“One never reaches home,’ she said. ‘But where paths that have an affinity for each other intersect, the whole world looks like home, for a time.”
As the holidays approach I need to remind myself that when entertaining family and friends it is not always necessary to fill the awkward silences with outrageous judgements or too much information. Maybe we all need a little reminder 😉
I don’t know about you but I have my work cut out for me!
As it is Sunday, I hope my peaceful dogs will remind you to take some time to relax this week.
The Crenshaws followed the men to the camp hospital and waited as Buck sullenly had his face bandaged yet again. Maybe God was punishing him. He’d handled his family all wrong. In a matter of a few hours he had managed to insult his sister, annoy his mother, hurt his father, and fight his brother. What had he really learned?
Thankful, a pile of children, and Mrs. Markham pushed into the crowded room. Thankful’s belly bulged, and in her hurry she had forgotten the handsome blue shawl Mrs. Markham made for her to hide what was nobody’s business.
The family understood her condition right away and huddled in the corner aghast. Thankful pretended not to see them, her face flushing with humiliation. “Poor Buck, you must be in terrible pain.”
Mrs. Markham and her children cried over the patient. “It was the meanest thing the children have ever seen,” Mrs. Markham said, “to have someone hit you when you’re already so sore. Very cruel, indeed!” The captain’s wife glared at Fred.
Margaret took offense. “Whoever you are, you’re in no position to judge my son!”
“I’m the captain’s wife, Mrs. Crenshaw, and I’m in a position to spot an injustice when I see it and to defend dear friends—Buck being one of them. He’s been such a comfort to my husband and me since the death of our daughter—every night reading to us—tracts he thinks might be soothing. The Spirit is working through him—truly.”
“Buck?” Graham asked in astonishment.
“I’ve heard about you western Bible folk,” Margaret said. “You’re crazy and you’ve gotten my son under a spell.”
Kenyon arrived with an Apache scout Buck had befriended over the gospel.
“For heaven’s sake, Buck, what’s happened now?” Kenyon asked, pushing his way past the Crenshaw family.
“I’ve failed, Seth,” Buck said, throwing his hands up in despair. “I’m no use to God or anyone and didn’t turn the other cheek.”
Kenyon saw the bandage. “Well, you should have,” he joked.
“I’ve prayed a lot,” Buck continued, “but still I’m so weak. I hoped to start things new with them, but it’s much harder than I imagined.”
“We talked about this, my friend,” Kenyon said matching his tone to the gravity expressed by Buck. “Sometimes God brings us into the valley to prepare us, to teach us. You’ve been enjoying the summit for a while now—that’s the easy part. But God is working in you. You are already forgiven, remember?”
“What the hell is this?” Fred cried. “God is working in Buck? Is that code or something? What is he, some new savior? This whole thing is scary.” He turned to his parents. “I hope you both see how frightening this is!”
“Fred, be quiet,” Graham said curious and jealous of the intimacy between Buck and this man.
“Buck,” Kenyon said, “remember what the Lord said to Paul: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for strength is made perfect in weakness.’”
Buck nodded and continued. “Therefore most gladly I would rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak then I am strong.”
“Father, he’s been hypnotized!” Fred declared. He pushed Kenyon aside and grabbed Buck’s shoulders. “Get a hold of yourself, boy. Take pleasure in weakness? Are you mad? Are you satisfied being pathetic—the world will tear you apart!”
“It already has,” Buck replied.
Link to: PREVIOUS EPISODE
Featured Image: Mary Turner Austin by John Singer Sargent
While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around
And glory shone around.
“Fear not,” said he, for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled minds;
“Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind
To you and all mankind.
***Dancing Lesson by Thomas Eakins
Following in the footsteps of a murdered artist, William is thrilled … and a little scared.
“Um, what happened to the other fellow—the last artist?” William asked.
“He was killed,” the missionary said his eyes welling with tears.
“Oh damn. I’m sorry,” William said. Maybe things would get dangerous. A sickening thrill ran up his spine. He had nothing to lose.
“None of us could bear to replace him for a long time, but none of us are Michelangelo either.”
“Neither am I!” William didn’t want to get their hopes up.
“You’ll be fine. It’s just . . . well, Ignatius . . . he was unbelievable. It was an incredible loss for us and really put my faith to the test. It’s easy to be bitter at times.”
“Yes, life can be a curse,” William said.
“Life is NEVER a curse! Ignatius is in a better place after all.”
William rolled his eyes.
“What?” Kenyon asked.
“It’s kind of childish to believe that, don’t you think? My sister died, and she’s just gone. That’s what I believe now,” William replied.
“No, I mean that’s the way it is,” William said.
“You know, some folks think they feel their loved ones after death.”
“Yeah, I had that as a kid, but it was just me wishing.” William missed Eliza as much as he always had. “If I ever have children, I want a girl.”
“Yes, it’s more than sad,” William replied. “We never talked about her much—my father did a little—the only thing he did right! I don’t know why I’m telling you this. I have to go now. You know where to find me if you still want me. Thanks again and good night and all.”
William raced across the street to The Buckskin and ordered a proper drink. Was he out of his mind? No, he would not go with a bunch of hypocritical, pompous missionaries.
So what if he was comfortable here in this squalor? He ignored the fact that if he didn’t come up with cash soon he’d be thrown from his room. After a few hours, blind drunk and cut off, William stumbled back to his home. His belongings were piled out front. “Shit,” he cursed as he tripped on something and made for the door to find it bolted shut. He pounded and shouted oaths, but no one listened.
And so morning came with William curled on the landing.
“William Weldon, wake up!”
He sat up pale and bleary-eyed, forgetting where he was. “Oh. Mr. Kenyon.”
William had nothing to say. Right now he didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything, but he made his way down to the little pile of his things.
Kenyon found William’s Bible.
“Oh, that,” William said as he stood up, stretched and scratched his matted hair. “It was my Uncle Simon’s—he’s gone now. Killed by Indians. You want it? I never look at it.”
“I would never take a family heirloom,” Kenyon said, handing it over. “Someday you may want to pass it down to your daughter. Was your uncle religious?”
“Land sakes, no! He was great!”
The missionary laughed. “William, tell me, do you often sleep under the stars?”
“No, never. I’ve been evicted from my lovely little home.”
“It’s perfect timing then. We need to have you sobered up before you meet the others. Come and eat,” Kenyon said.
“Others?” William looked past the missionary. “You eat a lot, don’t you? I’m not hungry.”
The missionary helped William gather his things, sifting through his new artist’s vermin-infested belongings in disgust. William struggled to stand straight.
“Mr. Kenyon, I guess I really don’t need any of this. Probably it won’t impress your friends to see that you’ve brought a vagabond.”
Kenyon looked relieved. “So you don’t want any of it?”
William pulled a threadbare shirt his mother had made from the pile. “Just this. I should bring at least a change of shirts.” He shoved it into his dirty haversack.
Kenyon cleared his throat.
“I have a few errands, Mr. Weldon.”
“Call me Bill if you want to,” William said with a quick glance before lighting a half smoked cigar.
Kenyon smiled at William’s tentative attempt at familiarity. “Anyway, you’re welcome to use my room to clean up. I’m staying at the brothel house over there.”
“I know, I know!” Kenyon said waving the laughter off. “During the day it’s so quiet and as respectable looking as any other place here. I got confused. Obviously I understood my error when night rolled round. There was a terrible scene with a poor girl disfigured by the pox and a drunkard,” Kenyon said.
“What happened?” William fished through his jacket, feeling for Thankful’s watch in his pocket.
“Nothing much in the end, thank God. I may not be young anymore, but I can stand against a drunk fairly well. I guess I’m hero of the whorehouse now—the perfect time to move on.” Kenyon said.
The missionary handed William the key and some money.
“What’s this for?”
“Consider it an advance, William—maybe you’d consider buying new clothes.” Kenyon tipped his hat and walked off to Matilda’s.
William turned toward the whorehouse not wanting to see Ginny. He cleared his throat and spit before slipping into the hotel and tiptoeing up the creaking stairs, almost turning left on the landing toward Ginny’s room by force of habit.
The key slid into the hole, but the door was jammed. William tried to jiggle it free quietly, but in the morning stillness his noises magnified. He heard Ginny’s door open, and groaned to himself. In the dim light, with her blonde hair hanging over her violet wrapper, Ginny almost looked pretty as she came to him. William felt broken-hearted. Why couldn’t he love her?
Ginny embraced him, running her fingers through his hair before whispering in his ear. “Billy, I’m terrible sorry about all I said.” She pushed him aside and opened Kenyon’s door. “Why are you going in this room?” she asked.
“Mr. Kenyon is a missionary and . . .”
Ginny laughed. “Oh yes, and I’m a nurse.”
“No, really he is and I’ve been hired on to work for him,” William said.
“By Alice?” Ginny asked. All work in this house came through Alice.
“No,” William replied. “No, I’m washing up, and then I’ll go meet his associates.”
“Associates? Where? Down the hall?” she laughed. “Billy, you still don’t know the way of the world yet, do you?”
William scratched his rib with a sigh. “Maybe you’re right. A missionary staying here? I guess I wanted to believe . . .”
Ginny pulled him into the room and kissed him. “Poor Billy, come sit beside me.”
“No, he’ll be back soon.”
She ran her hand over his unshaven face. “Let me take care of you. You need more than a good washing, but a shave and a haircut too.”
“No, Ginny, I don’t deserve your help.”
She went over to Kenyon’s small bag and found a pair of scissors. She turned back to him, her wrapper loose and her one arm still in its sling. As she snipped the long, gold locks, William grabbed her around the waist. Ginny was so soft and familiar, and he was afraid of everything else.
Ginny clipped away months of unclean living. Her robe slipped off, and she straddled him. “See how much I love you?”
William wasn’t sure how any of this was love. After a big night of drinks he always longed for sex, but remembered Ginny’s words about his performance and made no moves on her. He pulled the money from his pocket. “You can have it, Ginny. I owe you.”
Ginny tucked the money into her corset. Just then there was a knock at the door.
“William Weldon, it’s me,” called Kenyon.
When William didn’t respond, Kenyon opened the door to find Ginny moving off William. She greeted Kenyon casually. “Mr. Kenyon, I wanted to thank you again fer getting me out of a pickle the other night.”
“By having intercourse with this young man? I don’t see the connection,” Kenyon responded. “William, I wouldn’t have expected you to take advantage of my generosity.”
“How do I know that you aren’t taking advantage of me?” William asked, his shoulders covered with tufts of hair.
The missionary asked Ginny to leave but with amused eyes. Kenyon picked up a few books and his writing implements, tucking them into a suitcase before latching it shut. He looked William over. “Land sakes, what did you let that girl do to you?” He laughed, shaking his head. “Clean up all that hair before some story gets out that I perform strange rituals.”
“Do you?” William asked.
“Mr. Weldon, in what way could I possibly take advantage of you? As you said yourself, you have nothing.” Kenyon laughed again.
William’s face went red. “It’s just that Ginny—well—she guessed that you were up to no good—after all—this is a brothel.”
“I explained that. I never said I was particularly observant,” Kenyon said. He checked his watch. “The others should be here this morning. I’m going to wait for them outside the church.” He grabbed his bags and walked out.
William continued to pick his hair off the ratty blankets on the bed.
“Mr. Weldon, are you coming or not?”
William jumped up, tripping on the leg of the bed. “Oh, I didn’t think you’d still want me to . . .”
“When I’ve had enough of you, I’ll let you know,” Kenyon joked, but saw that the bone-thin William didn’t like it. “Let’s get you some clothes, son.”
William went white. “I-I lost the money.”
“In forty-five minutes? How?”
William scratched his sunburned, dry scalp and loose hair fell like a spring shower. He looked at his shoes. “Sir, I’m afraid I lied. I gave the money to Ginny.”
“You couldn’t control yourself long enough to forgo fornication for clothes?” Kenyon asked.
“No, it’s not that. I owed her—she’s been my friend and good to me—mostly.”
Kenyon rolled his eyes. “So you saved nothing for yourself.”
William shook his head and chanced a glance at Kenyon.
“William Weldon, you’d make a fine missionary then.” He joked but grew more serious. “Son, I don’t ever abide by liars or thieves. It’s troubling that your first impulse was to lie.”
“I’m not a liar.”
“I don’t believe that you want to be, William, and this is only a friendly, but serious, warning. If I find you in a lie, I will cut you loose right quick. Out in dangerous territory all of us must be able to rely upon each other in word and deed.”
William wanted adventure and could not stay in town any longer, but didn’t for a second believe the missionary could be relied on. He tried to hide his unbelief, but Kenyon saw it and made another mental note. He wondered if William might be tougher than the Indians to win over.
“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”
Welcome to Family Histories, a series of guest posts by some of my favorite bloggers in which they explore family . . . and history. The families and histories are sometimes their own and sometimes not.
This week JACQUI MURRAY discusses how her children’s military careers inspired her writing.
Family History and It’s Part in My Writing
Thank you so much, Adrienne (author of The Tenafly Road Series), for inviting me to participate in this wonderful exploration of families. When I received Adrienne’s invitation, my knee-jerk reaction was it didn’t fit me. My stories about ancient man (the upcoming Born in a Treacherous Time) and my Tech-in-Ed writing didn’t have obvious connections to my family; they were tangential at best.
And then I thought about my novels, in the Rowe-Delamagente series. Lots of you know my daughter is a Naval Officer, my son an Army Sergeant, and my husband a saint, but I don’t say much about my family beyond that. Yet, they have been the driving force behind my writing. Here’s a rundown:
This is a personal how-to on preparing for and applying to the United States Naval Academy. It’s based on my daughter’s experience in high school where she first thought such a selective school was out of her reach and then was accepted into a life-changing activity that would change her forever. My daughter wasn’t the 4.0 (or 5.0 if you’re an IB school) student, the hardest-working or the one with all the answers but as it turns out, that’s not who USNA wants anyway. They wanted tenacious, never-give-up, critically-thinking applicants who always had another way to solve problems. They might as well have stuck her picture by the profile. I wanted to share her story so other high school girls who might think they could never be good enough for an Ivy League college like USNA would think again.
I wrote Building a Midshipman in about two weeks by replaying in my mind how my daughter had accomplished this feat.
This story comes from time spent with friends of my daughters from the Naval Academy who had served on or were serving in the Silent Service. It is a story of brain vs. brawn, creative thinking, and the importance of family in our lives, but at its core is patriotism. Many of my ancestors were in the military though I wasn’t, and by the time I started writing this book, both my children were committed to their paths. I respect the patriotism, single-mindedness, and stalwartness of our warriors–this story reflects that.
This book took about five years to write. I think being my first fiction book, I had little faith in its success so was afraid to turn it loose.
This story takes place in large part on a US warship, the USS Bunker Hill. This was my daughter’s first ship after graduating from the Naval Academy. She secured amazing access for me during my research to the ship and its people. She put herself way out there to help me. For that I am forever grateful.
It took about three years to publish, slowed down a bit because I had an agent at one point, from whom I parted amicably.
This third in the series deals with satellites and the weaponization of space–in a nod toward my Army Signal Corps son. I’ve barely begun the outline so I don’t have a good sense of where it’s going but I do know it will be an action-packed thriller where Otto and a new AI friend Ascii will play a major role.
For this book, I go way back on my family tree, long before man was even man, to 1.8 million years ago. It’s always amazed me how our ancestors survived a world filled with vicious predators, not the least of which was the more improved iteration of man. That’s what I explore in this book, Born in a Treacherous Time.
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.
***Please visit next Sunday for the next guest post!
What is a family saga? I found this definition on Goodreads:
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.
For some reason after nearly 15 years of writing about two fictional families you would think I would have realized what I wrote was called family saga fiction (case of not seeing the forest for the trees). Thank God I finally know what my novels are since usually when people ask I turn into a complete idiot.
Anyway, I thought I’d share a little on this genre & family history each week (also, if anyone would like to share a piece of their own family saga, memoir or just plain old family memories let me know and we can work on posting it here).
And remember weekends are the perfect time to read family saga fiction!
DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILIES HERE