We finished writing and revising Elizabeth’s Story in February and March, publication in April (well after April 1st). We set up this site as a celebration of the story, but the characters have turned it into a continuation of the journey, trying to find the pathway into a new garden of pleasures and questions. Saving their lives, I think. And they do seem to have boundless energy. And nerve.
A friend asked what these new chapter ideas were all about. And who Elizabeth was. And Kathryn. And Newcomb. I didn’t realize that Elizabeth’s Story somehow has been hidden from view. It is the source of these postings, and the bi-weekly presentation of the unfolding future really is illuminated better if one has read the book. At an absolute minimum, simply check out Bodil’s complaint to Billy (p. 222), demanding her story. I think that’s what this is about. We want our own story to have the good fortune of a well crafted novel. And we want it to continue.
Here is the fortnight’s thought, before I post another chapter idea. I started with eight completed pieces. I have written only one more during the past three months. So, nine. And today I was challenged to brush aside the fear of silence and growing lethargy, and get back on track, begin writing the tenth. Now. Rusty tracks bending out of sight beneath a canopy of trees.
When My Heart Died (1986)
They sat at the table. They could hear Elizabeth moving about in the bedroom, preparing to come out. Kathryn re-filled the kettle and put it on the stove. Billy had knocked lightly on Elizabeth’s door. He went in, shared some of Hollister’s midnight visit to the shed, and returned to the kitchen. Kathryn and Hollister reminisced quietly about the day they met at the alternative center.
Newcomb was stretched out on Kathryn’s recliner in the dim living room, a dish towel covering his head. “To shade my eyes,” he had said. His even breathing told a tale of exhaustion. Or relief. For the moment, at least. Hollister had assured Newcomb that they would learn some more in the morning light, about where their investigation might lead. Perhaps even to Bethlehem.
Billy sat with eyes closed, hands flat on the table, a slight smile, as if he were hiding cards, preparing to show the one he had shuffled back into the deck. “Elizabeth said she would tell us. The whole story. The truth.”
“All of it was the truth, William!” Elizabeth stood in the bedroom doorway. Slender and athletic, ash blond ponytail. Fingers on the door frame. Reflection of a girl. “Yes. It was all true, William. Just certain truths attached to different people. Re-assigned. Along the way. Maybe you will re-write it, William.” She looked around. “And where is Arthur Newcomb?”
Kathryn stepped around the table’s edge. “He is napping in the living room.” She held out her arms to Elizabeth. They embraced and rocked each other gently. “Come on and sit down. You remember Hollister, don’t you? He brought Newcomb. And a bag full of questions.”
Elizabeth held up her hand. “William told me. The Bethlehem story. The party. Chekov. And The Kiss. The coincidence that Newcomb and I were both there. But I never revealed to Arthur that I knew that night he was in the room. Much like today. He is asleep in the recliner and will miss the real story. Once again. Okay. Here is the truth of the matter. In one sentence, like we did in the taxi, William. You remember?”
“Yes,” but Elizabeth cut him off.
“It’ll only take a minute. To tell you,” Elizabeth said, glancing toward the living room. “It’s the same story. Chekov. The mysterious person in the dark. A gentle touch, a moment’s brush of paradise, relief from all fear and doubt. A moment. In all eternity.” She pointed to Kathryn. “We knew.” Elizabeth turned to Billy. “But driving to Virginia. From Maplewood. Dad and I stopped two places. The school, just like we wrote. The tracks. The chain link fence. Right? But before that, we had driven to Bethlehem, or nearby. I knew where to ask.”
The kettle began its whistle, low. Kathryn turned off the burner.
“They told me. At the college office. He was dead. Seven years. Unexpected. Something with the heart. They had a picture. And plaque. ‘When My Heart Died.’ Remember? The inscription, Billy? In Rita’s book?”