Fiction: Parched

After standing around for most of the morning as the missionaries and soldiers packed their wagons, William got bored and wandered to the sutler shop at the edge of the fort to make a trade. He convinced himself he was getting candy for the Markham children.

Soldiers on leave played checkers in the corner as William stepped toward the counter and opened a finely crafted box full of squirrel and horsehair brushes. “What would you give me for of these?”

The sutler ran his wrinkled fingers over the box. “Hmm, nice case—I’ve no need for brushes, Bill. You still owe me, but I’d take the case and give you this bottle as an even exchange.”

“What is it?”

“It’s a real mind bender, from what I hear. An old man makes it just across the border.”

“Guess, I’ll give it a try,” William said, but then remembered. “Oh, I don’t suppose you’d take a brush for a little of that candy for Markham’s kids.”

“Bill, keep your brushes. Take some candy to them,” the sutler said, stuffing a brown bag full of cream candy and French kisses. “The young one’s not long for this life, I hear. What’s it malaria with her?”

“I don’t know, but this is a shit place to raise children.” William tucked the candy in his pocket. “Thanks,” he said and grabbed the loose brushes and the bottle, but as William turned around there stood Thankful. The commissary store was out of baking soda so she came to the sutler.

“Oh, Thankful. I . . .” William sputtered, but the look on Thankful’s face stopped him. “Are you all right?”

Thankful burst into tears and pulled the bottle from William. “You’d trade away your mother for this wouldn’t you?”

“No, not my mother, Thankful, I . . .”

“I can’t believe I ever cared for you! How dare you say a word about your father’s behavior!”

“I haven’t said a thing! Thankful! Please calm down. You’re making a scene.” William clutched her arm and pulled her outside.

“I don’t care what people think, William Weldon! Why are you ruining your life? Why?” Thankful sobbed.

“I’m not . . .” William began, but sighed and began again. “Look at you, Thankful. You fit in wherever you go. Everyone loves you from the start. Sakes alive, you met the love of your life on the first day out here. I’m not like you. I, I don’t know how to be with people. This,” he pointed to the bottle, “this helps me.”

“Willy, you’ve become a drunk. That’s it. You can’t really think I’m so stupid to listen to your poor excuse. You have a fine personality—at least you did at one time! How pitiful that you trade away such nice brushes—where did you get them?”

William’s shoulders slumped, but his eyes flashed defiance. “The missionaries. The brushes belonged to their beloved dead friend—he was killed or something—maybe I’ll meet the same fate!”

“No, not you, Bill. You’ll just disappoint them and ruin their trip. You’re too addicted to your self-pity to part with it.”

“Thankful, at one time I’d have taken your self-righteousness to heart. I would have even respected you for it, but now I know the truth about you—to think that you’d let Fahy poke you—it’s disgraceful!”

Thankful made to slap him but William blocked her and stole the bottle back.

Thankful hit him. “I can’t believe you’d be so cruel to someone from home!”

“When will you ever realize, I hated everything about home!” William shouted. “If I ever treated you well it had nothing to do with you being from Englewood! That was a stain against you!”

“You’ve always gone against me!” Thankful cried. “I can see that now! It was your way of getting back at my brothers—for all of their cruel pranks! I just thought you might not judge me with them!”

“What?” William’s temper had gotten the best of him and now he almost couldn’t remember what they were fighting over. He cursed to himself as she ran off. Behind a tool shed William emptied most of the new bottle of spirits into his flask and swallowed what remained in one jolting gulp, chucking the bottle behind some brush.

Kenyon was making a last arrangement with the soldier Joyce when William swayed up.

The missionary’s smile froze until the lieutenant walked off. “William Weldon, what do you want from me?”

“What do you mean? I don’t want anything and you can’t tell me what to do,” William replied.

“No one’s telling you what to do,” Kenyon said, the smile disappeared now. “You can drink all you like—but not with us. So please, it seems you’ve made your choice. Stay in Willcox, but not before returning our things.”

“Fine. Here are your lousy brushes.”

Kenyon took the brushes. “Where’s the box?”

“I don’t know. Who gives a damn? I don’t—piece of junk anyway.”

“That box was important to Ignatius. His nephew made it,” Kenyon informed him.

William rolled his eyes. “So why in damnation did you give me the box?”

“I imagined you’d like something nice of your own.”

“I’m not materialistic,” William said with his arms folded. “And you’re not my uncle and I’m coming for the money.”

Kenyon shook his head. “You contradict yourself. Seems you’d make a poor prospector.”

“What?”

“You don’t recognize gold when you see it,” Kenyon said.

“I don’t care about gold, sir.”

“William Weldon, you have a decision and you have about five minutes to make it. If you want to come along and do wonderful drawings then please hand over your flask and canteen.”

“No. You can’t force . . .”

“Then please get out of my sight,” the missionary said.

William didn’t move. Kenyon waved him off and returned to his work by the wagon.

“Sir,” William called and caught up with him. “Sometime I’ll see you again and get you the box back.”

“Son, don’t you see? Isn’t your life worth more than a box or bottle?” Kenyon asked.

“I never get what I want!” William said, licking his chapped lips as if the act might retrieve his humiliating words.

“And what do you want?”

William glanced toward the Markhams’ porch where Thankful stood embracing Fahy. “I don’t know.”

Kenyon hid his smile.

William spoke from inside. The alcohol made it easier. “Mr. Kenyon, I don’t think I can, you know, give it up. I don’t know if I can give you . . . I mean—I didn’t want this to happen. I kept losing things—I keep losing things. I’ve lost it all and I lose more and now . . . I don’t even want things anymore. And I’m afraid on my own—life is so damned unsteady.” He pointed to the barracks where a small group of men were smoking and laughing. “Look at the soldiers—I can never get so straight as them.”

“Where did you get the idea that life was a straight path for anyone, William? I won’t allow you to get lost if you come along with me, but it has to be your choice. I trust that you can do without the bottle and I believe you’re as steady as any of those soldiers if you’d only give yourself a fighting chance. You must quit the drinking.”

“What will you do if I fail?” William asked, looking at him sideways.

“What any friend would do—help you up again.”

“I’ve never had friends like that,” William said.

“Well, you do now.” Kenyon waited.

***Featured Image by Timothy O’Sullivan

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Do Your Characters Need Therapy?

001I’ve been to therapy.

I wanted to be told I was basically a good person.

A friend just told me he would only go to a therapist who was a lot like him.

Another said she sometimes went for access to drugs.

Are writers therapists? Is writing their therapy? We all know about writers who behave badly. Would they have been better people if they had gotten “treatment”?

The Ten Commandments were written as a reminder that none of us are without sin.

But if we believe that we (and maybe our characters) are basically good or that there is no such thing as goodness since goodness must be in the eyes of the beholder, what is the point of telling a story? If sin does not exist, if the world is empty of meaning then what is to be done with the many definitions we’ve made for ourselves? A literary spectacular absent of heart falls flat except with a few critics in the know.

What is the meaning of creating flawed characters with no access to therapy? Why create flawed characters at all?

038The light came into the world but people prefer to live in darkness.

How do we make peace with being basically good and terribly flawed?

How can it even be discussed with people who think this whole thing called life is just random?

On some basic level most people recognize something called EVIL.

To be told we are basically good might be the most dangerous lie in the world.

irisSo what do you think? Are humans basically good? If you were a therapist, what would you tell your favorite character?

 

My book series is on sale this week. WARNING: Flawed characters abound. Some of them find answers to their questions. CHECK OUT THE TENAFLY ROAD SERIES

 

 

 

 

 

Fiction: A Secret Meeting

 

“Thankful’s been very melancholy lately—homesick, I bet,” Mrs. Markham thought out loud after Thankful excused herself.

William glared at Lieutenant Fahy, who sipped his drink and ran his fingers over a fine crystal vase on the whatnot in the corner.

“I don’t think it helps much that dear Lieutenant Fahy is so eager to leave Thankful behind,” Miss Peckham commented in mock concern. “Women need to learn how to be more independent.”

“Thankful has always known that in my line of work . . .” Fahy began.

“Oh, young man, you don’t understand the fairer sex at all,” Mrs. Markham noted.

“Well, of course I want experience in the field. With all the troubles on now, I fear they’ll be over and still I’ll be on quartermaster duty,” Fahy explained, and the men understood him.

The night ended quietly. William was puffed up over his successful drawing, and the missionaries were excited for the new chapter of their journey. Fahy took leave early to pack his things and to write one of the flowery letters his fiancée loved to receive.

William couldn’t sleep. He wanted to join in with the enlisted men who drank behind the corral and so took a stroll in the shadows near the Markham house, hoping the memory of the day or a glimpse of Thankful might distract him. Instead Miss Peckham. grabbed William’s arm and made him follow her behind the lean-to off the adjacent officer’s quarters.

“Bill, won’t you help me?”

“How?”

“I think my bones are as dry as sand living here. It’s sickly sweet on the surface, but I see through it all! The women are idiotic and the men are perfect martinets. If I don’t get out in the field soon, I’ll die!”

“Then go . . .” William said.

“No, I want to come with you to San Carlos,” Miss Peckham said, tugging William’s shirt. “I bet I can do a wonderful story for the journals back east.”

“Well, I’m not in charge so . . .”

“I think you could convince that Kenyon.”

“No, Miss Peckham. I need to look out for myself.”

“You must realize I’ll be sorry to see you go,” Miss Peckham whispered.

“What?” William laughed.

“I was really angry the other day, but you’re so talented and, well, maybe we could work together on a project.” Miss Peckham leaned in to kiss him.

William pulled back. “Miss Peckham, you must believe I’m as thick as Fahy tells you! You don’t give a damn about me—you said so yourself when I had nothing you needed. I’d never want you either,” William said taking a step away from her.

“Bill Weldon, you may as well know that the apple of your eye—dear sweet little Thankful Crenshaw–is in the family way.”

William turned back so fast he nearly fell. “That’s none of your concern! And why say it with such glee?”

“She always plays so innocent—it sickens me!” Miss Peckham said. “Some Christian she is!”

“You hate Thankful because she has something you lack—a heart,” William replied.

“Oh, that’s such a sentimental notion—stop before I swoon,” Miss Peckham said. “Thankful is foolish and has no control. I’ve been so tempted to let Mrs. Markham in on the little secret—that woman hasn’t a brain in her head—and she’s responsible for a whole pile of children!”

“You had better not tell anyone!” William warned her, shaking her by the arm.

“Please, Bill, don’t play the chivalrous hero. It’s almost too comical. Let go of me now. Sleep on my idea. I want to come along.”

“Mr. Kenyon doesn’t like you. I don’t see how I can sway him,” William said.

The screen door on the Markhams’ porch slammed. “Miss Peckham, are you out there in the yard? I hope you’re not smoking again,” Mrs. Markham called in her motherly voice.

“Oh damn, will she ever leave me be?” Miss Peckham asked and walked off, leaving William to himself.

***Featured Image: Portrait of Alice Regnault by Giovanni Boldini

PREVIOUS EPISODE

BUY THE SERIES TODAY!

“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.”

My Life Mission Is Soon To Be Accomplished

MY MESSAGE TO EVERYONE is to NEVER STOP SEEKING PURPOSE! Never settle for what others think is enough for you.

For most of my life I drifted with that uneasy feeling of never finding a life purpose. As a purpose-driven person I dove deep into things I was only mildly interested in and relationships that were fascinating but dysfunctional. At the time these weird relationships and ridiculous career choices were only slightly amusing–to others. Family and friends thought I was successful enough. They thought I was too serious. I was doing pretty normal things fairly well, but internally I was in a constant state of unrest.

Then I wrote a novel about life, family, love and addiction. One hundred pages into the first draft I knew, I really knew, that I’d found my purpose–or that I’d finally listened to the inner voice given to me at birth. And now with the end of one long novel about an addicted soldier and his wife and a series about their offspring coming to a close after 5 books, I’m satisfied.

This doesn’t mean I plan to die from Lyme complications or that I’m tired of writing, but if I had to stop after I publish the novel I’m editing right now, I’d be okay. Before I was never okay. I was a caged tiger, a malnourished creative and a diamond in the rough.

Some people who like epic sagas loved THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD (a few didn’t). The next books  starting with WEARY OF RUNNING are shorter and possibly better, but I was so afraid I wouldn’t be able to finish writing the series I’ve hardly talked about all the fun, sad and exciting characters who’ve become a second family to me. Now I know what happens to them all, and I can’t wait to share them with the world.

I don’t know where I end, but it’s okay. It really is.

My mission was to write imperfect characters. That I’ve done. Will readers understand the hearts hidden behind pride, fear, stupidity and a desperate need for love and meaning? I hope so. The mission was (and is) to take imperfect people and let them know they are loved. I love them.

My fantastic designer and I decided with the series nearing completion that it was time to re-do the covers. They so fantastically capture the spirit of the books I have a hard time not bringing them into every conversation I have with strangers.

Aren’t they beautiful?

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Fiction: Adventurous Thoughts

As Thankful hung the last diaper, she heard Fahy’s laughter in the front parlor. Forgetting how she looked, she ran inside, trailing suds and sand behind her. “Thankful, you look a caution!” Fahy said with a grin. He liked the way she looked.

Thankful nodded his way but addressed her enemy. “Miss Peckham, Mr. Weldon was here awaiting your orders, and he was very sore!”

“Do you mean physically? Because we met him on officers’ row and he was cheerful as a bird in summer. Don’t you agree, Mr. Fahy?” Miss Peckham turned to the officer with a smile.

Fahy nodded in agreement then met eyes with his fiancée. “Miss Crenshaw, I was hoping you might be done with your chores so we could take a ride. I nearly have to get back to work, but our horses are warmed up.”

“Warmed up?”

“Yes, I hope you don’t mind that I let Miss Peckham ride Durie.”

“That horse needs firmer discipline and less feed. If he were my horse, he’d receive a sound thrashing,” Miss Peckham bragged.

Fahy gave Thankful an exasperated look. Thankful dug her fingernails into the soft wood of the little dining table. “It’s very pathetic that you must prove your masculinity by mistreating animals, Miss Peckham. Mr. Fahy never should have been such a gentleman to take you out, but you probably strong armed him.”

“I will have you know, Miss Thankful Crenshaw, that I’ve won at many women’s riding events in New York!”

“Isn’t New York famous for its corruption? It’s the only way you could win a horse show–or a beauty contest,” Thankful said.

Fahy stood with his cigar hanging from his mouth. Miss Peckham tossed her gloves and hat on the sofa and ran up the stairs to Thankful’s room. Fahy and Thankful listened to her muffled cries.

“Damn it, Thankful, that was low of you. Peckham’s no great shakes, and she’s a pest, but really—you’re better than to be so—well—so vicious.”

“She abuses my horse and I’m low?” Thankful asked.

“Well, I took the whip from her pretty quick,” Fahy said.

“Thank God for small favors.”

“Mrs. Markham said that you threw a tantrum over an egg . . .”

“Land sakes! Not even an egg gets by people in the army! I just hate Miss Peckham. She told me last night she was only being nice to William for his family’s connections to the military.”

Fahy laughed. “So what? I’m so tired of Bill Weldon. I don’t care a fig, and you shouldn’t either.” He pulled her close. “I love that you care so much about your homefolk and all, but a different man than me might get jealous.”

Thankful looked at his sunburned and freckled face and his impressive sun-bleached mustache. “My sweet lieutenant, you are the most attentive, kind person I’ve ever met. I hope one day we’ll have adventures of our own.”

“Adventures? You amuse me. Sometimes you really act your age.”

Thankful pulled away. “What does that mean?”

“Well, nothing exactly—you’ve got very romantic and naïve ideas. It’s adorable.”

“Miss Peckham has all the adventure she wants and . . .” Thankful began.

Fahy tapped her nose. “And she will most likely spend her life alone.”

“She has such a full life and . . .”

Fahy grinned. “I thought you didn’t much admire Miss Peckham? Anyway, won’t your life be full enough taking care of me?”

“I plan to care for you, but is that all?” Thankful asked, feeling sweat trickle down her spine.

“No, of course not. There’ll be children and we can take trips if you like.” Fahy looked worried. “Won’t I satisfy you?”

“Oh, Mr. Fahy, you already do. But I never have any larks with you. We both work so hard. I want to play a little more than I do now—don’t you?”

“Life is about work, I’m afraid. Childhood is almost over for you, Thankful. There’s no point clinging to it. That just makes the adjustment more painful.”

Thankful sniveled. “But when we are married won’t we still dance and ride?”

“Of course, silly,” he said.

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

forget me not promo

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

Fiction: Escape to Marriage

Working for the captain’s wife is no longer the lark it once was.

Thankful marched back into the Markhams’ finding Miss Peckham, dressed in one of Mrs. Markham’s plain visiting dresses and brushing out the matron’s long, mousy hair.

“Be a dear, Thankful, and do up the egg—fried—while Miss Peckham shows me the latest style.”

Miss Peckham stopped a minute appraising Thankful’s dark curls. “I could show you how they wear their hair in New York these days, Miss Crenshaw.”

“I know how they do hair in New York! I like to wear my hair my way!” Thankful responded storming to the kitchen.

By the time Mrs. Markham joined her, Thankful was in tears again. “Thankful, why are you so upset?”

Thankful shook her head. “I don’t care for Willy any more than a friend, but he’s from home, is all. That’s all it is, but Miss Peckham—I just hate her, and I’m sorry, but I can’t have her in my room. I work for that space, and it’s unfair that I should have to share.”

“Thankful Crenshaw, that is a very unchristian way to be, and I’m surprised.”

“Why should I have to be her slave?” Thankful asked rolling her sleeves.

Mrs. Markham laughed. “Don’t be so naughty. When you’re married, it won’t do to start fires with other women. Some army wives are just as—difficult as Miss Peckham.”

“I didn’t start anything! And I’ve never met anyone in the army as horrid as Miss Peckham!” Thankful said just above a whisper.

“Hold your tongue, Thankful. Miss Peckham’s a guest, and I hate to make mention of it, but your work here includes cooking.”

“Ordinarily I don’t mind that a bit. You know that!”

“You must never mind it when I have a guest,” Mrs. Markham said.

“But she got up late . . .” Thankful tried with no success.

Mrs. Markham folded her arms, but was distracted by Fahy’s knock at the door. Miss Peckham led him into the hallway.

“Morning ladies, I didn’t see Miss Crenshaw out on the grounds. I was wondering if she’s still unwell.”

Mrs. Markham met Fahy in the dining room. “Thankful is fine but busy making breakfast for our guest. I’ll tell her you inquired.”

Miss Peckham smoothed her hair back and grabbed her hat from the table. “Oh, Mr. Fahy, would you to show me around the place?”

“For Miss Peckham’s research . . .” Mrs. Markham added.

“Well, I suppose I could,” Fahy hesitated. “I’m free now for about an hour, if you’d like . . .”

Thankful jumped out from the kitchen. “Miss Peckham, here’s your breakfast!”

Fahy tried to greet Thankful, but the other ladies were in the way.

“Oh, Miss Crenshaw, dear, set it aside for me,” Miss Peckham said. “I’ll be back for it later.”

Thankful walked back into the kitchen and slammed the fine china plate against the counter, chipping it. She glanced behind her, found the chipped fragment and hid it in Miss Peckham’s burnt egg. After covering the plate with a cloth, Thankful untied her kitchen apron and pinned on the prettier one she’d made for walks with the children and hurried into the dining room just as Lieutenant Fahy escorted Miss Peckham out the front door.

“Thankful, dear, I’ve decided that today I’d like a stroll with the children,” Mrs. Markham said. “My nerves are shattered with still no word from the captain. But there’s a small bit of baby’s soiled things that need washing. Miss Peckham mentioned that she was highly sensitive to smells. You don’t mind, do you?”

“No, of course not. I love cleaning diapers,” Thankful said.

“Get used to it,” Mrs. Markham said with a smile. “Mr. Fahy wants plenty of children.”

“Well, I guess he’ll have them with someone else. I’ve told him I’d only like one, maybe. I’ve been sent off with my father to rescue babies from breech birth and all. I don’t want any of that!” Thankful declared.

“One baby?” Mrs. Markham laughed. “What’s the point of one? Immigrant families are having upwards of nine or ten.”

“It’s not my job to populate the world!” Thankful complained. “You and my mother are doing a fine job of that.”

“I don’t know what’s gotten into you, Thankful! Next you’ll be like our visitor discussing suffrage for women,” Mrs. Markham said tapping her closed fan once before opening it and using it to shoo the children out the door.

“I’m nothing like her! What has the vote got to do with anything in my life? I only don’t want so many little ones—is that a crime? And I don’t know why Mr. Fahy would discuss his plans with you, not me!”

“Mr. Fahy is a fine man, but he’s a Catholic and they don’t believe in . . .” Mrs. Markham whispered, “and with the Comstock laws . . .”

“My father is a doctor. I know all about how to prevent babies. I don’t want to hear any more about the lieutenant being Catholic! My mother is extremely upset over it–as if she is so damned religious!” Thankful bawled.

“Thankful, when you’re finished with the laundry, wet a rag and go to your room for a rest—you are over excited today.”

“I’m the same as I ever am! Why didn’t you send Miss Peckham to my room when she spoke her mind? I’m not your child to send to bed!” Thankful cried.

“Well, you’re behaving like a spoilt one. I’m appalled. I feel great affection for you, but you’re acting disrespectful,” Mrs. Markham said, pulling her bonnet ties tight.

“As you hinted over the cooking,” Thankful said, “I’m just your hired help. I should have realized it sooner before considering you to be a real friend. I won’t make that assumption again.”

“You’re breaking my heart, young lady. I didn’t realize how you resented your work here! I was doing you a favor!” Mrs. Markham said.

Thankful sobbed. “And I haven’t done you a favor? Watching the children and cooking and cleaning while you lounge drinking nice lemonade! But I never minded. I’ve been very grateful to you until this minute. You’ve humiliated me in front of the lieutenant and Miss Peckham. Why did I have to get her that egg? Toast was fine for the rest of us!”

“To lose your temper over a ridiculous egg confounds reason!” Mrs. Markham said. “I have my own more important troubles. I shouldn’t have to keep you and Miss Peckham from each other’s throats! I do love you dearly, but you are a shallow and insensitive girl at times. Miss Peckham shall be treated as a guest—and that is my final word on it.”

Thankful wiped angry tears from her eyes and turned to the laundry basket. She fed the stove and hauled water to be heated. She scraped and cleaned diapers made messy from the disagreeable diet and water of Arizona in the sandy backyard.

“I cannot wait to be married and able to do what I want for once,” she mumbled, filling the basin in the yard with the hot water.

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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Are You Emotionally Mature? Here’s How to Get There

“This was where the moment of maturity occurred: the place where they passed across an emotional frontier, the line that separates insecure ambition from likely success.” Making Haste From Babylon by Nick Bunker

As a writer of sagas about flawed people seeking redemption (usually from mistakes made in youth), the idea of emotional maturity has me pondering about emotional frontiers and how characters in books and those people in our real lives react to frontiers.

Some characters blanch as the emotional terrain before them comes into view. They hide along the edges of feeling, stranded in terror. They rationalize, keep secrets or drink self-pity by the pint. If only, if only . . . they seem to say.

Others plunge forward, stumbling, anxious, unthinkingly. A pride drives them. Criticism and praise prod them too quickly one way or the other. They curse the gods and run rough-shod over lessons unlearned in their futile efforts to satiate their immature ambitions.

Pruning lesser branches of the emotional tree produces stronger, mature specimens, but one must find a way to enter the frontier and not be chopped down by it. The frontier is where interesting characters live. Each character matures or dies. Even those who avoid the frontier one day are dismayed to discover the frontier has arrived at their doorstep.

Safe lives bring their own terrors and not of one’s choosing.

I decided to look at a few of my own characters to see where they stand:

JOHN WELDON hides his addiction.

THANKFUL CRENSHAW searches for the meaning of her own beauty in the arms of immature men.

BUCK CRENSHAW demands the world love him for his accomplishments because his mother does not.

Here are the marks of maturity according to Psychology Today:

A mature person is able to keep long-term commitments.

A mature person is unshaken by flattery or criticism.

A mature person possesses a spirit of humility.

A mature person’s decisions are based on character not feelings.

A mature person expresses gratitude consistently.

A mature person knows how to prioritize others before themselves.

A mature person seeks wisdom before acting.

After doing a quick inventory of myself, I have some work to do, but thank God for immature characters. We’d have no one to read or write about without them.

SIX LEVELS OF EMOTIONAL MATURITY

WHO’S IN CHARGE OF YOUR EMOTIONAL MATURITY?

10 HABITS TO ACHIEVE EMOTIONAL MATURITY

Readers and writers, do you have a favorite immature character?

How about an emotionally mature one?

Are you emotionally mature?

How did you get there?

***Painting by Anders Zorn

 

Fiction: Love and Marriage

William had three drawings published in an obscure magazine back east and even one sketch put into the Army Navy Journal. He sent that one to his father. As long as he avoided Thankful, Lieutenant Fahy and thoughts of home, his days were bearable. The Apaches rampaged as the garrison troops polished their guns, awaiting orders. None of it mattered to William. He’d burnt that bridge.

Slipping out of his room he made his way towards the edge of town for horizontal refreshment. In funds again, however briefly, William whistled a tune.

Ginny always waited on the rickety, bone-dry porch for him. Sun-bleached as the wood planks, she had the prettiest blonde hair William had ever seen. Today another form sat beside her. He strode up, not bothering to tip his hat. The strange lady glared at him. This woman was cutting into his time. William stood waiting, hands shoved in pockets. Ginny looked caught.

“Say, Billy; this is Miss Peckham from Philadelphy.”

William nodded.

Ginny played with a long strand of hair that had fallen from her bun. “Yes, Miss Peckham is studyin’ the West and all us—ain’t that so, Miss Peckham?”

“Please, Virginia, you must call me Gertrude—we’re all equals, you know,” Miss Peckham instructed.

“Please, Miss Peckham, I mean Gertrude, I ain’t never been called Virginia. It’s always Ginny, please.”

“You must embrace your rightful name; lord knows how men try to define us otherwise.” Miss Peckham glared at William for a second, but worked a small charming dimple into a condescending smile.

“But, scuse me, Miss Peck—Gert—it’s my dead mother that named me Ginny so I’d like to keep it just the same,” Ginny said, her pock-marked face turning purple in consternation.

“Ginny, what’s the time?” William asked, jangling the coins in his pocket.

“Why, I have the time, sir,” Miss Peckham said. She stood and reached into the pocket of her mannish bloomers.

William gave Ginny an appalled look.

Miss Peckham opened her man’s watch and snapped it shut again. “Mister, you’re too late. Ginny will no longer be used by men like you.”

“Oh, and what will you do, Ginny, go east for a job in the White House?” William joked.

The women didn’t laugh.

“Ginny, what’s this all about?” William asked.

“It’s about women bein’ made all captured by men and such,” Ginny said. “I don’t mind you, Billy, but . . .”

Miss Peckham pushed her arm through Ginny’s supportively. “Ginny, when I asked, did you not say that this man was your worst customer?” she quizzed like an attorney.

“Well, no and then yes. He owes me, but . . . it’s different.” Ginny blushed.

“Didn’t you say he treated you like any other whore?”

“Say! There’s no need to call her that!” William said, expecting approval for his defense of Ginny.

“But it’s fine to ride her and use memory loss as an excuse for non-payment?” Miss Peckham asked.

“I pay when my money comes through—you know that, Gin,” William explained, pulling his hat low over his eyes.

Miss Peckham surveyed him, her free hand resting on her hip. “This world is run on men’s terms. That’s why things are such a mess.”

William laughed. “I doubt you and Ginny could do any better . . .”

“Women have run societies—Indian and aboriginal and . . .” Miss Peckham said as she fingered her fashionable bangs.

“And where are they now if they were so superior?” William asked.

“White men and their brutal ways destroyed all that was good and . . .”

“So these female societies never properly defended their people . . . hmm,” William responded, turning to Ginny. “Want to get in out of the sun?”

But Miss Peckham continued. “What men don’t understand they destroy or ignore!”

“I understand you perfectly. I just disagree. In a perfect world there would be no need for Ginny—I mean her profession . . .” William replied, taking Ginny’s hand even as Miss Peckham grabbed her at the opposite elbow.

“I’d like ta get married one day,” Ginny confessed, looking up at William with adoring eyes.

“Marriage is a death sentence for women!” Miss Peckham said. “They lose their names and their personalities, and I for one shall never marry. I have a greater love for all of humanity. Romantic love is a trap, made up to yoke women into slavery.”

“A trap, maybe, but one that women happily get caught in,” William said.

“Well, if they understood; I feel sorry for most women . . .” Miss Peckham stated. “Is dying in childbirth a good thing, sir?”

“Is dying in war, miss?” William asked. “You should take your men’s clothes and crazy notions back where you came from.”

“Why on earth would I take a suggestion from a man so lacking in manners?”

“This is how I speak to all men—we’re equals, right?” William said, pulling Ginny, but Ginny stood still.

“I ain’t too sure I agree with Miss Peckham about nothin’ cept gettin’ paid. Sorry Billy.”

William jangled his coins again more emphatically, but a stubborn look came upon Ginny’s usually compliant face.

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.”