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Interlude

Hobbomock
(Current Day)

 

After two hours sitting on a couch, in an empty vacation home, the real estate agent decided enough was enough.

Shutting down an Open House was the same as opening it, except for a certain element of suspense. Since the sign out on the road that passed the oceanfront estate was the last thing to come down, there was always the chance of visitors at the door, even as he turned out the last light.

Packing up his marketing materials, laid out on the coffee table like horizontal mug shots, he decided to play it safe and lock the front door. Ascending the broad staircase that clung to the wall on the right side of the living room, he began turning off unneeded beside lamps, closing closet doors devoid of clothing and drawing the curtains on windows which cast light on empty beds.

Once back down on the main floor, he moved through the formal dining room that opened out to a patio on the left side of the granite and timber house. A butler’s door, complete with a still-reflective brass plate, took him into the kitchen as his next-to-last stop.

Company sits in the living room, family ends up in the kitchen, The random thought surprised him. The kitchen, as the rest of the house, was furnished in mid-Sixties Summer House. The table was a brashly optimistic combination of the yellow vinyl and tubular chrome. The cabinets were glass and wood with dark wrought iron latches. On the linoleum-covered counter, next to the double cast iron sink, was a single glass. Putting it in the cabinet above, he stared out the window. A covered porch was the final transition between indoors and my-god-the-ocean-is-huge lawn. He felt a renewed pride in his ad copy for this property, ‘A once grand oceanfront home waiting to host your memories of Summer’.

Turning off the last light in the basement, his mind now preoccupied with holding together a contract on a new sale, he fell victim to the most rookie of errors in the real estate business.

Focused on his next appointment and the oblong of light from the kitchen above, he walked into a low-hung steam pipe. The velocity of his head as it encountered the iron pipe was sufficient to knock him to the floor.

After a loss of awareness barely long enough to qualify as a loss of consciousness, he sat up in the dark. Feeling a flash of embarrassment, he swiped the flashlight app on his phone. Leaning on one hand, he bent his legs at the knees, the first step to getting his legs under his body so he could stand up. He laughed at the sudden memory of the Erector Set that occupied hours of his time as a boy in the 1960s.

Eyebrows gathering close like a football huddle over the childhood toy metaphor, his head felt a little like there was static under his scalp. Standing slowly, shoulders hunched in a purely somatic defense posture, his frown was nourished by sounds from the house above. Taking comfort in the certainty of his memory of locking the front door before beginning his rounds, the character of the sound registered.

It was, for lack of a better, (or more rational), description, the sound of a house full of people.

*****

 

“My God!”

A very common expression of surprise voiced by countless people. The difference, the inference and, of course, the instance that followed was left to the individual. In this case the individual was a young woman standing in the center of the unaccountably sunny kitchen.

Allyson stuttered her exclamation of surprise with a trill of laughter. Startled in that way when a mundane assumption is contradicted. In this case, on this particular Sunday afternoon, she expected to be alone in the kitchen if for no other reason than she ran in to get additional coasters for her guest’s drinks; said guests all being located on the broad, covered-porch that overlooked the ocean. That, and the fact that the kitchen was empty when she entered.

The laughter, in her response, was natural enough, given how her cousin Michael had a reputation for having fun, with the cooperation of others or not.

“Michael! How on earth did you get down there and… your head! You’re bleeding!”

Episode 2

…Previously in the Hobbomock Chonicles

Our hapless time-traveler finds a value in one of the few advantages of age, a ‘poker face’, the gold watch that Life bestows on those who last late into the game.

Hobbomock, as some towns and all great love affairs, was born out of tragedy.

The ship foundered and lurched, as the winds raced ahead of the storm, just as it entered the bay. Passing to the west of Conanicut Island, the captain relaxed his guard. Too soon.

The following day, a hunting party, returning from the island, found the ship. Its hull splayed across the beach, wooden ribs with sea weed cartilage, like entrails on a scryer’s altar. The ‘people of the small point’ appreciated it whenever the gods chose to smile on them.

There was one survivor.

Hobbomock
(Summer of 1965)

 

“To the sink, you’re bleeding all over your Banlon.”  With the delicate precision of a figure skater leading her partner, the young woman pulled the man towards the sink and away from the cellar stairs, a towel against his temple.

The formerly-unconscious man did not resist. Realizing that the unknown had seamlessly become the incomprehensible, he decided to comply. This strategy had the advantage of not requiring anything of him and, other than the warm-into-tickling flow down his face, he didn’t feel bad. Physically.

Despite being much shorter than he, even after factoring in the intricately balanced tangle of blonde hair, she moved him without much apparent effort. Her clothing, showcasing a graceful neck and a gymnast’s body, was attractive and oddly disturbing. Never interested in fashion and certainly not familiar with its secretly exotic lexicon, the best the man could do was think, Like that girl I almost slept with in college, she used to wear a blouse without shoulders like that.

Like the drunken guest at a wedding reception, shouldering his way for a dance with the bride, the summer-bright sunshine filled the kitchen and demanded his attention. None of which, of course, made any sense at all. He felt grateful for the period of unconsciousness that stood between what he knew and where he was. Contrasted with a whisper of relief, he felt a bracing of pride that he was not currently curled up in a ball on the floor of this kitchen-that-could-not-be.

The woman tending his injury obviously knew him. Her concern was written in her face in the simple furrowing of brow and concentration in her eyes. There was nothing other than worry about the fact he was bleeding. Having him at the sink, her touch conveyed the relaxed familiarity of an old friend.

She was clearly confident his name was Michael. And, minor head wound notwithstanding, she gave no indication that encountering him coming up from the cellar, was out of the ordinary. This certainty and her decisive action, combined to make her the local expert on the topic of ‘what-the-hell-is-going-on’. All the broker needed was a name. Given the location of his injury, nothing good would come of asking her.

Much has been written about the virtues of advanced age, many words on a relatively small number of benefits. Although certainly not in the top ten, well behind wisdom and patience, the personal quality of being unflappable made all the difference to him at this moment. He was certain his best course of action was to do nothing other than cooperate with the young woman as she ministered to his wound.

The sounds of children playing and adults scheming drifted into the kitchen. The scent of ocean-salt air mingled with stray words of gossip and conversation. The ocean, drawing the majority of what sounded like at least twenty or thirty people, out to the porch and on to the lawn overlooking the beach, was clearly the alpha guest.

“I’ve never seen you this way, so at a loss, Michael.” Pulling a chair from the table in the center of the room, she nodded for him to sit. Watching his posture, she kept her hand on the back of the chrome and vinyl seat-back as he sat down.

“First some ice, now that the bleeding has stopped, then a quick look at the more important tell-tales.”

The man felt the chair bend slightly as the chrome-pipe frame adjusted to his weight,

We had a kitchen table like this growing up. The thought passed through the real estate broker’s mind with the lack of emphasis commonly associated with observations on the weather and compliments on how well-behaved a client’s young children were during a showing.

The woman, bending from the waist, stared into his eyes, hands lightly holding either side of his head.

“Does anything hurt when I turn your head like this?” He moved his head to one side and then the other, with a deliberate slowness. Little thought was given to his response, as he was captivated by his inquisitor’s clothing.

I believe they called that a peasant’s blouse and those are simply the widest bell-bottom pants I’ve ever seen. His effort to catalogue the woman’s clothing failed for two reasons: he ran out of fashion vocabulary at the knotted belt that pretended to be holding up her pants and, on a more fundamental, if not visceral level, found himself in thrall to the view as she leaned closer.

The butlers door opening out to the dining room swung inwards with enough force to bounce off the wainscoting. A heavy-set man wearing gold wire-rim glasses and an Egyptian ankh on a leather strap around his neck stepped into the kitchen quickly enough to get past the door on its ricochet return.

“Allyson! The ink is barely dry on your MD and you’re already playing doctor! Wait ’til I tell Aunt Millie.” Laughing, he looked down at the man in the chair, “Besides, I know this guy and chances are that laceration is either an irate husband or a disappointed debutante.”

“Barry, enough! Can’t you take anything seriously?” Allyson looked up at the new arrival but did not straighten her posture, remaining the center of the seated man’s world.

Letting his audience misinterpret his smile, the real estate broker felt better, he had names! “Thank you, Allyson. I’m really alright, just hit my head on a pipe in the basement.”

*****

(Summer of 1665)

“Bring her. The sachem will be pleased.”

The leader of the hunting party crouched next to the woman in the sand. He saw the desire grow in the eyes of the braves as they surveyed the wreckage of the ship. The material of the sails alone would make the name of man who succeeded in laying claim to it.

“The white man’s treasure will be here tomorrow, from the looks of her wounds, this may not.” He lifted the woman and began to walk into the pine forest lining this section of the bay. Her hair draped over his buckskin like gold spun by the gods.

Episode Three

…previously from, the Hobbomock Chronicles

In the company of the only two people whose names he knew, our time-traveling real estate broker left the kitchen and waded into the social rapids of what was clearly a society function at an oceanfront estate. As secure in his identity as one named Michael can expect, he was determined to learn what he must, in order to make sense of the world.

Hair of sun-bleached gold and skin the lightness of a summer dawn, the woman is transported through the forest. A leather-and-oak travois offering a tilted view of where she had been, however, still-closed eyes deprive her mind of the recent past. Despite the fact that progress towards the local tribe’s summer camp was as smooth as the men were quiet, the young woman twisted and writhed in her sleep. Wherever she is, at the moment, it’s not a peaceful land.

*****

Hobbomock
(Current Day)

‘There is surely no more durable strain of human foible than Man’s eternal search for divinity; except, of course, his disappointment when God proves to be all too human.’

Walking down the early-morning-empty sidewalk, Hannah Stephanson came to an abrupt halt. The sudden appearance of words for her latest book’s introduction tugged at her like a dog on a leash approaching the veterinarians office. Blond waves crested to either side of her face as she smiled at her phone, typing the words into her memory. Had there been anyone else on the sidewalk, they would have surely run into her, five-foot ten-inch frame notwithstanding.

“Hey, Miss Stephanson!”

Abigail Neumann waved from one of the benches lining the outer edge of the Town Commons. A trapezoid of green-and-granite, the park was as close to the cultural heart of Hobbomock as anything less than three hundred years old could hope to be. Balanced on the back of the wrought iron bench, her current boyfriend, Jake Williams sat, bare feet on the wood slats on either side the girl. He scowled at the world around him with an intensity available only to suicide bombers and adolescent boys.

Hannah started to wave, remembered the phone in her hand and, instead, nodded her head back; her chin standing in for an acknowledgement of the greeting. Recognizing one as being in her eleventh-grade history class and the other from those weeks she drew detention duty, she called out, “Good morning Abigail!” “Good morning Jacob.”

A glance at her wrist made it clear there was no time to talk. In fact, she was going to be late. Only the August heat convinced her that jogging the two blocks to her real estate office would be in no one’s interest. Especially her own, as she had office hours until noon and was wearing her favorite, if not humidity-friendly, business suit.

‘Hobbomock Homes and Rentals, Inc’ occupied two adjacent units in a block-long granite building facing the Commons. Hannah saw lights on inside the office, indicating that her sometime-co-listing agent, Alexandra Devon, was already there. This meant the coffee would be on, the overnight inquiries for summer rentals dealt with and the chalkboard Daily Inventory, updated.

Hannah liked Alexandra for her energy and believed the other woman appreciated her own attention to detail. During the summer, when Hannah worked full-time, she would help Alex with the paperwork involved in listing properties. For her part, when a summer rental tenant stormed into the office, eager to share his disappointment in the house he’d rented, Alexandra met him at the door. Neither the complaints nor the disgruntled vacationer made it past the small reception area.

Alex Devon’s numerous listings never failed an audit and Hannah Stephanson was able to enjoy time in the office, often working on her next book.

*****

Hobbomock was organized as a municipality, run like a colonial village and, despite, (or because of), it’s disparate socio-economic elements, continued to exist after nearly three hundred forty-five years.

The town, on a plateau overlooking the shoreline, with its salt ponds and barrier beaches, extended far enough inland to include more than one colonial-era textile mile. Arguably the first manifestations of the industrial revolution, the mills harnessed the power of two rivers that descended from the higher elevations to the west, seeking the ocean to the east.

Although the future was not kind to these industries, that they existed in a rural setting while still being a reasonable distance to the ocean, made western Hobbomock a contender when the next wave of economic development arrived in search of a home and profit-enhancing tax breaks.

Santayana’s warning about the price of ignoring the lessons of history remained as true in modern times as it did when the lands now occupied by Hobbomock was home to hunter gatherers and un-molested nature.

Given the intensity and scale of human suffering that attended the founding of Hobbomock, the Town Fathers would have been better served to have a historian on the committee formed to review the proposal from AcumenRe Business Control Systems. Looking for a location on the East Coast where their company could grow and thrive, Hobbomock was their first choice. The small town on the ocean appeared to have the raw materials and human resources that could fuel its growth.

As often observed, when the new and the old collide, the best the old can hope for is a comfortable retirement.

Episode Four

previously in ‘the Hobbomock Chronicles’

If, for the sake of perspective, we imagine modern towns, (and villages and cities), as grown-up adults, history becomes biography. And, as everyone knows, in biography, the most revealing insights into the subject are, invariably, found among the family into which they were born. Unfortunately, should we choose to take this approach to understanding our town of Hobbomock, we are compelled to accept that we’re dealing with a case of a kidnapped child.

The mid-sixties were nothing if not interesting; both in the sense of cultural upheaval and in the sense of the apocryphal Chinese curse.

Like the recovering alcoholic, on probation for a crime of desperation, whose gift of ‘perfect pitch’ makes it possible to earn just enough of a wage to stay alive another day; hope springs eternal and gift horses have always been valued by those with less.

 

Hobbomock
(1965)

“If you’re sure you’re alright, lets join the others.” Allyson pushed open the butler’s door just enough to flood the kitchen with the sounds of a house full of people. Like half an old-fashioned revolving door, it opened just enough to offer a glimpse of the living room. Gathered for no other reason than it was a warm August day, men and women sat and spoke and boys and girls ran and called out to friends. Surrounding the grand summer cottage, the wind off the ocean was light and the sky was a summer-washed blue.

The real estate broker reminded himself that being addressed as ‘Michael’, by an attractive young woman, wasn’t the worst thing to happen since re-gaining consciousness on the cellar floor. As strange occurrences go, that could be the other person’s mistake. No explanation whatsoever could account for the fact that he presently occupied the body of a man a third his age.

His smile of confident reassurance stuttered, as the calendar on the wall, next to the door, acquired the irresistible gravity of a spontaneous black hole. The top consisted of a photo of a 12-metre yacht, ‘Gretel’ painted across the stern, however, the lower-half containing the numbered days of the week, demanded his attention like a barber with a straight-edge razor. Just above ‘August’ was 1965, solid block letters daring him to deny it.

Allyson was halfway through the doorway, her attention on the people in the living room. Like the survivor of a tornado strike stepping from the pile of rubble that was supposed to be his home, ‘Michael’ took her hand. Fighting the urge to run back to the cellar door, he allowed her to pull him further into a world he could not explain.

The living room consisted of both the familiar and things that shouldn’t be: banks of cigarette smoke eddied like a fog over coffee tables full of highball glasses and overflowing ashtrays. Men with razor-cut hair, pressed chinos, and boat shoes without socks, stood in half-moon groups in front of women on wicker couches and chairs. Summer dresses were as causal and delicate as the salt-and-iodine scent of the ocean. Greetings, like leis tossed at tourists stepping off an ocean liner, were casually tossed in their direction, “So Michael, how’s the vacation been so far? and, “Allyson, what do you think of the new hospital?”

The real estate broker’s confidence crumbled, pre-human reflex squeezed the hand still in his. The almost-forgotten promises of childhood to the contrary, his guardian angel was as real as the Wind Song that whispered behind her ears and the pressure of her fingers on his forearm. It was the world around him that was as unreal.

Following in Allyson’s wake as she crossed the room, Michael smiled at everyone and looked directly at none.  Most reacted with the amiable familiarity of long-standing acquaintances, the social niceties, requiring no response, provided reassurance that whoever they thought he was, he was accepted in their company.

Halfway through the room, a vacant settee, to the left of the wing-back chair occupied by the matriarch of the Ross clan.

Leaning into her ward’s left side, Allyson steered him to this relative safe harbor. She found her surprise at the solidity of muscle and the grace with which Michael accepted her prompts, disturbing, in a pleasant way. Her erstwhile patient neither yielded completely nor resisted her steering.

He sat but did not let go of her hand. She allowed herself to join him, like a pram towed behind a much larger vessel. The momentum of the occasion provided forward motion, the physical attraction curved their paths together. Sitting, they pressed together, along matching sides. The age-old conspiracy of gravity and soft furniture causing a connection that otherwise might not have occurred.

Allyson turned and looked up at him. A smile served to acknowledge her concern and he added,

“Sorry, just feeling a bit light-headed. Nothing serious. But sitting here for a minute wouldn’t be a bad thing.”

Her face echoed agreement, her eyes reflected a lingering worry and her voice betrayed more than either. There was nothing about her that agreed with his assertion that it was ‘nothing serious’.

“I’d feel better if you’d call your doctor and have him look at you.”

“There you are!” The booming voice preceded the physical body by two, “Excuse me(s)” and one, ‘Hand on shoulder’. The man was Michael’s height, a third again his weight and exponentially more aggressive. He was smiling in a way that ignited sympathetic grins among the people who unconsciously formed a hollow circle around him as he crossed the room.

If Michael and Allyson were a boat and dingy, finding their way across a crowed harbor, this newcomer was a Coast Guard cutter approaching a suspected smuggler.

“Victor!”

Michael stood abruptly, aware of the contrast in personality and wanting to gain whatever advantage might be possible. Smiling, he reached for the other man’s hand, the better to shake than be shaken.

Still on the settee, Allyson heard an undertone to Michael’s greeting. It was as much a sense of relief as it was pleasure at the arrival of an old friend.

 

*****

Hobbomock
(1665)

The tribe’s summer camp was along a ridge that overlooked the Mettatuxet river valley. The climb home for fisherman was considered worthwhile, the protection it afforded from late summer storms, well worth it.

Askuwheteau nodded towards the one wigwam on the edge of the encampment. His friend and blood-brother, Secukatyus, the yoke of the makeshift travois still encircling his wrists, continued off in the tangent necessary. Behind him, their human cargo silent, loose hair glowing in the mid-summer sun.

“I will let the sachem know what we have found. Don’t let anyone approach her until I return.” Askuwheteau moved among the small cook fires and approached the central wigwam.

Episode Five

…previously in ‘the Hobbomock Chronicles’

Regardless of preferred ‘-ology’ (sociology, psychology, anthropology), if one were engaged in the study of the character and nature of small New England towns, say for example, Hobbomock, valuable insight will result if one likens them to a human being. More concisely, to the life cycle of a human being. One is born, raised from helpless infancy, encouraged to grow and develop through the years of youthful hope and finally, acquire an education or skill that will be valued by others in an increasingly crowded world.

The circumstances of Hobbomock’s birth was not particularly different than those of any other town or village. At a certain point, (in time), a people will discover the power of the group.

Many of the beneficial effects of communal effort is offset as soon as it encounters another group with a different set of needs and requirements.

It has been said that, when a less-advanced culture is discovered by one more sophisticated, the former provides enhancement to the latter and latter is diminished.

*****

Hobbomock
(1665)

The sleeping woman twisted restlessly on a bed of hides, near the entrance to the wigwam. She appeared to be struggling with an invisible foe, the daylight dusk revealing only a young woman with thinly muscled limbs and long hair that competed with the stray beams of August sunlight. Her efforts were not entirely behind closed eyes, as waves of hair the color and fineness of corn silk, moved with each toss and turn of her head, silent flags vainly signaling a non-existent ally.

“You and your men have returned with much more than food for the tribe. This cloth that does not easily tear and the coils of rope, make yours a most successful hunt.”  Makkapitew, the sachem of Askuwheteau’s clan, stood outside the largest wigwam. Although his smile of approval was abbreviated by a sidelong glance towards the man to his left, he continued, “Surely it will be wise for our medicine woman to attend to her. Perhaps she can help your other prize return from the sleep-death that embraces her.”

“Not everything the color of gold is good for our people,” Meklendou, standing knife-close to the sachem spoke abruptly, interrupting the murmurs of agreement among the hunting party and other members of the tribe. Askuwheteau, standing before the clan leader, did not acknowledge the second man, instead, nodded his approval of his hunting party.

*****

Hobbomock
(Current Day)

“Mayor, the people from AcumenRe Business Systems are waiting in the council chambers.”

The expression on the face of the man elected to assure Hobbomock of a prosperous future, went from distracted to annoyed, as Bethany, his administrative assistant stepped into his office. His eyes narrowed as he fought his instinct to confront the woman. Remembering the nature of the meeting, he managed to create the perfect replica of a sincere and dedicated public servant.

“Mr. Edington, Miz Gometchikov! Welcome back to Hobbomock!” Mayor George Gardner fancied himself a well-rounded public servant. Having leveraged a service station and seasonal gift shop into a seat on the Town Council at the impressively young age of twenty-six, his confidence might be considered justified.

“Please, call me Lilani.” The remarkably attractive woman moved forward, hand extended, eyes hooded. The Mayor’s face exhibited all the eagerness of a child approaching a department store Santa Claus. Faith was everything.

Next to the attractive young woman, a man of comparable age, wearing a suit custom made by a tailor with a genius for creating a look. In this case, a suit that made the wearer, who preferred to spend his days among technology and machinery, look like the typical Twenty-first Century entrepreneur. Standing at the conference table in a two hundred-year-old building. they both reeked of money and success.

“I’m confident, Mayor Gardner, we can negotiate an agreement to bring Acumen-Re Business Systems to Hobbomock that will be beneficial to our stockholders and your re-election campaign.”

*****

Hobbomock
(1965)

Watching Victor Ross move through the crowd like a retriever through bullrushes, the real estate broker decided it was time to throw caution to the wind. Grasping the other man’s extended hand, he pulled the larger man into a thug-hug that would’ve earned a ‘Damn’ of respect from Ice Cube himself.

Not only was Victor unprepared for the greeting, his heretofore confidence, turned on him, like a master of aikido fighting a pro wrestler.

“Vic..tor, my man!” Michael spoke at a volume that left the people around the two men puzzled only by the fact that they were, by all appearances, in a hug.

Feeling the loss of dominance, Victor turned towards Allyson, a sense of relief almost palpable. Allyson, after first smiling towards the broker, looked up at Victor and nodded.

Michael realized he remembered not only Victor’s name, he remembered everything about him that a lifelong friendship would convey.

When he was thirteen years old, the real estate broker spent six weeks at home with mononucleosis. He spent the time effectively alone, his homework dropped off on the front porch by his best friend Alan.

To pass the excess time, he took up jigsaw puzzles. While never achieving the proficiency of some, he discovered that, from time to time, he would complete a puzzle in half the length of time he usually took. He spent hours trying to understand why he could play so much better some times and not so well, most of the time. The best he could come up with was that, if he focused on the enjoyment of the process but did not think about which piece went where, he would invariably move the right piece to its correct place in the puzzle. Sometimes.

Looking around the room full of people, the real estate broker found he not only knew everyone’s names, he knew them the way people who belong to a large family in a close social network know each other.

The bearded man causally leaning against the fieldstone fireplace, was his cousin Sally’s stepfather. And he wasn’t merely leaning, having a mild case of Meniere’s disease, he was making sure he wouldn’t fall, if he was to suffer a sudden attack of dizziness. Next to him, cocooning in a fan-back wicker chair, was William Hardy. Bill was his high school friend who introduced him to marihuana during the summer that followed his freshman year.

Michael let go of Victor’s hand and sat back down next to Allyson. Allyson turned towards him with a look of poorly disguised worry on her face. The real estate broker found himself finally enjoying the attention.

 

Episode Six

previously, from ‘the Hobbomock Chronicles’

For a man often described by his friends as ‘self-effacing’ and by his business competitors as ‘unassuming bordering on passive’, our time traveler’s true strength serves him well in the face of the impossible. Refusing to surrender to the arguably legitimate cause for panic and maintaining the appearance of the person who he appeared to everyone around him to be, he now enjoys the memories and knowledge of the world of his host. He shrugs into the life of Michael Stone like a man discovering that a favorite old suit fits as well as the day the tailor’s chalk was dusted off the cuffs and the jacket buttons slid together like newly-weds.

Now, with the personal reality of a wealthy thirty-three-year-old man integrated with his own, the real estate broker has a map of the world. He remembers where Michael likes to hide the spare key to his new house on the East Side of Providence. Any level of detail of the life he has come to possess is available; from the name of his new faculty advisor at Brown University’s Graduate School of Anthropology to his preferred brand of perfume for a break-up gift.

Sitting next to a very attentive young woman in a summer-crowded cottage on the ocean, the face of Lisa, his late wife appeared. She was smiling and her dark eyes whispered approval, “I know you can do this.”

The ‘People of The Small Point’ lived along the shores of what eventually became southern New England. In a variety of tribes and clans and families, they thrived for longer than it took European cities to develop from nomadic campfires to cities of commerce. Those pinnacles of western civilization with their soaring cathedrals and developed technologies were the former homelands of the people now landing on the shores of a new world.

By contrast, the path taken by the native peoples, by intercession of their gods or simple lack of a need to subjugate nature, resulted in a culture that helped the new arrivals to survive, yet ill-equipped its own people to resist the inevitable conquest.

*****

“I’m thinking that, now that Victor is the focus of this group, I’ll sneak out. Been a long day.”

The real estate broker was surprised at how pleasant it felt, leaning against Allyson to whisper in her ear. The scent of the young woman, through a veil of blonde hair, triggered responses in the body he currently occupied that were all too familiar.

“Why don’t I give you a ride home.” Allyson spoke in what she surely thought was a casual tone. The pressure of her right hand on his forearm, canceled out all pretense of a spur-of-the-moment offer.

Doing an exceptionally-bad job of impressing the young physician that any further concern for his health and well-being was unnecessary, Michael recalled that he’d lent his cottage, just seven houses up the shoreline, to clients of a friend. The image of the front of his year-round house dispelled the hint of panic before it could establish itself. He could see the white and brick colonial on a corner lot, three tree-lined blocks from Brown University.

Allyson’s rising from the admittedly old and sagging wicker couch brought him back to the present. Michael smiled and accepted the proffered hand,

“Why not? I been wanting to get a woman’s opinion of what the interior could be, ever since moving in.”

*****

“Wish me luck! I’m meeting a buyer out at the old Silas place.” Alexandra Devon stood at the front of the Hobbomock Homes and Rental office. She was perfectly backlit by the August light shining in the plate glass windows that looked out on Hobbomock Commons. Wearing half of the commission on an average home sale worth of casual clothes, she exuded the enthusiastic confidence that accounted for her becoming the real estate agency’s top producer.

Hannah Stephanson, at her desk next to Alex’s, looked startled and jumped up. She shuffled through the glossy-cardboard and printer paper stacks on her desk, took a single folder and rushed to the open door.

“Wait! Take this packet.” Seeing the frown of uncertainty on Alex’s face, Hannah continued, “You mentioned the other day, when we were talking, that you had a lead on a developer. And that you were showing the Silas place as a possible new home development. That your developer might do, not you.”

Now standing in front of her friend, Hannah, a couple of inches shorter, courtesy of the new Doc Martens Alex had bought for the showing, could see the amused lack of comprehension in the other woman’s eyes.

“It’s just a compilation report. Of the single-family market here in Hobbomock. You know, absorption rates, demographics and other info that define our town. You know, nerd stats.”

Alexandra accepted the packet with a laugh that shared their friendship rather than limiting it.

“If I need this to close this guy,” she paused and looked around the room at the other two agents, daring them to agree, then with a smile, “After I’ve closed the sale, he’ll need someone to market and sell the development. You want to help me with that part?”

Hannah nodded, already imagining the future.

*****

“Askuwheteau, the traders are but one hour walk away.”

Despite the cool air, cooler than any August in memory, Secukatyus wiped the sweat from his eyes. The run up and down the hills that surrounded the summer camp, exacted a price, even on a healthy young man.

“Well done, Secukatyus. Your idea of keeping braves at lookouts along the coast road is good for our people. Far better to see your enemy before he sees you. Now, make certain that all of what we brought back from the beach is covered and out of sight.” Askuwheteau grasped his friend’s arm and smiled distantly.

“And?” Though older, Secukatyus softened the single word into a request, rather than a demand, for additional information.

“I trust you with my life, as you and the other braves in our hunting party know. Go to my wigwam, close the flap but stay near the sleeping woman. Your presence is all we can do to keep her from being discovered.

Though our sachem is slow to learn or his age is making trade seem important for our clan, we need to cover our treasure. These pale men have the scent of brother wolf about them. No need to tempt them.”

“It will be done…” Secukatyus remained standing in front of his friend.

“What?”

“You are wiser than any in our clan, if not the whole tribe. I see the slyness of the coyote in Meklendou’s eyes. Be wary, my brother.”

Episode Seven

previously, in the Hobbomock Chronicles.

Time is not a thing. It’s not even a force of nature, like gravity, momentum or centrifugal force. If one is inclined to indulge in naturalistic fancy, Time might best be pictured as the quality of the world that causes a piece of toast to hit the floor butter-side-down or the traffic light to turn red when one is in a hurry. Time is context.

Your dinner tonight is at 6:00pm, your date next Friday is 8:30. Time being the glue of reality. Accepting the potential value of this odd perspective, Time is as close to being in the presence of God as anyone of us get. At least in this life.

Some humans are born with a talent. It can provide the basis for a life beyond that of the average-abled person. Musicians and mathematicians, artists and athletes; when a child awakens to a talent that fits the world, hard work usually is enough to transform an inner drive into a valuable skill.

Some humans, the minority of a minority, are born with a need to create. They see the world as do their average-abled brothers and sisters, but they also confront worlds not quite in view. Many are able to repress this drive long enough to adapt to a normal life, others must find ways to satisfy the urge to give shape and form to the endless possibility surrounding them.

Hobbomock
(Current Day)

Waking up wasn’t the hard part. It was the awful part.

The next most difficult thing was to accept that an old ritual lay before her, like the body of a childhood pet next to the bed. Unfortunate practice made the steps that followed simple if not easy. With eyes open (safely, not staring at anything in particular), she began to pray. Familiar to any child living with nightmare monsters, impervious to parental assurance, her morning-after ritual began with taking inventory. This seemingly rote task encouraged her to believe the bed-wreckage and party-litter that covered every surface of the room, was her temporary, if not imaginary, reality.

Hannah Stephanson, Hobbomock High’s teacher of the year 2015 and 2017, pulled the once-white satin pillow towards her face. Hoping for a soft escape, fearful of startling abused nerve-endings, she took refuge in the strangest item in the bedroom. On the nightstand, just above her current bed-horizon, was a three by five drugstore-brass frame. It held a needlepoint of the most homespun of colored yarn. It whispered, ‘Stay calm, life is art.’

Knowing that part of the immense cost of her condominium was for the security of a private elevator. When combined with a video-monitored foyer, she was able to host parties that were legend in the capital city.

Discovering that the pillow neither shattered in her hands nor tore at her face, Hannah faced the necessary risk of getting out of bed. In matters of guilt, conscience and fear, the bladder always held the trump card. The soles of her feet welcomed the soft carpeting as she crossed the room. Standing in the open bedroom door, she was relieved to be unable to see any leftover guests. She leaned off the doorframe in the direction of the master bath, riding a tide of low-grade vertigo, and got to the bath. Her feet protested weakly at the cool of the marble flooring. Safely seated, head tripoded on arms balanced on knees she waited. Finally, with the resolve of a surgeon before an anesthetized patient, she looked up. She was prepared for the kaleidoscope of mirrored images waiting on the walls. What she was not ever ready for, was the expression on the face of the young woman looking back at her.

With the practiced concentration of a juggler perfecting an act involving chainsaws and flaming torches, she examined her reflection. Enough of her pre-party confidence remained to allow her to smile back, Book Four in her series, ‘Billionaire’s Toybox’ is surely going to go bestseller.

With the desperate optimism of a severely injured soldier staring at colorful medals pinned to her uniform, Hannah Stephanson began to translate the twelve preceding hours into 12-point Times Roman. She paused to recall her last phone call.

 

“I just read the final draft of your latest book in the ‘Billionaire’ series. And I have just one question.”  Agent, editor, friend-without-benefits, Phil Borastein began speaking as soon as Allyson said hello into the receiver of her desk phone at Hobbomock Sales and Rental.

“What’s wrong with it?” The righteous indignation in Hannah’s voice decayed leaving her sounding like an adolescent girl with a ‘C’ average report card on the dining room table.

“Nothing much,” Vocal cords tuned to sarcasm and irrepressible humor, Phil’s voice was capable of a range of inference few could claim. “I’m sure this one’ll crush the competition in the Retired Nun and Fundamental Christian Wife demographic.”

Hannah fought the urge to surrender to the man’s charm, “So you’re saying I’ve written too tame a book?”

“uh… yeah! Don’t get me wrong, you’ve given the readers the glamour of the world of the billionaire class. Your characters are tried and true. You’ve given me another book in the series that is poised to, pardon my expression, get on top of the erotic Romance category. Just one thing…” Silence. Hannah enjoyed a surprising visual, early 20th century parlor play, darkened silhouette of a man sipping tea. She resisted the laughter growing within and waited.

“The. Erotic. Don’t get me wrong. I would publish your work if you wrote Regency Romance novels. My God, woman, I’d be happy to publish a YA series, if that’s what you wanted to write. However. What sells millions of copies and is about to become the next Fifty Shades, is what my departed mother, may she rest in peace, called dirty books.

So, be a dear and leave your little cottage down there in Bucolia-by-the-Sea and come to the city. Your penthouse condo awaits. Be grateful that your Muse did not think you should write about the street trade, or, god forbid national politics. Come, engage in whatever depravity is necessary and we can have Book Four in time for the Christmas buying season.”

*****

Hobbomock
(1965)

“Hey, thanks for the ride.”

The real estate broker crouched at the driver-side door of the yellow VW convertible.

“Sure you don’t want to come in?”

Hands on the steering wheel, as if it might, somehow, become a factor in the next few minutes, Allyson shook her head. With the car’s top down, folded back behind the backseat, looking for all the world like a baby carriage, their faces were barely a summer scent apart.

“No, thanks, Michael.  Another time.” A slightly furrowed eyebrow retained the echo of worry.

The drive up from Hobbomock had, once the real estate broker reminded himself that he would know whatever he needed to know, been pleasant. All the traffic was still southwards. The only hitch came when Allyson, veering to the right at the beginning of Rte. 195, asked, “Which exit is best?” Concentrating on recovering a memory not his, his mind was flooded with overlapping perceptions, courtesy of two sets of nearly the same information.

“I’m on double rotation at the hospital. Let me give you my direct line,” turning in her seat, Allyson reached for her purse in the back seat.

“That’s ok, just call me and I’ll have it in my…” The pocket the real estate broker was rummaging through not only was empty, his effort to find something that should not exist rekindled a look of concern in her eyes.

“I thought I had a pen in my pocket?” Deciding that he had nothing to gain by explaining, he accepted the slip of paper she offered.

After watching the car disappear up President Ave, Michael looked at his watch and, benefit of that distraction, walked to the stone flower urn under the left bay window, found the key underneath and let himself into what, by all accounts, was his new house. Without bothering to look around the foyer, the real estate broker stepped into the front-to-back living room to the right of the hallway. He stopped, drawn to the image coming into view in one of two floor-to-ceiling mirrors that flanked the black-granite fireplace.

He and the young man in the mirror regarded each other, alone in an empty house.