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WINGSPREAD E-zine for September, 2020


“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”

September, 2020                                   James Hurd    

Please forward, share this E-zine with anyone. Thank you.

Contents

  • New story
  • Puzzler of the month
  • Writer’s Corner
  • How to purchase Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying
  • Wingspread E-zine subscription information

*********************

New story: Cook County Hospital

A forlorn young woman walked toward them as she carried some dirt and a small plant in the chalice of her cupped hands, crying, looking like a poster child for the human condition. Thin and slightly built, she wore open sandals and only a light windbreaker against the cold. “What’s wrong?” Sean asked.

 “God just gave me this gift, the most precious gift in the world—the Tree of Life. [She held up the small plant cradled in her dirty hands.] And now it’s dying.” She raised her supplicant eyes to him. “I don’t know where to plant it, how to water it, how to care for it. The world’s so cruel and I am so sick. If this plant dies, I die with it; the whole world dies. Please help me!” . . .

To read more, click here:   https://jimhurd.com/2020/09/03/cook-county-hospital/

Monthly Puzzler

(provided by Jerry Galloway)

My friend had purchased a piece of slate to put into the floor in the hearth in front of his fireplace. The slate was 3/4 of an inch thick, by 10 inches wide, by 48 inches long, and weighed on the order of 175 pounds. He had cut a hole in the oak floor that was the same size as the piece of slate.

He had to plunk it right there, and get his fingers out of the way as fast as possible!

The depth of the hole was exactly 3/4 of an inch, the same as the slate. And, of course, there was the subfloor underneath. When he put one end of the slate into the hole in the floor, he realized that he would have to drop the other end to get the slate into the hole. He realized that if he dropped the brittle slate, even half an inch, it would break.

Not only that, but it wouldn’t go in the hole, anyway. There was so little clearance that he couldn’t even use that thin fishing line to lower the end of the slate. So he sat there for the longest time, drinking beers and pondering this dilemma.

After his 5th or 6th trip to the kitchen, he returned with something that solved the problem in an elegant fashion.

What did he find there that allowed him to lower the slate into the hole without risk of breaking it?

All who solve this puzzle correctly will have their names posted in this newsletter!

Last week’s Answer: 

Recall, the challenge was to draw something on a paper that would not appear larger under a magnifying glass.

The “other thing” drawn was an angle, drawn with two lines. So, for example, if I drew a thirty-six degree angle, the angle would not be bigger using the magnifying glass.

Buy James 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/

Follow “james hurd” on Facebook, or “@hurdjp” on Twitter

Writers’ Corner

Word of the Month:  PARAPROSDOKIANS

Refers to a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected. (Winston Churchill loved these). Here are some examples:

  • Where there’s a will, I want to be in it.
  • The last thing I want to do is hurt you, but it’s still on my list.
  • Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
  • If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.
  • War does not determine who is right – only who is left.
  • Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • They begin the evening news with ‘Good Evening,’ then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.
  • To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.
  • Buses stop in bus stations. Trains stop in train stations. On my desk is a work station.
  • I thought I wanted a career. Turns out I just wanted paychecks.
  • In filling out an application, where it says, ‘In case of emergency, notify:’ I put ‘DOCTOR.’
  • I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
  • Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.
  • A clear conscience is the sign of a fuzzy memory.
  • You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive more than once.
  • I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not so sure.
  • You’re never too old to learn something stupid.
  • Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.
  • Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
  • Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
  • Where there’s a will, there are relatives.

Book of the month: Caribbean by James Michener, 1989. A rich historical-fictional cruise through the kaleidoscope of dozens of Caribbean islands, from Cuba to Barbados, from before the time of Columbus until the 1980s. Sea battles. Notorious characters. Gold, silver, and sugar. Michener traveled three years in the Caribbean and consulted 400 books for this novel. (I know; it’s depressing to think about all that research! ☹)

Watch for my upcoming novel: East Into Unbelief (provisional title). There comes a time to either embrace the faith of your childhood, or walk away from it. Sean McIntosh tried to walk away—and almost succeeded.

Being Jesus’s disciple wasn’t always easy

Subscribe free to this E-zine   Click here https://jimhurd.com/home/  to subscribe to the WINGSPREAD E-magazine, sent direct to your email inbox, every month. You will receive a free article for subscribing. Please share this URL with interested friends, “like” it on Facebook, retweet on Twitter, etc.

If you wish to unsubscribe from this Wingspread E-zine, send an email to hurd@usfamily.net and say in the subject line: “unsubscribe.” (I won’t feel bad, promise!) Thanks.

Cook County Hospital

Chicago’s Torrey Bible Institute required each student to do “Practical Christian Work” (PCW).  The height (or depth) of Sean’s PCW experience happened on his only visit to Cook County Hospital.

One day in October five TBI students left TBI’s arch, walked to State Street and disappeared down the stairs to the “L.” A drunk lay face up on the station platform, still as stone, his skin hanging on his bones flaccid and greyish, like a too-large coat on a fasting man. Heedless of the chilly day, he lay insensible as two flies crawled over his scalp. Sean felt guilty stepping around him.

A rising roar and bright light signaled the “L”’s arrival. They boarded the great integrator, filled with people of all social classes, colors and races wanting to get somewhere fast. Sean swayed, holding onto the strap. Not much talking¾people stared straight ahead or read the paper. You couldn’t talk much anyway over the thunder of the train.

All at once the train burst into daylight and rose onto elevated tracks. Sean felt like a bird, looking down on the heads of pedestrians, the tops of cars and busses, and gazing across at the office buildings with their windows framing people working at their desks.

Soon the PCW group disembarked, descended the steel steps and headed toward the hospital, inhaling the diesel exhaust from the busses, keeping their heads down to protect their faces from the Chicago freckles.

A forlorn young woman walked toward them as she carried some dirt and a small plant in the chalice of her cupped hands, crying, looking like a poster child for the human condition. Thin and slightly built, she wore open sandals and only a light windbreaker against the cold. “What’s wrong?” Sean asked.

 “God just gave me this gift, the most precious gift in the world—the Tree of Life. [She held up the small plant cradled in her dirty hands.] And now it’s dying.” She raised her supplicant eyes to him. “I don’t know where to plant it, how to water it, how to care for it. The world’s so cruel and I am so sick. If this plant dies, I die with it; the whole world dies. Please help me!”

Sean stood speechless. Tanya from the PCW team put her arm around the bedraggled girl’s bony shoulders, then turned to whisper to Sean, “She smells of alcohol.” The whole group sympathized, but they had to get to their hospital assignment, so they prayed for her, sat her on a bench hunched and shivering, then walked away. Sean glanced back over his shoulder at her pitiful form, her hands still clutching the Tree of Life.

Cook County Hospital’s Beaux Arts façade featured sweet cherubs and rampant roaring lions anchored by fluted Ionic columns, reminiscent of a magnificent woman past her prime. Known as “Chicago’s Ellis Island,” Cook County embraced all who came, all who otherwise could not afford medical care.

They entered the huge doors and walked across the cracked floor tiles. “Look at those sagging doors,” Sean said to Tanya, “and the paint peeling from the walls.” Bleak, unwashed windows looked out at the great city.

TBI’s Practical Christian Work director had given no orientation—only told them to walk the halls and talk to people. The rooms smelled of urine and rubbing alcohol and overflowed with beds. IV feeds hung down from hooks; oxygen tubes protruded from patients’ noses. A woman moaned and thrashed about. One old man raised his head, crying out. A young boy kept calling “nurse, nurse!” Patients lay on wheeled gurneys lining the hallways. One man had a body cast on, steel rods protruding out of his shins to hold broken bones in place. Harried nurses passed from one patient to the other, their voices echoing through the vast building.  

The PCW director had told them, “Just submerge yourself; do more than get your feet wet. Figure it out yourself. Let God guide you.”

Sean wondered, Why am I here? These desperate people, some terminally ill with no one to talk to. How talk to them? I have enough trouble talking to people I know!

Somehow he got separated from the others and found himself at a cul de sac in front of locked doorsl Then an orderly walked up to a keypad. “Here; I’ll punch you in.” Sean wondered (too late) where the other TBI students were. The doors slammed behind him and he entered purgatory—the mental health ward. Perhaps the hospital staff imagined that these naïve Bible Institute students could distract the patients, entertain them, and relieve the orderlies for a few minutes.

A Negro girl about twelve years old sat at a table and looked up at him. “They say I killed my two kittens. But I loved my little kittens. I don’t know…. They just ate something and died. I took their little bodies out and buried them in the back yard but our dog dug them up and was eating them just as Daddy got home…. He whupped me. Mommy said she’s coming back this afternoon to pick me up. I don’t like it here.” Tremulous, sobbing, she paused coloring in her book and turned to look at her beat-up, dark-faced, doll. “Abigail says Daddy can’t come home anymore because he drinks too much.” Then turning back to Sean, “I love my mommy and daddy. They’re coming to get me.” When Sean tried to touch her, she recoiled.

Raising up from his chair, a shriveled man mistook Sean for his son. “So good to see you, Roger. They treat me terrible here; I’m so glad you’re taking me home!”

A heavy-set woman lay on her bed, just staring up at Sean. He froze. What should I do? he wondered. Read the Bible? Pray? Try to engage her in conversation?

Then the woman yelled, “Turkey, turkey, turkey!” Was she anticipating Thanksgiving?

Another man whispered, “My daughter brought me here with a bad fever. They’re discharging me tomorrow. Some of these people are crazy.”

Another: “God will send fire to consume the whole world. Most of these people are lost souls but I’m saved by the blood of the lamb.”

A middle-aged woman smiled at Sean, then whispered, “I’m a virgin; I’ve kept myself for Christ, but one of the doctors tried to rape me. I screamed and he ran away. Everybody woke up. Nobody believes me, but God protected me.”

The orderly walked up. “A psychiatrist makes rounds…. We keep the dangerous ones in a different ward. Most of these just need medication—they’re not a threat to anybody. Not much we can do. Nobody ever visits them; not even their relatives.” He punched Sean out of the lockup.

Walking into the men’s bathroom, Sean stared at the urinal, trying to control his urge to vomit. He wanted to feel compassion but instead, felt only revulsion. The piety of the mentally ill shocked him. How could Christianity be true if crazy people believed it? he wondered. Where is God in the lives of these troubled people? The sick and injured, bereft of grace, cut off from the love of family and from God. Who cares about these people? Do I even care?

His own lack of compassion, his emotional weakness, guilted him. Kathy would flourish here, he thought. She harbors a huge heart that embraces all kinds of hurting people. But he vowed to himself—I’ll never come back here again.

Shaken, he joined the other TBI students in the entry hall. Some of them enthused about their conversations; others remained silent. A visit to Cook County Hospital gives your faith a reality check, Sean thought. What a failure I was!

WINGSPREAD Ezine for August, 2020


“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”

August, 2020                                    James P. Hurd    

Please forward this Ezine to anyone. Thank you.

Contents

New story: The Great Debate

Wingspread reader challenge

Puzzler of the month

Writer’s Corner

How to purchase Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying

Wingspread Ezine subscription information

*********************

New story: The Great Debate

. . . Sean knew that TBI housed speakers on Norbert Hall’s sixth floor, but still he was surprised when he walked into the elevator and almost bumped into a scowling G. Victor McGraw. Sean stood transfixed, feeling like Moses gazing at the burning bush. But this “bush” didn’t say anything, except: “I’m going to first floor,” spoken as if someone had put sand in his toothpaste. In his sixties, gray-haired, furrowed brow, he exuded the demeanor of a man of God. He didn’t look at Sean as they descended, but when they exited the elevator, he broke wind.

Sean had loved to listen to McGraw’s radio messages—“Dear friends, all people on the topside of God’s earth need salvation. . . .” In his TBI chapel talk, he seemed the epitome of charm and grace. Sean wondered which man was the real G. Victor McGraw. . . . To read more, click here: https://jimhurd.com/2020/08/10/the-great-debate/

(*Request: After reading the article, please leave a comment on the website. Thanks.)

New Challenge for our Ezine readers!

Send in the name of one of your all-time favorite books (author and complete title) and one sentence telling why it is your favorite. I’ll publish some of these in the next Wingspread Ezine.

Puzzler of the month:

(From Malcolm Ross McDonald) I will use a fountain pen with black ink and write my signature on a plain, blank paper, anywhere on the paper. Now, I will draw something else on the paper which will be plainly visible.

When you look at my signature through a magnifying glass, you’ll not be surprised to find out that it’s enlarged. But when you look at the other thing, it is NOT enlarged. The question is: What is the other thing? (Answer next week.)

Answer to last week’s puzzler: 

You have a four-ounce glass and a nine-ounce glass. You have an endless supply of water. You can fill or dump either glass. It turns out that it’s possible to measure six ounces of water using just these two glasses. What’s the fewest number of steps in which you can measure six ounces?

First, fill the 9-ounce glass with water.

Next, pour the water from the 9-ounce glass into the 4-ounce glass, until it is full. This leaves 5 ounces in the 9-ounce glass.

Now empty the 4-ounce glass.

Now, fill the 4-ounce glass, using the remaining water from the 9-ounce glass. Once the 4-ounce glass is filled, you’ll be left with just 1-ounce of water in the 9-ounce glass.

Empty the 4-ounce glass of water again.

Transfer the 1-ounce of water from the 9-ounce glass into the 4-ounce glass.

Again, fill the 9-ounce glass with water.

Pour water from the 9-ounce glass into the 4-ounce glass, until the 4-ounce glass is full.

Since the four-ounce glass already has 1-ounce of water in it, it will only take an additional 3-ounces of water. Guess how much that leaves in the 9-ounce glass? You

Writers’ Corner

Author of the Month:  James Albert Michener was born in 1907 and lived for ninety years. His breakout novel, Tales of the South Pacific, later became a motion picture. Some of his other novels: HawaiiThe DriftersCentennialThe SourceThe Fires of SpringChesapeakeCaribbeanCaravansAlaska, and Texas. Many of his books are multigenerational, with long time spans in one geographic area. He donated millions of dollars to Swarthmore College; the University of Texas, Austin; and the Iowa Writers Workshop. A postal stamp was issued in his honor in 2008.

Watch for my upcoming novel: East Into Unbelief (provisional title). Kathleen’s mother raises her in a Fundamentalist hot-house environment. But then, disaster. How can her mother accept Kathleen’s choices? And how can her boyfriend, Sean, ever forgive her?

Words to ponder

Now that we’re into our seventh month of fighting COVID-19, I’ve got some thoughts and questions:

What you’re telling me is that my chance of surviving all this is directly linked to the common sense of others? You’re kidding, right?

So lemme see, there’s no cure for a virus that can be killed by sanitizer and hand soap?

Is it too early to put up the Christmas tree? I’ve run out of things to do.

When this virus thing is over with, I still want some of you to stay away from me.

If these last months have taught us anything, it’s that stupidity travels faster than any virus on the planet.

Wait a second—what you’re telling me is that my chance of surviving all this is directly linked to the common sense of others? You’re kidding, right?

People are scared of getting fined or arrested for congregating in crowds, as if catching a deadly disease and dying a horrible death wasn’t enough of a deterrent.

If you believe all this will end and we will get back to normal just because we reopen everything, raise your hand. Now slap yourself with it.

Another Saturday night in the house and I just realized the trash goes out more often than I do.

Whoever decided a liquor store is more essential than a hair salon is obviously a bald-headed alcoholic.

The spread of Covid-19 is based on two factors: a. How dense the population is and b. How dense the population is.

Did a big load of pajamas so I would have enough clean work clothes for this week.

It may take a village to raise a child, but I swear it’s going to take a whole vineyard to home-school one.

Remember all those times when you wished the weekend would last forever? Well, wish granted. Happy now?

And another gem for our Catholic friends:

Buy James 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/

Follow “james hurd” on Facebook, or “@hurdjp” on Twitter

Subscribe free to this Ezine   Click here https://jimhurd.com/home/  to subscribe to WINGSPREAD Ezine, sent direct to your email inbox, usually every month. You will receive a free article for subscribing. Please share this URL with interested friends, “like” it on Facebook, retweet on Twitter, etc.

If you wish to unsubscribe from this Wingspread Ezine, send an email to hurd@usfamily.net and say in the subject line: “unsubscribe.” (I won’t feel bad, promise!) Thanks.

The Great Debate

The next Monday Sean left his dorm room and headed for chapel. Because TBI stood tall as a Fundamentalist breeding ground, chapel drew internationally-known speakers with names such as Olford, Redpath, Barnhouse. (When Barnhouse spoke, he bellowed, being used to preaching before microphones came along.) These speakers not only deepened student faith but modeled good preaching for TBI’s aspiring pastors. Scheduled to give the sermon that day was the famous G. Victor McGraw.

His friend Darrell told Sean, “G. Victor McGraw broadcasts a syndicated radio program all across the nation. He’s spoken several times at Torrey Church. And Dr. Clearson studied under him at Dallas Seminary. He’s huge.” Sean couldn’t wait to hear him.

Sean knew that TBI housed speakers on Norbert Hall’s sixth floor, but still he was surprised when he walked into the elevator and almost bumped into a scowling G. Victor McGraw. Sean stood transfixed, feeling like Moses gazing at the burning bush. But this “bush” didn’t say anything, except: “I’m going to first floor,” spoken as if someone had put sand in his toothpaste. In his sixties, gray-haired, furrowed brow, he exuded the demeanor of a man of God. He didn’t look at Sean as they descended, but when they exited the elevator, he broke wind.

Sean loved to listen to McGraw’s radio messages—“Dear friends, all people on the topside of God’s earth need salvation. . . .” In his TBI chapel talk, he seemed the epitome of charm and grace. Sean wondered which man was the real G. Victor McGraw.

He had another celebrity encounter that fall. Jack Parker served as the popular radio pastor of Los Angeles’ redoubtable Church of the Open Door—the church Kathy had attendedwhen she was at Biola. Parker was almost as well-known as McGraw, and spoke internationally at conferences. On the way to hear Parker, Sean stopped by Smith Hall bathroom and walked up to a urinal, being careful to leave an empty one between himself and the next guy. Out of the corner of his eye he saw—Jack Parker!

He’d shriveled before G. Victor McGraw, but resolved to do better with Parker. He still believed that if he could find the right pastor or theologian, he could silence his biggest doubts, answer his most burning questions, strengthen his faith. He decided to risk it.

“Dr. Parker, I’ve got a question. Is this a bad time?”

Dr. Parker glanced up frowning, then focused on Sean. (Both men continued to pee.)

 “I was wondering, if God knows the destiny of all people even before they’re born, why do we worry about saving people?”

Dr. Parker finished and zipped up. “We cannot know whom God has predestined, but our testimony to them may be part of God’s plan.” Then he washed his hands and walked out.

As he left Sean thought, I really botched that opportunity. Hmmm . . . He didn’t convince me. How can anybody believe people are predestined anyway, that they have no choice in salvation? How would you even “sell” this doctrine to your friends? Fundamentalists were always on the alert for sales tips; evangelization was important. He’d failed many times trying to sell Fundamentalism to others.

He walked over to chapel, initialed the sign-in sheet, entered the large Moody-Sankey auditorium with its seats rising toward the back, and took his seat next to Connie, who wore shorter skirts about one inch shorter than average. Like all men, he had a catholic attraction to women¾generic; not specific. When she slouched, he could see her knees and smell her perfume, perfume like his sister wore. “Hi, Connie. You won’t believe who I just bumped into in the bathroom—Jack Parker! I can’t wait to hear what he says today.” If it got boring, he thought, he could keep awake by looking sideways at Connie’s knees.

It wasn’t just Parker’s preaching about predestination that troubled Sean; it was the doctrine of eternal security (once God “saves” you, you never lose your salvation). These arcane doctrines formed the center of Fundamentalist teaching and had been elevated to a test of one’s faith. He turned to focus on Dr. Parker. Good sermon, but it left Sean with many questions.

Dr. Meacham, Sean’s instructor in his John and Acts class, was a fresh DMin graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary, and a crisp lecturer. He’d organized a class debate on John 15—Resolved: John 15 teaches that a person can lose their salvation. The argument hinged on seeing Christ as the vine, and his followers the branches. Branches that yielded no fruit were “broken off” and thrown into the fire.

Did that mean a person could fall away, lose salvation? Sean wondered. When Meacham asked for volunteer debaters, Sean raised his hand and took the “Opposed” position, along with Jenny, a girl he didn’t know. Two other students took the “Support” position. He spent hours in preparation, consulting commentaries, seeking cross-references. The night before the great debate day he lay tossing on his bed, grinding his teeth—had he prepared enough?

The day of the debate, each of the four students presented their case. Sean’s hands felt clammy. He and Jenny emphasized God’s sovereignty to choose and his faithfulness to keep the branches. Their opponents emphasized the plain-language meaning of the text—clearly, the branches could be broken off and burned, so a person could lose his salvation. Then the class voted. When five students voted for the “Opposed” side and thirty “Support,” Meacham expressed frustration that so many students questioned eternal security. Sean and Jenny had lost.

Sean felt disappointed they hadn’t won, but he guessed why. Even here in a TBI classroom, he’d failed in defending eternal security—probably because he had never even convinced himself it was true. He wondered what Kathy thought about eternal security. He thought a lot about Kathy, but felt guilty that his fantasies, his dreams, centered on Betty. He grew more depressed and confused.

WINGSPREAD Ezine for July, 2020


“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”

July, 2020                                    James P. Hurd    

Please forward, or share this E-zine with anyone. Thank you.

Contents

  • New story
  • Writer’s Corner
  • Puzzler
  • How to purchase Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying
  • Wingspread Ezine subscription information

*********************

New story: Sean works at the pie-filling plant

Sean McIntosh grew tired earning ninety-nine cents an hour working maintenance at Torrey Bible, so he was happy when Mrs. Thomas in Student Affairs told him, “We have a factory job at $1.25 an hour. You can go over and apply.” So in October of his second year, Sean ate early lunch in the dining hall, then exited the arch and walked toward the “L” to go for his job interview.

Disappearing down the subway stairs at State Street, he heard the roar and clacking of the approaching train. After a ten-minute ride he climbed the stairs to ground level, then turned west, walking away from the office skyscrapers toward the industrial section. The vast city with its timeless old brick factory buildings depressed him. His mother suffered from mild depression; he wondered if that explained why he sometimes felt depressed. Or did he just have fading, flagging faith?

He stopped in front of an ancient brick building with dead-eyed windows (for a Californian, all Chicago buildings seemed ancient) and a stone-linteled door. He entered and walked into the musty hall. . . . To read more, click here:   https://jimhurd.com/2020/07/04/sean-works-at-the-pie-filling-plant/

(*Request: After reading the article, please leave a comment on the website. Thanks.)

How to get lots of attention

Life happens while you’re doing something else. My daughter and I were downtown passing out food amidst the chaos and mess following the George Floyd killing. I lost consciousness and woke up for an ambulance ride and a pacemaker installation. Lots of gratitude for the EMT people, Abbott Hospital, modern technology, and the unnamed “angel” who gave me chest compressions while I was passed out. I feel grace.

Writers’ Corner

Word of the Month:  Tagline vs. Logline? Both are tools to sell your book or novel. But the tagline is short (5-10 words), intended to arrest attention. [“In space, no one can hear you scream.”—Aliens]. In contrast, the logline is longer, usually only one sentence, and answers the question, “What is the plot line?” [“A police chief with a phobia of open water battles a gigantic shark with an appetite for swimmers and boat captains, in spite of a greedy town council who demands that the beach stay open.”—Jaws]. Apart from these, a synopsis is a one-to-three-page telling of the novel.

 Author of the Month:  James Joyce

Born in Dublin in 1882, Joyce is Ireland’s best-known poet. Dubliners is a series of short stories set in some of Dublin’s known neighborhoods. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is partly an autobiographical narrative of a unique life. Ulysses, considered by many as “almost unreadable,” is his most famous novel.

Watch for my upcoming novel: East Into Unbelief. A coming-of-age tale of Californian Sean McIntosh, who, after he loses his father and then loses his girlfriend, Kathleen, travels to Torrey Bible Institute, Chicago to get his life straightened away. But while there, he loses his faith in God and fails in his attempt to become a mission bush pilot. It’s a long road back to joy—and Kathleen.

Words to live by:

  • Don’t irritate old people. The older we get, the less “life in prison” is a deterrent.
  • I’m on two diets. I wasn’t getting enough food on one.
  • Apparently, RSVP’ ing to a wedding invitation “Maybe next time” isn’t the correct response
  • I miss the 90’s when bread was still good for you and no one knew what kale was.
  • I thought getting old would take longer.
  • I told my wife I wanted to be cremated. She made me an appointment for next Tuesday.
  • My wife asked me to take her to one of those restaurants where they make food right in front of you. I took her to Chipotle. That’s when the fight started.
  • Picked up a hitchhiker. He asked if I wasn’t afraid he might be a serial killer? I told him the odds of two serial killers being in the same car were extremely unlikely.

If you wondered why you had to study Latin in school, note, below:

This month’s puzzler

(Credit to Frank Juskolka)

You have a four-ounce glass and a nine-ounce glass. You have an endless supply of water. You can fill or dump either glass. How can you measure exactly six ounces in the fewest number of steps?

 Last month’s puzzler: What thing(s) do all these words share in common?

Assess
Banana
Dresser
Grammar
Potato
Revive
Uneven
Voodoo


Answer:  If you switch the first letter of each word to the end of the word and write it backwards, it is the same word. (You sent in some great partial answers!)

Buy James 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/

Follow “james hurd” on Facebook, or “@hurdjp” on Twitter

Subscribe free to this E-zine   Click here https://jimhurd.com/home/  to subscribe to the WINGSPREAD E-magazine, sent direct to your email inbox, every month. You will receive a free article for subscribing. Please share this URL with interested friends, “like” it on Facebook, retweet on Twitter, etc.

If you wish to unsubscribe from this Wingspread E-zine, send an email to hurd@usfamily.net and say in the subject line: “unsubscribe.” (I won’t feel bad, promise!) Thanks.

Sean works at the Pie-filling Plant

Sean McIntosh grew tired earning ninety-nine cents an hour working maintenance at Torrey Bible, so he was happy when Mrs. Thomas in Student Affairs told him, “We have a factory job at $1.25 an hour. You can go over and apply.” So in October of his second year, Sean ate early lunch in the dining hall, then exited the arch and walked toward the “L” to go for his job interview.

Disappearing down the subway stairs at State Street, he heard the roar and clacking of the approaching train. After a ten-minute ride he climbed the stairs to ground level, then turned west, walking away from the office skyscrapers toward the industrial section. The tired city with its old, run-down brick factory buildings depressed him. His mother suffered from mild depression; he wondered if that explained why he sometimes felt depressed. Or did he just have fading, flagging faith?

He stopped in front of an ancient brick building with dead-eyed windows (for a Californian, all Chicago buildings seemed ancient) and a stone-linteled door. He entered and walked into the musty hall.

He approached the manager who sat at his desk in a high-ceilinged room with blinds drawn over tall windows. “Hi, I’m Sean McIntosh. Mrs. Thomas at TBI’s Student Affairs sent me to apply for your open position.”

 Mr. Allen looked up, then shoved a small form across the table. “Hello, Sean. You can write down your Social Security number here.” That was it—no application, no job interview—he was hired. TBI students had a good reputation.

Sean grasped a splintery banister as he followed the manager up a flight of uneven wooden stairs to a large room dominated by a huge, roaring machine. Overhead, cobwebs hung from sleepy wooden beams.

Mr. Allen called over to Tom, the floor guy. “This is Sean. Put him on the can line.” Then he walked out.

Tom yelled at Sean, “Put on eight cans at a time. Just make sure you keep up.” Tom didn’t say much else; you could hardly hear over the roar of the machine, anyway. Standing on an uneven pine-board floor, Sean stuck his fingers into eight empty cans and placed them on the roller table, close to the beating heart of the machine. As they moved, he picked up eight more cans. Easy to get the hang of it but you had to pay attention. After the machine squirted pie filling into the cans, they marched out the other end filled, capped and sealed. After two weeks Sean figured out what “pie filling” was—a processed mixture of fruits for pouring into pie crusts before baking. Sometimes Sean would dip his finger into the mix for a taste.

Nobody seemed to care where the product came from or where it was going. He felt like Oliver Twist in a Dickens novel—performing mindless work in a bleak industrial world. Solitary, alone among a multitude of mute minions.

After he’d been working a week, Tom rolled a cart in with an enormous tub of hot pie filling. He yelled, “Come over and grab a handle.” Sean gave a heave to hoist the tub to the enormous vat, but faltered halfway up. Several gallons of pie filling spilled out across the floor. That was the last time Sean helped with tub-lifting; back to putting cans on the conveyer belt.

During the three months he worked, all he learned was how to put cans on a conveyer belt, eight cans at a time for four hours a day, numbing movements that cut him loose to explore the great inscape of his mind. He would look out the dirty window to glimpse the dead, wax-paper sky and dream of summer days with J-3 Cubs ascending and descending over grassy airstrips. He thought back to flight camp, still tasting the bitter failure. Would TBI accept him for flight camp this summer? It was the only reason he was staying at TBI.

After two hours work Sean got a fifteen-minute break. Walking into the break room, he saw another guy sitting at a table. Sean didn’t know what to say to him, and soon the guy got up and left. Sean pulled a Mars candy bar out of his pocket along with a packet of Bible verses. The Navigators organization printed little cards, each with a verse on one side and its reference on the other, grouped into small packets. Each packet had a different theme. He mouthed the words, trying to memorize.

His thoughts drifted to Kathy. He felt happy she’d come to TBI, but wondered at her somber demeanor, despaired of getting close to her. He’d mentioned he’d gotten a job in a pie filling plant. She said she’d started work in TBI’s dining room.

He tried to concentrate on his little packet of verses but someone had thrown an old Playboy on the table and the cover drew him. He glanced over his shoulder at the door, then opened the magazine. A world of unclad women magnetized him, so much so that he almost forgot to go back to work. He left feeling guilty and weak-willed.

The next time he came into the break room he turned the Playboy over, then put it in the drawer. But he couldn’t unsee the pictures. Pornography is like scratching a scab, he thought. It feels really good, and you’re driven to keep scratching, even after it turns bloody.

At five p.m. Sean placed his last eight cans on the belt. Without a word, the shift manager shut down the huge machine and walked out. Sean descended the uneven steps and exited into the city that still belched smoke from its hundreds of stacks, raining down “Chicago freckles.” Chicago—harsh, impersonal, businesslike, building industry to build capital. Compassionless city, God-forsaken. He walked alone for ten minutes, then joined the crowds squeezing into the “L” train. At Chicago Avenue he exited and walked west.

Entering TBI’s arch, he stepped into a saner, gentler world. He had friends here, and staff and faculty who may not know his name but still counted him as one of their own.

Wingspread E-zine for June, 2020

“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”

Contents

  • New story: “Bledsoe at Cuyahoga High”
  • This month’s puzzler
  • Writer’s Corner
  • Winners of the 100-word story contest!
  • How to purchase Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying
  • Wingspread E-zine subscription information

*********************

Please forward or share this E-zine with friends. Thank you!

New story: “Bledsoe at Cuyahoga High”

After his divorce Harold Bledsoe decided to travel back to his Boston roots, arriving to a joyous welcome from his parents. His mother had always given him her unconditional support, never questioned his choices. “Harold; why don’t you move into your old room? Take as long as you’d like to heal from your disappointments.”

He walked into his bedroom, untouched since he’d left for college—family pictures, overstuffed chair, writing desk, body-building posters, the familiar smell. He took advantage of his willing parents—hibernated, paid no rent, didn’t help with household tasks, borrowed their car when his was in the shop. Such is the logic of the single man.

His divorce had shaken him. Thinking back to his high moral training at Plymouth Congregational, he resolved to straighten out his life by reducing his alcohol consumption, stopping smoking and even avoiding dating. . . . To read more, click here: https://jimhurd.com/2020/05/29/bledsoe-gives-up/

(*After reading the article, please leave a comment on the website. Thanks.)

Puzzler of the month:

(Credit: Bob Dinger)

All the words in this list share one thing in common. What is it?

Assess
Banana
Dresser
Grammar
Potato
Revive
Uneven
Voodoo

Answer to last month’s puzzler: If you wished to lose at a game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” how would you do it? Answer: If you wished to lose, you would play the game exactly the same way you would play if you wanted to win.

Writers’ Corner

Word of the Month: Bildungsroman novel

A coming-of-age story where the protagonist matures emotionally and spiritually. (Think Dickens’ David Copperfield or Anne of Green Gables.)

Book of the month: John Grisham, The Appeal. 2008. A legal thriller that pits a billionaire against a poor woman in a small town. Spoiler alert—it does not turn out well.

Movie of the month: Call the Midwife. This Netflix BBC TV series is simply a delight. One of the few series my wife and I both like to watch. Set in the rough east end of London in the mid-twentieth century, it tells the story of a dedicated cadre of nuns and midwives who provide services to poor birthing women. Great characterizations. Redemptive stories. Dedication, compassion, dare I say love. Warm community. Positive treatment of religious values. I told my wife, “Except for the blood and screaming, and too many pregnant women, it’s a great show!” 😊 Highly recommended.

Thoughts to ponder:

  • I thought I saw an eye-doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to only be an optical Aleutian.
  • She was only a whisky-maker, but he loved her still.
  • A rubber-band pistol was confiscated from an algebra class, because it was a weapon of math disruption.
  • No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.
  • A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.
  • Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.
  • A hole has been found in the nudist-camp wall. The police are looking into it.
  • One of my all-time favorites: Why is it that time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana?

Watch for my upcoming novel: East Into Unbelief (provisional title)

Shawn and Kathleen grow up in the charmed world of 1950s California. But just after graduation, Shawn travels east to Torrey Bible Institute where he fails at his life ambition, loses his deep Christian beliefs, and loses Kathleen. How will he find his way back to his dream, his faith—and Kathleen?

Special challenges when you’re the mother of Jesus . . .

Winners of 100-word story contest:

Ta Da! The results are in. Readers submitted their best stories—in 100 words.

Here are the winners:

Bill Doyle        While living in Germany, my young family traveled to visit friends in Austria. The American military hotel in Munich, our first night’s destination, was full, so we continued south on the autobahn. Soon we entered a small town with a quaint gasthaus, a combination hotel, restaurant, and bar. I asked the proprietor in my best German: “Haben sie eine doppelt zimmer?” (Do you have a double room?) He brusquely replied in good English, much better than my German: “What do you want?” Though I continued to study German, from that day I usually spoke English to start conversations with Germans.

Virginia Todd:      Jerry shivered in the cold and tried desperately to steel-away waves of panic. He had no coat, nor even shoes. His frail body went unnoticed by those who passed. No caring. No help. “Jesus, you will help me. You love me, and only you!”

The morning began to warm. Jerry, weak and teary-eyed, stood up. His languid blue eyes looked down the busy sidewalk. “God,” he breathed. “I see help. A lovely lady is coming my way!”

A warm coat and shoes were put on. Jerry smiled and praised God. Thank you too, lady, for caring. He smiled.

Eric Beck:     I had been carrying the stein around with me all day. The beer inside it was virtually gone. Now I entered the music store. I knew this would be where I’d find it. And though I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for, I said to the clerk, “A bass.” Was it a word of knowledge directly from the Lord?

“What color?”

I hesitated. I held up my libation.

 “Ah,” he said. I went home that day with a red four-string.

I walked out of the house the next morning with a purple coffee mug.

Buy James 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.) 

Follow “james hurd” on Facebook, or “@hurdjp” on Twitter

See pics here related to Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying: http://www.pinterest.com/hurd1149/wingspread-of-faith-and-flying/

Subscribe free to this E-zine   Click here https://jimhurd.com/home/  to subscribe to the WINGSPREAD E-magazine, sent direct to your email inbox, every month. You will receive a free article for subscribing. Please share this URL with interested friends, “like” it on Facebook, retweet on Twitter, etc.

If you wish to unsubscribe from this Wingspread E-zine, send an email to hurd@usfamily.net and say in the subject line: “unsubscribe.” (I won’t feel bad, promise!) Thanks.

Bledsoe at Cuyahoga High

After his divorce Harold Bledsoe decided to travel back to his Boston roots, arriving to a joyous welcome from his parents. His mother had always given him her unconditional support, never questioned his choices. “Harold; why don’t you move into your old room? Take as long as you’d like to heal from your disappointments.”

He walked into his bedroom, untouched since he’d left for college—family pictures, overstuffed chair, writing desk, body-building posters, the familiar smell—all the same. He took advantage of his willing parents—hibernated, paid no rent, didn’t help with household tasks, borrowed their car when his was in the shop. Such is the logic of the single man.

His divorce had shaken him. Thinking back to his high moral training at Plymouth Congregational, he resolved to straighten out his life by reducing his alcohol consumption, stopping smoking and even avoiding dating. He worked a few odd jobs—restaurants, construction. Even though he didn’t see the point of attending, he felt guilty about staying away from church. But what could the church give him? Plymouth’s teachings provided thin porridge for his thirsting heart. He felt condemned and uncomfortable with Plymouth’s high moral standards. How could anyone live up to them? His parents didn’t pressure him, but he realized how much his life had diverged from theirs.

 

Two years passed. He told his father, “I’m going to apply for some high school teaching jobs.”

“Great idea, Harold. You can use your teaching degree, your coaching minor,” his father said.

Bledsoe knew he needed to get away from his folks but didn’t want to go back to California and face the debris he’d littered on those shores. He stumbled upon an ad mentioning that Cleveland’s Cuyahoga High School needed a coach and guidance counselor, so that summer of 1956 he applied, then drove out for an interview. Cuyahoga High was housed in one of those massive L-shaped brick buildings built in the 1920s with a tall brick chimney on one of the gable ends and a flagpole on the other. He walked the halls imbibing the institutional smell of wax and old wood, talking to teachers and staff, then interviewing with the principal and superintendent.

The superintendent queried him about the two-year gap after his Palo Alto counseling job. He told him, “Well, I was recovering from a nasty divorce.” Beyond this speed bump, he wowed them with his personality, good looks, and articulate answers. They hired him on the spot, and that fall he started teaching and counseling at Cuyahoga. His first year at his new job went great—this bronzed Odysseus awed everyone. Divorce had encouraged Bledsoe to make some moral amends, amends he was proud of—he’d stopped smoking and cut back on his drinking, but the giant of lust still loomed. He continued reading girlie magazines, feeling it a harmless pastime, not seeing the need to stop, not thinking how it might harm him.

 One day in early fall of his second year, he found himself in his office behind closed doors, listening for two hours to one of his counselees who oozed pain and struggle. “Mr. Bledsoe, all my dad does is yell at me,” Beth said. “I feel like I don’t have any friends. I’m afraid to talk to boys. I’m a bad student. I don’t think people like me.” He gave her a sympathetic hug and she responded. He smelled her perfume, felt her warm skin.

After a few sessions they began meeting furtively after school. She has no one and she needs me, he reasoned. What harm can it do, especially if no one finds out? Being in an unfamiliar city far from home, still wounded from a divorce, he himself needed human touch, and here was a young girl that idolized him.

If he wanted something, he pursued it. Not Beth’s need, but his own selfishness impelled him to continue seeing her. He became more and more attached—and more and more afraid of being found out. Beth came to him as a fragile, vulnerable flower struggling to bloom. Desperate, she found in him a harbor for her soul.

What am I doing? he thought. She’s fifteen years old. He knew if the school discovered their liaison, he would not only lose this job; no other school would hire him. But, he rationalized, Beth needs me. I’m the only one that can reach her, help her. I mustn’t fail her.

Bledsoe employed his neocortex, not so much for logical thinking but for rationalizing the things his little rat brain really wanted. He congratulated himself on his compassion, his skill in dealing with Beth’s anxieties. He could not admit that his meetings with Beth merely fueled his own lust, harmed Beth and jeopardized his job.

WINGSPREAD E-zine, May, 2020

“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”

May 2020                                                                                         James Hurd    

Contents

  • New story!
  • Writer’s Corner
  • My new novel: East into Unbelief
  • Puzzler
  • How to purchase Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying
  • Wingspread subscription information

*********************

New story: Bledsoe at Play in California

 (Please share this story with your friends at: https://jimhurd.com/2020/05/05/bledsoe-at-play-in-california/     Thanks!)

True—Harold Bledsoe had come to Torrey Bible Institute without much of a Fundamentalist background. Born to wealthy Bostonian Christian parents, he grew up in historic Plymouth Congregational Church, a stone edifice that honored its Pilgrim founders. Plymouth was big on social gospel, moral uplift; not so big on sin or the Cross. As a teenager, Bledsoe bundled lots of undisciplined energy into his sculptured body and lifted weights several times a week. Plymouth’s pastor, Rev. Emerson Bodie, took Bledsoe on as his special project, confirming Harold at age thirteen—a ritual more like a tribal rite of passage than an affirmation of historic Christian doctrine. Bodie told him, “Harold; you’ll go far; God has his hand on you.”

Starting his senior year in high school, Bledsoe told Rev. Bodie, “I want to help young people like you’ve helped me.” But really, he wanted only one thing—to get away, see the world. . . .

 To read more, click here:   https://jimhurd.com/2020/05/05/bledsoe-at-play-in-california/ 

 (*Please leave a comment on the website, and share the site with your friends. Thanks.)

  

Writers’ Corner

Word of the Month:

Scenify:  Dividing your manuscript into scenes. This helps reader visualize the story. “Showing,” rather than “telling.”

Book of the month

Agatha Christie, Death in the Clouds (hardcover), London: Collins Crime Club, July 1935. 256 pp. An extortionist passenger is mysteriously killed, apparently by a blowgun dart. With her on the plane is Hercule Piorot, Christie’s unlikely Belgian dandy detective, who shuttles between London and Paris, casts suspicion on all the passengers, and then brilliantly solves the mystery. (As a pilot, I was a little critical of the aviation terms in the book.) At one point, only the Bible had sold more books worldwide than Agatha Christie.

 

Watch for my upcoming novel:  East into Unbelief

A bildungsroman tale of Shawn McIntosh, who lived a charmed California childhood and assumed all his dreams would come true. But in his senior year (1959), his father died, and then his best girlfriend deserted him. He traveled east to Chicago’s Torrey Bible Institute searching for a vocation and for answers, but instead, lost his life dream of mission bush flying, and then began to lose his Christian faith. It was a long road back to faith—and joy.
The novel is finished, but the title (and other stuff) is still evolving.  😊

 

New contest, only for you, our E-zine readers! 

Write a story in 100 words, maximum. Come on! You can do it! Only 100 words.

It can be on any topic, and can be memoir, fiction or non-fiction.
I’ll select the best story and publish it in our June Wingspread Ezine. ((You’ll be famous.)
Final judge—me! I will evaluate the stories based on human interest and writing craft.
Deadline—May 30, 2020.

Go!

This month’s puzzler:

A woman was born in 2020, but dies in 1995. How did she do it?

Answer to last month’s puzzler: Assume that the earth is a perfect, smooth sphere. If you were to stretch a string around the earth at a height of two feet, how much longer would the string be than the circumference of the earth?

Let D                                       =          Diameter of the earth

D+4                                         =          The diameter of the string

Pi D                                         =          Circumference of the earth

pi (D+4)                                  =          Circumference (length) of the string

Subtract circumferences    =          pi (D+4) –   pi D

=          pi D + 4 pi – pi D

Circumference of string     =          4 pi

=          4 (3.14) or 12.56 feet

Therefore, the string is 12.56 feet longer than the circumference of the earth. (Note: this works, regardless of what the earth’s circumference is.)

——————————————————–

Other quotes and quips:

 Things that keep me awake at night:

  • Is the “S” or the “C” silent in scent?
  • So Queue is a “Q” with five silent letters?
  • How come fridge has a “d” in it but refrigerator doesn’t?
  • Can toilet paper be used as legal tender?
  • I saw a t-shirt with the sun on it wearing sunglasses. What is the sun protecting its eyes from?
  • If you throw a surprise party for a psychic and they’re surprised, is their reputation ruined?
  • I woke up one morning, and saw that all of my stuff had been stolen and replaced by exact duplicates.  Steven Wright

 

Buy James 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/

 Follow “james hurd” on Facebook, or “@hurdjp” on Twitter

  Subscribe free to this E-zine   Click here https://jimhurd.com/home/  to subscribe to the WINGSPREAD E-magazine, sent direct to your email inbox, every month. You will receive a free article for subscribing. Please share this URL with interested friends, “like” it on Facebook, retweet on Twitter, etc.

If you wish to unsubscribe from this Wingspread E-zine, please reply with the words, “unsubscribe.” (I won’t feel bad, promise!) Thanks.

Bledsoe at play in California

True—Harold Bledsoe had come to Torrey Bible Institute without much of a Fundamentalist background. Born to wealthy Bostonian Christian parents, he grew up in historic Plymouth Congregational Church, a stone edifice that honored its Pilgrim founders. Plymouth was big on social gospel, moral uplift; not so big on sin or the Cross. As a teenager in the church, Bledsoe bundled lots of undisciplined energy into his sculptured body and lifted weights several times a week. Plymouth’s pastor, Rev. Emerson Bodie, took Bledsoe on as his special project, confirming Harold at age thirteen—a ritual more like a tribal rite of passage than an affirmation of historic Christian doctrine. Bodie told him, “Harold; you’ll go far; God has his hand on you.”

Starting his senior year in high school, Bledsoe told Rev. Bodie, “I want to help young people like you’ve helped me.” But really, he wanted one thing—to get away, see the world.

“Harold, you want to help people and you like athletics. Why don’t you major in counseling and coaching? I’ll write you a college reference letter.”

So Bledsoe applied to Stanford (as far away from Boston as he could get), got accepted, and in the fall of 1948 drove solo to the West Coast. He loved breathing in the leather smell of his 1946 Cadillac convertible, a graduation present from his folks. With its three hundred forty-six cubic inch L-head V-8 engine, hydramatic transmission, fat bullet fenders and a spotlight, it turned heads.

When he arrived at Stanford, his roommate Jerry warned him, “If you’re a freshman, you can’t park a car on campus.”

But Bledsoe told the men’s dean, “Say, I need a car to take my disabled aunt to the grocery store a couple times a week.” The dean bought it—no one found out that his only aunt lived three thousand miles away—so Bledsoe got a permit to park on campus.

Stanford hit Bledsoe like a grenade. The war years had just past, and the pedagogues knew that education held the key to bringing peace to the world (ignoring the fact that educated Germans had just presided over the killing of six million Jews). Stanford’s entering freshman class planned for crazy—minoring in academics and majoring in fun, soaking up the easy living in the coppery California sun. A college degree guaranteed a job, so they studied whatever they fancied. Harold inhaled this West Coast world, a world where established custom, morality, traditional ideas, hung in a state of suspended animation. He signed up for ballroom dancing (for his phys ed major), English, modern sexuality and a film class. He studied casually, striving for the “gentleman’s C.” He wasn’t sure he really wanted a degree but he liked the ethos of Stanford, and he had no alternate plans. Besides, college would keep him out of the draft.

He loved hanging out and smoking with the other jocks in his genteel, testosterone-fueled fraternity. The guys would go to restaurants, beachcomb, body surf. His parents footed his bill, so he had money to drive his friends down along the old El Camino Real, where they hung out in Dinah’s Shack or Rickey’s Swiss Chalet, savoring the juicy burgers and fries.

And the California girls! They’d flung off the strict morality of their East Coast forebearers, along with miscellaneous articles of clothing. He wondered if they’d invented the saying, “Girls just wanna’ have fun.” He loved their impossibly long legs, painted toenails, their slim, tanned bodies and abbreviated two-piece swimsuits.

The beautiful Stanford girls invited Bledsoe to beach bonfires, drive-in movies. They relished riding in his black Cadillac convertible with its wheel skirts and white sidewalls, the wicked wind blowing through their hair. They loved his Boston accent. (Instead of California he said Californier).

In a word, Bledsoe was a chick magnet. He chased the girls and they chased him. He had an early liaison with a willing Mexican girl he’d met in film class. He told his roommate, “I love her Spanish accent, brown skin, black hair and eyes. I never knew any Mexicans growing up in Plymouth, Massachusetts. ‘Course I’m not thinking of marriage.”

 

Then came Bledsoe’s senior year at Stanford. By this time, his most exciting activity was reading Stag magazine. He didn’t broadcast his literary interest, rationalizing that it was private, harmless, and anyway, lots of other guys in the frat house read it.

Since he’d just turned twenty-one, he decided to celebrate with a drive down the coast to historic San Juan Capistrano. He was sitting in the Mission Grill sipping a Margarita and feeling good about life when a couple girls in two-piece bathing suits approached his table. They seemed hardly out of their teens—California-tanned, long blond hair, brown eyes, looking for adventure.

“Hi; are these seats taken?”

“Nope…. Are you guys in college?”

“Yeah; we’re both freshmen at San Diego State. We’re tenting down on the beach; wanna join us?”

An abrupt request, but of course he accepted. They jumped into his black Cadillac and let him drive them down to the beach.

The evening started out splashing about in the cold waves and continued with bonfire-roasted hot dogs on a stick washed down with beer. The girls joked with him, putting their arms around his neck, rubbing his back. He had no trouble reading the cues. Do they want what I think they want? he wondered.

The sky darkened, the moon rose, the fire died down. More beer, mixed with the taste of the sea-salted breeze.

“Do you have a girlfriend?”

“Well, no. . . . I’ve got several friends but no girlfriend.”

In the fall, California beaches get chilly when the sun goes down, and the girls proposed that they retire. That night their two-person tent accommodated three, and the evening ended up with communal conjugation. Turns out, the girls were looking for a manage de trois with the next reasonable male they could find, and apparently he qualified.

 

The next day Bledsoe drove the several hours back up to Palo Alto, bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived, his head still spinning. He, a child of privilege, didn’t feel conflicted about the encounter, or indeed, about anything—he followed his emotions and animal desires. From the heady viewpoint of the broad sea-smell vistas along the California beaches, the high morality of his old Plymouth church seemed outdated.