I CELEBRATE myself;
And what I assume you shall assume;
For every atom belonging to me, as good belongs to you.
(May 31, 1819 - March 26, 1892)
I CELEBRATE myself;
And what I assume you shall assume;
For every atom belonging to me, as good belongs to you.
One of the reasons I started blogging last year was fear.
Fear of the blank page.
Okay so maybe “fear” is a bit strong but as a writer there is sometimes nothing more daunting than the blank page (or nowadays perhaps it’s more appropriate to talk about the blank screen…I used to have to start any writing longhand on legal pads and then, after having written a couple of pages, I would type it into my word processing program and continue on from there; I very rarely do that these days because my typing is faster than my scrawled printing and I’m used to writing here now.)
This blog…and my other one, Neverending Rainbow…serve the task of getting me past the blank page by giving me forums where I have to meet a self-imposed goal of producing new writing on a semi-regular basis. And, thus far, it has worked.
Working on writing exercises both short and, especially, long (like “Joshua and Rosa”, my stab at a romance story which was recently serialized in the space) have not only met that goal but, as I hoped, jumpstarted my other writing.
I have, for example, recently returned to working again in earnest on my third novel. It will be my third novel completed but the first one that I actually begun (more years ago than I care to count.)
It been started several times over the years…there is a drawer full of notes and drafts in my bedroom…and stopped just as often. It is…will be…some of the most personal writing of my life…a semi-autobiographical (emphasis on the “semi”…it’s not my life, just a life that holds a number of remarkable similarities) story of a quiet boy, his family, and his best friend with a special emphasis on the relationships between fathers and sons. It never felt like the right time to finish it...until now. Two chapters in and it’s flowing nicely in all of its bittersweet, “any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it)” glory.
Sometimes being a writer is such a rush :-)
A thick shroud of grief hung over the house for months and then Rosa, realizing that she was neglecting her duties as a wife and a mother, called upon her reserves of energy and came back to her family.
Joshua’s doubts also lingered and it made him skittish about being intimate with
One late night when the house was still…and the children and Mrs. Lopez were sound asleep in their rooms…Joshua and Rosa, both unable to sleep, found the words to talk about their fears. They talked softly, their bodies nuzzling slowly close together, and when they were done talking they kissed…passionately instead of perfunctorily as they had for so many months…and then, shy as newlyweds, they made love.
Some months later,
The town continued to grow and thrive as more people from the East found their way there and decided to stay instead of going further west. As a result, Joshua’s business also continued to grow until he was one of the most successful businessmen in the county. The pace, however, began to wear on him as he spent more and more time away from home trying to keep up with the jobs coming into the shop.
Though their days were long, Joshua and Rosa were happy because they had their home, they had their healthy, happy children, and they had each other. It was, all things considered, a good life.
* * * * *
Joshua wandered back onto the porch to smoke. His belly was full of
Joshua stroked his wife’s hair. “Very beautiful,” he said. He paused and set his pipe down on the edge of the porch. “You know…sometimes I get so tired that I don’t take time to appreciate all that I have.” He swallowed hard and took a deep breath. “I love you, wife,” he said, somewhat self-consciously, “I hope you always believe that.”
Joshua frowned quizzically and then he smiled broadly. “Well, hopefully it will be a boy this time…John and Ethan and me are a little bit outnumbered right now…”
Joshua finished his pipe and emptied the ashes on the ground. Carefully, he lifted Rosa, who had fallen into a peaceful sleep, and carried her into the house and on to their bed.
- for Jennifer -
Despite the seeming rapprochement, the tension between them lingered for weeks. Joshua alternated between being contrite…he knew that he had betrayed Rosa…and being annoyed…he was a man and she was his wife and that’s all that should have mattered. But he held his tongue and kept his patience…even to the point of not forcing the issue when she would shy away from his touch in their bed at night…hoping and praying that
Even the children were out of sorts still not sure what to make of Emma’s sudden disappearance from their lives.
One rainy night, Joshua reached for his wife fully expecting to be rebuffed again but astonished to find her receptive to his touch. He kissed her and she responded in kind…he touched her and she shuddered in response. He joined with her and she gave silent thanks to God for the fact that her love and passion for him remained so powerful despite his betrayal of their vows.
Joshua and Rosa slowly but surely repaired their bond, allowing Emma’s memory to fade…almost but not completely…into the shadows as he worked hard at his business and she worked hard raising their children and keeping their house. After some weeks of heated discussion,
Rosa and Joshua were both enormously relieved and pleased a couple of months after Mary’s first birthday as
Joshua, dealing with heartache of his own over their lost child, stayed as strong as he could…working hard while giving
The tension continued for a few days until
Joshua’s first impulse was to lie and say that nothing was wrong but, wracked by guilt and needing to unburden himself, he found he could not. He sat on the edge of their bed and looked down at the floor as, softly and haltingly, he confessed his intimate encounter with Emma.
Joshua pulled on his shirt and slipped out of the room. Emma, who had understood the gist of the exchange from her room next door, was already packing when Joshua knocked at her door. There were tears streaming down her face as well. Joshua stood silently, his shoulders stooped, in the doorway as Emma gathered her belongings. Joshua carried her bags outside while Emma slipped in to kiss the cheeks of the sleeping children before dashing out of the house.
After hitching one of the horses to the wagon, Joshua helped Emma up. They drove into town not speaking to each other at all.
Joshua got Emma a room at the hotel near his shop and then he went to the saloon to have a drink. When the saloon closed up for the night, Joshua briefly considered going home but that didn’t seem like a good idea. Fleetingly, he considered going to Emma’s hotel room, but he dismissed that as being a very bad idea as well. Sighing deeply, Joshua trudged over to his shop and curled up in a corner of the stable area to sleep alone.
In the morning, Joshua went to his bank and withdrew a sum and then he went to check the stagecoach schedule. Afterwards he went to the hotel. Emma, who hadn’t slept much for crying, let him in to her room and pleaded for a chance to go back and make things right with
Joshua gave her money and the coach ticket he had bought. He told her she should either go find her husband or go back East and start her life over back there.
Emma stroked his face and told him that she was sorry. Joshua shook off her apology offering one of his own in its stead…he was a man and he was supposed to be strong and true to his vows. They hugged…tentatively but with lingering echoes of desire…and he kissed her cheek…as gallantly and chastely as he could. They spoke no more until they were downstairs in the dining room having breakfast.
After breakfast, Joshua saw her to the morning coach and stood watching as it pulled out taking Emma east…back home where she knew that she belonged.
After working for a while in his shop, Joshua went back to his wagon and spurred the horse on towards his home…where he knew that he belonged.
Joshua stood in front of his wife waiting for her to acknowledge him and when
One overcast day,
Emma took lunch out to Joshua who was working without his shirt as he swung the great hammer onto molten iron. Emma lingered in the doorway of the barn much as
Joshua, taking a moment to mop his brow with the handkerchief he kept in his back pocket, glanced and noticed his audience. His first impulse was to reach for his shirt, which he had thrown onto the handle of a nearby plow but he stayed that. He watched silently as Emma crossed the space between them carrying the tray with his lunch on it. He took note once more of her smooth, fair skin and her golden hair and he felt himself rising to arousal.
Emma placed the tray down near the forge and walked closer to Joshua. Neither of them could find any words. They stood a foot or so separate their eyes boring into each other’s. Then Joshua reached out with his great, calloused hand and stroked Emma’s cheek. Emma sighed softly and tentatively reached out to stroke the sweat-glistened dark hair on Joshua’s chest.
Joshua took a deep breath and then pulled the girl to him, kissing her lips hungrily. Emma, so long without the touch of a man, surged into his arms, her dress and apron growing damp with his sweat. Joshua lifted her up into his arms and carried her over to a far corner of the barn where bales of hay for the horses were stored. He sat her on one of the bales and shoved her dress and petticoat up revealing her alabaster thighs while she clung to his neck anxiously.
Joshua all but ripped her underwear down and then furiously undid his own dungarees. He paused for a moment, guilt stabbing him like a sword, but an encouraging kiss from Emma was enough for him to go forth. Emma cried out as Joshua surged into her and they rutted together, her legs tight around his hips, for a long inarticulate time until Joshua growled his orgasm deep into the girl.
Emma clung to Joshua, standing there with his trousers around his ankles and his manhood still inside her, and he held her tight. They said nothing, sharing humid kisses until they disengaged from each other. Emma pulled up her now-tattered underwear and slid off the bale. She looked up at Joshua but found that he could not meet her gaze now. Emma leaned forward and planted a tender kiss on Joshua’s chest and then she scrambled past him and dashed out of the barn and into the house. She quickly changed clothes, taking special care to dispose of her ripped underwear in the fireplace.
When Rosa and John returned, Joshua was still out in the barn working. Emma, having changed into a different dress and apron, was changing Mary’s diaper.
The mood was odd and tense at supper…both Joshua and Emma saying little…and Rosa’s began to wonder exactly what had happened.
Joshua, for his part, was consumed by guilt…guilt over having betrayed his wife and, perhaps even worse, guilt over the fact that he still found himself mightily attracted to Emma. Unsure of what he needed to do, he withdrew from both of them…keeping them at arm’s distance with stony silence.
For some reason,
Joshua paced nervously on the porch while the doctor and the midwife helped
The baby…a plump girl with eyes and hair both as dark as her mother’s…finally quit
Joshua heard the cry too and felt relief wash over him. He waited anxiously to be allowed egress into the bedroom and rushed in once the midwife opened the door. Rosa, who was obviously tired but beaming just the same, introduced him to his daughter and Joshua felt his heart melt into a warm puddle.
Mary…named for her maternal grandmother…turned out to be an active, happy baby with bright, inquisitive eyes and an engaging smile. Mary quickly charmed the men in her life…Joshua and John…though Joshua refused opportunities to hold her for fear of hurting the child.
Mary’s birth left
Joshua stayed close to home, working in the forge in the barn, for the next couple of weeks. He regarded his wife warily, feeling helpless and unable to do anything to make things better. Joshua was enormously grateful for Emma’s presence in his home as he would have not the first clue about taking care of two children and an ailing wife.
Emma’s duties expanded to include most of the cooking as well as taking care of
Joshua cautiously ventured the opinion that they should keep Emma on even though
Emma kept her own counsel…rarely smiling but seemingly pleased to be somewhere she was needed and wanted.
Joshua was extremely solicitous to
As the weeks went on, Joshua found that his eyes lingered on Emma’s lithe body and golden hair longer than he, as a married man, should have.
In the seventh month of
John’s youthful system beat back the fever in a few days and he was back on his feet. Joshua, much to his chagrin, was bedridden for more than a week, occasionally getting so delirious that
But Joshua did not die. As his strength began to return he tried to get back to work but
It was only when Joshua was back up on his feet and John was well past the fever that Rosa herself finally surrendered to fatigue. Joshua carried her to bed and sent for the midwife to make sure his wife and unborn child were okay.
Emma was all of 20, fair and blonde with haunted, sad eyes. She was pleasant enough but she was weighed down by so much disappointment and betrayal that she rarely smiled. Since her husband had run off to the mountains of
Once she was back on her feet,
In truth as she grew closer to her due date,
Joshua for his part was glad to be able to take some of the burden off his wife’s back. The girl Emma seemed to be one of the saddest creatures he had ever met…of course being abandoned by your husband might do that, he reckoned…but she was a hard worker and that pleased him. She was also, he couldn’t help but notice in idle moments, easy on the eye as well, the kind of girl he’d imagined himself marrying before he fell in love with his precious
The last night of their stay was a rainy one. Their tent was proof against the downfall, Joshua had made sure that it would be, but
The farewells the next day were lingering and tearful.
Joshua looked at his wife from the corner of his eye wondering if she was regretting leaving her hometown.
Save for a broken wagon wheel that took Joshua a half-day to repair, the trip north was also fairly uneventful. Joshua was happy to be out of
Joshua and Rosa settled back into the comfortable pattern of their lives. The news…first intuited by Rosa and then confirmed during one of the doctor’s stops in town…that Rosa was with child again only added to their joy.
Joshua was more relaxed during the second pregnancy…at least to a degree. He continued to work as hard as always and tried to hover around
The old man…Juan, Rosa’s father…recognized his daughter, regarding her with a mixture of wonder and apprehension, as though she was a ghost returned to mortal form (for in truth he half-expected never to see Rosa alive again) and then looked behind himself and spoke a few words.
An old woman…slightly stooped from years of giving birth and tending children and working sunup to sunset…stepped out onto the porch, her tired eyes bright with excitement. The old woman…Maria,
Joshua sat at the reins of the wagon for a few moments, feeling conspicuous and alien as
Rosa, who was already turning at the sound of her child, accepted the basket from Joshua and explained to her family that the white man was her husband and that John was their firstborn child.
A couple of Rosa’s brothers helped Joshua tie up the horses while Maria, who had scooped up the bewildered but accommodating child from Rosa’s arms, and her daughters cooed at John.
As Joshua walked close,
Joshua couldn’t shake feeling alien during the next week even though his acceptance in the small town was all but universal (a few of
It took the better part of two weeks to make arrangements for the upkeep of the house and the business that suited Joshua. But once these things were in place, the family set out in a covered wagon bought for the journey from a farmer up the road who had used it to bring his family from
Joshua noticed her concern and told her that the journey they were undertaking was at least a little bit risky and he was not going to have his family unprotected. Having made the journey north,
The three of them took to the road on a quiet morning, two sturdy horses pulling the wagon as they headed south towards
When night fell they camped in a clearing underneath a torrent of blazing stars.
The journey to
The appearance of a white man in town was not something that would go unnoticed and a curious…but not especially hostile…murmur followed them as they made their way through town towards the houses that lay on its outskirts. Some people recognized
Rosa felt her throat tighten a bit as they navigated the earthen road that led up to her family’s hard scrabble homestead, a house that now seemed impossibly small for the number of people who lived their at one time or another. Rosa felt her heart well up when an old man…slightly stooped from years of working in the fields to support his seemingly ever-growing family…came out onto the porch to see who the visitors were.
With their family settling in together nicely,
Joshua, for his part, did feel somewhat conflicted.
Joshua came to something of a turning point in his relationship to his John one hot afternoon. He’d been working in the barn and he came in to the house to get a drink.
Joshua took a deep breath and went to the bassinet. The baby was wet that much he could see right away. Joshua had watched the boy being changed a few times but he had never done it himself. John, for his part, quieted when he saw his father and waited. Joshua very gingerly picked up the boy and put him on the changing table that he had built for
When Joshua was done, John’s diaper was a little askew but it was on securely. Joshua lifted the boy, who was still looking at his father with bright, patient eyes, and put him back into the bassinet. Joshua looked over at Rosa who nodded and smiled knowing that any reaction greater than that would only make the man even more self-conscious than he already was. Joshua mumbled something and left to return to the barn. Once outside, he allowed himself a smile of pride and accomplishment.
John grew strong though he continued to befuddle his parents with his even, thoughtful disposition that rarely broke for tears or smiles. When the boy was six weeks old, Joshua announced that they were going to go visit
The only doctor in town was also the only doctor in the next two closest towns and so on the day Rosa’s water broke he was miles away. A woman from down the road…the wife of a farmer…doubled as the town’s midwife and Joshua road out to get her while a couple of neighbor women stayed with
Her experience with helping deliver babies hadn’t really prepared
Joshua had resisted Rosa’s suggestion that the boy be named after him…every man should have his very own name, he argued…and he flatly dismissed her casual suggestion that the boy bear the name of Joshua’s father. In the end they settled on John, a solid Christian name that also just happened to be the American version of
After the midwife and the other women had cleaned up Rosa and little John, Joshua had been allowed into the bedroom. Joshua just stood at the foot of the bed beaming at Rosa and his newborn son. At first he refused
John’s skin was almost as tan as Joshua’s and his hair dark as
In the days that followed, the household slowly adjusted to a new equilibrium. Joshua continued to work mostly at home despite the fact that
Joshua regarded John with wonder and pride but he continued to hover away from the boy as much as possible. Joshua would get close to the baby’s crib every once in a while but he never ventured to pick up the child. He never changed the boy’s diaper and he usually absented himself when
On Sundays, they went to Preacher Brown’s church and listened to the old man’s fiery sermons with a small portion of the town’s populace (many more women than men.) Joshua wasn’t much for religion…he believed in God but that was about as far as it went. He didn’t really see much use in wasting a perfectly good day like Sunday, a day that could be put to better use getting some work done…but he went because
On every other Tuesday, Joshua and Rosa took the wagon into town to get supplies. Joshua would invariably slip off to make sure things were going okay in the shop while
More often than not, Joshua would roll up his sleeves once he got to his shop and get personally involved in one project or another. Rosa, who very quickly recognized the pattern, would finish the shopping and, after the storekeeper’s assistant had loaded up the wagon, she would drive the wagon to Joshua’s shop and wait outside, patiently knitting or exchanging small talk with ladies who happened by.
At some point…often hours later…Joshua would emerge from the great doors of the shop looking both satisfied and chagrined. He would wipe the sweat from his brow, perhaps give a last order to one of the hands, and then climb up on the wagon and spur the horses back towards their home.
On some warm nights, Joshua and Rosa sat on their porch steps looking up into the starry sky. Joshua would smoke his pipe, its fragrant smoke dancing slow circles in the still night air, and talk about the dreams he’d had when he was a boy…talk about life in the east…sometimes, in shaded tones, talk about his mother.
Rosa was usually very accommodating to Joshua’s moods…a man had the right to be as he wanted in his home, after all…even when her pregnancy started playing havoc with her own emotions. One night though she was out of sorts and his sullen mood irked to the point that she made a barbed comment about it.
Joshua’s hand had come around so fast that it startled both of them. Joshua had sworn to himself that he would never treat Rosa the way he had seen his father treat his mother…he had sworn to himself that he would never raise a hand to his woman...and yet in that terrible moment he had done just that. As
Joshua had wanted to pick her up…to just reach out for her…but he could not make his body move at first. And then he found his ability to move and he bent down to help his wife up.
Joshua started to apologize but
They never spoke of the incident again. And Joshua never raised his hand to his wife again…he had promised to love, honor, and protect
Joshua turned a large portion of his barn into a workshop where he could work on some his customers’ equipment while not being far away from his wife.
Rosa kept telling him not to fret…reminded him that women had babies every day…but she was in fact very pleased that Joshua was worried about her and about their child.