How to Have Sex to Make Better Children

“Sorry to say, but it’s mostly her gene pool,” the pediatrician said, as she glanced over the information about our foster kid. “No amount of ADHD medication is going to make her a rocket scientist.”

Theories abound about the essential things one must do to produce productive children. One theory that’s probably true is having parents who don’t tie you to a chair before going out for the night, but in the case of our foster kid even that behavior is hereditary.

Victorians loved the ideas of science and progress. They were so darn optimistic about the future and mankind’s place in that future. There were the doubters and the haters, but many people bought into utopian notions even if they didn’t up and join a communistic free-love society like my hapless Buck Crenshaw does in THE DEW THAT GOES EARLY AWAY. I give Buck a pass because he only goes to please a gorgeous girl (and gets himself in a heap of trouble).

I suppose most Victorians had sex that we’d consider pretty normal. Some had affairs and others–a small minority–practiced continence.

In his book The Science of a New Life, John Cowan (a 19th century “scientist”) urged sex to be saved for bi-yearly sex marathons:

“The core of Cowan’s program was his ‘law of continence,’ which, with certain variations, was echoed by many reformers: ‘The noble army of the continent of mankind’ is made up of those who don’t drink, smoke, wear corsets, dress ostentatiously, overeat, or live sedentary lives. They practice ‘voluntary and entire abstinence except when used for procreation,’ and they do not misuse the marriage bed for ‘the perverted amativeness’ of physical pleasure or sexual relief. Since Amativeness, the phrenological organ of the sex drive, is located at the rear of the lower skull along with other animal faculties, it may become an organ of animal lust.  But coitus that occurs when Amativeness has been subordinated to Spirituality, the organ of reverence located at the top of the head, permits the highest sexual magnetic impulses to be telegraphed from the brain of the parents to the brain of their child. The ‘law of continence’ mandates one heroic procreative session every two years during a sunny August or September morn, so that the child may be born in springtime. Following a four-week period in which the prospective parents, in a spiritual mood, have been focusing their will powers on those qualities with which they want to endow their child, their copulation generates and electrical transference of these very qualities to the child.” Excerpted from Pseudo-science & Society in 19th century America, edited by Arthur Wrobel

We smile a little at this but I wonder if a little more reverence, a little more thought taken for the future of offspring wouldn’t be a good thing.

 

 

Fiction: The Parting Glass

Parting is sorrow for William and his father . . .

William slid out of bed and rummaged around for a bottle. All were empty, but his father left a few coins amounting to less than five dollars on the bureau—probably all he had to spare. “Damn him, making me the guilty one. How does he do it?” William mumbled, scooped up the change and was about to walk out when Jay Haviland arrived.

“Say, Bill, I saw your ghost on the street an hour ago—Robinson tells me it’s your old man—you’re the spitting image, cut from the same cloth . . .”

“Yes, he’s gone now. Why are you here?”

“Well, that’s a nice way to talk to your closest friend and confidante.” Haviland looked around the room haughtily.

“Why is it I’ve never in all these months seen or heard about your family if they’re such big bugs?” William asked.

“I told you, but you must have forgotten, Bill, that they’re touring Europe, Tibet and all,” Haviland said, eyeing Thankful’s watch.

William snapped it shut and put it in his pocket. “I thought you said Asia or Siberia?”

Haviland huffed as if offended, but smiled then. “Here, I’ve brought us some spirits—thought maybe to share with your fine father . . . anyway, my family will be just across Panama and off first to the South Seas and THEN Europe—I told you already.”

William had a talent for map making but knew almost nothing of the world. He figured his parents didn’t think he’d go very far anyway. “Give me some of that, Haviland. I feel like a celebration,” he said with great sarcasm.

“You? I thought you’d be all cut up over Miss Crenshaw and that ass Fahy.”

William slicked his hair, wiped the oil on his trousers and took a drink from Haviland’s bottle. “He’s not an ass really. He’s right for Thankful,” William said.

“Well, I saw the two the other day at the agency, and they were so close if Fahy farted Thankful could smell what he had taken for supper. I knew somethin’ was up.”

William took another drink.

“Watch it, bub, you’ll be washed out and passed out before we have a night. Did Father Weldon put you in funds? I’d have expected a more dashing and distinguished look for an old lieutenant, but he’s nothing better than a down-and-out rail worker,” Haviland laughed.

“I’ll not have you insult my father!”

Haviland searched William’s face with friendly condescension. “Your secrets are out William Weldon. You don’t come from eastern royalty after all so no need to talk all high falootin!”

“I’ve never said anything about royalty.”

“No need to get all heated in the desert, Bill. Let’s go to the barroom. The air ain’t so close there.”

“Fine.”

Haviland held the door and William stumbled out, already greatly influenced by Haviland’s “Tarantula Juice.” At the saloon, Haviland looked disappointed with the small change William pulled from his trousers, but said nothing. Two days of hard drinking with only the brief respite of his father’s visit made getting back to blind drunk easier for William. He held his glass unsteadily and toasted. “To my father. I hope he rots in Hell.”

Haviland touched the glass with his own disinterestedly. William’s head fell into his dirty hands.

“For the love of Christ, Bill, this is some celebration. You’ve gone plumb loco and I’m not happy with it. You’re bad company these days.”

William lifted his head long enough to order yet another drink. He gulped it down, but the image of his father sending him off at the train station a year ago would not allow for clear thinking. He had expected his mother to take his parting hard, but she’d been stoic. She kissed him, her eyes full of pain and pride, and she wished him luck. Weldon shook his son’s hand.

At the time William received it with cold formality; again his father came up short with no words of wisdom, no parting words at all. William found a window seat and looked up to the houses on the hill before craning his neck to see their own hill rising on the opposite side, the shabbier side. He slid out of his seat and into the other facing the depot and spotted his parents sitting on an out-of-the-way bench. His father’s walking stick—his one nice thing—was on the ground next to his mother’s faded parasol still open.

They didn’t scan the windows of the train for a last wave good bye. Their son was gone. And William stared at them in surprise at their emotion. Katherine looked empty, but his father hid his face as his shoulders shook. At the time William turned away repulsed at yet another sign of his father’s weakness.

William tried another drink, but couldn’t finish it. He stood to go. “I have to go home and tell my father . . .”

“Your father is long since gone, Bill. I saw him myself,” another drinker said to him. “He was coming from the apothecary shop then took the train.”

“Apothecary? The druggist?” William pushed his stool away and felt his way out. “Just forget it all; forget him. He’s worthless. . . .” William’s gut pained him, and he slouched under the staircase up to his room. It smelled of urine and was the only damp place in the whole town. He couldn’t take the heat or the steps. It was too hard. Everything was.

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY of RUNNING

PHOTO courtesy Library of Congress

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

Fiction: Go West, Young Man (and Grow Up with the Country)

An old soldier has dreams for his son.

The oncoming evening and the hangover tugging William’s stomach tempered the brief elation he felt after abusing his father. As William lay in bed, he remembered the day back  home, over a year ago now, when his father called on the landing in that hopeful  way he had.

“Willy, how about a walk in town?”

“Papa, not today,” William moaned from bed, knowing he’d give in.

“I want to buy a gift for my little bird, Kate,” his father insisted.

The humidity made William’s collar and shirt stick and a mosquito sucked blood at the exposed part of his ear. His mess of golden hair needed cutting. The sidewalks, slick with late summer showers, led them through mildewed shade past Queen Anne houses and manicured lawns. William’s father preferred not to use his walking stick (just in case he needed his hands—for what William never knew). And so with his one strong hand, John Weldon clung to William, who labored under his own handicaps.

Once William caught the reflection of the two of them in a storefront window and kept this awful picture in his mind all through their subsequent walks. His father always found the slickest paths to stumble and slide over. William never listened to what his father was saying as they passed sympathetic or curious townsfolk.

Today his father fell. The damp air made his leg worse and his butchered arm made it near impossible for him to get up without his son’s help. He laughed at his weakness, much to his son’s consternation as the twins, Meg and Thankful Crenshaw, came into view, followed by their fashionable friends.

Thankful rushed up, dressed in the softest looking cream walking suit. “Oh, my goodness, Mr. Weldon, are you all right?” she giggled.

William noted her sweet and accepting blue eyes. Meg and her friends whispered, probably assuming that his father was drunk since he’d fallen in front of Stagg’s Ale House. Thankful extended her white-gloved hand and Weldon grabbed it. William cringed.

The old soldier failed to get his leg straight and needed the girl’s and William’s help on the mossy, wet planks. Meg moaned. “Do let Willy take care of his old father, sis!”

Thankful turned on her. “You’re so rude. And his name is Mr. Weldon! For shame, Meg!” Thankful took the old soldier’s hand and pulled hard but her glove slipped and she fell back into the wet road.

William pulled the girl steady. “Oh, dash it, Thankful. Why did you jump in to help so fast?”

Thankful laughed and punched his arm. “William Weldon, you’re too serious. You should be more like your nice father who still sits waiting for help.” She went to Weldon and held out both hands. “Come along, Mr. Weldon, we’ll get it right this time, won’t we?”

Weldon grabbed her hands with a chuckle and William helped, too, but less enthusiastically.

“Thank you, young lady,” John Weldon said catching his breath once righted.

Meg grabbed her sister, and the girls hurried off, Meg checking as she went looking for witnesses.

“Well, that was about the most embarrassing way to start the day, Papa,” William complained.

“Oh, William, there are worse things than a little fall,” Weldon said.

“Yes—I’ve experienced them,” William replied.

Weldon flashed him a quick, hurt look. “I know, William. I know. It’s stupid of me to make you come to town. I see how it embarrasses you now with the young ladies.”

William slipped from his father’s hold. “I’m going to take you home. Mother’s got enough of your silly gifts.”

“Does she say that?” Weldon asked.

“Papa, isn’t it enough that we’ve made a scene in front of a tavern? I’m getting a roaring headache. Let’s go home.”

“No! Something’s come in t-t-t-today that I w-want. . .”

William sighed. “Papa, Papa—take a breath. I can read your mind, anyhow. You won’t let us go home till you get what you want.”

Weldon laughed.

They strode into Demarest’s store. “Afternoon, old soldier and young Willy,” Demarest said in a way that grated on William’s nerves so he didn’t reply.

“Do you have my order then?” Weldon asked.

Demarest passed a box over the counter and John pulled a decent sum of money from his pocket.

“These are for you, Willy. Paints and things . . . for your trip. It’s a nice set so I hope you like it.”

Demarest added, “Your father spent quite a lot of time picking out just the right one.”

William touched the smooth wooden box—an artist’s kit. His face tingled with suppressed surprise and gratitude.

John spoke haltingly, but with no stammer. “William, it’s time for you to go. We want you to be happy one day.”

“Papa, I don’t understand,” William whispered. They were sending him off?

“I never should have filled your head with notions about West Point. It was unfair and my dream . . . but you’re different from me, thank God,” Weldon tried to laugh. “You’re more like your mother. You have her talent for art.”

“Art?” William never thought anyone noticed.

“Painting, you know,” Weldon explained. “It got me to thinking that there’s more than one way to join the army—if you’d like to. Your mother’ll worry—she’d keep you here forever . . . but . . . I feel it—you need to be away from me—f-from here.”

“Papa!” William pleaded, glancing at Demarest. “Don’t talk like that!”

The storekeeper disappeared into the back room.

“Papa, I don’t feel that way! Not at all. I won’t leave you. I can’t!”

Weldon took off his cap and smoothed his hair back with a lonesome false laugh. “As much as we’d like it, we can’t keep you forever—we’ve—I mean I’ve given you enough trouble.” He messed William’s hair like he used to. “You’ve turned out brave and good—there’s no need to hide yourself. You remember Captain Bourke, I hope. . .”

“Yes, I think so.”

“He says to send you out for a small visit and see what happens.” John slipped the long box under his arm and rested his other on William’s shoulder. “Good day, Demarest.”

“Good luck, William!” the storekeeper called back.

William helped Weldon out onto the walk. He never did stretch out quite as tall as his father and so he looked up to him. “Papa, I don’t think I’m ready.”

Weldon gave his son a stern look. “By your age I was years in the army.” He handed the box to his son and held tight to William’s other arm. “Come along now. We need to tell your mother you’ve decided to go.”

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY OF RUNNING

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

 

Fiction: The Stairway Down

“A man accepts his weaknesses and then rises above them.”

“Oh, and you do that, Papa?” William asked with a disgruntled laugh.

“Yes, yes, I’m trying very hard. I always have. I’m not a quitter,” John replied.

“Except when you quit on Mother and me and Eliza or when you quit and let me run off or when you quit your respectable job at the feed store to do gardening and write your idiotic little soldier stories. It’s a good thing none of your readers get to see the real man behind them.”

“The feed store?” Weldon asked in confusion. “I volunteered to help out Mr. Adriance after his son died. I never worked there.”

“Well . . .” William faltered, “well . . .”

“Writing those stories puts food on the table and paid for your doctors.”

“And none of that would have been necessary if you hadn’t let yourself become an opium eater! I remember you on parade—it was disgusting to see you struggle in the end. If you’d been any good, you would have kept us together and had plenty of money, and I’d be at West Point,” William said.

“W-Willy, you never had the temperament for West P-Point.”

“You say that now to avoid feeling bad. You avoid everything and hide everything behind all this new happiness—it’s sickening. I’m glad to be away from you. You always played the fool in town—laughing at your falls and being so gentle all of a sudden—it makes you look so horrible. It would have been better if you died in some Indian fight. That I could be proud of! I don’t know how Mother takes it! It’s probably why she wants me home so she can throw you off on to me again!”

“She threw me off on to you because she wanted you to care for me again, but it didn’t work. I tried everything . . .” Weldon said, inching toward the door.

William got on his elbows. The cowlick at the back of his head made his hair stand funny. “So give up, like you always do—it’d be a relief. All you ever do is make me sorry and miserable. Leave me alone, and you can go back to the little safe spot you have on Tenafly Road.”

The older Weldon’s voice shook. “Yes, I’ve finally allowed myself a safe spot and some happiness. I made mistakes—a thousand of them—and I’ve paid for them and continue to pay. I never had family to guide me. I was on my own—and I lied to your mother and you for years because I thought it was the only way of keeping you both.”

“Well, you were wrong. I’m so tired of hearing about your devotion to Mother and me. You constantly brag about you and Mother! Mother was a fool and weak to stay with you! She deserved better like Doctor Crenshaw!” William replied.

“Don’t ever talk with such disrespect about your mother who has devoted her life to you!” Weldon’s cane shook in his hand.

William hacked and spit phlegm to the floor from the side of his bed. “That’s funny! She devotes her sad little life to you and you alone! I come a distant second! If she wasn’t so God-awful pathetic and stupid she would have kept you away!”

Weldon ran over and pulled William from the bed with force. “You ungrateful little bastard! Your mother and I lived with nothing—gladly—to see that you recovered enough to have a life—a good life! And you sit here—drunk—making excuses for not taking responsibility!”

“You and Mother ignored me then suffocated me. You prepared me for nothing! I have nothing! I am nothing! You did everything wrong, and you get to be happy! It’s unfair, and I hate everything about you! I pretended to care for you in Englewood because I was trying to be so damned good. Where was my reward? I’ll never go back there!” William pulled away and wrapped the dirty blankets around himself like a filthy cocoon. “I am who I am, and I won’t hide it or hurt others.”

“But . . . you hurt Thankful.”

“She hurt herself—she was stupid to leave her money.”

“Why do you have her watch?” Weldon asked.

“It’s broken. She didn’t want it anymore. I’m gonna get it fixed. It’s expensive.” He pointed to the maker’s imprint. “Remember the Christmas watch, Papa?”

Weldon said nothing.

“You do remember, don’t you? The watch you promised me? I bragged about it a lot before Christmas to all the soldiers the year I came back with you. I was so excited and proud to be getting a grown up thing . . . you fooled me those first months. You were brilliant then to me. You were better than a god. You were everything. Do you remember what it felt like to pawn it for morphine or opium or whatever it was?” William looked his father over like a specimen in a freak show. “So now you shake and have tremors, but it’s all an act. I don’t feel sorry for you. Maybe you even limp and fall for attention. I don’t trust a single thing you do or say.”

“William, I’m so sorry for everything.”

“Sorry means shit to me, Papa.  This is my life now; it’s a relief in a way. There’s no pretending, no optimistic little plans for me to make you and Mother feel less guilty that you were rotten parents. For once I’m doing what I want!”

“What you want? Drinking?”

“I have friends. We do things.”

“What about your drawings?” Weldon asked.

“They’re not that damned good! You want to latch onto something—anything to make me at least a little special, or better than I am. I’m not! Stop this awful pretending.”

“Willy—you are special. Look. If you weren’t then how would someone like Doctor Crenshaw think so highly of you?”

“Papa, sometimes you’re so blind. Doctor Crenshaw loves Mother. He always has.”

Weldon laughed, waving away William’s words.

“Mother has always had a thing for doctors,” William said. “Before you came back east Doctor Crenshaw visited every day. He and Mother spent hours together on the porch talking. Mrs. Crenshaw was always too busy to come.”

“He came to help you, William,” Weldon said.

“Maybe for the first ten minutes,” William said, delighting in the sight of his father unsure and angry. “You remember Doctor Dudley, don’t you, Papa?”

Weldon clenched his cane with white knuckles. William searched his troubled eyes with glee.

“Yes, well I remember him, too. When you left with Crook on a scout, I guess, Dudley kissed Mother, and she didn’t stop him. Eliza and I saw.”

“Stop lying, William! You’re angry.”

“I don’t lie, Papa. You know that. I told you I’m a different man to you! Dudley was madly in love with Mother so that’s why he left. I wished that he hadn’t. He was bound for success.”

“William . . . I . . .”

“Papa, I can’t take the stammering! I can’t! And I can’t stand this game you play with mother . . .”

“There are no games between us, William.”

“Mother sees you like another child, not a real man at all.”

Weldon stood motionless, his breathing labored.

“Your caring is the worst kind, Papa. You suck the blood from people. Now please leave!”

“Y-your mother wants you home . . .”

“You’re well practiced in disappointing her. Don’t worry, she’s used to it.”

The old soldier limped out the door. William listened as his heavy leg hit each rickety step on the weather-beaten staircase.

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY OF RUNNING

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

Top 5 Reasons to Write a Series

 

desk 2Three minutes into sobbing over the ending of my first very long book, a new curiosity arrived about one minor character who pushed William Weldon from a hayloft in childhood. Now as I edit the final chapters of what has become a four book series (THE HOUSE on TENAFLY ROAD being a prequel to the series) I want to celebrate the joys of writing (and reading) multiple books about your characters.

I set out to write one small novella ten years ago, but life took hold of my muse and carried me along through at least 2,200 pages (and more lost to editing) of a series I never imagined when first dipping my foot in the pond.

I offer no hard and fast rules because my natural tendency is to resist such man-made limitations and trends. When I began it was to entertain myself. Quite early on I realized that the books I adored were often quite different from the ones I admired. Adoration has kept me going all of these years later.

LOVE: When a writer falls in love with a character the love is forever. The sad and lost John Weldon swept me through a thousand pages of addiction and the underlying terror of being found truly worthless. As a loving creator I set Weldon up with everything he needed to see his value, but being lost comes with a blindness to certain realities. I believed at the close of the book that my final gift to him was a glimmer of hope in a marriage he’d worked so hard to destroy, but my muse gave him a good and troubled son with a love interest in Thankful Crenshaw. I had to know what would become of them!

LAYERS: A series allows for unmasking the layers of a character or a whole town of characters. A chance remark on page two of a book sprouts a whole series of future events. In WEARY of RUNNING, the first in THE TENAFLY ROAD SERIES, a young girl stands up for Buck Crenshaw. Born with troubled eyes she hears the truth in Buck’s voice though no one else does. This small act of kindness hints at Lucy’s sudden emergence as the series heroine she will grow into in the last two novels. Life isn’t chocolate and vanilla. Some readers prefer easy answers, but in a series the writer can play with nuance, growth and regression. When Thankful Crenshaw makes her first bad decision with Lieutenant Fahy the reader knows it won’t be her last. There is a risk here for series writers. Will the reader follow lost characters for long? Will they love them enough to stand by and watch (and cringe) at the way these people seek love and redemption? The risk is well worth it if the author is being true to her muse. Critics be damned.

LAUGHTER: Gallows humor is my cup of tea. It’s not for everyone. “Only kidding” is a family mantra when so often outsiders look askance at the way we joke. The House on Tenafly Road can be a tough read for some. Can one really make addiction funny? Sometimes it is. As the characters grew and I grew to love them more I allowed for more fun and faster pacing. The House on Tenafly Road stands alone as historical fiction while The Tenafly Road Series is more an American period drama. We laugh best with people we know really well–and cry all the more bitterly when these people hurt themselves. William, Buck and Thankful carry a whole lot of hurt, but they make me laugh (especially when I forget what I’ve written and come back to something as if for the first time).

LOSS: Loss and love. The stuff of life. There is something so edifying when you kill off a character. Let me explain. To have a well-loved character die with a Victorian sense of dignity feels like doing what’s right by your kin. The author is the ultimate funeral planner, the writer of letters found tucked in the cubicle of a roll-top desk in the study. The laurel wreaths are hung and mirrors covered to prevent lost spirits. Oh, the many ways to explore grief as time passes! What does it say about Buck or William? How does it change Thankful?

LIFE: A day in the life of a character is sometimes all an author needs to make a novel. I’m not that author. I devour whole lives. I want the beginning, middle and end. I want a prologue and an epilogue. I want growth and maturity, death and rebirth. In writing a series, especially an epic family saga, I’ve lived so many lives in the last ten years. When the series is over (though ideas float around about a new direction in writing) I will be satisfied that I’ve lived life well. Before writing a series I couldn’t honestly say that.

 

And now a note for the READER of my books: Realize that life is a slow burn with sudden temporary gusts to enliven the fire. Yes, THE HOUSE on TENAFLY ROAD is a bit heavy and long, but (in my opinion) worth the buildup. And yes, there are terribly many mistakes made by Buck and friends in THE TENAFLY ROAD SERIES but if we take the blinders off we see so much of ourselves in the house fires and dampened reversals. I do believe that endings can be happy and well worth the wait. In the meantime there’s love, loss and laughter. I hope you enjoy the layers and the lives of the (fictional?) people I adore.

And now for the WRITER a quote by Thomas Merton to hearten you on your journey:

“Many poets never succeed in being themselves. They never get around to being the particular poet they are intended to be by God. They never become the person or artist who is called for by all of the circumstances of their individual lives. They waste their years in vain efforts to be some other poet. They wear out their minds and bodies in a hopeless endeavor to have somebody else’s experiences or write somebody else’s poems.”

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Fiction: How to Keep a Man Happy

Madame Paul Poirson1885 by John Singer SargentThankful wonders how long Mr. Fahy will love her . . .

Before long Mr. Fahy began to pester Thankful in all sorts of embarrassing ways. What would she do? The kissing and the ring and the promises began to wear on Thankful. She struggled to subdue her natural urges. Suddenly she clung to him, wondered where Fahy was and what the lieutenant was doing when he was out of sight.

Maybe Fahy noticed the new girl in from Pittsburg, visiting Mrs. Tremble or maybe he was tiring of her if he arrived late to sit with her in the afternoon. Fahy took liberties he shouldn’t, but Thankful allowed it. Fahy loved her. When he whispered as he kissed the skin at her neck it was almost too delightful to bear.

Thankful tried to be good. She only allowed small previews of herself, but Fahy demanded more. He sighed and grumbled under his breath each day—the opposite of what Thankful imagined would happen each time she gave in. More and more Fahy wanted of her, and Thankful worried how much more she could give him without being bad. She took to layering even more clothes over her body, but nothing worked and it was very hot in the desert.

When alone in the morning, Thankful’s conscience pricked her. In those moments when the children and Mrs. Markham were asleep, and the fire was new and bright, Thankful resolved to show more restraint, come what may, but by day’s end, Fahy touched her ankles and ran his fingers behind her knees. It amazed Thankful that such things could sway her. Sometimes she rushed to her Bible, praying for her chastity, but daydreamed through her prayers.

On this morning a knock and call at the door broke her reverie. Thankful pulled her wrapper close and peeked out the window. Fahy waved for her to come to the door. He kissed her, smelling of stale cigars on an empty stomach. “Dearest, I’m exhausted, all night dreaming of you! I can’t concentrate,” he said. “If only we could be married this day. When will you hear from your parents?”

“Mr. Fahy, They’ll surely send word of congratulation once the letter is delivered, and then they’ll come,” Thankful hoped.

“I was thinking how nice it will be when we are able to do everything,” Fahy whispered in her ear.

Thankful blushed. They were already doing far too much, but she whispered back, “I imagine us one day lying beneath the pines in the mountains.”

Fahy looked pleasantly surprised. “You are a naughty young lady.”

“Do you really think so?” Thankful worried.

Fahy laughed and glanced at the men lining up now.

“You may visit me tonight, sir,” Thankful replied, looking behind her for signs of Mrs. Markham.

“I want to really visit you!” Fahy said.

“Sir!”

“What’s the difference in waiting?” Fahy said, his soft dark eyes suddenly stormy. “I love you, and soon we’ll be married anyhow. Please think about it. You’re asking too much of me to wait.”

“Am I?” Thankful replied with a mix of fear and annoyance.

“Of course!” Fahy said with a quick kiss on the cheek. “All the fellows go to town for women, but I don’t. I want to be faithful to you.”

“Is it that hard?” Thankful wasn’t sure why she should feel so angry at the moment, but suddenly she didn’t like him at all.

“All night! Just thinking of you!” Fahy replied with a grin.

“I don’t like the way you talk.” Thankful pretended to giggle.

“Don’t you love me, Thankful? I’d wager you don’t trust me, but you know I’ll always do right by you.”

“It’s wrong, Mr. Fahy,” Thankful said, more firmly than she expected, “and I don’t want any babies.”

“Ever?”

“I don’t know,” she sulked, feeling put upon and upset.

“Well, that’s silly talk. Anyway, for now we can prevent it easily enough—just tonight. Consider it, miss. I know just how to do it and it’ll be special.”

“No.” Thankful folded her arms.

Fahy slapped his hat against his leg in frustration and turned to go.

“Mr. Fahy, wait!” Thankful couldn’t bear his anger resting upon her all day. “Are you really huffed at me now?” Her heart raced.

“No. Why should it bother me that my wife to be doesn’t trust me? Good day, Miss Crenshaw.” Fahy threw his hat back on and walked to his men.

***Detail of painting: Madame Paul Poirson1885 by John Singer Sargent

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY OF RUNNING

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

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Fiction: It’s Better to be Loved

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Working as house help isn’t quite as fun as Thankful hoped . . .

“Sometimes I wish I could chop it all off in this heat!” Thankful complained as she again tried to control her curls within the kerchief she wore while cleaning.

“Oh, you mustn’t do that,” Mrs. Markham said, sipping her tea.  “Every woman here would kill for such a gift of hair. Now, there, dear, you’ve missed a spot. With more scrubbing, that stain will come off.”

Thankful put her energy into the food-splattered wall, but it was futile work with so many sloppy children racing in and out. The scrubbing didn’t bother her as much as Mrs. Markham’s constant hovering. Wasn’t there some useful thing the lady of the house could be doing? Mrs. Markham’s young daughter Lydia, a sickly girl whose days were numbered, languished for lack of attention, but Mrs. Markham chose to ignore and avoid her daughter. Instead she picked on Thankful’s work.

“Well, I’m certainly glad you came to me before marrying,” Mrs. Markham continued. “You must be prepared for anything if you decide to marry an officer. I remember when my young lieutenant husband dragged me across the prairie. We had not a penny to our name—not even an extra pot. We couldn’t even keep a girl—not that I would have allowed it back then. Young officers have roving eyes.”

“Not Mr. Fahy,” Thankful said.

“Did I mention Mr. Fahy?” Mrs. Markham asked with a grin. “I’m sure he would be very pleased to know how you defend him.”

“You won’t tell!”

“My dear child, Lieutenant Fahy is already quite enamored with you,” Mrs. Markham replied, pointing to a missed spot on the wall. “There is no need for me to further sell you to him.”

“I won’t be bought!” Thankful stated, splashing sudsy water.

“Maybe it’s time you stopped taking his gifts,” Mrs. Markham advised.

Thankful blushed. “I’m not sure how to stop him. I’ve asked politely, but he ignores my feelings on the matter.”

Mrs. Markham looked worried. “Mr. Fahy always means well, but Thankful, remember, there is much to this army life that is profitable, but in money it is not. You must do your best not to take advantage of a man’s generosity.”

Thankful did not appreciate her mistress’s words but held her tongue. She would speak to Mr. Fahy tonight about his unnecessary gifts. Mrs. Markham went out back to garden and soon a knock came at the door. Fahy walked in and helped Thankful to her feet. He wore his white horse grooming jacket, and Thankful laughed. “Look at the state of us this morning! As pretty as a picture.”

“I like the smell of horse,” Fahy laughed and kissed Thankful’s wet hand. He pulled a small bouquet of wilting desert flowers from his pocket. “I thought I should bring them before they completely die, but it looks as if maybe I’m too late.”

Thankful pretended to be fascinated by the little blooms. “Oh, Mr. Fahy, this was ever more thoughtful than any of those real gifts. I hope you’ll always be practical like this and not waste money on me at all.”

“Why? Don’t you like my gifts?”

“You shouldn’t spend all of your money,” Thankful said, dusting hay off Fahy’s shoulder. “Mrs. Markham says . . .”

“Don’t listen to her. I love the old girl, but she never keeps out of my business—especially now—but I’ve beaten her this time.” He pulled a clean handkerchief from his pocket and handed it to Thankful.

“My, this is very practical indeed.” she said, trying to appear enthused.

“You silly girl, open it up.”

Something sparkled and fell to the floor. Thankful retrieved it and looked at it dubiously. “Oh, a ring.”

“I was hoping you might like it and marry me,” Fahy said, twisting his mustache between his nervous fingers.

“Mr. Fahy, I’m shocked beyond disbelief!” Thankful replied, blushing between looks at the ring and the man before her.

“So you’re not happy with the idea?” Fahy asked, his brow furrowed.

“I hadn’t thought of it—yet.” She hugged him, but he pulled away.

“Oh. Well, I can return the ring then,” Fahy said.

“No! You’re offended, and I don’t understand why. I like you very much, sir, but we’ve known each other only a very few weeks. How do you know I’ll please you?”

“When I know something, I know it! I don’t waste my days in restless deliberation. I’m a soldier. Tomorrow may be my last!”

“Merciful heavens, don’t dare say such things!” It aggravated Thankful somehow. “Are you ill?”

“No, but any day there could be an Indian breakout, and I may be called upon to serve—I assume I will. I want to prove myself, of course. The West Pointers like to think low of us men risen from the ranks . . . but I’m off track. I want you now for my own. I want to know you’ll wait for me if I’m called and mourn me if I’m lost.”

“I won’t mourn for you! I mean, I don’t want to think of you dying, sir.”

“So you do care?” Fahy asked with an irresistible grin.

“Land sakes, yes! It’s only I’m all mixed up and afraid of marriage.” The idea of marriage, in a general way, was pleasant but actually settling into it was quite a different matter. How long had her parents courted before making a terrible mistake? Thankful had known Willy forever . . . but never mind him.

“We suit each other, don’t you think? I know you’ll be a good mother and wife,” Fahy said.

“I’m afraid I know too much about children and not a thing about men—I mean wifely duties. My mother is an odd bird. I don’t want to be like her—though I . . . I do care for her.”

“Do you feel any tenderness towards me like I feel for you?” Fahy asked. He straightened his jacket.

Fahy was charming. Thankful could see that. Any girl back east might be jealous of her. “Yes. I think so. You’re so much fun and very kind to me,” she said.

“Just think of it, Miss Crenshaw, we can travel the world and throw big parties for generals and diplomats once my career is started, and you will dazzle the entire army. You are tremendously lovely and deserve better than scrubbing the floor.”

“That sounds wonderful, Mr. Fahy. I’d love to have big parties and read poetry and play the violin and talk about important things like art and politics, but my parents would be—surprised. I expected something different when I came out here.”

Fahy’s face clouded. “Yes, Bill Weldon. But you must realize that he’s lost.”

“You’re right. I know you are, but I feel sorry for him.”

“And your compassion is one of the very endearing qualities I admire. Miss Thankful Crenshaw, I well and truly love you, and I don’t know how I’d take losing you. From the moment I saw you I wanted you for my wife.”

“You love me, Mr. Fahy?” No one had ever said those words to her; not even her parents. No one. Thankful knew she was cared for, she was liked, she was a good girl, but was she loved? “You really love me?”

“Of course! I’d be a damned fool not to!” Fahy laughed and plunked his hands on her shoulders. “So what do you say? Won’t you take a chance with me?”

“I will, Mr. Fahy!” Thankful cried. “Promise to keep loving me, and I will try to please you!”

“You do please me, my sweet darling!” Fahy slipped the ring on Thankful’s finger.

“It’s sweet, sir, very sweet. Oh, I . . . like it . . . very much!” she gushed, but felt a knot in her stomach. “I’m frightened, Mr. Fahy.”

Fahy pat her face. “I’ll take care of everything. Not to worry!” He pulled her close and kissed her with passion.

PREVIOUS EPISODE FROM WEARY OF RUNNING

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

 

Fiction: The Priesthood

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After a big night William considers a change . . .

“So, give us the news, Bill. Was she some socialite back east you left behind with a broken heart?” Haviland asked always edging too close—close enough to see the dried spittle at the corners of his yellow smile and the dandruff in the coarse dark hairs of his eyebrows.

William said nothing for a moment. “No, just a friend of the family—a cousin—from Englewood.”

“Ah, Englewood, it always sounds so green and luxurious when you talk about it,” Haviland said. “You’re lucky for the culturing you got—art and all that truck.”

“Yes, well . . .”

“I thought certain that you must have sparked her sometime, the way she gushed seein’ you,” Haviland said, his glassy eyes always looking for an angle.

William looked up from his drink, momentarily excited by his friend’s interpretation of Thankful’s behavior but remembered what had happened this afternoon. “No, that’s just her way with people. All people. But she’s nice though.”

“That lieutenant seemed impressed with her this morning. He’s trying her on, I’d say,” Haviland said, waiting for reaction.

“She’s leaving soon. But . . . well, she’s had some trouble. Listen, Haviland, I’ve got to go now. I’m awful wrecked.”

Haviland laughed. “You were some wild son-of-a-bitch last night—see you later, then?”

William hesitated. “Jay, what exactly did we get up to last night?”

“The usual, I reckon,” Haviland replied, hoisting himself up on to one of the bar stools.

“Did I seem to have more money or anything?”

“Why? Did you get paid?” Haviland asked like a cat regarding his mouse.

“No, it’s that my cousin, she’s lost a heap of money and thinks . . .” he said more than he wanted to.

Haviland got close. “Listen, Bill, I wasn’t gonna ask how you got all that cash . . . two hundred dollars is a lot.”

“How’d you know it was two hundred?”

Haviland hesitated, but then laughed and shook his finger at William. “Why, you told me last night. You were blind drunk here and talking up a storm.”

“But, Robinson said I didn’t pay him.”

“I couldn’t tell you if you did or didn’t. You don’t remember a thing, do you?” Haviland probed. “I keep tellin’ you to watch out—someone will land you in deep shit one day.”

“I couldn’t have drunk up that much and Madeline was huffed at me for paying her only a few coins.”

“You don’t remember anything? Bill, that ain’t good.” Haviland looked concerned. “You don’t remember racin’ the greaser with your pony?”

“A Mexican?”

“Spect he’s gone now—some rider he was and you bein’ so drunk and all . . . I’d say you lost yer shirt.”

“I remember putting Sophie to bed at the stables.”

“You sent me to go fetch her again.”

William said nothing. He never took a horse after drinking—ever.

“Come, Bill, have a little hair of the dog.”

“No, I’ve got to go see Sophie.” William jammed his hands deep in his pockets. He licked his parched lips. “I have to get control of things, somehow,” he thought. He walked toward the stables, but the Catholic Church, with its open doors and dark, cool interior, called to him. He took a seat along the back wall and leaned his head against the adobe.

Hours later the Spanish accented priest Father Diaz nudged William awake. “Son, I’m closing shop.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to camp out here,” William said, pushing his greased hair off his face and behind his ears.

“Well, you have to leave now.”

William stood and looked around a minute. “Sir—I mean father or reverend or whatever—I was considering the priesthood.”

The priest laughed. “Are you a Catholic?”

“No, but I’m sure I could learn the basics—don’t you want more people to join up?”

“Why suddenly do you think of the priesthood? This is a small settlement, Bill Weldon. I know what you get up to every night. Are you ready to confess your sins and renounce that sort of living?”

“What’s renounce mean?” William asked. “And if you know my faults why do I have to say them? But if you want me to, I guess I could.”

“Do you feel sorry for your behavior?” the priest asked with an indulgent smile.

“Sometimes, I guess, but it’s hard—I think if I’m a priest then—“

“Son, I don’t think you’re ready for the priesthood. It’s not a hiding place from your lustful nature.” The priest snuffed a candle.

“Well then, what’s it for? What else can you priests do but pray and hope for Indian converts and the end of the world? I think I could do that. I don’t seem much good at anything else. Maybe I have a calling for it.”

The priest shook his head at William in his rough clothes. “Bill, the priestly garments would hardly fit you and there’s a lot of study—theology and that sort of thing. You need some real intelligence.”

“Numbers get mixed up in my head is all—are there lots of figures and geometry in knowing God for Catholics?” William asked with an edge.

“I didn’t mean to insult you. Becoming a priest—or just a Catholic, for that matter—is no small thing. That’s all I was getting at. It takes commitment and all I’ve seen you commit to since arriving is that rascal, Jay Haviland, and the girls in the whorehouse.”

“I’m not committed to Jay Haviland! We go on larks together, that’s all and he doesn’t mind my lack of brains.”

“Of course not. It benefits him that you are so—let’s say generous.”

“He watches out for me when I . . .”

“When you drink too much, then he spends your money. He’s no good, son, and it’s the laugh of the town that you don’t see it. Listen, consider giving up the drinking and the women before visiting me again with foolish notions.”

William stalked off for home, remembered Sophie and went to the stables.

PREVIOUS EPISODE

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

 

Classic Family Sagas

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“The family saga chronicles the lives and doings of a family or a number of related or interconnected families. The typical novel follows the generations of a family through a period of time to portray particular historical events, changes of social circumstances, or the ebb and flow of fortunes from a multiple of perspectives.” (Goodreads)

LINKS: DEAR BOOK LOVER: CLASSIC FAMILY SAGAS

             TOP 10 EPIC FAMILY SAGAS

              WRITING AN EPIC FAMILY SAGA

 

Fiction: Sobriety Lost

William pushed aside his glass, remembering the first time he took a drink.

When William and a few greenhorn privates, hanging together like newborn pups, had first visited town Haviland sauntered up.

“New to these parts, I see. Are you going to stand on the corner barking at a knot or do something with your freedom?”

William didn’t trust a man with sayings that made no sense—his mother told him not to.

Haviland leered at the pioneers with a mix of pity and scorn. “Look, boys, there’s a lot of bad types out here to take advantage of new recruits and the four of you standin’ here is advertisement enough that you’re wantin’ to be taken. You don’t know me from a wohaw, but my family built up this town and I’m like the hemp committee and the welcoming team all in one.”

One soldier whispered around, “What in heck is a wohaw?”

The others shook their heads at him like they knew.

“And a hemp committee—is there hemp growed out here in the desert?”

William spoke. “No, Baker, it’s the folks who do a lynching.”

“Oh, so there’s one bright spark! Course he’s smart enough not to sell his soul to the government—lying bastards,” Haviland said, and smacked William’s back.

William scratched his head with a small grin, but said, “We should go, boys.”

“You ain’t the boss of us, Bill Weldon. Everyone knows you ain’t clever!” one soldier replied.

“So, young lads, would you like an expert to show you town?” Haviland waved his arm all around him as if they were viewing a grand wonder of the world instead of a single street of false fronts and ne’er- do- wells.

They shrugged and gave each other tentative glances as they followed the shiny-looking Westerner with all the latest gear.

The tour started off with a short history of the settlement, tales about Indian fighting and then a look-see in the general store and the haberdashery. One of the boys plunked down his money for a big cowhand hat. The others laughed. Further along the short, dusty and exciting road Haviland noted, “Fellows, when a good carte-viste won’t do it for you and you want a real fuck, this is the place to go first. It’s a high-class place though and they’ll want cash. Cards are on the ground floor and the women on top (if that’s the way you like it).”

The boys eyed everything with enthusiasm, but William and one of the others, a Methodist preacher’s son, hung back.

“You don’t like women?” Haviland asked.

The preacher’s son replied, “Course I do, but my daddy raised me right and this ain’t nowhere near right. I’m leavin’ back for the post. Bill, you comin’?”

William liked the preacher’s son, but something, a memory, made him stay.

The soldier shuffled off. “Friendship over,” William mumbled.

The other soldiers laughed.

“Can we get a girl in broad daylight?”

“Course. If you have enough for it.”

The soldier took out his pay, minus the money spent on his ostentatious hat and Haviland shook his head. “No, this is high class, I tell you—go down to the bed bug hotel if you want a quick and easy cheap lay—no tellin’ what you’ll end up with.”

The men turned up their noses.

“Hmm . . . now, if you were to maybe win a hand at bluff . . . do you fellows play?” Haviland asked.

“Our captain says we shouldn’t,” the soldier, who had followed up until now in silence, said.

The last soldier with the big hat remained steadfast in his enthusiasm. “Come on, men, we’ll try our beginner’s luck. If I win big, we’ll all get a girl. Anyway, I’m damned good at cards—you’ll see.”

“Now watch your manners—you don’t want to wear your welcome right off,” Haviland warned, dusting off his hat at the door.

Two men inside the thick-aired room heavy with drapery and cheap art turned and stared. William’s gut burned. This parlor—the smell and feel of it—was so familiar and, in some small way, comforting. He couldn’t bring himself to leave though nothing good could come of staying.

The two soldiers took seats at the long, beat-up table. If this was high class what was low?

“You with the gimpy leg, are you playin’ or babysitting?”

“Neither, sir,” William replied.

The man stared at his manners.

“Are you in or not?”

“Not, sir.”

“Then, boy howdy, take yourself to that there settee. Your gangly self is makin’ me jittery. Where’d you drag him in from, Haviland?”

“He was part of the package deal,” Haviland replied.

William knew from the start that his friends would lose everything and they did. His parents had instilled in him a deep distrust of cards. When the soldiers rose from the table, beaten and demoralized, William tried not to appear too self-satisfied, but clutched his money even tighter in his pocket. A long, miserable hallway led from back to front. Light from the back door lit the kitchen and William stopped short. A young lady shot by and ran out back.

Haviland laughed, “What a wretch that one is—ugly as a one-eyed cat.”

“Pardon?” William turned to him.

“I bet you can get that one cheap—she’s from down the road, but wants to step up. There’s not a chance in hell.”

“I don’t want her!” William replied, horrified at the thought, but shaken, too. Something about her. . .

The soldiers snickered and Haviland slapped William’s back. “It’s been a rough time for you cubs—fleeced like sheep. I’ll treat you to some Shepherd’s Delight at The Buckskin—it’s the best whiskey for miles, I tell you.”

“My daddy back home, he makes the best. . .” the cowhand soldier said.

“Yes, yes.” Haviland dismissed the soldier’s small talk.

They followed the westerner, impressed and put-off by him at the same time.

“Bill, are you coming?”

“Sure.” But he had promised his mother. . .

The soldier wearing the tall hat whispered, “Bet he won’t take a drop—afraid of his own shadow—bet he’s scart he’ll tumble over on that crooked leg of his.”

“You ain’t one of them religious crazies, too?” Haviland asked.

“No, sir.” William followed the others into the saloon.

“Whiskey all around, Robinson.”

The bartender shook his head at the greenhorns.

William spoke. “I’ll just have, well, a lemonade, sir.”

Robinson didn’t bat an eye, just poured him a lemony drink and added something unfamiliar. William sipped it. The other’s threw back their whiskey and waited for more. They laughed at William so he finished his with a gulp.

William felt pressured to buy his friends a round. He had only brought his money along so he wouldn’t misplace it. The soldiers stared, bug-eyed, at William’s fund as he brought it from his pocket and laid it on the bar.

Haviland kept a close eye on him. After two drinks William no longer hurried to go and after five drinks the soldiers had to mind him and the money he left unattended. William relaxed and the soldiers liked him.

WEARY OF RUNNING PREVIOUS EPISODE

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”