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This Is Just a Story

The heart can think of no devotion Greater than being shore to the ocean -- Holding the curve of one position, Counting an endless repetition. -- "Devotion" by Robert Frost
1. The man walked aimlessly in a wilderness of pine needles and bracken. His hands bled at the palms and bruises darkened his fingernails, for he'd climbed many rocks and trees, always heading up and up though the way proved hard. Yet his purpose was hidden from him. Many times, as dry leaves crunched or sticks or needles snapped under his feet, he said, "I have forgotten why." But up he climbed.

The woman, however, waded streams and watery paths so that her feet were wet and cold. She had resolved to find the water's source; "Long ago," she said to herself. "Long ago I began." And it was so. The streams she followed swerved and twisted and hid themselves deep underground for days on end until, with hope dying, she'd hear a faint bubbling or trickle and follow it.

Key Change

The sun room: Piles of boxes, photo albums, cobwebs, sheets draped over furniture like so many playhouse ghosts, like so many early memories that could be fading dreams born from the imagination of a hurting soul. And the piano in the corner.

The memory of the sun room came back to Martin as he held a green head of cabbage in the produce section of the grocery store. His first reaction, once the image faded, was to text his brother: "Grandma had a piano?" He slid his phone into his pocket and grabbed another cabbage, Grandma Morris taking more space in his brain: She had sun-catchers dangling on the windows -- mostly cardinals, bright red, and he remembered passing his hands through the crimson light.

The text back from his brother read, "Grandma Morris? Don't you remember her sun room? We eat in 10 min. from now -- that means at 7."

Martin had both cabbages pressed to his ribs with his left arm and he tapped out another text with his right hand. "Yeah…

The Flowers Fall

The night Mr. Daphne met his end was the same night the ancient almond tree that overlooked Saint Dominic's Parish Church was struck by lightning. Only one person saw both the flash that split the tree down the middle and Mr. Daphne struck dead, and that was Jeremy Fields. He was also one of two people who understood the irony of the morning after Mr. Daphne's death, for he saw what no one else was looking for, and only Father Abel listened to tramps like Jeremy.

The day of his death, Mr. Daphne renewed his campaign to save the church. From under the forsythia bushes Jeremy awakened to the clip-clop of dress shoes on the stone walk; he rolled over muttering to himself about grass and flowers just in time to ignore what came next. "I said, this is no place to sleep. Go on. There's a place for you down the road. Go on." Mr. Daphne, his slick face growing pale and then flushing pink, whispered further threats to the bushes before he turned abruptly in order to catch…

A Room Painted Twice

(From Art and Man, 3rd ed, page 173: "...for instance, an artist such as a painter will work out the same theme or landscape dozens of times with many variations. A sketchbook belonging to the same artist may contain pages dedicated to faces, still more to a certain shape of hip or nose, others seem obsessed with eyes. Finished paintings or drawings are no exception, and critics go mad with questions about the repetition -- with the simple answer: the artist does not finish a theme at one stroke; variety dances in the mind.")

1. An old studio apartment. The plaster walls on three sides are bare and uncleaned, but the fourth, however, holds two paintings -- copies of what at first look like the same scene. Closer inspection reveals they differ slightly, and those who know van Gogh's technique will recognize his work. Both done in 1889, the paintings share a common title, though some have given an extra name to the second to distinguish it from the first: The Road Menders

The Victors Are Crowned

The child stood in the doorway waiting for her mother to respond. She'd heard the market-day sounds many times: In the predawn light, her mother's worn hands worked with cloth and thread, the calloused fingertips mending and folding. When her words were met with silence, she repeated them.


"I've been at the water. The boy under the laurels needs a drink." Her cold toes squirmed on the dirt floor, she pushed away her black hair from a wet spot on her face, and she smoothed her dress. If her mother looked at her, she would make her wash.


She saw the work her mother did. Her mouth opened to ask a question, but she changed her mind. The rooster crowed, and she knew she would have to avoid him, maybe chase him with a stick before she fetched the water. She hurried.


Maria paused, her arms wrapped around a clay pitcher. A breeze filled with sea-scent raised the curtain that covered their back door. It carried with i…

Dane Thor-Dane: Warrior Poet

"At first? Okay, sure. It was such a long time ago. War-braids. Plaits. And the helm that covered the head and cheeks. It came down over the nose, too. A long beard, like I said, plaited and dark.

"I was little. I must have been six or seven because he stood by the stuffed animal hammock that hung in the corner. I wasn't afraid. He could've been a waxwork he was so still, but his chest rose and fell. It was as though he watched over my room, like he was on guard.

"Sorry. Just now I remembered falling out of my tree house fort. You remember. How I sat behind the tree so my parents wouldn't see? Maybe I left out that my wrist had broken. I realize now that I was in shock, and the pain took awhile to come. But the fear was immediate. Once the pain came, I passed out.

"The only fear I can say has been similar since is what I felt at my nephew's birthday party a couple years ago. Davy was more excited to turn eight than any boy I've known. I try real…

We Played a Dirge for You and This Time You Wept

See the dark, wet squares of pavement that the late hours of the morning can't dry; see the long shadows that hold pockets of insurgent snow; see the reflected light, from countless, towering windows, that gives the appearance of daylight during the afternoon. Ms. Myra, third generation owner of The Downtown Cafe, saw these things, and it made her anticipate the change of seasons.

For a few weeks in October, the sun twisted just so to the south and looked down the alley that ran at a right angle to Ms. Myra's restaurant. Like a friend who looked over her shoulder one last time before going, those autumn sunrises lit up the cafe's polished counters and threw wild reflections onto the warped ceilings.

It was on such an October morning that Ms. Myra sat at the counter facing the windows, facing the sun, thinking of her father; it was on this October morning that Ms. Myra's busy hands came to their final rest.

"Don't bother her." Miles, the large cook, pu…