Do you love fictional MAPS as much as I do?
I love maps in books so much that I decided to make a map of my fictionalized version of nineteenth century Englewood, New Jersey which I included in the first edition of THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD.
For a book series brimming with family drama, addiction and child abuse, my map turned out kinda cute. Life tends to look cute on the surface in certain neighborhoods and in certain time periods, but we all know that down every lane with the ticking away of every moment there are secrets hidden behind freshly painted doors.
When a desperate and addicted JOHN WELDON arrives on the McCullough doorsteps he enters a soft world with a pretty girl waiting for him:
Weldon considered bolting. He didn’t belong here, but after a quick glance toward the house he crouched down to run his fingers over the hilly pumpkin skins and the soft round tomatoes. Weldon pulled a furry leaf from the low-lying lamb’s ears and slipped it into his pocket. Sunny black-eyed Susans burst out where they’d be most pleasing. The wild lilies stood at attention like well-disciplined followers of an inspired leader. Weldon marveled at the planning. His visit was unplanned, unannounced—that had been a blunder. The McCullough family might not like such surprises, and it was still so early in the day.
He hadn’t slept, and the night had seemed forever. He had two or three days without the urges … just enough time to meet this girl—he’d stop for her.
Much later a young boy, WILLIAM WELDON, still grieving many losses, poisons a teacher at the Kursteiner School for Boys:
“It was just an old medicine bottle—blue pills, I think. We only thought it might make Mr. Finney queasy for the examination tomorrow.”
“Mercury? My God—you could sicken the man for life or worse,” Scott yelled. “What were you thinking?”
“I’m sorry to say there is more to the plot. We found Mr. Finney’s grade book in with William’s things.”
“You’re a thief now too?” Scott asked and then turned to the secretary. “When will Mr. Kursteiner come by? I will have my wife and daughter ready for his arrival.”
Scott closed the door still gripping his grandson’s ear. William tried to pull away. “Do you have any idea how much trouble you have caused?”
William tried to scratch free like an animal in a trap. “I don’t care! I hate Mr. Finney!”
“You hate everyone—do you plan to poison us all?” Scott dragged the boy through the hallway into the kitchen and toward the side door.
“You’d have done it too if he called you a liar and said things about your father!”
“No, I would not!”
“Then you’re just a dumb old coot!” Willy said as he pulled and got free. Out the side door he went, but Scott surprised him and caught him as he flew off the steps, landing with a great thud.
“You’ve become as savage as a meat ax, and I will have to put a stop to it if you will continue living in my house.”
“I don’t want to live here anyway!”
“Believe me, young man, I’d love to send you away, but your father won’t take you!” Scott continued, pulling his grandson toward Simon’s willow. With his strong right arm he kept hold of William, who began to plead. Scott ripped a long branch, still in bloom, from the tree. Unfortunately for William his school trousers were of a shoddy, thin weave and every strike across his backside stung as if hitting his skin directly.
My little map leads the reader past shops full of patent medicines, past hotels where hops are held and up the hill to where the Crenshaw family home sits. The Crenshaw siblings hide their own secrets behind the respectability of living on “The Hill.”
Buck skirted the room, his fingers running along the finely crafted bookcases until he came upon a scrapbook labeled in a sloppy masculine hand—“West Point Memories.” He touched it and Weldon saw.
“Oh, Buck, you might enjoy that,” Weldon said, feeling sorry for him. “It was Simon’s—Mrs. Weldon’s brother.”
“May I look at it?”
“Yes, of course.” Weldon took the museum piece off the shelf, as if letting Buck in on a great and happy secret. “Let’s find you a nice comfortable spot and some good light. There’s a blanket in here somewhere.” Weldon limped for the tattered throw hanging over a well-worn Scots-plaid chair.
Buck’s face flushed at the gracious attention. He sat where Weldon put him.
Graham watched with jealous eye. “Buck, we really should have made you comfortable at home.”
“This place stinks,” Fred said. “Must be a leak somewhere. I’d get that fixed if I were you, Weldon, or these medical books and other treasure will all go to ruin.”
Do you like seeing maps or imagining fictional worlds? Do you like making maps? Why are maps so fun? I’d love to read your take on maps in the comments!
EXPLORE MORE MAPS AND TELL ME WHICH ONES YOU LIKE BEST!
LITERARY WONDERLANDS by Laura Miller
PLOTTED: A LITERARY ATLAS by Andrew DeGraff