony of awareness, I
    decided to join my family in the cold, gray sea. And so, that’s why I stood out at the edge of that cliff.


    From The Retreat

    In 1949, Kitty and her Aunt Bunny were a team that produced children’s books. Kitty felt young and
    carefree until she delved too deeply into the horror within her aunt’s mind.

           “I got angry because I’m old and tired and don’t have time for silliness. They want this new book in
    a few months and we’ve both got to get some work done this summer.”
           “I know… but…”
           “But nothing,” Aunt Buny said. Then, she frowned when she turned her attention to the typewriter
    once again. “Oh. Now, look what I've done. I've jammed the keys." She reached into the typewriter and
    poked around. "And I can't get it undone. This key is really snapped into the other.” She worked her
    fingers into the keys.
           “Let me do it,” I said. I dared not mention that my hands were thinner and more pliable than hers
    were.
           “No. No. I want to do it myself. I hate anyone doing anything for me. You know that, Kitty. Oh... but
    now look. I dropped my hairpin into the thing. It's turning into a mess."
           "Here... let me at least try." I arose from my seat. “Because I don’t know where we could possibly
    get a new typewriter out here.”
           "No. No, it's all right. I told you. I can do it by myself." She slipped off some bracelets to facilitate
    her work. "There, I've almost got it. But... " She slipped off another bracelet. This time, the tip of a black
    scar was revealed upon her bare arm. Another removed bracelet showed that the mark wasn't a scar.
    It became a series of numbers. Black, imposing numbers were stamped into her arm. A brand from the
    Concentration Camp. She was among the numbered ones. I stared at it before she noticed my intrusion
    upon her bare skin, upon her secret, hidden self.
           "Okay, success. Look, Kitty, I got the silly hairpin out of the keys. And now that the keys are fixed,
    it’s time to... " She paused as her eyes jumped to her numbers and then bolted up to trace the course of
    my gaze. Quickly, she shoved the bracelets back up over her wrist. She piled them high as if they were
    her special armor of forgetfulness.
           "Aunt Bunny, about your characters, did you really know them? Were they friends of yours who
    died? I've read about the Camps and what they did to the people. I know all about it, Aunt Bunny. So, you
    can talk to me if you need to talk to someone. Trust me. Please. I know that it must have been horrible
    for you, but…."
           "Kitty."
           "Yes, Aunt Bunny?"
           "It's getting late. So, take the manuscripts, read them and get to work on them. We've got
    deadlines, you know. Or have you forgotten about deadlines? You've been here for three weeks now like
    a rich lady on a cruise. I think it's time you got back to work in New York."


    From The Dulcimer

    Pattie Beth Taylor is a country music singer who has lost her inspiration. However, she is not as lost as
    she was on the night she met dulcimer folk who played for her in the holler.

           I nodded in time with the woman's chant of praise, her hymn of joy. It always amazed me how a
    few songs colored people's lives. There was always a child who sang my songs. There was always
    someone who’d been through a birth, a death, or some important milestone in their lives where my
    songs had given guidance, strength, or pleasure.
           But lately, I felt as if I was a woman of two sides, just like my record albums. I was very grateful for
    my success. I loved and appreciated my fans. But at times I felt spread so thin. Yet, my fans were
    relentless. They wanted me to know how I shared in their lives. I traveled with them. I lived with them. I
    visited places when they were alone and sick in bed; or in the meadow with a lover, or stirring pots on
    the stove, or walking away crying from the grave, or driving down a lonely road. Coming or going from all
    the moments of their lives, I was there with them.
           And they always wanted more of me. Because of a few verses of some songs, they want more of
    me. But this kindly woman in the worn jumper couldn’t know about these thoughts. She didn’t suspect
    that I had hidden feelings… the ones I didn’t put into my songs. And this particular woman belonged to
    those who didn’t understand that as hard as I try, I had no more to give them.
           ".... So, you eased her pain some. Now, don't that make you feel good?" The woman paused,
    waiting for a change in my reaction to words that I didn't really hear. "I said, don't it just make you feel
    good hearin’ this?"
           "Of course it does," I said. Now, I widened my forced smile and nodded like a toy clown, the kind
    that has its head set on a spring. My curls bobbed steadily without breaking stride. "It makes me feel
    real good." And I meant it.
           "Say, I hope I'm not askin' nothing out of line, but aren't you writing any more new songs? Your
    work is just about the best in country music. But you've got to keep up with them. You know, we'll
    always love you, but don't you work on new music anymore?"
           "Well, I'm trying to write some new songs." I winced from a pain I wished was as simple as a
    toothache. "But it's not easy, you know."
           The woman frowned as if I was telling her that the world was really flat. Not easy! They don't
    understand those words. Music comes from nowhere and everywhere, right? I just hold up my hand and
    words and notes drift right into my fist and I swallow them and sing them out....
           “… just as easy as turning on your radio."
           "Say again?" asked the woman. “I didn’t hear you.”
           I put my hand to my red lips and blinked away my alarm. I’d revealed my feelings without knowing
    it. I spoke my thoughts out loud. Talking to myself, was I? No. It was obviously time to move along, time
    to hide behind the footlights; time to crawl beneath the black vinyl of a record; time to tuck myself away
    under an album cover.



    From Back Road

    By 1958, Lucille Haverly had spent her life in two worlds - a confining childhood in a small Southern town
    - an enlightened adult life in Europe. Thanks to the Guide, her worlds are about to converge on a bus
    traveling down a lonely road.

           Then, mercifully, we slowed down. A young, Negro man stood by the road, waving his arm. The
    driver slowed the bus, permitting the young man to hop aboard and hand over his fare. The young man
    appeared to be in his late twenties. He was dressed in dark work pants with a white shirt that was
    soaked through with sweat in some spots. He was breathing heavily. In fact, he smelled of something
    much like the odor in young Dr. Reeve's office.
           As the bus jerked forward, the new passenger stumbled and leaned over the seat that was
    opposite the driver. He bent down and coughed heavily, standing still as if he was catching his breath or
    in pain. His hand gripped the railing on the back of the seat. As he gasped and blinked away his
    discomfort, he stood by the seat for one moment too long.
           "Get to the back, boy." The driver issued his warning without taking his eyes off the road. He
    yanked the door handle and grunted after making his obligatory remark. His sense of duty was fulfilled.
           The young man nodded and made his way to the last seat on the bus. There, I heard him gasp and
    cough again. I turned around slowly out of curiosity and watched the man rub his chest and shake his
    head. He looked up sharply and noticed me. His face was haggard, uncertain, searching for... something.
           His eyes reminded me of the expression of young blues singer I knew once in Paris. The
    performer always sang about losing his lover to German bombs and forsaking his American home. With
    my memory in place, I smiled at the young man in the back seat. My mind conjured understanding about
    losing a lover in the war and losing a sense of home. Apparently, the young man found something
    soothing in my expression. But he lowered his eyes quickly before he returned my smile with a shrug.
           “Are you all right?” I asked.


    From Doubloons

    During a storm, Mike crashed his plane in the Everglades. First, he met the Spirit Guide. Then, he met the
    unthinkable.

           The rain invaded my eyes and nostrils as I gasped for air. The pain in my skull was severe. I
    suppose it was fortunate for me because I was too uncomfortable and too dazed to really be afraid.
    Then, I blacked out.
           I awoke when the torrent finally subsided. The sky had cleared to gray before a rainbow's grin
    announced sunshine. I sighed long and deep, barely lifting my head from the ground as I noted the spot
    where my plane had been. There was hardly a trace of it now. The plane had completely slipped beneath
    the water. Only the broken sawgrass showed any sign of intrusion. I also managed to look around for
    any sign of the Indian boy, but he was gone. He’d saved my life in one, fast encounter. Or did he? He was
    so unearthly. Was he real or did I imagine him? It didn’t matter to me then and there. I was alive. But for
    how much longer?
           Even with my pain I realized that I was trapped in the Everglades. I had suffered a bad head wound.
    I had no idea if I’d ever escape or if I’d even live long enough to try. As my head spun, I drifted into
    unconsciousness again and dreamt of floating. I was floating in the air, floating on the water, floating
    within the strong arms that carried me away.
           I regained consciousness slowly again as the pain in my head subsided to a bearable ache.
    Someone had moved my duffel bag, but it was still unopened. Someone had set a fire, removed my
    shoes and put leaves on my head and arms to cover my wounds. Was it the boy? The strange boy?
    Soon, I realized that I was with other people.
           A campfire flickered. The fire colored the area with an ancient and yellowish tint as if I'd stepped
    into one of the old photos that stood on my father's dresser. Voices spoke in a low mumble. Spanish.
    Someone was speaking in Spanish. I understood a few of the Spanish words. But when I turned my
    head, I was alarmed by what I saw.





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