First paragraph from Chapter 2 of upcoming novel: What They Did Instead

It was a slow-moving summer morning of no plans. Juliette, on the third of her twelve daily cups of black coffee, was carefully

slicing a bowl of slippery peaches. Picked from their acreage that morning, the fruit was juicy, the size of softballs,

and would spoil them for all other peaches the rest of their lives. When the phone rang, Hedy plucked a couple of slices from the

bowl, handed one to Bridget and slid the other in her mouth. Juliette rinsed her hands at the sink and by the fourth ring, grabbed

the receiver. It was her mother, Ruby, calling with a medical report she knew was coming.



Dear Readers:

All my current writing energy is going into a volume of short stories, which I intend to publish in the near future.  And even though I have been Wild Nature of New York absent, people continue to follow me.  I thank you!  My plan for the blog is to post excerpts as soon as I am closer to the finish line.  At this rate of commitment, I think that will be soon.  So please stay tuned.


Photo by me from a recent trip to lake Atitlan in Guatemala

Fable #1: Peaches and Silk


It was July and the peaches were green.  Usually somewhat predictable, the natural world was in the process of changing her mind.

In the quiet order of their lives, the community noticed additional oddities. These were filed into categories: some were good omens, and others, dreadful.  Interpretations depended on the disposition and age of the various people of the land.

Jamie witnessed thousands of walking sticks making their way up his favorite walking path.  He quit counting at four hundred eighty-four.  That was the month and year of his birth.  The parade went on for days, ‘Like an exodus,’ he claimed.

Over a single night, Mary’s roses went from full-blown blousy, sweet smelling, county-famous ruffles, to looking fake and dusty, like old paper.

Lightening bugs blinked in tandem, turning night into a throbbing stage.

Bullfrogs, absent for years, converged into a song that woke the children from their sleep, all of them in panic.  The common thread of their collective nightmare: a background of screeching.

In broad daylight, feminine garments were stolen from clotheslines.  A teeming gossip-fest erupted, worse than the one the year before when a husband ran off with a neighbor’s son.  Theories on who might be the thief spilled like poison from the town’s tongues.

Men accused the poor woman whose husband took the teenage boy.  They assumed she was out for vengeance for the town turning on her.  The women worried themselves sick over what was happening and began suspecting each others’ husbands, sure each was guilty of unspeakable desire.  Then they turned against each other, and in no time, the mostly peaceful village was in war with itself. 

Even the children had their theory: one boy made the mistake of telling his closest friends in school, and they told their mothers who thought it sounded like incest, that he wished his sister had beautiful things to wear. 

The constable said it was the Almighty stripping away their finery, ruining the land that supported them, laying bare their selfish souls. A line formed around the back of his stone station, scared citizens seeking support, making reports.  The one thing everyone agreed on was that all signs pointed to something worse about to rain down on their heads.

Sitting and weeping at his grand desk in the center of a nearly empty room, a young girl said her matching underwear went missing, as if it walked off on legs.  He took notes on her opinion about the culprit, a jealous boyfriend.  Like a flattened honeybee, his yellow phone vibrated across the desk.  

With commanding countenance, he excused himself from the girl to take the call.  Her eyes roamed the immediate landscape.  On his windowsill, her gaze settled on the biggest book she’d ever seen.   

As if the book were a magnet, she left her chair and floated to the window.  Surprisingly light when she picked it up, the girl discovered it was not a book of vast knowledge, but a box made to look like one.  

She heard the constable’s voice growing faint, talking and walking in the opposite direction of his office.  Knowing better, she told herself the world was already falling apart: still-green summer fruits, converging insects, returning amphibians, the fate of flowers, a fighting village, this wave of undergarment thievery.  What damage could a little peek cause, she asked herself.  One finger lifting the cover of the box, an eye on the door, the other inside the lid, she discovered a stack of unmentionable silks.  On top lay her favorite peach camisole.

7: Rejectamenta


From the Oxford English Dictionary: rejectamenta, n. [‘Seaweed, debris, etc., washed up by sea or tides or floodwaters.’]

On the shore of a Caribbean cruise ship route, my friend owned a diving resort that sat on a half mile of beachfront.  As if never to be seen again, all ship trash was conveniently dumped overboard.  I expected to have to tiptoe across paradise through the sands of rejectamenta, but disembodied doll parts, dead toothbrushes, de-thonged flip-flops, torn beachwear, broken toilets, and worse, went on for otherwise empty miles.

This was in the Yucatan, about an hour above Belize, isolation that attracted a community of  lost or crooked souls: a Norweigan baker who couldn’t buy decent wheat from a culture that lives on corn; the maniac builder of the resort who sold it to John.  Rumor had it, the builder took a couple, his co-owners at the time, on a boat ride. When they returned, the husband was not with them, nor was he ever seen again.

An excellent chef did all the cooking for guests and staff.  Young and strong bodied when I met him, his lungs were compromised by untreated tuberculosis.  He’d tried to procure the necessary treatment drugs but they were not available to the average citizen in Mexico, and he’d accepted his fate.

John hired two girl cousins from Guatemala to help in the kitchen.  While freely practicing Catholicism and tropical herbal medicine, the novelty of living amongst a bunch of bohemians was fine with them, until one unknowingly ate pot brownies baked by the chef.  How many were ingested was unclear, but she loved sweets and ended up on a bad trip.  Suspecting a spell placed on her by a jealous housekeeper who denied the accusations and threatened to quit, full disclosure would have been a simple cure.    Inconsolable beyond the duration of a normal pot induced high, telling her meant possible arrest or losing her help so no one confessed to the cause.

Upon her insistence, John drove her deep into the jungle to a curandero, a shaman.  She explained to the healer that an evil curse left a live snake in her throat.  As if a common complaint, the remedy was immediate: raw eggs in their shells rubbed all over her body.  After the egg rolling, she was driven to her uncles’ to convalesce.  Those guys refused to let her return to the resort unless a ransom was paid.  That did not happen, and in spite of really needing her, she was gone.

Of all the members in this community, the most enduring was an expat named Suze.  Her hair and vocal force were styled after Janis Joplin.  She originally arrived on scene in search of her father, a local, who impregnated her vacationing mother in the late sixties.  Suze lived in a pair of bent trailers near the beach.  For a couple of dollars a night, she rented rooms to stragglers and every penny she made was spent on tequila and beer, the lubrication for her nightly parties.

One afternoon while walking on the beach with her through the minefield of trash, so many stories cycling through our conversation, she said, “What are you doing down here?”

“Spending time with John,”  I said, avoiding the details of our complicated history of love-gone-by and the uncertainty of finding it again.  “What about you, are you planning to stay?”

“It’s not about making plans,”  she said.  “The reason people end up here is because they’re either wanted and unwanted.”

Photo of rejectamenta by Marissa Bridge