Philotorials – A Creation of Author Louis Berry

Philosophical editorials are the unique creation of author Louis Berry, but everyone is invited to participate. Brief passages will discuss how our everyday existence clashes with that which is meant to enhance our experience of eternity.

Louis’ novels “There’s Something in a Name,” and “Erstwhile” can be purchased from Amazon sites worldwide.

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Mythical or Mainstream – Which are You?

There is a very fine edge on which what is real and what is mythical come together and create the necessary environment to propel one’s soul into its deserved eternal state. Most humans chase that ethereal mist in all the wrong places, which is no fault of their own. We have been conditioned to accept the mainstream ideals that perpetuate this notion. Only through experiencing life in its most basic can we allow ourselves the opportunity to bond physically, through sex, and emotionally, with that person who helps us achieve a heightened state of awareness.

Mainstream forces will have you believe that which you cannot touch is embodied within the notion of celebrity they’re peddling. A broad brush may be able to cover the needs one has to find a compliment to their own existence, but only sloppily so. Sadly, by allowing this to happen it removes focus from what is truly important. Subscribing to mainstream propaganda will accomplish nothing throughout one’s life. It only bloats our understanding of what life should be. What’s most dangerous in subscribing to such nonsense is that it forces us to place our faith in images that embody nothing more than a fragile existence.

For those of us who have been fortunate to lead a long and fulfilled life we understand that as time draws nigh that which is important can be counted on less than a single hand. As we age we discard the synthetic in favor of that which is genuine. Our circle of friends decreases to only those we can communicate with honestly; and we are thankful for that understanding.

Only our imagination can create a vision of what awaits us after we die, but we choose to believe it will be an extension of our bound souls. Healthy bodies beget healthy souls, and it is incumbent upon those who desire the most from eternity to take care of both the physical as well as the emotional being. It is that mythical existence that we all crave.

Let us combine our physical and mythical selves at this moment in time in order to achieve the nirvana we crave.

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Chapter One – Louis Berry’s Novel – Erstwhile (Adult Content) NSF Young Readers

The day spent on the beach ebbed into an evening together absent the desire to move away from the comfortable energy that surrounded the couple. Richard dug in the soft white sand with a shovel as his wife ferried the evening’s fare from the house. She carried a red thermos in her left hand that contained Sangria, and a picnic basket in her right. In it were crackers and Brie with slivered almonds sprinkled on top that had been warmed in the oven. He continued to dig as Susan placed the thermos and basket onto the seat of one of the couple’s two chairs; Adirondacks that her husband bought not long after inheriting the house. They were sturdy and held up well over the years.

Richard stopped digging when he felt the hole was the right depth and width, then threw the shovel hard, blade first, into the sand pile. It stuck firmly in the heap and came to rest with the handle pointing toward him. From the house he had brought some old oak logs for the fire. They were stacked neatly in a pyramid, six feet away. Immediately upon finishing, he walked around the dunes looking for driftwood or old, dry palm fronds to use as kindling.

The couple had taken time to shower away the glaze of lotion and sweat that accumulated during the day. Each was smartly dressed. Richard had on a green plaid polo shirt that accentuated his eyes, and tan, pleated Docker shorts that displayed his muscular legs. On his feet he wore a pair of black Teva sandals.

Susan wore a sleeveless blue denim polo shirt and white shorts. Her shoulders were a red from exposure. She removed the appetizers from the basket and placed the Brie on the flat left arm of her chair, and the crackers on the right one of his.

Richard continued to search the beach while carrying a bundle of palm fronds and other small sticks cradled in his left arm. The flat heel on his sandals sank into the sand and when he rolled onto the ball of his foot, the beach that accumulated on the back of his cruiser dusted the back of his calf. His thoughts were occupied with the search, so he did not realize what was happening. Occasionally, he brushed the back of his legs with his free hand to remove what he thought were sand gnats.

When Richard felt he had enough debris to start the fire, he turned and began to walk toward the pit. He looked at his wife and the figure she cast in the late afternoon sun. The glow around her enhanced her appearance to an angelic state. He flashed the impish smile she loved. Whenever they were alone together she provided the emotional salve necessary to mollify his innate despair.

“Are you ready for a drink?” she asked, as he dropped everything he held into the fire-pit.

“Let me get the fire started and I’ll be ready,” he said.

“You look like the cat that ate the canary. What are you thinking about?”

Richard stopped what he was doing and walked over to his wife. Slowly, he raised his hands to her face and gently cradled her cheeks. Pulling her softly, but firmly toward him, he gently kissed her. Then he slowly dropped his hands away from her face and moved them toward her waist. Interlocking his fingers, he let his hands come to rest at the small of her back. He felt his love for her in every part of his body. He could only describe the feeling as celestial. To him, it bore no resemblance to the tedious nature of life. It was uplifting. Or, it might have been the high produced from looking at his beautiful wife in a bikini all day. His love for her was not purely physical, but he was drawn to her in a primal way. Richard unlaced his fingers and wrapped his arms tightly around her. “I’m sorry to squeeze so hard. It’s just that sometimes I’m so overcome with my love for you, I’d just like to melt into you.”

“How did I get so lucky?” She asked gazing into her husband’s eyes.

He loosened his embrace, kissed his wife and backed away from her. Reluctantly, he returned to the task of building the fire. The sun descended quickly toward the horizon. Its warmth waned, the winds calmed, and the waves subsided.

Richard crouched over the fire pit, then stopped working and turned to his wife. “I think I’m the lucky one. I’m not sure what I’ve done in my life to deserve someone as beautiful, intelligent and sexy as you. Maybe it was something I suffered in a past life that the cosmic energy is trying to make right.”

“I really don’t think you have to have some sort of justification or rationalization for our relationship. It is what we make it.”

He returned to the task at hand, thinking about what his wife said. When he finished stacking the wood, he carefully examined the miniature bonfire. Would the shape allow for enough oxygen to fuel the fire? Yes. Will the flames from the burning debris spread evenly over the oak limbs? It looks like they will. Richard removed a wand-lighter from his back pocket, reached into the pit and began to click the trigger rapidly. After the third pull, a blue and white flame extended from its end. He lit the debris and moved quickly to the other side and repeated the task. The rubbish caught fire swiftly. Flames curved over the oak limbs and the wood began to pop and crack. Twigs quickly burned, curled and dropped off the branches into the bottom of the pit. The embers turned quickly from a bright orange glow to gray ash as they hit the sand.

Susan moved toward her husband and handed him a glass of Sangria. He took it from her without removing his stare from the fire.

“How’s it going?” she asked.

“I think it’ll be alright. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Susan walked over to her chair and sat down, took a glass she had poured at the same time she made his and placed it on the arm of the chair. After taking a sip she sat quietly and watched him brood over the fire. He watched it burn the protruding knobs on the bark as the flames lapped over the wood. They glowed orange, then changed to a glimmering white as the heat grew more intense when the wind gusted, and then back as it died down. He sipped from his drink, and licked the excess from his lip. The firewood shifted in on itself as the debris that supported the bonfire burned away. Richard examined it carefully to make sure there was enough oxygen to sustain the fire. When he felt comfortable it had developed a life of its own, he walked over and sat in his chair.

“Would you like some brie?” his wife asked, as she reached toward him holding a cracker with a wedge of cheese on top.

“Thanks,” he said, as he took it from her and ate it in one bite. Without a word he then stood and handed his glass to his wife. She took it and looked at him curiously. Facing the chair, he leaned over and picked it up by the arms. It was heavy and he had to use the muscles in his back. He felt the soreness associated with the strain of fighting a fish earlier that day. Placing the front of the chair against his shins, he slid his feet along the sand and moved toward the fire, turning slightly before dropping the chair next to it. After helping his wife stand, Richard placed her chair facing his. They sat down. He leaned over and in quick succession pulled apart all four of the Velcro straps on his sandals, removed them and placed them on the sand next to him, before lifting his feet and resting them in his wife’s chair; one on each side. Not a word was spoken as he gently stroked her hips with his feet.

“You’re getting sand on my white pants,” Susan said, albeit hesitantly.

Buzz kill, he thought to himself as he smiled.

She placed her feet on the edge of his chair and they sat with their legs intertwined.

“We’re gonna miss the sunset.”

“The sunset can’t compare to you, dear.”

Susan smiled and took a sip of her drink. He traced the outline of her frame with his eyes, enjoying how her shirt fell open nicely, exposing her neck and chest. Richard imagined himself leaning over and gently touching his lips to her soft skin. Her shirt was unbuttoned to a point just below the bottom of her breasts, exposing a hint of cleavage. She wasn’t sure what was going through her husband’s mind, but she did know she was on display for him and relished the attention. The silence between the two spoke volumes. Neither words nor actions were necessary to feel love from one another. His eyes moved from her cleavage to her legs. He appreciated how silky her thighs were, and how they came together at her buttocks. Her calves were equally shapely and desirable. Appreciating her sensuality gave him cause to remember times when he had given his wife a full body massage. He recalled how his hands moved over her, applying enough pressure so any tension she felt drifted away. The desire for his wife became difficult to resist.

Richard finished his drink and looked around. There were a few couples on the beach enjoying the sunset.

“Would you like some more Sangria?” Susan asked, as she leaned over the arm of her chair to pick up the thermos.

“Sure,” he replied as he held out his glass. While she poured he looked at the dunes near the house. Would they provide adequate cover? They would have to wait until after dark. “Thank you,” Richard said, as his wife finished filling his glass.

“You’re welcome,” she replied and placed the thermos back on the ground.

He stared at the horizon. The bottom half of the sun was hidden by its edge. Susan shifted her body in her chair to face the setting star. “Isn’t it funny how when you look at the sun in the sky, you don’t ever see it move, but when it reaches the horizon it appears as though it’s falling off the edge of a table?” Susan asked.

“Yeah, it is amazing.” Richard thought for a moment. His tone became dazed and philosophical. “I guess the horizon gives us a point of reference to measure its movement. Do you think we’ll know when the end is near with the accuracy we do at the end of each day?”

“The only thing that scares me about death is facing it without you.”

They sat silently, staring at the glowing orb, watching as it disappeared. At the moment the last sliver of orange dropped over the horizon, Richard softly impersonated the canon used to celebrate every sunset in Key West. “Boom!”

The sky’s color ranged from light blue to black as the couple enjoyed their Sangria by the fire. When they finished the first pitcher she walked up to the house for a refill while he tended the fire. Neither was in any hurry to leave the beach. The number of passers-by dwindled the later it became. Being so close for so long without touching increased their libidos, while the alcohol they consumed lowered their inhibitions. Richard reclined his body in the chair, slung his left leg over its arm and leaned toward his wife.

“Let me ask you something.” Susan’s words were not full. She forced them from her inebriated mind and through a mouth numbed by alcohol. He didn’t notice; his head was thick for the same reason.

“What’s that?” he asked, as he slung his head, heavy with wine, looking at her through his eyebrows. Her eyes sparkled in the light from the smoldering coals. The few flames that were left created shadows that danced across her face.

“At what point in our relationship did you become committed to me?”

“Day one,” Richard answered, without hesitation.

“No,” she said. “Forget all the romantic bullshit.” The wine spoke freely for her. “There had to be something I did that gave you an indication that I was committed to you.”

Richard thought, but only briefly. “Do you remember when I came to pick you up for our weekend trip to the Bahamas?”

“Yes.”

“My mind was on all the things we had to accomplish before we left; making sure we had our luggage, the time it would take to get to the airport from your house, and God forbid, what if we forgot our tickets? As we got into the car, do you remember what you said to me?”

“No.”

“You said, ‘you can kiss the girl now.’”

Susan smiled at the recollection.

“I don’t know if you recall, but that was before we had ever made love, and that statement conveyed the sentiment that with all the distractions in the world, the most important consideration is us. Until then I never knew a relationship should be free of outside influences.”

Susan looked around the beach. It was black and difficult to see past the glare of the glowing coals. There was no one in sight. It is Sunday night. Everyone must be at home, she reasoned. The tingling began in the pit of her stomach and radiated through her extremities. Her lust took over. She stood and walked to the back of her chair, then grabbed it and pulled. Resting its weight on its back two legs she dragged it away from Richard’s chair. She then walked back to where her chair had been and began to gently sway. Each undulation of her body began with her feet, twisting in the sand, and then worked its way up her thighs, through her stomach ending at her shoulders. Susan flipped her head forward. Her hair fell into her face as she gyrated and looked at her husband through the veil she had created and smiled in a manner he had never seen before.

There were no flames dancing above the fire, only orange, glowing coals. Richard worried someone may see his wife, but rationalized doing nothing to stop her by convincing himself it was too dark for anyone to see. The man was aroused and curious. She continued to sway back-and-forth in the cool evening breeze.

Susan felt her husband’s eyes all over her body. He watched intently. She continued to dance as she slowly began to unbutton her blouse, one-by-one. The anticipation was almost too much for him, but he resisted walking over to her and undressing her himself. The pleasure of watching her dance was one that had never been equaled. Her actions lifted their bond to a devout status.

When Susan freed the last button she held her shirt at the bottom and allowed it to drift open, then closed it by bringing the two front panels together; teasing her husband. After several playful repetitions, Richard thought, finally, as she let her shirt fall open and off her shoulders. She held her arms straight down behind her allowing it to slide away and onto the sand.

Susan continued to sway; worried she would not be able to maintain the rhythm of her dance while trying to unfasten her bra. She felt awkward as she reached, with both hands, behind her back to unsnap the hook. When her bra fell open, she quickly brought her arms together and held them tightly to her chest using her forearms to hold it as she clasped her hands. Still looking at him through her hair, she shook her head denying him the pleasure. She maintained this position while continuing to rock gently. When she moved her arms away from her chest she kept her hands clasped. Her bra slid down her straightened arms. His view was still obstructed, but her husband’s intense stare assured her she was not inept.

He sat patiently, waiting for his wife to discard her bra. Eventually, she did by tossing it, next to her shirt. There was no noticeable disruption in the rhythm of her dance, maybe because there was no disruption in his palpable, primitive craving for her.

The confidence she felt grew. Her body continued to undulate in unison with the light caused by the flickering flames that occasionally rose from the hot orange coals having found adequate oxygen to reignite. Slowly, she made her way toward her husband. He reached out, taking her by the waist. She gently shook her head and backed away. The dance was not over. Richard became frustrated and returned his arms to the chair’s rests. His fingers fell over the edges and he gripped them tightly and gritted his teeth as his passion raged. He knew his wife was expressing something to him that transcended the physical, and he must allow her to complete her story.

Susan’s body continued to sway as she leaned over him. She removed Richard’s taut hands from the chair and interlaced her fingers in his. Slowly she stroked the palms of his hands with her thumbs. Relax. Susan leaned into her husband. The strength in his arms provided support as she was suspended above him. Their clasped hands moved slowly outside the frames of their bodies as she came closer. Richard admired his wife’s body. A lump developed in his throat as he watched her breasts change shape as she came nearer. Her flat tummy folded at her waist and showed barely a wrinkle. His heart raced, but he kept telling himself this was her show. Let her lead. She gave a kiss so deep Richard felt it all the way down to his toes. Every part of his body was tense with desire. Her lips melted into his and their unity became soulful. She pushed against his hands. He offered the resistance she needed to stand, but maintained contact with her lips as long as he could by leaning toward her. Once again his eyes were drawn to her bosoms as they retained their naturally perky shape. Her areolas were drawn tightly together. He imagined himself stroking her hardened mammillae with his thumbs. Sensual sensations stimulated part of his body, all without the pleasure of touching her flesh. It amazed and scared him to know he was so into his wife.

Susan backed away slowly, maintaining the rhythm of her dance as she caressed her body. When she moved her hands to the button on her shorts, she smiled at him, as she performed their mock removal.

Richard could no longer hold his tongue. “Come on! You’re killing me over here.”

Without a word she continued her dance. She turned her back toward him. He watched giddily as she slid her shorts and panties over her petite, round bottom; hardly able to contain himself.

When the last of her clothing fell onto the sandy beach, Susan stopped her dance, walked over to her chair and removed a towel that was neatly folded and laid across its back. She spread it on the ground and laid on it, on her side, in full view of Richard. The glow from the fire illuminated her perfectly formed physique. Tan lines created by the sun accentuated the parts of her body he desired to touch the most. He dare not move until she signaled him over with her finger, come here!

Richard stood and made his way to the towel. He removed his shirt along the way and lay down next to her, then kissed her gently and embraced her. Her body was soft and warm. Susan wriggled away from the embrace as she sat up. Eagerly, she removed his shorts and tossed them onto the pile of clothes, then lay down and pulled him toward her. The two held each other. Neither had ever felt so close to anyone. Their hearts beat together, they breathed in unison, and their souls no longer ached for the perfect mate. Richard kissed Susan. It was a deep, long kiss. He rolled over, allowing his straight, muscular arms to hold his body above hers. She rubbed them with her hands and enjoyed watching his eyes as they absorbed every inch of her body.

She felt warm, from her belly-button to her thighs, as his hands gently stroked all of her. He resisted the surging primal urge that raged within him. It was not a selfless act, but one borne of the desire to experience everything they could offer one other.

The warmth Susan enjoyed grew unchecked. Her desire needed to be satiated. “I want you in me,” she whispered.

Richard did not rush. Slowly he made his way to the joining. Gently, he made love to his wife. Passionately, he threw his head back and looked toward the house. Something inside caught his eye. In the kitchen window he saw a red, stained-glass heart Susan’s deceased father had given her on her fifteenth birthday. Richard thought about how much the man meant to her. A great sense of doubt overtook him when he realized he had no idea what it took to be the kind of man that would enable his wife to experience the life she deserved as they grew old together.

 

Buy at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Erstwhile-Louis-Berry/dp/1441423079/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1413737267&sr=8-1&keywords=louis+berry+erstwhile

 

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Chapter Twenty-Three: Louis Berry’s Novel, There’s Something in a Name

After breakfast they drove to Owen’s house. He felt like a kid excited to share his secret fort with a new friend. Monica’s anticipation was built upon tattered nerves. She tried to liken one hundred feet to something she encountered in daily life. Owen sensed her nervousness and explained everything she needed to know to make a dive like that; and the necessity of a ten foot stop. And, as she had done before, Monica asked intelligent questions. Giddiness escalated within him the closer they got to his house.

It took less than an hour to prepare the boat and gather necessary provisions. Owen switched on the motor while Monica stowed supplies below deck. Exhaust gurgled in the brackish water.

Habitually, Owen reached toward the throttle to grab the St. Christopher necklace Julia had given him. His heart sank when he realized it was no longer there. Ritualistically, he kissed it for luck each time he set out for the wreck. He shook away his disappointment and laughed at his superstitious nature before bumping the throttle with the heel of his hand; engaging the motor in reverse. Slowly, the boat moved into the channel. When it was clear of the dock, he reversed speed and moved past homes that lined the canal before heading into the gulf.

He navigated the waters around the Keys speedily and recklessly without concern for who might take note of his boat and its seemingly urgent path into the open ocean. The long ride offered the opportunity to once again think about how he left Julia. Opportunities lost had driven him to vow that when another presented itself it would not be squandered. Sharing his secret with Monica was meant to fill that void.

The boat skipped across the waves and Monica’s nerves became fatigued. She worried about her ability to make such a difficult dive without professional training. Life for her had been a struggle against a homeland she loved and missed. The horizon she stared at had an endless and eternal quality that represented a great deal of uncertainty. She wondered whether or not she could see the actual spot on the globe that was their destination, or did it lay beyond her perspective. “What awaits us out there?” she asked, pointing in front of the boat.

Owen smiled. “A treasure that will make life worth living for us both.”

She nodded her approval, and then asked a more ethereal question. “What do you think awaits us after death?”

Owen shifted his gaze sharply from the ocean that lay ahead to his friend. “Why are you so gloomy today?”

She shrugged her shoulders. “No reason. We have a long way to go and it’s definitely a worthwhile subject … among friends.”

He returned his attention to the waves that effortlessly tossed the boat. “I’ve never really been a big believer in Valhalla, if that’s what you’re asking.”

“I’m not sure what you mean.”

He took a deep breath and exhaled. “I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t believe that to get into heaven, if there is one, that it’s conditional on the accomplishments of one’s human self. The vision of my God is one that loves all and forgives all, which is something we have not been able to do.”

We?”

“Humans,” he answered. “We do everything in our power to segregate each other into neat little categories in order to define the kind of person we think they are. It doesn’t matter the kind of person we are.” He stopped and looked at Monica. His glance was met with a curious look. “Take Ivy, for example. He spends much of his day denigrating everyone he meets without the same credentials he possesses.”

“And, your point?”

“My point is that somewhere, buried deep inside him is a truly good person, and when he dies I choose to believe that my God will accept him regardless of the many he has refused to acknowledge. That good person will survive forever among all others.”

“I like your sentiment,” she hesitated, “but I must say that I find it odd coming from you.”

“Why?”

“Because … as un-accepting as Ivy can be, you are equally accepting … of other men’s wives into your bed. That makes you a hypocrite, in my book.”

Owen nodded. “I understand.”

And?” she insisted.

Owen throttled down the boat until it simply drifted aimlessly in the water. He swiveled around in his chair and faced his friend. “I’ve thought a lot about that. Before last night my response would have been that if it wasn’t me it would be someone else, so I might as well enjoy the pleasure of their infidelity. You opened up a lot of old wounds for me, and that has allowed me to see things more clearly than I ever have before.” He paused. “Not until recently have I come to understand that I suffer from depression. I’m not sure if it’s caused by being beaten into an emotional fetal position by the only father I ever knew or if it’s how my brain is hard-wired.”

Monica interjected, “They have medication for that.”

Owen shook his head. “I can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“There have been suicides linked to anti-depressants.”

“But that is such a small percentage of people who use them.”

“One is too many. Besides that, if I were on anti-depressants now, I would not have the benefit of clarity you’ve brought to my life. I’m afraid it would have masked the breakthrough I had last night as a result of our conversation.”

“Which is?”

“After we talked last night, I lay awake for quite a while thinking about my life.” Owen held both hands to his chest. “I now realize that because of my depression I am attracted to gregarious types because they provide a balance for me. They are the court jesters in the halls of the dark, dank castle that is my mind. I’ve had three friends who committed suicide. They were all very outgoing, yet volatile people. I can remember being inebriated most of the times we were together … and if we were all four together, man!” Owen’s tone shifted from that of an excited discovery to a more somber one. “It’s not that I don’t love them, because I do, and I miss them terribly. I wish I could tell them what I now understand. It may have helped save their lives.” A tear rolled over Owen’s lower eye lid and down his cheek. He quickly wiped it away with his thumb. “I thank God that you were able to be the kind of person that I was incapable of being for my friends.”

Monica was stunned. “That’s the greatest compliment I’ve ever been given.”

“Good, because I was afraid I’d never be able to show you how much you mean to me,” he said, as he shoved the throttle forward once again, engaging the boat’s motor and propelling them forward. He maneuvered it left and then right as he read the G.P.S. coordinates attempting to get the boat back onto the course that would take them to his shipwreck.

Nearly two hours later, Owen throttled down the motor in the exact spot he needed to drop the bow anchor. Hurriedly, he stood in his chair and stepped one foot onto the dashboard as he launched his weight forward over the windshield. Quickly he walked to the anchor-locker, opened it, grabbed the anchor and tossed it overboard. He gave it time to sink to the ocean’s floor; watching the anchor line disappear over the bow. When it stopped moving he tied it to the cleat before carefully making his way back over the glass and into his seat. He engaged the engines in reverse and slowly backed the boat. When the line became taut he shut down the engine and looked at the GPS. Ocean currents kept the boat hovering over the wreck.

When Owen removed his shirt and began to put on his wetsuit he asked Monica one last time, “Are you sure you’re ready to make this dive?” She nodded. It was obvious she was nervous. Her curiosity provided the drive to perform such a dangerous task. Treasure had a way of distorting vigilance. “When we get to the bottom I want you to look for a mesh bag. It’ll probably be buried under a foot or two of sand, but I’ll show you where to look.”

She nodded. Her arms and legs felt numb as she put on the wetsuit he had given her to wear. When she was finished he helped with her buoyancy control device and tank. Monica breathed through the regulator and found the air to be cold. Chills ran down her spine. Once she was suited and ready to go Owen put on the rest of his equipment. This was the first time in over a year he made a dive of significant depth with a partner. It felt good and his excitement could hardly be contained. He gave a both thumbs up signal and they moved to the diving platform. Owen went into the water first so that he would be there to help if she needed it. He held a nylon rope that was tied to one of the aft cleats. It would secure the mesh bag. There was no way he would allow it to be left behind, again.

Owen held Monica’s hand as they descended into the darkness. He made the trip as slowly as he could for her benefit, but knew they needed to be quick about their business. When the white sands of the ocean floor came into view of their flashlights, a moray eel quickly slithered into an exposed hole in the hull of the ship that protruded from the bottom. Owen quickly surveyed the territory and pulled on his friend’s hand, guiding her to the spot where he wanted her to look for the bag. He knew she must be terrified, so he stopped and looked into her eyes. She appeared relatively calm, but he asked her anyway if she was okay by pointing to her and then giving the okay sign by encircling his thumb and forefinger. She nodded and he breathed a little easier.

The spot where she needed to search was communicated by making digging motions with his hands above the area. Once she began, Owen swam away to look in another spot.

Monica waved her hand gently over the ocean floor generating a small current to move the sand and create a crater. Her approach led to murkier water and diminished sight. With every breath she became more uncomfortable, bordering on claustrophobia. When the sense of urgency became too great she stopped brushing away the sand and plunged her hands into the ocean floor. She desperately wanted to surface.

While digging she frantically looked around for Owen. He was nowhere to be seen. Surely he would not leave me alone down here, she thought. Her breathing became quick and short, but she was not deterred from the task at hand. She dug deeper and deeper, while moving her hands away from the center of her search. Disappointing Owen was not something she would allow to happen.

Monica plucked her left hand from the sand and held the gauge that dangled from her buoyancy control device. She had been under water for over thirteen minutes and knew time was short. Just as she began to feel like a failure something brushed past her pinky. Fear kept her from grabbing it outright. Slowly she slid her fingers over what felt like a piece of metal. She maintained contact, but dug vigorously into the sand until she was able to wrap her fingers around whatever it was. Tugging mightily did nothing to budge her find.

Suddenly, a tap on her shoulder frightened her. Monica rolled over onto her back and saw Owen. He held out his hands, palms up, questioning the luck with her search. When her fright dissipated she realized she had not let go of her find. Relief overcame her. She took Owen’s hand and forced it into the sand next to hers. He dug as she had until he felt what he knew to be his mesh bag. The smile on his face grew so wide it caused the mask’s seal to break away from his face. Cool ocean water rushed in before he had a chance with his free hand to secure it once again.

He pulled with all of his might. The bag was heavy and buried in the sand. It wiggled slightly, but he persisted and it began to slide toward him. Monica tapped him on the shoulder. She motioned to her wrist that they were running out of time. He nodded by quickly bobbing his head. Frustrated, he acknowledged the obvious. Monica pointed to the ocean floor vigorously and waved it away. She wanted to leave the bag, but Owen would have none of it. He shook his head forcefully. There was no way he would leave it again.

Owen pointed toward the nylon rope that was swaying in the current a few yards away. He wanted her to retrieve it, and she did. Without loosening his grip he removed his fins. He then sank his feet into the sand on either side of the treasure. When he had done so, he reached down with his free hand, secured both to the handle and pulled using every ounce of leverage he could muster. To his astonishment the bag slid out of the sand relatively easily.

Monica handed him the loose end of the rope and he tied it to the handle, making so many knots upon knots that there was no way it would come loose when they pulled it to the surface. Once he finished, Owen took a deep breath and pushed it out through his regulator. The mass of bubbles rose toward the surface and the two exchanged smiles filled with satisfaction. She could not resist reaching down and holding the bag in her hands, massaging the coins between her fingers. Owen reached down and grabbed her left hand. When she looked at him he pointed toward the surface with his thumb. She nodded, let go of the bag, and the two began to swim toward the boat.

The journey away from the depths was joyous. Monica was no longer scared and the satisfaction Owen felt was palpable. Dutifully, he watched the instruments that hung from his equipment to make sure they were not ascending too quickly in their fervor to get to the boat. A couple of times they looked at one another and grinned uncontrollably.

Owen’s elation quickly shifted to worry as they neared the surface. There were two boat hulls hovering on the surface of the water. Monica had not noticed it and he questioned whether he should alarm her. He did nothing until they got to the ten-foot stop. They drifted at the depth while Owen tried to develop a plan to get on the boat safely. The pirates would not leave before murdering all witnesses.

Thoughts raced through his mind until his concentration was broken when he saw the bag of coins ascending toward the boat. When it passed the couple Monica saw it too. She quickly looked at Owen and then toward the surface. There she saw the two boats. He saw the panic in her eyes before she began to swim quickly toward the surface. There was no other choice. He followed her.

When he reached the dive platform he took off his mask, tossed it over the side, and wiped away the saltwater from his eyes. He saw three Bahamians; one of whom held Monica by the arms from behind. His mask had landed at the feet of another man, who held a rifle with its butt against his hip and the barrel pointed skyward. Owen unbuckled his vest and allowed it to slide off his shoulders, sinking to the depths below. He knew that if he had any chance of saving his friend he had to be free of all encumbrances.

Reluctantly, Owen climbed into the boat. One of the men grabbed him and shoved him toward the helm. On the deck at the third man’s feet was his bag of coins. The apparent leader, the man with the rifle, saw that Owen was looking at what he considered his find.

“Nice bag of coins, huh?”

Owen acknowledged begrudgingly with a nod, and looked at Monica. There was a peace he sensed about her. Maybe she was simply relieved to breathe through her nose. Regardless, her demeanor had a calming affect on him, until he realized she might be in cahoots with the pirates. She appeared too calm. He was so nervous that it felt as though his legs would collapse beneath him at any moment.

“Take the wetsuit off the girl, mon,” the leader of the gang instructed the man who held Monica by the arms. “She might bring quite a price in the black market.”

Black Market, Owen thought. They really are going overboard trying to make it look like they aren’t all in this together. He looked into the faces of each of the men. None of them looked the least bit familiar to him. The two underlings wore side arms that were holstered and locked down with a leather strap. Appearing to be the most immediate threat was the leader. He had scars on his face that seemed to physically manifest a psyche that was equally damaged. He was jittery and sweat streamed down his face. The man paced back-and-forth in the small space between the boat’s stern and its helm, much like a caged lion contemplating his next move to ensure survival. Owen saw that his finger held the rifle’s trigger in a manner that was much too precarious for him to try to disarm the man. He looked once more at Monica. There was no way he could rely on her, and for his own safety had to count her as one of the bad guys. She will be taken out last, he thought.

The man holding Monica was wispy, yet wiry enough to present a threat to anyone who crossed him. She was spun around by her arms so that she faced him. He smiled at her through rotten teeth that were brown like his skin. She turned away in disgust. The leader sat on the edge of the boat and watched as his compadre unzipped the wetsuit she wore. When the zipper was just below her navel the man grabbed its open collar and pulled it over her shoulders and down to her waist. She stood helpless with nothing but a stringy bikini top to offer protection from physical and emotional abuse.

It became apparent to Owen by the men’s lustful stares they had never seen her before. Each of them was drawn in to her beauty and Owen saw his opportunity to strike while their minds entertained fantasies. Slowly, he slid his right foot backward to plant it at the juncture of the deck and the wall. He planned to spring toward the leader and disarm him before he had a chance to lower the barrel of his gun.

Just before making his move, the leader hopped off the edge of the boat and announced, “There will be time for that later. We need to get rid of the man,” he said as he lowered his gun and pointed it at his intended victim. When he turned to face Owen something caught his eye. “What’s that, mon?” the man pointed toward his dive belt. His hand shook and his manner was edgy. Something silver captured his attention.

Owen looked down. Hanging over the belt was the St. Christopher pendant that Julia had given him. Rather than spend time below gathering Spanish Pieces of Eight, Owen wanted to find the charm he had always used to guide him safely in his travels.

“I threw that overboard the last time I was on your boat.” The man walked toward Owen, reaching for it. Instinctively, Owen reached down and grabbed the necklace and held it tightly to his waist. The man lowered his gun and pressed it into Owen’s chest, pushing him backward and letting him know who was in charge. Owen held the charm tighter as rage grew within him. He thought about how Bobby made him grovel for the most basic of necessities, and how Jenny never came to his rescue. Living on the fringe for so long had colored his outlook on life and he realized that, with Monica’s help, life was not disposable. A week earlier he would have faced death and accepted it. The instinct to survive had never been stronger. He knew there was something greater that awaited him. What that was, he had no idea, but the desire to seek out experiences beyond the physical overcame him with a fury.

He lunged and grabbed the barrel of the leader’s rifle, then tried desperately to yank it from the man’s hands. His grip was too tight. A chill ran down Owen’s spine as he realized he had provoked the man and was unable to disarm him. Determination to fight until the very end cloaked him like a shield. Owen pushed the barrel of the gun skyward as he bull-rushed him.

The thug who held Monica at bay stepped back, planted his foot on the deck of the boat and lunged into her with a punch across her left cheek. She quickly collapsed onto the deck. Owen pushed the leader against the edge of the boat and had an advantage as the man leaned backward precariously over the water. He turned and saw the man who hit Monica kicking her ribs repeatedly. Owen pulled the rifle and the leader back into the boat. He had given up his advantage to try his best to take aim and shoot the pirate who was killing the only true friend he had ever known. The two men struggled mightily with the rifle, Owen desperately tried to hold a steady aim, and the leader tried with equal determination to disrupt him. Just as Owen felt he had a bead on the man, he felt a crushing blow to the back of his head. Desperation caused him to squeeze the trigger. The sound of the rifle reverberated across the water as Owen fell to the deck. He heard the leader yelling at one of his underlings. “You kill her. Take the damn gun out of its holster and shoot her right between the eyes.”

Through blurred vision Owen saw the silhouette of a man walking toward him and holding the rifle across his body. He knew he had to rush the man again. It was his only chance. He gathered his feet under him and acted a bit more dazed than he actually was in hopes of not exacerbating the man’s edginess. Just as he lunged at the man with every ounce of energy left in his body, Owen heard the distinctive click of the gun’s firing mechanism. His momentum shoved the man backward and over the side of the boat with ease. The man let go of the rifle as he waved his arms in the air trying desperately to regain his balance as he fell overboard. Somewhat astounded at his good fortune, Owen stood at the edge of the boat holding the rifle. Before he had a chance to gather himself, he realized that the man who was ordered to kill Monica was moving toward him. He held an aluminum gaff and raised it high over his head, then swung it swiftly downward, toward Owen. Pain radiated through Owen’s extremities as he held his left arm up to absorb the force of the blow. Instinctively, he drew his arm into his body to protect it from further damage. The rifle fell to the deck between the two men.

The pirate looked at the bent gaff he held in his hand and tossed it overboard. He drew his gun from its holster and took aim at Owen. Monica struggled mightily against the pain of broken ribs and a crushed jaw as she pivoted on her side in order to swing her legs around and trip the man. He fell, but held onto the gun. While he gathered himself, Owen reached for the rifle and pointed it at the man. He refused to fire it, shaking his head as he stared intently at the man imploring him not to fire his weapon. “Jump over the side of the boat and you can live.”

Without a word the man scurried to his feet and did just that. Owen and Monica were relieved to witness his acquiescence. He stood, holding his arm tightly to his stomach, and walked backward reaching for the captain’s chair as he watched Monica closely. When he felt the chair behind him he spun it on its pedestal and sat so that he faced the rear of the boat where she lay.

“Are you okay,” he asked.

She shook her head. “I can’t breath,” Monica replied, in a shallow voice and through clinched teeth. “I think my ribs are broken and I’m sure my jaw is too.”

Owen had forgotten about the third pirate, but realized he must have hit him when he pulled the rifle’s trigger. While the thought of having killed someone seeped into his psyche, Owen saw the hands of the pirate leader grabbing the side of the boat as he tried to pull himself aboard. He stood and walked slowly to where the man was; held the rifle firmly against his ribs with his good hand and pointed it at his head. It was obvious the man was filled with evil, and the only thing the other two were guilty of was not having an adequate spine. He mourned the one man he had been forced to kill, but this was not a man. If he did not shoot him Owen was certain that the man would live to terrorize others. A great sense of satisfaction came over him as he pulled the trigger and watched blood explode from the man’s forehead. He walked to the edge and watched as the pirate’s lifeless body sank into the water. Owen threw the rifle in behind him, and thought about how he might see him again if he ever came back to the wreck. He looked at his arm and could tell it was broken. It would be quite a while before he came back, if ever.

“Hey, Mon,” a voice called. Owen walked to the stern of the boat. He saw the second man treading water. He asked, “Can I get in my boat now?”

“Wait until we’re gone!” Owen barked.

“Mon, can you leave now, please? My arms are getting tired.”

Owen smiled, nodded and then walked back to the helm, stopping to pick up a machete. Quickly he hopped on top of the bow and cut away the anchor rope. The boat drifted while he walked cautiously back toward the controls. Once there he stopped and removed the Saint Christopher medal from his belt and hung it around the throttle lever. In one swift motion, he turned the ignition key and shoved the throttle forward sending the boat bouncing on top of the late afternoon ocean waves toward the nearest hospital on Stock Island. Monica was silent the entire trip. Her skin became pale and clammy. He worried several times that she had died. Remorse was an emotion he never understood, but he knew that he was responsible for her, and if she died he would never be able to forgive himself. Only then did he realize his animalistic rage had given way to an unyielding passion like he had never known. Guilt overcame him as he realized the contempt he held for those who chose a life based upon greed could be employed when describing him. Voracity for possessions that merely held physical value could no longer be ignored. He would have gladly traded his life for all that it provided, but when his avarice nearly killed Monica he understood their relationship meant more to him. Desires that were once carnal and mortal became spiritual and eternal.

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My Mother’s Day Post

In the name of my mother, my wife and I have funded a scholarship for a graduate student at the Florida State University – Panama City Campus pursuing their Masters in Elementary Education for the Fall Semester of 2014 and Spring Semester of 2015. As I have moved through my life, and experienced its ups and downs, mother has always been a constant source of love and inspiration. I watched as she worked hard to provide a good home for me, overcoming obstacles that seemed insurmountable. Relentless pursuit of her Masters and Specialist in Education taught me that with the same laser-like focus I could achieve anything I truly put my heart and soul into. Thank you, mother, for giving me the tools to shake off the past and move toward a bright and eternal future; for giving me the desire to create something beyond myself. Because of you I will continue to strive to squeeze every ounce of life with the time I have left.

It was the generosity of many people that gave me the opportunity to play football at FSU, and I will never forget that. Those experiences and accomplishments will be cherished and I take from them but a small morsel of satisfaction. However, my life is moving into a greater state of awareness and it is all because of my mother’s example. My path has crossed many Hall of Fame coaches and players in college and NFL football (however briefly) that society considers heroes. Those acquaintances have served a small purpose in moving me along life’s path, but the one constant has been mother’s love and example, which I now know is what will move me toward eternity. It is difficult to convey the sense of pride that fills my soul at being able to help someone along their life’s journey. I’m certain our small gift will return multiples of its face value.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Wanderlust: A Short Story

Wanderlust had always driven Lawrence to pursue all life had to offer, personally and professionally. Failure was never seen as an obstacle, but an experience to help mold a brighter future. It was the knowledge that there was something more to life that drove him. Middle age had presented him with a decaying body incapable of performing the way he had in his youth. As his physical prowess declined the desire to pursue an idealized existence became more intense. Conversations between he and Jill often centered on their desire to understand why it was they meant so much to each other. They knew there was not an obstacle life could present over which they could not prevail.

It was a weekend meant to explore physical pleasure like they’d never experienced, but ended up eternally changing the relationship Jill and Lawrence worked seventeen years to build. Aging flesh dulled sexual experiences. Their souls craved more than their bodies could satiate. Ethereal bonds developed over their marriage were more fragile than either realized, but their airy manifestation engulfed them both; offering a false sense of comfort.

Multiple lovers had never been a goal for either Jill or Lawrence Restivo. History had been more a function of time, not desire. Memories were cast aside when they met. Knowing they found the person they’d spend the rest of their lives with offered a great deal of security, but also hastened the slide into complacency.

Growing pains rarely exploded into confrontation. Mildly contentious conversations were resolved with mutual understanding. Maturity and intellect brought about an understanding that their union was strengthened by synthesizing their souls. The process had become so idealized they mistakenly allowed others into their realm. People who had no desire to engage in a balanced exchange were allowed to extract physical and emotional pleasure from the couple without offering anything in return.

The historic town of St. Augustine offered the perfect setting for their foray into desires that welled from deep within their souls. Its ancient record mirrored the depth from which the couple’s desires emanated. Their mistake was feeling as though its inhabitants desires were anything more than superficial.

Sexual activity began for Lawrence at age sixteen. Freedom to move away from the influence of his family came in the form of an operator’s permit. Although he spent less-and-less time in the contentious household dominated by constant arguing, he gravitated toward those who reminded him of that very environment. Coupling with girls he went to school with was nothing more than a meager attempt to file a void created by the only family he ever knew. Feelings of fulfillment never outlived pulsating orgasms.

Teen pregnancy affected Jill personally without having to endure the embarrassment of admitting to expectant motherhood. Professing love was nothing more than a means of eliciting sex for Conrad, her high school boyfriend. Humiliation associated with the knowledge the boy she had chosen to offer her virginity fertilized the seed of a classmate seemed much more intense than enduring nine months of an unwanted pregnancy. Her parents would have shipped her off to another county to have the child as the parents of other girls in her school had done. Strength to endure manifested itself in a hard exterior and the pursuit of stellar grades. Laser-like focus on her studies carried her to earning a PhD at the very young age of twenty-five. Only then did she feel as though she had the tools to weather the potential pitfalls inherent in relationships.

Cracking Jill’s hard exterior was a task Lawrence took on like a miner searching for a golden vein. Subtlety wasn’t the strong-suit of a man desperately in need of making himself whole. His flight from a past marred by anger and hostility was masked by his desires. When they first met he was unable to separate the two. Violence beget violence across generations, and the lasting physical stimulation was eerily similar to that experienced by those able to give themselves over to a completely ethereal sexual experience.

Jill’s approach to her relationship with Lawrence was much more measured. Precisely analyzed feelings allowed her to embrace only those attributes of her husband she felt were worthy of her character. It was clinical and led to a benign existence. Years would pass before the jaundiced lens with which she viewed her husband was cast aside in favor of a completely open relationship.

Aging was fought through a rigorous approach to exercise. Five kilometer runs were increased to ten, fifteen, and half-marathons. Death was an event neither looked upon favorably. Determination’s byproduct generated fit bodies anyone would desire to embrace. Weekends during the fall and winter were spent throughout Florida participating in charitable races. It was never about speed, but embracing the experience. No matter how hard they trained, aches and pains grew in intensity as their bodies aged.

Lawrence never possessed an innate desire to pursue anyone other than his wife of seventeen years to satiate his passionate lust for female flesh. Jill had been all he ever desired. When they made love in Lawrence’s eyes she was the most desirable woman he’d ever known. Aged skin and wrinkles gave way to an angelic glow that intensified with each gentle touch of her flesh. The bond between them was unmistakable.

For a woman who’d taken pride in her appearance her entire life, the effects of an aging body struck an emotional chord with Jill. Psychologically she understood she was getting older and the only way to stop that was an unacceptable alternative. Keen intellect continually challenged her to understand exactly how she could ensure continued growth while trapped in the confines of a decaying vessel.

They both fiercely believed that upon their deaths they would be reunited, but in what form was unclear. Many discussions were carried out over a glass of wine between the couple centering on the subject, and what they could do to ensure their love would be bound eternally. The same conclusion was drawn after each conversation. It was simply a matter of continually loving each other with desires based in complete honesty. They knew their love could never be fettered by the piercing shrapnel of exploding lies or deceitful behavior.

Regardless of their mutual dedication to one another, each felt a wanderlust about life that had to be satiated before passing into an existence filled with uncertainty. It was this desire that was the only unspoken truth between them.

Sensations centered upon the tactile spark generated by love-making waned as the years passed. Doubts about their relationship rarely enter the minds of either Lawrence or Jill, but middle-aged reflections upon how dynamic life had been became the genesis for unanswerable questions concerning their future together. Recapturing physical sensations became nearly impossible as senses dulled with age, but their minds sparkled with feelings of impetuous and youthful desires.

Relief draped over them on the night Lawrence made the proposition that would change their lives. Jill wanted badly to discuss the transition they were experiencing, but Victorian ideals had formed the lady Lawrence fell in love with, and prevented her from opening her mind and body to experiences deemed foul.

Motivation to be the best husband possible provided the catalyst for the proposition. Lawrence could not deny that Jill was the best woman he’d ever known. From the moment he became aware of his existence he knew there was something great in life to be experienced. No matter how many obstacles presented themselves Lawrence forged ahead undauntedly searching for life’s purpose.

When the couple met, experience communicated to them almost immediately that they were meant to be together. From the way they felt in each other’s arms to how each one tasted, it all seemed right.

On the day they arrived in St. Augustine an overcast and a chilly sky followed them along Interstate 95. Sailboat masts that speckled the bay teetered at the behest of gusty winds. They swayed in undulating circular motions as the hulls to which they were affixed rolled over the white-cap covered waves. It was a stark contrast to the sunny and hot day the tourists enjoyed until the arrival of an ill wind. Lawrence drove the couple’s car across the Bridge of Lions and they gazed upon the oldest city in the United States. The weekend would be spent checking out the local fare and enjoying the entertainment local establishments offered. Pressure was not a concern. Nothing would happen if the requisite energy to propel their souls into eternity was non-existent.

The only room available at the historic home turned bed and breakfast had two double beds. It was confirmation for the couple that the energy of their desires was positive and needed satiating. After unpacking the couple made love and tasted the purity they had come to understand was inherent in their relationship. Whether or not it would survive a lust-filled night could only be answered by committing the deed, and then living with it.

Every indication they came across that night seemed to support their inclination. Handsome couples of all ages strolled leisurely down St. George Street, falling into and out of the kitschy shops and ice cream parlors that lined the promenade. A few smiles and ‘hellos’ were exchanged with various parties, but nothing sparked any interest in either adventurer.

After several trips up-and-down the short avenue the couple decided to go into an intriguing little pub. Everyone inside, from the staff to its patrons, was dressed in sixteenth century attire. Their common appearance gave Lawrence and Jill the impression they all knew each other. Conversations were loud and made it difficult to hear. They remedied their discomfort by moving through the rear door and into an open-air garden. The rear of the property was bordered on three sides by a four foot high concrete and stucco wall that had been white-washed. Its uneven appearance gave the impression it was of the period everyone tried desperately to re-enact.

Small wooden picnic tables dotted the landscape and only one near the rear of the yard sat empty. Lawrence and Jill made their way toward the inviting spot, making eye-contact along the way with several couples and exchanging smiles. The people outside seemed to be less into sixteenth century pirates and more concerned about a cold libation and relief from a long day of sun-soaked tourism. The couple sat where they could see everyone in the garden and watch how they interacted with one another. People watching had always been a cherished activity for them both. There was a lot to learn by listening to people and marrying their body language in order to truly understand their intentions.

Not long after receiving their first drink order they were approached by a young, handsome couple.

“Do you mind if we join you? There aren’t any other seats available.” Billy asked.

“Of course not, please do,” Lawrence replied as the couple shifted in their seats so their new friends could join them.

The young couple sat, as they placed their drinks on the table in front of them. Billy Percival wore a pair of smartly ironed, pleated white shorts and a tank top. His shoulders and arms were well developed and tan. His wife Sara wore similar pants and a sleeveless blouse. Its top-most secured button was joined at a point low enough for Lawrence to see she was wearing a front snapping bra. Her ample bosom formed a titillating cleavage just above the snap, and the sheer nature of her top offered a glimpse into what lie beneath her clothing.

“Where are you guys from?” Lawrence asked.

“Delaware,” Sara answered.

“How about you guys?” Billy countered.

“Down south,” Jill replied, feeling reticent about offering any more information than was absolutely necessary. “Have you ever been to St. Augustine?” she continued in order to shift focus back onto the young nubile couple.

“This is our first time,” Sara responded as her husband took a sip of his beer.

“So what made you decide on St. Augustine as your destination?” Lawrence added.

“We were looking for a place where we could get in touch with a brand of American history that isn’t propagandized and taught in our schools. This area is unique to Florida and its subculture status intrigued both of us.”

Suddenly a raucous burst of laughter exploded from inside the pub. The clamoring mirth briefly captured the attention of the couples, which they quickly shifted back to each other once the noise faded.

“I didn’t realize there were still pirates around,” Lawrence joked.

Billy nodded. “I can appreciate their desire to experience all that life has to offer even if it means embracing a long ago period. If that’s who you are then by all means, be yourself.”

Lawrence and Jill exchanged a wry, yet quick glance. Billy and Sara seemed to be quite the suitable couple for their foray into the realm of the unknown. Before either had the opportunity to broach what could have been an uncomfortable topic another couple approached.

“Do you mind if we join you?” the man asked.

There was no more room at their table, so the wife made the observation that, “There’s an empty table here we could bring together with yours.”

Everyone stood and took part in joining the table that had recently become vacant with their own. Lawrence and Jill’s excitement welled beyond comparison at the increasing options that presented themselves. Introductions were made. The newest couple to join the group was contemporaries of Lawrence and Jill. Their names were Johnny and Lisa. They hailed from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Lisa was a pretty woman who benefited from the proper application of makeup. She knew how to present herself in the best possible manner.

The wind blew through the trees above their heads, shaking loose a few leaves and twigs that rained down upon the group. They laughed as they brushed away the debris and got to know each other through conversation.

“Where are you staying?” Lawrence asked Johnny.

“The Pirate’s Inn Bed and Breakfast on U.S. 1. How about you guys?”

“We’re staying at the Flagler Inn.”

Lisa leaned across the table and spoke to everyone as if she had some patent on the information she shared. “Isn’t it wonderful that everything you’d want to see is within walking distance of your hotel?” Her southern accent drew out each word. Everyone except Johnny waited patiently for her to finish. He took in scenery that was all very new to him.

Billy added. “Has anyone been to the fort?”

“The Castillo de San Marcos?” Jill asked.

“Yeah. I think that’s what it’s called.”

“We’re planning on going tomorrow,” she replied.

“It amazes me the primitive conditions that those soldiers had to endure.”

“And they probably thought they had it good compared to their ancestors,” Johnny added.

At that moment the server approached and placed six mugs of their house ale called Fountain of Youth on the table. While reaching across the table to retrieve his, Lawrence commented, “One thing that hasn’t changed in a thousand years is the quality of a good stout beer. I think they got it right the first time.”

Once everyone had their glass in hand Jill proposed a toast. “To new friends and everlasting experiences.” They all raised their glasses toward the center of the table in unison.

As the evening grew later the bond between the couples coalesced. Alcohol acted as the adhesive between six souls that had never been together and never would after the dawn of a new day.

Crowds thinned as people voluntarily closed out their evening in favor of a good night’s rest. Staff members cleaned the area around the couples without intruding upon their conversation.

“What time do you close?” Johnny asked a nearby server.

“Two o’clock,” she responded.

“We have forty-five minutes,” Billy said as he looked at his gleaming Rolex Submariner.

There was no indication anyone wished to leave. There was an energy that developed around them and they felt a bond amongst their nocturnal acquaintances. Age old friendships were deeply rooted into each person’s soul, but the quest for connection drew the desire to experience someone new so close to the surface it became tactile.

From the back of the garden Lawrence occasionally glanced toward the pub. The rear and front doors were aligned so that an unobstructed view of St. George Street could be achieved if there was no one there to block it. At such a late hour he was easily able to watch as people ambled along the thoroughfare. Some walked at a face pace, as if they were trying to meet a deadline; while others staggered under the weight of inebriation. Conversations faded into the background as Lawrence stared toward the path taken by thousands over the centuries. Lights from the street created a halo around the building, and pierced the darkness of the garden through its openings. Luminescence overwhelmed his sense of site and rendered his gaze impotent to detail. Reflections became about the soul and were no longer visual. Jill had been the most wonderful person he’d ever known, but physical constraints exacerbated his sense that there had to be something more to such a wonderful bond. Midlife brought about a change in how time affected Lawrence’s psyche. Memories, experiences, and aromas from long forgotten days entered his conscious mind without any familiar association to trigger his thoughts. Regression seemed the natural course as he craved simpler times. He could not help but wonder if the timeline that was his life had folded over at its vertex, forcing him to re-live memories he had no desire to voluntarily recall. Frustrated at the fact he could not embrace the universe’s energy with his wife he shook away his funk and looked upon the group who had continued talking in his emotional absence.

Just before completely rejoining the conversation Lawrence glanced toward the door again and spied an older couple walking into the garden from the pub. When they stepped onto the grass they stopped and looked around. Seeing that there was no one else outside the man made eye-contact with Lawrence and offered a gentle wave. With a large, sweeping, and inviting wave of his arm Lawrence offered their company to the strangers.

The old couple was dressed smartly. He wore cream colored slacks that were pressed to a fine crease, and a shirt with palm trees printed all over it. She wore a skirt whose hem gently touched the top of her knees and a bright pink polo shirt. Together they appeared as though they had just stepped off the golf course. Both were fit and tan, and appeared to have not a care in the world.

“Hey kids,” the old man exclaimed as he approached the table.

A smattering of ‘heys’ and ‘hellos’ greeted the couple as all six moved in unison to make room for their new members.

“Where’re you guys from?” Johnny asked.

“The beautiful peninsula of Coronado, California,” the old man answered, and then added, “I was a Navy pilot and when I retired we stayed out there.”

“Are you originally from California?” Sara asked.

“No. I grew up a military brat. So I travelled all over the world with my parents. I was born in St. Augustine, and it’s always been like my first home.”

“I grew up in Chicago,” his wife added, feeling left out.

Apologetically, the man offered, “I’m sorry dear. When I’m asked a direct question I give a direct answer. It’s all those years of military training.”

The couples got to know one another well in their brief time together. Conversation was not tempered by social conventions, and mores were cast aside for honesty between strangers. Truth, as they understood it to be, focused on visceral desires. The need for Lawrence and Jill to expand their understanding of their place in the universe was reciprocated by the others. Finding others of like mind eased their anxiety about the detour their lives would take that night.

Once the night’s purpose was understood by all, the dynamic of the group changed. It was an unspoken awareness communicated by pheromones and wanton stares. Lawrence was supplanted by the two younger men who took up positions on either side of Jill. Their undivided attention focused on her and she basked in the interest shown by these handsome men.

Momentary dejection faded quickly when Lawrence noticed equally desirous glances from the women who had lost the attention of their husbands. He moved to position himself between them. Driven by carnal desires he began petting these beautiful women. Gentle strokes of their legs led to caressing derrieres, and gentle brushes of the curvy lower portion of breasts. Lawrence gently kissed Jill and Sara.

As quickly as they made their entrance the older couple sensed the others had found what they were looking for and chose to leave arm-in-arm, embracing their love of fifty years that was as fresh as the day they met.

Pleasure radiated through everyone’s bodies; manifested in a tingling sensation that each person mistook for something more than piqued physical desires. The collective had been brought together by a similar desire to understand what more life had to offer than the mundane paths their lives had been relegated to as they settled into their time together. Social conventions were cast aside in favor of unadulterated pleasure.

Although Billy and Sara had not been together nearly as long as the others, their youthful and impetuous nature opened them more-so to the experience that presented itself on that warm spring evening. Unlike contemporaries who may have been turned off by the idea of sex with people two decades older, the young couple embraced the notion that life was to be lived by partaking in the experiences life presented.

The sixteenth century bar matron tasked with the duty of breaking up the love-fest happening in their garden leaned against the door frame with her arms folded across her chest, and gazed at the six lovers with intensity meant to spark the recognition of disdain. Sara was the first to notice the woman was clearly communicating the fact that it was time to leave. She alerted the others who slowly stopped what they were doing and one-by-one casually glanced at the woman in the doorway.

It was quickly decided the six would make their way back to Billy and Sara’s yacht secured in the harbor. The couples walked through the narrow streets of the old town. Giddily they hopped across A1A and skipped down the wooden stairs to the marina below. Each couple stayed together holding hands and arm-in-arm until they reached the boat.

Once onboard they released each other and drifted apart, taking up separate positions on the deck and gazing at the stars above. The night was clear and the same thought cascaded through their collective minds, “Who will I end up with?”

To maximize freedom they cast off and sailed into the Atlantic without the prying eyes of on-lookers acting to suppress their activities to the cabin below. Everyone pitched in to make sure their journey was safe. Not until they were a mile offshore did Billy release the anchor; securing the boat. He flipped a switch below his seat at the helm to turn on the running lights. Once he was sure they were all on, and that passing ships could see them, he stood and made his way along the narrow edge of the deck toward the bow where Jill stood. She had enjoyed their journey into the open ocean from this vantage point and the gentle pitch of the eerily calm ocean waves.

Not understanding any differently Lawrence assumed this meant he and Sara would be together and he followed her below deck.

Johnny and Lisa seemed more than happy to stay astern and enjoy making love. They embraced the new environment and allowed it to permeate their souls that became awash with cascading new sensations because they allowed them to do so.

Billy eagerly lifted Jill’s shirt by its tail and pulled it over her head. Just as quickly he removed her bra, and then his shirt. They embraced and the feeling of unfamiliar bare skin increased their excitement. Youthful enthusiasm took Jill by surprise, but not to the point of becoming uncomfortable with her chosen pursuit. She embraced it and allowed it to pique the giddiness associated with finding a new lover after so many years of monogamy. She was happy he chose her.

Sara smiled at Lawrence when she saw him coming down the stairs into the galley. She turned away from him and walked toward the bow of the boat. He followed her and watched as she disappeared through the forward cabin door. When he entered the room he saw Sara had taken a position at the head of the bed. Snuggly, she worked herself into a reclined position at the apex of the wedge created by the bow. She offered a come-hither look, and he obliged; crawling across the top of the bed toward her. He kissed her gently as they settled into a passionate embrace.

The tingling Lawrence felt in his fingertips was muted compared to the sensation of touching his wife. Everything about Sara was different, but no less pleasurable. She stimulated him in a different way. Desires emanated from his flesh, and left his soul wanting more. No matter how gently he stroked her curves, kissed her lips, or attempted to combine their energy into something greater than two people making love; every sensation he felt while making love to her was harshly tactile. Sara’s beauty could not be denied, yet Lawrence found himself conjuring visions of Jill in order to satiate celestial desires.

It was evident Billy had engaged in this activity more than once. There was no hesitation on his part to explore every inch on Jill’s body. Gently he brushed the tip of his thumb across her tattoo of a mermaid. It was a symbol of a fabled love Lawrence never thought possible until he met her. For Billy, sex was about exploring and extracting the pleasure he desired without regard for the energy that could be generated from a couple embracing harmonious passion. Atlantic waves tossed the boat and its occupants. Coupling was made difficult, but everyone lunged toward their paramour du jour for fear of losing the experience they so strongly desired. Jill found herself longing for the more gentle touch of her husband. Billy’s passion was thrust upon her. Lawrence’s energy was contained in his kiss as a gentle joining of two souls.

As the couples made love mere feet apart the realization for Lawrence and Jill that no matter how new the acquaintance sex had become stale. They could spend their lives seeking a perfect love based on sex, but their desires would prove insatiable.

Enthusiasm for their evening’s paramour ceased for Lawrence and Jill as each achieved orgasm, cast aside like so many carnal desires of the past. Making love to someone new was pleasurable for them both. As with all they experienced their souls came together that night. Neither the fiberglass deck nor the fleshy impediments of their nocturnal lovers could prevent either from soulfully reaching out to the other and experiencing the desired epiphany. Embracing the young couple drew them backward and halted the effect of time for just one night. What they realized was although they were not physically together their souls would always be linked. It became obvious to them both at the same moment in time; that their desire for more from life was happening. Until that night neither recognized the fact that their bodies were transitioning from a physical existence to one that was intertwined by boundless energy. Their love for each other became stronger. Overnight they shook away the physical dependency that brought them together, and paved the way to carry their ethereal bond beyond life’s constraints.

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Chapter 32 – There’s Something in a Name

My wife and I were talking and she told me this was her favorite chapter. I think the reason is that she likes how I hold her hand in the middle of the night while we’re asleep. Once again, you have my sincerest apologies that formats don’t translate perfectly in WordPress.

Uncle Owen was true to his word. For over a month his nephew toiled in the olive orchard and earned his keep. Every meal was served promptly during the breakfast, lunch and dinner hours and everyone was expected to attend. At first it was a shock to the younger man’s system. For so long he had lived recklessly. Never once did he miss his life in Key West. He did however miss his friends. They occupied his thoughts constantly as he worked and sweated amongst his family, including Sylvio who always looked upon him with a jaundiced expression.

Owen took pride keeping his body in shape, but after a few days of labor almost every muscle he had ached. His cousins enjoyed giving him a hard time about it, but eventually he gained their respect by not letting the pain slow his work. They ultimately compared him to his uncle, who years earlier had gained the reputation as the hardest worker on the plantation. It was refreshing to accept the favorable comparison to a relative.

Julia returned to work with her family’s bank in town. They owned several small depositories throughout Tuscany. After university she began working as a teller. Over the course of several years she had been employed in every job in the bank, including that of a runner who delivered paperwork from branch-to-branch. Her eagerness as well as her amicable disposition endeared her to everyone. Both of their hectic schedules left little time for them to be together, and when they were most of it was spent as Julia rubbed away the aches in Owen’s back.

Tension between Sylvio and Owen escalated. It began with Sylvio’s caustic sense of humor displayed from the outset of their relationship. The two never really hit it off and the longer they avoided each other the deeper their resentment became. During work days they refused to make eye contact whenever they passed one another. Luca tried to intervene once to no avail. The most awkward times were spent at the dinner table. By choosing the seat he had the first night Owen was fated to sit near his cousin at every meal. He was afraid to ask for help for fear he may alienate someone else. It had not occurred to him that this was the first time that he had not simply removed himself from an uncomfortable situation. There was too much at stake.

Weekends were the only time Owen and Julia had a chance to devote their full attention to each other. Her parents owned a villa in the small hillside town of Cortona that had been in the family for over two hundred years. It was kept as a reminder of their humble beginnings.

On their first trip to the house she offered to let him drive, but he was not comfortable with the task so he refused. When they arrived he was taken by the beauty of the countryside. The house sat atop a hill that was one of many that made up the landscape. Stones of varying sizes had been cobbled together to form its walls. He was astounded at the craftsmanship and dedication it took to build a structure that survived for centuries.

When he walked into the house all of the windows and shutters were closed and it was quite dark. Julia immediately went about opening them so fresh air could replace the stale. Owen hesitated not knowing what to do to help, so he stood in the middle of the living room and watched, waiting for instructions.

He noticed the interior walls were plastered with white stucco and several exposed beams supported the ceiling. A large fireplace made of the same stone as the house was obviously used to cook meals at one time in its history. It was large enough to hold a kettle and there were remnants of iron supports mounted into the fire-brick.

Owen saw the only bed was in a loft above the living room. Stairs ran up to it along the back wall. The railing was made of hand-hewn wooden posts he surmised were from trees felled somewhere near the property. Julia worked busily as if he were not there.

Once she settled into the house Julia instructed him to take their bags upstairs. He hesitated wondering if he should offer to sleep on the sofa. She sensed his reticence and insisted that their luggage be placed in the loft. After he completed his appointed task he sat on the bed and was overcome by silence. There was not a single appliance to offer a distraction.

Julia brought a list of chores prepared by her father. Although he did not look forward to spending their valuable time working, there was no way he would let any task be left undone. He even searched for needed repairs that weren’t on the list in order to make a lasting impression.

After dinner they moved outside and consumed a bottle of wine. Marriage was discussed, but the topic was kept at a distance recognizing its potential for rabidity. Julia offered to leave her family and move to Key West. Owen offered the sale of his house and a similar move to Italy. Both seemed willing to do whatever they knew would make the relationship work. No matter how right it felt for them to be together, both were skeptical of merely spoken words. Actions were what both yearned for, but neither knew how to give or receive love absolutely without feeling selfish. Physical desires were always present, but neither gave in to their cravings.

After completing their work on Saturday, they took a long walk into town and strolled through several quaint shops that lined the main thoroughfare. Cortona was not the busy tourist mecca Florence was, which allowed for a leisurely pace. Passing others occasionally on the sidewalk a pleasant ‘Ciao’ would be exchanged along with a smile.

A small wine shop near the end of the avenue offered the perfect spot to stop and eventually begin their journey home. The bell mounted above the door frame rang obnoxiously disrupting an otherwise tranquil environment as they entered the store. From behind the counter the couple watched a little old lady make her way toward them, hobbling as she walked.

Ciao. Posso aiutarlo?” the old woman asked, as she came to a stop in front of them. Hearing the language intimidated Owen so he walked away and looked at the various bottles on the shelves that covered the walls.

Stiamo cercando una bottiglia di vino per un’occasione speciale,” Julia responded.

Appena siete stati sposati?”

Julia smiled at the woman and shook her head. “È definitivamente l’uomo che sono stata significato per sposarse, ma non siamo sposati ancora.”

Curiosity drove him to ask, “What are you two talking about?”

“Aside from what kind of wine we are looking for, she wanted to know if we were married.”

Owen smiled. “Your response was a lot longer than, ‘no.’”

An impish grin grew on her beautiful face. She walked over to him, wrapped her arms around his waist, pulled him close and gave him a kiss. “I told her that we were not married, but that you were the man I was meant to marry and be with for eternity.”

Owen looked deeply into her eyes. Their darkness and the way she looked at him longingly exuded emotional warmth and he found them comforting. “Thank you.”

She was taken aback by his response. “For what?”

“I’ve never known anyone who spoke in terms beyond immediate indulgence,” he admitted.

Non farei mai qualche cosa danneggiarti.” Her native language instilled comfort and assurance. “I would never do anything to hurt you.”

Never before had Owen uttered a response to romantic words he knew to be absolutely true. “I know,” he replied as he held her tightly.

The little old woman shuffled behind the counter and disappeared into the back room. Owen and Julia eventually loosened their embrace and continued to look around the shop.

When the woman emerged she held a bottle of wine. It was dusty and appeared very old. Owen was the first to recognize a tear rolling down her cheek. He nudged Julia and instructed her with his eyes to look at the shopkeeper. When the two women saw each other the old woman handed the bottle to Julia. “Ciò è stata significata affinchè la mia figlia Partiva con il suo marito sulla loro notte di nozze. È morta come infante. Posso vedere che il vostro amore sia speciale come era. Desidero darti questo.”

Julia began to cry along with the shopkeeper. The women embraced. Owen felt isolated. He said nothing, allowing them to express themselves. Julia held the woman’s arms as they released their hug. Tearful smiles were exchanged. She turned and grabbed his hand and led him out of the store.

On their trek home she explained the old woman had a daughter who died as an infant. The bottle of wine was from their family’s vineyard and was meant for her wedding night. Although he shed no tears, the gravity of the gift was not lost on Owen.

___________________________

That afternoon the first cold front of the winter moved through town with a vengeance. Owen spent most of the morning chopping wood in anticipation of the changing weather. Bitter cold eventually made it impossible for him to hold the ax firmly. He wanted desperately to chop an extra cord or two so the next visitors would not be left without fuel for a fire.

The evening was spent watching the orange glow emanating from the stone fireplace. He sat on the sofa with Julia’s head in his lap. She was covered by an afghan her grandmother knitted. Neither said a word. The silence allowed them to examine their brief history together. Each desired the other more than anyone else, but neither knew how to ensure their future wouldn’t be as tumultuous as their past. No one prepared them for the kind of love they found in each other, and they knew it was special. Julia knew the act of making love to Owen would stand apart based on the energy between them. He was not so sure of himself. The feelings he had for her were unadulterated by anyone or anything he experienced during his life. It had to be the same for their love-making and he had no idea how to make it happen that way.

They sat silently for so long that he questioned whether she had fallen asleep. His uncertainty was quelled when she asked about the proverbial elephant in the room. “Will you make love to me tonight?” Julia was sure the time and place were perfect; Owen was not.

“I can’t,” he admitted.

His answer was met with silence. She laid still wondering what the reason could be for him not wanting to make love to her. Is he no longer attracted to me? Each question she asked herself was totally contrary to how she felt and how she knew he felt. The ridiculousness of her thoughts finally caused her to ask for clarification. She sat up and scooted along the sofa until her back rested on its arm. She folded her legs in front of her, looked him directly in the eye and asked, “Why can’t we make love tonight?”

“Because I am just not sure that tonight’s right. I want it to be special for the both of us.”

She shook her head. “How can it not be special?”

Owen was as captivated by her as he had ever been. The animal in him was ready to pounce, but he knew that was not the right thing to do. Everything about her physical being was dark and smoldered and needed to be experienced in the most basic manner. She needed to be touched and tasted, but not until he was sure he knew how to make love to her in a manner that transcended the physical. Monica’s influence provided the impetus for him to strive for perfection. “I want to make sure that everything is right for us.”

Exasperatedly, Julia responded, “What’s not right?” she asked, as she threw her arms out; palms skyward.

“Everything is perfect between us. From the moment I met you I’ve felt something deep within my soul that you, and only you, brought out in me. It was the first time my character had been enhanced by another person. I simply want to make sure that when we make love it will be all about us.”

Julia looked around the small house. “There’s no one else here!”

Owen thought carefully. “I know that I love you more than a man has a right to love a woman. It consumes me. Making love is the ultimate expression of the feelings I have for you, and I don’t want to settle for anything. I want it to be the best for the both of us.”

“It will be,” she implored.

“I need to make love to you somewhere without all the history that this house holds.”

“But it’s my family’s house, and has been for generations.”

Directness was something he hoped to avoid, but he had shunned it his entire life and that had gotten him nowhere. The only thing left to do was blurt out his concern. “I don’t want to make love to you in a house where you may have come with some other lover, or a high school boyfriend who you snuck away with in order to simply explore each other’s bodies.” Julia’s silence acted to confirm his fear. Thoughts of her with other men did not bother him, it validated his desire for purity in their relationship. “Don’t worry. It’s not a deal-breaker. This is what I need in order to have a clear vision of our future together.”

Julia smiled. She understood what he wanted and appreciated it. “Should we go to Key West?”

Owen laughed. “No. I’m afraid there is too much of me spread all over that island.” He paused. “Is there some place in Italy you’ve never been that we could call our own?”

“I’ve never been to the Italian Alps.”

Really?”

She shook her head. “We always spent our vacations traveling across Europe.”

“But it’s so close.”

She nodded. “I promise, I’ve never been there.”

Owen threw up his hands in frustration. “No, that’s not what I meant. I believe you. It’s only a couple hours drive from here, isn’t it?”

“More like four.”

“Do you trust me to make the arrangements?”

She smiled as they leaned into one another. Just before kissing him, she said, “Of course.”

After a long, soft, slow kiss Owen leaned back, breaking the bond between them. “There is one thing I’d like to do tonight, with you, that I have never done before.”

“What’s that?”

“I’d like to sleep with you naked.”

“You’re not afraid that will lead to something?”

Owen shook his head. “I know it won’t because I have made up my mind to do whatever it takes to make this relationship the best one in the history of humanity.”

“It’s going to be very cold tonight. Are you going to get up in the middle of the night to tend to the fire?”

“Of course, but I hope that we will generate enough heat between us to suffice.”

When it came time to retire for the evening Julia made the bed with a large down comforter she removed from a foot-locker at its end. Owen stoked the fire and stacked several logs on top, but not too many that one may roll onto the floor. When he was done he ascended the stairs to find her standing beside the bed in a nightgown that was sheer and left very little to the imagination. Every inch of her body was perky and erect in the cold night air. The bed was turned down.

“Is there something wrong?” he asked.

“Other than me standing half naked in the bitter cold … no.”

“Crawl in bed.” He pointed to it.

She shook her head and shivered, simultaneously. “No. You are going to have to look at what you will be missing.”

Owen smiled wryly. “Then you’ll have to do the same.” He removed the sweater and shirt that he wore in one motion by grabbing the tail of both and pulling them over his head. Once he began to remove his pants Julia reached up with both hands and pulled the straps of her nightgown down off her shoulders, allowing it to drop to the floor. Owen could never have imagined a woman could be so beautiful. To his amazement he remained flaccid. Sex was no longer a mission with a culmination. It had become an expression that would last forever. There was no need to rush eternity. Owen felt it every time he thought of her.

The two lay in the same position throughout the night. Skin-to-skin contact was continual and gentle. In those hours there was more communicated between them than ever had been.

During the night, as they slept, Julia received confirmation of the purity Owen desired. Not once did he intrude into her physical realm. Yet a single act displayed by her unconscious lover spoke volumes about his intent. At a time when his mind was free of influences from outside forces he reached toward her hand, interlocked his fingers in hers, and gently squeezed.

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Chapter 1 – There’s Something in a Name

Below is the first chapter of my second novel, There’s Something in a Name. The story is of a young man who’s exiled himself to the debauchery filled island of Key West. He spends his days plundering a centuries old sunken Spanish Galleon, and his nights with the malcontented characters he calls friends. Read below to see how he meets Julia; a woman who changed his outlook on life without Owen even noticing. Not until he meets Monica does he truly understand how much Julia meant to him. This story is inspired by my wife; a woman so important to me it took two characters (Monica and Julia) to emoby her essence. One note: WordPress is having issues with their indentation codes. That is why you won’t see any in this passage. You can follow the links below and preview a greater portion of the book.

Please enjoy!

Owen had been running for nearly an hour. The road behind him had to be forgotten. He must focus on what lie ahead and push through the pain. Lactic acid burned his muscles.

An opening in the Mangrove trees ahead offered a place to stop. The waters of the Atlantic Ocean were shallow there and the bottom was sandy so he could remove his shoes and walk without shredding his feet against the coral that surrounded the islands.

Thoughts occupied his mind about how he had come to associate with the malcontented characters he called friends. He never knew if any of them would turn on him, yet was quite certain someone already had. What he was sure of was his knowledge of sunken treasure could easily lead to his demise.

He saw the opening ahead. The gap wasn’t obvious, but was marked by a large coral formation. It seemed as though he had been running from something all of his life. His thoughts turned to the mother he knew as Jenny. She raised him from the time he was five years old, when his parents were killed while attempting to rob a bank. The household consisted of her husband Bobby and his younger sister Sylvia. The fact that his parents were crooks was lauded over him and used with great precision, to belittle and emotionally castrate the young man; effectively wresting away any ambition that might have been innately bestowed upon him. What he wasn’t told was that Bobby was the cop who shot both of his parents during the robbery.

One bit of advice given to him by his mother stayed with Owen throughout his adult life. She pulled him aside on his thirteenth birthday and told him, in an unusually caring tone, ‘Son, if you are ever in an uncomfortable situation, just remove yourself from it.’ He never knew whether her intent was to keep him away from drugs or from turning to a life of crime, but he was sure it was the reason he continually found himself running.

He struggled up an incline as he recalled his seventeenth birthday. A girl he fancied was at their house for dinner. The length to which his father exerted himself for Owen on his birthday consisted of well-charred burgers and crispy hot dogs. Jenny took the trouble to make a cake and allowed him to have company.

Bobby drank one can of beer after another and tossed the empties into the back yard as he grilled. The man and alcohol were a volatile concoction Owen avoided by staying inside. He lay on his side on the sofa as he watched television. Tranquil behavior was meant to avoid drawing anyone’s ire. His girlfriend Sara had gone to the bathroom. While he stared into space with his mind on nothing in particular, a gentle hand came from behind him and began to gently caress his arm. She squeezed his muscular bicep and then moved to his chest. With her fingertips, she traced the valley created by his overly developed pectorals. Owen thought about Sara and how he desired to make love to her that night. She was beautiful and shapely, with long blonde hair. Oh, how he wanted to hold her in his arms. It made him feel good to be sought after.

He rolled over to face her and make his desires known. Instead, he saw Sylvia standing over him, grinning. The look on her face conveyed ambiguity. Owen was not sure if she actually wanted to sleep with him, or if her actions were meant to freak him out. Without a word he stood, walked out of the house and into the back yard. A drunken Bobby became preferred company.

Owen approached the opening in the trees. The sun had yet to breach the morning sky. Sweat formed on the top of his head and dripped into his face. Salty perspiration stung his eyes and his shirt tail was the only thing he had to wipe away the excess moisture. It was half past six in the morning on the eastern side of Barracuda Key. Owen made his way through the trees then stopped short of the water and removed his shoes and socks before proceeding. Twenty yards from shore was a large piece of driftwood that protruded from the ocean floor. It was from a large, stout tree; like nothing that could be found on the island. He had come there on many occasions. When he reached it he sat, placing his shoes and socks on the log next to him.

I’m still pretty young. I have time to change my life for the better, right?, he thought to himself as he stared out over the ocean. Lack of self-esteem triggered questions that crept into his psyche on a regular basis. It was the only way he knew to forget his past, but he never convinced himself. Doubt caught up to him as it always had and yanked Owen down. The stakes were higher. He knew that he was being followed and feared for his life. Maybe it was a combination of Jenny’s advice and the beatings he received at the hand of her husband, but his instinct had always been to run. Maybe it’s time for me to stand and fight for something?

Owen felt safe sitting on the log, hidden by the thick Mangroves. Solitude had always been good to him. The sun rose above the horizon and the sky lightened from black to deep blue. Minutes passed and it changed to a beautiful Carolina shade. His sweat soaked shirt sent a chill over his body as the wind blew. He removed it so that he could bask in the warmth of the sun. He peered beneath the surface of the water and watched as he swirled his feet, stirring the soft sand on the bottom. Each time he stopped, the silt settled. Several minnows darted aimlessly back-and-forth. His thoughts raced just as quickly. He traced the timeline of his life as he sat with nowhere to go. There was something about not being responsible for, or to, anyone that appealed to him. Somewhere deep within him he knew that was not how he wished to live out his life. What was the alternative? The abuse he suffered at the hands of the only family he had known had a great deal to do with his inability to commit to anyone or anything. That not only included relationships with lovers, but friends. He was a loner and appreciated being one; most of the time.

Owen spied a seashell that lay near his feet. He reached into the water, retrieved it, and threw it as far as he could from his seated position. When it impacted the surface ripples spread in the calm morning ocean.

Only one woman made him wonder what would have happened if they had stayed together. Her name was Julia. She was the most beautiful person he had ever met. It was the way she carried herself, with confidence that made him respect her. He saw in her the qualities he longed to possess. The relationship didn’t last, and as always, Owen took responsibility for its failure. That did not prevent him from remembering the day they met with fondness. It was on a trip he made to Florence, Italy. The memory was three years old, but stimulated his mind as vividly as if he were there enjoying the sights and sounds of the vibrant, ancient city. Owen searched for the final resting place of a great-uncle he had never known. What they did share was their name.

Brilliant cognitive images took him to the courtyard of the Uffizi Museum. Several street vendors spread blankets onto the ground. Their wares ranged from wood carved animals to designer handbags. Owen sat on the top of four steps watching; not altogether interested in what happened below. His mind was filled with visions of the art he had seen in the gallery. Works by the masters; Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and Bottacelli had only been two dimensional and not altogether real to him until his visit. For the first time in his life he understood genius could only be appreciated when it was beheld by someone open to the experience.

A flurry of activity below scattered the images in his mind and his attention focused on something other than his tour through the museum. Every street vendor picked up their blankets by the corners and slung them, filled and bulging with their merchandise, over their shoulders. Moving from his left were two Italian Policia walking and rhythmically swinging their batons. Each wore a smug and cocky grin. Owen watched as they walked exaggeratingly slowly, from one end of the courtyard to the other. When they passed each purveyor, blankets and merchandise were placed back onto the ground and hurriedly spread behind the officers. For each peddler it became business as usual mere paces behind the police. It was so cadenced it exuded the air of choreography. Owen laughed under his breath as he stood and picked up his backpack. He walked behind the officers toward a piazza adjacent to the museum. There was a little café where he could get a cold beer to offer some relief from the warm spring day.

When he reached his destination he was delighted to see several available tables. He approached the host and asked to be seated, trying his best to speak Italian without an accent, “Posso avere una tavola per uno, per favore.”

The maitre D’ removed a single menu from a pocket on the side of his stand and without a word showed Owen to a table. It was the middle of the afternoon and the café had cleared of its lunchtime patrons. He dropped his backpack in an empty seat and sat down. The waiter approached quickly and eagerly. Fearing the server would begin to speak in his native language, he asked for a beer before being challenged to decipher an unfamiliar greeting. “Una birra, per favore.”

The waiter detected the accent he tried so hard to conceal. “Peroni okay?”

Si, grazie,” Owen said, graciously.

The waiter brought the beer out quickly and he drank and watched the people in the square. After several moments of examining the different faces and manner of dress, he made a game of picking out the tourists and those who were local. He listened intently to the conversations going on around him. After a couple of hours and a few large glasses of beer, Owen felt confident in his ability to discern those who were speaking Italian, but not well enough to be native to the wonderful city.

The sun set over the piazza and Owen had a glow about him that was the result of ingesting several ‘birra grandi.’ He wiped the sweaty film from his forehead and realized he needed something to eat before alcohol consumed his every faculty. A good brisk walk would do him well.

L’assegno, per favore,” Owen asked as he signed the palm of his left hand with the imaginary pen he held in his right. It did not matter that he knew the waiter spoke English.

“Right away,” the waiter replied.

Paying in Lira and the substantial amount of currency it represented caused him to worry about leaving too much. He shook away his fear and picked up his backpack and walked out of the café. When he reached the entrance, he looked toward each corner of the piazza. They all appeared the same. In addition to the exits at each corner, there was a large archway in the middle of one side of the square. Five choices were available and he was certain he could get back to his hotel via the portico. He slung his backpack over his shoulder as he began to walk.

Just as Owen turned the corner and walked through the massive opening, a group of young Italian girls approached laughing and having a good time on a Friday night. There were five of them and he hesitated, shifting left and then right, trying to avoid a collision. One young lady walked backwards in front of the others as she spoke loudly. She was being very demonstrative, using her arms and hands to place emphasis where it was needed. Displaying a single consciousness, the others saw Owen and began to direct their companion under the guise of helping her. Instead, they guided her into his path. He countered each of her moves, but the collective was deft at the game. With a final wave of a hand, one young lady completed the decisive action that brought the tourist and her friend together. Just before they collided, another of the girls, in a moment of conscience, yelled, “Vigilanza favori.”

The young girl turned just in time to meet Owen face-to-face as they ran into one another. He dropped his backpack. She fell backward, away from him. His momentum and stature propelled her to the ground. He felt horribly as he stood witnessing the incident. She was stunned, and her friends fell silent. They rushed to her aid. With their help she stood and flipped her coal-black hair that had fallen into her face over the back of her head with her left hand. It took him a few moments to regain his composure.

Mi Scusi … I’m sorry. I’m sorry. How the hell do you apologize in Italian?” Owen became frustrated with his inability to properly communicate his regret. The girls looked suspiciously at him. Nervously he searched for the words, but it only made matters worse. He stared at the cobblestone street, unable to face the young lady he feared he may have hurt. Owen took a deep breath, looked up at the group of girls who stared at him condescendingly. He searched for a glimmer of forgiveness on just one face. Finally, he looked at the young lady who stood in front of the group with her arms folded across her chest. When he took the time to appreciate her for the first time, he was captivated. The others quickly faded into the background. His nervousness was obvious to her, so she smiled to let him know everything was okay.

Her dress was white with small purple and pink flowers intricately stitched into its fabric. It perfectly complimented her dark skin. Owen noticed how the frock conformed to her hourglass shaped body. The hem hung to mid-thigh, revealing very long legs. With his eyes he followed the outline of her skirt. “Oh my god! You’re absolutely gorgeous!” Owen was stunned to confession by her beauty. He continued to stare. Her eyes were the shape and color of fresh almonds. They were bright and possessed a smile all their own. Her skin was smooth, brown and flawless. Every detail of her body was sculpted and magnificent. “She is the most amazing woman I’ve ever seen and I can’t even communicate with her.” He became frustrated at the prospect of not being able to tell her how he felt. Fear that he would never see her again lowered his linguistic skills to that of a caveman. He placed his hand on his chest, “Owen.”

Her friends watched and copied his gesture. “Owen,” they repeated, mockingly, in unison.

“Okay smart guy, what now?” Suddenly, his attempt seemed hopeless. He bent over, picked up his backpack and smiled graciously in an effort to bid arrivederci.

The young woman placed her hand on his shoulder as he began to walk away, then placed the other on her chest and deliberately said, “Julia.”

“Well Julia … the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, and possible love of my life … I have no way to tell you how sorry I am that I ran into you.” The language barrier and his despair fueled his boldness; “Who am I kidding? I wish I could run into you every day for the rest of my life.” She stared at him blankly. Owen continued, “Your beauty is burned into my memory. You’ll be the first thing I think of every morning for the rest of my life and the last thing each night. I will dream of holding you close to me. You belong in the Uffizzi.” Owen shook his head. “Why did I not spend more time learning Italian? This is useless.”

“No it isn’t,” she said.

Her friends walked away engulfed in laughter and mocking Owen in English, “Love of my life! The Uffizzi!” Julia did not move.

Suddenly, a loud thunderous clap shook him from his daydream. One of his shoes flew from the log and landed ten feet away with a splash. He fell into the water using the tree for cover. After a few seconds he lifted his head and peered toward the highway. A car sped away. Its rear tires threw up oyster shells and dust as it struggled to gain traction. Keeping his head low, he moved toward his shoe. When he retrieved it from the water he saw that a bullet had pierced the circle on the back that once contained the likeness of a puma. His heart pounded in his chest. Someone obviously knew he had information that could lead to great wealth.

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Writer’s Block: Reality or Myth

Several times I’ve had discussions with fellow writers, and been a part of Message Board exchanges, about the phenomenon of writer’s block. Usually the conversation begins with the statement that the person suffers from the condition. That in itself is telling because it reflects the embodiment of the pressure we place on ourselves to accomplish something … anything. Often the cost is that our product suffers from being forced out of our minds and onto our characters. Much like the adolescent that goes out for the dance team only to realize they suffer from having two left feet. Of course they don’t have malformed feet, but it’s a convenient way to explain why they couldn’t make the dance team. Don’t allow an excuse to prevent you from progressing toward your goal. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, but you can teach yourself to be a better writer (or dancer).

People scoff at me (if not openly, it’s evident by the look on their face) when I tell them I’ve never encountered writer’s block. Once the contortions in their face ease and they again become receptive to a conversation I explain that I never sit down to write anything unless I have something to write. Each of us can get to that point by constantly thinking about the characters we’ve created and place them in situations to see how they will react. If it works make a note, and when you have enough notes and time to complete a chapter, sit down and make the story a part of your manuscript. Remember, progressing your manuscript doesn’t have to mean putting pen to paper. In order to know your characters emotionally you must feel them exist inside you; in your mind and soul. If you successfully create interesting characters they’ll take you on the journey that is supposed to happen.

In order to accomplish this we must think outside our comfort zone. Each of us has been brought up affected by circumstances unique to our environment. There are a lot of actions we would never consider taking, and there are those we’d never give a second thought before charging forward. As you can see that leaves us moving through life on autopilot. If you want to truly be a writer you must take the time to understand what motivates people to do the things they do; whether it’s mass murder or building a Fortune 500 company. You must be willing to live the lives you wish to create. That’s the only way we can come to understand what motivates people into carrying out actions we would never consider, but that our characters would. That is our job as writers; to investigate and understand all the possible motivations in the world and describe them such that our readers can identify with the story. Hopefully, by being open to all experiences it will allow us to share what we learn via compelling stories, without the specter of the constraints, real or imagined, hindering our progress.

Happy writing!

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The Courage of a 21st Century Artist

Centuries ago the challenge of becoming a successful artist was finding a benefactor; a wealthy lord who was moved by the expression of the artist no matter what medium they employed. Mozart struggled to try and please his patron, and Van Gogh never found his; dying before being given the opportunity to see how appreciated his works were.

During that time in history the relationship between artist and audience was personal. Those who beheld their beauty were able to look into the eyes of the creator, and the artist was always willing to discuss their meaning with anyone interested in such a conversation.

A mainstay of this feudalistic system was that you, as a vassal, must be willing to go to war to protect your lord. No matter what beliefs you held onto there would never be any way you could refer to the man you faced on the battlefield as a coward.

Over the centuries feudalism has faded and standards of living have risen across the globe. Museums contain masterpieces that can be easily appreciated by the masses. Symphonies are available in digital format and can be downloaded onto an MP3 player. The only thing keeping us from enjoying a night at the opera is a stale imagination.

Today we find ourselves able to communicate with people from across the globe effectively and efficiently, but that sword contains two edges. Artists should welcome the opportunity to display their works across the internet knowing that not everyone will appreciate their effort. But what we’ve found is that the world-wide-web is fraught with people less interested in embracing beauty.

The ease in which people can spew hatred and do so anonymously is a cause of concern … for the proper authorities. What we as artists need to embrace is the knowledge that for the audience we seek, there are those seeking what we offer. We must lay aside those who hide behind pseudonyms and avatars created by Photoshop. Why should we be made to decipher the true intentions of a man referring to himself as a “stud” for the world to see; or what brand of racism causes one to develop an avatar with Obama’s head on Urkle’s body? There is no truth in carrying on a relationship with people like that, and that’s not the realm in which we desire to live. Their brand of guerilla warfare is not conducive to the free expression between humans that artists and their benefactors seek. Seek out the relationships that are productive in life and you will find fulfillment.

“Go forth boldly in the direction of your dreams; live the life you’ve imagined.” Henry David Thoreau

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