Sunday, 27 September 2015

Wall of War by Allan Hudson

So Excited!
I have just completed the third draft of my work-in-progress (WIP) Wall of War and it is almost ready for a select group of Beta Readers. Then off to the editor. Cover reveal soon. Book launch sometime in 2016.

I started this novel in August 2012. The story begins in 1953 with an amateur rock climber making a startling discovery while free climbing in the Peruvian Andes. The first 14 pages are an epilogue. 

The story continues in 2004 with a cast of daring and brave characters searching for the young priest that discovers the gold dagger and strange papers written in a strange language telling of lost Incan gold....

Drake Alexander will need every resource to outthink Spanish raiders who are bent on stealing Peru's riches once more.

The Scribbler has been host to the first three parts of the opening section. You can link to the three previous installments as follows. Beginning  Part 2  Part 3


It continues:


By the time Father Graft reaches his car, it is past midnight. The last span he climbed was in the shadows of dusk, hand holds and foot holds difficult to see. And yet he scrambled up the face with the dexterity of a wild goat. He had discovered a narrow valley on the opposite side of the mountain with an easier walking route to the top on a previous visit and the red ribbon blazes he left behind are easy to follow even in the dark. He is thankful he replaced the batteries only this morning not realizing how much of a workout his small light would get.

He unlocks the vehicle, changes clothes, jumps in and starts away.  His actions are mechanical; his mind contributes nothing to the actions of his limbs, it being totally absorbed by the hugeness of the day. He keeps going over in his head of what he will write. He’ll get all the details down on paper. When he feels they are complete he will request a private visit with the archbishop to present both the dagger and the story behind it. When it is made public, it will shock and bewilder the populace.

He arrives in Ollantaytambo shortly after two pm, the small town asleep. He parks his car at the rear of the church thinking to enter in the side door beyond the bell tower. It is always unlocked. He wants to kneel before the altar, he needs to converse with his Saviour. He has great difficulty in comprehending his unique position, of containing the bizarre news that he understands will reshape his world. Each step he takes from here cannot be done on his own, he will need a guide.

He devotes the next fifteen minutes at the altar rail that separates the nave from the chancel, speaking with the lightest of whispers to the man on the cross above him, his head bowed. He finishes by saying reverently,

“I am but an empty vessel. I ask that you fill me with your desire, to use me to your divine purpose. I will follow whatever road you have prepared. Amen.”

One of his knees creaks as he rises, the snap echoing in the emptiness of the building. The only light is a bluish pall that enters through the side windows, the moon glow soft and reassuring. He straightens up to look around, gazing at the empty pews, the dark front doors he can barely see. Turning back to the worship area, his eyes rest on a door to the left of the sanctuary, hardly discernible in the low light. Behind it is a group of rooms, one of which have paper and pen, the Monsignor’s office. He is dog tired but he wants to get as much details down as he can, while they are still fresh in his mind. By tomorrow the particulars he will recall can be tarnished with twenty four hours past reality, the mind changes things with memory; it will become what he wants it to be.

He hurries through the door, flicking the light switch for the hallway. Two doors down on the right is the head priest’s work area, where the church’s administration is done. Inside against the wall next to the door is a small desk. On it sits an old Royal typewriter, an unwieldy little beast that he has to compose letters for the Monseigneur sometimes as one of his duties. He shakes his head at the thought of banging out his tale on that little monster, some keys don’t work properly and the carriage is always catching. Wishing his handwriting was more legible; he sighs and sits at the desk anyway. A short lamp rests to the right and he snaps it on.

Seven pages later he can hardly keep his eyes open. He has described the opening where he first entered, he told the reader of what he discovered, he wrote about the enormous size transcribing the dimensions from his note book and the last two pages are about the historical implications, the wealth of the find, how it could benefit the church, Peru and its people, all speculation of course. He pulls the page from the carriage, thinking to do one more giving directions to the monument. He lays the sheet on the desk with the others, removes a blank page from the top drawer and places it in the wheel. After five or six minutes the words blur, he isn’t making any sense, he’s forgetting things. He knows he has to break for a minute. Pushing his chair back several inches he rests his head on the desk thinking he will close them for just five minutes. It is 4:21am.

Close to 7am, Aduviri Conde, a fourteen year old acolyte of the church, is shaking him awake. As he tugs at the sleeping man’s shoulder he says in Spanish,

“Father Graft, Father Graft, wake up. Don’t you remember that you are saying the morning mass in Urubamba today, Father Rodriquez is still sick? Hurry, you are going to be late”

Suetonius sits up all groggy and disoriented rubbing his weary eyes and says,

“What are you talking about Aduviri; I thought I was to assist Father Cortez at the late mass today.”

“That has all changed, Father Cortez is too busy and you are the only one available, I told you this before you left to go climbing yesterday. I should’ve known you would forget, the rock is all you think about on your days off. I was starting to panic when I didn’t find you in your bedroom, then I saw the light in Monsignor’s office. What are you doing here?”

That question jolts Suetonius fully awake as he focuses on the sheets on the table. Aduviri scoops them up and says,

“What are you writing and why is it so strange?”

“Never mind Aduviri, it’s just something I’m preparing, you know how the mountain moves me.”

He deftly plucks the papers from the boy’s hand placing them back on the desk and adds,

“Go grab me a heel of bread from the kitchen and some cheese, and some water; I’ll eat on the way. I’ll get cleaned up and meet you in the dressing room to help me pack my robe.”

The boy is intrigued by Father Graft’s brusque manner; he is usually so calm and polite. He quickly forgets the sheets with the funny words and says,

“Right away, Father. May I go with you today; I could serve as your altar boy?”

“No, not today Aduviri, they have plenty of available altar boys.”

Unknowingly, he has just saved the young man’s life.

After the lad leaves, he gathers up the pages, grabs the rag with the dagger that is on the floor between his feet, and rushes to the dressing room where the priests don their robes. He has to hide his treasure until he can return to finish the last page. He looks up at the access to the attic. It is a small door in the middle of the ceiling; it is here he will hide the dagger and papers.  He pulls a chair over so he can reach the ceiling. He struggles with the flat piece that covers the opening; it is unused and glued with many coats of paint. Using the palm of his callused hand he rams the wood with a heaving effort and it pops into the attic.

Getting down from the chair he quickly unfolds the rag to expose the knife.  He rolls the paper in a circle wrapping the dagger up with words. He places the bluish rag around it all, gets up on the chair again and shoves the package under the insulation he can feel. Stretching on his toes, he gropes for the cover. He hears the boy returning, humming a hymn. He flips the wood back pulling it down with the handle. Where the paint has broken, it fits back together as neatly as Inca stone; no one will be the wiser. Stepping down from the chair he wipes off the bits of insulation that fell. He slides the chair back in place just as Aduviri opens the door.

The boy thrusts out a brown bag with Suetonius` breakfast and says, ``Here``!

``Thank you, young man. Don’t be so abrupt. I know you enjoy the drive and are disappointed but not today my friend. Next time okay?”
He gives the boy a phony punch to the chin, tapping a smile into place. Aduviri points to a well-used black leather case. 

“I understand Father Graft. I have already packed your tunic and robes.”

Suetonius takes a quick glance at the ceiling as he follows the boy out of the room. Making a quick stop at the washroom to freshen up before he heads out to his car, he is thinking of the last page. He must remember to be clear on the instructions he tells himself.  If he is not around to lead someone there, it will be very hard to find.

He is on the last straight stretch before the road winds through a pass to the small community of Urubamba. He is so tired he can hardly stay awake. He wants nothing more than to pull over and sleep for several hours but he is already behind schedule. The monotony of the roadway coupled with the soft rocking of his old car from poor shocks soon lulls him into a haze. He closes his eyes, only for a second he thinks, but they never open again. Father Suetonius Graft falls asleep at the wheel of his auto. When his body can no longer support itself, he slumps towards the steering wheel. Coming towards him is an older one ton truck piloted by a local farmer.  Just as the two vehicles near each other, the weight of the priest’s inert body pulls the wheel to the left. His car collides with the heavy bumper of the old Ford.
 

The farmer escapes with a broken leg and a mild concussion but the priest is killed instantly, his body mangled within the twisted wreckage. His Deliverer has called him home, his mission complete. The secret of the golden wall will remain hidden for another fifty one years.

 
 
Thank you for taking the time to visit the Scribbler. I would appreciate any comments regarding the opening of my novel.  Please feel free to leave a note behind in the comments box below or in the "Talk to the Author" section.

 

 
Next week the Series of New Brunswick Authors will wrap up with a 4Q Interview of Elizabeth Copeland of Miramichi. Elizabeth is a very busy lady involved in Theater as well as writing and the Scribbler is fortunate to have her visit. Don't miss it!

Friday, 18 September 2015

Guest Author Lidia Branch of Moncton, NB

The series of NB Authors is winding down with three more installments. Today you will meet Lidia Branch.


Originally from The Netherlands,
Lidia Branch is now a Canadian citizen living in Moncton, New Brunswick with her husband Brian and two children, Jonah and Maika. A former birth doula and midwife assistant, Lidia now enjoys writing, being a writing coach for children and mother/manager of her daughter, Maika, who has become a successful author at the age of eleven. Lidia loves journaling about her life and hopes to one day turn those journals and stories into future fiction and non-fiction books.






An excerpt from Baby Jonah.


Chapter 5: Tubes and Wires 

 



After the initial shock of seeing our son’s face for the first time, and the disappointment of not being allowed to hold him, I somehow still was in good hopes that he was going to be OK. I was still expecting to find my baby in a little crib nicely tucked in under a blue striped blanket. By now he is probably sucking his knuckles ready to latch on for some milk, I thought as I was getting ready to freshen up. I had been waiting for this moment forever. The first shower after seven hours of labor and giving birth was the best shower I had in my entire life. I was just standing there, relaxing my sore tired body under the warm flow of hot water. It felt so good to wash away all the body fluids from giving birth. It took me a few minutes to process the miracle that just occurred. What an experience, what a rush! Yes it was true what they say, it was no fun to have those contractions but you know what? I would do it again in a heartbeat. The reward of holding my baby was going to be worth all the pain. I was sure of it. It is unbelievable that a child can grow in your belly, inside of your body. It starts with two cells you cannot even see, created by love, and turns into a little human being! A baby with arms, legs, fingers, and a beating heart. And when he grows up he will look like me or Brian or a bit of both. He will walk and talk and have his own personality.

      Life grew inside of me. Every time I think about this it gives me goosebumps. 
 

      While in the shower, Nobody bugged me. It was just me and my thoughts and the calming sound and warmth of the water. Although I felt tired – it was in the middle of the night after all – I was excited at the same time and couldn’t wait to go over to the NICU to hold him. And then it started to sink in. I am a mother. I did it! So tired and happy at the same time. The only worry I had was my son’s face.

      As usual Brian helped me to dry and get dressed. As I opened the door back to the delivery room my nurse appeared around the blue curtain with a wheelchair to bring me to the NICU. The wheelchair had an inviting clean white and pink flannel on it which the nurse used to turn me into a human cocoon. For once in my life I felt I really accomplished something and allowed myself to be pampered for a change.

      Brian pushed me through the long corridor. The hallway was nicely decorated with beautiful framed photographs of happy moms and dads with the cutest babies. Black babies, babies with Christmas hats on, twins... the hallway seemed endless. We halted in front of a door with a big hexagon sign saying: STOP! Parents and grand parents only. Another one proclaimed: Please be quiet, babies sleeping! The nurse pressed a buzzer and a voice on the other side said: “Yes?”


      Our nurse replied: “I have the mom and dad of baby boy Branch with me.” Another heavy door on the side opened widely and we all entered the hallway. The bright white walls were plastered with baby photos, hundreds of them. But we didn’t waste any time taking a closer look. At the end of the hallway was a small cozy family room to the right and a scrub room to the left. In the centre of this room stood a big metal sink. The nurse started to explain how to scrub our hands and prepare to go inside of the unit. “See there are two giant buttons here, one for the soap and one or the water. You press them with your knee. While we washed our hands following her instructions she went on, saying: “Here are some masks and over there you can grab one of our “pretty” yellow lab coats. Brian put one on and the nurse helped him to attach it to the back. I had to laugh, “Bri babe, you look like a doctor.” The nurse draped one over me as well when I sat back in the chair.

      As soon as we opened the door to the unit we noticed the hot dry air and the medical scent that filled our noses, no doubt a mix of disinfectant, clean laundry and new diapers. It was a strange place with dimmed lights, beeping machines and incubators with tiny babies sleeping in some of them. We just entered a very strange place. On the floor we saw white painted footsteps we were supposed to follow. We saw the nurse’s station on the left and heard some mumbling and papers rustling. The sound died down as we passed the counter. Nurses who were working behind the counter looked up and greeted the three of us with a friendly nod. Our nurse walked ahead and directed us to a high, strange-looking table with a bright overhead light shining on it. There was no crib, and no cute blue striped blankets either. Slowly I lifted myself out of the wheelchair, leaning with one hand on Brian’s shoulder. Our little baby boy was laying in the centre of the table. It seemed as if there were little tubes and wires going in and coming out of every little hole of his tiny body, which in return were attached to all kinds of large beeping and flashing machines.

      As forewarned, he had the three electrodes attached to his tiny chest. The electrodes were connected to a machine. He was lying on a white pad with a light blue border and had a rolled up terry washcloth under his neck to support his little head. There were two other larger rolled up white towels next to him to support his little body.

      One of the ICU nurses approached us and put her hand on my shoulder. She had a smile on her face and whispered: “Congratulations you two, isn’t he cute?” I looked at Brian and couldn’t help starting sobbing as I thought, Cute? What does she mean? A full-term baby, now that is cute, this isn’t. “Does he have a name?” the nurse asked us.

      “Sorry, what?”

      “Does he have a name yet?” she repeated.

      “Oh uh yes... His name... is Jonah,” I answered while wiping my tears with the sleeve of my lab coat. The nurse offered to explain what all the machines were for. We appreciated that and listened as the nurse began to point at the different machines. “Your baby is laying on something we call a baby warmer, or warming table. On this side we have the most important machine: The ventilator, without that your Jonah would not be able to breathe. Oh you... did know he was intubated right?” We shook our heads. I was so shocked to hear this that I had to put my hand on my chest in an unconscious attempt to make the pounding stop.
 
 
 
 
Thank you Lidia for sharing this very touching excerpt. Learn more about her book and Baby Jonah here


Next week the NB Authors Series will include myself and the continuation of the beginning of my latest novel - The Wall of War. To date, I have shared the first three episodes of the opening text. Watch for the closing segment of the epilogue.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Guest Author Zev Bagel (Warren Redman) of Shediac, NB

The series of New Brunswick Authors continues until Oct. 2. This week we have a special treat with an excerpt from Zev Bagel's latest novel, Benny Waxman & The Whistling Kettle. Good news! Zev's novel has been short listed for the Atlantic Book Awards.


As a fiction writer, Zev Bagel is about five years old. As Warren Redman, he has been a youth worker, counsellor, life-coach and leadership trainer. He has also published 17 books of non-fiction, including Recipes for Inner Peace, Emotional Fitness Coaching and a Canadian Award Winner – The 9 Steps to Emotional Fitness.
 
Now, Zev Bagel has completed or has in progress six novels, and has just been offered his first contract by a publisher for one of them: Bernie Waxman & the Whistling Kettle. In addition, he has been published in journals and newspapers as well as two anthologies from the Breach House Gang, including short stories, poems and excerpts from his novels.

He lives in Shediac, NB and is president of the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick.


 
 
 
Bernie Waxman & the Whistling Kettle

Excerpt (Chapter One)

a novel

by Zev Bagel

 


My grandfather invented the whistling kettle. Some say it was Sholom Borgelman, who ran a sheet metal plant in Whitechapel; but it was my grandfather, who lived at 52 Linthorpe Road, Stamford Hill. My father used to take me there on occasional Sundays. We’d sit in his cold, draughty kitchen. My grandfather always wore the same light brown dressing-gown stained with blobs of past meals and covered with ash from the perpetual cigarette that bobbed up and down from his lips as he spoke. 

            “Now who is this?” he’d ask as we entered, lifting his chin high and drawing out the ‘who’ until it rose into the air like the whistle from the steam kettle that he’d invented. He meant me. He addressed my father, but he looked at me out of the corner of his eye. My toes curled inside my socks until I felt the wool scratch the soles of my feet. My face burned. My voice squeaked inside my chest and barely made it out of my mouth. My father’s hand propelled me forward so that I stood with my knees touching the rough cloth of his dressing-gown, my feet rubbing against the gaping flaps of his slippers in which his toenails lurked.

            “I’m Bernie.”

            He’d stare at me, his eyebrows raised, the matching toothbrush bristles of his moustache quivering.

            “Bernard,” I’d add, by way of greater clarity. But it was never enough.

            “Bernie? Bernard? Bernie who? Bernard whoom?” The shoulders lifted almost up to his cheeks, the elbows clamped to his sides, the palms of his hands outstretched in utter incomprehension.

            “I’m Bernie Waxman.”

            “Which Bernie Waxman would that be?” Now his face came within inches of mine. Droplets of sweat shimmered among the stubble on his face; nicotine-stained teeth gripped the cigarette. By now my chest was heaving.

            “I’m your grandson.”


            “But I have so many grandsons.” The ‘so’ was another drawn-out steam whistle hovering around the room wraith-like until it insinuated itself into my shivering body. The shivering was partly the damp, chilly atmosphere of Grandpa’s kitchen, partly the agony of the interrogation into my identity.

            I couldn’t think of any other grandsons. Were there others I didn’t know about? And how could there be another one called Bernie Waxman? All I knew was that this happened every time, stopping only when he rasped out a laugh that sputtered smoke and spittle into my face.

             Once my grandfather had tired of tormenting me with his questions, he regaled my father and any of my uncles who happened to be visiting with long rants that were either beyond my capacity to understand, or were overshadowed by my shame at not being able to identify myself.

            But I do remember the rants about Sholom Borgelman.

            “That momzer Borgelman,” he’d shout. “He stole my idea, and then he applied for the patent, and can you believe what he did? He fired me. Do you think I’d still be living in Stamford Hill if that momzer hadn’t stolen my idea? Every household had one. I’d be a millionaire. Like my brothers; my good-for-nothing lucky momzer brothers.”

            That was usually the cue for Grandma Waxman to tear into the kitchen and screech like a demented parrot.

“Meyer, Meyer, stop swearing in front of the boy. Bernie, go upstairs and find your Uncle Gerald. He has a new accordion. Go and play with him.”

            Uncle Gerald wasn’t really an uncle. For a start, he was twelve and still wore short trousers. Also, he was my father’s half-brother, so he was only half an uncle. And he was disgusting.

           
It was 1946. I’d hardly seen Grandpa and Grandma Waxman, or the half-an-uncle Gerald in the previous six years, which was my entire life. Now I was getting far more than I wanted. Blasts of information hurtled around the room, especially when the rest of my uncles, the real ones, were crammed into the kitchen in Linthorpe Road. The brief forays into the whistling kettle held my attention; but as well as my grandfather’s perorations, the stories, dramas and intrigues that bounced about like ping-pong balls at a country fair must have clung to me as though I wore sticky tape on the outside of my brain. 

The scene is Meyer Waxman’s kitchen.

            Nicotine-coloured paint flakes off the walls. The wooden boards skirting the floor match the dark green picture rail that crawls around the room. One print hangs from it, a lopsided view of a distant field. Other than that, a few picture hooks still dangle like small black crows perching on a branch. The ceiling is high. A flex hangs from its central rose, one light bulb suspended from it, its yellow lampshade splaying out the beam onto the lower halves of the walls. From the lampshade a strip of sticky flypaper holds onto the corpses of flies, while live ones circle to try their luck. 

Four of Meyer’s sons and one grandson (that’s me) are present. There is a sporadic incursion by his wife, (who is not my real grandma). The sons are Sammy (my father), Archie, Larry and Charlie. Harry, who’s the eldest, is missing. Archie is in a wheelchair, and his wife Harriet sits just behind him on a wooden chair.

 

Meyer             Tell me Sammy, why didn’t you bring the boy’s mother, your lovely wife?

Sammy            It’s Hannah, Dad. She’s very busy. We have a lot to do at the shop to get ready for next week. We’re opening Saturday. I can’t stay long; I must get back soon.

Meyer             Get back? Get back? You just got here. How often do you get together with your brothers? You’re getting like your uncles. Money, money, money. Don’t forget family, son. Don’t forget the most important thing a man can have.

Archie            Now don’t go starting on that, Dad; you’re going to set me off.

Meyer             Ach, anything sets you off Archie. But let me tell you, if I’d had my chance I’d have had all my boys with me. All my family. You think it was easy? You think I had choices?

 Archie                        Of course you had choices.   

 Larry              Okay, okay, Archie; don’t let him rile you up. I want to know more about your shop, Sammy. Last I was there it was quite a wreck. It must be coming along well.

 

            They kick the ball around like this a lot. Grandma puts her head, encased in a scarf that transforms her into a grotesque rabbit, around the door. The voice is not of a rabbit. It is the squawking of the loudest cockatoo at London Zoo, mixed with the deep-throated grunt of the wild boar. Come to think of it, she looks more like a wild boar than a rabbit.

            “Bernie,” she coos, “Go up and see Gerald. He’s waiting for you.”

            I climb the stairs to the next torture chamber.
 
 
 


Thank you Zev for sharing your work on the Scribbler. We wish you the best of luck at the Atlantic Book Awards with this intriguing story. You can find out more about Zev by visiting his web page here


Please drop by next week and meet guest author Lydia Branch of Moncton NB.

 

Friday, 4 September 2015

Guest Author Joseph Koot of Dorchester Cape, NB

September continues with the hosting of New Brunswick authors.







Joseph Koot was born on a Gouda cheese farm in the Netherlands as the youngest of a dozen children. When he was five years old, the family immigrated to rural Southwestern Ontario.
He and his wife Joanne live in Dorchester Cape, New Brunswick where they raised five children. He was employed as a nurse manager at Dorchester Penitentiary and, following retirement, started his writing career.
Joseph has self-published two books. “Looking for Bill, Finding Myself” is his childhood memoir. “Europe, One Step at a Time” recounts his hike of 6,000 kilometres from Portugal to Estonia after retirement.
His stories draw the reader into the path of Joseph’s life, as a youngster on the farm and as an adult on an endless trail.



Story and Excerpts for the South Branch Scribbler

 

My retirement opened up to me the world of writing. While I worked as nurse manager in the prison system, we raised five children in the rural area of Dorchester Cape, New Brunswick, overlooking the Bay of Fundy. When I retired, I was free to pursue other interests while Joanne continued her work as a teacher.

My childhood had been eventful enough to become a narrative, and out of a six-year struggle at my computer came “Looking for Bill, Finding Myself.” This childhood memoir is the story of my birth in the Netherlands as the youngest of a dozen children. It recounts our immigration by ship as well as farm life in Canada. I describe details of our family life, the complex relationship with my brother Bill and his death under a tractor when we were alone in a back field of our farm.

During the period following retirement, I took six trips to Europe in fulfilment of a dream. I had imagined hiking its entire length and started in southwest Portugal. Daily challenges and delights took me the 6,000 kilometres to Estonia and the Baltic Coast. This journey is the subject of my second book “Europe, One Step at a Time.” Woven into this tale are my need to deal with anxieties such as crossing high bridges, misgivings about my Catholic faith as portrayed in Europe’s churches and facing the setbacks of childhood through this journey.

The writing and walking have helped me resolve old issues. My youthful distractions at the kitchen table turned into the discipline of reaching goals. Awkwardness in schoolyard sports was replaced with the athletic success of my trek across Europe. Mediocre marks in English composition were left behind as I wrote and self-published the two books.

I have developed a motivational speech that includes pictures of my childhood, photos of my hike and an account of my life’s challenges. It has been well received as people are fascinated with the tale of my walk across Europe. I can be reached at koot.joseph@gmail.com to give this presentation to groups and to help people deal with their own doubts.

Now I am tackling a book about my life’s struggles with the Catholic faith. So the writing continues while I enjoy the peace of retirement.

 

This is an excerpt from “Looking for Bill, Finding Myself,” which reflects my fear of heights on our Ontario farm:


 

Bill and I gave Dad a task that was anything but pleasant. It came out of our using the hay lifting mechanism in the barn as a plaything. Bill had taken his cue from the boasting of the Johnson sons. As previous occupants of the farm, they had lifted each other into the mow in their younger days. Or so they said. One of them clung to the rope attached to the lifting apparatus while others pulled the cable to take the person a breath-taking 40 feet up to the barn roof. There the mechanism’s clutch engaged, and its rollers brought the person across to one end of the barn to let go and fall into the pile of hay. This made sense to Bill: “I’m stronger and you’re lighter. You hang on to the rope, and I’ll pull the cable.”

About 12 feet off the ground during the practice run, I lost my hold, my nerve or both. I fell to the barn floor with right hand outstretched and pain shooting through my fingers and up my arm. Here was a lesson that I could not be assured of Bill’s loyalty: he wasn’t looking out for my best interests. Dr. Thomson diagnosed a sprained wrist, and I was to keep it tightly bandaged.

When I had released my grip on the rope to come crashing to the ground, Bill had continued pulling the cable. The letting go on my part and the yanking on his part had sent the steel gadget up toward the barn roof. We assumed another tug of the cable, sending this apparatus upward, would cause the clutch to engage when it reached the horizontal track far overhead. Then the mechanism would roll toward the end of the mow where we could somehow reach it from the top of the pile of hay and find a way to pull it back down. This assumption was wrong. Without the added weight of a load of hay, it reached the centre of the barn roof – 40 feet up and well out of reach – and refused to budge.



Reluctantly, we told Dad. He decided the only way to get the mechanism back down involved a climb up toward it. We watched in silent terror as our father climbed the ladder to the haymow with a garden rake in his right hand. Then he made his way up to the next rafter and on to the highest beam in the barn. His deliberate steps took him to the halfway point on that timber with nothing as support should he lose his balance.

Standing perfectly still on this one-foot-wide girder and with the outstretched arms of an acrobat, Dad reached to grab the offending mechanism with the teeth of the rake. My breath stuck in my throat; I dared not flinch. With his outstretched arm and the rake handle forming one continuous limb, Dad was barely able to reach the device and to give it a gentle pull. It responded and moved a few inches in his direction. With a second smooth pull, the apparatus rolled along its track above the mow. The problem was solved, and Dad cautiously climbed back down. This man, with his feet always firmly on the ground, surprised us that day. We couldn’t have anticipated this daredevil performance. Bill and I swore never to put our father in such danger again.

 

This is an excerpt from “Europe, One Step at a Time,” which confirms my fear of heights as I cross the Netherlands:

 


Having used a ferry to cross the Lek, I’ve bent the rule of always walking the distance. Now in Gorinchem I have a choice of a long four-lane bridge up in the air over the river or a friendly little ferry to the other side. I catch the ferry, but my host’s words, “Take the ferry: that’s a lot easier,” haunt me. Since my start in southwest Portugal, I have not chosen the easy route. Why start now? By its very nature, my hike has been tough, and there would be no end to the process of making this journey easier. Avoiding an unending, terrifying bridge would be the first step to the crumbling of this venture. I need to stay committed to the toughness of the process: I need to take the ferry back and walk that bridge.

Stepping off the ferry a second time and now back on the north shore, I make my way through two kilometres of streets toward the highway traffic starting its ascent onto the bridge above me only to find I cannot enter the pedestrian walkway from that point. This is the four-lane expressway entrance, and a high fence stops me from even considering this approach. Instead, I have to return to a point near the ferry crossing and take a bicycle path around to the bridge as a pedestrian. Before arriving at a scary bridge, I have told myself out loud, “Cross that bridge when you come to it,” but this time it’s as though I’ll never reach it.

Finally, two hours after starting out this morning, I come face to face with my fear of high bridges as I start across. Through an expansion joint in the walkway, I glimpse the ground far below and wonder if my next step will land or whether I’ll be hurtling through the air. The next step holds, and I try to ignore my wobbly knees as I repeat aloud the chorus of “You’ve Got to Walk that Lonesome Valley.” On the way across, I meet other pedestrians and children on bicycles, and I think, “Crossing in a car is safe, but don’t those others know they’re exposed to danger?” A young cyclist turns to look at his friend behind him, and I want to scream, but I keep trudging.

Eventually the water far below becomes land far below that begins to slope toward me as I’m being deposited back onto level ground. I have mixed feelings: “I made it!” and “When will I have to endure this torture again?” I turn off the highway onto a narrow road, leaving traffic fumes for country air, and I’m rewarded with a delicious cup of coffee on the patio of a farm cafĂ©. I’ve survived once again.
 



Where to Buy My Books

 

My two books, “Looking for Bill, Finding Myself” and “Europe, One Step at a Time” are distributed by Tidewater Books. This is the independent bookstore in Sackville, New Brunswick owned by Ellen Pickle. She can be reached at tidebook@nb.aibn.com and has been helpful in sending my books across Canada and overseas.
 
 
 
Thank you Joseph for sharing on the Scribbler. Happy writing during your retirement years.
 
 
 
 
 
Hey there readers, don't forget to drop by next week when the Scribbler features guest author Warren Redman, aka Zev Bagel.
Zev is President of the Writer's Federation of New Brunswick. He is a published author and will be sharing an excerpt from his latest novel - Bernie Waxman & the Whistling Kettle