Tuesday, May 20, 2014


He didn’t want to be there.
When Charlene had come home gleefully waving two free tickets to hear the sensational new virtuosa, Malcolm told her he wasn’t interested. When she’d said, nonsense, he loved concerts, he’d shrugged and said, “Not necessarily.” When she’d insisted he wear his tux, he looked so handsome in it, he’d said handsome was overrated.
But there he was, sitting Row Five, Center Front, in his tuxedo, next to his girlfriend, watching this woman fiddle the heart out of a bunch of helpless dead composers.
Charlene tried to hand him the opera glasses. “No,” he said. He could see the performer well enough without them.
She was gorgeous, Malcolm gave her that. She was like all these female soloists, thinking a low-cut dress and ample cleavage were a fine stand-in for talent. Though talent she had– if you liked an overdone, pseudo-passionate display that manipulated the emotions and bypassed the brain. She wasn’t moving him.
It was all for show. She was French. She must despise the whole audience as ignorant Americans, himself included.
Let her.
Charlene would not stop jostling him. “Oh! It’s too beautiful!” she whispered, grinning like a jack-o’-lantern. Malcolm folded his arms and stolidly ignored her.
God! How many curtain calls will the woman take?
“All right, Charlene, it’s over,” he said. “Let’s go home.”
“You’re crazy. There’s a reception for Mlle. Duchesne in the Schubert Room and I’m not leaving until I’ve met her. You’ll never forgive yourself if you don’t meet her, too.”
In the Schubert Room, he raked his eyes over the crowd. “She’s not here,” he announced. “We can leave.”
“Silly, she’s still in her dressing room. Why don’t you go to the Men’s? She’ll be here by the time you’re finished.”
Or she wouldn’t be. Fine with him.
Head down, he escaped into a side passage marked Restrooms. A woman, hurrying out of the Ladies’, cannoned into him.
“Hey! Watch where– ” he began. And stopped.
“It is you truly?”
Her look.  Her voice.  Her scent.  His whole being reeled, remembering. She offered her hand. In a dream, he took it. “That night. Why did you– ?”
“Hush. We will not speak of that. You are still composing?”
“Yes. Amelie, your performance . . . were you trying to kill me? Do you realize how hard it was to keep from– ”
She laid a finger on his lips. Her other hand remained in his.
“I could not forget you. I am yet alone,” she said. “And you: that girl you sat with. Is she anything special to you?”
Even through the door Charlene’s laugh vibrated down the hallway.
Yes, let me introduce her to you.
He opened his mouth.
by Catrin Lewis, 2014.  All rights reserved

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Carboot Sale

(Easter Sunday, 1995)

By camper, car, and caravan
they come
Creeping, slowly seeking
Along the sloping open road
Alert with eyes rolled naked
Lest they pass  The very town,
The turn, the way (it's told)
Will lead to reborn treasure, wholeness' heart,
To all they've learned this lurching life
can give.

On this desired, this dream-deferréd day--
This day of all the year, at last arrived--
They find for watchfulness a full reward
As booted angels, flinging back the lids,
Reveal old wares, seen through their eyes
as new.

While in a lonely land so long away
Three weeping wishing women seek the Dead.
With him their dreams have died, yet they would pay
With love's small coin grief’s yearning due.
But finding not, with angel-opened sight
They know the Dead Alive,
Who from his life full treasure gives
Of life and heart and eyes.

While here, numb eyes dead toys caress
And cannot find the road.  The turn, they miss.

by Catrin Lewis, 1995, revised 2014.  All rights reserved

Monday, May 12, 2014

Nothing More

What was it, Herb Tyler wondered, that told a hound to wait for Saturday evening to chow down on a gun-grease rag?

It was past 1:00 AM and he was waiting to hear from the emergency vet in Robbinsville.  If Floozy didn’t pass the scrap they’d do surgery.  Routine procedure, nothing to worry about.  They’d call and let him know.

He settled back in his recliner, rereading Zane Grey and relaxing to the pummelling of the rain on the cabin roof.


Hell!  Damn phone made him jump.  Hey, ease up!  Floozy needs an operation, I can swing the cost.   She’s a good dog.  She’s worth it.

“Herb? . . . ”

Not the vet.  Just that moocher Russ Henson.  What’d he want this time of night?  Bail?


“ . . . favor?”  Bad cell connection.  It figured.

“Listen, man, you keep– ”

“ . . . last time . . . promise.”

Yeah, right.  “OK, whaddya want?”

“I’m . . . swamp . . . pickup . . . ditch . . . your place . . . ?”

Was that all?  “Yeah, sure, man.  Come on over and dry off.  You can walk here from where you are?”

“Yeah. . . soon.  Last time.”

An hour passed.  No Russ.

Not sending a search party after him, the fool.

Hour and a half.

Maybe he’s gone clean the other way.  

Wait.  That noise.  Somebody out there, or just trash blowing across the porch floor?  Floozy could’ve told: she barked at anything on legs.  But the dog was in Robbinsville.

Herb listened, his ears straining.

What was that?  “Russ, that you?”


He clutched the door knob.  You chickenshit.  Nothing’s out there. Nothing.

Nothing?  He jerked the door open.  The soaked-through body of a middle-aged man swayed, reached blindly forward, and fell face-down on the plank floor.


He helped him to a chair, got his wet clothes off him, and wrapped him in a blanket.  “Shit,” Herb said, handing him a mug of steaming coffee, “you look nearly dead.”

“I feel d-d-dead,” said Russ, his teeth chattering against the rim.

“Why the hell’d you take the shortcut through the swamp on a night like this?”

“C-c-couldn’t see the road.  F-f-followed some bastard’s t-t-taillights.  Felt something was wr-wr-wrong but it was t-t-too late.”

Too late.  It was too late.

Hell, no, it wasn’t!  Ignorant sumbitch was sitting here safe, wasn’t he?

“F-f-frigging lights dipped down, then back up again, like the road was c-c-clear.  N-next thing I know, the water’s p-pouring into my cab.”

“Shit, man, how’d you get out?  You’d be fried if you hadn’t.”

“More like one wet gh-ghost,” said the figure in the chair.


“Sorry, gotta get this.”

It was the vet.  Floozy would be fine.

Behind him, ceramic crashed against hardwood.  He wheeled.  The receiver fell from his hand.

On the chair he saw his blanket, empty; on the floor, in a puddle of mixed rainwater and coffee, the shards of the mug.

And nothing more.

By Catrin Lewis, 2014.  All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Back Again, with a Big Decision

Or maybe not so big.

It's about my work-in-revision, Free Souls, and its serial publication on this blog.

In my last post on the subject, I considered some improvements to the novel's plotting and characterization.  Well, I implemented those.  I also rewrote Chapters 19 and 20 so they'd have more action and less introspection, more showing and less telling.

Having rewritten them, I submitted them for critique on WritingForums.org.  And the tough love I got there has brought me to a decision.  No, I'm not going to cut the nested story of my MC's past out altogether as one critiquer suggested. Too much in her present is not intelligible without it (at least, I think it's not).  And I won't rewrite the whole thing chronologically starting with her high school or college years, as another urged.  That would mean ditching the thriller plot, which is necessary for Sandy and Eric to become the people they need to be so they can love each other as they should.

The advice I will take is to cut out all or most of the introspection, and the way I'm going to do that is by rewriting the nested story to set it entirely in the past and not coming out of it till it's done.  And making a distinct break between it and the parts set in "story present."

Book 1, Book 2, Book 3 . . . rather pretentious for my piece of fluff, but I think that's the only way to make it work.

I haven't started the work on the Big Rewrite.  Instead I've skipped ahead to a working on few chapters from Eric's point of view.  I wish they were getting themselves written faster, but with me putting in twelve to fourteen hours of (minimally) paid work a day my mind isn't always at top speed even when I do get a chance to write.

All this has an impact on this blog.  Posting this novel (as previously-conceived) was a way of generating content for it, right?

But not any more.

No, as much as I've enjoyed posting the book chapter by chapter, as much as it's been an incentive to stay hard at work and produce, as much as it galls me to give in to it, no more chapters of Free Souls will appear on this blog until it's reasonably done.  With the revisions I've made in the typescript, the ones that are up already need more alteration than I have time to do.  And I can't just tack the next chapter on and pretend those revisions don't exist.  That'd  be the same as assuming no one would bother to go back and read from Chapter 1.

Once the novel is completed, God willing, I'll put the whole thing up as a pdf on a separate page on the blog.  It'll be better for the readers that way.

Meanwhile, I've been experimenting with flash fiction.  And there's always the poetry.  I should be able to come up with something for regular posts.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

To the Same Musician. Another Poem

Sur le même sujet
Sometimes, I feel drawn to you
As an arrow towards a goal
But each time I attempt my bow,
I miss
It is not that
My aim is bad
But rather, my unsaved friend,
That you do not yet

by Catrin Lewis, March 1985

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

To A Musician. A Poem

On Not Facing Reality – As Usual
What then, if I should do this foolish thing
And leap into the gulf between gray earth
And all my yet unwrit eternity,
And what if plea of yearning spanless dearth
Of music pulls me unsupported on,
Preferring dissonance, some sound absurd,
Uncertain harmonies to dull accord,
To dry-cut unisons, too often heard?
What if I brace and step into the mist
To grasp a ghost unknown outside a dream,
And wide-eyed, bring a figure vaguely-drawn
To phantom view, and paint what it would seem
Aside from any cool reality?
And feel and touch what only in my mind
Has flesh and bone and solidness of light
And take to heart a thing of unsure line?
Oh God! what then? Could I not fail to fall
Into abyss sans dream, sans light, sans sound,
And would my folly be the only line
To noose me up, a slipped and tightened crown?
Or would I, credulous, go forth to live
These imaged lines, all treachery above,
Called forth from void to firm reality
And Heaven save the mark! find you to love?

by Catrin Lewis, March 1985

Friday, April 11, 2014

Meanwhile . . .

Rewriting, rewriting Free Souls, going all the way back to Chapter 9.  Raising the stakes for my MC and strengthening her motivation to do all this dredging up of her past.   Lots of good, clean, obsessive fun.  Who knows when it will end?
Meanwhile, here’s a random old poem (wish it were a new one, but the Muse distributes her gifts as and where she will) to keep the pot boiling.
It’s called . .  .
To him I’d give the diamond stars
If I could steal them from the night
To forge a chain for his delight
To hang my pendant heart upon
And though a thousand nights were gone,
I’d swear they’d shine as virgin gold:
Through sober days a millionfold
My love as faithful would remain.
But there’s a wildness in my reins
Tonight that seeks the wind’s embrace
And as the clouds give manic chase
I’d seize the moon, to make it yours.
One lunic night to run this course
And laughing, let this milky pearl
Become our toy, the ball we hurl
As evanescent link between.
And then becalmed, I shall be seen
To forge my chain by light of noon:
With you, caprice by fleeting moon;
For him I work the durate stars.

by Catrin Lewis, February 1995; all rights reserved

Thursday, April 10, 2014

And It'll Never Bring Me a Dime

More thinking, more critique forum input, more thinking again about my problem-child chapters in my work-in-revision Free Souls.
One reason they’re weak, I’ve decided, is because they’re trying to answer the wrong question.  I’d had my main character verbalize it as “Why am I so afraid?’  That misses the mark.  The real issue for her is,
“What do I love so much about the status quo between myself and [the hero], and why am I afraid for it to change?’
That got me thinking about what her status quo is.  Ah, yes, she’s his office wife.  No sweet nothings and no actual sex, but plenty of secret thrills for her whenever they’re working literally close together.
This poses a question for me, the author:  Do the prior relationships I’ve given her logically bring her to a point where she’d settle for that and not want to see it jeopardized?
Next question:  Does she have a reasonable fear that it might be jeopardized, as the draft is currently written?
Hmmm.  Come to think of it, I don’t know.  Where did we leave her in Chapter 9?  The hero has paid her a personal compliment or two; he’s offered her a promotion and she’s grudgingly accepted it.  Maybe she’s just borrowing trouble when she fears that either of those will disturb the homeostasis she has established!
Ooooh.  Not good drama.  Not effective in holding the reader.
Let me think some more.  How to ramp up the drama?
Well . . . I could expand a couple of paragraphs in earlier chapters of the book, to make readers more aware of the happy status quo with the hero and how much she enjoys it and what’s at stake for her if it ends.  Don’t spell it out, show it.  Yeah.
And maybe I could intensify the conflict in Chapter 9, in the car where he offers her the promotion.  Leave her acceptance of it up in the air, and make it clear that if she refuses, things will not go back to the way they were.  That should increase and justify her anxiety.
That might do it.
You see what this means, don’t you?  Last November when I started serializing this old novella of mine on my WordPress blog I figured I’d slam it up, with a little tarting up here and there. I wasn’t going to publish Free Souls anywhere else.  I can't market it for publication, since it's available online gratis.  Now here am I, treating it like a real work of art.  And neglecting my “real” novel, Singing Lake Farm.  
I’m committed to this stupid book, chained, stuck, and my income tax return isn’t even done.  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

De Finibus

Why do I think of quarries
when I think of you
Why of gravel pits
Abandoned, with
Holes of gray useless pebbles
In murky pools?
Why touch I jumbles of cold
hard things
By a blank north wind?

Why do these thoughts
Come from nowhere
And lead
To Nothing?

Nothing makes his own reply
I’ll take the stones
And hurl them
Deep deep

Till all sink from sight
And I am

Cold and hard and blank
As you.

by Catrin Lewis, April 1985; all rights reserved

Monday, April 7, 2014

Some Spinning of Wheels

Logically-speaking, I should have posted Chapter 19 of my novel Free Souls by now.

But I'm not happy with Chapter 19.  Or Chapter 20.  I don't want them on this blog till I am.

So the other day I posted them for a critique on a writers' forum website.  And boy, are they getting a reaction.  Yes, I've received some general suggestions for improving the presentation.  But most of it has been on subject matter and content.  And misinterpreting the content due to the absence of the chapters immediately preceding.  And going into the responders' personal experiences with the content.


I'm spending more time untangling and responding to the responses than I am rewriting the chapters.

The responses have been helpful in showing me what's not working.  If what I'm saying is being misinterpreted, I have to convey it better.

I'll keep on it.  In the meantime, you might get some more poems.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Free Souls, Chapter 18

Sandy looked with disgust at the empty plastic container.  It was 3:00 AM one night a week or so past the middle of April and she had a project due at noon that same day.
"What is it?" asked Mike, who sat the next table over.  "You put a hole in your vellum?"
"No, I'm out of F leads.  You have any I can borrow?"
"No, I prefer HBs.  The store downstairs should be unlocked, with all the studios that have deadlines tomorrow."  He grinned.  "They trust us not to steal the place blind, I can't imagine why!"
"I guess so," Sandy said.  "Thanks."
She ran down to the basement, alone, to buy what she needed.  Her money had just clinked into the lock box on the counter when she turned and there was Jeff Chesters, of all people, standing with his hand on the knob of the now-closed door.
“Well, well, well,” he drawled, in a voice that was slightly slurred. “If it isn’t little Sandy Beichten.”
She couldn’t speak. Immediately she knew it was all wrong. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be, how he was supposed to be.
“Hi, Jeff,” she finally managed to croak out. “I, uh, came down for– I mean, congratulations on your– I have a deadline, I need to– ”
But before she could move he’d taken three strides across the little room and had pinned her against the wooden counter. “Little Sandy Beichten,” he said again. “I’ve seen how you look at me. You’re horny for me. You want me, don’t you?”
She shook her head dumbly. Not like this. Not like this!
“You’re lying,” he said, his face close to hers, his voice rasping in her ear. She could smell the weed on his breath as the stubble of his beard abraded her cheek. “You want me, and tonight I’m going to give you what you want, right here, right now!”
She was trapped, bent backwards between the hardness of his body on one side and the cruel edge of the counter on the other. She tried to push him away but he caught her wrists in a single iron grip.
“It’s no use trying to leave,” he said with a leer. “I locked the door, the key's in my pocket, and there’s nobody down here anyway.”
Even so, she tried to scream, but her voice, her limbs, every part of her was paralyzed. Her breath came in short gasps; no, of course she couldn’t breathe, he was pressing the breath out of her. Pinning her arms behind her, he shifted his weight and thrust his hand into her jeans.
It couldn’t be happening. Gone, flown into non-existence were all the romantic visions of art and love; she only knew this outrage couldn’t go on. “You like that,” he was muttering. “And that, don’t you? Your first time, isn’t it? I can tell!” His other hand was entangled in her long hair, tilting her head painfully back; he was trying to kiss her, and the marijuana smell from his arrogant, wet-lipped mouth was making her retch. She tried to turn her face away, and as she did, out of the corner of her eye she saw an open X-Acto knife lying on the store counter. Absorbed by his own performance, Jeff didn’t notice as she wrenched her right arm free, grabbed the razor-sharp blade, and plunged it with all her strength into his left biceps.
He screamed in pain and jumped away from her. “You filthy bitch!” he said, his tone low and ominous as a snake ready to strike. “Just for that, I’ll tear you. I’ll tear you bad!”
“Hey, what’s going on in there?”  A male voice, out in the corridor.  Whoever it was shook the door handle, trying the lock.
Sandy held the blood-smeared knife up where Jeff could see it. “Leave,” she said in a whisper. “Leave now, or I’ll scream. Or I’ll cut you again.”
Clutching his bleeding arm, Jeff looked at her hard, as if to decide if she really meant it. Then he called to whomever it was outside, “It’s ok, I just tripped over something in here, nothing serious. Door must’ve locked on me when I came in, sorry.”
“Chesters, is that you?” the voice said again. “We were looking for you. We’re going to make a donut run. You in for it?”
“Sure,” he responded easily. “I’m right behind you.” In the corridor, the footsteps shuffled. Thank God, whoever it was was waiting.
Sandy stood out of the line of sight of the door as he opened it and stepped into the hall. As he did, he turned on her a look of sheer hatred, then he was gone.
She was never sure how she completed her design that night. She only knew that that night and the rest of the semester she threw herself into her work, trying to blot out the memory, trying to forget.
She never told anyone what happened, not even Tracey, certainly not her friends back home. And neither, to her knowledge, did he. She had no idea how he explained the wound in his bicep and she didn’t care. A month or two later he graduated and moved to New York City or someplace she never intended to work, and now she could only wonder how many other women he’d abused in the same way in the years since then.
She should have reported it, she knew that. But back then, at eighteen, it simply wasn’t possible. She had been afraid she’d be expelled for stabbing him. And even without that, how could she let anyone guess what Jeff had taken from her? The attempted rape of her body had been appalling enough: the destruction of her dreams was more unbearable still.
by Catrin Lewis, 1983; revised 2013 & 2014.  All rights reserved

Friday, April 4, 2014

Free Souls, Chapter 17

"Sandy," her Design professor said to her one day in March shortly after Spring Break, "I'm happy to let you know that your University Chapel presentation will be displayed in the school gallery at the next change of shows."
She straightened up from her drafting table to face Professor Ruben.  "Thank you very much," she said respectfully.
"No, thank you very much," the teacher said.  "It's a privilege having you in my studio. You showed good promise when you started this semester, and you certainly have surpassed all expectations."
"Thank you," she murmured again.  "Do I need to run another set for the exhibition?"
"Yes, that would be a good idea.  The one I have in my office might be a little crumpled at the edges."  Professor Ruben smiled and said, "I hope you realize, Sandy, that only the best work in this school is displayed in the gallery. We do not select projects simply to be representative of particular studios and years.  It is very rare that a freshman presentation makes it in, so when I say your chapel design is among the best of the best, you may believe it is true."
"Thank you," she said once more, beginning to feel like a broken record.
Professor Ruben assumed a hearty tone.  "Well, your hard work is paying off.  And I hope you will understand me when I say that it reflects credit not only on you, Sandy, but also on me and on this school."
She again returned some polite nothing, and the teacher continued on his rounds among his students.  As she watched him go Sandy could barely suppress a raucous laugh.  "Reflects credit, on you, Professor Ruben?  Oh, no, all the credit belongs to a certain man whose initials are J.C. and he's upstairs with Gabriel!"
For a split second the idea was the funniest thing in the world.  Then she realized the implications and made silent, frantic confession:  "Sorry, Lord, that was bad, I shouldn't say that about Jeff, You're the only Lord, You're my only Lord, really, Lord, I'm sorry, please forgive me!"
But despite her protests of contrition her effective church continued to be the school exhibition space on the first floor, and her primary act of worship was haunting that room, hoping against hope that Jeff would come in and admire her work and accept the offering she had secretly made to his glory. 
One time he was there when she was. He was approaching the place where her chapel design was displayed, he seemed to be slowing down to look at it . . . And then Professor Ruben, curse the man! came up wanting to talk to her about something or other. He took quite a long time about it, and his bulk was between her and her spot on the gallery wall, between her and the object of her adoration. By the time he moved, Jeff was gone.  At that moment she knew what it was like to want to kill with her bare hands.
“Lord help me, what an idolater I was! I worshipped him! I even called him my Apollo . . . ” 
There was no excuse for it. Not for her. She of all people should have known better. 
“And it got worse.” 
She grew tired of weaving fantasies about married life with Jeff. They were always set in the vague future, and they were nothing since they might never come true. What it would be like to actually know him physically now, before they lost their time together here? What would she do if he were to take her in his arms some spring evening here at the school, someplace private, and overwhelm her with his love? Would she say Yes? Would he need to ask her to say Yes, or would her Yes already have been said?
By that time she looked back on her pledge of the previous spring as naive innocence. How silly they had all been! A soft nagging voice in her gut occasionally reminded her that the standards she had committed herself to hadn’t been made up by a gaggle of romanticizing schoolgirls.  The voice was easy to ignore. She hadn’t been to church since she was home for Christmas vacation, and as for reading her Bible, why did she need to do that? She knew what was in it already and with all the demands of Architecture school, she rationalized, she simply didn’t have time.
Besides, God must have meant her to meet Jeff, just as she was sure He meant her to be happy– overwhelmingly, deliriously, divinely-- happy with him.
The roof of the Architecture building, that would be the spot. Up there with the starry night spreading its mantle over them . . . “Jam nox stellata velamina pandit . . . ,” as the words of a poem she’d picked up in high school put it, and Jeff Chesters like a young Caesar taking possession of her body, her heart, her soul . . . “veni, vidi, vinci,” . . . a happy country he had conquered a long time ago.
Back then she never realized what a hypocrite she had become. “There I was, despising and condemning the Christys and Elspeths and Martinas, while in my heart I was just as bad as they were! Maybe worse, because I knew better!  Heaven help me, I was sure my beliefs were Christian as ever, just more enlightened, more mature!”
But they had suffered a revolution. By late winter of her freshman year she was convinced that love, True Committed Love (she had thought of it in all upper case), sanctified sex. Oh, of course, marriage would have to follow. Some day. But there was no hurry. The mutual declaration of true love was what made a marriage, not a public ceremony or a piece of paper. God certainly would understand, even approve. After all, wasn’t God love?
“Yes, blast me, and love was God and Jeff was Love and Jeff was god, and sorry, Jesus, seeya later!” 
She thought she truly loved Jeff Chesters, but in truth she was infatuated with the man, besotted by him, and couldn’t tell the difference. She hardly knew where she ended and her image of him began. Early that spring one of Jeff’s projects won the Senior Design Award and Sandy’s joy and pride knew no bounds. “You would have thought I’d won the damn thing myself,” she thought now. He was her Apollo, her god of the sun, her sustenance, her shield; and though she was only a very minor planet in his orbit, she was convinced the day would come when he would notice her and her work and make her his own.
The day came. Or rather, the night.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Free Souls, Chapter 16

"Oh, Jeff, Jeff!  Yes, oh, yes!  Do that again, oh, oh, yes, yes, yes!"
It was a warm night for February, and the windows in Professor Ruben's second-floor studio were open to counteract the unabated blast from the steam heating system. Sandy's table was elbow-deep in rustling yellow tracing paper as she sketched out alternatives for the current assignment, a new campus chapel. But her mind wasn’t entirely on her project. She was in the middle of an elaborate fantasy in which she and Jeff, the divine Jeff, were living together as artists and lovers as in La Boheme
It had crossed her mind that this might be fudging on the vow she’d made with her friends to maintain a pure mind as well as a pure body.  But how could it hurt?  She always imagined them as being married, so of course that made it all right. And not the consumptive Mimi role for her! No, she cast herself as a strong and equal partner, pulling her weight so together they would make the architectural world sit up and take notice.
Not for the first time she was fantasizing about their conjugal lovemaking. What Sandy lacked in physical experience she made up for from novel reading and her own imagination. As outwardly she coolly worked out the relations between the various program requirements, inwardly she was feeling all the fiery passion of their sexual relations as she dreamed they must be. What it must be like to have him kiss her, to caress her, to initiate her into all the glorious mysteries of love!
Her devotions were rudely curtailed when Tracey ran laughing into the studio. “Hey, Sandy,” she practically yelled. “Guess who I just saw just now?” The handful of other students up working raised their heads from their drawing boards in undisguised interest. They were doomed to disappointment, for Tracey dropped her voice. “Christy Mackintosh!” she whispered.
“Yes, so what?” Sandy rejoined. She didn’t appreciate being interrupted right at the climax of her imaginary lovemaking. She knew who Christy Mackintosh was, she was one of the fluffy, tight-sweater-wearing, perfectly-coifed senior girls who, like Jeff, had Professor Gabriel for their second-semester design teacher. In a just world, a girl like Christy Mackintosh would have flunked out two years before and gone into Interior Design. But somehow she always managed to do passable design and keep her studio grades high enough to continue. Oh, well, Sandy knew the world wasn’t just.
“Well,” Tracey giggled, “I just saw her heading into the women’s restroom on the first floor, and her lipstick and hair was all mussed and her sweater was on backwards and one of her socks was missing! And the seat of her jeans had dirt and mud on them! What do you think of that?
Sandy wasn’t above a juicy piece of gossip, especially when it came from a first-hand reliable witness and involved someone she didn’t like. “Verrrry interesting,” she commented, imitating Arte Johnson's German soldier on Laugh-In. “Anything else?”
“Ohhhh, yeah. After she went into the john, Fred Holloway came slinking in, looking around like he didn’t want to be seen (I was behind that column near the telephones, if you want to know), and get this! He had grass and mud on his clothes, too. The knees of his jeans were positively gross!”
“Oh, really!” Sandy raised an eyebrow. “Did you stick around for the rest?”
“Of course I did, silly,” her friend said with a grin. “Got to get all the facts. Fred went into the men’s room and in a minute came out with his jeans cleaned off, more or less, and this really smug look on his face. Then he went down towards the snack bar. Then a couple minutes later, out Christy waltzes from the women’s john all put back together, except she’d taken off the other sock, too, and up she goes back to Studio like nothing has happened whatsoever!”
“Where do you think– ?” Sandy wondered.
“Down by Dishler Lake, most likely,” Tracey theorized. “That’s where it usually goes on.”
Dishler Lake was actually a small reservoir lying not far from the Architecture building. Surrounded by groves of trees and clumps of bushes and bordered by winding footpaths, it was a popular spot for lovers.
“But I didn’t know Christy and Fred were dating,” said Sandy.
“They aren’t! That’s what makes it so funny! Haven’t you heard about the scheme some of the older girls have going? We know Christy and Elspeth and Martina can’t design their way out of a paper bag, right?”
“Well, how do you think Martina happened to get her last project pinned up in the school gallery?”
It was beginning to dawn on Sandy where this was going, “You don’t mean– !”
“Yep. Scout’s honor.” She grinned mischievously. “I have it from a very good authority, a guy I know in Gabriel’s studio, that some of the senior girls are bribing the boys with sex to get them to do their designs for them! I guess Fred helped Christy out and she was out by the lake paying up! . . . . Oh, don’t look so shocked!” Tracey chided her as she saw Sandy’s horrified reaction. “You know as well as I do that some women sleep their way to the top.”
“It’s– it’s not the sex,” Sandy sputtered. “It’s– how could Christy and Martina and all of them turn in someone else’s work and pretend it was their own?”
“Oh, you and your artistic integrity. You are such a throwback. Now me, I wouldn’t do it, because what if I get hired someday on the strength of say, David’s work” (she named one of the boys in their studio) “and David wasn’t around to help me? Now you, you’d never need to do that. Your work is good enough on its own. But isn’t it funny?”
“Yes. Very funny.” But Sandy was anxiously wondering if Jeff were involved in this scam. She hoped not. God, she hoped not.
“I don’t imagine Jeff Chesters is in on this,” pronounced Tracey, as if answering her friend’s unspoken question. “His ego is too big to let him share his work. He likes women well enough, that’s clear, but I doubt he thinks he should have to pay for one!”
Sandy was about to come to his defense when it occurred to her she didn’t know anything about his dating habits. So she merely said, “I wonder if Professor Gabriel knows?”
“Well, if he’s too stupid to notice I’m not clueing him in! Hey! I wonder who the bigger whores are, the girls or the guys?” Tracey paused. “Oh, well,” she said, “I think I’m heading home soon. What were you going to do?”
“Oh, yeah, what time is it? After 10:00? Yeah, you want to leave now? I’ll come with you. See you down at the bike rack?”
“Ten minutes? OK!”
Tracey left. As Sandy organized her table and got ready to go she thought with disgust of those senior girls. If they knew anything about design they’d be learning from Jeff and be able to pass on their own. At the very least, how could Christy settle for buying work from someone like Fred Holloway? His designs were slick and commercial and had no imagination whatsoever.
“Jeff, oh Jeff,” she breathed to him within her soul, "I honor you, I adore you, I love you; you don’t know it, but I’m the only woman in this school who really understands and appreciates you. Tracey says you have a big ego. No! It’s your integrity that wouldn’t allow you to prostitute yourself like that. And you wouldn’t prostitute anyone else! Oh, Jeff, I’m working on it! Give me time, and one day I will be worthy of you!”
by Catrin Lewis, 1983, revised 2013 & 2014.  All rights reserved

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Free Souls, Chapter 15

“Mrs. Schmidt,” Sandy addressed the secretary in the Architecture School office, “Professor Robbins says there’s a grant I can apply for and you have the forms. Could you get them for me?”
“Certainly, Sandy,” said the secretary. Sandy leaned on the counter, watching Mrs. Schmidt as she extracted the forms from a filing cabinet. It was a sunny day in November, and the light streamed through the tall narrow office windows and reflected rectangles like illustrations from a geometry book on the white-painted wall of the waiting area.
Just then another student erupted into the office and rapidly approached the counter. His face and hair intercepted the light from one of the windows and were thrown into high relief, like a figure in a Baroque painting. It was Jeff Chesters, and she had to suppress a gasp of delighted wonder.
“Mrs. Schmidt!” he called out to the secretary. “Can I get an appointment with Dr. Forsythe?”
“Of course you can, Jeff. Just wait till I get this paperwork for Sandy here.”
As if noticing for the first time there was a third person present, he turned in her direction. For a moment their eyes met, but his held no acknowledgment or recognition. His glance was neutral, accepting her merely as part of the environment, like a chair or a potted plant.
“Whew!” she sighed with hidden relief. She was glad simply to drop her eyes and be absolved even from daring to say Hello. What could she possibly say to him without making a fool of herself? She satisfied herself with wondering what his business with the principal might be. It must be important, she was sure. Jeff Chesters and Dr. Forsythe: she could see them consulting nearly as equals.
Mrs. Schmidt brought her the grant forms. “Here you go, Sandy. Be sure this section is completely filled out, and this one, and here’s where you sign. If you have any questions, just come in and ask me.”
“Yes, Mrs. Schmidt. Thank you.”
“Now, Jeff,” she turned to the young man, “you were needing to see Dr. Forsythe?”
“That’s right. I need– ”
Sandy wished with all her heart she could hang around until she learned what it was about. But she had no excuse.  Still, she left rejoicing in having shared the same small space with him even for two minutes.
Better still were those occasions when she happened to come into the student store in the basement when Jeff was there. In the store there was a backless bookcase set up as a kind of display shelf at right angles to the counter. She could duck around behind it and see him without him seeing her, and bathe in the aura of his nascent greatness as it seemed to fill the little room. Nevertheless, she always maintained the presence of mind to observe what brand of triangle and what weight of leads he preferred. Then, when some other student volunteer was on duty, she could come back and buy the same.
Best of all was when she could watch him sitting reading in the school library. She would carefully look to see what architecture books he was perusing, and if they weren’t senior year texts she’d wait for them to be returned, and read them herself. And to think that his capable hands had touched them, and his artist's eyes had gazed upon these very words . . . the idea was almost too wonderful to bear.
And if she couldn’t see him in the flesh, she could study his beautiful drawings. Almost always he had some project posted in the school gallery. Sandy certainly would not copy his designs, even if the freshmen and the seniors had been assigned the same projects. That would be plagiarism, and dishonorable. But she could emulate his style of printing, the way he drew his North arrow (with a little alteration of her own, so it wouldn’t be obvious), the firm, confident ground line under his elevations, the way he arranged the various smaller drawings on the larger sheet.
As the weeks passed and she learned more, she could also recognize and learn from the way he paid homage to the great Modern architects like Wright and Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe, discreetly following their lead in his plans but at the same time making the design his own. “I can do that,” Sandy thought to herself. And she sketched and studied and persisted, and in time her own individual work also gave honor to Wright, Le Corbusier, Mies– and Chesters.
“But there, too,” Sandy thought now, “I was getting off base. I came up intending to design for the greater glory of Jesus Christ, but halfway though my first year I was focussing on how my work would glorify some guy I met in school!”
But for Sandy in her nineteenth year Jeff Chesters was not just “some guy.” The second semester brought a happy change in her studio arrangements. She managed to get in the class taught by Professor Ruben, whose studio was on the second floor. Of course she had picked his section because he was the best architect who taught freshmen; the fact that being in his class put her closer to the staircase most of the seniors used was just a bonus.
By the time she returned from Christmas break she had gotten over the silly notion that it was wrong for her to admire Jeff's body as much as she did his work. But of course it wasn’t just his body, it was also his mind, his soul, everything about him she admired– and thought she loved.
True, Sandy had never actually had a conversation with him. She was never invited to the parties where Jeff was likely to be. He had an apartment with some other guys while she lived in the dorm, so she never saw him outside the walls of the school. “But I thought his drawings spoke for him. I was sure anyone who designed that beautifully must have a beautiful heart as well.”
Was he a Christian? Of course, he had to be. Obviously he wasn’t Jewish or Moslem. And if he were an atheist, she was sure she would have heard something about it. People like that (she drew on her limited experience) tended to be very outspoken, especially on a college campus.
So since he had to be a Christian, it was all right to think of him . . . to think of the two of them, he and she . . . together . . . someday . . . wedded in a true partnership of architectural design and Christian love. At the moment she was sure he didn’t know she was alive. But the time would come, if not now, then later, once they both graduated and were out working, when he would discover her and love her deeply for the excellence of her design and the beauty of her soul.
For awhile that hope was enough to make her content.
But not for long.
by Catrin Lewis, 1982, revised 2013 & 2014.  All rights reserved

Monday, March 31, 2014

Free Souls, Chapter 14

"Hey, Sandy, over here!"  Tracey's voice cut even through the hubbub of the entire Architecture school student body assembling in the School Commons.  "Hey, Sandy, I've saved us some seats!"
Sandy met her eye and had to admit defeat.  She hadn't been planning on sitting with her friend for this Thursday's weekly all-school lecture; at least, she wasn't planning on sitting where Tracey had established herself, in the upper middle and towards the center of the semi-circular, raked hall.  
These events were one of the few times she knew she could get a good and sustained view of Jeff Chesters.  He usually sat down towards the front on the right hand side with some of his male friends from Sutpen's studio, so the left hand side about ten rows up, that was the best place to gaze at him and contemplate the beauty of his genius and the genius of his beauty.  From there she could see and delicately drink in most of his Grecian profile while ostensibly having her eyes on the speaker at the podium.  Up where Tracey wanted to sit today, all she would be able to see would be the back of Jeff's shining head, if that.
But unless she wanted to be the subject of Tracey's good-natured but ribald humor, she had to join her there.  Two weeks before they had sat together in Sandy's favorite spot, and just as the students were quieting down for the principal to introduce the speaker, Tracey had followed Sandy's eye to the object of her admiration. "Oh, there's your Apollo!" she had exclaimed, loud enough for the entire section to hear. Then followed it up with a wolf whistle. Sandy could have died of shame. Thank God "Apollo" had a perfectly innocent art history connotation and no one around her seemed to connect it with Jeff. But it had been a close call.
Well, thought Sandy with resignation, there was no danger of that happening where Tracey wanted to sit today.  She trudged up the aisle steps and excused herself through the row till she gained the seat the other girl had saved.  
Settling into it, she found that she was wrong.  "Thank you, Jesus!" By moving her neck just a little to the left and sitting up very straight, she could direct her gaze without obstacle between the ranks of student shoulders and heads until they rested on her inspiration.  True, it was only the fall of his tawny curls and a sliver of his sun-bronzed cheek she could see, but it was something.  Tracey was paying no attention at all to what Sandy was up to; if anything she was seeking out boys she thought were cute so she could point them out to her friend.
The speaker, one of the principals of the famous firm of Richardson & Greene in Wapatomekie, was a little late.  As they all waited Sandy rested her eyes on that hair and that cheek and thought with awe what a beautiful mind lay under it.  All the ideas that were emerging from it at such a young age!  She thanked God, not for the first time, that Jeff had pulled a high draft number and so escaped being called to go to Viet Nam.  What a tragic waste it would be if he were to go there and be maimed or killed!  What a contribution to the architecture of the world would be lost even if he were to come home safely!  For she couldn't imagine anyone being exposed to the horrors of that terrible war and returning with his artistic vision intact.
Suddenly, even as the thought was in her mind, Jeff turned and looked straight up the lecture hall, right at her.
She felt her face flame red.  But had he, really?  No, it wasn't possible.  Not at her.  Surely he could not have felt her eyes on him and turned around to see who it was.  Surely, he was looking for someone else, someone in some row above her.  
In her alarm and confusion Sandy wasn't going to sit still to find out.  She bent her head down, pretending to find something in her notebook, and tried to breathe till the warmth in her cheeks could subside.  Then resolutely turning to her friend she said, "Hey, Tracey, isn't it great that Stanford Richardson is going to be speaking to us this afternoon?"  Just now she was glad Tracey was with her, breathlessly glad!
Sandy's tone was over-bright but if Tracey noticed she wasn't saying so.  "Sure," she replied.  "I hope he talks about the new Federal Street Building.  I hear the site was almost impossible!"
"I heard that, too!" she replied with a shade too much enthusiasm.  And she kept her friend in conversation until a general shushing went around the room signalling that the great man had arrived.

She was safe.  Down towards the front on the right hand side of the Commons Jeff was again facing forward, his eyes harmlessly on the speaker.  Had his looking her way been on purpose, or mere coincidence?  Surely the latter.  But she was more careful after that.  No one must catch her staring at him in All-School Lecture or anywhere else.  It might be misconstrued.
And she must not be misconstrued.  What she loved about him was his intellect and his ability.  His exterior was merely a worthy vehicle for his brilliance.  To regard him as an attractive man or to assess him specifically as a male creature seemed . . . disgusting somehow.   And it would be a breaking of her vow as a Knight of the Single Eye.  How could she demean him so? She wouldn't!
But that didn't stop her from wanting to be where he was. Or from being absurdly thankful to gaze on him every chance she could.
Catrin Lewis, 1983; revised 2013 & 2014.  All rights reserved

Free Souls, Chapter 13

An afternoon towards the middle of her first semester, hardly five months later.  In the large lofty space just off the entry hall of the School of Architecture building, Sandy stood gazing with particular absorption at a set of drawings signed with the initials “J.C.”  
Clear north light beamed through the windows in the clerestory high overhead, indirectly illuminating the displays of 24 x 36 inch whiteprint drawings tacked to the acoustical carpet-covered walls. The room had been specially designed as an exhibition hall and periodically hosted shows of the work of famous architects and designers. Ordinarily, it featured student projects, the best work from the various studios.
There was a movement at her side.  She turned and saw she’d been joined by her best friend Tracey.
“Whose are those?” asked Tracey carelessly, pointing to the plans with her T-square.
“‘Those,’ as you so casually put it, are Jeff Chesters’ plans for the Main Street office building assignment.” It gave her a thrill to be able to say his name, to be allowed to take it on her lips.
“Oh,” said Tracey, unenlightened. “Who’s Jeff Chesters?”
“You don’t know who Jeff Chesters is?” She was astounded.
“No. Who is he?”
“Only the best designer in the whole school!”
“OK, and? Give me some help here!”
Sandy felt a sudden reluctance to impart more than the most superficial of information. To say too much would be a profanation. “He’s a senior, and he’s in Professor Sutpen’s AM studio.”
“Oh, good grief, Sandy, stop playing coy. You’d think you liked him or something. What the hell does he look like? Would I know him if I saw him in the hall?”
“Oh, all right. He’s about six foot tall, he's got curly reddish-brown hair that he wears about shoulder-length [“a luxurious mane of chestnut curls,” Sandy was translating to herself], and blue eyes, a high forehead and a straight nose [“Like a Grecian statue. Perfect”].  Remember that statue of Apollo we saw in Architecture History?  Kind of like that.”
“Oh!” Tracey said. “So that’s Jeff Chesters! I thought his name was Jesse or Jason or something. I’ve been so busy drooling over him the last six weeks I never bothered to find out his real name. God, no wonder you’re all starry-eyed. I think every woman in the school has a crush on him, including Professor Baxter. Rotten for us freshmen, isn’t it, stuck over there in the West Annex and the seniors getting the cushy studios on the top floor. We hardly ever see them.”
Sandy deliberately mounted her high horse. “Well, I care about more than a man’s physical appearance. We women don’t like it when they objectify us and we shouldn’t do it to them. I look at a guy’s mind and his skill!”
The other young woman snorted.
“Tracey,” Sandy persisted, “just look at these drawings. Now I’m only a freshman and not that experienced. But don’t these look like a professional did them?”
Tracey was heard to mutter something that sounded suspiciously like “maybe one did” but Sandy chose to ignore it. She went on. “Now look at the way the space flows in this plan!”
“Space doesn’t flow,” Tracey objected. “Professor Robbins says so. You define it, it doesn’t flow.”
“Oh, all right! Picky, picky! Look at how he’s defined the space between the main entry and the elevator lobby!”
Tracey leaned closer. “Yeah, looks like it’d work all right.”
“'Work'! It would do more than work, it would be gracious, uplifting, inspiring!” Just like its designer, Sandy was sure.
“OK, if you say so,” Tracy said dubiously. “So what else?”
“The South Elevation, the one on the Main Street side. Just look at his South Elevation! Isn’t it exquisite?”
Tracey peered in, assumed a very knowing look, and said, “Oh, yeah, I agree that Jeff Chesters’ south elevation is exquisite. I do admire a tight ass on a man.”
Sandy tried again. “No, Tracey, be serious. We can learn from him. The mezzanine level for instance. Look what Jeff has done with the interpenetration of space!”
Her friend could not resist. “‘Interpenetration of space’? I wish he’d interpenetrate my space sometime!”
Sandy nearly exploded. “Good grief, Tracey, I wish you wouldn’t be so vulgar!
Tracey affected mock innocence and shrugged. “Guess I didn’t come up with your cultcha. I’m a hillbilly from the sticks, remember? Vulguh’s mah middle nay-um,” she drawled.
Resuming her normal voice, she asked, “You coming back to Studio before heading back to the dorm?”
“In a little while. I still want– ”
“I’ll leave you to your meditations. Seeya later!”
Tracey took herself off, presumably to the West Annex, but Sandy remained before Jeff Chesters’ drawings, now distracted a little by what Tracey had said. It was true: most of the girls were more or less in love with him. And the guys? Some envied him, some wanted to be him, and for some it was a little of both. She, however, honored and appreciated him. Such beautiful work! If only she could design like that someday!
She wasn’t sure why she kept Tracey for a friend. The girl seemed to have sex on the brain. Now she would never dare to think of Jeff Chesters in that salacious way. It would be sacrilege to make him into a sex object, “lust in the heart,” as the Gospel said.
But Sandy had not noticed that, already, her concern was no longer that she not sin against Jesus Christ, but that she not sully the idea of a certain very talented senior in Professor Sutpen’s AM studio.