Sunday, April 20, 2014

T is for Tempest, Tristan, and Toots: Blogging the #atozchallenge

Tempest, Tristan and Toots are all hopeless romantics in their own unique ways. Tempest Hobbs is the art curator and reluctant psychic in Depraved Heart: A Novel. Tristan Hancock is a lobsterman and amateur woodcarver in Sailor's Valentine in Mardi Gras Was Over: Three Love Stories. Toots, rescued by Oliver when she was a puppy, is his devoted, faithful companion in The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall and The Christmas Daughter. All three of them are incredibly loving beings.

from The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall
 “There's my girl,” he said as he turned into the drive beside the house. He'd left the light on in the living room and Toots was right there at the window waiting for him. As soon as she spotted his truck her big, bushy tail began wagging madly and, though he'd only been gone a couple hours, she bounced up and down pummeling the window with her paws as though he'd left her alone for days. He closed up the truck, retrieved his case of beer, and let himself in by the kitchen door. Even before he put down the beer he heard the clicking of Toots's nails on the wooden floor as she raced down the hall.
“How's my baby?” he asked and she was on her hind legs, her paws nearly reaching his shoulders as she nuzzled her snout into his beard. He had tried teaching her not to lick but she had a hard time remembering that when she was really happy.
“Did you miss me?” he asked ruffling up the long black fur. “I brought you
something.” But she had already scented the marvelous treats in his shirt pocket and was burrowing under his beard and into his jacket in search of the jerky.
“Here you go.” He unwrapped them as she watched his every move. When he'd first found Toots – injured, cold, and starving – in the rocks along the river, she weighed barely five pounds. Someone had tied her in a sack and apparently thrown her in the river but she'd managed to chew through the fabric and work her way to the shore. He heard whimpering and went to investigate. The puppy was tangled in shredded cloth, bleeding, and barely alive. Oliver took off his jacket, wrapped her in it and carried her to the kitchen where he could wash her, bundle her in blankets, and feed her warm milk until she finally fell asleep in his lap. It was hard to believe that pitiful little thing was the big dog gobbling up the treats he always remembered to bring her. The vet said she was a mutt, probably part shepherd, part newfie, and part chow. Now, three years later she was healthy, happy, and Oliver's constant companion.

from Depraved Heart
The painter Georges Braque once said that there is only one valuable thing in art, the thing that you cannot explain. All my life I have marveled at people who think they understand things, that they have answers. Such confidence is astonishing to me. For many years, I thought myself deficient in that I never felt I knew much of anything. It was only when I began to study art, to seriously study art, that I realized what passed for great assurance and knowledge in many people was simply their decision to terminate their thinking at the point where they became uncomfortable.
It is to me one of life’s great mysteries that there are those who can ignore or eliminate feelings that they don’t want. I never thought I had a choice. I thought that the assault of emotions that were so much an everyday part of my life as a child were as confusing to everyone as they were to me. I don’t remember when I first realized that not only did most people not feel and sense and experience what I did, they didn’t believe such experiences existed.
The study of art was my salvation. I thought I was mad - so did a good many other people. But when I began to look at art and to let it enter my spirit as erotically and powerfully as a lover would enter my body, I realized something that has haunted all of my life. I am different. I am both blessed and cursed. I was born missing a layer of protection between myself and the world that most people have and are totally unaware of having. And, worse, there is no way for me to acquire it. I am like those strange invalids whose resistance to every form of bacteria is so fragile that they can only exist inside a climate-controlled bubble. Only it is not bacteria that infects me and threatens my wellbeing, it is something far less tangible. I am profoundly sensitive to energetic forces that I cannot explain - powerful feelings, hidden longings, mysterious urges, strong thoughts - all the things that most people do their best to conceal from the world. They are as real and accessible to me as the beauty mark on a pretty girl’s cheekbone or the delight in a man’s eyes when he beholds her.
My name is Tempest Hobbs. I am descended from a long line of sensitives. One of my great grandmothers, many generations back, was Deliverance Hobbs who was tried as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. But my great (I forget how many greats) grandmother was not among those executed on Gallows Hill. Her life was spared because she confessed. She admitted she was a witch.

from Sailor's Valentine
The first thing Minerva Light noticed about Tristan Hancock was his hands. She fell in love with them and then began working her way up his arms to the rest of him. The minute he stepped into her shop she knew he wasn't there to buy anything. Though she couldn't remember seeing him around the docks or on the Neck he had the look of the local lobstermen. He was big, maybe a little over six feet but broad with wide shoulders and thickset. He wore a baseball cap and dark glasses and a t-shirt that had probably been green once but that was many months and washings ago. Like many of the fishermen he wore a mustache that drooped down the sides of his mouth and was peppered with gray.
He came into the shop on a Tuesday afternoon with a nylon backpack slung over one shoulder. He looked nervous and uncomfortable which is how most of the local guys looked when they had to come into her shop for some reason.
Can I help you?”
He turned and looked at her, took a deep breath, and then smiled as though smiling was something he had to prepare himself for.
Hi,” he said and he slung the backpack onto the counter beside the cash register. “Are you Minerva?”
Minerva Light,” she said holding out her hand and that was when he took it in his. His hand was huge, twice the size of hers, and square and hard. She stared at it and he let go quickly and she thought he might have been afraid he had hurt her. “This is my shop. But I bet you know that already.”
Yeah, my friend Geoff told me.” His voice was low and quiet. She found herself leaning forward slightly to hear. He undid the clasp on the backpack and reached inside. She watched his hands moving, big, tough hands but graceful in a fascinating way, deft, accomplished. He removed a package wrapped in brown paper and unwrapped it. “Would you give me your opinion of this?”
What he handed her was a piece of wood that had been carved with meticulous precision in the shape of a stylized lion's head, mane tossed back, teeth bared, eyes wide. It had been carved with attention to the pattern formed by the grain of the wood, sanded to a smooth finish, and oiled to a fine sheen. When she took it from him her fingertips brushed his hand and she noticed he once again withdrew his hand swiftly.

Thanks for reading.

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