Posted by: ted & linda pampeyan | December 7, 2018

Uncharted: a story Chapter 8

UNCHARTED Cover.png

The last chapter installment.

Thanks for reading along. Hope you enjoy the complete story. On sale now on Amazon.

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07L3887NR

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1731090048

 

Uncharted ©2018 by T&L Pampeyan

Chapter Eight

Don’t even pretend you’re asleep! We’re going to talk. Right now!”

The voice pierced through the nightmare, sounding like someone Bryan Cord didn’t want to know.

But he wasn’t dreaming, and the clamor only got louder. And it was still very dark. Shaking his head to clear out the ruins of a thick sleep, he placed the voice’s source somewhere near the galley, too close to him. Even in his half-stupor, he was amazed that the woman’s blast of verbal assault had gained such penetrating attributes.

“B?” he croaked. Three beers and two bags of dry popcorn four hours earlier had clogged his throat. “What’re you…?” His hands fumbled around the pillows for his cell phone and couldn’t find it. “What time’s it?” He spied the digital clock on the opposite bulkhead: 5:27.

“I don’t evencare what time it is, or who’s with you. Get out of that bed!” She placed heavy emphasis on evenwhen her anger reached the upper register.

“What are you talking about? There’s nobody here.” He snapped on an overhead light. “See for yourself. Just me. And now you.” Then muttering, “I don’t eventhink I’m here. Great, now I’m saying it. This has got to be a nightmare.” Forgetting the cell, he searched among the duvet folds for his sweatpants.

“You’re trying to find humor? You know that won’t happen.” Her voice rose a full octave in only two sentences. Not since a Navy air show had he felt such aural distress.

“Keep it down. You’ll wake the old folks next door.”

“I don’t evencare who’s listening or how much they hear.” Her statements were punctuated rather efficiently by expletives.

Cord stumbled his way into the salon, still pulling on his sweats.

Brooke peered past him. “Where is she!”

He looked at her as if she had burned a circuit. “She who? What are you doing here?”

“You know who. Your bimbo at work.” Another expletive, and still screaming.

“Huh? Bimbo? You mean Meredith? Why would she be here? And she’s no bimbo. What’s with you, Brooke?”

She strode past him and scanned the stateroom. Seeing nothing more than the empties and some popcorn kernels on the floor she walked back out. Without a word she stared at him hard.

They stood facing each other until he raised his eyebrows in confusion and sighed deeply. “You want to sit down?”

“I’ll stand.”

“Okay, stand. At least you’ve stopped screaming.”

“I’ve what?”

“Brooke, you’re…” He didn’t finish the sentence. “You want something hot to drink?” He stepped toward the galley to start the stove. The propane burner popped to life.

Still glaring at him, she sat down at the far edge of the settee. “Black tea.”

“You like herbal.”

“I said black.”

The kettle was slower than the microwave, but the water stayed hot longer. While it warmed over the hiss of the burner, Cord opened a galley cupboard and pulled out a small basket of assorted tea bags. He picked two Darjeeling blacks and dropped one each in the mugs perpetually set on the black granite countertop. He couldn’t find anything else to busy himself under her glower, so rather than pace the small floor area or fidget with nonessentials, he planted his feet with the counter between himself and the woman he’d once loved but now figured might be deranged. He noticed she was rubbing her bruised right hand and didn’t want to know more.

“So…” he spoke tentatively, his shoulders scrunched, hands in his pockets. He had trouble bringing his eyes to meet hers, so piercing and fiery blue even under the cabin’s muted lighting.

Brooke read the tells of his discomfort and rendered them as evidence of guilt. Her anger was fierce, and she loved examining what she interpreted to be his shame. She reveled in the heavy silence between them.

Cord wanted to take another stab at carving a pathway toward his bride, but at the notion of her being his bride his brows furrowed and the corners of his mouth tightened. To Brooke it came across as a smirk. Perhaps unintentional, but there it was plastered on his face.

Before another volley could cross her lips, the teakettle began to intrude, offering its buffer of a screech, not completely dissimilar, Cord appraised, to hers.

He turned about in the galley and poured the hot water, then placed a steaming mug on the coffee table before her. When she didn’t move toward it, he found a spoon and a small jar of honey and set them near her. As he went back for his own mug she guardedly picked up the spoon.

He eased himself toward the opposite edge of the couch and took a sip of his tea. Much too hot. He held the mug in both hands, cold from tension. She stirred hers, not allowing the spoon to touch the edge of the cup.

Unable to think of anything she might accept as courtesy, he simply asked, “What can I say?”

“You can tell the truth.” Without taking her eye off him, she put the spoon on the table, the sound of it emphasizing her impatience.

He scrunched his shoulders again, his default tell.

“What truth? Do you want me to make up something so you can hate me more? Sure, I can tell you I’ve been fooling around with Meredith, or anyone else you’d like to name. But none of it would be true. B, I…” He saw her right eyebrow arch. “Brooke, I don’t know what you want from me. Confession? For what? Tell me. I need you to tell me.” He still couldn’t understand how he’d become the bad guy.

“No! You tell me the truth! You pride yourself in your honesty. Well, be honest with me! Bryan! Right now!”

A chain of profanities flew from one to the other, neither in their agitation able to form complete sentences quickly enough without the use of street vocabulary.

Getting nowhere with argument, Cord tried switching hats and taking the intimate tack he’d seen in one of their chick flicks.

“You’re the one I wanted to marry. Not her.” He thought introducing a hint of levity might be a nice touch. “Besides, she wouldn’t have had me. She’s so…so religious.”

“Oh, so you’re saying I was second on your list?”

So much for levity.

“Or third? How many women did you have to go through before you finally got me to climb onto your boat?”

There was only so much of her indictment he could tolerate. “Where is this going, Brooke?” His voice became menacing. “You want out? Is that it? Okay, we’ll end it. Here and now.”

Never one to back off, through gritted teeth she said, “Yes, I want out! What was your first clue?”

Cord looked away and shook his head. Brooke read it as derision.

“You think you’re so wonderful, don’t you? Go ahead. Shake your head as if I’m just another storm to pass through before you can escape back to your private little life. I’ve never meant anything to you from the beginning, have I? Well, have I?”

His limit of endurance was closing in. Now, returning her glare with a smoldering that caused his brown eyes to darken, he spoke slowly with finality. “I won’t argue with you anymore. You turn everything that isn’t right about us into some kind of attempt of mine to hurt you. That isn’t how it is with me.”

Something inside Brooke broke loose, and out rushed a deluge. Cord couldn’t get a word in. On and on she droned. And when she made a full circuit of her diatribe against him enumerating his faults, she set her internal playback to Repeat to run through the entire litany yet another time, and then ‘round again for more. In her adrenaline onslaught she didn’t read the telltales of his mounting tension.

Cord began to pace behind the galley counter attempting to form a small retort, but her barrage of words wouldn’t stop tumbling out. After her third round he had his fill of insult and stepped out from his space and toward her. She interpreted his approach as aggression and raised her arms in defense. He stopped, still a distance from her. His wordsspewed out in a low growl.

“Would you please Shut! Up! I heard you the first time.”

They glared hard at each other.

He had more.

“You don’t quit. You bury people. I’m not the enemy. You don’t know who your real enemy is. You’re an attack dog.”

He tried to hold back the next salvo, but it’d been stored away too long.

“You’re impossible to reason with. You need help.”

No turning back now. She wouldn’t be stopped. The gale-force fury she’d held in check since her youth was unleashed without containment. Her scream was guttural.

He turned his back to her and expected her fist to the back of his head. He turned again to face her, only to see her rushing up the ladder through the doorway. He stared after her, reflexively rubbing his head, imagining a small knot growing.

Brooke stormed out of the cabin to the cockpit and into the predawn light. Turning back to face Cord still inside, she lashed out at him, her voice choking with the emotion of long-suppressed pain. The girl’s words were nearly unintelligible for her sobbing.

Brooke spun around, her eyes wild, searching for an object to attack. Choosing the one closest to her, she ripped off Starstruck’snavy blue sunbridge cover in one tremendous grab and yank. The staccato pops of the snaps severing from their anchors sounded like machine gun fire.

She turned back to the cabin to blast a legion of obscenities that made little sense when grouped together. Then, still alone in the now roofless cockpit, she wadded the cover and with both arms heaved the entire mass—canvas and Isinglass windows—out into the water. The girl was unstoppable. Turning once more to face her adversary in hiding, she issued one final torrent of invective, then hoisted the lounge cushions off their seats and pitched them in, one after the other, until all were overboard. She leaped over the boat’s gunwale onto the finger wharf separating the two boats. Sobbing loudly and clutching her stomach, she ran with a pronounced limp to the main dock, up the gangway and to the injured Volvo 1800ES.

After ten long minutes, Cord stepped topside to survey the damage. With a boat hook he began to retrieve the mess of canvas. Everything else had drifted too far from his reach.

 

 

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Posted by: ted & linda pampeyan | November 30, 2018

Uncharted chapter 7

Another chapter.

Publishing date is being moved up to possibly December.

Thanks for waiting. Thanks for reading…

Uncharted—a story

©2018 by T&L Pampeyan

Chapter Seven

It wasn’t good. The bed was big, it was comfortable. But it was all wrong.

Brooke Potter Cord reached for her cell on the side table and touched the face to light the display. A little after 2:30 AM. She had dozed a couple of hours, but was now fully awake.

And angry.

Bryan Cord had simply walked out the door and escaped her rage. She deserved a good argument, but he took a coward’s way out. Typical. When it came to a quarrel, there was no way he could stand up to her barrage of verbiage. Except when he attacked her where it hurt. He had discovered her weak spots, the ones where she could build no defense. It took no more than a couple of key words and she’d wither. She knew he could have said more, but he never pursued the attack. He just shut up and crawled away to what she called his emotional crypt. She hated him for that. In fact, the more she chewed on the memories, the more she loathed everything about him.

In the darkness she replayed scenes of their marriage. A continuous loop of romance, disappointment, frustration, anger, tears, fighting. More romance, more disappointment, more anger, more fighting. The memories made her stomach churn. What was so wrong about them to sour their love so quickly, completely? Why did the bad far outweigh any good? She caught herself asking why she was so angry.

There had been no affair, he insisted. The girl was just a colleague at work. On his team, he said. The same girl with him when he bought the boat. Brooke met her at the pre wedding party Cord’s team had arranged for them. She seemed genuine then, so Brooke didn’t consider her a threat. But over the last year her name came up more than it should have. Meredith Mayhew. Meredith said this, Meredith sealed that deal. Meredith, Meredith.

Nor had Meredith kept her opinions to herself. She even pretended to be religious, talking about a faith. Relationship with the Lord, she called it. Fancy maneuvering, Meredith Mayhem.

Then the bikini. When Brooke chanced upon one of foreign origin in the boat’s head, colors she’d not be caught dead wearing, Cord claimed it belonged to one of her own friends. I’ll never lie to you, Brooke.

“One of my friends?” she muttered to herself, alone in her king bed. Brooke felt like she had no friends. Okay, perhaps Chelsea did leave it; it was something she’d wear, even sober.

But that didn’t excuse Cord from bending too close over Meredith at her monitor when Brooke just happened to drop in at his office for the ski jacket she’d forgotten. Oh, they both pleaded innocence. Just getting a better look, he said. At what? Did they think she was blind, and stupid? I’ll never lie to you, Brooke.

Was Brooke so flawed that he was already looking for another playmate?

Her mind wouldn’t stop creating the scenes of the last half year of turbulence. Her anger spiraled. She wanted revenge.

She looked at the cell again. 4:53. She didn’t remember dozing. The Northwest’s winter darkness would only grudgingly give way to a diffused twilight, but not for another three hours. She’d get no more sleep, so why should he be given the luxury? She threw the covers off and stormed into the dressing room to change. Pulling on her jeans she reran his last words. You know where I’ll be.Well, that’s where she was going. He could pretend that boat was his little castle on the water, but the walls were about to be breached. Early morning or not, she couldn’t wait to have it out. And if he had company, so much the better. Brooke was aching to break up a party of two.

Her anger off the chart, she suddenly cocked her arm back and threw a fist against the wall.

“Ow!”

No drywall construction in this 1920s cottage, the walls were made of old wood lathe and inch-thick plaster. She rubbed her right hand. Nothing broken, and she felt a satisfaction in the tension release against a wall that did indeed give. She admired four shoulder-height knuckle imprints.

Charging to the garage she jumped into Cord’s Volvo ES, slammed the door—he hated the doors slammed—shoved the manual gear shift in reverse and peeled out of the garage. She almost skinned the right fender against the garage door frame and wished she had. Cord loved this car. He loved the boat. He loved everything shiny and just so. Okay, she was going to show him how easily his toys could be hurt. Still in the driveway, she mashed the brakes, threw the stick into first and jerked the car back into the garage, this time aiming the right fender for the garage door’s steel track. The scrape of metal against metal, long and squealing—a sweet sound. The neighbors were sure to hear it. She jammed back into reverse and the car growled out of the garage a second time, a strip of door trim clattering on the concrete. Brooke savored that sound too.

On the damp street the rear tires spun before they grabbed, and the ES fishtailed slightly. Keeping the accelerator to the carpet and grinding gears, Brooke blew through the stop sign at the end of the block.

Posted by: ted & linda pampeyan | November 21, 2018

Uncharted chapter 6

We’re so grateful to those who donated to publishing Uncharted. Thanks to you, we just may have the book ready for Christmas.

Here’s the sixth chapter.

Uncharted—a story

©2018 by T&L Pampeyan

Chapter Six

Damp. Dark.

The coating of fog over the marina matched his mood.

Cord stepped onto his boat’s swim platform, glancing at the name on the transom. Starstruck. Whose idea was it to use the name Passionate? No surprise, for their ardent weekends together.

He shook the thoughts from his mind as he opened the marine canvas sunbridge cover and brushed away the raindrops pooled on the tarp. Tossing his sports bag on the cockpit’s L-shaped dinette and zipping back down the canvas cover, he took the two-step ladder down into the cabin. Turning on the lights and activating the digital climate control, he scanned the boat’s interior and nodded. Home.

He knew his marriage was more than an extended fling. He’d loved Brooke, deeply loved his wife.

His wife. The first few months the title had a strange ring. When the market checkout girl called her Mrs. Cord, Bryan had to stop himself from looking over his shoulder for his mom.

Starstruckwas his haven from conflict. Even on the stormiest days, his safety. If divorce was on the horizon, he’d give up anything. Anything but the boat. Brooke could have all the furniture, the ninety-inch OLED Ultra HD TV, whatever she wanted. Okay, the cottage too; the parlor didn’t suit him anyway. He’d even donate a kidney. But not his boat. Or the car. Nor for that matter, his comic collection. There were some things the man must contest.

And come to think of it, the name of the boat, as of now, would return to Starstruck not Passionate. Although, Cord considered, passion just might become the narrative of future pursuits in her venue.

Inside the spacious cabin, he went through the floppy case of Blu-ray disks and settled on the re-mastered The Great Escape as the first of a double feature. After this evening’s argument, the title seemed appropriate. He opened a galley cupboard for some popcorn and nuked the first of two packages. While it was popping he pulled a Newcastle brown and Black Toad dark out of the fridge. Good to see there were three more of each. He wasn’t planning on sleeping much without the soothing effects of a little—or a lot—of brew. He didn’t care when he’d wake up in the morning, but for the consideration of his work colleagues he should call in sick. Better do it now before popping the second bag.

Or tomorrow.

He dumped his cell in a drawer under the chart table, opened his first bottle and took a fair pull as the second bag began to pop. With the remote he clicked on the wall-mounted 43” borderless TV. He had every intention of getting lost in a world of drama played out by long-dead actors to chase away intruding thoughts of B…Brooke.

The screen came to life with the opening credits. Cord stripped to his black boxers, pulled on a favorite sweatshirt and threw aside the duvet. The popcorn was hot, the beer cold. He lay back on the bed, adjusted the wireless headphones and sank deep into three soft pillows, drinking and munching.

He took a peek at the boat’s chronometer. Only 9:20. She wouldn’t be asleep yet.

He hadn’t noticed the lights on in the boat moored next to Starstruck. The older man peeked from behind the curtains of his motoryacht to see who had walked down the finger wharf shared by the two boats. Satisfied it was her owner, the man let the curtain fall back into place, smiled warmly at his wife perusing a copy of Masters Track & Field News, and resumed his examination of a navigational chart.

Posted by: ted & linda pampeyan | November 7, 2018

Uncharted chapter 5

UnchartedThank you so much! 

To you who donated to publishing Uncharted, we are overwhelmed with your response! Today we’ll finish the absolute final this-is-it, no-turning-back edit. Thank you for helping make this possible!

Another endorsement… Uncharted is a story about love gained, love lost, love redeemed. In a world of throw-away relationships, Uncharted reveals characters that are flawed, intensely human and struggling with the unpredictability of marital relations. However, they take a turn into the light of hope, not to return to the past glory days of their marriage, but to a better more enduring future. –Miley Rose, Teacher

And now, Chapter 5.

 Uncharted—a story   ©2018 by T&L Pampeyan

Chapter Five

Look, I’ve tried to make this work. You know I have.”

Cord kept his back to her, his focus on stuffing the sports bag with the first clothes he could grab from his side of the closet.

Their wedding night. So long ago. The entirety of their short marriage only sixteen months, the latter part interminable. Already a punishing marathon.

“There’s no pleasing you,” he said. “It’s never enough with you. So okay, you’ve got what you want.” He turned to face his wife. “I won’t do this anymore, B.”

She stood in the doorway, leaning against the jamb, arms crossed, glaring. “It’s Brooke.”

Bryan Cord had never thought a voice could produce immediate climate change inside four walls. He went back to stowing the items he’d need for work. He wanted out. Out of the house, the war zone they’d once called their haven. Away from her disapproval.

“Do what you want,” she said. “You haven’t tried and you know it. You haven’t given us anymore than fleeting attention since you climbed out of bed after the honeymoon.”

Bed? Cord knew his retort would level her. He played out the scene in his mind. His words would sting, she’d turn away, crumbling, begin to cry—more like a little girl than a woman, leave the room, slam the door of their single bathroom, stay there for hours. Silence, except for her relentless sniffling. He hated the way she blew her nose. Like a ship in distress.

He wouldn’t fight her again. He settled for, “I don’t remember it that way.”

He yanked the bag shut, nearly tearing the zipper, and grabbed the handles. Enough clothing to get him through the next five or six days. He’d sleep on the boat. Away from the arguments, the hostility. Away from B…Brooke.

She thought his passive reply an indicator of the small victory due her and pursued more emotional high ground.

“You’ve never been one for debate.”

He couldn’t compete with her mind. Or her vocabulary—a walking thesaurus. He didn’t answer. Give her the win.

He was about to leave when she said, “Your hat.”

He snagged his favorite cap off the floor in the corner ofwhat weeks ago had been his side. He pushed it on his head and made for the door.

She held fast to the threshold and begrudged him only space to sidestep past. He pressed against the opposite jamb to avoid brushing against her. Her touch made his skin crawl.

Funny, it didn’t used to.

But that was then.

At the backdoor he called over his shoulder, “You know where I’ll be.”

From inside the bedroom, “I care?”

She knew he wouldn’t close the door.

Opting for the motorcycle over his restored classic 1973 Volvo 1800ES, Cord strapped the sports bag onto his new Triumph Thunderbird and pressed the starter. He could have wheelied out the driveway, but he had nothing to prove. He wasn’t angry. He was fed up.

His helmet. In the back porch on the drier. Forget it. He needed the freshness of the night wind against his face. He reversed his cap and unhurriedly pulled onto the dark Port Strand residential street and turned the bike toward the marina. The hiss of the tires sluicing the wet pavement and the fragrance of the northwest winter relaxed his tension a bit. For the first time in too long he felt a hint of release.

Brooke waited in the bedroom for the motorcycle’s exhaust to fade to quiet. No tears this time. No sniffling. She never sniffled. She didn’t do a lot of things he said she did. She hated his accusations.

She walked to the backdoor, still in heels, and with finality closed it. She loved the sound of the dead bolt sliding home. Why did it feel so right to have him gone? She had absolutely no desire to hear that bike again. No wish for him to return. No need of him, at all.

She turned off the parlor lights and made very sure the porch light was out, the welcome mat hidden away.

Who was that one guy from that church? Walking into the empty bedroom and kicking off her heels Brooke tried to recall the fellow’s name. Was he really that bad? Certainly not any worse than how her husband turned out.

Her husband. The phrase repulsed her. And yet…

Her thoughts were always on Cord. She used to love him for the unpretentious magnetism he held. Now she loathed any reminders of him.

In the bathroom she briskly and sloppily brushed her teeth, using her towel for her face and wiping the sink with his. Opening the bottom drawer of the dresser she pulled her favorite beige nightshirt, the one down to her ankles. The one he detested. She climbed into the huge bed, all hers, positioned herself squarely in the DMZ and waved her arms and legs as if making a snow angel.

Alone. Finally and wonderfully alone.

 

Posted by: ted & linda pampeyan | October 29, 2018

Uncharted chapter 4

UnchartedMuch thanks for donations to publishing our new novel. Special thanks to those donating
for two character names.
Last day to donate to the project: this Wednesday October 31.
$35 for personalized autographed copy of Uncharted.
Release date: February 2019
Link to donate: https://www.gofundme.com/uncharted-novel

Trailer link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0r4UsJuEb8w

Thank you so much!
Linda and Ted

Endorsement: “Ted and Linda Pampeyan have experienced and observed much about life’s raw reversals and the mysteries and angst of man-woman relationships. They grasp the eternal verities their characters long to discover.” –Harold Myra

Uncharted—a story

©2018 by T&L Pampeyan

Chapter Four

Cord’s phone rang outthe unique tone.

“Yeah, babe,” he answered.

“I’m leaving from work. I could go for dinner out tonight,” said Brooke. “You look like you could use some nourishing restaurant food, too.”

“I know that tone in your voice. Come home, take off your shoes—and anything else. I took the afternoon off. Dinner’s covered tonight. It’ll be ready when you get here.”

Brooke. One of the most beautiful women in Cord’s world. Okay, the most. Was it wrong to be taken in by beauty when it went so far beyond skin deep? How else to describe the woman of his life: incredibly brilliant, piercingly astute, caring, gentle—when she wasn’t kickboxing and formidable when she was.

She walked through the back door, tired but exquisite.

“I put it together, all from scratch,” said Cord, sliding a pizza from the local shop into the oven. “Lots of cheese, four kinds. Sun-dried tomatoes, ‘shrooms, kale, no onions.”

“I see. But no anchovies?” Brooke made a face as she said it.

“Want me to take it back?” He turned on the oven. “Broil or bake, which one?”

“It’ll cook either way. I’ll pour the wine. Have you a preference?” She slipped off a pair of heels.

“How about that chianti on the bottom shelf. Let’s be ordinary tonight.”

Finishing the partial bottle of wine and leaving two pizza slices for Cord’s breakfast—provoking another grimace from Brooke—they took their iPhones into the small living room, which she termed the parlor.

Antique Oriental silk and Tibetan wool rugs covered the original hardwood floor of their Craftsman-style cottage, and a cluster of early seascapes by a favorite Newport Beach artist graced one wall. An expensive sofa the saleswoman called a chesterfield with matching stuffed chair and a scarred coffee table handed down from Cord’s great grandmother filled the room. Off to the side stood a small round table with a working black rotary phone.

The couple scanned Facebook posts.

“I rarely look at this anymore,” she said. “So much trivia. I don’t care what Chelsea wore last night to dinner. She posted a photo of the latest guy she’s calling her favorite person ever.”

“She the one who didn’t show for the wedding?”

“That’s her. Her previous pet human of all time needed…oh, no.”

Cord looked up from his screen. “Something wrong?”

She didn’t answer.

“B?”

Her attention remained fixed on her phone.

“Brooke? You there?” He thought he saw her shiver. “What is it, babe?”

She tapped the phone off. “Nothing. It’s nothing, really.”

“Pretty big nothing. Tell me.”

She set her phone on the side table. Cord waited.

“If you must know,” she said, “my mother’s family is having a reunion. I’m invited. I mean, we are. At one of my aunt’s.” Her attempt at a smile inverted to a frown.

“Awesome. In Kentucky?” he asked. A west coast boy, Cord had only flown over anything east of Las Vegas for business.

“Yes. But no, I don’t think so,” she said.

“Sure, it’ll be cool. When is it?”

“It’s their annual Fourth of July party, but this time they’re insisting everyone must be there.”

Cord had wanted to finally meet the family, and told her if they were anything like her they must be amazing.

She countered, “Let’s spend that weekend on Starstruck. Let it live up to the name we gave it last summer on our honeymoon. Passionate. Take the entire week. Just us. Anything we want.”

Unlike the Brooke he knew, she threw up roadblocks until he pressed for an answer.

“I’ve told you I don’t have good memories of my childhood. Can we leave it at that?” Her voice was tight, her eyes burning.

Cord, trying to be helpful, proposed, “It might be what you need. You know, revisit, climb that hill of the past and see that the demon isn’t so bad after all. I’ll be with you the whole time.”

She relented, tapped the phone and accepted the invitation.

 

The flight from Seattleto Chicago’s O’Hare triggered anxiety in her that Cord had never seen. It only increased on the hop into Lexington’s Blue Grass Municipal. They picked up the rental and took the road south for Shaw’s Bow. He figured the drive through Daniel Boone National Forest would relax her. He figured wrong.

The closer they got to her Aunt Gretchen’s farm east of town, the more Brooke’s agitation grew.

“You want to talk, B?”

“No. It’s just that I haven’t seen the family since high school. I’ve changed; I doubt they have.” To herself she whispered, “I hate this place. Nothing good ever happened here.”

“Can I help? I’m here, babe.”

“No! Just let me be.” First time he heard her snap at him. “And don’t call me that.”

“I always call you that.”

“Never again. You hear?” He detected an accent he hadn’t noticed before.

Brooke made it a brief appearance. After a few hugs to younger cousins, she made her way to Aunt Gretchen’s kitchen to avoid the rest of her relatives.

Cord naively gravitated toward the food tables. Mounds of the most tantalizing home-style cuisine he’d ever seen up close, extending further than any appetite could crave, each dish with a benefactor and a story. Ribs donated by the Wheelers over ’cross the dale in Mervston; the finest cuts of venison dressed out by three or four of the family hunters; squab raised, reamed and roasted by the Peters twins; huge platters of deviled eggs designed by Cousin Arbutus; a pyramid of corn on the cob just picked and barely blanched from Uncle Mylo’s patch; and various other culinary delights worthy of at least honorable mention. And it had to be set out before the desserts because not even at Aunt Gretchen’s was there room for the entire feast to appear in total glory all at one time.

Cord tried to mingle with the good-oles, but got no further than the outer periphery. He didn’t know to come prepared, and Brooke hadn’t clued him in. Wearing cargo shorts not jeans, sneakers not boots, no socks, and a tee shirt from one of last year’s triathlons, he admitted to the recognized senior figure, JT Shiller himself, that he didn’t own, much less carry, a piece, or drive anything built in America. Meanwhile Brooke kept her distance from every group and spoke only briefly with a neighbor she remembered from childhood. Not another person, and positively not any in her immediate family. No one saw her double over in pain behind a kitchen counter, clutching her stomach.

Cord had just bitten into the juiciest pork rib of his life when he noticed Brooke giving Aunt Gretchen a barely sociable embrace, and signaling to him they were leaving, right now. Aunt Gretchen began to pack a lunch for their return to Lexington. Cord was about to express his appreciation when Brooke firmly declined.

In the car she began to shake.

Four miles up the road skirting the town Cord pulled into a turnout overlooking a narrow finger of a large lake and shut off the engine. “Time to talk, Brooke. You don’t need to carry this yourself.”

They parked in that turnout for more than two hours. A state trooper cruising his stretch of the road slowed down twice. That afternoon Brooke GretchenPotterCord began to reveal and relive the darkest part of her twenty-eight years she had kept secret since she was thirteen.

“Brooke, you said you’ve changed since you left here. Maybe they’ve changed too, for the better. Do you need to give them a chance? They seemed to enjoy each other, and I felt welcome, sort of. And the food was great. Is it time to let go of the memories, the feelings? So they don’t keep hurting you.”

Brooke stared at him in disbelief. Did he not get it? Had he joined the other side—over pork ribs and deviled eggs? She had banked her trust in this man. Could she still?

Puzzled, Cord phoned in the cancellation of their one-night stay at the Hampton, drove straight to the airport, turned in the car, and bribed the airline reservation clerk for a last-minute shuttle to a forgettable airport. Then, for an extra lot of dollars and tolerating a you-know-I’m-really-not-supposed-to-be-doing-this lecture, they got booked on the last flight to Dubuque, from there to Denver in middle seats at opposite ends of the cabinon an airline better named Obscurity, and on to Seatac in Frontier’s first class.

Outside the terminal very early in the Pacific Northwest morning dampness, Cord hailed a sleepy cabbie for the airport Hilton.

“Booked much solid,” the reply in broken English.You okay Marriott? Could be room left. Is close.”

“Fine. Do it.”

At the Marriott off Independence Avenue, a just-as-sleepy hotel counterman enduring the last hours of graveyard sold them the Presidential, claiming it was the last room he had. In the huge suite they took off their outer clothing, stripped the king bed of its duvet, collapsed and didn’t wake until the cleaning girl barged in late that morning.

Parting with the last of his cash to steal another hour, and a gracias, señorita, they each showered and bolted down a late breakfast in the hotel’s coffee shop before finding Brooke’s Honda in a rental lot. Cord took her keys and got behind the wheel. They drove the three hours north in silence.

 

Cord couldn’t figure it out. The pieces didn’t fit together. One week everything was fine, a good life, great marriage. So, we take one little weekend hop to the other side of the country and it all collapses right in front of me. Overnight she shut the door, literally. No dinners together, no evening conversations in the parlor, not even surface how-was-your-day. Certainly no sleeping together. Nothing. She locked herself in the bedroom. Actually locked the door. Sure, he could have wrenched the knob and walked in, but hearing that button click told him she was inside and he wasn’t allowed. The only time he saw her was when she stole into the kitchen to nuke her own dinner then bolt back to her fortress.

Cord was baffled. On the occasions he could catch a glimpse of her, he saw a sadness in Brooke not there before. Less than a year into their marriage her emotions began to lead them both into mine shafts of gloom neither could escape.

None of their friends had any illusions their marriage was made in heaven, or even near the second star to the right, because these two were pretty earthy. But those close to them saw the beginning of something thateveryone—drinking buds, his anyway, and her three friends—agreed was a decent match.

In their first months together she couldn’t deny his honesty. “Brooke,” without warning he’d solemnly misquote in a deep voice an old Superman movie, “I’ll never lie to you.” She’d reply as Lois Lane, “Then what color are my panties.” He couldn’t answer, of course she wouldn’t tell, and they’d quickly find the bed. Well, at least that was something.

At one time she liked his name. Bryan. Even loved saying it. Bryan Cord. Brooke and Bryan. Only a month into dating and they were inseparable, known to friends as B&Bry, as if they were one.

But that was then.

Quirks that once charmed mysteriously became annoying habits. Verbal exchanges grew short and sharp. The boat, once used for frolic, slept alone in its slip for weeks, then months. Their small cottage overlooking the water became a nighttime jail to escape during their workdays. The California king, once the playground, developed a three-foot DMZ down the middle. Cord declared her side North Korea and settled for the couch.

Now, a year and a half after the wedding, she thought of him only as…him. Both had brought junk into the relationship. She admitted the baggage scale tilted more against her, but he wasn’t above analysis.

She grew to hate him, surprisingly fast. He became the target for a loathing stored deep within and hidden well, until now. He was crowding her with his presence. She needed out.

But she still wanted to believe him. A few months earlier a friend had loaned her a novel about someone meeting God in a faraway mountain cabin, or something like that. It was an arduous read, and the movie, though lauded by her colleagues, stretched too long for her taste. But one thing she remembered was that God, or someone characterized as God, said the more a person loves another, the more that person will trust the other. Brooke thought she probably did love Cord early on, more than she’d loved anyone. But that was a few eons ago. Nowadays she despised him. Trust? Not a hope.

But neither had cheated on the other. Well, she knew she could have. And he argued he hadn’t.

No one expected to see the dream of their marriage flip to a nightmare. And it hadn’t taken two years from I do.

Posted by: ted & linda pampeyan | October 18, 2018

uncharted chapter 3

Much thanks for supporting publishing our upcoming novel, Uncharted.

If you’d like to donate, here’s the link. You may need to paste it in. We suggest LePage’s.

https://www.gofundme.com/uncharted-novel

And thanks for the endorsements! Here’s one..

A uniquely written marriage story. But not just a story. Uncharted clearly communicates the value others can have in our marriage journeys when we allow committed, authentic and intentional people to influence us. This is a wonderful read. Had a hard time putting it down! Monique Woodward, Marriage Mosaic

Uncharted—a story

©2018 by T&L Pampeyan

Chapter Three

Almost two years ago

Brooke Potter couldn’t believeshe was being dragged through the main entrance of a building whose name she wouldn’t have associated with a church. Interesting labels newer centers of religion were given: Elevation, Soma, Synergy, Flood, Mosaic, Radius. As if they were concealing their identity.

Scanning the room for a close exit, she had definite doubts about the whole idea of being in a house of God, not to mention the company of the guy pulling her along. He’d seemed okay when he checked out books at the library where she worked. But tonight he proved to be underwhelming. As a vendor of his newborn religion he was a yawn. His message about life-change enthralled him alone. She thought it trite. Without doubt, he was quickly becoming forgettable.

Church. Weirdly named,andabout the last place Bryan Cord expected to visit, let alone spot someone interesting. A friend of Cord’s thought he needed God so bribed him into coming to a community thing.

“Dinner’s on me,” the friend had said. Sure enough, spaghetti. Mounds of it. Carbs to satisfy. Even a few brewskis on ice. Cord remembered hearing that churchy people weren’t allowed to soak a few suds. He decided to hang around.

On a Saturday night in June in a multi-purpose room sectioned with round tables and institutional chairs, two captives of their respective hosts stood looking over uninviting donations to the potluck. Whether they were attracted to one another or simply drawn out of desperation to the neutrality of the dessert table, Brooke Potter and Bryan Cord found momentary refuge, there with tiny squares of hardened fudge.

Brooke’s five-foot-nine allowed her to look most men in the eye. That night she rather liked tilting her head to meet Cord’s. They were light brown, emphasized by his deep tan. She guessed he stood a couple over six. Nice.

“Come here often?” he asked.

“That’s your best?” she asked.

He shrugged. “Bryan.”

“Brooke,” she shrugged back.

She liked him. He seemed shy, but held a quiet confidence. He had the look of a Bond, without the cruelty. When she told him that a few weeks later, his reply was pleasantly modest. “I did drive my uncle’s Aston Martin once. He, um, still doesn’t know that.”

“Nice tan,” she said moving away from the table.

He actually looked self-conscious. “Out of a bottle,” he shrugged again.

She knew it wasn’t true, but she went for his self-effacing humor. Cleverly reserved.

At that moment her chaperone playing the part of bodyguard walked up to the table and said he needed to get her home. Brooke hated being treated like a child. Cord found the little frown alluring.

“Hope to see you again?” He offered it as a question.

She liked that too. Not pushy like the dullard grabbing her hand and conducting her toward the door.

Cord lifted a hand to wave and she smiled back, her deep blue eyes actually twinkling. Ponytail loosely pulled back—strawberry blond. Interesting walk—bit of a limp.

While he watched, his host came alongside and reminded him of the requisite sit-down for some kind of talk. The young preacher with topknot and tight jeans talked about God, throwing in street language to convince himself alone he was edgy therefore cool. Cord excused himself from his host and aimed for the exit, thinking about the girl with the limp.

You like boating?”He called two days after the church thing.

He must have gotten her cell number that night—she didn’t know how.

“Yes,” her simple reply.

It was sufficient.

Their first date. Where else but his powerboat, Starstruck, on a warm summer evening in a small cove tucked in a hidden island somewhere secret among the San Juan Islands. After a splendid dinner of Cord’s creation, they relaxedin the cockpit over small glasses of port, talking till late. She posed the most surprising questions. And it went both ways, revealing much about themselves, their dreams.

“When did you discover your leadership strengths?” She actually asked that. Cord later blamed it on too much port, but couldn’t resist his response. It just came out differently than he planned.

“If I told you,” he said in mock seriousness, “I’d have to kiss you. I mean, I’d have to…to, uh-h…”

She acknowledged it was the perfect Freudian slip. That, and the self-conscious smile of his. Brilliant. With her chin resting in her palm and her eyes dancing in the candlelight, she stared deep into his, and her voice became sensually breathy. “So tell me.”

Conversation gave way to passion. With more than a few weekend romps on the boat, Bryan and Brooke knew they fit well in just about every way. They spent the remainder of the summer’s weekends exploring the San Juans of Washington’s northwest coast. They liked the same music—mellow. Seafood the same way—out of the water and onto the grill, drenched in drawn butter. The same movies—she was into intrigue and he appreciated romance. That summer they began to seize every moment and couldn’t get enough of each other.

Cord had never before met a woman who completely captivated him. Early on over nachos in Starstruck’s cabin, Brooke caught him unawares by asking if his boat’s twin power plants might not generate more horsepower if they were fit with custom exhaust manifolds and beefier ignition systems. And if he wanted to get serious about muscle, losing those stock trannies for something bulletproof.

“Physically stunning, and a dazzling mind,” said Cord. He toasted her with a chip loaded with cheese before setting it in her mouth.

Brooke crunched the chip and bobbed her head. “Shucks, Bryan.”

“You do know a lot about a lot,” he said, forgetting his nachos.

“I’ve actually read some of those books people check out at my library.” She crossed her eyes. “Some I’ve read twice.”

He’d loved her humor. Feeling a casual ease with her he said, “I’m a slow reader. Always have been.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that, is there? The question isn’t how fast you read, but why. And, of course, the takeaway.”

“I’m a pretty simple guy, Brooke. I read a book because someone suggests I’d like it. If it doesn’t grab me, I close it and move on. Why do I read? Because the book keeps my attention. No deep answer there.”

“Can I rephrase your ‘why’ answer?”

Cord took a chip for himself. “You amaze me.”

“Reading fills life’s darkest cavities with flashes of light. And with every glimmer you find a little more hope. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, any day of the week.”

He stared at her, the chip still in his mouth. “You’re too good to be true.” He almost whispered it. “And, I’ve never heard anyone say Wednesday with three syllables.”

They reminisced often about their first meeting, in a church of all places. But neither had any inclination to dwell on the aspects of religious systems, or anything other than getting together. Their intimate conversations in quiet inlets ranged from banter—in high school I was just another creep; in college I turned into a real jerk. To profound honesty—sometimes it seems like there’s this presence after me; I don’t want it to be God, if there is one. From personal regrets to hopes for a future that would allow an escape from the past.

Cord offhandedly asked, “When you look into the future, what are your dreams?”

Her answer caught him off guard.

“Dreams?” she said pensively. “As in hoping for a better something around the corner instead of coming face to face with the twin of the monster already chasing me? I’m still trying to wake up from a nightmare.”

He didn’t take that trail with her, not because he was insensitive, which he could be. But he wasn’t quick enough to change gears to serious reflection. She didn’t bring up her dreams again, and he having other things on his mind, forgot he’d asked.

Then that September night. They’d only met the beginning of summer, but it seemed they’d known and been known for years. He gave her the ring. No prelude, no tongue-tied will-you-marry-me, no compulsory discussion. He quietly dropped the sparkler in his palm, motioned it toward her and asked, “So, you think you might wear this?”

It was all so perfect, and unlike her teen years, a fairy-tale.

Two weeks later they were informally wed on the boat in the presence of a few select friends, one of them securing a provisional license to perform the civil rite. The ceremony was blessedly quick.

“Okay, so like, I pronounce you two married. Now seal it!”

After the kiss, not the shortest on the books, the wedding couple popped open the almond champagne—a case of twelve proved sufficient for their crew—and tossed the one-shot preacher overboard to show their appreciation for the tax benefits of marriage. With just enough bubbly to assuage any doubts about their matrimonial plunge, Cord headed Starstruck back to the dock to drop off their friends. He slipped a wad of hundreds to the marrying buddy for his trouble and some new clothes, then with his bride of three hours immediately sped back out to a predetermined honeymoon cove.

Bryan and Brooke Cord. Alone again, at last. And legal, like it mattered. Their merriment continued in earnest on the boat, which they appropriately nicknamed Passionate. They didn’t come up for air for four days. Life together was flawless.

Mrs Bryan Cord. Something her mother would say. No, her grandmother. Brooke wished she had known her dad’s mom, Gramz, better. But Lakeview, Ohio was a long way from anyplace Brooke happened to be.

Gramz possessed a depth mingled with mirth. Always on the lookout for life’s adventure, despite the risks, or the dangers. Forever seeing the positives in life and people. Without fail she told Brooke she was praying for her, whatever that meant. And for Brooke’s high-pepper-quotient personality, and Brooke knew what that meant.

What was it about Gramz that Brooke loved? Something deep inside.

Brooke and Bryan flourished together. A uniquely real couple, surprising their friends who thought it impossible. Open dialogue became their standard communication. Old faults, which had been countless, were discussed and released. New mistakes with each other, minor and major, were dealt with and let go. Like when Brooke washed and dried Cord’s only wool suit. Significant shrinkage. But suits were out for him anyway so he gave it to the kid next door for a middle school play of Sherlock Holmes in knickers.

Brooke and Bryan Cord were new people. With each other. For each other.

Posted by: ted & linda pampeyan | October 11, 2018

uncharted-a story: chapter 2

Thank you so much to those who have contributed to the publication of Uncharted.

See the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0r4UsJuEb8w

Please make donations for signed copies to www.gofundme.com/uncharted-novel

Plus

YOUR OWN CHARACTER!

Name your own character in the novel! Make a donation to name one of the characters after yourself or a friend.
1. Main supporting role: male, mid 40s. Lead character’s supervisor and confidant. Race not specified. Donation to name this character: $850. You’ll receive 5 autographed copies of Uncharted.
2. Main supporting roles: male and female married couple. Names must be Mexican or other Hispanic. Donation to name this couple: $500. You’ll receive 3 autographed copies of Uncharted.
3. Minor role: male or female, early 40s. Team leader, government dark ops. Minimum orders to name this character: $200. You’ll receive 2 copies of Uncharted.
4. Minor appearance: male, early 30s. Agent, government dark ops. Minimum orders to name this character: $100. You’ll receive 1 copy of Uncharted.

Please offer character name bids to unchartednovel@gmail.com

Auction close: October 31, 2018

Publication date: February 2019

Copies of Uncharted mailed to you: March 2019

And now, Chapter 2…

Uncharted—a story

©2018 by T&L Pampeyan

Chapter Two

Three years ago

In his twenty-ninth year Bryan Cord discovered his first true love.The girls he’d known could all be grouped into casual affairs. And he couldn’t claim much success there.

But his first true love was different. Surprisingly different. His own boat. Not his dad’s or Uncle Steve’s. Just his name on the registration. She belonged to Bryan Chandler Cord.

When he first saw her at the Seattle docks, he was immediately star-struck. So what more appropriate name to give her? Starstruck. He owned the lady of his dreams. And she owned him. And it was all good.

Cord made her his because he wanted her and he had the plastic. His job paid better than he figured he probably deserved, but he was a natural at connecting the right corporation with the right software. While his colleagues in the sales force could claim decent monthly sales, Cord’s greater success came by actively listening to the buyer’s IT head. He took time to determine that person’s language and personality—they weren’t all geeks—and to ask the right questions. He studied people not computers. His clients believed he cared more about them as individuals than as consumers. Bottom line, he made his company a lot of dollars, and for that he was remunerated a lot of dollars. Even during economic hiccups, he was in such demand it wasn’t unusual for him to hand off contracts. His teammates believed he pretty much walked on water.

On a Sunday evening in November at the local pub with his work team, he offhandedly mentioned he might like to look at boats. Someof his friends took it upon themselves to help him search for the perfect vessel. Some insisted on sail, one suggested he restore an old tug. Office chatter often drifted to the latest collective viewpoints on “Cord’s craft.” One cold day in January, one of the more self-assured women on his staff had had enough of what she called endless speculation. She packed Cord into her Miata and sped him to the floating boat show on Seattle’s Lake Union.

Yachts of every size and description sat proudly in their slips, many of them within easy reach of his spending limit. It wasn’t long before a new blue-and-white 37-foot Formula Performance Cruiser caught his eye. Stylish but not showy. Reserved but not bashful.

The yacht’s broker, dressed in the attire of a yacht salesman not an owner, welcomed them aboard and began to enumerate the boat’s highlights. Cord and the girl left him to his monolog, went below. It took only a few moments sitting in the cabin’s conversation nook with his pretty coworker to recognize obvious benefits to owning that particular boat. Back on deck, the broker’s patience and off-hand mention of a healthy boat-show discount were handsomely compensated when Cord told him, “I guess I’ll take it.”

“Yes sir. Of course, sir.” The broker lost no time concluding Cord hailed from roots of nobility.

Cord reached into a front cargo pant pocket for his wallet and slipped out one of his platinum cards.

“Maybe this could do,” he suggested.

Not following Cord’s intent to immediately purchase the boat, the broker took the card and said, “We do have some excellent payment options to make it easy on the budget.” Then with a wave of the card he asked, “Would you like to place a deposit to hold her—the vessel, that is—while you make other arrangements?” The guy actually winked at Cord’s co-worker. “Or we can create a doable plan right here.”

“Would it be okay to pay for it now?” Cord asked.

The broker’s jaw dropped. “You mean now? Like, all?” Realizing an immediate commission, he quickly recovered. Straightening his navy sport coat and tucking a light blue polyester shirt into tan Dockers, he enthused,“Yes. Of course, yes. Fine. Yes.”

The girl, unable to stifle a muffled laugh, turned away to feign inspection of the numerous instruments and gauges at the helm. The following Saturday the sun peeked out from behind winter clouds, so she joined Cord on Starstruck’svoyage from Lake Union through the Chittenden Locks and north in Puget Sound to a small marina close to Cord’s apartment in Port Strand.

While the boat proved worthy of Cord’s appreciation, his passenger that day was somewhat less than a delight. The girl for all her spirit and passion at work was resistant to even his slightest curiosity. Not that she rebuffed him. She seemed to genuinely appreciate his friendship, giving him heartfelt attention. Strange girl, he thought. Amusing, confident, easy to be with, nice to look at. What was with her? He guessed it a few weeks later when he overheard her make some reference to God, as if she knew him. From then on Cord kept her at arm’s length with superficial conversation.

Cord never thought he’d fall in love with a boat, but he was charmed by every avenue Starstruck opened up—on the water, in the marina to new friends, other relationships. Sure, she developed the usual quirks expected, even required, of a boat. The pervasive aroma of salt and sea embedded in her upholstery and everything else porous, frequent in-water maintenance, periodic haul-outs, unexpected repairs. But she didn’t argue or question his judgment or loyalty, and she was at the ready to comply with his every desire. Starstruckhad stolen his affection, taken him for a ride, all the while aiming to please. He was her master; she gave him power and fulfillment. And peace.

Posted by: ted & linda pampeyan | October 5, 2018

character auction

UnchartedUncharted—a story

To offset the cost of publishing our novel, Uncharted, about married couples, we’re asking for pre publication resources.
Contribute $35 for a personally autographed copy. Publication in February 2019.
Go to gofundme.com/uncharted-novel

Plus

YOUR OWN CHARACTER!

Name your own character in the novel! Make a donation to name one of the characters after yourself or a friend.
1. Main supporting role: male, mid 40s. Lead character’s supervisor and confidant. Race not specified. Donation to name this character: $850. You’ll receive 5 autographed copies of Uncharted.
2. Main supporting roles: male and female married couple. Names must be Mexican or other Hispanic. Donation to name this couple: $500. You’ll receive 3 autographed copies of Uncharted.
3. Minor role: male or female, early 40s. Team leader, government dark ops. Minimum orders to name this character: $200. You’ll receive 2 copies of Uncharted.
4. Minor appearance: male, early 30s. Agent, government dark ops. Minimum orders to name this character: $100. You’ll receive 1 copy of Uncharted.

Auction close: October 31, 2018

Publication date: February 2019

Copies of Uncharted mailed to you: March 2019

Please make donations for signed copies to www.gofundme.com/uncharted-novel

Please offer character name bids to unchartednovel@gmail.com

Here’s an excerpt…

Uncharted–a story

©2018 by T&L Pampeyan

Chapter One

2002

In the third summer of the new Millennium, Brooke Potter crossed into her thirteenth year, and anyone with decent eyesight could see she was becoming an uncommon beauty.

Though not one without flaw. The natural maturity of her left leg had cut short its growth prior to that of its twin by a quarter inch. A sad complement to her appeal, she was burdened with the affliction of a gimpy gait becoming pronounced whenever she grew anxious.

Brooke had another problem; her worst fault, according to her mother.

On her own, in a pond one summer evening, she had uncovered the family secret. A violation deserving swift and lasting reprisal.

The extended Shiller family gathered for their annual Fourth of July barbecue at JT Shiller’s, Brooke’s great uncle and family patriarch on her mother’s side. JT owned the most square-mile sections in the county. Some years earlier he had covertly blocked his year-round creek to increase the size of a small pond to a worthwhile lake. The first year’s planting of bass and crappie kept a steady source of freshwater sport for himself and his favorite relatives—which included them all—and invitation-only derbies whenever he felt the urge to show off.

Thoroughly convinced of the soundness of his heritage, JT traced his direct lineage to JC Shaw for whom the town, Shaw’s Bow, was named at its founding back in 1785.

Strangely, JT wasn’t above the law, and he moved effortlessly under every radar. Officials, elected or hired, uniformed or coat-buttoned, were content to leave him alone, so long as he remained undetected and gave liberally to their politics and wishes.

Unmarried and progenitor of none to his recollection, he treated his nieces and nephews with special courtesy. Finding each one’s particular aptitude, he coached the more gifted who would soon enough be entrusted with mantles of responsibility for the Shiller inheritance.

JT Shiller’s great niece, Brooke, held the most promise.

The weather on the day of July Fourth had been unseasonably cool, but not so chilly as to keep Brooke and her cousins out of JT’s lake. In fact, they hardly let their feet touch land except for trooping out of the water when lunch was set out, and then supper. Toward sunset JT lit the bonfire at the shore and the older folks pulled their collection of lawn chairs around in a semicircle. The youthfuls, as JT dubbed them, gravitated to the dessert table, then on over to the far field where the eldest nephew, Barlow, and the other older boys were sorting through bags of fireworks procured by JT from across the state line and beyond.

Brooke didn’t leave the water, appreciating the solitude. Not needing dessert after the huge feast, and not much of a sweets kid anyway, she located the constant warm current at the end of the lake under the large weeping willow’s tendrils touching the surface. Lazily treading the dark water just above her shoulders, invisible to those on shore, she idly pushed her toes off the soft bottom as she listened to the bonfire crackling under the dusk sky. She loved being quiet, hidden, alone, buoyant. The sounds from around the campfire floated across: occasional laughter over an old story, an uncle adding a few more wood scraps to the blaze and the embers spitting their way skyward.

Suddenly voices stilled, as if secrets were disclosed. Brooke’s toe nudged something firm. It didn’t give like the muddy floor. Thinking it was nothing more than a large stone, she concentrated on picking up stray words above the hissing of pitch from a green pine branch. Then things got very quiet, and everyone turned toward her hiding place. She knew they couldn’t see her in the gathering darkness with the firelight’s glare before them. So why were they all staring her way?

She heard one of her aunts say, “It’s still there, isn’t it, JT?”

The woman, Brooke thought it might have been Aunt Claire, was immediately shushed by the rest. One of the uncles, it had to be Claire’s husband Clair, said in no uncertain terms, “That blasted thing’s gonna have to be moved before any of them kids wander across it. You know it, I know it.

The adults were silent a long while. The warm current tailed off giving Brooke a chill.

“JT, darlin’, what is it y’alls are hidin’ down there?” The question came from Sheena, one of Brooke’s younger aunts imported by marriage. Everybody knew and didn’t need to proclaim Sheena the family scatterbrain. She was awarded fair recompense, however, with a frame fashioned in dramatic proportions most women envied, while every man gazed in awe when she took deep breaths.

More shushing, then Sheena’s husband Reeve was none too kind. “More words like that, sweetness, and you may just find yourself down there too.”

Brooke had never heard the hint of a threat from anyone in her family. If they had their fault, it was being overly nice to each other. But there it was. Sheena had been served notice. And Sheena shut right up.

Two of the aunts tried to cover for Reeve. “He didn’t mean it, dear, you know he didn’t mean it.”

After a silence that engulfed even the campfire’s crackling, Brooke, now shivering but afraid to move, heard JT himself. He began to chuckle.

“You might as well know it all, Sheena my dear. We’ve got no secrets here, now do we?” The way JT said it made Brooke glad she was hidden in the water, and sure that Aunt Sheena had entered a danger zone. Then without prologue, eighty-year-old JT Shiller turned the key and unlocked the family diary.

That July Fourth night under the willow, phrases drifted to Brooke like, “Mostly silver, maybe some bullion”; “Confederate gold, you say”; “Paper’d have rotted long ago”; “Don’t know for sure.”

Poor Sheena just didn’t get it. Always a half bubble off plumb, she said too loudly, “Let’s go for it right now. See if it’s really there.”

Oddly, no one muzzled her. Brooke saw them stand as a group, look around to be sure all the youth were across the far field dazzled by the aerial displays of mortars, barrages and whistles as if war had resumed against the North. The adults slowly and deliberately made their way to the pond’s edge.

Sheena’s boldness grew. “Where is it, JT? I’m goin’ in.”

Again, no argument.

“Under the inner branches of the willow.” JT was barely audible. “Keep stepping around. You’ll find it down there.”

Sheena, who was never one of Brooke’s favorites because she was a poser, removed her sundress. The women gasped, the men gawped. Once they saw the bathing suit underneath, the women clucked their tongues, the men chuckled, and her husband Reeve swore, “Sheena, one of these days…”

Sheena waded into the pond and quickly pushed her way along the shallows, then deeper toward the old willow. Brooke did her best to hide among the entwined roots and was about to duck underwater when Sheena’s foot struck hers.

Sheena’s scream shook off a few dozen willow leaves. Whispering, Brooke begged her not to tell. But Sheena, who never thought much of Brooke either, yelled out, “Here’s another one of your little treasures hidin’ here all by her lonesome.”

Thirteen-year-old Brooke Potter was driven out of the lake, limping uncontrollably. The congregation of grandparents, uncles and aunts, even Aunt Claire, and led by JT Shiller himself, encircled her as if she were a prisoner of war. Her mother—JT’s favorite niece—joined in the party. Her father silently drifted off to the side, forsaking his only child. Shivering from cold and disbelief, Brooke was interrogated, humiliated, pushed around by a few.

Confused, alone, she didn’t understand her sin. Staying in the lake after the other kids had left? Skipping dessert? Maybe Aunt Claire could be a little miffed if a wedge of her apple pie might have been one left behind, but she’d keep her head about her.

What, then? Brooke had only wanted to be by herself for awhile. Her foot touched a rock. Nothing more. It was a rock, wasn’t it?

She became the outcast, simply because she stumbled upon an old family secret. A sunken treasure of some sort, she understood them to say. She perplexed long afterward over the family’s rage, trying to give their behavior rationale, but reason had no place in their system. Only power, control, censure, blame.

JT Shiller’s extended family held high standing in the community. Each member was required to play the part well of proper Southern deportment, with an underlying seething reserved for anyone perceived to endanger their supremacy. Brooke became their closest and favorite threat. The night she chanced upon Edwin’s treasure became the family’s opportunity to shatter her gift of loveliness, to immerse her in self-contempt. She wasn’t good enough, they told her. Didn’t belong, they said. Never would.

Why they had turned on one of their own made perfect sense: to maintain power and control. To keep the family secret a secret.

All the same, she was compelled to parade her remarkable beauty as the family trophy, a hard payment for her unintended discovery.

The citizenry of Shaw’s Bow held her in admiration. She possessed a certain grace, no matter her limp. As Brooke matured, townsfolk stopped and stared when she walked by. Ordinary people they were, unfamiliar with the dynamics of ancestral dysfunction, having not peeked into closets of powerful families reared on disease.

Imprisoned in her mother’s family, Brooke was kept under constant scrutiny. They convinced the regal swan that she had become the ugliest of ducklings. Early on, Brooke learned that her only practical, and therefore appropriate, responses to her family’s torment were contrition and shame.

A couple of years into her prescribed confinement, her cousin Barlow thought to exercise his overeager prowess over Brooke. Her mother, a Shiller through and through, saw it coming. Her single demonstrated act of a mama’s protection was employed that one moment when she cornered the lad and threatened his masculinity in no uncertain terms if he so much as looked at her daughter again the way she’d just caught him eyeing her.

Abandoned by those closest—mother, cousins, daddy—Brooke learned to hide her feelings of disgrace behind knowledge from books, and later her mastery of self-defense for protection and to compensate for her uneven step.

The night of her high school graduation, family and friends gathered for her party in JT’s immense living room. They loitered around, impatiently sipping punch and nibbling cashews, reciting small talk about crops, fishing lures and shotgun reloads. Not even the homecoming queen of three years straight deserved to keep her relatives from their dinner. The nine-foot-high grandfather clock struck its bass notes announcing the late hour, when suddenly one of her cousins with less aptitude bolted into the house crying the queen was gone. That night Brooke’s mother read the note on the kitchen table. Let me be and I won’t tell. Don’t and you’ll all go down.

The family council reviewed the issue and decided to give her leave, if that’s what she wanted. But JT Shiller, the chieftain regarded for his moral standing, wondered if he’d done right by the lovely girl with promise, after all.

Posted by: ted & linda pampeyan | October 3, 2018

new novel coming

Uncharted   .png

See the trailer.

Posted by: ted & linda pampeyan | June 12, 2018

heart pains

I just heard from a friend in the Midwest whose wife needed to take a little ambulance ride to the hospital. I’m betting they’ve both since had to endure lengthy this-too-happened-to-me ER stories. Well, to add another to their log and joy to your day…

It was Easter weekend—oh, it must have been in 1994, when the earth was young and my family and I were still living in Victoria—and yes, what you are about to read is true, and long.

Our son Matt and I had been gearing up for his Little League season by my hitting long fly balls for him. That evening I felt pains in my chest and along my left side. At the time I hadn’t put a couple important clues together: repeatedly swinging the bat after a winter of inactivity, and being left-handed, might have had something to do with the discomfort. I called a paramedic friend who himself recently had a heart attack. When he asked if I wanted him to come over and pick me up, I was sobered and told him Linda could get me to the hospital. Although I did like the idea of the siren and lights.

The hospital techs ran tests and found there was indeed muscle damage, but needed to keep me overnight to run another assessment if that muscle was cardiac. Being Good Friday night, there were only two of us in the heart ward, and all the staff. So I met Joe across the room. He was waiting to get defibbed or something like that, but I immediately judged him to be quite an honest fellow.

That night one of the nursing staff on duty was a good friend I’d known from another church, so Rob and I had hours to catch up. The next morning I was served breakfast in bed, which was kind of cool, and real coffee, which I wasn’t used to at the time. With little sleep and feeling not much need for it, I decided at 630am I needed to check in with Linda, who was still asleep, and tell her all about my good conversation with Rob late into the night before. I managed over to the nurses’ station tugging my IV pole, with good caffeine also coursing through me and not caring a whit if the gown covered much of anything. Using the desk phone I easily placed the call, and standing rather composed at the counter and feeling no draft to speak of, I detailed for my wife the events up to the minute in the heart wing that was still quiet because Joe hadn’t wakened yet and I didn’t want to watch TV because the staff of nurses was much too entertaining.

I still had a little lime Jello on my tray, so back to my shared room I slowly walked with the IV walker rattling beside. Joe was now awake, one of the nurses checking on him. She later came across the room to check on me, and we got into a nice conversation about investments. We really did. But after fifteen or twenty minutes she said she needed to get back to work, to which I replied that she really didn’t because there were only Joe and me in the wing. But her uniform overruled so I talked with Joe.

Too quickly he asked what I did for a living. I told him I worked with churches. I’d always put it that way to soften the blow and prevent turning people away. But Joe was no dope. He immediately caught my drift and said, “Oh, you’re a pastor.” I confirmed his deduction, thankful he wasn’t put off by an image of my being a man of the cloth, which was difficult anyway considering my flowered gown.

Joe was in his 70s and had been in the Canadian forces during WW2, given probably the worst job in Europe, one that caused memories haunting him decades later. Joe was a sniper. His targets with deliberate, planned, dispatched. Our dialog quickly turned serious when he told me the feelings of guilt he still carried. I asked him what we were celebrating that weekend. Being Catholic (but then, I learned in confirmation class that all believers are of the holy catholic church), Joe correctly answered, the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Now this is where I believe God gave me the necessary and thankfully few words for the moment. In two or three sentences I reminded Joe he was called by his country to do something extremely difficult. If there should be a reason for God’s forgiveness, might He not forgive Joe now decades later? It was something like that I’d said. And it gave Joe peace.

Later that morning, the medicos came in with their machine to wire Joe for his procedure. His wife was also there so I got to meet her. Then Joe said he wanted me by his side while they put him out to set his heart aright. The nurse—the same one I spoke with about investments, told him that wouldn’t be within hospital protocol. She didn’t really say it that way, but what she did say and the way she said it made the rest of us very sure why she was wearing the uniform and Joe and I got stuck with little flowers.

But I got out of bed anyway and with my IV pole hobbled across the room to Joe’s bedside. I took his hand, thanked God for him, prayed for protection and good results, then tottered back to my side of the room. I learned something important during that little moment: one can never walk upright and proud while dragging an IV pole.

The nurse pulled the curtain across Joe’s bed so I couldn’t tell if they were consulting, doing their medical deed, or setting out a game of checkers. In a few minutes the curtain was withdrawn, Joe was sleeping peacefully, and the nurse told Joe’s wife everything went well. Now it was just a matter of waiting for him to recover enough to go home.

My follow-up test for cardiac damage took a while longer, but the caffeine was still good and Joe was feeling fine. So what better to do than talk across the room. As we were chatting my eye caught a syringe lying close to my bed. Just the plastic tube and plunger without the needle. I picked it up to have something more to do while Joe and I were talking, because of the caffeine. The nurse came in, I think to be sure Joe and I hadn’t begun rearranging the other beds, but Joe was still pretty mellow so I’m sure her concern was directed more my way. She noticed the syringe and asked for it. I said, ”I’m just playing with it. No needle or anything.” “No, I need to take that. You’re not supposed to have it.” It was the uniform. I was about to hand it over to her when a wonderful idea struck. I slipped the syringe into the glass of water by my bed, pulled up the plunger, said, “Hey Joe, watch this,” and smacked the plunger sending a stream of water across the room, thankfully away from Joe. He laughed, I laughed, he said, “Never thought I’d see a pastor do that,” and I gave the nurse her syringe.

Joe’s wife had brought flowers, so she took a picture of Joe and the nurse and me with the flowers before taking him home. My test results came back fine, no heart damage, just normal muscle strain from swinging the bat too long and too hard after a boring winter. Linda came to pick me up, I thanked the nurses for the good time, then all the way home didn’t stop talking about my excellent stay in the hospital with the nursing staff and my friend Joe. For some reason I never did get his last name. Maybe it was the caffeine. But I trust our surprise heart ward sleepover contributed to Joe knowing a little more about the grace of Jesus through an unconventional minister of the gospel.

 

 

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