Tom Sheehan ~ A Chapter In Search of a Novel



Morning came bright and eager, and the barest chill bit the air, as Cable looked out over the small piece of Sunquit visible from Frank Keating’s deck. From every quarter came evidence of the storm, debris scattered as if giant baskets had been emptied on the land. Trees had been ripped out of the ground and tossed singly or in piles, their limbs shorn of leaves, bark stripped in huge rents. Every point at the high water mark was littered with wood, huge planks torn from God knows where, boards of every description, two by fours and moldings and fashioned woodwork and now and then large sheets of plywood scaled to a hard resting place, partly buried in sand or debris piles. He could see boat parts of upper decks driven high up on the shore and thought of the agony associated with each piece, the drama which might have surfaced at their rending.

Cable inspected the cottage from stem to stern and the balance of Frank’s property, finding only loose shingles pried from the garage by the relentless force of the wind, a shed door under the line of green shrubs at the roadway. Some of the older trees had been hit heavily and he wondered what had happened at May Keating’s cottage as he remembered her remarks on the telephone. Through the long night she had been a companion of sorts to him, passing in and out of his mind in one frame or another, in one degree or another, vital as hung breath. She was permanently wedded with the wind in his memory, sheer silhouette of silhouettes. When he recalled the ferocity of the wind’s gusts, the high pitch of its moaning in the downspouts and trim gutters, the bumping and banging and grinding sounds the night had been full of, he felt the energy and drive that were, to him, visible parts of her. He knew that whenever the wind came at him, whenever it blew in whatever place in whatever time, from now on he would think of her. She was burned that way into his memory, an image of enormous power, an idea of near omnipotence, which made him laugh at the ridiculousness of his thought, but only for a moment.  She is goddamn real, he said to himself, as the air touched at his forehead and bare arms, left signatures of complicity on the perimeter of his soul.

Coffee aroma flew on the air. People coming about, he thought, rising from the darkness of the storm, from the deep night of awful sounds and rampant terror; people up with the sun, up with their hopes, up with tools at hand to repair damage and get on with their days. A known pulse worked in his arms, in his legs. He thought it the surest of his experience.

He dialed May Keating’s number and heard no dial tone at all. He slid on an old pair of suntans, a gray T-shirt and boots that had served him a good deal of the road. The boots were a reminder of reality. They did not allow him to dream very much, wearing oil from too many pit stops, gravel residues from so many waysides, a thin grayish-white line that spoke of salt water complexion, prairie dust and mountain grain. The panorama of all his travels wove in and out of his mind; scenes recalled other scenes and faces brought out the features of forgotten miens lost down some lane or alley or down a country road falling away under a line of maples running all the way under a leaning mountain.  His life had always been at departure, or at the brink of it.

He knew what his mind was doing to him: summoning all these pictures and views of all the places he had been, all the people he had met. It was a lesson in self-teasing, baiting himself, positioning himself, measuring himself, finding himself still alone in the world. And May Keating was around the corner, the promise of the Lost Covenant, the Last Chance Saloon, a spirited partner of her near dead husband. He shook his head, trying to shake her off, pushing her to a deeper recess, indicting his awful fancies.

As an artifice, he brought back Meghan MacHearne, in her cabin in the High Sierras, in her jeans, arched, furrowed, molded to the back of his mind. A fragrance, soft as violets, but rich and ripe in a quiet way, came back on him. She seemed always to wear things of the field as part of her dress; a daisy, a sprig of unknown name and unnamed aroma, on her blouse once a flower so red he thought her heart had burst, herbs that seemed to spring their essences out of her pockets. Hands thrust into her deep pockets spoke of wildness and unknown rhythms. She should have been anyone’s rival, with hair black as the mountain valley at night, a laughter that was as soothing as a holiday at home, hands of the sculptress on a divine mission, lips the very lava had touched. That they had passed in the night was not, at length, a great surprise to him. In the morning they would never be able to talk, but she could, in the meantime, be an adversary of May Keating, a counter-balance, a point of argument, someone to keep him on his toes. She faded as quickly as she had come, as quickly as she had been summoned, folding into the line of flush maples along a road rising toward a distant mountain.

For a moment he tried to fathom a sense of motion, a trail of movement working in him, the cause and effect of his own travels. Brief hits here, brief hits there, in his mind, just as they were in his life, the itinerant wanderer meeting people like Meghan MacHearne, pausing at the edge of beauty itself, tasting, moving on, driven by an inner cause more powerful than any he could muster. On so many nights, as on this day, he had searched into the marrow and the ganglia matter that stored up all he had seen, had partaken of, the desired roads, the undesired roads, the whole psyche and its travelogue. He had great difficulty in getting to the gist of any reasonable explanation. It was as much apparition as any spirited essence, misty, believable, faint, as real as the nearest substance, unyielding in its makeup.

He thought of inventors or scientists as they plied away at a lifelong task, knowing what they wanted to reach but never having a clear idea, a clear vision, of how they would reach that desired plateau. So many had labored lovingly and endlessly for all their lives and had never reached that sacred plateau.  Not that he placed himself under any such noble endeavors, but he too was grasped in this almost endless task of getting someplace. It tore wretchedly at his innards at times, and much in moments like these when he deliberated on his very next step. Options came and went as quickly as did deep breaths.

The unnamed and untouched and unknown energy of May Keating came back as strong as ever. It was as if he had always known what her make up was, how she was really molded. It was magnetic, pulling him along. He put on a dark green sweater he had found in a closet, not looking any further. As yet he had not looked into any mirror and felt no desire to do so. He shrugged at the lesser of options. Outside the skies were silent and sunlit, the sea a slow monotone.

Slowly over the beaten terrain he walked, measuring the impact of the storm, the local damage piled about him, mostly trees and huge limbs, now and then pieces of boats or houses or sheds or who knows what. At the Keating cottage, a line of roof shingles was torn away, a shed splintered, a huge limb stabbed the deck. The windows, though, were all in place. The slight drift of coffee’s aroma touched at his nostrils. He smelled toast turning a blackened edge, thought he heard bacon turning up its toes in a skittle, rankling to be heard.

In the frame of the doorway she stood, watching him. He’s measuring everything, she thought, seeing his gaze shift from one object or condition to the next. He was tall, hardness about him, a more than ample alertness. He did not move quickly, but dwelt on different points. His hands were expressing himself, though she could not read them. The shoulders were wide enough for any load. She waved energetically. He did not see her.

“Is someone there?” asked Peirce from his ever bed by the seaside window.

“Yes,” she said. “It’s that friend of Frank’s I told you about. Said he’d be by this morning to check on that limb. It’s gone straight through the deck, just the way you pictured it would if it ever let go. I’m afraid the deck’s gone, but it’s not such a heavy loss. At least we’re dry.” She had wanted to say ‘intact’, but had caught herself, just as she had done so often. Just as she had trained herself.

“Do you think he’s coming in?” Peirce’s voice had a new edge to it, a bit of excitement.

“Yes,” she said. “He’ll come in. He said he’d come.” There was a pronouncement she wondered if Peirce had sensed.

“Tell me about him,” Peirce said. “Quickly! What’s he like? Is he tall or short? Does he have good eyes? “Only his head moved in the bed, his lips.

He had not been so animate in months. May looked over at him. He was board-straight and grinning at her. That grin used to knock her off her feet, often knocked her socks off. She felt warmth rising in her cheeks. His eyes were actually alive and blossoming, pushing at her. “Does he have that energy quotient we used to speak of? Remember how we used to measure everybody, doers and don’ters, woulders and won’ters? Is he like one of them? Can you tell yet?” His voice took on a suddenly serious tone. “Do you really think he’s a good reader, May? Would he be that kind of a doer?” His voice faded in a quick relapse, shorn so hurriedly of its good tone, its excitement. She bristled to attention.

“Peirce,” she said, and he knowingly accepted her direct use of his name as a signal of the intent she was about to utter, “He’s one of the strongest ones yet, if not the strongest. He’s tall, has wide shoulders, two children could ride on them. He is alert. I think he notices everything. Maybe, when he’s not conscious of it, he stands like a Marine at a ceremony. Only it’s not bluster, not on parade. More like he’s making some type of salute or paying very special attention to something or someone.”

Her head tilted slightly in support of her statement. Peirce read the incidental trait she had long practiced, one he had long been accustomed to, one that he had never shared with her and this time again, as on every other interpretation, made him feel an extraordinary guilt.

“Did he notice you, May?” His voice had picked up again.

“Yes, I think so.”

“Oh, God!” he said, “maybe this is the one.”

“Peirce, if you say it one more time, I’ll…”

“You’ll kill me! Christ, May, if I could get to the goddamn gun I’d do it myself! And you know it! I would have done it a thousand times, May, a thousand times. Pulled the trigger myself. Now tell me more about him.”

“He’s not a vagrant, not the kind you think of as sliding around, sucking up on things. But he does move, maybe not in fashion, but at his own pace. He’s probably a true nomad in denim. I don’t think we’ve met anyone like him around here. At least, not recently. I think he’s in command, rather than being tossed about at will. Perhaps some design in his travel. It’s not like he’s hoping to find something. More like he knows he’s going to find it, but doesn’t know where or when.”

“He’s really likable, May?” There was pure entreaty in his voice.

“He’s really likable, Peirce. And he’s coming up to the door now.”

When Traegger Cable stepped through the door, Peirce Keating was barely able to see him, but he knew a new man was in the room. He ached to talk to him, to ask questions, to see what life had done to another man, how he handled what had come his way. The energy was not awesome, but it was real. It moved about in the room, he was positive of that. An energy field, unseen but known, coupled them and Peirce thought immediately of Wally Dascomb and how he had wanted to fly, and how that desire emanated from his soul right up to the moment of his crash.

“You haven’t done so badly here,” said Cable. “The deck is gone, a few shingles, but that’s about it. You’re luckier than some.” He turned to Peirce. “My name is Traegger Cable. I’m a friend of Frank Mitman’s and I met your wife last evening when she got wrapped up in her sheets out there on the porch. I like to think that I helped her out of her difficulty, but you know, Mr. Keating, she looks good in sheets.”

Peirce Keating had the first honest laugh in months, a rollicking good laugh that turned contagious and brought May and Cable right into the fold of it.

“Some people, like Frank, have called me Trig. I answer to it mostly, but also answer dinner bells, calls for lunch, iron on iron for breakfast, mail call in Missoula, Montana whenever I’m there, and always help out ladies in any moment of distress.”

May spoke. “This is my husband, Peirce Keating. He was injured in an accident a few years ago and spends all his time here.” She motioned to the bed.

“I’m a lay-at-home, Trig.   I could be standing, but then I’d be a stand-at-home. It’s only a point of view from which way your eyeballs are pointed. May says you like to read. That it’s one of the reasons you came down here, kind of getting away from it all to read, huh?” It was a hopeful phrasing of the question.

“I brought a few with me, some I’ve tried unsuccessfully at times and want to get back at, or back into, whatever it is. Some I’ve been waiting a long time to get at.” He made it sound as if he were going to partake of a long-lost recipe preparation, a watering mouth waiting. “I’ve set pairs of them, twins you might say, for attempting, not really for classification.”

“Like private mind games?” asked Peirce, more excitement clearly readable in his voice.

“You’re absolutely right, Peirce,” he replied. “It’s a pleasure to be discovered.”

Peirce was lit with excitement. “Tell me some of them, please, but slow and easy so I can turn them over.” Another party in the room would have sworn that Peirce Keating was rolling in his bedclothes.

“Let’s see. There’s Desmond Morris’ The Naked Ape and Peking Man by Shapiro.”

“Marvelous!” shouted Peirce. “Absolutely marvelous. The pair-bonding. Morris does justice to that. He’s incredible. You’ll love it! What else?”

“How about Lucifer’s Hammer and A Step Farther Out?” Cable paused for the expected reply.

“Hey, Trig, you’re doing a before and after, history and future. Those are Pournelle’s. Both slammers! Big hitters! Real big hitters, if you get what I mean.”

They both laughed a riotous laugh, buddies in the latrine telling a real inside story, board room knowledge of a subordinate out in the air, a privileged private inroad that May was utterly lost to. But a flavor began to ferment itself in a quiet part of her mind. She tried to measure each of them in turn. Peirce was too upbeat even to get a grasp on. She had not seen him this way in such short order in a long time. Traegger Cable, talking as if Peirce were the only person in the room, able to broadcast that feeling without rancor or misinterpretation of its intent, was not unreadable, only unbelievable. Peirce had promised her such a man.

On too many nights to be ignored, he had promised her a special man would come into her life and take his place. He had vowed this every time his nostrils had been full of her, his eyes had been full of her. She had come to believe it, the way myths are believed, or cast in precious stone, like a half understood religion has a grip on you; you dare not let go and you have no solid handle on which to hold. It was the way some poems were with her, full blown realities, feeling what the poet felt the moment he wrote the words, then the actual downhill sense of losing their import as she mouthed them over and over again, finding other meanings, other tastes, in them.

“You have more?” asked Peirce.

“Sure. Before breakfast I’m going to read Babylon Revisited and after breakfast I’m going to read Jubal Sackett by Louis Lamour.”

“To settle your stomach!”  roared Peirce. “To go to ground zero and start all over again!” May thought he would leap out of the bed. His voice had octaves not touched in months, ground not trespassed in a long time. Too long a time.

Heavy male laughter slopped in the room like wood being cut and piled up. It spilled over and over itself, heavy and full and so honest and so in tune May felt in a dream. She waited to be roused from this absolute moment of happiness, this moment of daring that hung in the air.  The laughter rolled and rolled and made a promise of tears. They were like children at play, at secrets, at clubhouse friendship no outsider could really understand. She suddenly thought of the Tavern at the country club Peirce once had become a member of, and from which she was excluded except on weekday afternoons between 12 and 4, and for slabby thick roast beef sandwiches slowly poisoning many male hearts. So many wives had referred to it as the Cabbage Court, as in Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery, and then it became Mrs. Wiggens’ Cabbage Patch, and then the Green Room, and finally they had settled on it as the Celtic Room. And the men kept swallowing the poison and accepting the new name and that limited association with Larry Bird and Bob Cousy and the one and only Bill Russell.

She too began to laugh and the room grew in size, leaped its slim bounds, eased out into the fullness that was the Cape after a serious storm, the air vibrant and shining and full of clean salt rising off the face of the not so serious Atlantic Ocean.

If another eye were put on them, if somebody were to peer in the window, new judgments would be made of the trio. May Keating absolutely bloomed in the midst of them, a literary menage a trois. Her eyes lit up by an inner flame, long, too long, subdued. Expressions leaping to her face, crowding it into old issues, freeing from a secret vault the unused traces of her innermost feelings, highlighting her golden cheeks, the mouth whose parts were the elegance of lips almost dripping with themselves. The very set of her jaw became for the moment softer in its iron than it had been since the very crucible which had set it.

That she wore a yellow flowered dress, designs as large as her frame could hold, butter-yellow, daisy-yellow, was not lost on either of the men. Peirce, in a quiet reveling, gloried in her selection, her not so subtle association with the color scheme of the porch incident the evening before. Her breasts were somewhere undercover, never being much ammunition, as she had often remarked, the nipples partly driven nails, often paying slight attention, standing only for the right company, the right touch, a proper sense in air.  The long curve of a thigh pressed itself through a flower. God, he thought, she can get magnificent! The blooming of her. The need of her.

Traegger Cable, too, took in that loveliness, the sheathed agreement of their first meeting, how yellow clung in curves, arches, turning darker where it was darker, tossing daylight about her, splashing it around, washing the lithe frame she carried with sunlight. Her hair, once again, shook loose, a forgotten attendant that sat lightly on the forehead, wind-worked as ever, playing a game, being innocent in the very breath that created motion.  Cable someplace, somewhere, had seen this pose, this framed moment. He struggled to find who or where, at what point of travel such a sight had been captured that it now came back to him so richly.

He searched his mind, plumbing for associations, placing a variety of images in action as sort of triggers to fire the past into the present. He synthesized faces and shapes and geographies in a scrambling match, saw them meld as whole creatures in known places. May, he kept saying to himself, is different, yet he had seen this vision before, down to all the ancillary details, but failed to find who it was. Her face glowed with inner warmth, a fire deep as earth fire. Peirce was absolutely puffed up by her appearance.  Cable saw that and it pleased him a great deal. The two of them were mesmerized by the aura of the woman, each having his own view of her, husband and stranger coming together in the wake of a terrible storm, two acolytes before the high priestess, and dread hungers as old as the tide washing on the beach below.

In one quick flash Cable found his vision. His mother’s sister, the lovely and vibrant Aunt Flo, audacious Flo, irreverent Flo, Flo of the sweet hands of gifts, Flo in an upstairs room mere feet from his tree house shaking off her dress, her slip, her bra and pants. She glided shoeless in the small visitor’s bedroom, never out of sight, breasts small but high up on her chest, hips subtly pronounced, thighs falling away so gracefully from their appointment, the light of the lamp throwing severe shadows on her body as she turned about the room. She bristled with energy and moved as if she knew he was looking on, transfixed, afraid to move, afraid of not looking. He would be found out. But in the morning she but smiled at him as she always did, a smile full of seasoning, a thoroughly wet kiss of a smile that made him tingle all over, a smile ripe as raspberries stolen from Kostopolous’ garden. He remembered old Ben Perkins talking on the steps of the poolroom. “It ain’t the good legs, boys, it’s the mystery of their ending that does it all.”

Now Cable tingled again, now he looked at May Keating, saw her move subtly in place, felt into his boot tops the beating his body now knew. “I don’t know how many times I’ve been told to read some Yeats. One old bo’ I met told me if I hadn’t read Yeats, then I hadn’t been reading yet.”

Peirce coughed once, then said, ‘On limestone quarried near the spot By his command these words were cut: Cast a cold eye On life, on death. Horseman, pass by!”

    The words hung in the room as cold as a new current of air off the Atlantic. May’s face was stone-still, not a muscle tic moved. Hands as sweet as Aunt Flo’s, full of promise, great gift bringers, hung suspended and useless. Cable was positive that Peirce would crack a joke, thrust a lever into the sudden coldness, use himself again as proxy to rescue, be the immolated guinea pig. When nothing came out of Peirce’s mouth, Cable dared himself to rescue the moment. The moment he started to speak, the moment he thought he was forming words soon to be said and heard, indeed with their sounds still birthing in his head, he was cut short by Peirce. What ran around in Cable’s head, what he thought he had said and was being heard was just a moan coursing over the rocks, lifting off his own sea wall, a long keening moan beating outward from an inner pile of debris. It was a startling revelation to the man. He had come indeed to the place where life began, to that point of land Frank had essayed so well. It had begun for him, a man on the idyllic run, footloose, carefree and happily irresponsible, but not without a hunger nearly buried to the eyes, in a room with a husband and wife who had survived a storm, a horrible accident, a most testing lifestyle, hardships on both sides so severe they could have easily done in others not as strong.

Cable experienced, in a few short moments, such a glare of intelligence and knowledge bursting within himself, he feared it would show on his face. I must be glowing, he thought, the blood rushing pell mell upon him, splashing through veins, hauling such clarity of oxygen along with it, such a shining he thought must be completely transparent. Brooding depths of May’s eyes were revealed to him, flowing from them such a demand for need and solace he knew was crystal clear, was being broadcast as much as an SOS from a distressed vessel. There, in the room, mere feet from him, clad in a bouquet of yellow flowers, being the irony of stonewalled defiance against life as it was, courage only skin deep, her need indeed having come up on the same beach from the center of life itself as he knew his had come, he saw the void circling around her. It swirled its apparition about her, a thin screen, veiled, less than gossamer, but fully enveloping all of her being.

His heart beat for her and he heard Peirce’s words as if they had hung on air.

“Isn’t that right there a most marvelous woman, mister?  Doesn’t she damn well explode in this room!  I mean REALLY explode!  She’s a sight for eyes after the storm, I’d say. J’ever see the likes of her! Standing like that, standing like a goddamn goddess! J’ever? J’ever?”

Then, quickly, his voice faded, as if shorn of all breath behind it, as if he had run up the steepest incline on his way to the victorious end of a long journey. Faint ripples at chest gave clue to inner turmoil. His eyes shifted through the prisms of the mirrors arranged above and about the bed, mirrors that provided him a view of just about everything in the room. His eyes searched Cable’s eyes, found May’s eyes, almost wed them as he moved between them there beside the primeval sea, beside the path out of the depths and up through which all creatures and monsters and people in all forms had come forth to be themselves: algae-like and grasping and rich-mouthed, salt of the sea sucked down into their bones and burning on their flesh, wash of the endless tides moving over them like the hands of the final masseuse, the stroking of a near-godhead figure.

In his mind Cable knew Peirce was moving in the still bed. No man could inflect more into his voice without putting his whole body behind his words. And he fully measured Peirce’s use of the word “mister,” one which exalted Cable to another level, one he himself could not attain.  Peirce was, just as Cable felt, crystal clear.

Traegger Cable accepted Peirce’s invitation for lunch, a light chicken May would toss together without much effort while he set about moving the fallen limb, which he moved away from the house with ease, cut with an old buck saw he had found in the cellar, stacked the cut lengths against the garage. A bit later May, he knew, was looking at him from the window of Peirce’s room and he tried not to set any pose, though her eyes were heavy on him. She’s talking to him, he thought, about what I’m doing, how I’m doing it. At sea the swells were minor, light gray, white-edged, long and furrowed the way an Iowa wheat field he once passed by had been plowed in the spring.  And here he was smack in the middle of a strange triangle. He thought of Peirce board-straight in the bed, his final bed. Departure was ever a threat.

Without a voluntary effort, he thought of May’s thighs in the flowered dress, how they could speak through the weave of the cloth, the heard voice, the unpronounced but spoken message lifted towards him, the anguish, the want, coming straight at him. There was more than arc, more than a coiled energy and want packed deeply in them.  Her pain gathered in him. His eyes closed. She was still there behind the eyelids. The old warnings and hungers rode boldly into the arena once more. Hungers had come fully prepared for the battle, arrayed, at oneness. He did not look at her in the window, seeing only the house and what it appeared to be: an island of two people he had not known more than a day earlier, set right on the plane of the earth. They had been waging their small war of survival before he had come along and, chances were good, they would wage it long after he had gone.

The wood cut and stacked. Cable turned his back on the window and acknowledged his sudden erection. He was positive she was aware of it, so much energy in the air.

His eyes closed, shutting out the piled logs and piled brush and puzzle of leaves lying about like scattered gloves, he thought of her parting herself, touching herself, behind the window, fingers wet, her mouth dry, puckered, salty, calf muscles and thigh muscles in minor rebellion. In a burst of light and energy, he willed the scene to happen behind him.

Peirce asked her again, “How is he doing? Tell me what he’s at. Does he move the same way at labor?”  He had framed the question in the most liquid manner possible. Of their attraction to each other, he was positive. It sat in the midst of the room as indelible as anything the air could carry or contain within itself. May would ride him gloriously, her mouth turned, open, in that frozen moment of ecstasy.

She whipped around to face him, her face full of the message filling up inside. “He’s a stranger, Peirce. A complete stranger. I swear, if you throw me at him you’ll be as sorry as any day of your life you can pick on.”

“You do like him though, don’t you?” he said, more than a question, but leaving the hint of a question in his words, as if room for argument, room as much as deference as for anything. “He’s strong looking, in a quiet way, don’t you agree?  What’s he doing now? I bet he doesn’t strain when he works, just a piece of music, smooth I’ll bet. Am I right?” His eyes fell on her buttocks as she stared out the window, saw them hard against the dress. An old dryness walked in his mouth.

“Do it for me, May. Do it now while you’re standing there, as if you’ll live forever.”

She turned slowly to face him. Her voice lacked conviction. “Peirce, it’s just noontime. He might walk back in here any minute. You can’t ask me to do it right now. It’s not fair.”

He saw the tightness sitting at the edge of her eyes, the faintest twitch to her lip, how her right hand hung beside her as limp as it could ever be. The secret aromas of her body crossed the room to him, for full seconds assailed him in the bed as if a gas had been released from a canister, catching up in his nostrils, riding in the back regions of his throat with a fullness difficult to understand. In that other time she had stood above him, only the vaguest neon of the motel falling across her whiteness, the blackest beauty of her crotch, her legs parted, her hands moving. A million times he saw the picture of her, generated and generated again and again, the sweeping and engulfing heat shooting through him, her mouth opening, the neon flicking on and off on her thighs, throwing the white of her buttocks sideways against the darkness as she turned for him, stood tall, white and lovely. His column of white loveliness. His Canada forever. His Niagara rampage. His starving wife.

He called her name, the soft sound of her name, a whisper that trailed faintly across the room. “May, do you have panties on?” His diminutive use of the word touched them both, as if it were an entryway or a signal.

She smiled. “You know I never wear them around you, Peirce.”  An honest light shone from her eyes. She shrugged imperceptibly, but a shrug that Peirce read and understood, a shrug that told him what road he was on and how much of it he could travel.

“Oh, May,” he said,” do it now, May. Do it now.”

She nodded at her prone husband, her mouth now too dry to talk, not a weariness but a small reservation touching her lightly, then immediately smiled and turned, perhaps cautiously, back to the window.

The sill was chest high. The stranger Cable was still at his task in the yard, his shoulders wide, his hands sure at grasping. In her left hand she gathered the front of her dress, bunched it and slowly pulled it up over long, white thighs elegant in their curving, over the full span of her buttocks, pulling the bunch of it tightly against her abdomen. The mound of her rear, like a half moon of golden light, shone at him, a creature freed from an erotic prison, almost a being in itself, muscled in a clearly provocative way.  His ears buzzed as he looked at the cleft parting it, saw the long sweep of her thighs rising to junctures. The painting of it was set into his mind forever, such a great expanse on her tall frame, such energy thrown into the long-arcing thighs, such a thickness to them that one would never guess of it looking at her fully dressed. Her right hand slipped slowly out of sight, her legs parted, an almost indeterminable motion presented itself to her body.

Her left hand gripped the clump of dress tightly. The hidden hand began to move. Cibola. Victoria. Mound from some starlit night. Ambiguity. Adolescence. Smashing fucking soft beauty to pieces and grabbing it back again. Building it. Making it come back again and again. Oh, again and again. Oh, relentless. Oh, savior of all my nights. Oh, savior of all my nights. Oh, lights on top of lights.

Her husband stared at her backside, the v’eed legs almost at a pulse, and the muscles of her entire frame in concentration. Her taste was in the air. He knew the sea again. All the sea.

Out the window the stranger, suddenly stopping at his task, turned, looked up and stared at her. For the briefest seconds, a trembling finding growth and reception in her legs, in a dozen parts of her body at once, the new sun cascading down on them, their eyes locked together. She thought of universal gravitation without saying the words. She shook. There was a silence in the world.  Water coming against the shore was less than a whisper.

She mouthed his name, and then, her face flushed, feeling the brilliance on it, the redness sitting there, she rode over that motioned pronouncement with her husband’s name; Peirce! Peirce! saying it the way he loved to hear it, urgently, softly, letting it fall to the floor of his room as an early leaf might fall to grass, gracefully, as good as promise can ever be.

She tasted the unity of the moment, fraught departure, the complexities, and then the ironies, every last one of them, building slowly in the air.


Tom Sheehan served in the 31st Infantry, Korea 1951-52, and graduated Boston College in 1956. His books are Epic Cures; Brief Cases, Short Spans; Collection of Friends; From the Quickening; The Saugus Book; Ah, Devon Unbowed; Reflections from Vinegar Hill; This Rare Earth & Other Flights, and Vigilantes East.  eBooks include Korean Echoes (nominated for a Distinguished Military Award), The Westering, (nominated for National Book Award); from Hammer & Anvil Books are The Harry Krisman Mysteries ~ Murder at the Forum (an NHL mystery), Death of a Lottery Foe, Death by Punishment, and An Accountable Death. Co-editor of A Gathering of Memories, and Of Time and the River, two collections about our home town of Saugus, Massachusetts, both 400+ pages, 4500 copies sold, all proceeds from $40.00 each cost destined for a memorial scholarship for co-editor, John Burns, in the Saugus School system as director of the English Department at the High School for 45 years. After conception of the idea for the books, and John putting out the word for material to be included by former students, and with a proposal of actions and schedules prepared for a local bank, ten of his former students signed a loan for $60,000 to print two books not yet written!
Tom also has work in Ocean Magazine, Rosebud, Linnet’s Wings, Serving House Journal, Eclectica, Copperfield Review, KYSO Flash, La Joie Magazine, Soundings East, Vermont Literary Review, Literary Orphans, Indiana Voices Journal, Frontier Tales, Western Online Magazine, Provo Canyon Review, 3 AM Magazine, Vine Leaves Journal, Nazar Look, Eastlit, Rope & Wire Magazine, The Literary Yard, KYSO Journal, Green Silk Journal, Fiction on the Web, The Path, Faith-Hope and Fiction, The Cenacle, etc. In the Garden of Long Shadows and The Nations (2014), and Where Skies Grow Wide (2015) published by Pocol Press, and Six Guns, Inc., 2015, by Nazar Look in Romania, as a surprise 87th birthday present, print copy as well as an eBook. Some reviews may be found on Serving House Journal. He has 28 Pushcart nominations, and several Best of the Net and other awards, two best of the Net selections coming from separate publishers this month.
In addition, a new collection, Sons of Guns, Inc. was released earlier this year as a surprise birthday present (print and eBook) by Nazar Look Books in Romania (which awarded him The Nazar Look Short Story Award for 2012 and 2014.) Two new collections have been proposed to publishers; Fables, Fairy Stories, Folk Lore and Fantasies and Back Home in Saugus, 90,000 words, 200 pages of fiction, CNF and poetry.
Tom is the author of Jehrico ~ Eleven Stories of a Mexican Boy Making His Way in the Old West {Hammer & Anvil Books 2016} now available exclusively on
In celebration of our upcoming 100th issue and first decade in publication, Danse Macabre is proud to name Tom Sheehan as our first Writer-in-Residence, whose fine storytelling eye, rich poetic voice, and indefatigable industry symbolize the best work found in both DM and DM du Jour. Our heartfelt thanks to Tom for sharing so much of his imagination – and heart – with the Macabrely!

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One comment

  1. Adam, and DM folk, I am honored and flabbergasted by your good will and generous treatment of all the foregoing here above and, hopefully, all that may follow.

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