It’s READING MONTH

Dear M.A. Gavin,

If you can’t tell from the title, I am ecstatic it is reading month.  I think this comes only second to my excitement for Banned Books week in September.  You are currently at a point in life and school where everyday is reading month based on how much you have to read.  For me, however, reading month is permission to carry a baker’s dozen worth of books everywhere, wear my Green Eggs and Ham chucks everyday, and shamelessly spout the importance of reading to anyone who will even half listen.  Fortunately, as a teacher, I am not considered crazy despite my overwhelming excitement (yes, overwhelming is accurate word – as my students stare at me wide eyed and jaw dropped 97% of the time).

We have a pretty intense love of reading, but it is impressive how the love of reading comes in different forms.  For example, there is a bibliophile who is a lover of books.  According to Oxford Dictionaries website, a librocubcultarist describes “someone who reads in bed.”  A more colloquial term is a “bookworm,” which we have been called on more than one occasion.

While I think all three of these terms accurately describe me, I don’t think any of them accurately describe  a simple love of reading.  Reading anything and everything you can get your hands on, consuming an abundance of information, in various digital and print forms.  Remember when you first started learning to read, and the feeling you got when you started seeing and reading words all around you?  It is that ecstasy, that simple love and wonder of reading and the world, I return to each March.   I wish there was a word for that feeling, for that love of reading, not of books, not someone who reads quickly, but for someone infatuated by the act of reading and who engages in it as often as possible.  If you know the word for it, let me know; I should add it to my elevator speech.

Additionally, our love of reading is founded in personal idiosyncrasies.  For example, my ability to read in a car, but inability to read for more than five minutes after work without passing out book open in my lap, mouth agape, and drool dribbling down my chin.  Instead, I choose to get up earlier than I need to, in order to enjoy reading in the morning.  The peace I feel on Saturday mornings is near perfection, as the sun rises through my front window, birds chirping, a warm cup of tea in my favorite mug, my current read in my lap, and one or two puppies curled up nearby.  The absurd croaking – RIBIT! – I hear in my head or aloud anytime I come across a gushy part of a story adds to my reading experience every time.  Going back to reread old favorites, receiving recommendations, and exploring new genres, help my love of reading continue to grow and flourish.

I wish you and everyone else a most joyful reading month, full of adventures, romances, inquiries, and discoveries.  I implore you to share your love of reading with children by reading to or with them, and with friends or family members by giving recommendations or discussing what you’ve read.  I leave you with a well used, but ever accurate quote from George R.R. Martin, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies.  The man who never reads lives only one.”

Happy Reading,

M.R. Gavin

On Journeys

M.A. Gavin,

Thank you for the book recommendation.  I am rapidly approaching the end of a reading journey, and am looking for some new literature to explore.  As I complete The Dark Tower series by Stephen King, I am reminded of what P.D. Duck would say, “The point of the journey is not to arrive.”  That quote is oddly fitting in both the context of a reader, and of the story.  The series is essentially about a man’s journey to the Dark Tower.  It is his entire life’s work, and although I have not finished, I am afraid the main character, Roland, may be disappointed in what he finds when he arrives, but hopefully, he recognizes the beauty and impact of his quest.  In the context of a reader, finishing a book is not the point.  If it where we would just skip to the end.

You offered a quote that very accurately describes our current political situation.  It is funny how you can always find a quote to describe a situation, but I find P.D. Duck’s quote – borrowed from Neil Peart – to be one I regularly reflect on.  If the point of life was to arrive, would we simply want to arrive at death?  Thank heavens that is not the case!  Each leg of life is a journey, and those journeys build and intersect to create a series of journeys  we call life.  Unfortunately, I often find myself less focused on the journey, and more focused on the outcome.

Imagine if instead of reflecting on a journey at its completion, we were more open to embracing the journey as it happened.  There could be more learning, more willingness to experiment and explore, more meaningful interactions; the possibilities are endless.  Consequently, a journey is just aimless wanderings if there isn’t some sort of end game or goal.  I guess my point is, while it is important to have goals and plans, we need to be willing to embrace changes and opportunities as they present themselves to make the most of the journey, and have the best outcome at the conclusion.

I am glad our journeys have largely overlapped, and for once I am not too anxious to see how this particular journey (writing) ends.  Instead, I am ready to embrace whatever our writing journey brings us, and enjoy every word, sentence, and paragraph we string together.

While you left me with a book suggestion, I am not yet sure how I want to conclude my half of our correspondence.  So for now, I encourage you to embrace your journey, and hope to hear from you soon.

Happy reading, and happy writing!

-M.R. Gavin

Something new

M.A. Gavin,

It has been two months since the conclusion of our first co-authored story, and two months since the election that has undoubtedly changed our country.  Why we stopped writing is a mystery to me, although I would like to suggest some potential reasons.

1: The election results.  Due to the election of now President Donald J. Trump (#notmypresident), you were initially too depressed to continue writing our silly stories – designed primarily for our own entertainment.  Now, because of the political atmosphere you are distracted from writing by other obligations to defend the rights of fellow Americans, protest the insanity of the political scene, and to educate yourself with an arsenal of material to provoke conversation and potentially open the eyes of others.  Perhaps, now that we have this new president, we can restructure our blog from fiction to a platform allowing us to provoke thought and conversation.

2:  You no longer like me.  Was I too much for you over the holidays?  Did I overstep a line when we wore matching pajamas?  Are you holding a grudge because my dog vomited in your bed?  Perhaps I didn’t laugh at one of your jokes – I am obligated as your straight man.   Was I not gracious enough when you cooked for me?   Whatever the possibility, I express my sincerest apologies and hope to make it up to you with a round of naked yoga, bird calling, or an extremely large dish of ice cream, and then, continue our writing endeavors.

3: You were attacked by a magical creature.  Is there a creature capable of stealing one’s memories?  There must be!  Why else would you have stopped our writing experiment?  One day you were walking in the city, contemplating your next piece of writing, brainstorming how we should proceed, and suddenly, it swooped out of the sky and knocked all memory of this blog right from your head.  Why else would you have left me hanging?

4: You ran away.  We are certainly not the most well traveled pair.  Maybe you decided it was time for you to embark on a hero’s quest.  Exploring the great unknown you are traveling far and wide, north and south, east and west meeting a host of people opening your eyes to far better writing than ours, new ideas and views of others.  Regardless of where you are travelling… WHY DIDN’T YOU INVITE ME?!

Well, those are my primary thoughts on where you could be, or what could have happened to our writing endeavor.  Nonetheless, I felt it was time to pick up one pen and see what happens.  I propose we begin again either with a new fictional story, or in a blog correspondence, or whatever else you may fancy.  We still choose a day to post, and stay at approximately 500 words.

I hope you consider this proposal and pick up a pen.  Please include if any of my above conclusions are correct (I am leaning toward 2 or 3 being most likely).

Happy Reading!

-M.R.Gavin

Chapter 45

“Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream,” rang through Beatrice’s head, not only because they were in a boat, but also because her mother was singing it at the top of her lungs, with Pepe howling in the background. Arthur sighed, audibly annoyed.

“What’s next?” Beatrice called over the crashing waves.

“Hopefully land,” grunted Arthur.

Just then, Beatrice heard a loud mechanical buzz coming up behind them.  It was a helicopter! Pepe, whose favorite pastime was chasing cars, tried leaping out of the boat, but was caught in mid air by Beatrice’s mother moments before plunging into the dark abyss. The helicopter slowed to a hover shining lights upon their dingy.  

“They found us!” Beatrice’s mother wailed, “I knew it was too good to be true.”

But Arthur sat smiling casually, seemingly unperturbed.

Arthur’s team popped their heads out of the helicopter, calling out to reassure the boat’s passengers everything would be okay, and they would soon be safe.

However, they soon found everything would not be okay. Because at that very moment a behemoth of a whale leaped out of the choppy ocean, hitting the helicopter with a flick of its tail and sending it spinning. Arthur’s team began yelling a series of expletives followed by some very official sounding numbers and concluded with Bobby screaming, “Abort mission!” One by one, they put on their helicopter hats and flew away, leaving Beatrice, her mother, and Arthur stranded once again.

Baffled, the three sat in the boat silently. Even Pepe didn’t move an inch.  Time seemed to have stopped.

After what felt like centuries passed, Arthur spoke. “Well, that didn’t go as planned.”

They sat a little while longer, unsure if Arthur’s team would come back and wondering what would happen if they didn’t.

Suddenly, as if answering their prayers, the water around them began to bubble and churn. The boat rocked perilously; Beatrice’s mother shivered. Looking to her right, Beatrice could see something moving in the water. She feared the whale was returning destined to sink their small boat.

POP

It wasn’t a whale, but the large metal hull of a submarine appeared instead.  As it settled parallel to them, the hatch on the top of the submarine creaked open. Climbing out of the vessel was someone Beatrice recognized, but could not place due to the individual’s uniformed attire and department issued cap.  

“That’s my boss,” Arthur leaned in and whispered.  Beatrice didn’t have to look to know Arthur was smiling and saluting.  

“Ma’am,” he said.

“Arthur,” she replied, “Beatrice, Tess.  Your work has been phenomenal.  Because of you we have finally been able to infiltrate the cousins and will be stopping them from any further terror.  We will need you to confirm the identities of each of them, and verify that none are missing.”

Her voice was what allowed Beatrice to identify, Arthur’s boss as…

 

 

 

Hillary Clinton.

#notmypresident #stillwithher  

 

Epilogue

The four of them, Arthur, Beatrice, her mother, and Pepe were able to identify all of the cousins, but one remained unaccounted for – Beatrice’s father.  

  • M.M. Gavin

Chapter 44

Pepe waddle down the hall and turned the corner.  He sniffed diligently along the baseboard of the hallway until he came to an outlet.  Beatrice thought it was odd to have an outlet in the hallway and even more odd that she hadn’t noticed the outlet as they circled the home.  To be fair, the outlet was covered in a vertical striped wallpaper, which covered every inch of the hall – except the floor, which was creaky, worn wood – and looked more like a Christmas wrapping paper than wall paper.  Pepe paused, lifting his snot and loudly sniffing the air.  Whimpering and swatting Beatrice’s leg he sat down.

“Pepe?” Beatrice’s mother whispered, as she knelt down.

“This must be something…” contemplated Arthur, “but then again I am following a fat, little dog.”

Beatrice’s mother glanced around, taking a deep breath.

“What are you looking for, mother?” questioned Beatrice.

“There are no vents that I can see, and we have not seen a window since we left our room, but I swear I smell fresh air, salty air in fact.”

While Arthur, Beatrice, and her mother squatted down, crawling around to find the source, Pepe walked straight to the camouflaged outlet and let out  a shrill yip.

Startled and concerned her cousins would hear, Beatrice swatted at Pepe’s rump without turning.  The sound of gently rolling waves, sprinkled with shells rolling and chiming together, and a soft tickle on her neck by loose strands of hair and cool breeze, surprised her.

“What?” she turned.

The three of them gaped as the wall adjacent to the outlet gradually disappeared above them, while Pepe sat wagging his tail with glee and his nose touching the outlet.  He sprinted out, immediately lifting his leg onto the nearest patch of grass.

Beatrice’s mother was the first to exit.  Her broad smile lit her face and the setting sun improved her fading dye job.  Arthur and Beatrice followed.  Moments after leaving, the wall behind them returned to its place.  Despite the setting sun, they all squinted in its brightness and the harsh wind blowing salty air on their faces.  Moving forward and away from the house, Beatrice could not help but feel relief.  

“Watch where you step!” called her mother, “This must be where they let Pepe out.   I should have set him down ages ago!  He would have led us here straight away.”

Amused, but not distracted.  Beatrice began assessing the situation.

“It is almost dark,” she said plainly, “but if I remember correctly there was a small town not too far from here. Right, mother?”  

“It has been years since I’ve been up here, but I believe so.  We will probably have to pay someone to take us to the mainland.”

“The mainland?” stumbled Arthur.

Beatrice looked surprised, “It makes sense doesn’t it?  This is an extremely private island, where everyone has and keeps their own secrets.  Where better for them to go when they aren’t terrorizing the planet?”

-M.R. Gavin

Chapter 43

Baffled as he was, Arthur was well trained and his survival instincts kicked in quickly. He estimated that it was about 4 o’clock in the evening, an estimation based on the light coming through the window. There were a lot of clocks in the house, but they were all set to different times and some moved obviously faster than others. He’d also determined a few weeks prior that the house slanted, indicating the exit was on the downward slanting side.

Arthur moved quietly and fluidly, as if there was no doubt he was going in the right direction. Beatrice’s mother followed behind him, clutching Pepe to her chest, and Beatrice took up the rear. They followed silently, trusting Arthur would get them out of that god-forsaken house.

It was the best look that Beatrice had gotten of the house since she’d arrived there what felt like months ago. It was bigger than she’d remembered, funny considered what she remembered of it was from when she was a child. The hallways seemed longer, and the doors seemed farther away. They made turn after turn into empty hallway after empty hallway. Beatrice tried to keep track of their path, just in case they had to turn back. Every turn they made, she expected to see a cousin or a cousin’s child, but she saw no one. In fact, the entire house looked, sounded, and felt empty. There were no nasty kids running around making a mess, or nastier adults making an even bigger mess. There was no screaming, yelling, or maniacal laughter.

After what felt like ages, Beatrice’s mother said she needed to pause for a moment.

“Carrying Pepe around is like running a marathon cradling a bowling ball!” her mother stated, breathing heavily.

“That’s ok, we can take a break for a second,” Arthur said, still on high alert. His eyes darted from side to side, checking for anyone or anything that may try to stop them.

Arthur casually pulled Beatrice to the side, stepping momentarily away from her mother and Pepe. Beatrice saw in his eyes that something was wrong.

“Birdy, I don’t want to scare you or your mother, but something is…off,” Arthur said, trying to sound calm. “We’ve been going in circles. Every clue indicates that the exit should be right there,” he continued, pointing down the hall. “But its not. We just end up right back where we started. Beatrice, I don’t know what to do.”

Beatrice tried but failed to hide her surprise and disappointment. She knew it was too good to be true. Why would the cousins just let them go? It was counter-intuitive. It was another one of their tricks, and she’d fallen for it. Face first.

“There has to be another way. We can’t just be trapped in here forever,” Beatrice whispered, beginning to panic. The walls that had seemed so tall and the hallways that had felt so long suddenly began closing in. She felt trapped, and struggled to catch her breath.

Just then, a chubby Pepe waddled over to Beatrice. He nipped at the old pair of pants Beatrice was wearing, pulling her forward. Beatrice looked at her mother, who in turn looked at Arthur. He shrugged, “I guess we’re following the dog.”

-M.A. Gavin

 

Chapter 42

Beatrice moved hurriedly down the hall reaching a stairwell and sprinting up two steps at a time. She reached the top, violently crashing into someone.  Flailing her arms and on the brink of flying back down the stairs, she thought, I guess he lied, they’ll never let me leave.  As she thought of her foiled escape, a firm but familiar hand grasped her shoulder and grabbed her wildly moving arm, pulling her back to the landing.

“Beatrice!” the being said in a hushed surprise.  “Arthur?” she questioned. They looked at each other in disbelief.

“My dad-”

“They said we could go”

“- He said I could go”

“Can you believe it?”

“Where is my mother?”

“Your dad?”

Tired of the unmoving banter, Beatrice gripped Arthur’s hand, dragging him forward.  Arthur continued to blurt a series of questions, the same questions they had been contemplating since Janelle moved in down the street.

Half-way down the hall Beatrice slowed.  She had a vague memory of walking up here as a kid.  Uncle Gerald had the room two doors from the stairs on the right Grandma and Grandpa had the big room at the end of the hall.  Her mother and father had the room on the eastern corner of the house with many windows, so her mother could see the sunrise.  Of course they would keep her mother and Arthur there.  When she reached the room Arthur had stopped babbling and looked at Beatrice with astonishment.  

“How did you know which room?  Did he tell you?”

“I remember this room as a kid.”

Inside her mother turned to them with her eyes wide; Pepe waddled – he really had put on weight – with excitement toward them.  

“I need something to wear and then we need to leave.  Now,” Beatrice demanded.

Arthur nodded in agreement, but said nothing. His face was blank, though Beatrice knew he was contemplating.  

“They are letting us go for a reason,” he said solemnly.  

“I agree, but I am not letting them know and I am leaving,” Beatrice declared, “We can figure out what their plan is once we are out of here and in contact with your colleagues.  

“What did you dad say to you, Beatrice?”

“Your father is here,” gasped her mother.  

“Yep,” replied Beatrice changing into a pair of purple tie-dye jeans, probably from Janelle’s teen years, which she found crumpled in the closet.  “Good thing I lost weight,” she mumbled to herself.

“Anyway, he has been there the whole time, watching us.  He said he ‘needs me’ for them to be successful again.”  Fully clothed, she tosses her mom a coat, scoops Pepe off the floor, and walks to the door.  Striding right up to Arthur, Beatrice says, “For three years, we had a marvelously stable life.  The past several months have been insane, but I know who you are and what you can do.  Get us out of here.  Please.”

He stared, astonished by how much she had changed, knowing he would do whatever she asked.

“Let’s go.”

-M.R. Gavin