[An excerpt from my novel, East Into Unbelief, soon to be released.]
March came, the days brightened and the weather turned warmer and windy, the trees dragging their leaves like nets. Sean walked across the quad and up to his English class. He loved some of the poetry they were reading, but he would never admit that to his friends. And Christian Education class. Mr. Getsch’s lectures fascinated Sean—he taught them how to teach, how to start a file drawer. Or, maybe Sean just enjoyed sitting next to Linda Fuller from Manchester-by-the-Sea.
Slightly built, Linda’s brown hair fell carelessly to her shoulders, framing her brown eyes. Usually she wore a white blouse with short sleeves, her pleated skirt falling just to her knees. and black flats—casual but not sloppy.
Fascinating, exotic Linda. Sean loved her self-confidence, her brio. Fuller: Sean loved the name. It sounded English. He knew nothing about New England, but he loved her New England accent. She told him, “Yes—the town was founded in 1645, just after the Pilgrims . . . Mother belongs to the Daughtahs of the American Revolution.” She said cah for car; sneakahs for tennis shoes. Imagine growing up, not in Santa Ana, but in Manchester-by-the-Sea!
Linda explained how Dean Darla Dickenson shadowed the lives of the Hargreaves Hall girls like a darkening eclipse. “She’s always calling someone in over something. I think she cares about us, but she tries to control . . .” Possessing the metabolism of a hummingbird, Linda never harbored an unspoken thought, never finished a sentence, and never provided segues. But Sean, usually at a loss for something to say, loved the way her words filled his awkward silences.
“Last week my roommate asked Dickenson if French kissing was a sin.” Linda said as she opened her textbook and binder. “I think she needs to get married. That’ll solve all her problems.”
Sean’s face colored, not being used to such frankness. He assumed most girls weren’t interested in French kissing. Then he thought of Betty. Maybe some girls were like Betty, even TBI girls.
Sean knew that Dickenson was long on law, short on grace. She lived a disciplined life, defending her moral barricades so fiercely that no man had ever dared breach them. “What did Dickenson say to her?”
“Oh; Dickenson said it was a sin.” Linda chattered on, stopping only when Dr. Getsch’s opening prayer drowned her out.
It was 1961, and most colleges practiced in loco parentis—curfews, no alcohol, segregation of the sexes. Most colleges locked the girls up, tracked their movements. But Fundamentalist schools more so—they endeavored to shield them from the attack of a post-WWII culture that threatened to overwhelm their moral defenses.
Linda, beautiful Massachusetts Linda. A few days after their conversation, Sean asked her to go with him to Lincoln Park. Walking up LaSalle Street, Sean realized they would miss TBI’s dinner, so they stopped at a little restaurant for sandwiches. “I wish my parents would come visit,” Linda said, “but they won’t leave my baby brother, and can’t very well take him . . . Oh, look! A couple CPD cars stopped at that apartment. I wonder what . . . I’m glad they’re . . . My dad got stopped by a policeman once.” Linda burbled on about her classes, her roommate, her church and family back home. Sean searched for a verbal handhold to vault himself into her monologue.
Then they reached Lincoln Park, a beautiful summer gathering place—gardens, little lakes, curving walkways, manicured lawns, trees misted green with their tiny new leaves. Along the border of the park, elite residential buildings towered over them.
They sat down on a bench to watch the ducks swim around in one of the little pools rippled by the brisk March wind, their reflections moving with them across the water. Above in the trees, sparrows rose in random gusts. Linda slouched down and her dress drifted a couple of inches above her knees. Sean pretended to not notice. Linda pretended she didn’t notice that he noticed, as she gazed at the ducks and wriggled her dress back down.
She wore a thin chain with a Cross that nestled between her breasts, like gold cascading down a mountain vale. “Where’d you get that Cross pendant?” Sean asked. He longed to grasp it.
“Oh; I got that in the TBI bookstore. They’ve got all kinds of . . . Oh look, a squirrel!” She looked, fascinated, as the animal scurried up a maple tree. “Our dog at home loves to chase squirrels down cellar . . . Isn’t this lake beautiful? Look at those ducks . . . I wonder if there’s a bubbler nearby? I’m thirsty. . .”
Linda talked like she was strewing potato chips on the ground—Sean didn’t know which to pick up first. Was she nervous, having to comment on everything? Regardless, her idle babble reassured him. After careful thought, he reached over and took her hand.
She stopped talking and stared again at the ducks. Embarrassed, he released her hand. After a while they stood up and started walking. Linda stared ahead. “Holding hands is like being on an elevator, you know. I’m scared of elevators. You start going up slowly, but then you go higher and faster. It’s hard to stop.” Sounds exciting, Sean thought. But her objections confirmed that girls didn’t welcome his advances. Betty must have been an anomaly, he thought. It was getting cold, so they walked over to the “L,” rode it south, got off at Chicago Avenue, then walked the short distance back to TBI.
As they reached the school, Sean glanced at the façade of Moody-Sankey Auditorium. D.L. Moody was a great nineteenth-century evangelist. His partner, Ira B. Sankey, was a gospel singer and hymnwriter. Sean thought about the dozens of huge brass organ pipes that lined the front of the auditorium. He fantasized about taking Linda up into the dark balcony, but he wasn’t sure he was that courageous.
They walked into Hargreaves lounge, a sterile space as formal as a king’s reception room, designed to guard couples’ morality. The rule was “three feet on the floor.”
“The afternoons are growing warmer, and the park had so much green grass,” Linda said as she sat down. I wonder about our lawn at home. Oh; did you hear about the spring banquet? I suppose Dickenson will check the girl’s dress lengths, as usual.”
Sean said nothing. Was she hinting he should take her to the banquet?
“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”
March, 2022 James P. Hurd
- New story: “Covid and the Myth of the West”
- New puzzler: Whose son?
- Writer’s Corner
- Wingspread E-zine subscription information
- Assorted wisdom
Please forward, and share this E-zine with anyone. Thank you.
New story: “Covid and the Myth of the West”
Many Americans have faced Covid by worshiping the Myth of the West. The western pioneers were self-sufficient, exercising maximum freedom to do what they wished, facing the world alone. In the same way, modern myth-followers demand their freedom to make COVID decisions alone. To be human is to be tribal—protecting my family, my people, my group. But the true pioneer is loyal to a tribe of one—himself.
Covid has called forth extraordinary acts of bravery and sacrifice, but it has also revealed the dark side of American individualism. People wish to be free to refuse masking, free to refuse vaccination. Like many teenagers, they want their freedom, but they also need, want, and sometimes demand community resources. The Myth of the West, the rugged pioneering spirit, works against these community-based ideals that are essential for responding to Covid.. . .
To read more, click here: Covid and the Myth of the West | Wingspread (jimhurd.com)
(*Please leave a comment on the website. Thanks.)
This month’s puzzler
A man and his son are driving 20 miles an hour around a gentle curve in a Suzuki Samurai when the vehicle flips over and rolls down a steep hill.
The man is badly injured and lapses into a coma, and his son is seriously injured as well. The boy is rushed to a hospital where he is examined in the emergency room.
The doctor determines that the boy’s life can be saved only by immediate brain surgery. Fortunately, one of the few qualified surgeons in the country lives nearby and is summoned. This brain surgeon rushes into the operating room, takes one look at the boy on the operating table, and says “GASP!!!, my son!”
How is this possible?
Answer to last month’s puzzler: Recall that the circus came to town. They sold exactly $100 worth of tickets to exactly 100 people. However, you guessed it, not all tickets were the same price. Men paid $5, Women paid $2, and Children paid only ten cents each. (Maybe they thought they’d make it up in popcorn and cracker jacks.) The question: How many men, women and children bought tickets?
This is not as simple as it looks, until you figure out the little trick. And as soon as you see the trick, as soon as you see that you have the basic eureka, aha moment! And the key is that the children must come in increments of 10. Otherwise, you’d have a number that won’t work.
So let’s say 10 kids came in, giving the circus $1.00
So the other 90 people would be men and women, who paid $99. But you can’t get this to come out right.
So you try with 20 kids paying $2.00 total. 80 men and women would pay $98. Nope.
So you keep going and going, and finally, finally when you stick in 70 kids, you come up with 70 kids, 19 women, and 11 men. And that adds up to 100 people and $100.
Tip of the month: If you are young, try to find an agent to market your manuscript. If you are really old, query directly with the publisher. Submit to https://christianbookproposals.com so various publishers can see your manuscript. ($100.00 fee)
Words of the Month: Coherent vs. Cohesive. You want your writing to be both.
Coherent means that the manuscript represents a completed whole. Think of a tree, where all the branches are connected to the trunk.
Cohesive means that the various parts of the manuscript are logically connected, like the various cars in a freight train. You don’t want the “cars” to wander off by themselves.
Found on the Internet: The problem with quotes on the internet is you never know if they are genuine. -Joseph Stalin (1878 – 1953)
A story and an essay by James Hurd in: Covid: A Compilation of Short Stories, Essays, and Poetry. Yuma Writers Consortium. 2022
Buy James P. Hurd’s Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying. How childhood (Fundamentalist) faith led to mission bush-piloting in South America—and Barbara. Buy it here: https://jimhurd.com/home/ (or order it at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc.)
See pics here related to Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying: http://www.pinterest.com/hurd1149/wingspread-of-faith-and-flying/
Watch for my upcoming novel: East Into Unbelief
Sean loses his father, his best girlfriend, his life dream, and finally, his faith. How can he be a good atheist, especially when he’s stuck at Torrey Bible Institute? He can’t see it, but grace is coming . . .
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A dyslexic man walks into a bra.
PMS jokes aren’t funny. Period.
Class trip to the Coca-Cola factory. I hope there’s no pop quiz.
I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger. Then it hit me!
Broken pencils are pointless.