Monday, November 19, 2007
As I was going through the edit this weekend I tried to imagine the illustrations which would go with each section, as I imagine the book being presented in picture book fashion.
There is another version of MAP which follows the main character, Lucy, now Lucinda, as an adult. That version is in the re-vision/re-write pile at the moment. I'm planning it's arrival after I complete the Kiev book.
Let me know your thoughts!
A Map of Heaven
Lucy and her father walked along the beach. Their footprints followed the waves that quietly slid over the warm sand. As the sun slid toward the west, the old seaside hotels cast low square shadows that chased them down the beach.
Lucy was born less than three miles from this ocean. Her father taught her to swim in its warm water. From this beach, she’d collected shells that filled jars on her bedroom windowsill.
But this summer was different. Daddy was sick. Most days instead of taking walks on the beach, they stayed inside and read books together. Sometimes the medicine upset Dad’s stomach, and he couldn’t join them for dinner. Somehow it also made him look different. Lucy could tell he was still her dad, though. The important things didn’t change. His smile was the same.
And then today, Dad asked Lucy to join him for a walk on the beach.
They walked along in silence, each of them thinking their own thoughts. Finally, they stopped and turned toward the ocean and watched the gentle waves wash ashore. The milky green water became dark blue where the sky and the sea became one.
“Daddy, where is Heaven?”
Lucy’s father’s gaze followed hers.
“That’s difficult to explain, Pumpkin.”
She squinted and looked up at him, “Do you believe in Heaven?”
Dad ruffled her hair, “Of course, honey.”
“Where is it?”
Lucy’s father bent down on one knee and with his finger drew a crooked circle in the sand.
“Imagine this circle is the ocean,” he said. In the middle of the circle, he placed a small brown and white striped shell. “And this shell is the
“From where we are now, we can’t see
Lucy bent down next to him, her knees created shallow bowls in the sand that quickly filled with water. “Then Heaven’s like
Dad laughed and stood, brushing off his hands. “Better, Pumpkin. Much better.”
She took his hand, “Are you going to Heaven soon, Daddy?”
“I’m afraid so, honey.”
Lucy’s father passed away at the end of the summer. Four weeks after that, Lucy started back to school.
Things did not go well.
When she came home that day, her mother was talking to their neighbor in the kitchen. Lucy laid the note from her teacher on the little table by the front door and crept upstairs to her bedroom.
She went to her desk and pulled a large blue canvas atlas from the shelf. Lucy flipped through the pages until she found the one she was looking for.
Her fingers followed the straight black lines on the page. If Dad was in
But he wasn’t really in
He was in Heaven.
But Lucy didn’t have a map of Heaven.
And if she didn’t have a map of Heaven, how could I be sure where Dad had really gone?
Her stomach hurt. She turned the pages, moving from one map, to another and another. What would a map of Heaven look like? Would it look like an island, surrounded by water like
Would it have exotic animals like
Would there be mountains?
Sun every day?
Or maybe because it was Heaven, there would be something for everyone.
Lucy slammed the book shut and dropped her head onto her folded arms. Her head hurt as much as her stomach. “Daddy, where is Heaven?”
She walked over to her bed. On the nightstand was a picture of Dad, Mom and Lucy, standing together on the beach. Daddy had his arms around them and they were laughing. They were a family. The whole world was within Daddy’s arms.
With her thumb, she covered Dad’s face.
Suddenly me and Mom seemed to be leaning into space. We didn’t look happy, we looked scared, “Daddy, Heaven is much, much further than
I curled up on the bedspread and held the picture close. “Please God, where is Dad?”
A soft breeze gently rattled the window screen. Then a knock at the door. “May I come in?” Mom asked.
“I don't care.”
Mom sat on the edge of the bed and took Lucy’s hands in hers. “I came to say our bedtime prayers.”
“I’m not talking to God.”
“I want to know where Heaven is. I want to know where Dad's gone.”
Mom nodded and leaned back and looked at the ceiling.
“What does love look like?”
“You can’t see love,” Lucy sighed. “It’s is a feeling, not a thing.”
“But is it real?”
“Of course, it’s real!” Lucy exclaimed. “I love you, I love Dad.”
“You love us even when you can’t see us?”
“I’ll always love you.”
“I’ll always love you too,” Mom smiled. “Now, tell me this, what does time look like?”
Lucy thought of the clock in the kitchen and the old diver’s watch Dad used to wear. She looked over at Mom, “Clocks?”
“No, they tell time. What does time itself look like?”
“I don’t know.”
“Remember the last time we went to the beach with Daddy? We left the house right after lunch. You played in the waves, we took a walk on the pier to watch the fisherman…”
“I fell asleep on the blanket,” Lucy said.
“That’s right. And when you woke up, the sun had begun to set and Daddy said we’d better go home before it got dark.”
“That’s right, and…”
“It’s just like love! You can’t see time, but it exists.”
Mom kissed Lucy on the forehead.
“Now, come with me.”
Mom turned out the light next to the bed and took Lucy’s hand.
They walked to the window. There were so many stars in the sky. Mom put her arms around Lucy and she leaned back, feeling safe and warm.
“Lucy,” Mom whispered, “Heaven is a place of endless love that exists in never-ending time. It’s a beautiful place where we live forever in God’s love.”
Lucy looked at the stars and tried to imagine it. “That’s where Daddy is now?”
Then Lucy thought of something else. “Then Dad’s probably not sick anymore is he? I mean, he’s all better now. God’s healed him. Will Dad always remember us?”
“Always.” Mom squeezed her tight and whispered, “Let’s say our prayers.”
Lucy closed my eyes. “I miss you, Daddy. I hope Heaven’s even better than
A star shot across the sky as Lucy opened her eyes. A star just for her.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Although I am proud of completing the revision of this novel which has sat on the shelf for the past four years with the rest of my writing, I can tell that it's going to take one more re-write before it's really where I want it to be. But I am so happy to be writing again.
Today I'm going to do a revision of my children's story, changing it from first person point of view to third person. I'll post it tomorrow.
Then I'll be out of town for three weeks as I head to South America....I'm bringing my journal, a pile of books, and my first ever digital camera.
When I return in mid-December I have a new novel I'll start posting. This one is set in Kiev and Lake Tahoe and is a bit of a thriller. I can't wait to share it with you!
Thank you for your readership and keep checking in for the next installment!
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Mrs. Tuesday walked down the long row of graves. In the far corner, she found the one she was looking for. She laid a fresh row of dried breadcrumbs along the top of the stone marker and stood for a moment breathing in the cold air.
“Hello Uncle Max,” she said.
There was of course, no reply to her greeting. She understood that she did not have the special communion with the dead that Natalie had possessed. But she continued to talk, because it was easier, and because she needed to hear her own words.
“I’ve been to your old apartment. They’ve divided it up into three apartments now. There are shops on the ground floor. One’s a little bakery that makes the nut rolls. They’re not as good as Mrs. Szep’s but they taste better than anything that I could get in the States.
“The letter I received explained everything that happened after I was sent away. Jozef survived the torture, but the New Mafia killed him two years later. Deszo’s family business met the same fate.
And Natalie got on the train.
“‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for…’ We didn’t understand that the verse pertained to faith in God. Not in each other. We all believed that was our basis in hoping for love that would never be reciprocated. Oh those stupid breadcrumbs…
“I’m so tired, Max,” Mrs. Tuesday said. She lowered herself onto a bench near the grave. She rocked back and forth, rubbing her hands over her arms to warm herself.
“Natalie got on the train.”
Mrs. Tuesday unfolded the letter she’d carried in her coat pocket since leaving
“This report was made by talking to eyewitnesses. And bits pieced together from records that were found later.
“Natalie got on the train and got off when it reached the camps. She searched for Anna. But when she found her it was too late. Her mind had escaped the horror that surrounded them. They say that she was always on her way to the opera. That she sat staring at a wall that she claimed to be a mirror where she’d smear her face and claim it was makeup. But she was happy. She often got up to give lectures to the other women, or recite poetry.
“They say that Natalie and Anna were inseparable. Natalie explained to anyone who would listen that there had been a mistake, they were not meant to be there. But then again, no one was meant to be there, were they? They were very interested in them when they realized they were identical twins, that one had gone insane while the other remained intact. They wanted to study them.
“But you see they ran out of time. The Allies were coming. So they did what all bad children do, they tried to hide their sins, to clean up the mess before they were caught.
“They say that when Nana and Anna were sent to the showers, they were holding hands, smiling. They say that Nana was talking to you, as they were led into the building. Were you with her then, Max?”
Monday, November 12, 2007
Deszo pulled a handful of bills out of his coat pocket. Garrick pushed the money away, shook his head and gestured toward the train. I could not hear their voices but the message was clear.
I ran over to them.
“Put me on the train!” I cried.
“Natalie, no,” Deszo said.
Garrick studyied my face. “Where these trains are going, there is no return. This is not a game.”
“I don’t care,” I cried.
“You can’t help her now.”
“I can,” I cried. “I must.”
The train was gaining momentum, soon I would not be able to keep up. My mind flashed back to Mila’s desperate final moments at the train station as she tried to hold onto her mother.
“Get me on the train!” I screamed.
“We’ll send a message up the line and tell them to take her out of the line at the camp,” Garrick said.
“NO! I must go with her!”
“How can you get on this train, knowing where it is going?”
“She is my sister,” I cried.
Garrick shouted to one of the soldiers, who in turn, blew a whistle and the train halted. The solider walked up to the train and slid open the door.
I looked at Deszo. “Take care of Mila. Keep her safe, make sure she gets through this. Will you?”
“Please no Nana” Mila cried.
I touched her cheek and quickly kissed her, “I must do this. You understand don’t you?”
I walked to the track and a man held out his hand to help me up. I turned to thank him and looked in the eyes of my darling Max.
Behind us, the door slid shut, thrusting us into darkness. I fell into Max’s embrace. “We’ll find her together, Max.”
Sunday, November 11, 2007
The two men stared at each other.
Finally Garrick relented. He called over two young soldiers with clipboards. He grabbed their clipboard and flipped through the pages.
Garrick barked an order and the two soldiers jumped into action running from train to train screaming the names of Mila and Anna. Each closed door of each of the loaded cars was opened. The sight was a scene from hell. The people were crushed together, standing side by side, no room to move. They stretched out their arms as the door opened and pleaded to be set free. A solider holding a gun held them at bay, but the terror in their eyes screamed louder than their voices.
Door after door opened and closed. One, two, three, five, six…where were they?
A door opened and from the back, I heard Mila’s voice above the others.
“Yes,” I screamed. “Yes, Mila!”
The solider screamed for the occupants of the car to move aside to let Mila off.
Mila jumped down onto the track and I ran forward and grabber her. “You are safe now.”
Behind us, the solider closed the door to the train car.
“But where’s Anna? Mila was Anna in the car with you?”
Mila looked at me and shook her head. “I don’t know where Anna is, I never saw her.”
“Deszo, help me!” I cried. “We’ve got to find Anna!”
We ran to the nearest open car and yelled for Anna. We went down the row to each car, calling her name. There was no answer. Behind us, each door closed.
We reached the final car, still no answer to our calls for Anna. I turned to the solider that was next to me and said, “We must keep trying. Ask them to open the doors again.”
The young solider looked at me and then to Garrick.
“It was your doing!” I grabbed the lapels of his coat and shook him, “Make them search the trains again.”
He shrugged me off and replied, “We have a schedule.”
“No, please,” I pleaded. “Please you must give me one more chance to find her!”
The train’s whistle blew.
I looked at the train and then back at him.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
I looked over at the clock on the bookshelf.
We’d fallen asleep on opposite sides of the room. I got up and shook Deszo’s arm gently and whispered, “It’s time.”
At the front door, we put on our coats and made our way down the stair and into the still, dark, pre-dawn streets.
We hurried along side streets until we reached the first building on the street designated as the ghetto. We stood in the deserted streets and a sudden horror filled my chest. It was clear that the silence here was the result of absence rather than sleep.
“It’s too late!” I moaned. “They’ve taken them.”
We raced to the train station. Deszo held my hand and I prayed that we wouldn’t be too late.
We found an endless stretch of bedlam. Soldiers lined the platform herding the desperate masses into cattle cars. Their luggage was left in heaps, promised to be on the next train, though I doubt anyone believed this lie anymore.
I wanted to know why no one turned and resisted. The number of captives far out numbered their guards. Yes, the guards carried weapons and the people were defenseless, but that could not be the only explanation. Was it simply human nature to succumb when hope was lost? Or did they hope against hope?
Deszo pushed a path ahead of us. I screamed for Anna and Mila. The soldiers’ jeers and threats that we could easily join the others on the train, met my pleas for help.
Deszo grabbed one of the men, demanded to be shown the officer in charge, and was pointed to a man further down the platform. I raced after him and then stopped when I saw Garrick staring at us, smiling as he checked his watch.
“You’re early,” he said.
“You lied to us! You never meant to set them free,” I cried.
Garrick shook his head and motioned to the long lines, “There’s nothing I can do.”
“You’ll find them now or there will be no meeting,” Deszo said.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Clearly, I needed Deszo in order to get Mila and Anna back. But beyond that, I no longer believed I could trust him. I got up and moved to another chair.
Deszo sighed, exasperated, “Natalie, have you considered Anna’s possible part in Mila’s capture?”
“When she left the apartment the plan to send Mila away hadn’t been created.”
“But she knew that Mila would be taken away.”
“Why would she do something to harm Mila? She’s her aunt.”
“But you’re the one who h as the real connection to Mila. And Anna was furious with you because in her delusional mind we were starting an affair.”
In her delusional mind? Wasn't it possible that Deszo had been the source of those delusions? I wondered if he had in fact fed Anna's suspicions, her desperate insecurities not only about the remnants of their relationship, but the slow dissolution of her mind.
“Anna is sick, not sadistic,” I swore, my knuckles were white underneath my grip on the arms of the chair. “And you knew where Mila was being taken. Anna didn’t.”
“Natalie, I have no motivation to harm Mila. Anna does.”
Sunday, November 4, 2007
Deszo and I sat side by side on the couch in my study. We’d pulled the shades on the window to conceal the weak light that emanated from two candle stubs that burned on the table in front of us. Deszo took my hand and I slipped easily under his arm and leaned my head against his shoulder. My arm rested against his chest and we held each other with eyes closed and our breathing slowing until we exhaled and inhaled in tandem.
“Natalie, we will get through tomorrow together.” Deszo turned in my embrace to face me. “I will not allow anything to happen to you.”
I looked up into his eyes and smiled, “Thank you for all you’ve done.”
Deszo whispered, “I love you with all my heart. You know I always have.”
“Please don’t say that.”
“Natalie, I know you still think of Max. I know you’ll never love me that way. But in time…”
“Deszo, no,” I pleaded.
“After tomorrow, things will be better,” he said, ignoring my words. “The war will be over soon. I’ll make sure Anna is taken care of, and I’ll do whatever you want about Mila. I’ll help you find her mother, or I’ll help you to raise her as my own.”
“Deszo, stop!” I cried. “We’ve known each other since we were children. You were Max’s best friend. I love you as a friend, nothing more. And as to Anna and Mila…” A sob choked me. “I don’t even know if Anna is still alive. Jozef says we have to get to the ghetto early tomorrow.”
“Garrick wouldn’t allow anything to happen to them.”
I stopped and put my hand to my mouth and then continued. “Deszo, which side do you work for?”
“Be careful what you ask, Natalie,” he said, taking his hand out of mine.
“Are you already working with the other side? Is that why Garrick singled you out?”
“Natalie, I can’t discuss my role,” he said. “There is too much at stake.”
“For whom? For Anna, for Mila?”
“I am working for the good of our country.”
“And the good of your family’s business? Have they promised to leave your father’s business unscathed if you provide them with information?”
Suddenly I was dizzy and sick to my stomach. “Did you have anything to do with Anna’s capture? Did you know where they’ve taken her?”
Thursday, November 1, 2007
I put Jozef into Mila’s bed and did my best to dress his wounds. Jozef grimaced in pain as I touched a cold rag to his face. I began to unbutton his shirt and as I tried to slip the shirt over his shoulder, he cried out in pain.
“I’ll be right back,” I said.
I returned with a pair of scissors.
“What are you doing?” he said.
“I have to cut your clothes off of you.”
“I’ll give you some of my husband’s clothes to wear, tomorrow.” I moved his arm to his side and slowly cut the shirt away from his body. “In the mean time, this is the only way I can properly clean your wounds.”
Once his upper body was exposed, I understood why he had cried out in pain. His shoulder was dislocated and his other arm appeared to be fractured at the wrist. In addition, his midsection was a mottled mass of blue green bruises. As I unbuckled his belt and began to cut away his pants, Jozef turned his head in embarrassment.
“You’re not the first man I’ve seen,” I said tenderly. I tried to maintain a lightness in my voice, but it was difficult not to retch at the sight before me. Jozef’s legs were dotted with open sores where cigarettes had burned holes through his skin. I wiped the beads of nauseous sweat from my upper lip and looked into his eyes. “My God, Jozef, how long did they tourture you?”
He turned his head toward the wall and didn’t answer.
“Jozef, did you hear them mention Mila and Anna while you were there? Are they still alive?”
“At least, Mila. They said she was sent to the ghetto. I heard someone say Anna’s name, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying, the others were laughing.”
I cringed, Anna and Mila had been picked up at different times. Anna first and then Mila the following morning. It would have taken them some time to link them. Had something Anna said caused them to watch the apartment and then follow Mila and Mrs. Szep when they left? But why didn’t they pick them up immediately, why let them get to the house safely? And they’d only taken Mila, Mrs. Szep and her friend had been left unharmed.
I could only hope that Anna had been taken to the ghetto and had managed to find Mila. But when she left Mila was safely at home. Perhaps she still didn’t know that Mila had been picked up. Or had Garrick told her? I shivered and tried to apply ointment as gently as possible. Jozef had suffered so much, it would take him weeks to heal, but the psychological abuse he’d suffered would be with him much longer.
“Mila would be proud of the way you’ve tried to help her. Thank you, Jozef.”
“There is a transport train leaving for the camps tomorrow,” he whispered. He took my hand, “Get to the ghetto early or you will miss them.”
“But Deszo made a deal with Garrick.”
“Bait. He doesn’t care whether they are safe or not.” He coughed and a sliver of blood seeped from the edge of his mouth.