Friday, August 29, 2014

Summertime Part IV

Wrapping up the summer fun, this is Part IV, the conclusion to my short story "Summertime", from my Guppy Soup literary short story collection. Enjoy.

Guppy Soup by JT Therrien

Part IV

The cantor's lilting voice filled the church.
"Ave Maria..." the hymn began, the resounding organ notes raised goosebumps on Eugenia's back and arms. She wept, in part because this was her special song, but mostly because she could not express the overwhelming joy any other way.
The cantor continued:
"Gratia plena, Dominus tecum,
"benedicta tu in mulieribus,
"et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus,
"Sancta Maria, Mater Dei...,
Eugenia wore the elegant white-laced wedding dress her mother had sewn and worked on for so many months prior to the wedding. It felt snug and heavy and perfect on her shoulders. She was constrained and comforted. If love had a physical presence, she reflected, it was this dress.
Zachary stood beside her, straight-backed, debonair in his black suit and new black shoes. She had already seen the grey felt hat he had bought for the reception. Eugenia examined her fiancé's face; two deep oases of bright blue amid a tanned landscape of desert sand. A thin nose divided the two halves perfectly, the whole scene supported by his confident jaw.
Through the pale fabric of memory, Eugenia saw herself dabbing at a falling tear with the borrowed silk handkerchief clutched in her gloved hand.
Father Grady's compassionate voice asked her if she would like to become Mrs. Zachary Adams. "I do," she answered. Yes! A thousand times yes.
Eugenia almost fainted when Zachary said his own I do, so overcome with joy had she been.
And then they kissed for the first time as man and wife…
So long ago. They had been so young and so full of love. Eugenia turned over in her bed and suppressed a startled cry. She stared in wonderment at the man beside her and wondered if she was dreaming again. Zachary lay on top of the covers, his blue eyes serenely looking at her. Her heart raced, once again like that wonderful wedding day so many years ago. In her bedroom the world got a little bit dimmer, a little bit darker, except for Zachary's intense gaze, refusing to leave her face.
She was suddenly afraid and craved Zachary's reassurance.
"It's okay," he nodded. "It's almost time for you to come home, Genie."
"Oh, Zachary," mouthed Eugenia, another tear rolled down the side of her face and disappeared in the pillowcase. Like all those tears shed so long ago. She blinked away the rest of the tears. "It hurts, and I'm frightened, Zachary. Please take my hand and stay with me, even just for a little while?"
"Anything for you, Genie," he promised, gently squeezing her hand.

* * *

       Eugenia convulsed violently, in the process kicking the covers to the floor.
"Mother Adams? Can you hear me?" Fanny's cold, bony hands shook Eugenia's shoulders.
She gasped in agony, her eyes tightly closed in a futile attempt to ignore the present, the excruciating jostling of her body that threatened to keep her alive yet one more day.
"Hey! Mother Adams? Are you okay?" Fanny asked in a voice laden with syrupy concern.
Eugenia realized the growing darkness helped her to cope better with Fanny. She would need more patience if she was ever to actually love Fanny, but time now proved to be as elusive to hold on to as handfuls of water.
With the last of her strength Eugenia willed her eyes open, even though it meant having to look into her daughter-in-law's stone cold gaze one more time. She saw the look of disgust on Fanny's face but chose to ignore it. Time had become something too precious to be wasted on lost causes. Instead, Eugenia yearned to say goodbye.
"Martin? Where is Martin?"
Fanny's voice took on a sharp edge and her speech slowed, as if she were addressing a small child who was hard of hearing and somewhat slow. "I told you earlier, Mother Adams. Marty went out to get you some groceries. All right? Now, why don't you take another one of these little white pills and we'll see if you can't get back to sleep."
Fanny had already tapped a morphine pill out the plastic bottle when Eugenia's vision darkened, the world disappearing in a black fog. Fanny's squealing suddenly mutated into Ethel's voice.
"Eugenia? It's time for us to be going."
"Ethel...?" whispered Eugenia.
"No, Mother Adams. There's no Ethel here. All right? Now listen to me. This is Fanny. Do you hear me, Mother Adams? It's me, Fanny!"
Eugenia felt Fanny's claws dig into her shoulders again. Her head rolled limply from side to side when Fanny shook her.
In a panicked voice, Fanny shouted, "Mother Adams? Do you need a doctor? Do you want me to phone Dr. Frennette?"
"Ethel?" Eugenia said. She knew that wasn't right, but she was so confused. "Tell Martin that I love him very much, will you?" Eugenia mouthed the words silently, her breath feathering Fanny's cheek.
"What are you saying, Mother Adams? Mother Adams? What is it that you want me to tell Martin?"
Fanny's voice drifted away again, drowned by canned laughter pouring out of the black and white Philco television. Fred, still warning Ethel that if she knew what was best for her she would return that fur coat. Lucy, with her hair-brained scheme, would mix everything up and Eugenia and Zachary, who were now sitting side by side in matching pine rockers, would get a big laugh out of the ensuing chaos.
"Zachary." She stretched out a hand to touch her husband's shoulder.
He turned to his wife. "Yes, sweetheart?"
"It's good to see you again, Zachary. I've missed you for so long." Eugenia couldn't help dabbing at her eyes with the blue handkerchief.
"And I've missed you, too, Eugenia," he replied.
"Can we stay together, now?"
"We will be together forever, sweetheart. I promise."
Eugenia closed her eyes and sighed, combining the past and the future in a single last breath.


* * *

I hope you enjoyed the conclusion of "Summertime". 

If, after having read the four parts of "Summertime", you absolutely must read the rest of the Guppy Soup collection of short stories, it's available for Kindle on Amazon and for all other e-book formats at Smashwords and all online e-tailors.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Summertime Part III

Still continuing the summer fun, please enjoy Part III of my short story "Summertime", from my Guppy Soup literary short story collection.

Guppy Soup by JT Therrien
Part III

"Marty? Yeah, it's me. She's awake and she's calling for you. I don't know why. No, not yet, she's fine... healthy as a horse... I told you, she's fine! Look, Marty, I'm just giving you the damn message, okay?"
Eugenia unconsciously clenched her teeth. Fanny's voice intruded upon the memory of the accident, shattering it as if it existed on flimsy celluloid.
When Fanny's whine faded, Eugenia's jaw relaxed.
"I'm telling you, Ethel, you're taking that fur coat right back to the store!" Fred yelled at his wife.
"I'll do no such thing! Why, Lucy told me that it looked—"
"Lucy! Lucy's crazy! You listen to me, Ethel. You take back the coat or you'll be going to that wedding accompanied by your screwball friend instead of me!"
"Fred! How dare you talk that way about Lucy. She's my best friend!"
Laughter, so much laughter.
Eugenia smiled, knowing that Lucy would soon be involved. Then all heck would break loose for sure.
"Look. I don't care what you do or when you get back. How long till the end of the game? All right, I'll tell her... something... I don't know what! Look... don't worry about it. You sit and finish your beer, I'll be fine!" Fanny slammed the telephone receiver so hard into its plastic cradle that the ringer dinged.
A moment later she heard Fanny's heels clicking neatly on the hallway linoleum tiles outside her bedroom. Eugenia closed her eyes, feigning sleep.
Fanny entered the room and strode directly to Eugenia's bedside, her body casting a shadow on Eugenia's face. She nudged the bed with a fleshy thigh. "Mother Adams? Mother Adams?" Eugenia tried not to gag on the cloying scent of Chanel No. 5 when Fanny towered over her.
When she coughed she opened her eyes and stared into Fanny's sun-wrinkled face, so close it seemed to draw the very breath from her lungs. Fanny's bulbous nose was in direct competition with her black-rimmed eyes for attention. Lifeless, loveless spheres, they absorbed life and discharged indifference in return. If it was true that the eyes were mirrors of the soul... Eugenia shivered at the thought of Martin staring into those eyes for the rest of his life.
Fanny smiled at her, flashing bright white dentures that were too long in the front, creating a buck-toothed grin that contrasted with her fashionable hairstyle, the bleached-blond strands tucked behind oversized ears, making her long equine face appear longer and even less attractive than it already was.
"Are you cold, Mother Adams?" Without waiting for an answer, Fanny dropped another layer of sheets over Eugenia's body.
"Where's Martin?" Eugenia asked weakly, pawing ineffectively at the heavy layer to get it off her sweltering body.
Even though there wasn't anything humorous in what Eugenia had asked, Fanny laughed as she answered, "Oh, you know Marty. He's out and about. Gallivantin' like he does. I think he went to get you a few groceries. You know," she said casually, looking down at her glossy blood-red fingernails, "that's probably the reason why you had that spell. You don't eat too good, living by yourself and all, in this big old house full of cold drafts."
Eugenia inhaled deeply again, trying to draw oxygen in her lungs. She turned over, away from Fanny and her dreadful cloud of perfume.
Fanny harrumphed and walked over to the other side of the bed, blocking Eugenia's view of the old willow tree. She struck a match and lit a cigarette, blowing a puff of smoke over the bed and across the room.
Eugenia coughed lightly.
"You don't mind if I smoke, do you, Mother Adams?"
Fanny inhaled deeply, a moment later releasing the smoke above Eugenia's bed. "You know," her daughter-in-law continued, "you should really think about moving into Glenwood Manor, that new residence in town. Did Marty tell you that we went over there last week, just to have a look-see?" Fanny's pencil-thin eyebrows raised inquiringly as she waited for Eugenia's response.
Eugenia remained silent, trying not to panic as she struggled to draw a much-needed breath.
"Well, anyway, we went there. It was Marty's idea, you know. And it was just so wonderful! They have dancing on Saturday nights, and there's a big TV, and a large common room full of picture puzzles and games. And… if you moved there you wouldn't have to worry about cleaning this big old house or walking up and down those nasty stairs."
And you could finally lay claim to my house and move in, Eugenia considered.
Her breath sounded as raspy going in as it did coming out. She closed her eyes to mere slits, the whole world reduced to a slice of grey.
Fanny stretched her hand out. Eugenia thought she was examining her latest manicure, paid for with Marty's hard-earned money. Twelve hours a day, six days a week, the poor boy sweated in that smelting factory. Fanny turned her face toward the sunshine and closed her eyes. "God, I hate the sunshine. Look what it's doing to my skin."
As Fanny left Eugenia's bedroom, sinewy strands of cigarette smoke trailed behind her like a long veil, torn into ribbons.


* * *

I hope you enjoyed Part III of "Summertime". Look for Part IV in the next few weeks.

If you absolutely need to finish reading "Summertime" before I post the other parts, you can find Guppy Soup for Kindle on Amazon. The literary short story collection is also available on Smashwords for all other e-formats, including Kobo, ibooks, B&N, etc.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Review: A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories

A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories
A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O'Connor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this collection of odd short stories. I was, unfortunately, looking for Catholic-themed fiction, which was why O'Connor was on my to-be-read pile. Sadly, I fall into the camp of readers who do not see the Catholicism displayed (either textually or sub-textually) in any of the stories.

As an author whose fiction promotes the New Evangelization of the Church, along with central themes of St. John Paul II's Theology of the Body, I question O'Connor's methodology of choosing to show readers what some ignorant characters think the Catholic Church is about. I refer here to the last story in the collection: "The Displaced Person". Through my fiction, I prefer to explicitly show the doctrines of the Church. I believe that the message is more clearly presented that way.

O'Connor's "Catholicism" seems to be of the type Good vs Evil. Well, yes, that is a theme covered in the Catholic Faith, but it is also a theme that can be found in every good piece of literary fiction (and non-fiction, if we include the Bible and many other books).

When questioned about her fiction, O'Connor reportedly said that since she was a Catholic, she could write no other way. Just because one is a Catholic does not mean that everything one writes has Catholic overtones.

While I'm at it, I might as well say that the sentiments expressed (along with the southern dialect) distracted my reading. And this is coming from someone who absolutely loves William Styron's prose! We are only sixty years removed from most of these stories, and I think their voice is already dated.

These stories are definitely worth a read, however. They are interesting, and I guarantee you will never meet such a collection of bizarre characters in any other anthology.

My quest for entertaining Catholic fiction continues...


View all my reviews

Monday, August 11, 2014

New Cover and Giveaway for The Betrothal

The Betrothal has recently received a make-over! Here is the new whimsical cover from Fine Form Press. You go, Lego couple!

The Betrothal by JT Therrien

When Benjamin takes Sarah out to celebrate their four-month dating anniversary, he wines and dines her at Calabash, London's best restaurant. After a wonderful meal, he has another surprise for her: his prepared lecture at the National Gallery, where he presents Sarah with a unique and entertaining interpretation of the love story between feisty Giovanna Cenami and Pieter Baes, Jan van Eyck's young assistant at the time van Eyck painted the famous Arnolfini Betrothal Portrait.

The Betrothal is always available at Smashwords and Amazon for 99 cents! You can leave a comment below to receive a free e-copy. I'll probably need your email address. :-)


Sunday, August 03, 2014

Summertime Part II

Continuing the summer fun, please enjoy Part II of my short story "Summertime", from my Guppy Soup literary short story collection.

Guppy Soup by JT Therrien
Part II

The wind blew dust in Eugenia's eyes, making her blink spasmodically. When she opened them again she found herself squinting up at a clear blue sky filled with bright sun. She had been told more than once that her green Irish eyes turned a shade lighter, sparkling like emeralds haloed with golden threads, when they reflected the brilliant sunshine, and that thought always made her happy to be outdoors in the summertime.
The car she rode in, a shiny blue convertible with whitewall tires, traveled swiftly down a country road, in the process spewing pink billows of dried clay into the air. She inhaled, enjoying the heady potpourri of fragrances conspiring, along with the colorful patchwork of wild flowers growing on the roadside, to overwhelm her.
She quickly glanced to her left, suddenly remembering, her heart skipping a beat. Eugenia gazed at the man sitting beside her in the driver's seat, a contented smile on his face.
Black hair, cut just like after his release from the military, following his stint with the Van Doos. Beneath the tanned skin, a square jaw and clean-shaven face that seemed to somehow exude both ruggedness and tenderness. Zachary's callused hands, hardened by years of difficult farm work, rested comfortably on the steering wheel as he guided the '57 Meteor down the serpentine roads. The wedding band glinted rays of sun. Yes, her Zachary was there beside her. Of course he would be.
"Zachary," Eugenia sighed, love and devotion warming her voice.
"What are you smiling at, sweetheart? Surely not at my ugly mug?" Zachary glanced at her.
She returned his smile. His gazes made her feel like a treasured prize freshly won at the county fair.
"It's just that..." Eugenia's voice became somber as she added, "I've missed you so much, Zachary." The rushing wind tossed strands of Eugenia's hair into her eyes and she was momentarily surprised at its length and color; the dark henna of her youth, grown out over her shoulders. She marveled at Zachary's crew cut, obstinately resisting the onrush of air in the convertible.
Eugenia leaned over and grasped her husband's free hand. She gave it a tender squeeze before resting her head on the leather seat and closing her eyes against the pressing wind.
The car went over a small rise in the road and she exclaimed, "Ooh... That tickled my tummy!" She laughed easily and slid closer beside him, feeling the warmth of his body through her dress.
She spotted a crow sitting atop a fence post and a feeling of dread darkened her mood. She ignored it when Zachary smiled, perfectly beautiful.
"You still haven't told me where we're going." Eugenia's small voice was all but lost in the roar of the wind and the rumble of the car's powerful engine.
"Port," Zachary replied, keeping his eyes fixed on the road.
"Port Colborne. To look at the boats sailing through the canal," he added after they had driven a few miles further down the scorched road.
"The boats!" Eugenia exclaimed, clapping her hands in jubilation. "Oh, I just love to watch those big ships squeeze through the canal. It's been such a long time since we've gone to see them!" She tugged on the sleeve of Zachary's white shirt. "Remember the last time? We spent the whole afternoon just watching the huge, grey ships float by on their way to the east coast? Or was it the west coast?"
"It was both. They go both ways, Genie." Zachary laughed, his deep baritone making her blush at her forgetfulness.
They rode in silence, happy to be in each other's company, until Eugenia asked, "When are we stopping for lunch?" She glanced at the Lady Timex he had given her for her twenty-second birthday, hardly a month ago. Soon after she'd announced the news. He had it inscribed: To keep track of the seconds when we're apart. "It's going on quarter to twelve and I'm getting a bit hungry. How 'bout you?"
"I'm hungry enough to eat—" Zachary stopped talking. The sudden change of expression on his face made Eugenia turn to face the front.
A black and white Holstein lumbered across the road. As if running out of momentum, it stopped suddenly and blocked their path.
"Hold on!" Zachary stomped on the brake pedal, but...
"Oh, Zachary..." whispered Eugenia, feeling the familiar tears roll down her cheeks.


* * *

I hope you enjoyed Part II of "Summertime". I'll be continuing the story over the next few weeks.

If you absolutely need to finish reading "Summertime" before I post the other parts, you can find Guppy Soup for Kindle on Amazon. The literary short story collection is also available on Smashwords for all other e-formats, including Kobo, ibooks, B&N, etc.

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