To celebrate the end of hurricane season.

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Perhaps one day someone will ask me what I did during the fall of  2022. I will tell them that a major hurricane and a half invaded Florida, gobbled her up, had a good chew and spat her out, and I was there. Ian and Nicole had their honeymoon crossing back and forth across Florida and left us with a big gulp in our throats and a thank-you on our lips for not destroying more than they did. We got whopped by Mother Nature not once but twice and almost drowned us out of existence. The only good thing that came out the sound and the fury was that we got to use use those exotic terms in our vocabulary, words we thought we retired like“debris”  and “evacuate,” phrases like “category zilch” and “hunker down.”

Those whoppers gave me a roller coaster ride to plan my weekends around. To check out the storms, I went to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website. It’s abbreviated NOAA. Pronounced Noah. Last time we heard from that guy, he had wrecked his ark on a mountain. That’s what happens when you use a dove for a gps. Because of all the weather changes predicted for the near future, maybe he’ll start selling arks. According to Nostradamus, the entire Florida peninsula will be underwater soon, and I’m going to need a boat.

If I had lived in ancient times, I might have thought that Jehovah was doing an Old Testament on us sinners. Or that Zeus was in a tiff and hot under the collar because some woman he chased rejected his advances.

Maybe, if we Floridians had sacrificed a virgin or two in the spring, the hurricanes would have gone off to Texas or Louisiana and left us alone. Then we could have played the “I’m sorry you were hit, but I’m glad it wasn’t us” game we’ve played for so many years before. This year they got to play it on us.

Florida was hit by storms so bad that the schools here now use them to teach the kids their math. How many pounds of ice does it take to keep a twelve-pound turkey frozen for six days without electricity? How many grains of sand does it take to keep a condominium from falling into the Atlantic Ocean? How many pontoons will I need to keep my house afloat?

All I have to say is that whoever was doing a rain dance in September, quit it.

Patsy Finds Love

Patsy was thirty-five when she fell in love with a woman. it was the first right thing she felt she had done in her life.

Pregnant, she married her high school sweetheart, Jack Pendledon, as soon as she turned eighteen. She lost the baby a month after the wedding. After several years of marriage, the couple settled into a comfortable existence. They took a yearly romantic cruise, but the passion never returned.

When she was thirty, Jack died of a massive heart attack. His insurance took care of his funeral and paid off the mortgage. She sold the house and decided she was going to college. She was going to be a teacher.

In her sophomore year, she signed up for a Beginning Drama class out of curiosity. She walked into the class. There were no desks, only chairs in a circle. The professor didn’t stand behind a lectern as in other classes. She wasn’t even sure who the instructor of the class of fifteen was.

Unlike students in other classes, these students were dressed not casually, but wild-like. One woman was in goth, wearing dark fingernails and black makeup. She wore a transparent black dress that revealed a black bra and panties. One of the eight guys had pink hair and earrings. Some were tattooed up the wazoo. One woman wore a mohawk. Another was dressed as if she were Mary Poppins’ evil twin sister. Patsy felt like she was crashing a Halloween costume party. She went to leave.

“Looks like we are losing our fifteenth passenger aboard our Titanic.”

Patsy turned and said, “What?”

A small man with a goatee and bowtie said, “Looks like you want off our sinking ship.”

The others laughed.

Out of stubbornness, Patsy took the only chair left. It was between pink hair and goth makeup. She wasn’t sure what she had gotten herself into but she was not going to run away. She came from stronger stock than that. But for a churchgoing, cookie baking, suburban housewife, this was a scary place.

She looked around her. The classroom had open windows. A fall breeze squeezed through. She dropped her books next to her chair and settled back, her purse clutched onto her lap. She listened to the bowtie and goatee.

“Now that we’ve gotten that settled, perhaps we can get on with the agenda. My name is Drew. Not Mr. Such-and-such. Just Drew. Most of you are freshmen. We do have a sophomore in here.” He pointed at Patsy. “She’s the one who can’t seem to make up her mind as to what she wants to be when she grows up. The rest of you pretty well know that something in drama is in your future. Either theater, tv, movies or you just want to be the clown in the circus.”

Drew paused and waited for his words to sink in. There were a few coughs. Patsy realized that she wasn’t the only one who was nervous.

“So, students, close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths. Visualize yourself in ten years. Where you are, who you are with, what you are doing.”

Patsy was seeing herself in front of a classroom of high school students. She couldn’t figure out what she was teaching but she was teaching.

Drew let the vision sink in. He let the students enjoy their little adventure. Then, “Now imagine a stick of dynamite blowing up that scene. Ka Pow!”

Several opened their eyes. They were thinking, “Why the hell did you do that?”

Drew clapped his hands. “Wake up people.” He was standing in the middle of the circle. “Get the hell out of my space. Don’t come back until you are ready to have your dreams fall apart.”

The students got up and walked despondently out into the hallway. One held back. It was Patsy.

Drew looked hard at this woman in her early thirties. “What are you doing? Get out of here.”

“No,” she said.


“No,” she said in a sinking timid voice. She felt like crying but she had done that way too much in her life. She did not leave. She shrank in her chair.

Drew walked out of the room, frustrated and wondering who this freak was.

Patsy stared out the open window. The oak trees canopied the campus park-like. The autumn leaves were still green but would be coloring soon. The breeze felt good against her face. She swiped the tears from her eyes. She didn’t care what was going to happen. She was not going anywhere. She belonged where she was. She didn’t imagine or daydream herself anywhere else. She just sat.

Thirty minutes later, Drew Baker slipped back into his classroom. He watched Patsy with a curiosity he usually didn’t have for any of his students. For the ten years since he had left Broadway and come to this classroom, he had never come across a student like this one. Tears began to flow from his eyes. He had finally found a real, live student who would empty themselves of all their previous lives to become a totally new person.

“Patsy,” he whispered from across the room.

Patsy’s eyes turned toward her teacher. “Yes?” she said.

“Thank you,” he said. These were the only words he could get out. Then he followed those words with the most welcoming of words. “I’ll see you in the small theater Wednesday morning at ten. You think you can be there?”

She nodded yes.

Drew Baker left the room. Patsy gathered up her things and walked outside into the hallway. It was empty.

Nine other students joined Patsy in the small theater Wednesday morning. The ten students took seats on the chairs in the circle down front. From the rear of the theater Drew Baker yelled at his students, “Did anyone tell you that you could sit?”

The students stood up as the teacher ran down the aisle, yelling, “Did anyone tell you to sit? Huh, huh, huh.” He went past the group and climbed up onto the stage and looked down on them. “Has anyone here earned the right to sit?”

A tall eighteen-year-old male student said to the others, “I’m out of here. This guy is nuts.” He started walking toward the exit.

Drew said, “That’s right. Get out of my class. Go back to your momma and bitch.” The exit door slammed close. “The rest of you. Up here.”

The students held back.

“C’mon. Hurry. Hurry. Hurry.”

The nine climbed the stairs at the side to the stage and stood before him.

Drew went up to each of his students and sized the student up for several minutes. He said, “You’ll do.” And moved on to the next student. When he was done, he went back to the front of the group and faced them.

The teacher continued, “I want you to spend the next hour exploring inside this theater. Don’t partner up. Understand?”

The students timidly said, “Yes.”

“You cannot leave the theater. Under any circumstance. You understand?”

They nodded their agreement.

The teacher left the group. One went toward the back of the auditorium. Another started walking up and down the stage. Still another headed to the actor’s dressing room. Patsy went backstage and found that there was a basement. In the basement, she found a costume room and another room with props and scenery.

About forty-five minutes later, the fire alarm went off. The students gathered on the stage, trying to figure out where the fire was coming from. Paul, a student with tattoos, jumped down from the stage and headed toward the exit.

Fae, the goth woman, called after him, “Where you going? You can’t leave.”

“I am not going to stay here and get roasted.” Paul slammed the exit door behind him.

The others looked at each other and wondered what to do. The fire alarm stopped. From backstage, Drew Baker walked out on stage.

“Where’s Buttface?” he asked.

“He left. The fire alarm,” Trey, the pink hair and earrings, said.

“I see,” the teacher said. “He just decided he didn’t want to take my class. Right?”

“But—“ Fae said.

Paul opened the front door and ran down the aisle and up on the stage. Out of breath, he was smiling.

Drew Baker couldn’t believe the arrogance. But he kept himself in check and smiled. “Mr. Paul Gruber, what do you think you are doing?”

“Rejoining the class.”

The other students moved away from Paul like he had leprosy.

Drew Baker walked up to the student. The teacher must have been two inches shorter than Paul. The student shrank with Baker staring at him eyeball to eyeball. “Mr. Paul Gruber, what do you think you are doing?” the teacher repeated his question.

“Rejoining the class.”

“Mr. Paul Gruber, what do you think you are doing?” Baker repeated his question.

Suddenly Paul got it. He had disobeyed the instructions not to leave under any circumstance. Now he had to face the consequences. Paul turned around and left the stage and down the aisle toward the exit. Patsy had never seen anyone so dejected in his life.

Drew Baker turned to the other students. “Tomorrow night at 7 p.m. Here. Now go.”

The eight students still in the class walked slowly out of the theater, not sure what had happened, but glad they had survived. There was nothing they would let stop them from attending the next drama class. On their way to their other classes or events, each imagined themselves as a part of something special. Drew Baker could have told any of the group to jump off a cliff and they would have done it.

That evening Patsy was studying in her dorm room alone. There was a knock on the door. She opened it. There stood Drew Baker. “Drew?” she said, surprised to see him.

“May I come in?”

“Of course.” Patsy opened the door further. She invited him to sit at her desk.

He took the chair and turned it around and straddled its back. “Sit,” he said, pointing to the bed.

Patsy did what she was told. She looked confused.

“Do you have something you want to ask me?” he asked Patsy.

“Yes, sir,” she answered.

“Don’t call me Sir. My name is Drew.”

“Yes, Drew.”

“Go ahead.”

“What’s going on?”

“Good. I like that. You don’t mess around. You get right to the point. Don’t like to waste time, do you?”


“You don’t like my methods, do you?”

“No, Drew. I don’t.”

“Good. That’s good. You are willing to face your fears. What do you think I am doing?”

“I really don’t know. I just want to know. Am I wasting my time?”

“Do you think you are wasting your time?”

Patsy thought for a couple of minutes. The past two classes of Beginning Drama had thrown her off-balance. But off-balance was okay. Then her teacher showed up at her dorm room wondering what she thought. Finally, she answered, “No, I don’t.”

“Good. Very good. Now I have a favor to ask of you.”

Uh-oh, here it comes. Patsy had been through this with professors before. Two had wanted to sleep with her. She had refused. For some reason, she didn’t feel that from this teacher. “Yes, you can ask.”

“I want you to show up to my class at 7:15 pm tomorrow night. Not 7:00. Can you do that?”

Patsy hesitantly nodded yes.

“There will be no consequences. I will just go on with my lesson. Totally ignoring your lateness.”

Drew Baker left.

Patsy didn’t know what to make of his visit.

At 7:15 pm the next night, Patsy walked into the theater. Drew Baker and the students were down front in the circle of chairs. She hesitantly walked down the aisle, feeling the other students’ eyes on her. There wasn’t an empty chair for her. Drew Baker turned to Trey and said, “Will you get another chair and let Miss Pendledon have yours please?”

Trey reluctantly got up and went backstage for a chair. Drew Baker beckoned Patsy to take his place. Trey returned with a chair and joined the circle.

“Thank you, Trey,” Drew Baker said and smiled. “Now I want each of you to give me your impressions of the theater yesterday.”

Drew Baker focused upon each student and listened. No student brought up the fire alarm. After the students had finished, he asked them, “How many of you students think I’ve been sleeping with Miss Pendledon?”

The students were stunned at the question. Patsy most of all. They were thinking it but they were too scared to say it out loud.

“Let me see your hand if you think I’ve been sleeping with Miss Pendledon.”

Slowly all the students, but Patsy, raised their hands.

“What makes you think that?” Drew asked.

Fae said, “You didn’t kick her out when she wasn’t on time.”

“Is that your only evidence?”

Trey said, “I saw Patsy leave after you went back into the classroom the other day.”

“Couldn’t I have requested an academic meeting with Miss Pendledon?”

“Yes, Drew,” Fae said.

Drew then spoke, “Ladies and gentlemen, I assure you that I am not sleeping with Miss Pendledon.”  Then he dismissed the class.

The students slowly left the theater, shaking their heads, wondering what the hell was going on.

The next morning Patsy was five minutes early. The rest of the class was already in the theater, none taking any chances on getting kicked out of class. They weren’t sitting. Mostly they were standing and waiting and not saying a thing. It looked like no one had slept the previous night. Patsy nodded good morning. The others nodded good morning back.

Drew Baker came out from back stage. “Good morning. Please have a seat.”

The students made a semi-circle to face their teacher on stage.

“Welcome to the world of the theater. I suppose all of you have been wondering what the hell is going on. Who is this crazy guy?”

They nodded their heads. There were two or three yeses from the group. Mostly they waited and listened. Drew Baker had their attention.

“Here’s the deal. I have spent the last few sessions weeding out those who think the theater is a game. That it’s a job. That they can damn well show up if they want. If you are not willing to show up and do a show with a 103 degree temperature, you don’t belong here.”

Drew Baker unknotted his bowtie and pulled it off. “I hate these damn things.” Then he jumped off the stage and pulled up a chair. “Circle please.”

They all joined him in the circle of chairs. He scanned each of their faces. Then he said, “I didn’t choose you. You didn’t choose me. You are here because the theater chose you. Some of you may do very well. Have fame and fortune. I can’t tell you which. All I can tell you is that your life will never be the same. This is your world now. Love it and it will love you back. Not with rewards you can see or touch or feel or taste or smell.”

Drew Baker touched his heart. “But here. It isn’t the most talented that succeeds. It doesn’t matter a bit whether you have talent or not. You now belong to a family that goes all the way back to the Greeks and well before that. Since man first lived in caves, there have been theater people. So welcome. You are a special breed. Never forget that. The others that dropped out or that I kicked out don’t belong.

“Now let’s begin. I want each of you to take a turn and go to the stage and face the audience and just look. Pretend the seats are full. Just look for five minutes. Then come back down to your seat. The next person will take your place.”

When the students completed the exercise, Drew Baker said, “Our next class is Monday here at 7 p.m. Prepare to work all night long. One final thing. Please do not share the process you went through the past few days. If I find out that you did, you will be out. And don’t think I won’t find out about it, I will. I always do. Now go.”

On the way out, Trey and Fae pulled Patsy aside. “Patsy?” Trey said. “Fae and I were wondering if you want to share a house with us.”

Patsy nodded yes.

One of the other students, a student dressed like James Dean, moseyed up to the three of them. “Can you take a fourth?”

The three new roommates looked at the student. He looked young, real young.

“I’m 18. Okay? Okay. You can call me J D. That’s who I am.”

The three breathed easy. Fae said, “Yes. We can have four. Let’s go find a house.”

J D piped in. “I have a house.”

“Let’s go look at it,” Trey shouted. The four went through the front door and out into the afternoon air. They locked arms and began to dance through the parking lot, singing.

Drew Baker watched from his second story office above the theater and smiled. “Yep, this is going to be a good group. Maybe the best he had ever had.”

The students were an hour early for class Monday night. They were anxious to get started on their new life.

“Have all of you seen Romeo and Juliet?” Drew said from the stage.

They nodded yes.

“Okay. Everybody scatter out in the audience and take a seat. Settle in and imagine you are watching Romeo and Juliet on stage. Do not sit next to another student.”

Five minutes later, Drew called them back to their chairs. “Describe to me what you saw.”

He went around the circle, each student detailing what they had seen.

Then Drew said, “Theater is an art of illusion. Nothing that happens on stage is really happening. It is a re-creation. Creating this illusion is a work of imagination. You have just used your imagination to re-create Romeo and Juliet. I have four films about magicians on reserve in the library for you to see before the next class. See if you can figure out how they do their illusions. Now, let’s get to work.”

All semester of the Beginning Drama class was refreshing to Patsy. She had never experienced anything like it. By the end of the semester she knew what she would do for the rest of her life.

Thirty-five years later, lying in the hospital bed dying from cancer, she vividly re imagined each class and how alive she felt. Sewing Fae’s costume was the last thing she remembered as she fell asleep. She did not wake up. Fae leaned over and kissed her lover goodbye, then she left the hospital room, crying.

Sarah and the Lighthouse Keeper

“Where’s your nose, Grandpa?” Sarah asked. It was a mid-April afternoon, 1963—a time when most Americans wanted to know what they could do for their country, not what their country could do for them. Sarah, six-year-old, blonde-haired, brown-eyed Sarah, sat on her grandfather’s lap. She ran her fingers across his face, stopping at the open cavity just above his mouth.

The man in his sixties with eyes so blue his granddaughter thought they were made from the Florida sky outside, her grandfather, Henry, gazed into her smile and smiled back. He worked her question over in his mind the way he did the music he played on his violin to get the best sound possible. Just like his wife, Rose, had taught him.

“I don’t have a nose,” he said. Though he had lived in the United States since 1920, he retained a bit of the Southampton accent he had grown up with in England. “I’m a gargoyle.”

“A gargoyle?” Sarah asked as she rubbed the light whiskery growth on his chin. Then she played with the lighthouse keeper ring on his right hand, stroking it as if it were magic and had a genie inside.

“Yes. A gargoyle.”

She had seen gargoyles in a picture book of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. They were gray, ugly things, their heads sticking out of the side of the church’s roof, and they had horns. Her grandfather was no gray, ugly thing, and he did not have horns, not even small ones. She knew. She had felt the top of his head.

“Oh,” he said, “I’m not that kind of a gargoyle. I’m a Gargoyle with a capital G.”

Sarah snuggled against him. Henry felt the question unresolved in her body. How could he tell her, he wondered.

How could he tell her of the places he had tried to block from his memory, places like Armentières, the Somme, Passchendaele where the shrapnel smashed into his face, leaving him without a nose and marked with the name of Gargoyle? How could he tell her of the mustard gas, the fleas, the lice, the God-awful stench from the excrement and the piss and the death filling the trenches day after endless day, of the rains and the wet socks and the slogging through the muck up to his knees, of the shit the British Expeditionary Force called rations, the faulty equipment like the bolt-action rifle he had been issued that had misfired and shot off his toe, and the lampoon of a lieutenant—Little Fuzzy Butt they nicknamed him—he and his buddies endured after a sniper’s bullet killed off their popular Captain Percival Montford? How could he tell her about the guts of his best friend splattered all over him like vomit when Albie was sprayed with machine gun fire, about the horror on the face of the German he bayoneted again and again out of revenge, about the boredom, the terrible terrible boredom that often went on for weeks and drove him nearly mad before the adrenalin rush of the charge over the top and into a no-man’s land? How could he tell her about the shelling, the constant noise of the artillery barrages booming around him during the battles? How could he tell her of the loss of over half of his fellow Southie townsmen, stupidly thrown into hopeless battle after hopeless battle and ground up like hamburger? How could he tell his granddaughter that, forty-some-odd years later, those visions, those sounds, those smells of the Hell-to-End-all-Hells were still with him?

Sarah hugged his thin body, her small arms almost reaching around him. “I understand,” she said.

“You understand?”

“Yes.” She released him from her hug, then slid off his lap and onto the floor.

“You don’t want to talk about it. When you do, Grandpa, you can tell me. I can keep a secret.” She winked and ran giggling into the next room to play with her four-year-old brother, William.

“Dad,” Henry’s daughter said as she brought a tray of biscuits and hot tea into the living room. The tall, slender woman, his only child, carried it over to the coffee table and set it down.

He looked over at Alice as she sat down. There was loss in the eyes of both father and daughter. A deep loss. Henry’s wife, Alice’s mother, Sarah’s grandmother, Rose had died from cancer seven years earlier. Three years after that, Alice’s husband, archaeologist Jack Waverly, was killed in an airplane crash as he flew over the Madidi in Bolivia.
Henry pulled his weather-beaten body out of his armchair, moved over to the couch, and sat down next to Alice. He picked up a biscuit and started on it. Though he had no sense of smell and could barely taste it, he enjoyed its crunchiness in his mouth.

He finished his biscuit and said, “Only your mother could make better biscuits than these.” He poured himself a cup of tea, dropped two lumps of sugar and a slice of lemon into it, and stirred. He raised the hot tea to his lips. Pleasure from teas-gone-by appeared on his face for the several seconds he sipped. Then he set the cup back on the tray.

“Dad?” she said a second time and wiped a crumb off his chin with her napkin.

“You know I can’t stay.” He reached for her hand to reassure her. He would be all right back at his house on the beach close to two hundred miles away, living alone in the white house Rose inherited from her father. “I’m not an invalid. I can take care of myself.”

Alice pulled her hand free. She poured herself a cup of tea.

“It’s not that, Dad. I’m sure you can. But I want you to stay here. With us.”

Henry studied his daughter as she sipped her tea. She had her mother’s features—blonde hair, brown eyes, a long face, a dimple on her chin. But there was something different about her as well. Somehow, when Rose first saw her, his wife knew what that difference was. She knew what a wandering soul her child would be. Alice was the only name they could think of for a girl whom they knew would seek out dark and dangerous places.
Alice had lived up to her name. She was so curious about nearly everything that her friends called her Wonderland. And she was fearless with her curiosity, afraid of nothing. Not even of the rattlesnake she trapped when she was eight.

“She’s such an independent,” Rose often said. As a teenager, their daughter went off exploring and stayed away for weeks, sometimes months at a time. She traveled to faraway places like Teotihuacán, the Amazon, Machu Picchu, Morocco and the Nile. The one place she regretted missing was Antarctica. She swore she would get there eventually. Her mother called this wanderlust of hers a search for enlightenment; Henry called it going into the heart of darkness.

Alice became an expert in primitive architecture and building in extreme conditions. While working on her doctorates in anthropology and architecture, she met Jack in Peru and married him. Then came Sarah and William. It looked like the Antarctic would have to wait, at least, until their kids were grown. Then there was Jack’s death and no more talk of Antarctica. It seemed to Henry that the passing of her mother and her husband had wrung the glory out of her, leaving her with only responsibility. Since then, she had turned into her mother, someone Henry had once overheard her say she would never become.

“I’ve been here two weeks,” he said as Alice finished her tea. He could not understand how she drank it without sugar or lemon or milk. It was such a strong tea she made, and quite bitter. “That was a week longer than I intended. It’s time you drove me home.”

It wasn’t just the solitude he missed. It was the beach within walking distance from his house and the shells scattered along the seashore and the cool, wet sand between his toes and the salt in the air against his skin. It was the giant sea turtles, coming ashore in the spring and laying their eggs. It was the ocean and its great loneliness. Late at night, he loved standing on the shore, watching the horizon swallow up ships.

Then there were the nights he spent with his telescope, waiting patiently for the moon and the planets to cross the sky. Sitting there in his backyard, he studied the constellations, their seasons and their paths mapped out in his library of charts, birthday and Christmas gifts from his wife. Most of all, he was homesick for the refuge Rose had spent years readying for the two of them while they waited on his retirement. Now he was retired.Now she was dead.

Alice surprised him with her next words, a question. “You recall Mom’s favorite proverb?” Then she turned her head toward the next room. “Oh, no. Sarah, William.” She jumped up. “When they’re this quiet, those two are up to something.” She hurried into the family den where her two children liked to romp and play and tumble on the huge teddy bear Henry had purchased by mail order the previous Christmas.

While he waited on Alice, he crunched on another biscuit and finished his tea. A cup of tea and a biscuit always helped him think about things, especially particularly difficult things. He might not settle on what course of action to take, but he felt comforted just the same.
Alice interrupted his thoughts as she returned to her seat beside him on the sofa.

“Those little hedgehogs,” she said. “They’ve fallen asleep and they’re in the Never Never. Anyway,” she said, “where was I?”

“Your mother’s favorite proverb.”

“Oh, yes. I believe it was: ‘The stars are dripping down upon us one by one and, along with them, a little of the moon.’”

“I’ve been having these dreams for the last three nights. Mom keeps appearing to me and that’s what she’s saying. It’s like a premonition, you know. Like the one I had just before Jack died. Something nasty’s about to happen if you go back. I can feel it. So we’ll bring your things down here and you’ll live with us. We’ll do it this weekend.”

Henry broke out in a cold sweat. A panic rose in his chest until it was ready to explode like a volcano. If he moved in with his daughter and her children, Alice would come to depend on him. He would be the one to see that Sarah made it to her first grade class, to make sure William got to his doctor’s appointments and went to kindergarten, to plan parties for the kids, to chaperone them. He might even have to go out shopping. He knew this would free up Alice’s time to provide for her family and allow her to pursue her career, teaching anthropology, doing research and fieldwork, giving papers at conferences. But he would not be able to hide his deformity of a face away from the strangers and their gawking. He had been through it all before and it scared him. A long time ago, he promised himself he would never go through that again.

After the war, and before he emigrated to the United States, he had thought about plastic surgery. That was much too painful in those early post-World War I years. He tried on false noses. They gave him a rash. For a while, he wore a mask but that called way too much attention to his face. The solution he settled on was to keep away from a gaping public, to be seen only by those who accepted his wound without prejudice. Like Rose. From the first moment they met, she intuitively understood his fear and she had protected him. Until her death.

He wiped the cool sweat from his forehead, then choked back the panic and the dread, and shook his head no.

“No need to worry about me,” he said.

“It’s not just that. I really need you here to help with the kids.”

“Why not get a nanny?”

“I’ve tried several,” she said. “They just don’t work out. It’s very frustrating.”

“What do your friends do?”

“They’re either married, or they have family. Dad, you’re the only family I have.” She knew some of what he was going through. But her nightmares gave her no other choice. Henry had to come to live with her. Her intuition had saved her skin too many times for her to ignore it.

“God knows how much I’d loved to come and live with you and the grandchildren, Alice. But I can’t. I need to be alone. That’s the way I am. That’s why I was…am a lighthouse keeper. Because of the solitude. I just need to be alone…” and left alone, which was what he really meant. It was the first time Henry had ever voiced to her anything remotely close to his fears about his face, fears he first felt when he arrived in the hospital from the trenches and saw how some of the nurses reacted to him.

Alice bit her lip, then said, “You mean you won’t live with us. But you’d love it here, Dad. You know you would. You know how Sarah dotes over her grandfather. And William too.”

“No, I can’t stay,” Henry repeated himself and turned away from Alice. Almost as an afterthought, he reached over and picked up the large book, American Lighthouses, off the coffee table. His wife and his daughter had produced the volume of photographs and commentary fifteen years before. Rose wrote the words. Alice provided the pictures.

“Please, Dad.” There was a desperation in Alice’s voice.

How could he refuse her? How could he refuse her anything? This was his daughter asking, pleading, almost begging. From his very first glimpse of her at her birth, he had been deeply moved. What an amazing thing. This tiny being was his child. As he lay depressed in his parents’ apartment after the war, he could never have believed he could be so happy. Now here he was refusing her. He…felt…awful.

A postcard slipped out of the book Henry held on his lap. He set the book down on the couch, reached to the floor, and picked up the card. It had a sketch of the Taj Mahal on one side. It was from his friend, George Drake, who left the trenches and went off to a low-level bureaucratic job in India to help run the Empire for King and Country.

George’s scrawl across the back of the card spoke of the loss of another of his trenchmates. Good Old Philip Carrick was no longer Good Old Philip. He hanged himself while on duty with the Botanical Society at the Darjeeling Hill Station in northern India. Philip simply could not rid himself of the nightmares from the war, the note said. He finally did himself in, another casualty of the Great War.

Henry thought, “How had that card gotten there?” He had last seen it the afternoon he met Rose. That February day had been a particularly hard day of work at Light Station. He had just completed his duties for the day, readying the lens for the night ahead, winding up the cables that powered the rotating mechanism of the lens, and making necessary repairs. It was time for his daily tea break.

He sat in the watch room of the tower with his tea and listened to the caw of the sea gulls outside. His dog, Basset, rested against his leg while he read the postcard for what must have been the fiftieth time. He dropped it on the table and ate a final biscuit. Then he tucked his violin under his chin and ran the bow across the strings several times.

“My God, stop that,” a voice came from behind him.

He stopped and half-turned to see a seventeen year-old Rose, her blonde hair bobbed and under a red cloche. She stood at the top of the granite stairs. She walked over to him. He turned away from her to hide his face as she took the violin out of his hands.

“How can you be so sacrilegious, punishing the world with your lack of musical ability.” It was not a question. It was a statement.

Henry was dumbfounded. He had done all the things the books on violin playing said to do.

“I was just thinking about my friends, George and Philip,” he said. In his amazement at her criticism, he forgot the deep gash on his face. He turned and stared at her incredulously. Basset looked incredulously at her too. Some watch pooch he turned out to be. Henry remembered his face and lowering it into hiding again as he leaned down and scratched the hound’s ear. The girl knelt and patted the dog’s head. Then she offered him her hand. He hesitated, then showed her his face. He was surprised that she didn’t seem to be horrified.

“I’m Rose Hastings,” she said as they stood up and shook hands.

“Henry Todd,” he said and smiled. “I’m the keeper here. And not a very good violinist, I guess.”

“I deliver your groceries on my bicycle. I left them in the keeper’s house next door. My dad owns the general store.”

She slipped the violin under her chin and played. He pulled his chair around to halfway face her. Then he sat down and listened.

Who was this creature who had just plopped down into his lighthouse and was not repulsed by his disfigurement? he asked himself.

She finished the composition and handed the violin to him.

“Wasn’t that a Bach?” he asked, turning away from her.

“Johann Sebastian himself,” she said. She seemed pleased that he had recognized the composer. “His Violin Sonata No. 4 in C minor. One of my favorites.”

He offered her tea, but she gave him, “Can’t stay. Got to get back. Why don’t I come out tomorrow earlier in the afternoon and give you a music lesson? Say, around three. I think you can use it. Otherwise you’re going to push your violin to suicide.”

He nodded a yes. She uttered a “see you” to his back and skipped down the stairwell two stairs at a time, humming a tune he thought might be “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.”

Over the next few weeks, her “see you” turned into a daily activity of violin lessons and beach walks and lighthouse painting and Henry began to feel comfortable around her. He liked her and so did Basset, and soon they were engaged. She turned eighteen, and they were married. It was a private ceremony with only her father and a minister present. Her mother had died when she was born. She moved into his cottage next door to the lighthouse tower. There they lived together for thirty-three years.

Henry stared at the postcard again. My God, how he missed Rose.

“Dad,” Alice pleaded. “Look at me please.”

“I can’t stay,” Henry said, turning back towards his only child.

At just that moment, Sarah came into the room, rubbing her eyes awake. She climbed onto her grandfather’s lap. She had white confetti in her hair. It looked like Rose’s long, curly hair after she had let it grow.

“Haven’t I told you, Sarah Roselyn Waverly to keep out of the confetti? We only bring it out for special occasions, and this is no special occasion.”

“But it is, Mommy.”

“What occasion is it, dear?” Alice asked.

“Grandpa’s here.” Sarah hugged her grandfather and whispered in his ear, “I love you, Grandpa.” She relaxed on his lap. “I had a bad dream,” she said.

“A bad dream?” Henry asked.

“I dreamed that you had a nose,” Sarah said, gazing up into his eyes. “I didn’t like it. I like you just the way you are. You’re my Grandpa Gargoyle, and I love you.”

Henry stared into his granddaughter’s eyes and Rose’s eyes smiled back at him.