Gossip and Alpha Male

According to Yuval Noah Harari in his book SAPIENS, the key that set homo sapiens apart from the other animals about a million years ago can be found in the use of language. Most animals have speech related to specific needs: mating, danger, and pleasure. Some such as monkeys learned to deceive, a false alarm to clear the pack from a food source. Most sounds are memorized codes such as the alphabet soup of acronyms relating to our government, CIA, FBI, USDA, etc. Like the nouns in any language, the list could go on nearly forever.

Homo sapiens discovered relationships between these coded sounds, much like verbs, actions between them. On to higher forms of communication: abstractions (unseen forces in the universe) and hypothetical’s (if thens and what ifs.)

Abstract language coupled with a more basic interaction inherited from animals—rule of the alpha male over social groups, modern time extended to include alpha female—coupled with a basic human need for self identity. Who am I in relation to the other members of my social group. Gossip. These judgmental statements require abstract words—feelings, values, attitudes, appraisals, put-downs.

Social groups are still ruled by alpha males, but the lower hierarchy continually jostles for position, how do I fit in relation to those closest to me. Conspiracy theories—recently labeled fake news—add juice to the conversation.

HOW THE WEST WAS ACTUALLY WON

by Mort Harris
Nineteen forty eight, the American West teemed with hostile Indians. As more settlers moved out West, Redskins attacked wagon trains and burned ranch houses, tarnishing the name of Washington’s famous football team. The President, in desperation called upon Stephen Gold, the Secretary of State. “We have a serious problem with terrorism in this country” said the President. “The Indians are attacking us indiscriminately. We have information that they are stealing herds of women and raping the cattle.”
“Sir” asked Gold, “Could that report be in error?”
“Never!” thundered the President. “Our intelligence is indisputable; worse than that, they have resorted to suicide knifing.”
Gold was shocked. “Suicide knifing?”
“Yes” said the President. “Terrorists are attacking saloons; they knife a few people and then stab themselves to death.”
Gold shook his head. “Insane fanatics.”
“What’s wrong with those Indians?” questioned the President. “Haven’t we been generous with them?”
Gold whispered, “Maybe they are a little upset about us being on their land and slaughtering their Buffalo.”
“Nonsense. It’s those wild extremists, the Redskin Supremacists.” He grabbed Gold by the shoulders, “Gold, you are an expert on the far West. I need you to go and check out the tribes. We have received reports that they are preparing for more attacks. More importantly, it is rumored that they are compiling arrows of mass destruction.”
Gold asked, “Have you intercepted any vital messages between the tribes?”
“Only one, when we broke their smoke signal code.”
“What did it say?”
“Yankee go home.” The President shook his head. “Those inconsiderate heathens.”
“Ungrateful savages.” echoed Gold.
The President slammed his fist against his desk. “We have got to have more rigid immigration laws. The Indians act as if it were their land.”
Gold grimaced but nodded.
“One more thing Gold, when you’re out West find out what we can do to lure more settlers out there. I’ll send a large army with you as a peace measure, of course.”
After his futile search for arrows of mass destruction, Gold wrote:
Dear Mr. President,
I picked up some pretty trinkets and got a great buy on a blanket. At our pow-wow, I learned the tribes were not open to our kind of democracy. However, they thanked you for the gifts of whiskey.
Sincerely,
Stephen (One Braid) Gold
Toward the end of his trip, Gold found himself in Sutter’s Mill, California. Crossing the muddy main street, he was struck by a speeding stagecoach. People gathered around his injured body.
“Who is that?”
“That’s Gold.”
“What happened to him?”
“He was struck by a stagecoach.”
Word started spreading though the town. “They struck Gold.”
“Where?”
“Sutter’s Mill.”
The Pony Express carried the fake news all the way to Missouri. “They struck gold in California.”
The excitement spread by telegraph to Philadelphia, New York and Boston. Thousands of people stampeded out West to seek their fortune.
Swathed in bandages, splints on his arms and legs, Gold, leaning on a crutch, met the President in the Oval Office. The President nailed a medal into the cast that covered Gold’s chest. Gold attempted a salute but the cast on his arm locked at the half way point. The president heaped praises on his Secretary of State. “You have exceeded my expectations. You not only pacified the Indians with whiskey, but you discovered an ingenious way to get our people to migrate West.”
“Sir, the people of this nation are lucky to have a man such as you as President.”
“I know,” boasted the president. “I sent my best General and more troops to suppress the Indian uprising in the Dakota territory.”
Months later, General Custer stood proudly on a hill top waving the flag of the 27th Cavalry and shouted, “I will stop those Indians if it’s the last thing I do.”
Mort Harris is a comedy writer for Marty Allen.

CALPURNIUS LOVED HIS HORSES

by Geri Bedrosian, President Summerlin Writers Workshop

Calpurnius loved his horses. It might be said Calpurnius loved his horses more
than his sons, more than his daughters, more than Potitus, his father, more than his
wife, Conchessa, more than his life. True the horses and the cavalry command
brought him wealth and prestige. The horses in the cavalry and his Decurion, (10
Roman-Briton cavalry horse warriors), needed him-they were welfare, income, life
style, life’s blood. Every day he and the men and his sons tended to the horses
every need. The exercising to create muscles of steel, quick responses and
maneuvers in the face of battling foe, feed, brushing down, rubbing down, finding
mares and sires to continue to breed the finest cavalry horses in Cumbria. He
demanded utmost allegiance from his men, his ten and his sons that these horses
and men became as one in the face of battling for life, limb, family, tribe, religion,
country and king.
Depending on the season, bone cold, chilling wet or hot soaking steamy work life,
little rest from training, maintaining, managing – it consumed all their lives for it
was their livelihood. They slept and woke with the horses every day. This was the
life of Calpurnius’ son Maewum Siccat, born 387 to Calpernius and
Conchessa. He grew to be a strong, wiry fair-haired lad and could know the best
and worst of a horse, could out ride his tribe and siblings, could know the very
dreams and ideas behind those most beautiful largest eyes in kingdom come.

That is why it surprised Calpernius that his elder son did not want to serve the
Calvary or the Curia, the senate seat of Cumbria’s decision-making government as
was written by law. Maewum wanted adventure and not servitude to the Cumbrian
citizenry. He knew horses and he knew he was a warrior. Be careful what you
wish for. And, as fate would have it, Maewum got his wish. A marauding tribe of
Irish pirates overtook Cumbria and kidnapped most of the women and children,
leaving many Cumbrian men dead. Maewum was on board a ship to Ireland with
some of his townspeople, a slave to a ruthless Pelagian tribe who believed original
sin was not passed on to mankind, born in innocence with a nature that is pure as
Adam first was. This was not Maewum’s tribal religion. He was in servitude until
he was 16 having mastered the Irish language and culture and worked as beast
master, tending all manner of animals. He was abused and psychologically
brainwashed to believe the Pelagian ways or die. This he did until his
escape.
He escaped all right-right into the hands of the French in Tours where he learned
French monasticism. He escaped and returned to Ireland where he converted
pagan warriors, wealthy royal, noble women, the unfree and the poor to vow to his
monastic charity overthrowing pagan idols, converting pagans in Ireland to true
Christianity, that humankind is born in sin and must spend eternity and good works
to escape it. Churches were built on royal lands but Maewum refused Kingly gifts,
their kinship which made him outside their protection. He was charged with
financial impropriety having received gifts from his converts, wealthy women,
who later became nuns. He was beaten, robbed, chained, imprisoned, awaited
execution. He returned the gifts and made restitution and was set free to continue
his life’s work. It is true he used the parable of the shamrock to teach the trinity of
3 persons in one God: the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit but never a snake
slithered in Ireland’s cold and salt sands. The Druids wrote this poem about
him:
“Across the sea will come adze head, crazed in the head, his cloakwill hole
for the head, his stick bent in the head, he will chant impieties from a table in the
front of his house and all his people will answer: so be it, so be it.”
By now Maewum Siccat was being called holy
Magnus (famous), Succetus (god of war), Patricius (father of citizens),
and Cothirtiacus, which in Old Irish is Cathraige and Celtic Latin
is Patricius (servant to the Four Druid Houses). This last name is the name
Maewum became: Patricius (Patrick) warrior/priest, father to followers, slayer of
Pagans for conversion to true Christianity. He made a name for himself but about
that color green….

A LEPRECHAUN MAGIC SPELL

The leprechaun slipped out of his secret hiding place as
the sun set in the west.
From afar he heard the music of an Irish Jig and began
to swirl and dance.
A cloud appeared above his head and swiftly travel to the
young lass.
To bring unto her young life a feeling of a wonderous
romance.
No, no said the people, we do not believe in love and
marriage.
It’s for us to decide who shall drive the bridal carriage.
Young people do not have the wisdom and knowledge to
make such an important decision,
it’s the elders to decide each and every mission.
Ah, but the leprechaun wanted to cause havoc and
disruption, for he knew true love was the best of a
romantic discussion.
So, he cast a spell upon a priest to secretly to find and
marry, those of whom that loves comes from the sprinkle
of the love fairy.
He goes by the name of Patrick and the world owes him
great affection, because he turned the world around in a
new direction.
This annoying little leprechaun spell made the Priest owe
so famous.
A holiday was name after him that brought true love to
the surface.
First comes St. Patrick’s Day – when the Irish celebrate
the Wearing of the Green. Then comes April 15th – when
the government observes the Sharing of the Green.
St. Patrick’s Day is such a wonderful occasion. It gives
Irishmen that same feeling of omnipotence that Texans
have all year round.
Like Clancy told his wife the other day: “You gotta look
on the bright side of things, honey. Remember all the
gold jewelry I gave you for Christmas? Be thankful it
turned green in time for St. Patrick’s Day.”
I know a Jewish fella who celebrates St. Patrick’s Day.
The way he reads it, it’s: Aaron – Bo Ruagh!
Leprechaun fair warning “Never iron a four-leaf Clover.
You don’t want to press your luck.”
Murphy told Quinn that his wife was driving him to drink.
Quinn thinks he’s very lucky because his own wife makes
him walk.
Reilly went to trial for armed robbery. The jury foreman
came out and announced, “Not guilty.” That’s grand!
shouted Reilly. “Does that mean I can keep the money?”
Billy stops Paddy in Dublin and asks for the quickest way
to Cork. Paddy says, “Are you on foot or in the car?” Billy
says, “In the car.” Paddy says, “That’s the quickest way.”
On St. Patrick’s Day O’Reilly was going to take his final
solo flying lesson. His engines cuts out and he
immediately gets on the radio yelling, “Easter –
Christmas – Armistice – April fools – New Years. The
radio operator on the end says very comely, “Do you
mean mayday?”
“Did you see the paper?” Gallagher asked. “They say I
died!” “Yes, I saw it!” Finney replied. “Where are you
callin’ from?”
Leprechaun words of wisdom: In life, there are only two
things to worry about. Whether you’ll live or you’ll die.
If you live, there is nothing to worry about. If you die,
there are two things to worry about: whether you’ll go to
Heaven or Hell. If you go to Heaven, there is nothing to
worry about. If you go to Hell, you’ll be shaking hands
with so many friends you won’t have time to worry.

INTRODUCING JOYCE RICE

Joyce is an active member of the Summerlin’s Writers’ and Poets’ Workshop.

Joyce Rice is an inspiring and enthusiastic performer, author, and motivational speaker who
connects to audiences of all ages through her genuine and generous spirit.
Featured nationally on ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as numerous international television
programs, Joyce has lectured on the “Art of Innovation” for such influential and forward thinking corporations as General Dynamics, Rockwell International, and ITT.
Her self-developed strategies for success and happiness originated on her family’s sixth generation farm in Iowa and have been cultivated over a lifetime.
At age 17—after years of practice, determination and staying true to her potential—she was
judged the best baton twirler in the world, defeating some 20,000 other young women for the
World Champion title.
But that was just the beginning. She has also excelled in the field of entertainment with more
than 40 years of experience on stage.
Her talent with the baton took her across the US and Europe, performing at professional football
games, festivals, and world fairs and as the opening act for the Harlem Globetrotters.
She parlayed that talent into a long-running act as America’s Favorite Cowgirl, demonstrating
her prowess with whip-cracking, lariat-spinning, juggling, and comedy at venues around the
world.
She also co-founded and developed the “Thank A Farmer” educational program, adding magic
tricks to her repertoire to promote agriculture and the critical role of farmers and ranchers.
Joyce’s numerous successes allow her to share with audiences how an Iowa farm girl with a
dream became a successful innovator in show business—and one of today’s most unique and
outstanding speakers.
Her journey inspires her to engage with audiences and light a spark that will put people on the
path of accomplishing their own dreams.
She’s been called a “master of visual and verbal communication” and uses those skills to make
points indelible and delight audiences by demonstrating innovation in action.
By sharing her life lessons and proven strategies, Joyce inspires and empowers others to
maximize their talents, rise to the top, and live their full potential.
Joyce strives to help others remember they are capable, responsible, and in control of achieving
their goals and dreams.

A SPRING THOUGHT

by Rena Winters

One morning I awakened at dawn and realized that a door had closed in my life. I know
that each of you have had a door close in your life at some time. I lingered by that closed door,
then, as in previous losses, I walked alone.
The wet grass beneath my feet healed my body, the trees overhead fed my spirit, and I
kept hearing, or thought I heard, live it now, you cannot live tomorrow unless you live today,
this moment, then I became aware of the great process of time, we hold nothing. All things go. I
became a part of that great stream of time when the ancient life forms started. I could see
those life forms as though in progression, vivid as a chart on a museum wall. Yet the ancient
hieroglyphics speak only of today, an unbelievable optimism overflowed me. The life force
moves. It continues to grow and change. It re-creates from decaying hearts new grasses –
perhaps in a different form, and there is an expanding consciousness to perceive the wonder of
this movement of life, suddenly I knew my part in this, it was not to war with progress, not to
spend my force grieving because the buffalo are gone and the whale may be leaving, not
grasping for some utopian future, but from my thought and feeling, first in mind and heart and
then in words tell what it is, just what it is, this day.
So this wonderful spring day I saw a blossom in a tree, it bloomed high above the
branches bursting forth with brilliant color. I saw the arched head of a deer, the gentle grace of
a doe in movement; I saw a cottontail, standing as a statue. For a while I walked in the tracks of
a raccoon. I sat on a moss-covered stump and wondered what myth am I living? Promptly the
answer came, it is the miracle of God at work and the words came rushing in my head clearly,
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want, he maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he
leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of
righteousness for his name’s sake, yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of
death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me, thou
preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou annointest my head with
oil; my cup runneth over, surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and
I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
I departed the woods and went to the beach, through cracks in the pier, I two swallows
with golden lined beaks closed in their carefully feathered nest. They sleep the deep sleep of
infant’s sleep, their elders sat on the dock rail, chatting together before starting the day of
feeding their young. I heard the call of a heron and the splash of the dive of a gull. I listened to
all the birds and the wonderful sounds of the ocean.
On this day I walked in the good earth, the dirt and the sand. I smelled the clean fresh
air of the mountains and the cool salt air of the sea. I saw a blossom high in a tree and it healed
me. I heard myself saying “let the past go, let the future be, it is enough to feel, and see, and be
in this instant in time.”
I understand that the door was not really closed, all the life and love I had known
walked with me beneath the trees, life flows in an endless stream, being a part of life, we flow
with it.
Spring has many faces, like a beautiful woman whose features fragment in the ripples of a
stream; there are two faces of spring that I hold very dear although they are at opposite sides
of nature’s spectrum.
Have you ever spent a springtime afternoon in San Francisco … that Bagdad by the bay,
you will see lovely girls in bright spring dresses … handsome, tanned men, and the orange paint
of that famous bridge silhouetted against the sky and on the hills the skyscrapers, towers and
cathedrals, awe inspiring canyons of steel that give testimony to man’s great creative genius?
All of this is just the window dressing for God’s wonder that is spring. The winds of
March drive frothy white caps across the bay and in the bright blue sky the soft white clouds
skid and speed over the heavens to the final rendezvous with the golden sunset. Another face
of spring can be seen in the hill country. You know spring comes in many ways to many places
but she must love the mountains the best because it is here the first buds appear on the trees
while the winter snow still clings to the ground below. It is here a riot of wildflowers first comes
to bloom and the roaring river seems to sing an anthem to the coming of spring…. the rebirth of
the land. This is the prelude to the lush dark green of summer, the age-old promise given at the
beginning of time, God’s spring, blossoms, soft breezes, and butterflies, the all-enveloping
peace and serenity this is springtime in the mountain.
Springtime is a wonderful time to renew and rejuvenate our lives and our thinking. Just
as all of nature’s creations began life in the springtime. It’s time to begin life anew, to stretch
and broaden and widen our horizons and our thinking. To burst forth with flowers of love to all
those around us, to everyone and everything we touch.

Sticking Up for Someone

by Marcia Gewelber

I was borne a feminist. In my own home I experienced many
inequities. My father always spoke of and encouraged equal rights for men
and women. Since he died when I was 10, I alone carried the Flag of
Equality.
My mother, for example, always believed my brother was more equal
than I. It reminded me of the book, Animal Farm, in which the “Pigs were
more equal” than any other animals. It was she I had to fight to go to
college. Since my brother was 7 years older than I, I watched as he went to
college, joined a fraternity, while my mother bought him a used car so he
didn’t have to travel by subway.
She had already told me when it came to my turn to enter college; she
would not give me a “red cent” to quote her. In the year 1959 she told me,
“It’s not necessary for girls to attend college. You can work as a secretary,
like other girls your age.”
Well, for those of you who know me, I applied for scholarships and won
one which paid for school as well as my books. At that time, I majored in
Business. To turn a phrase, I “burned my bra” well before Betty Friedan
made it a cry to rally women.
After I graduated valedictorian, I took many types of jobs until I could
save enough money to go back to college and major in Writing. It was at
that point that I was hired by a Psychiatric Group of doctors to transcribe
tapes of cases of child abuse that would be entered into court records.
At that time, the group had just hired their first female Psychiatrist. I’ll
call her Dr. Smith. I had a chance to talk with her on breaks, getting to
know her background and the woman herself. She was a strong woman,
extremely bright, especially being the first female Psychiatrist among men in
the same field at medical school. I learned she felt she had to be better just
to survive. And survive she did.
I worked in that office where the male Psychiatrists would talk to each
other in front of me as if I didn’t exist. That’s when I learned that Dr. Smith
was hired at half their salaries without the “golden” lists of benefits that the
men had in their contracts. They would talk down about her, putting her in a
position of second-class citizen in their eyes—only because she was a
woman.
I kept notes of what they said, knowing instinctively they were
breaking the law, my law. At last I felt I had enough ammunition to speak
with Dr. Smith. It happened I was able to get her alone in the cubicle in
which I worked.
I began by telling her how much I admired her, and how I felt about
female equality. And, I pulled out my notes and began to list all the gossip I
overheard, beginning with the salary difference. She became agitated
immediately. That’s when I explained that I did not want her to use my
name; that I needed this job in order to return to college.
After about 15 minutes, she promised me she would not use my name
and thanked me profusely for informing her about all the discrepancies
included in her contact. She hugged me and said she would confront them
herself.
What I did not know was after our talk she hired an attorney, and was
going to sue the Group. I never saw her again.
Shortly after that, I was fired for a cause they manufactured. I felt hurt
and betrayed. After all, she had promised to keep my name out of it.
I quickly found another job and earned enough to go back to college.
My hurt feelings disappeared because I had a new direction in life, and I
knew I would finally be working as a writer. I graduated as “Writer of the
Year” and have enjoyed my career from then to now.
Today, I look back and see that I wasn’t a snitch, I was a hero in the
sense that Dr. Smith was now on equal footing no matter where she landed,
and I helped getting her foot up, so to speak. I realize how much courage it
took for me to let her know about the disparities she was facing.
And, today, I still wear no bra, knowing I am a true-life feminist!

CURRENT CHAPTER: scroll down to chapters one through nine

CHAPTER ELEVEN NOVEMBER 30, 1899: Thanksgiving

Huffs and puffs to see steam come out of mouth. Snuggled under Mother’s quilt in buggy back seat tells Stella, “I can see my breath a little bit.”
She tucks quilt tighter. “If your nose gets cold, I’ll cover your face with the scarf Earl’s mother knitted.”
“Nose won’t make steam.”
“On the way home when the sun goes down, you’ll be thankful for the scarf.”
Horse stops in front of café. “I knew Emma wouldn’t be ready.” Father reads sign on door. “Closed. I don’t know why she should ride along to Harrington in the first place.”
Stella leans forward. “Mother Superior’s invitation specified not Mrs. Cunningham but hopefully Mrs. Sturgis. Both are spending Thanksgiving with their families.”
Sits up. Hopes to see Buddy.
“But, why Emma?”
Emma is Stella’s friend.
“She’s available. The café is closed and Buddy’s going hunting with his father.”
…Buddy is Caleb’s friend.
“Why anyone?”
Stella leans forward. “Mother Superior invited four of us to join an equal number from the convent for a Thanksgiving dinner. She’ll have her table set for eight.”
…Mother Superior is nobody’s friend.
“I better pull the rig around back where Emma can see us from upstairs windows.” Father snaps the reins.
Stands and hold on to front seat. Looks for Buddy. Smells smoke. Pinches nose.
Man-in-black lights cigar with stick match. Oma gets mad.
“Cigar bad.”
Stella pulls him back. “Hush.”
Father yells. “Hello, Bud.” He chuckles. “Clearing a path to the outhouse?”
“Morning, Father. Just a dusting of snow from last night. Gets me out of the house. You know how Emma feels about cigar smoke.”
Father chuckles again. “Her same complaint with Walt at our meetings.” He waves to Caleb. “Come up front and let Emma sit with Stella.”
Looks surprised from Papa to Stella.
She says, “Father wants you to sit with him. Must be the holiday spirit.”
“Just an awkward situation. I can’t drive off right in front of a man with his wife by my side.”
Crawls onto front seat. “Hold these reins, Caleb, while I visit with Bud.”
Buddy can see Caleb driving horse from upstairs window.
Horse jerks buggy. Stella jumps up and grabs reins.
“I can do it, Ma!” Shakes head. “I can do it, Nana.” Not Nana! “S-stella.”
She laughs. “You think you’re Buddy now?”
Wants to talk something different. “Do you like cigar smoke?”
“Not really. Smoking is something men do when they get together.”
“I don’t want to smoke cigars when I grow up.”
Man-in-Black blows smoke at Oma. “And a little holiday wine won’t hurt the boy.”
“Or drink wine.”
“I should hope not.”
“Hello, Caleb.” Emma looks up at him. “Should not do what?”
Morning Emma. “Caleb and I were just discussing men’s vices.”
“I can add a few to that conversation.” Emma puts foot on buggy’s front step. “Just ask me.”
“I sit up here with Papa.”
“Now it’s Papa again.”
“He’s just excited. Father will correct him if it matters.”
Emma climbs into back seat. “Men up front just as God created the world.”
“Papa wants me up here with him.”
“First Papa, and now God?”
“Emma don’t tease.” Stella leans forward and covers Caleb’s nose with scarf and ties it in back. “Come back with us it gets too windy.”
Papa climbs onto seat and snaps reins. “Hang on. About an hour’s ride to Harrington.”
Nana says, “When the big hand moves to this number, Oma will be home from hospital.”
Closes eyes and sees hands on Nana’s clock. Horse’s feet make clock’s tick-tock on the road. Pretends to drive horse.
Stella’s voice. “Are you getting cold up there?”
“I stay with Papa.”
“Please call me Father, and I’ll call you Caleb.”
Says what Papa wants. “I stay with Father.”
“Good boy.”
“Good Caleb, Father.”
“We each forget sometimes, Caleb.”
Pulls cap down to eyes. Watches birds and looks for animals. Eyes want to shut.
Father puts an arm around Caleb and slows the horse. “Since we’re a little early for Mother Superior to receive us, let me point out some of the highlights of Harrington.”
Wants to hold reins again.
“Would you like that?”
“Yeth.” Reaches for reins.
“Good boy.”
…Father forgets to say Caleb.
“Over on the left, see that big building?”
…Not tall like New York.
“It’s the county court house.”
Oma says, “I’d take you to court if those nuns would let me out.”
“This is where legal matters are settled and records over the past century are kept.” He makes a Jiminy Cricket sound and horse moves.
“Is there a statue of ‘iberty?”
Father frowns. “Not that I know of. Look over there. The Barney Burton Clothing Store. Much bigger than York’s, don’t you think?”
“Bigger than New York?”
“I mean Ben York’s Mercantile back in Bovine.”
Nana says, “New York is too big. Not like town back in Ireland.”
Emma yells from back seat. “I think you missed the turn back there, Pap—Father.”
“I want to show Caleb the new Northern Pacific Railroad Bridge.” Father stops buggy. “There she stands. If time permitted, we’d wait for cars filled with lumber or grain to cross on their way to St. Paul and points east.”
Emma says, “Two or three trains a day. Could be sitting here a long time.”
“Would be worth it, Emma, for something Caleb hasn’t seen.”
“He rode trains all the way from New York, Father.”
“Yes, but not a four-four-two workhorse pulling cargo cars loaded with Minnesota products.” Father snaps reins and Caleb slides back on seat. “Maybe a single Pullman car attached. I still don’t know why the Orphan Train couldn’t have stopped here in Harrington rather than force me to chase all the way to St. Cloud.”
Remembers Sister Mary on orphan train.
“Had to drive all night to get back in time for Mass.”
…Peed in buggy on Mother’s quilt.
Emma talks loud and Sister Mary goes away. “The bishop is located in St. Cloud. That’s why, Father.”
“Then the boy should be his problem, not mine.”
Papa’s eyes find Caleb’s sad face. “Some problems are nice problems, Caleb.”
…Caleb is a nice problem.
Father points. “See the water over there? Looks like a lake but it’s the river backed up from the dam.”
Oma said she wouldn’t give Man-in-black a dam.
“In spring, logs float from up river and completely cover the water. A man could walk across just like over the ice in January.” Father turns his head and talks loud. “We have one of very few dams on the river all the way to the ocean.”
Eyes open wide. “Is this Hudson River?”
Nana says, “Hudson River flows into the ocean and goes all the way to our real home.”
Father says, “Something like that.”
Emma says, “It’s the Mississippi River, Caleb.”
Father says, “I was sparing our ears the boy’s pronunciation.” He pulls one rein and horse sidesteps until buggy faces other way. “That building over there is where we get our electricity.”
“Does a ’letricity man bring it in a wagon like Milk Man and Ice Man?”
Father chuckles. “It comes through a very long cord strung over wooden poles.”
“Nana hangs my clothes to dry on a long cord.”
“Stella does?”
Stella says, “I think Caleb means Nana back in New York. I’ve seen pictures where women hang laundry on rope strung through pulleys between tenement buildings, sometimes even across the street.”
Nana lets negroes use her rope.
Nana says, “Don’t tell Oma. She doesn’t like dark people.”
Father says, “Let’s keep it simple so not to confuse the boy. The river goes all the way to the ocean, and Bovine gets its electricity through a wire.”
River goes to Hudson River in New York, then to Nana’s real home across ocean.
Father points. “Those mansions are where rich folks live. Their trees block our view from the road, but they can enjoy the river from their upstairs bedrooms.”
“Do they smoke cigars up there?”
“Why, I suppose they probably do. What made you think of that?”
Emma laughs. “I guess you guys will have to find some other attic to pursue your bad habit.”
Father does make-believe cough. “The convent is coming up. It’s the three-story brick building on the left.”
Sits between Stella and Emma on chair propped with pillow at Mother Superior’s table. Three sisters-in-brown across table looks at their hands. Mother Superior tells Father at other end of table, “It is indeed an honor to share our Thanksgiving meal with you and your friends, Reverent Busch.”
Doesn’t say Father.
“Too bad Mrs. Sturgis and more of our sisters couldn’t join us, but our patients require twenty-four-hour care. Father, if you would be so kind to give thanks to God for our food.”
Father reads without book.
…Sits in tug boat to Hudson River and across ocean to Nana’s real home.
Sister keeps hands folded. “I would like to add to that blessing a thanks for the opportunity to create a home for God’s orphans.” She hides her hands and talks loud. “Now, if our resident volunteers would be so kind as to serve our dinner.”
Man and woman come in carrying trays of dishes. “Are big-people orphans, too? Points at red berries on Caleb’s plate.
Emma says, “Cranberries, Caleb. Don’t see them too often back home.”
Mother Superior’s eyes find Emma. “I hope we didn’t violate some local tradition by having our cook carve the turkey in the kitchen.”
Emma raises fork. “As long as we get the food along with something to eat it with.”
“I’m disappointed Mrs. Sturgis was unable to come.” Mother Superior puts napkin on her lap. “It’s nice that you could get away from family to join us, Emma.”
Emma says, “I take every opportunity that comes along.”
“Of course.” Mother Superior lowers eyes. “God works in mysterious ways.”
“Mystery solved.” Emma sips coffee from cup, not saucer. “Betty Sturgis and I are both against putting Caleb in your new orphanage. Her mind might be easier to manipulate than mine.”
Father says, “I apologize for dragging our local politics into your presence. I hope after dinner you will show us the facility in progress.”
Mother Superior’s face pops back up. “We received some exciting news from the bishop just yesterday.” She looks from Father to everyone at table, eyes stop at Caleb.
Spoon busts dam Stella made in Caleb’s mashed potatoes. Gravy spills onto red berries. Takes bite of turkey. Makes sour face.
Nana says, “In America, turkey with wine is special for Thanksgiving.”
…Turkey, no wine. Only Father drinks Jesus wine in church. People eat bread without apple butter and strawberry jelly.
Emma asks, “Does your exciting news have anything to do with your orphanage?”
Mother Superior’s eyes move to Emma. “As a matter of fact, yes. The official opening date is still scheduled for the Feast of Christ’s Circumcision, but the bishop will allow us to accept a few orphans as of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.”
“And, according to the calendar ordinary people use?”
…Emma doesn’t like Mother Superior.
Mother Superior smiles. “Emma, ordinary Catholics would understand that we can accept orphans on December eighth, and the dedication of the orphanage will occur January first of the new century.”
…Mother Superior doesn’t like Emma.
“Will your facilities be completed that soon?” Father pushes his empty plate away.
“We’ll use the new wing added to the sisters’ dormitory. Perhaps God will deliver both populations, orphans and novitiates, with increased numbers.” Her eyes find Stella. “More vocations to meet the need of increasing numbers of orphans.”
Emma says, “God sends orphans by the train load, much faster than girls with vocations.”
“Couples like Hank and Betsy Sturgis could serve as volunteer grandparents. Mother Superior looks at Emma. “Something we could have discussed if she were with us today.”
“Instead of the thorn in your side?” Emma smiles. “I believe the image is Biblical.”
“One thorn does not a crown make.” Looks back at Stella. “We may reconsider your vocation, especially since you will have experience working with an orphan.”
…Not orphan no more.
Father says, “Take away Stella, my housekeeper?”
…Nana stays with Papa and Caleb.
“Let God do the calling. We can only facilitate.”
“But….”
“God will tell Stella what is in her heart.”
“God talks to Nana?”
“I believe Nana…” Mother Superior’s eyes find Caleb, “The boy’s real grandmother, cooperated with God’s plan when she saved Caleb’s life. Through her, we will have our first God-sent orphan.” She faces Papa. “You’ll still have a full week for the child to be adopted. Be advised, Harrington has ten times the potential for enlightened parents than Bovine will ever have.” Her eyes find Caleb. “If you could have one wish, what would it be?”
“To drive the horse home.”
Mother Superior makes Oma’s sour lemons face.
Papa talks to ceiling, “Oh, that my wish were that easy to achieve.”
Whispers to Stella. “Will Papa let me drive?”
Papa says, “Yes, we can manage with Caleb until the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.”
…Caleb is happy.
Emma glances at Sister-in-Brown. “Just one of God’s too many feasts.”
…Emma is funny.
***
Clip-clop of horse makes Caleb’s eyes open. Sees fire. Blinks. Flame won’t go away. Squints at red sun peeking through Emma’s hair. “Where’s S-stella?”
“I’m right here. You fell asleep across both our laps.”
“Father let me drive the horse. Just a little bit because I was tired.”
Father says, “Whoa.”
Slides off Emma’s and Stella’s laps and tries to stand.
…Legs want to lay back down.
Father says, “Stella, take Caleb into the Rectory while I give Emma a ride back to the cafe.”
Caleb whispers. “I helped Father drive the horse.”
…Stella doesn’t listen.
Emma says, “Father, you’ve done your duty for the day. I’ll drive myself home and Bud can return the rig to Dowdy’s. The walk back will do him good.”
“Bud’s been in the woods all day. He’s as exhausted as any of us.”
“Then, Buddy will take care of it.” Emma stands behind front seat.
Father doesn’t look at her. “I cannot pass my responsibility on to a child.”
“You are passing the responsibility to me, and I will take care of it.” She climbs over and sits next to Father. She takes reins from him.
Father steps down. “I am relinquishing control confident that you and Bud will use common sense. He turns to Caleb. “Come buggy driver.” He lifts Caleb off seat and down to ground. Holding Papa’s hand, they follow Stella into house. “Please make Caleb and me sandwiches with the turkey Mother Superior sent home with us.”
Whispers to Stella. “Don’t like turkey.”
Stella says, “I’ll spread some honey from Grandpa Hank’s bee hives on the bread. I think you will like that with a glass of milk.”
Papa says. “That sounds good. I’ll have the same.”
Stella makes sandwiches and empties the milk pitcher into two glasses. “I’ll have to walk to the dairy before breakfast tomorrow. Sturgis doesn’t deliver on Fridays.”
Papa says, “After we eat, I’ll take you upstairs to your new room. Mr. York delivered a nice little surprise while we were gone.” He picks up his sandwich. “Driving back home certainly builds an appetite.” Papa takes a bite. “Doesn’t driving the horse make you hungry, too, Caleb?”
Grandpa Hank’s honey makes turkey taste good.

The Courier by Dorothy Macchio critiqued

Roger Storkamp’s comments of The Courier by Dorothy Macchio

The Courier is an ambitious project threading a family trust of international curriers through four and a half centuries of European intrigue and weaving a network of cousins struggling to continue the tradition thrust upon them. Bernice Wheeler San Giacomo, a mirror image of the family trust she represents, is being shuffled into retirement after a final assignment. Irony, a common theme of youth rejuvenating an enterprise, in this case, elder women replacing elder-elder women. The solution, as in most family corporations, Patriarch or matriarch forced to join the board of directors.

Origin of the family trust, introduced in the prologue, develops as cousins piece together parts of family lore, filling in gaps either designed or a natural result of any clandestine operation. Setting (time and place) is skillfully recreated for the reader. History reads like a Wikipedia search and sitting rooms, bedrooms, and libraries are described with vivid detail to enhance the environment in which characters interact.

The flaw, if any, is with Dorothy’s portrayal of characters. How they look and what they do and think are artfully described, but similar to her description of setting. Places and things rely totally on the author’s skill with language; characters need to interact independent of the author creating them. Dorothy’s dialogue is realistic, however, points of view flips from one character to another, never giving depth to any of them.