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Winter 2012   $8.99The Path           A Literary Magazine©Elaine Westphal
The Path                A Literary Magazine                                                    Winter 2012       “One Fine...
Editor-in-ChiefMary J. NickumManaging EditorDian Butler                 The Path is published with the purpose of         ...
TABLE OF CONTENTS             Volume 2, Number 2 Winter 2012          John G. Nickum   7      The Touch          A. Paul B...
“Easy reading is damn hard writing”            ---Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Touch                               John G. NickumThe TouchShort Story        “Get away from me.” “Leave me alone.” Th...
The Pathwomen actually enjoyed it and even went to sleep afterwardswithout washing and cleansing themselves.        They h...
The Touchbothered greatly by the implications related to their ExecutiveDirector’s advice to “entertain the troops.” What ...
The Path        He was the son of a blue-collar factory worker and hisstay-at-home wife, brought up to distrust “managemen...
The Touch        Actually, he’d had questions right from the beginning oftheir marriage; even before the wedding. He had a...
The Pathstatements… very odd statements… about sharing the bathroomwith her father. Such things certainly never happened i...
The Touchshe had to stop dwelling on this aspect of her life. She forcedherself to think about the upcoming meeting where ...
The Pathworkshop and then helped tutor attendees, such as Nick. MariaIlliana… so very attractive, a few years younger than...
The Touchhad gone out to that country tavern and restaurant with the restof the group. He had stayed there late into the e...
The Path        “Hi, Steve.” “Hi, Bill.” “It’s good to see you guys.”“It’s been a long time since South Dakota,, Bill. He ...
The Touch        “Maria, do you know Jon, he is in the DC office of ourprogram? How about Carl, he’s at Oregon State?” She...
The PathEPIlOGUE…After the conference, Maria and Nick returned to their respectivejobs and homes. Each of them proceeded w...
The Divine Humanity                                A. Paul BergenThe Divine HumanityAn Essay                              ...
The Pathbillions of other instances of planetary life within billions ofother solar systems in billions of other galaxies ...
The Divine Humanityinevitably lead to global warming, drastic climate change, theextinction of polar caps and rising seas....
The Pathenvironmentalists among the adherents of all religions.Nevertheless, religions common disdain for physical, materi...
The Divine Humanitybefore the end of this century, conflicts over food and water willbe a major cause of international str...
The PathEverything that is not, is not God. You and I are God and so isthe earth we walk upon. Given this perspective, God...
The Divine Humanity        To illustrate how we give meaning to the universe and, inessence, create our own universe, cons...
The Pathmeaning comes from within, from my own sense of purpose andintent. I feel that my thoughts, perspective, actions a...
Old Lobo                                       Budd NelsonOld LoboShort Story        A grizzled old lobo sits his haunches...
The Path         As he is calming down and just about to drift off intoblankness, his nearest neighbor the, white topped n...
Old Lobo        After his hunger was slaked, he started on back up theridge and in the direction where his old pack slept ...
The Pathwith cool air and sang his sorrowful song for a long time.Eventually he stood and made his way to his place of sle...
Old Lobo         Old Lobo reached his safe place a little later than usual.He had been moving more slowly because he had g...
The Path                     Woodrow W. Walker                                 ]One Fine Night in GeorgiaShort Story      ...
One Fine Nighttheir mates and Rose was humming softly to the tune of theswings squeaking chain.         Travis opened a ca...
The Path         “I rest my case,” said Rose. “She knew you would onenight come for that prize watermelon, all she had to ...
One Fine Night         Although Gus and Travis had never got to taste any oftheir illegal brew, it was not the same for Ot...
The Path        A few months earlier a Macon bank had been robbed bythree men. One had been shot while escaping. The other...
One Fine Night        “Well you can imagine my astonishment when SallyBarker, that old busybody, told me what I should’ve ...
The Path        “You see,” said Travis. “Gus overheard a salesman goingon about how rattlesnake meat tastes the same as ch...
One Fine Night         A full moon rose slowly over the tall swaying pines tocast its warming glow over the landscape, cre...
The Path                         Tatjana DebeljačkiAbout the Meaning of LoveAn Essay        As if I am invited to do somet...
Meaning of Love         Oh desire, you exist in vain! Why, for goodness sake, wecould have gone on that secret trip togeth...
The Pathsearching for oneself if we got lost before we could findourselves? There are no shortcuts on the roads of life. I...
Last First Days     Catherine Becker ReynoldsLast First DaysAn Excerpt from a novel to be released in 2013A Married ManMon...
The Path        He sees that, by sleeping late, he has missed watchingDarya braid her hair. Most of it is hidden now under...
Last First Dayshe bother to honor a wedding he himself has forced on us?Ruslan inspects his food and nuzzles Mitya’s face ...
The Paththreads. He was exhausted yesterday from the effort of subduinghis will to the required celebration of this weddin...
Last First Days          “Thank you for your kind offer, Mitya,” Darya says now.“I suppose I do not need to decide until w...
The Path         “I made it last week after my other sewing wascompleted,” says Darya. Then Mama told me you tore yourothe...
Last First Dayslively pink face, blue at the end, said someone who saw her.Lisaveta will never tease him again, and though...
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  1. 1. Winter 2012 $8.99The Path A Literary Magazine©Elaine Westphal
  2. 2. The Path A Literary Magazine Winter 2012 “One Fine Night”The Path is taken by all writers. The Path to Publication can be long and arduous. This publication is dedicated to straightening and shortening that path. Please enjoy the work of authors who have chosen to take the path to publication.
  3. 3. Editor-in-ChiefMary J. NickumManaging EditorDian Butler The Path is published with the purpose of providing quality works to the readingFounding Editor public. It is our wish to also provide a venueR. J. Buckley not only for established authors, but to open another door for new writers to make theirAssistant Editor entrance into the literary world.Caitlin Demo Submission guidelines can be found at theCopyeditor end of the book after the contributor bioPattie Angelucci information.Book Reviewer Correspondence should be directed to theMary J. Nickum Editor-in-Chief, Mary J. Nickum, mjnickum@thepathmagazine.comContributing Authors:A. Paul Bergen Published semi-annually. Single copies,Elena BottsFaith Breisblatt $8.99 (Arizona residents add sales tax).D. E. Z. Butler Ezine, $3.99. For libraries $10 per issue.Tatjana Debeljački Subscriptions: $16 per yearJordan FarrisClaire T. Feild website: www.thepathmagazine.comChase GieldaThomas Michael McDadeBudd Nelson ISBN:Dr. John G. NickumCatherine Becker Reynolds ISSN: 2165-9540 (print)Mary M. Stumreiter ISSN: 2167-1737 (online)Linda UlmanWoodrow W. WalkerLeah M. WhiteTim Wilkinson Copyright 2012Eva Willis The Path to Publication Group, Inc. All rights reserved.Advisory Board:Pattie AngelucciDr. Theresa GatesDr. Sam Sterk
  4. 4. TABLE OF CONTENTS Volume 2, Number 2 Winter 2012 John G. Nickum 7 The Touch A. Paul Bergen 19 The Divine Humanity Budd Nelson 27 Old Lobo Woodrow W. Walker 32 One Fine Night in Georgia Tatjana Debeljački 40 About the Meaning of LoveCatherine Becker Reynolds 43 The Last First Days—An Excerpt Tim Wilkinson 57 One Fine Night in Georgia Thomas Michael McDade 67 Delaware Avenue 73 Carl Sandburg Crossword Puzzle Chase Gielda 74 Young Writer’s Corner D. E. Z. Butler 87 Poem Jordan Farris 89 Four Poems Claire T. Feild 95 Three Poems Linda Ulmer 97 Four Poems Mary M. Stumreiter 101 Poem Leah M. White 102 Three Poems Faith Breisblatt 105 Poem Elena Botts 107 Three Poems Eva Marie Willis 111 Two Poems Tatjana Debeljački 113 Two Poems Mary J. Nickum 116 Book Review: North Korea – 3 books Contributor Bios 128 Submission Guidelines 133 Advertisements 135
  5. 5. “Easy reading is damn hard writing” ---Nathaniel Hawthorne
  6. 6. The Touch John G. NickumThe TouchShort Story “Get away from me.” “Leave me alone.” The wordsburned in Nick Johnson’s mind as he backed out onto the streetand headed for the conference in Milwaukee. It would be along, eight hour drive on rural roads. He would have plenty oftime to think. He had been doing a lot of thinking lately. Thoughts continued to race through his mind. “Why did Imake that half-hearted attempt at romance last night? I reallydon’t give a damn anymore. Sometimes I wonder if I ever cared.There must be more to marriage than this. We certainly aren’t‘soul mates’. After all these years, I can lie in that bed andwonder just who is this woman there beside me… actually, she’sway on the other side of the bed.” He had gone through the motions of saying good bye thismorning… even gave her a peck on the cheek. But, her goodbye was just more of the same old crap, “Have fun with yourknow-it-all fishy buddies.” She wanted no part of his academiclife and never missed an opportunity to put him down foranything connected to it. She had no understanding of the factthat these were professional scientists and that the conferencewas conducted for the purpose of sharing new information. Shehad been totally content when Nick was a high school teacher ina small town. Coffee, gossip, and bridge with the other stay-at-home wives was all she expected out of life. Procreation was awoman’s lot in life, so occasional submission to sex wasnecessary, but she was sure that sex was not meant to bepleasurable. She had been shocked to learn that some of those Path to Publication Group 7
  7. 7. The Pathwomen actually enjoyed it and even went to sleep afterwardswithout washing and cleansing themselves. They had met when he was a sophomore in college. Shewas the daughter of a local salesman and his stay-at-home wife.She had a job as a secretary-bookkeeper in a local hardwarestore. She and her family gave lip service to education, but hardwork and “ambition” were more important. She claimed that shehad wanted to study pharmacy, but she had made no attempt toobtain the academic background required. He was a farm boy, acountry bumpkin, who did not realize just how much of asheltered existence he had lived, nor how much potential he had.His mother was a teacher, a highly intelligent woman whorecognized the value of education. He was pursuing a degree ineducation, specializing in the sciences; a specialization thatconcerned his father. His father was an intelligent man, but hehad never questioned the dogma and folk wisdom of his religion.He feared science, especially biology. Nick and Maggie had met at church. Both had beenreared in a fundamentalist Christian denomination, but had littleelse in common… other than the fact that each of them had beendating a Catholic. Given the prejudices of fundamentaliststoward Catholics, it soon became a project of the smallcongregation to get these “nice, Christian young people”interested in each other. Truth be told, the first thing he noticedabout her had been her boobs pushing out the front of her choirrobe. Having been reared to please the expectations of theirparents and their parent’s friends, they soon followed the adviceof the preacher/pastor and started dating. Dating led quickly toengagement and marriage while he was only a junior in college.“Why…oh why, did I listen to that preacher?” That thoughtraced through Nick’s mind for the ten thousandth time. “Oh… my… gawd! Did you see the way that idiot cameup the on ramp? He must have been going 90 miles per hour”.Maria Illiana snapped out of her day dream and joined the otherpassengers in their astonishment over the ridiculous, recklessdriving they had just witnessed. The van was packed with heroffice mates and several biologists, all on their way to an annualmeeting of their professional society. Maria had been thinkingabout the meeting and what it might mean for her. She was Path to Publication Group 8
  8. 8. The Touchbothered greatly by the implications related to their ExecutiveDirector’s advice to “entertain the troops.” What did that mean?Being friendly, cordial, and sharing humor with members oftheir professional society; or did he mean more? He was an oldguard sexist who saw women as objects of pleasure rather thanprofessional equals. Annual conferences always seemed to bringa number of “annual meeting flings”. She had not been thinkingabout those kinds of things. She was not going to be someone’sgirl toy. She was thinking about her personal life and theproblems she was facing. Her marriage to Lou, was not bad… it was… it was…just nothing. She had difficulty finding the right words. Yes,she was married legally, but there was no bonding, no emotionalconnection. Lou certainly was no soul mate. He was not meanto her, but, he did have a violent streak, as shown by the time hehad nearly killed his son, her stepson, because of some minorchore that had not been finished. He was something of a controlfreak who always had to be right; always the one to have the lastword on everything… even things he knew nothing about. Heseemed to respect her professional stature, but he certainly didnot fit in the world where she worked. Sex was just somethingto be endured… get it over with. But there were two sons… twosons living. Their two sons were all they had in common. Whyhad she married him?She had been a young woman, just out of graduate school aftercompleting her master’s degree when they met. He was amaintenance man at the laboratory where she served as librarian.Their backgrounds could hardly have been more different. Shehad been born to a rural couple who were scraping out asubsistence living on a Northwoods farm and woodlot. Education was her way of escaping the near poverty inwhich she had been born and reared. Her parents hadencouraged her in her education, but had reacted with alarmwhen she was offered a job a thousand miles from home. Herfather was on old-fashioned German who though he knew whatwas best for his wife and children. So, she accepted a position ina town less than 150 miles from home; a good position, but notthe glamorous spot in a prestigious university that she couldhave had. Path to Publication Group 9
  9. 9. The Path He was the son of a blue-collar factory worker and hisstay-at-home wife, brought up to distrust “management”. Yet,he had thrived in the military. His Air Force career had takenhim far beyond his humble beginnings in Michigan. Thedownside of his military career had been a lonely wife backhome who sought comfort in the arms of other men. Fourchildren, one of whom probably wasn’t his, were not enough tokeep them together. He had convinced a judge that his formerwife was not a fit mother and that he should have custody of thechildren, even though he would not be there to provide guidanceand supervision. He had to spend most of his days working andthe children were pretty much on their own. Perhaps that young,single librarian was the answer to his problems. He needed a“mother” for his children. She needed to show her domineeringfather that she was independent and could do what she damnedwell pleased. After a short courtship, they eloped. “Holy s***”…. Nick shook himself, slapped his headand brought his car to a stop. He had been so distracted, soengrossed in his thoughts that he had driven right through a 4-way stop. Lucky for him, no other cars were there. He realizedthat he had to focus on driving, not the questions burningthrough his mind. But, the questions kept coming. Maggie claimed that sheloved him, but she wanted no sexual intimacy. “That just doesnot make sense.” She claimed that she respected his educationand his professional stature, but she never missed an opportunityto put him down, to tell him how much better things were beforehe “lost his commonness”… and his common sense. When hehad criticized a statement of their son’s high school biologyteacher, a young recent college graduate, (who had, indeed, beencompletely in error), Maggie, had challenged him belligerently,“What makes you think that you know more than his teacher?”In her world, a high school biology teacher had been the ultimateauthority. All of the advanced studies that Nick had pursued inhis graduate education and the respect shown to him by his peersand graduate students meant nothing. She rejected all that hehad become professionally, as well as, his body. How could sheclaim that she loved him? Was there a dark secret somewhere inher past that led her to create a bizarre fantasy world? Path to Publication Group 10
  10. 10. The Touch Actually, he’d had questions right from the beginning oftheir marriage; even before the wedding. He had almostaccepted the advice of his best man to simply leave town on theday of the wedding. All day long, Arnie kept telling him wherethey could be if they left then, starting at 8 o’clock in themorning. Even an hour before the ceremony… but, Nickthought he had to go through with it. The wedding went smoothly, except for the attempt ofone of his drunken buddies to object; but, questions emergedwithin hours. Maggie claimed to be a virgin, but that initialentry was not difficult at all… no blood, no apparent pain,basically no different than later, even after children had beenborn. But, there was one very strange thing. Before the secondattempt at love making, Maggie had asked him to not wear acondom, because she wanted to “experience sex for real”. At thetime, he thought that it was an expression of wanting him, but astime moved on he began to have questions, even alarm, becauseher aversion to sex, almost a phobia against it, grew moreintense. What was her problem? But, there was also his “problem”. Was it normal to beattracted to so many other women, or was his “problem” just thetypical feelings of a young male? Jokes about “HawaiianDisease” (lacka nookie) notwithstanding, he had begun todaydream, even fantasize about female neighbors, colleagues,and friends, He could imagine them as sex partners who reallydid want him and who would give themselves completely to therelationship. In contrast, Maggie claimed that “it hurts”, “myperiod is starting” (this for at least 15 days each month), and sheusually went to bed two hours before he joined her, soawakening her was out of the question. She claimed that he wasa good lover, but she still avoided sex whenever remotelypossible. He begged her to discuss her “problems” with aphysician, but she never did. “I just couldn’t discuss it.” Nickbegan to believe that she was hiding something. Perhaps shehad been molested as a child, or a young woman. Or maybe thatlong-term relationship with Bob, the guy who had intended to bea priest, was not as platonic as she claimed. But, guilt feelingsfrom that shouldn’t explain her problems later. What if she hadbeen molested by a family member? There were those odd Path to Publication Group 11
  11. 11. The Pathstatements… very odd statements… about sharing the bathroomwith her father. Such things certainly never happened in hisfamily. As a “good Christian girl”, she certainly would not wantto discuss a past that included molestation with her physician, oreven her husband. That would blow her “fairy tale world” tosmithereens. Nick used to joke that in her fairy tale about“Prince Charming” and the beautiful maiden, no one everdiscussed what happened when they got back to the castle. “Oh…my…gawd. Did you see that…!” Once again,Maria Illiana was shocked out of her near trance. She never didsee what it was that her companions had seen, apparently a manwho was a serious challenger for the title of “World’s FattestHuman”, who amazingly was still walking about. She reallydidn’t care to join the discussion. She was now “slim and trim”,but had fought weight problems most of her life. She hadempathy for those who had this problem and thought thelaughter to be inappropriate. She was still pondering hermarriage. She had decided that it was not what she wanted… notwhat she knew in her heart a marriage could be, or what itshould be. But, there were her two sons to consider. She knewabout the vicious verbal attacks on Lou’s former wife duringtheir divorce. She knew about the children being forced totestify and the terrible treatment he pressed on his younger sonfor testifying in favor of his mother. She did not want to haveher sons subjected to degrading statements about her or beingforced to testify against her. She often thought about her third son; the one bornprematurely at 28 weeks. He did not survive. She had neverseen him and Lou had told the hospital to dispose of him withthe rest of their waste. There had been no funeral… no closure…and the resentment grew. Surely, she should have been consultedand given the opportunity to ask for a funeral, a decent burial ina cemetery where she could find closure in her own way. Maria felt trapped. She had entered into an untenablesituation. She was in a legal union, but emotionally, it wastotally empty. If only there was someone who understood. Ifonly there was someone and something to help her escape. Shewas not prone to despair, nor depression, but she realized that Path to Publication Group 12
  12. 12. The Touchshe had to stop dwelling on this aspect of her life. She forcedherself to think about the upcoming meeting where she couldescape, at least for a few days. Nick had continued to think about his “situation” and toremember some of the specific temptations over the years.Several attractive women, and a few who were not so attractive,had made it clear that they were available. He had no doubtsthat they would have been better lovers than Maggie, but there ismore to life than that. Shared intimacy involves more than thebedroom. Rose Marie, the young woman he tutored while ingraduate school, was beautiful, intelligent, and seeking aneducation. Her family had money, but, he could not forget hisvows to Maggie. He could not handle a divorce on top of thedemands of graduate school. Most of the others were really not that attractive, beyondthe possibility of a romp between the sheets. But, there wasConnie… beautiful, sexy, intelligent, and they shared stronginterests in environmental issues. Unfortunately, she wasmarried also, the wife of a university president. The potentialscandal was enough to deter him, even though her breathlesscalls at 6:00 AM seemed to make a statement far beyond mutualinterest in the environment. He had thought of divorce. He had also thought ofsimply disappearing, but he did not want to give up his academiccareer. At times he became depressed, almost suicidal. He haddreams in which there was a gun in his mouth. The dreams wereso vivid that he took his guns and secured them in a locker awayfrom the house. When he tried to tell Maggie how despondenthe was and that he might end up in a mental institution, she hadlaughed at him and told him he was exaggerating. When he toldher that she was driving him into the arms of some other woman,she ignored him and later told him that she just thought he wasmad at her. For once, she was right. --- He was almost toMilwaukee. He had to concentrate on his driving and findingthe meeting venue. Then he thought of Maria Illiana. He had met her brieflyat a workshop-conference several months previously. Sheworked for the professional society whose annual conference hewas going to attend. She had made a presentation during the Path to Publication Group 13
  13. 13. The Pathworkshop and then helped tutor attendees, such as Nick. MariaIlliana… so very attractive, a few years younger than Nick, butnot a recent graduate. She had the dark eyes and dark hair thathe had always found attractive… and that beautiful, almostmusical name… she was so intriguing. He had learned that shewas not a Latina, but rather of Bavarian ancestry. Howinteresting. His ancestral roots also went back to Germany. More importantly, she was clearly intelligent andinterested in academic, even scholarly matters… so differentfrom Maggie, who would never even take a course at theuniversities where he taught. Perhaps even more importantly,Maria seemed interested in him… she had even suggested thathe should join her in taking in the view of the campus from oneof the nearby tower buildings. He thought now that he shouldhave taken the opportunity to get better acquainted. The thoughtthat she might be at the meeting was almost too much to hopefor. But, what if she is there… I’m still married to Maggie. ---“I have to face reality and start the divorce proceedings.”---“But, what if Maria is happily married?” Maria and her colleagues were approaching Milwaukee.The mindless chatter and small talk flowed around her, but shecontinues to think about her unsuccessful marriage. She knewthat she needed to leave; to find an attorney and get on with adivorce, but… there were her sons… and where would she go?If there was only some place to go and someone to go with her…she would go. Maybe eventually she could leave on her own,but, right now that seemed impossible. Then her thoughts turned to the upcoming conference.There would be plenty of young scientists trying to forget abouttheir wives and sweethearts back home. But, they were justinterested in “annual meeting flings”. Such things had becomequite common in recent years. In part, it was driven by middle-aged men realizing that time was passing them by, the “middle-age crazies. Others were just “dirty old men”, even though theywere barely into their thirties. Maria and her colleagues jokedabout liaisons with such men… their professional society wasmostly male… but the only ones that appealed to Maria seemedfully committed to their wives back home; such as that NickJohnson she had met at the workshop a few months before. He Path to Publication Group 14
  14. 14. The Touchhad gone out to that country tavern and restaurant with the restof the group. He had stayed there late into the evening. He wasfriendly, but did not give any indication that he might beavailable Nick Johnson… he was only a few years older thanMaria, but had beautiful white hair that make him sodistinguished looking. He did not seem to realize how manywomen were attracted to him. He was known for his honestyand kindness, as well as, his scientific capabilities. In the brieftime that Maria had seen him at the workshop, she had noticedan easy confidence about him as he interacted with hiscolleagues. He also had a quick wit, rarely missing anopportunity for a “one-liner” punch line when someone provideda straight line. She loved that kind of humor. Maria was surethat he would be at the meeting. His program was partiallysponsored by the Federal Government and a meeting of thatgroup was scheduled for the evening before the formal meeting.Government folks had a “thing” about evening and/or earlymorning meetings, never missing an opportunity to have one. A few hours later, Maria turned to Lisa, her roommatefor the meeting, and said, “There must be something better to dothan sit here watching TV. That cooperative program meetingshould be over by now. Maybe some of the guys are ready forpizza and beer.” She decided to walk down the big spiralstaircase to the lobby. That way she could see who was thereand pick out the ones she wanted to talk with. The first personshe spotted was Steve, the guy who had arranged for herparticipation in the workshop in the early summer. She did notknow the person he was talking to, but they seemed to be havinga good time… she would join them. “Hi, Maria; it’s great to see you again. Do you know myold colleague from graduate school, Bill Jones? No, well Billthis is Maria. Maria, this is Bill.” They resumed theirconversation, mostly about old times, but with a little of theircurrent work added. Maria just listened. Suddenly, she becametotally alert. “That’s him” she thought. “Yes, it is NickJohnson… and he is walking straight toward us.” Maria felt herface flushing… not too much she hoped. Path to Publication Group 15
  15. 15. The Path “Hi, Steve.” “Hi, Bill.” “It’s good to see you guys.”“It’s been a long time since South Dakota,, Bill. He had seenSteve at the workshop in New York, but hadn’t seen Bill in 10years. “Nick, do you know Maria?” Oh, you probably met herat that workshop in New York last June.” They bothremembered meeting, but Steve’s introduction eased them bothinto the conversation. Neither one of them wanted toacknowledge at that moment just how much they remembered. Steve and Nick had been at the Cooperative Researchmeeting earlier in the evening, but hadn’t had a chance to talk,so discussions about the program and the new directionsdemanded by the Administration and Congress filled the nextfew minutes. Most of the other guys decided to go for pizza anda few beers. Steve had received the message from others afterthe meeting, but Nick had already gone to leave some papers inhis room, so it was news to him. “Maria, Bill, it’s an open gathering; please join us.” Theinvitation came easily from Nick and gave no hint of his desireto learn more about Maria. He already knew much about Steveand Bill; they had been his graduate students for their Master’sdegrees. Steve had also been his assistant in New York beforeNick had moved to Iowa in a last ditch effort to placate Maggie. “It looks like it’s going to rain and I have a car… anyonewant a ride?” Nick did not feel like getting wet… and maybe,just maybe, Maria would prefer to ride. “Thanks, Nick, but, I really need to get some exercise.It’s only a half mile or so to the pizza joint, I think it’s calledBrewBakers, or something like that.” Steve had been a collegeathlete and always chose to get some exercise when he could.Bill joined Steve in saying that he, too would walk. Maria loved to walk, but she was not going to miss thisopportunity. “Thanks, Nick, I’ll take a ride.” A crowd had gathered when Maria and Nick enteredBrubakers. Steve and Bill had walked quickly, trying to stayahead of the rain that was just starting. They had secured one ofthe high bar tables that had room for as many as six people. Acouple of their colleagues had joined them, but there was stillroom for Maria and Nick. Nick made sure that Maria got a seatnext to his. Path to Publication Group 16
  16. 16. The Touch “Maria, do you know Jon, he is in the DC office of ourprogram? How about Carl, he’s at Oregon State?” She did notknow Jon, but, yes, she knew Carl. She had worked in thelibrary at Oregon State and even earned a second master’sdegree in a program offered by his department. Their professionwas sometimes a small world. “Hi, Jon, it’s good to meet you. My office colleagueshave mentioned you, but, I don’t think that we have met. Carl,it’s great to see you again. Is the department getting along okaywithout me to guide them to the latest and greatest researcharticle?” She was joking and everyone laughed. Maria had arelaxed casual sense of humor. Nick liked that. He could notremember the last time he and Maggie had shared laughter…had they ever laughed together? Their ideas of what was funnywere greatly different. Pizzas came and were devoured. Beer flowed freely, butno one was out of control. Time rushed on. The conversationswere mostly about old times and current issues for the Coopprogram. Maria and Nick listened intently whenever the otheroffered a thought or comment. They wanted to know more abouteach other. Their problems back in their respective homes neverentered their minds. They were living here and now. The Touch…Later, Nick could not remember what hadbeen said, but it seemed so natural to let his hand rest briefly onthe back of Maria’s neck. It was just a brief touch, but hethought he detected a bit of a quiver… perhaps a verywelcoming quiver? Maria recognized her involuntary responseand it was very positive and truly emotional. Later, she couldnot remember what prompted “the touch”, but, she hadrecognized it instantly as more than just an accidental brushingof her neck. “I think that there may be something developingbetween Nick and me. That touch spoke volumes; at least in mymind. I hope I am not wrong. Could this be the start ofsomething special?” The same thoughts flashed through Nick’s mind. “Couldthis be the start of something special?” Yes. THIS IS GOING TO BE ONE FINE NIGHT. Path to Publication Group 17
  17. 17. The PathEPIlOGUE…After the conference, Maria and Nick returned to their respectivejobs and homes. Each of them proceeded with the divorces thatthey had realized to be necessary.Two years later, on the anniversary of “The Touch”, Maria andNick were married. unknown Path to Publication Group 18
  18. 18. The Divine Humanity A. Paul BergenThe Divine HumanityAn Essay Part I It is the irony of all being that the whole is dependentupon the individual, yet the individual is of no essential meaningto the whole. This is true throughout the entire spectrum ofexistence. For the human species, though comprised ofindividual human beings, each one is expendable and ultimatelyinsignificant. Within the solar system, remove our earth or anyone planet and the system remains. The individual star isinsignificant within a galaxy comprised of hundreds of billionsof stars. Among hundreds of billions of galaxies, each is equallyinsignificant and expendable. And now, given the concept of amultiverse, even our vast beyond imagination universe may benothing more than one among infinity. Even as the individual is expendable, the same may besaid of permanence throughout the realm of being. Just as weare conceived, born, live and die, so it is with all that is withinthe universe. Galaxies, stars, planets, like you and me, are herefor a time and then gone forever, replaced and forgotten.Impermanence may also be true of the universe itself as itdisperses through ever expanding space. Change is the oneconstant law of all things. Any status quo, no matter how stableit may appear, is as impermanent as all else. In any attempt to ascertain the meaning of humanity, wemust admit the impermanence of both our species and the planetupon which we are dependent. The inescapable fact is that thehuman species will soon be extinct. In terms of universal time,the existence of human beings will represent not more than afleeting second, and humanity can be no more significant than Path to Publication Group 19
  19. 19. The Pathbillions of other instances of planetary life within billions ofother solar systems in billions of other galaxies and perhapsbillions of other universes. The mortality of our species may be self-inflicted. Thereare those who believe that our self-immolation is inherent withinthe rise of intelligence itself. Given the current state ofhumanity, this is a concept not easily dismissed. Through ourprized and vaunted intelligence, we can point to at least threepossible extinction scenarios. A both possible and plausible nuclear holocaustconfronts us, given our creation of nuclear weapons. Betweenthe United States and Russia alone, there are enough nuclearbombs and missiles to end human civilization ten times over,and at the same time, to leave the earth uninhabitable forcenturies to come. Ending the so-called cold war betweenAmerica and the Soviet Union has barely lessened the danger.Given the rise of international terrorism, radical terroristorganizations and rogue nations, the possibility of irresponsiblenuclear confrontation is as undeniable as it is irrational.Unfortunately, humanity has a repulsive habit of somehowfinding ways to justify the use of whatever weaponry it iscapable of creating. A continuation of this habit will lead toextinction. We have recently discovered another means, through ourever resourceful intelligence, for ending the human species. Wehave gained, brilliantly, the capacity to create deadly anduntreatable viruses capable of wiping our brilliantly intelligentspecies from the face of the earth. And why have we done this?For the same reason we accomplish so many inappropriateactions, because we are a curious animal tending to do whateverit is that we can. In this case, we have created yet anotherpossible means for extinction through potential biologicalweapons. Will we use it? As with all other weaponry, given pasthistory, the odds for restraint are not in our favor. The third scenario for self-extinction has taken both timeand utter irrationality. We are cleverly hell bent on rendering ourplanet environmentally uninhabitable, even as the evidence ofour irresponsible folly dances before our very eyes. For over halfa century, scientists have warned that to continue forcing endlesstons of carbons and other pollutants into earths atmosphere will Path to Publication Group 20
  20. 20. The Divine Humanityinevitably lead to global warming, drastic climate change, theextinction of polar caps and rising seas. We have been warnedover and again that a "tipping point" will be reached that willrender reversal or even realistic mitigation beyond our control.Given such a point, models break down and precise predictionsas to what may follow are impossible other than to assumeawaiting disaster. That point, we are told, may already have beenreached. Likewise, we have been warned by oceanographers fordecades that our seas are slowly dying. Endless pollution frommetropolitan sewage, industrial waste, endless tons of plasticsand other non-biologic trash, combined with the overall effectsof global warming, may ultimately leave us on a planet 70percent covered by dead waters. Our mighty oceans, from whichlife has arisen and is so generously succored, will be renderedsilent, foul and devoid of life. Thanks to our intelligence, ourability to research, create, manufacture, transport, build, all themachinations of civilization of which we are so proud, therein liethe seeds of our possible extinction. Thanks to the intelligence ofhumanity, the planet earth may totally repulse the life it has sowondrously created and maternally fostered. And, what has been and remains the all too commonresponse to such dire warnings? Although there are manyenvironmentally responsible religious adherents, religion, ingeneral, has been a distinct deterrent to responsible action. "Thisworld is not my home," is a common religious theme. Whyshould we care for the earth when heaven is our promiseddestination? Why should we care for the earth when God willultimately destroy it, as biblically proclaimed. God is in controland whatever happens will be His will. These are typicalevangelical Christian responses to dire environmental warnings. Other religions are equally, if not similarly, prone toinaction. For the Buddhist, nirvana consists of the obliterationof all earthly desire, human striving and ambition. Disinterestand inaction are consequential. Hinduism considers physicalreality, maya, to be only a web spun from the mind of Brahma.The ultimate human state of being attains blissful oneness withthe transcendental Creator and is beyond physical inclinationsand intents. Again, there are concerned and responsible Path to Publication Group 21
  21. 21. The Pathenvironmentalists among the adherents of all religions.Nevertheless, religions common disdain for physical, materialreality in favor of transcendental, spiritual reality rendersconcern for the earth secondary at best and generally unworthyof sacrificial action. The secular response to dire environmental warnings isequally disappointing and potentially disastrous. We areunquestionably given to short term gain at the expense of longterm pain. We dare not disrupt the global economy. Powerfulcorporations, such as oil and natural gas conglomerates, lavishmillions of dollars on lobbyists and politicians to maintainprofits regardless of cost to the planet and its atmosphere.Developing nations and rising economic powers are loath tomitigate the problems caused by centuries of pollution byalready developed industrial nations. Developed nations areloath to provide the expensive means necessary for developingnations to maintain growth without further pollution. With total disdain for factual truth, an incredible numberof supposedly rational human beings simply deny the prospect ofenvironmental disaster. Regardless of amount or quality ofscientific evidence placed before them, denial is their insistentresponse. Even as global temperatures and ocean levels rise, ascoral reefs die, as glaciers and polar caps melt away, as draughtprevails, storms increase in number and intensity, as predictionsof consequences one after another become reality, many of usremain blind to what is happening before our very eyes. Why?Because, to solve the problem, enormous sacrifice is necessary.Habits must be changed, luxuries denied, pleasures diminished,profits lessened, elections lost, short term greed relinquished infavor of long term gain. Human nature is not given to sacrifice. Over-population will also negatively affect the future ofhumanity. Our over-burdened planet may ultimately wreak itsown havoc upon us. In 1950, there were 2.5 billion humans here,and in just 40 years that amount doubled. There were 6 billion ofus at the end of last century and, just 12 years later, there arealmost a billion more. By the end of the 21st century, presentestimates place the earths human population at between 8 and12 billion people. At this time, half of all humans live inpoverty, 20 percent severely undernourished. It is predicted, Path to Publication Group 22
  22. 22. The Divine Humanitybefore the end of this century, conflicts over food and water willbe a major cause of international strife and warfare becomes evermore dangerous with each new generation of human weaponry. Will humanity self-destruct? The tale is not yet told, butthe evidence for disaster mounts with each passing, unresolvedyear. Perhaps only civilization as we know it will be the victim,and human beings will muddle on in greatly reducedenvironmental circumstances. Perhaps the darling of sciencefiction, colonization of an alien planet, will be accomplished;although, pleasing as the prospect may sound, its actualization isdeemed futile by nearly all experts on the subject. Our fate andfuture will almost certainly be earth-bound and what happens tothe planet will happen to the creatures who dwell thereon."Beware of Mother Nature." The dinosaurs dominated the earths surface for millionsof years, and then they were no more. After dominating for onlya few thousand years, humans are already vulnerable. Evenshould we not self-destruct, our extinction is nonethelessinevitable. Our atmosphere seeps slowly into space and, in afew million years at most, the earth will not allow our continuedpresence. Impermanence reigns within our universe, and we willsuffer the fate of all planetary species. Just as is the fate of theindividuals who comprise it, human beings will live for a timeand then will be no more. Part II Given all of the above, how can the title of this essaypossibly make sense, The Divine Humanity? It would seem anoxymoron of the highest degree. To make sense of it, a relevantperspective regarding religious language is necessary. With thisis mind, consider the various definitions and correspondingconceptions of God. Within this and earlier essays, I have deliberately usedreligious terms while proposing a naturalist vision of reality. It isnatural to assume that someone propounding a non-transcendental philosophy is atheistic. However, I do not seemyself as an atheist but rather as someone redefining, or creatingyet another conception of God. Everything that is, is God. Path to Publication Group 23
  23. 23. The PathEverything that is not, is not God. You and I are God and so isthe earth we walk upon. Given this perspective, God becomes anaturalistic concept. As I have stated elsewhere, within this conception we arethe mind of God; more precisely stated, the intelligence createdwithin the totality of physical reality is the mind of God, for it isthe only intelligence that can be. As we know, intelligence doesnot exist in a vacuum; it is created from substance, structure andprocess. Without these elements, it cannot exist. Substance,structure and process are elements of physical reality. If there isdivine intelligence, it is can only be ours or similar to ours innature. Why call it divine? Because if anything is divine, surelyit is our intelligence and the best of what comes from it. I call itdivine because of the meaning we have attached to the word, i.e.something great, amazing, extraordinary equals what we meanwhen we describe something as divine. God is a generic term. The triune God of the bible is oneconception - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Allah, anotherconception, is the God of Islam; Brahma, a very differentconception, is the God of Hinduism, The Tao represents the Godof Taoism, The Great Spirit, the God of Pantheism. There are asmany conceptions of God as there are religions. Although theusual definition involves a Being or Force above and beyondmaterial being, my conception is that God is everything that is.The totality of all physical being is God. The totality of allphysical reality is my God, which I hold with both reverence andawe, and which I feel to be the highest truth and authority. Inthis way, I am using religious, or spiritual language, to describea naturalist philosophy. Although it is not necessary, I amcomfortable with these terms; they are composite with myfeelings and sense of things. My God is physical reality; myintelligence is the mind of that God, and my feelings create themeaning of that conception of God. Within this conception, there is nothing transcendental,nothing over, above or beyond us that gives meaning tohumanity. The only meaning we have is from and to ourselvesand each other, and this is a beautiful truth. Furthermore, it ishumanity that gives meaning to the universe, humanity alongwith all other similarly intelligent creatures to be found withinthe universe, or multiverse as the case may be. Path to Publication Group 24
  24. 24. The Divine Humanity To illustrate how we give meaning to the universe and, inessence, create our own universe, consider the definition of astar. As we know, a star is a massive cauldron of fiery gassessuspended in space. However, any dictionary defining the wordstar will list numerous definitions. It is a celestial body, a starshaped mark, something that determines a persons future ordestiny, a mark of distinction or of rank, a famous orextraordinary person or animal, the principle player in a play,concert or movie. It is used as metaphor in song and poetry,wherein starlight speaks of romance and mystery. We haveinfused the physical reality of a star with a plethora of meaning. As further illustration of the point, consider the specificstar that is our sun. Without humanity, the sun is but one ofbillions of similar stars, common, past its prime and burning itsway to extinction. Given humanity, the sun is given meaningbeyond measure. It is the glory of sunrise, the beauty of sunset,the splendor of sunlight on a clear day, the agony of sunburn, thebounty of light by day and the reflected light of the moon bynight. The sun has meaning as we give it meaning, and so it iswith the universe itself. Meaning comes from us. It is our word, our concept,created by our feelings and defined by our intellect. Without us,the universe merely exists. Given humanity, the universe isdiscovered, examined, enjoyed; it becomes more than justexistence, the universe becomes alive. It does not becomemeaningful because of some transcendental entity envisioned byus, but because of us alone and the meaning we give to it. We have meaning only to ourselves and to each other.This is our existential reality, life as it is given to us, temporaland mortal. We need nothing more to thrive and survive as ourevolution to dominance on earth has proven. We may claimanother reality, namely that of transcendentalism. We may claimimmortality and meaning granted from some immortal all-powerful Being beyond our own, but our existential realityremains as given. We are born, live for a time, then die. This isour truth, and it is enough; we thrive within it as individuals andas a species until our time on earth will have passed, be itthrough our own doing or that of the passing of time. What, then, is my meaning as an individual human beingamong nearly seven billion other such individuals? First, my Path to Publication Group 25
  25. 25. The Pathmeaning comes from within, from my own sense of purpose andintent. I feel that my thoughts, perspective, actions and feelingsare important simply because they are important to me. In thisalone there is meaning. Of equal value is the meaning I derivefrom you. Both specifically and collectively, how I am viewedas friend, lover, son, father, husband, teacher, worker; in all ofthe ways I am seen by others, I am vested with meaning. I havemeaning because I am meaningful to myself and to those withwhom I share my being. It is meaning enough to sustain myselfand the species to which I belong. I give meaning to myself, to you and to the universe. Andso I call myself divine, a part of the divine humanity.Bougainvillea (photo: John G. Nickum) Path to Publication Group 26
  26. 26. Old Lobo Budd NelsonOld LoboShort Story A grizzled old lobo sits his haunches on a high boulderoverlooking the valley dense with trees. While an eerie fullmoon bathes everything in bright opaque luster and stars pulsewith glow that adds little to the ambient light, but much to theominous mood. He recognizes the pack of his kind stalking a fullgrown black Honey Eater with a young grey as the new alphamale. Strong and fierce, but not experienced, yet. Old Lobosenses a familiarity in the bruin, something from long ago, not inhis natural instinct and not a threat but still there. He had seen anaging Spiked Head earlier hidden in a thicket between the packand him. He raises his muzzle to the bright orb: opens his jawsand takes in a full lung of the cool night air giving a deepbellowing yowl, long and multi toned. Grey hears the bay of another wolf far up the mountain, akilling yell. A fresh kill of a loner will be easier to take than thislarge Honey Eater he is stalking. Off at a trot toward the bayingwith his pack right on his heels. The black Honey Eater eases up now, he could feel thebiters getting close but that yipping called them away.Somehow, somewhere he knows that particular yell. It is not onehe fears, so down on all fours and off up this rise he goes awayfrom the group of biters. Old Lobo stands and walks away over the ridge beforethe pack gets close enough to spot him. It is time to hunt, time toeat and then he can rest for the night, alone, as every dark time.After killing and devouring a small nocturnal, unfortunate OldLobo canters back to his den and lays down muzzle on tail. Hefeels safe here; it is far from any other lairs, so this is where herests peacefully, if not, occasionally, fitfully. Path to Publication Group 27
  27. 27. The Path As he is calming down and just about to drift off intoblankness, his nearest neighbor the, white topped night hunter,started his who-whos. Finally he took off flapping the still airinto a short breeze as he passed nearby, gaining height. Now thesleep could come, night hunter would be gone most of thedarkness. Sometime later, as the moon was far past mid sky, OldLobo started twitching as he lay there. Through the graying ofhis slumber he could see his pack from long ago. One of hislarger sibling males was playing at tussling and biting with himuntil a nip gave him a sharper pain than usual play caused. Hisneck hairs stood stiff along his spine and instinct drove him tobare more fang and clamp down hard on his playmate, bringingblood out onto the fur of his opponent. Without warning, theirmother clapped him hard across his muzzle and sent his rollingacross the hard soil. Later, when all his pack was jostling for themeat his father had brought to the den, the young Old Lobosensed that one of the pack was missing. The missing one neverreturned, but there was more to eat that day. Bright specks started separating the grey on the inside ofhis closed eyelids and Old Lobo began to stretch and roll beforewaking up completely. The thirst was the first thing heacknowledged and, for this, he rose and walked to the spring,dribbling from the rocks close by, to quench the desire. The dreams of the night were all but gone now. Old Lobolooked around and saw that night hunter was nowhere to be seenand he was silent again. The sun was rising higher over themountain peaks, starting to give off its daytime warmth and thecreatures of this range were starting to stir from their places ofthe dark. Old Lobo started to walk off from his place of safety,as well. It was time to be about for the day. A long time ago, hehad found that less of his kind or any other did not search forhim where there were no traces of him about. So he had pickedthis lair high in the rocks where no tracks were left and onlyrelieved himself when off hunting. When he came to where the Spiked Head had beenyesterday, he found that his old pack had done their work well.Little remained of the aging spiked head and blood covered therocks, grass and soil. There was plenty left for a morning’s meal,relieving his slight hunger for now. Path to Publication Group 28
  28. 28. Old Lobo After his hunger was slaked, he started on back up theridge and in the direction where his old pack slept during thedark hours. While still above the spot and far enough off not tobe sensed, he leaned back on his haunches; listened andwatched. Pups were starting to mill around and wrestle with eachother while mothers watched. He did not see the grey nor someof the other males. The White, his long time mate, was not there either; but,she had not been there for longer than he had been gone fromthis pack. Her lying on the ground, not moving again was whyhe had finally left one day and never returned. He had not beenforced out like some were by young Alpha males assumingleadership, he had just left early one sunrise and never went backagain. He came to watch occasionally but would leave quicklyand silently if he even sensed he had or might be noticed. So far,that had never happened; he knew if he was still there he wouldhave sensed any transient in their area. Old Lobo rose and padded off over the ridge and into thevalley to his left of where he had been sitting. He had not rangedinto this area for quite a while. He crossed several trails ofspiked heads and saw scat of the hulking Honey Eater. Then asthe golden orb of heat was beginning to head for the dark timemountains he smelled why he had not been here recently. It wasthe scent of the night screamer, the one who had caused theWhite to not get up any more, a long time ago. His oneinstinctual fear was of this large growler, who screamed in thedark. His neck hair started to settle back against his skin as thefear became a small blood lust he knew he could not quell. As he slowly started in the direction of his own lair, OldLobo came across a long ear in a meadow. It was hard runningwith wily turns and cutbacks to bring the fat grass chewer downbefore he could reach safety. But the warming meat and bloodwere worth the effort. His belly, although not full, did not achewith hunger. He left only stains and meager bones for the deadeaters this time. The warming orb was going behind the dark timemountains as he crested the ridge near his place of safety. Hestopped, sat back on his haunches, and waited to see the nonwarming bright circle of the night rise in the sky. As it finallydid, Old Lobo kicked back his head, jaws wide and lungs filled Path to Publication Group 29
  29. 29. The Pathwith cool air and sang his sorrowful song for a long time.Eventually he stood and made his way to his place of sleep. Bythe time he got there night flyer was already gone, there were nowho-whos this dark. No dreams assaulted his rest during the dark and beforethe warming orb was fully up, he was on a high perch watchinghis old pack again. He saw the Grey and other males leave theirlair for a hunt and he followed along to watch from high secret.They did not have much luck until late as the heat bringer washeaded over the dark mountains and they had strayed over theridge to the left and into Night Screamers territory. They were tracking old sick Spiked Head into a placewhere he could not escape, when Old Lobo sensed the NightScreamer close. His neck hair immediately stood erect and hisstance became crouched. Stealthily, he slowly kept pace with thepack when, at an overhang over the trail they were following, heheard the hunting cry just before her leap onto the last of themales following the Grey. The pack turned as the Screamerlanded on the back of the unaware male and bit into the back ofhis neck. The entire pack jumped to the defense of theunfortunate lager. However, even one screamer was a menace toso small a pack of hunters. Her Claws were taking a heavy toll inthe melee, even Grey had been sent sprawling off with blooddripping from his muzzle. Screamer’s muzzle and claws were smeared with bloodand one or two places bled from the packs attacks on her. Butthe injuries she had inflicted on them were turning the tide untilthe large and ferocious physique of Old Lobo flew into her fromup above. Old Lobo landed on her back and his fangs first sunkinto the nape of her neck and, then, as she tried to fling him off,into her under neck. Grey and the others joined in on the screamer now beingbested and finally jerking in death throes. The blood lust wasrampant and the pack tore her carcass into shreds before thefever was abated. As they started to settle down, heads wereturned from side to side then bodies turned but none could seethe one who had jumped her back. Old Lobo had quickly andquietly slipped away before the screamer died. There was nosearching and his presence was as quickly forgotten as if he hadnever been there. Path to Publication Group 30
  30. 30. Old Lobo Old Lobo reached his safe place a little later than usual.He had been moving more slowly because he had gotten acouple of claw cuts during the fight with the Screamer. That hadbeen one reason he took off as quick as he did, it would not havebeen good to be around the others while the blood lust was onthem. He was in pain. All he could think of was his safe place,for now. Sleep came with much groaning and was fitful when itdid. As the warming orb rose he lay shivering and cold all theway to his bones. Luckily his legs and paws were not hurt, so hewas able to get to the trickling water without going fuzzy again.After the thirst was gone, he wandered back and lay his muzzleon his forelegs again, falling into darkness rather easily. Hemerely slept and got up from thirst all that day. Sometime duringthe dark Night Flyer, dropped a just killed, small, long, skinnytail right in front of Old Lobo on the ground. He ate it quickly,before Night Flyer could miss it. Warming Orb and the dark cool circle came and wenttwice before he left his safe place, feeling strong enough to hunt.He did not venture too far over the ridge and, at one point, hethought he heard the mewling of little screamers in the distance.Not hunting calls, but ones of hunger and fear. He was notinterested, they were only small screamers. Finally one warming orb rising, he was back on the rockhigh over where his old pack stayed during the dark and whenthe cold white wet came down. Grey was there and all seemed tonot have changed, he watched for a long time unnoticed.He saw Honey Eater that day, as well, far on the side of the ridgeaway from his old pack. He was clawing at a tree; he must havefound some of the sticky yellow honey again. When the bright dark circle rose into the sky that night,less than fully round, he took in a full lung of air and sang again.Soon, the circle of the dark would be gone for a while. He had tosing while he could. Path to Publication Group 31
  31. 31. The Path Woodrow W. Walker ]One Fine Night in GeorgiaShort Story World War II had ended in 1945. Thousands of youngmen had returned to their homes in big cities and small towns topick up their lives and marry their sweethearts. Travis Peabodyhad been one. Some had never left home; these were classed as4F and Gus Woodberry, because of a lack of education, had beenso classified. Travis was six when Gus had befriended him. Gushad been forced to enter school and he was terrified because hehad never been away from his mama. He was crying in theschoolyard, with other children were making fun of him, whenGus Woodberry, aged ten, came to his rescue. Travis hadremained in school while Gus had skipped school as often as hecould until he could legally dropout at sixteen. Now, you could not have found two men so differentfrom Gus and Travis nor could you have found two closerfriends. They could have been the inspiration for the term good-old-boys. Fun loving and full of mischief, they would give youthe shirt off their backs or stop what they were doing to help astranger. Travis had an off and on job at the local sawmill, whileGus never held a job past his first paycheck, preferring fishing toworking. Rose had waited, throughout the war, for Travis toreturn and marry her. They had done so three days after hestepped off the bus. Gus and Travis picked up their friendship asif they had never been apart. At thirty Gus was five years olderthan his good buddy Travis, but that had never been an issuebetween them. The light was fading as a long day ended. Rose Peabodysat on the porch swing. Her husband Travis and his buddy GusWoodberry, were sipping iced tea on the steps. Fireflies weredancing in the honeysuckle scented air. Crickets were calling to Path to Publication Group 32
  32. 32. One Fine Nighttheir mates and Rose was humming softly to the tune of theswings squeaking chain. Travis opened a can of Prince Albert and rolled acigarette. “Do you remember how one Halloween when we werekids, you got it in your head that Old Mrs. Turner was a witch?” Gus was smoking a corncob pipe. “Yeah, I may havebeen wrong about her being a witch, but she sure had the,biggest and sweetest watermelons in Georgia.” “I don’t believe, I ever heard that story before,” saidRose. Travis struck a match and lit his cigarette. “It was nothin’to brag about. Gus talked me into raidin’ Mrs. Turner’swatermelon patch. We waited ‘til midnight so Mrs. Turner’d beasleep.” Gus chuckled. “I had my eye on a giant watermelon thatwas sure to win a blue ribbon at the county fair.” “Anyway,” said Travis. “We climbed over a split-railfence on a night much like this, and located the watermelon thatGus had his eye on. Gus took out his pocket knife and was aboutto cut the vine when, we heard a crackling voice call out.” ‘Whois that in my watermelon patch?’ “We jumped up and ran for the fence and as we climbedover, Old Mrs. Turner let loose with a double barrel shotgun,”said Gus. “My God, were you killed?” Rose said not realizing whatshe had said. “No, her shotgun shells were loaded with rock salt. Wewere hit in the seat of our pants. Neither of us could set for aweek,” said Travis “But why would you think that nice old woman was awitch?” “Why else would an old woman be up at midnight? I stillthink there was something strange about her,” said Gus. Rose shifted in the swing. “Maybe she knew you hadyour eye on her prize watermelon and didn’t want it stolen.” “Yeah,” said Travis. “How did you know about thatwatermelon before you talked me into helping you steal it?” “When I was a kid, I lived half a mile from her patch. Isaw that watermelon daily, as it grew.” Path to Publication Group 33
  33. 33. The Path “I rest my case,” said Rose. “She knew you would onenight come for that prize watermelon, all she had to do waswait.” A deep silence followed Rose’s statement as each mancould see how a trap had been set for two young boys andwitchcraft had nothing to do with it. After three long minutes,Gus broke the silence. “You know, Travis, I‘ve got me an idea,” said Gus. Travis groaned. “Not another of your big ideas. Don’tyou remember how your big idea to build a whiskey still causedthat trouble for us?” “Yeah,” Gus said. “We thought the revenuers were goingto arrest us, so we dumped that mash and whiskey into Miller’sCreek. It wasn’t till later we learned you can make moonshine ifit is for our consumption and not for sell.” “I wonder why Otis Washington didn’t know about thatconsumption law.” “You hired Otis Washington without saying a word tome,” said Travis. “Otis Washington had worked on his daddy’s whiskeystill as a boy, and had served time in prison for makingmoonshine. I thought he would be a big help with all hisknowledge of whiskey making.” “Yeah, but if Otis hadn’t kept saying ‘It ain’t ready,’ wemight have had us a taste before we dumped it into Miller’sCreek.” Gus laughed. “Jeff Taber almost lost all his hogs, whenthey broke down his fence to get at that corn mash.” “It wasn’t funny to the black congregation of theKingdom of Heaven Baptist Church and them baptizin’ in thatwhiskey soaked creek.” “Yeah, I heard Reverend Freeman was so distraught thathe spent some time in that Milledgeville madhouse.” “No wonder, with a hundred hogs interrupting hisbaptizin’ and his congregation getting’ drunk on that whiskeytainted water,” said Travis. Gus snickered. “I heard that a woman he was baptizin’tore off her clothes and was makin’ out with the good reverendright there in Miller’s Creek.” Path to Publication Group 34
  34. 34. One Fine Night Although Gus and Travis had never got to taste any oftheir illegal brew, it was not the same for Otis Washington, theblack man that helped them build the still. Otis Washington hadworked on his daddy’s whiskey still as a boy and had servedtime in prison for making moonshine. A few days after themisadventure, Travis had passed Otis’s house and saw him withone of their whiskey jugs, on his porch enjoying the fruits oftheir labor. “To think, I hit Bo Tillman in the head with a can ofPork-N-Beans down at Greeley’s Market, for laughing at youtwo nitwits.” “Don’t you worry about that, Bo Tillman is a jackass, ifnot for the mayor’s son, Sheriff Sunny Tyler, he would be thedumbest man in Georgia.” Rose frowned. “It was not funny how you treated mynephew Tom when he came down from Atlanta to visit. Snipehunting, indeed.” Snipe hunting is a joke played on strangers. It consists oftaking the innocent fool out into the woods at night. He is givena sack and a club and instructed to call the snips into his sack.Then he is left in the woods alone. Sometimes all night before,he becomes conscious that he has been the butt of a joke. Gus frowned. “He was a good sport about it. No harmcame to him. It was Travis and I that had to spend the night treedby a bear.” Rose grinned in the dark though no one could see it.“Serves you both right, for being so mean to Tom.” “It would have been all right come morning,” saidTravis. “If Gus hadn’t kicked that hornet nest as we wereclimbin’ down.” “That bear had taken a swipe at my backside and tore outthe seat of my pants and those hornets just naturally aimed at mynaked butt.” Rose laughed. “Both of you looked like that Hunchbackof Notre Dame.” Gus thumped more Rabbet Tobacco into his corncobpipe. “Maybe those were not the best ideas, but when we caughtthat dead man while fishing in Miller’s Creek. I was the one thatdevised the plan how to catch the bank robbers that got us thatreward.” Path to Publication Group 35
  35. 35. The Path A few months earlier a Macon bank had been robbed bythree men. One had been shot while escaping. The other twobank robbers had tossed his body into Miller’s Creek where Gus,fishing for Old Pappy, hooked the dead man instead of the giantcatfish. Gus and Travis informed the sheriff, but could not gethim to listen to them. So, they took matters into their hands tocapture the bank robbers with help from some angry hornets. Travis laughed. “They looked worse than we did whenthose hornets from that old truck were finished with ‘em. Theyhad no fight left in ‘em.” “Sheriff Tyler would never have caught them, being he’sdumber ‘n a bucket of tad poles,” said Gus. “I bought me a rightnice boat with my share of that reward money.” “Yeah, but you lost it on Miller’s Creek. We tried tocatch that big old catfish, Old Pappy. You hooked him sureenough, but when we tried to get him into the boat, Old Pappybitch slapped ya’.” Old Pappy was a legend in South Georgia, mostly to thefishing tales spun by Gus Woodberry. Some people believedhim, but most did not. The legend had begun while Travis was inthe army when Gus was fishing in Miller’s Creek. Gus hadfound a spot fifteen feet deep behind Taber’s Hog Farm wherethe creek normally only ran two to three feet deep. No one hadever fished there before Gus, because of the stink from the hogfarm. It was Gus’s opinion that he hooked Old Pappy, as Gushad named him, because no one had ever dropped a line therebefore. After Old Pappy escaped, Gus had never hooked thatwily old catfish again. I remember,” said Gus. “I stepped on the edge of theboat tippin’ it over and ‘most drowned us, as my boat sank to thebottom of Miller’s Creek. The squeaking of the swing stopped. “I knew it. I justknew something had happened while, I was in Atlanta visitingmy family. I heard about your boat, but everyone said it wasstolen.” Travis cleared his throat. “Gus said it was stolen because,he didn’t want anyone to know about Old Pappy and his secretfishin’ hole.” Path to Publication Group 36
  36. 36. One Fine Night “Well you can imagine my astonishment when SallyBarker, that old busybody, told me what I should’ve heard frommy husband,” complained Rose. “We would have told you, Rose, but Travis didn’t wantto upset you. Anyway we were careful and never were in anydanger.” “Don’t forget it was that old busybody told you about themuscadine vine. You sent Gus and me to pick some for you.” Rose laughed. “Don’t you forget how that turned out.You took six buckets with you and brought back four afterlosing two buckets of ripe muscadines.” “We lost them ‘cause that family of skunks sprayed us.We stunk worse than a sack of dead fish. You made me staywith Gus for two weeks before you’d let me in the house,”Travis said contritely. “It served both of you good and proper,” said Rose. Gus and Travis remained silent, as Rose vented herdisgust over the skunking. You would have thought if you hadnot known better that it was she and not the two men that hadsuffered that foul odor. “Furthermore, you two can get into trouble standin’ on astreet corner on a Sunday morning. Why, I remember when Gusbrought that squirrel to church. It got loose and ran up poor RitaJohnson’s dress. I thought the poor woman would die of aconniption fit.” “Well, I think excommunication was a bit harsh. Gus didnot intend for that crazy squirrel to get loose.” “Anybody who can get into trouble in church is beyondredemption. You are no better, Travis Peabody, so wipe thatsmile off your face. I can’t see it in the dark, but I know it’sthere.” “Sorry, Dear.” “Is there anything else, I should know about you two?Something I haven’t heard from someone else?” “Well, there was the snake hunt,” Travis said softly. “What? Speak up, Travis Peabody, I have ears, but Ican’t understand your mumbling.” Gus sucked in his breath. He knew Travis would revealeverything to Rose. He also knew there was nothing he could doto prevent it. Path to Publication Group 37
  37. 37. The Path “You see,” said Travis. “Gus overheard a salesman goingon about how rattlesnake meat tastes the same as chicken, downat the Blue Moon Café.” Gus spoke up. “I thought if, I could beat his price. Travisand I could do right well. We got the snakeman, Monroe Jones,to help us. He has a pet rattlesnake named Old Joe, but he has nofangs.” “Lord, save me from idiots and halfwits,” said Rose. “Now, honey, Monroe Jones may be a bit strange, but hedoes know about snakes. He showed us how to use gas to getthem out of their holes and he had poles with loops, so we couldcatch the snakes without fear of being bitten.” “So what went wrong?” “Nothing happened at first; but when we found the firstsnake hole, I poured in the gas and suddenly two or threerattlesnakes came out of that hole. One headed for Gus and theother two came at me.” “It’s a wonder neither of you were bitten,” said Rose. “Monroe Jones had said that rattlers can’t bite unlessthey are coiled. Except Gus and I, forgot that bit of wisdom inthe excitement.” “I can understand that, but what did you do?” “Well,” began Travis. “I wet by pants,” said Gus shamefaced. “You see, those snakes went right by us because netherGus or I could move. Monroe Jones said it was a good thingbecause. if we had, those snakes would’ve coiled and mostlikely, we would’ve got bit.” “Yeah, it was a real close call,” said Gus. Rose sniffed. “Good thing for the snakes they didn’t biteeither of you. Most likely, it would have killed the poor snakes.” “Now, Honey, that ain’t anyway to talk,” said Travis.“Why, it sounds as if you think it’s our fault that Gus and I haveso many misfortunes.” “It’s not that, Travis Honey, but I shudder to think whatwould’ve happened if you two had been in the army together.” Gus laughed. “They’d most likely sent us to the otherside to undermine the enemy. I bet Hitler would have beenquaking in his boots.” Path to Publication Group 38
  38. 38. One Fine Night A full moon rose slowly over the tall swaying pines tocast its warming glow over the landscape, creating deep sinistershadows. “It’s getting a mite late, Travis,” said Rose. “I think it’sabout time for Gus to head on home and you and I go inside.” Gus and Travis stood. “Rose is right, Gus, you’ve a mileto walk home so you had better get started.” Rose turned from the door. “What was that idea you wereabout to tell us, Gus, before we got to reminiscing?” “I was just going to say it is one fine night, when goodsfriends can be together.” “See you tomorrow,” said Travis. “Maybe we can have another try at Old Pappy. I have ascore to settle with that catfish.” Travis laughed. “Gus, don’t you know when you’ve metyour match?” Travis stood in the doorway and watched his friend walkdown the dirt road. When his wife called softly from inside, heclosed the door. Path to Publication Group 39
  39. 39. The Path Tatjana DebeljačkiAbout the Meaning of LoveAn Essay As if I am invited to do something great that could last— As if with your love, I am willing to cope with myself,my weaknesses, my fears and my immobility. Let me tell you that the shadows that haunted me thisevening have your face, both those living and dead, those thathave brought me pain and those that have brought me joy. Shadows of some of my lives I recognize, but I’mcraving for them in the same way I’m craving for your love,your touch, your being. I love you; it means to look for the meaning, to beprepared and open. I love you, it means to live the truth and tremble at thethought of you. Thank you for everything, no matter how long itlasted. My love, the poor are those who have never loved! I donot want to teach you but to love you; it is the higher level ofknowledge. If you believe in yourself, as a consequence you willhave the agility to defy any storm. So, love and life will be one. I love you, I really loveyou. Thus, my life gets its meaning. My fate gets new formsdesigned by you. Because of your love, these forms are of priceless value.Could I expect more? Currently only my love has a purpose, it isthe only thing adding the value to this writing, only that deepsense of belonging to you makes sense, which, though comingout of me slowly, is leaving me helpless and squashed, no matterhow much I want to kiss you, and yet again to make love on thehot sand… Path to Publication Group 40
  40. 40. Meaning of Love Oh desire, you exist in vain! Why, for goodness sake, wecould have gone on that secret trip together. What a pity,because my love for you is nothing. I do not know what I amsaying, I am trying to explain, describe my present situation. How could I describe to you this condition, this hangoverof the soul, this instinct and this anxiety, this wandering, thishumiliation? How I hate you sometimes, I can’t get rid of you,can’t separate, can’t wish for another man and yet only your facemakes sense to me. Sometimes I dream, I survive through thedreams of those days when you presumably loved me. It is nothard to be a slave to the one you love. I’m not going to ask whythis is so obvious. Only to increase my pain, I sometimes thinkthat it is just one moment in time, the time between two strokes;as a moment in which consciousness pressures my being andsqueezes it, pulling out the essence which is called love.Sometimes I am boring even to myself. Love and then againlove. Sometimes I wonder where love comes from, wherestrength and weakness at the same time stem from. Where doshapes of your face that haunt me from hour to hour come from? Why are you so persistently in me, why can’t I detachyou from the main core of my life? How, why, it is not enoughjust to say I love you? I’m scared of you, I want you and I fear you, I hate youand kill you every day, as you are my fear and my fever and mynon-having, my limitations and my bluntness and all of mystupidity. And all of my work and you are the truth and thatspiritual solitude through which the words pass as miraculous asjourneys. When I say I love you, I think about what that wordsays— all that you have lived, all that you live and you will beliving. Oh how much the pleasure of caressing and tendernesscould be missed... Loving you during periods of numerous lives means tobeat death, means hope and meaning of life, paths towardsyou…Maybe the current love in this life is the way to learn tosuffer. This world is sometimes cruel, sometimes I am unable tounderstand, sometimes I accept it, but I do not like anything Iknow. I have a feeling that you’ll be gone, that you’ll be pulledaway from me by the streams of life. What is the point of Path to Publication Group 41
  41. 41. The Pathsearching for oneself if we got lost before we could findourselves? There are no shortcuts on the roads of life. It is theclear light of knowledge. I can. I am leaving you. I am savingyou from my presence, my complexity, my insomnia andexcessive love that you get bored of…It’s always somethingdifferent from what we currently think it is. I can always expectmore from my love. Why do we want to get rid of it? Whysudden overcoming of sadness and joy, two different feelings atthe same time? I know, I’m going away from you but not frommy love. You understand its depth and my pain. This departure is not a death sentence for our love.Sometimes I want to suggest that you go with me to share thelife that remains. But I feel that I would make a mistake andscare you away. I do not doubt your honesty, in all that you havegiven me during this time of love. Now I know where this lovecomes from and with that knowledge I can go on the journey,knowing that you will always be with me, in the frozen existencewithout pain and suffering; a time that does not redeem thegracious and does not punish the sinners. That’s all for now, forthe time of one life, for all time in which all of my joys and all ofmy sorrows are renewed. Indeed, you are my love for all time. Love Knot Path to Publication Group 42
  42. 42. Last First Days Catherine Becker ReynoldsLast First DaysAn Excerpt from a novel to be released in 2013A Married ManMonday, August 24, 1831 When Mitya wakes up to stay, the room is bright, for thewindow is open again. He lies listening to the unfamiliarmorning noises outside his new home. Someone whistlesfaraway, and an empty cart rattles by on the road. A rhythmicrasping sound comes from the direction of the village. Tartakov is already at work, he thinks. This house iscloser to the sawmill than Patrush and Tamara’s. Out in themain room beyond the green curtain, someone is humming overa quick scraping noise. Darya. She is making up the fire. Mitya sits up and rubs his face. His head aches fromyesterday’s wedding vodka, and the moist summer air lies heavyon his chest. He pulls on his work clothes and goes out to hisnew wife. “Good morning, Mitya.” Darya glances up from a panwhere she is warming a slice of ham. “Good morning, Darya.” He looks long at the ham,unsure if he should tell her he has never eaten it. Tamara, beingbrought up by a Jewish father, did not allow it in the house. Butwhat is the harm in eating it now? Mitya thinks. It smells goodand perhaps he will like it. Besides, refusing to eat what Daryahas cooked might be unwise. The ham is surely a gift from hermother, who already has a bad opinion of him. Mitya decides tosay nothing. “Sit down and I will pour your tea,” Darya continueswith a smile. “Your breakfast will be ready soon.” Mitya knowsthe cheer in her voice is meant to lift his somber mood and hesmiles back. Path to Publication Group 43
  43. 43. The Path He sees that, by sleeping late, he has missed watchingDarya braid her hair. Most of it is hidden now under a darkgreen kerchief. “That color is strawberry blond, and it is verybecoming on Darya,” Tamara told him last week when hecomplained of being doomed to sleep the rest of his nights nextto the oddest color hair ever created by God. Strawberry blond. Her hair looked pretty in the lamplightlast night and he wishes she could leave it down. She would notlook so plain and serious with curls about her face. However,women never let their hair fall loose during the day. “We have more important things to do with our day thanplease men.” Mitya remembers Tamara saying this to Patrushand feels a twinge in his chest. He did not expect to miss hismother so soon. “Thank you,” he says to Darya now, “but I must see toRuslan first. After his night in a strange new stall, he will beanxious about his hay.” “Yes, he will be happy to see you,” Darya agrees. “I willwait to cook the eggs until you return.” Mitya starts for the door,but pauses at the end of the table. “I thought you closed the window last night,” he says. “Yes, Mitya, you watched me latch it.” Darya moves thepan off the fire and wipes her hands on her apron as she turns tohim. “Then you opened it this morning?” he asks. “No, it was open when I woke.” Her voice is uneasy.“You did not wake later in the night and open it again, Mitya?” “No.” He looks out the small front window at the field ofdewy wildflowers across the road. “Well, perhaps it slipped openin the wind,” he says. “Yes, the bolt must not have caught tight, but I will makecertain it is secured tonight.” The confidence in Darya’s voice isreassuring, and Mitya’s face softens as he turns back to her. It isnot her fault. Perhaps the wind did come up as they slept andpushed the shutter in. “I will not be long with Ruslan.” He smiles again, andthe worry on Darya’s face dissolves. In the new pine-smelling shed, Mitya gives his horsesweet hay and a small portion of the oats sent over by thelandlord, Demyan Ivanich, in honor of the wedding. Why does Path to Publication Group 44
  44. 44. Last First Dayshe bother to honor a wedding he himself has forced on us?Ruslan inspects his food and nuzzles Mitya’s face before eating. “At least you are happy with these new arrangements.”Mitya chuckles and strokes his Arabian’s shiny black mane.“Later we will go to the village.” He leaves Ruslan and walks back to the tree-lined brook,where he goes down on one knee to splash his face. The water iswarmer here than behind Patrush and Tamara’s house, but tooshallow for swimming. Mitya’s eyes follow its slow downstreamjourney. Near the estate’s border with Zemchev’s Rolling Fields,the water goes underground and comes up far back in the woods,bone-chilling cold even in high summer. By the time it weavesits way through Zemchev’s vast, open fields and returns here toRaven Wood, it has picked up enough sun to tumble off thewaterfall behind his parents’ house just warm enough forswimming. Mitya sits down and watches a long-legged insect stridethe sluggish current to the opposite bank. Later I will go over toPatrush and Tamara’s to swim, he thinks. He draws his wethands over his face and back through his hair, then suddenlyrecalls that he is married. You cannot go home already. You must stay with Daryatoday, he reminds himself. Though perhaps she will want to gowith me and have tea with Tamara. She could even swim withme. It would be all right, since we are married. Probably shewill not want to, though. Girls don’t like to swim. Mitya’s minddrifts back to his long summer afternoon last year with Tasha.Well, most girls, anyway. As he stands up to return to the house, his heart beatsfast. Mitya takes a deep breath and wipes his sleeve across hiswet face. Weak sunlight slants through the thinning clouds, andsteamy air wafts up off the brook. Maybe it will rain tonight, hethinks, and the white thing that made that loud noise will notcome again. Darya has set his plate at the end of the table and askshim if this is all right. Yes, he thinks he should sit facing thedoor. She takes a place on the side at his left, close to the stoveand fire. As he eats, Mitya begins to feel happier, and theuncomfortable fabric of the night shrinks to a few harmless Path to Publication Group 45
  45. 45. The Paththreads. He was exhausted yesterday from the effort of subduinghis will to the required celebration of this wedding, so perhapshe only imagined that loud bang and menacing white cloudabove the trees in the darkness. “The eggs and ham were very good,” he says as Daryatakes his plate. He feels like making conversation now, being soaccustomed to talking with Tamara over his tea as she washedup after a meal. Darya smiles and says they have enough fortomorrow morning also. She dampens a cloth and wipes thepolished oak table with light strokes. Mitya stands up and putshis cup in the wash basin, then leans back against the warmstove to watch her. “I must go to the Big Stable for the tools your father willneed,” he says, “and then to Tartakov’s for the wood, soeverything will be ready for Akim Leonovich to put the windowin tomorrow morning as he has planned. When I return, we cangather blueberries as you suggested last night, and then go toTamara’s. You can have tea while I swim.” His eyes rest now ona glossy knot in the middle of the plank table. “Or you can swimwith me if you like. The pond is hidden on all sides this time ofyear, so no one will bother us.” He looks up at Darya and crosses his arms. “I swimalmost every day, except in winter, of course.” She looksuncertain, and he thinks perhaps he has said too much for her totake in at once. He smiles to put her at ease. “Oh, I will very much enjoy gathering blueberries,Mitya, and visiting Tamara Teodorovna,” Darya answers. “I donot know about the swimming. I have never been swimming.” “I will let some water out of the pond so you can standon the bottom,” he says. “And I can teach you. I taught Yoshi toswim.” Darya smiles at this mention of his young cousin, as hehad hoped she would. Yoshi is fascinated with Darya’s scientificwork and often helps her gather plant samples. She has shownhim how to mount the specimens and what observations areimportant to write down for her father’s professor friends inMoscow. Yoshi was the only one happy to hear the news ofMitya’s engagement to Darya. Yesterday at the wedding, heinformed Mitya that his new wife’s work is called “botanicalresearch,” a fact that Mitya had not known. Path to Publication Group 46
  46. 46. Last First Days “Thank you for your kind offer, Mitya,” Darya says now.“I suppose I do not need to decide until we go to Tamara’s.” “Certainly,” Mitya replies, “and Tamara has towels. Wecan have a steambath after, so you do not get a chill.” “I will think about it,” Darya tells him. Her cheeks gorosy, adding warmth to her pale features. She turns away andgives the table a last brisk swipe with her cloth. Though he feelshe should make some comment, Mitya says nothing else. A girlhas never said, “I will think about it” to him, and he is not surehow to respond. He sees that someone hung his cap on a peg bythe door last evening. I will wear my cap on work days, asPatrush does, now that I am married, he decides. He goes overand takes it from the peg. Darya speaks again. “Mitya, before you go, I have madeyou a new shirt. Would you like to see it?” “Oh. Yes I would.” How has she sewn a new shirt soquickly? His other work shirt was torn beyond repair just twodays ago and yesterday was the wedding. Mitya follows Daryapast the green curtain and watches her open the clothes chest thatUncle Kolya made for them. “Your brown trousers are here also,” she says. “After Iwash your wedding clothes, I will put them away in the chestand you can hang the browns up on a peg.” Mitya notices thather voice is stronger when she speaks of familiar things like foodand clothing rather than uncertain topics like swimming. “Yes, all right,” he answers and sits on the edge of thebed. He had not foreseen the great number of small domesticdetails involved in getting married and setting up house. Tamaraand Patrush must have figured all these things out once, too:where to keep clothes, where to sit, what to eat. These decisionswere old habits to his parents by the time he came into theirlives. Darya holds up a dark gray shirt for his inspection andMitya takes hold of a sleeve. A single line of straight blackstitching trims the neckband and cuffs. “Oh, Darya,” he says, “Ilike it. It is so--” manly, he thinks, but cannot make himself sayit. “I like it,” he repeats instead. “When did you make this?” Henotices for the first time the tiny flecks of gold in her light browneyes. They sparkle at his pleasure. Path to Publication Group 47
  47. 47. The Path “I made it last week after my other sewing wascompleted,” says Darya. Then Mama told me you tore yourother shirt into strips on Saturday to secure Demyan Ivanich’sbroken arm after he fell from his horse. So now that shirt isalready replaced for you.” “I will wear it right away.” Mitya stands and loosens hisbelt. He slips his old shirt over his head and puts on the new one,smoothing the soft, dyed linen. Darya turns back to the chest. “And here are black trousers to go with it,” she says. Shelifts them up and shakes out the folds. “The wool is fromChorny, your cousin Lana’s black sheep.” “Curly Chorny,” Mitya chuckles. You sound foolish, hetells himself. But he is too happy to care. Chorny’s soft wool isinterwoven with occasional gray linen threads for strength. Mitya feels an unexpected surge of pride as he puts onthe new trousers. He has never heard of a man receiving so manywonderful gifts from his bride. He is sure there has never been agirl at Raven Wood as skilled and forward-thinking as his wifeDarya. The trouser legs are cut wide and lie in soft tucks overhis boot tops. He buttons the new gray shirt across the shoulderand up to his neck. Then he slaps his thighs and laughs. “Thank you, Darya,” he says. “These are wonderful.” “Look at yourself,” she says, and moves over with him tothe new mirror on the wall. Mitya puts on his black cap andregards himself. Here he stands, with his hand on Darya’sshoulder. We look happy, he thinks. “You are handsome in this shirt, Mitya,” she tells himand he laughs again. “Ah, Darya, you will make me vain.” He takes his capoff and kisses her before turning to leave. What do you mean“will” make you vain? He asks himself as he settles the cap backon his head. You are already hopelessly vain. Now you will beworse. What is that word Lisaveta loves to shout at you?“Insufferable!” When she sees these new clothes, she will tauntyou without mercy. Mitya is out the door and saddling Ruslanwhen he remembers that Lisaveta is dead, lying some five daysnow in the tomb with the unborn baby she succeeded too well inkilling. Her thorny wit is silent now; her dancing limbs, still; her Path to Publication Group 48
  48. 48. Last First Dayslively pink face, blue at the end, said someone who saw her.Lisaveta will never tease him again, and though the baby wasnot his, Mitya presses his chest a moment before mountingRuslan. They approach the Big Stable at an easy lope a fewminutes later. Mitya expects the men will tease him, as theyalways do a newly married man the first time they see him afterhis wedding night. As if he has never done it before, he thinkswith disgust. It is another thing in life that makes no sense, allthis pretending—except people take such pleasure in it. Hesupposes that alone makes it worth something. Patrush and Nikya are standing outside by an emptysupply wagon. They seem to be having a last word before Nikyagoes off somewhere, for Patrush is pointing at a paper betweenthem. Why does he bother, when Nikya cannot read? And ofcourse it is just like Nikya, to be gone on the day I am not hereworking. Wednesday when I return, he will feel required to stayclose by and hound me all the day through. Nikya looks up at hisapproach and Patrush turns around. Mitya rides up to them andswings down to the ground in a businesslike manner. “Good day, Papa,” he says to Patrush. “Good day,Cousin.” They give him these knowing smiles. He is about tofrown when Nikya steps forward and shakes his hand. “And a fine day to you, Little Cousin,” he says, “tofollow your first fine night as a married man. I suppose I muststop calling you ‘Little Cousin’ now that you are married.” I suppose you must. I suppose you should have stoppedcalling me that long ago. Still, Nikya’s hand gives him a warmfeeling. They spoke yesterday at the wedding, but Nikya had nottouched him. Mitya has never seen Nikya shake hands in theWestern manner like this with anybody. Indeed, he has rarelyseen Nikya touch anybody at all except in anger. This colddisposition runs all the way to the bottom of his family. EvenNikya’s newest baby grandson looks at you blank-faced, as ifyou are not worth his bother. Still, Nikya’s handshake is strongand pleasant. “Congratulations, Mitya,” his cousin goes on. “I wishyou and Darya Akimovna well.” His dark eyes glint as hesmiles. Nikya looks alarmingly like Patrush when he smiles, but Path to Publication Group 49

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