Sunday, November 28, 2010

Prologue - Catch a Falling Star

The following is the prologue to my novel Catch a Falling Star.



The lady eased through the prickly leaves of two holly bushes to the chain link fence and waited, heart racing, perspiration streaking down her face.  A breeze through the humidity whirled and twisted the smell of the freshly mowed grass into grace notes of a melancholy song.  Dark clouds gathered together in the early afternoon sky to provide the melody.

The sign above the doors of the large red brick building barely thirty yards from her read St. Andrew’s College Preparatory.

She looked around, and saw a few cars domed by a flock of birds searching for refuge from the approaching weather.  Fortunately, no people.  Not yet.  She shouldn’t be there.  Would be in trouble if anyone knew.  But no one did for now, and this would be the last time.  Like a final cigarette before throwing away the pack.

She glanced at her watch.  Three, two, one ...

The bell rang.


The lady reached into her shoulder bag and pulled out a brand new 1955 Bell and Howell sixteen millimeter moving picture camera.  Left hand under the square unit, right hand steadying, she peered through the viewfinder and watched.  Thirty seconds later the double doors opened with the sound of a shotgun blast and two ribbons of uniformed boys spewed out shouting, attention focused on seeking fun and indulging completely.

The flow trickled to a stop and the door closed.

Did I miss him? Did he come to school today?

She wouldn’t have another chance.  It had to be now.  Her heart pounding intensified, as did her breathing.  She looked over the group, taking in the fullness of each face before moving to the next.
He wasn’t there.

Oh, no.

The lady lowered the camera, nearly allowing it to slip through her fingers to the pine-covered dirt.  She secured it, and glanced to the mounting power in the sky.  Closed her eyes and silently pleaded with the coming storm to make the boy appear.  Two minutes elapsed.  Nothing.  Her legs trembled.  The gym coaches would be out soon to supervise.  She opened her bag to store the now useless box.  Eased back through the waxy, sticking leaves, and headed toward her car.

The sound of the opening door stopped her.  She returned to the cover of the holly bushes pressing against the fence.  The boy she sought walked onto the concrete landing followed by an elderly priest.  The two shook hands steps, priest disappearing back into the building, the boy exploding down the stairs to join his mates.

She quickly returned the viewfinder to her eye and turned on the camera.  Followed him among the throng, vaguely listening to the rhythmic whirring of the film capturing twenty-four frames per second, each frame a memory, each memory part of a living whole.

Though all the boys wore navy shorts, white shirt and navy tie, the one she filmed stood out.  He took charge of a group of six tossing a football from one to the other, most wanting to toss it back to him, wanting his notice, his approval.  Though young and physically developing, he was well-coordinated, strong and fast.
An intense rush of pride rolled through her stopping at her heart and touching it.  She momentarily lost track of him when moisture appeared between her eye and the glass.

“Why didn’t I fight to stay?” she muttered, choking back the tears, then picking him up again, and continuing to film.  “I’m sorry, my son.  You deserved better from me.”

“I beg your pardon, ma’am.”

Startled, she turned and saw another priest, this one much younger than the one in the doorway.


“May I ask why you’re here?”

The thought of lying occurred, but, nestled as she was between the holly bushes, settling for part of the truth seemed the better option.  “Ah, it’s such a lovely place, I though I would take some pictures.”

“This is private property, and photography is prohibited without prior permission from the headmaster.”

She stowed the camera in her bag hoping he wouldn't confiscate it.  “I apologize, Father.  I wasn’t aware of that.”

“Well, no harm done, then.  But I will have to ask you to leave ... and not return.”

“Of course.”  She smiled, but imagined it to be a mere half of one.

She would never see her son again.  Impossible to accept, but necessary.

She walked back toward the street, bringing her left hand to her eyes to staunch the pain.  Inside the car, she risked one final glance and a deluge of love took her heart and squeezed until the tears fell, mimicking the new falling rain.

The boys hurried back inside.

“Please forgive me.”

A loud burst of thunder answered.

She started the engine and drove off.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

My First Heartbreak

I’ve changed the names, but the story is as true as I can tell it.  And after forty-six years, I can’t help but smile at the boy romantic I was.


Caroline Marks. Second Grade. The Auditorium. Reinhardt Elementary School (pictured). 1964. I think Caroline is so pretty with her red hair and green eyes. I don’t think so much of those saddle shoes and her dress is really frilly, but what of that when the sun sets over two pine trees every day after lunch.

She has no idea who I am, of course. I’m in Mrs. Hill’s class on the front row of the center section during this study period after lunch.  Caroline is in Mrs. Barnes’ class at the near end of the left section.  The monitor of the auditorium is Mrs. Dean.

I don’t open my books. How can I when such beauty is a mere thirty feet away, concentrating on her writing or drawing or whatever she works on so diligently? I sometimes close my eyes and picture myself holding her hand, or of taking her arm at the beginning of the day and escorting her to class. In the privacy of my imagination I envision myself ... gasp! ... kissing her on the cheek, then feeling her lips touch mine.

Ah, Caroline.

Overriding the faint stirrings in my private area -- what they are, I have no idea -- is the wash of Caroline over me. She bathes my soul in feelings I’ve never had before. Takes my heart in her freckled hands and massages comfort into the tissues, then squeezes hard until blood rises to my eyes. Those times I save things up until I get home, then cry the agony into my pillow.

I decide to let her know how I feel. To write her a letter and present her an apple for after lunch. I have to. The world would fold up and die if I didn’t. So I summon my very best penmanship and write, “Hi, Caroline. I think you are very pretty. I hope you like this apple. Rocky.”  I even draw her face with the fiery hair and grassy eyes.

I can’t concentrate on my morning studies. I forget to add the “p” to the end of the first syllable of Mrs.Turrentine’s name, as all of the boys routinely did. I am lost in the beauty of Caroline.

In lunch, I can’t eat.  Can’t think about anything save  ... oh, maybe giving Caroline my whole lunch.  I sigh.  She probably ate, and the apple would be plenty. I give up that idea, but I can’t slow down my heart. It acts like it wants to beat itself out of my throat. And when the bell rings at the end of lunch, I have to run to the auditorium because I couldn't just hand my note and the apple to Caroline.  Couldn't do that to save my life.  No way. I would be so scared. I have to put it on her seat where she’ll find it, then, oh please, oh please, oh please, proclaim me her hero. Fortunately, the girl’s bathroom is right by the auditorium and she always stops there on her way.

I try to sit the package down, but the apple wants to roll to the back of the seat and out of the back crevice. The tardy bell rings and ... panic. I put the package under her chair but forward so she can see it.  I run to my place, and try to act like everything is normal. It’s not normal. Nothing will never be normal again. My heart is thirty feet to my left in the hands of Caroline Marks.

She picks up the apple and my note, then turns to the girl on her left. The girl points in my direction and Caroline marches over to me and drops both note and apple in my lap. Then leaves.  Not a word does she speak. And my face could have set fire to the note and burned the apple to a crisp.

All is over.

As hard as I try to wait until home to relieve my hurt feelings, I can’t. I ask Mrs. Dean’s permission to go to the bathroom, explaining that I ate something at lunch that didn’t agree with me.

She pats me on the cheek and says that I can stay as long as I need. And I stay the whole period.

My world is finished. I am crushed.