from Each Angel Burns
The clouds were low and golden. The sky, between them and the lights along the distant shore, was deep coral and shimmering. Lightning, Maggie thought. It wouldn’t be long until it reached her but she lingered on the rock outcrop listening to the waves thunder as the incoming tide rushed into the flume below. The day was a scorcher, rain would be welcome. She decided on one more swim before climbing the stone stairs to the abbey. Here in the cove the water was always warmer than farther up the shore where the Gulf of Maine could go the entire summer without becoming bearable. Sliding down into the deep blue she let the water caress her skin as she stroked lazily out to where she could see the top of the lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula. It was one of the old stone lighthouses, the kind she loved, built from native granite—the same native granite that she carved into weeping maidens.
Above the thunder of the flume there was a deeper rumbling as she stroked back to the rocks. She thought about staying in the water until the rain reached her but the tide here was unpredictable. Even on calm days she had drifted with her eyes closed for what seemed like minutes only to discover herself swept well away from land and floating toward Owl’s Head. When Peter was able to get away for a visit she ventured out farther but alone she wasn’t as adventurous. Peter was a formidable swimmer but she lacked both his physical strength and his courage.
Stretching out on the rocks she let the day’s heat permeate her skin. A sea breeze announced the coming rain. She could see the ripple across the ocean’s surface moving toward her, then over her, chilling her skin, and pinching her nipples into tiny hard knots. A few more minutes, she thought, a few more minutes and she would put her clothes back on and climb the steps winding through banks of beach roses. She lay back with an arm across her eyes and wondered if the nuns who once occupied the abbey ever snuck down those steps to bathe in the cove. She wondered if they swam naked, too. A naked nun, she thought. Interesting idea for a statue.
from The Crazy Old Lady Unleashed
Maksim Gromyko could not remember when the spirits did not speak to him. He was born in the Carpathian Mountains on the border between Romania and Ukraine. The town he lived in was simple and remote; the people nervous and superstitious. There had been a time when people in that part of the world lived in fear of vampires and werewolves but when Maksim was a child there were worse monsters—there was the government. There were soldiers who came without warning, took what they wanted, and left ruin behind. Maksim's father was a mechanic with a small repair shop and his mother was a sweet and gentle woman who had given birth every year of her married life, though only one in three of her children lived past their second birthday. Maksim, the oldest, was eleven when his father was taken away by the soldiers. His mother cried and pleaded and begged but that meant nothing. It broke his heart to see her kneeling in the street, weeping into her apron, trying to understand the words “crimes against the state.” Maksim did not know what they meant either.
Without an income life was impossible. The neighbors helped where they could but they were scared, too. Helping the wife and children of an enemy of the state might endanger their own well-being. For a year Maksim worked whatever jobs he could find; at twelve he was already the size of a man. That winter was a brutal one and, when he could get through the snow, he hunted for rabbits and squirrels but that was not enough. When the two middle children died, he carried their bodies, wrapped in old blankets, to the shed behind his father's shop where they would stay frozen until spring. He knew then what was inevitable—it was only a matter of time. When the morning came that he awoke in an empty house, he followed tracks through the snow until he found his mother's body, clutching the baby in her arms, almost entirely buried in whiteness. He wrapped them up, put them with the others, and made his preparations. With tools from his father's shop, and everything from the house that might be useful, he made a pack that he could carry on his back. He left his village and the bodies of his family behind.
It was mid summer when he came down out of the mountains and well into autumn when he crossed into Hungary. When people asked how he survived such a journey he said that his mother walked with him every step of the way. He said that his grandparents accompanied him, sending him rabbits and game birds when he needed them. He said that he knew his father was dead, too, when one day he appeared and guided a wild goose into Maksim's trap. He said that he was never lonely for a moment because those that walked with him made sure he knew he was guided and loved.
from Sailor's Valentine
In Port St. Magnus the fishermen noticed a curious thing after Tristan Hancock died, Minerva Light seemed to become unaccountably beautiful. Everyone liked Minerva. When she moved to Port St. M and opened her shop on the Neck she was a little past thirty, recently divorced, or so the rumors went, and nice looking. That's what the lobstermen who docked their boats at wharves at the end of the Neck said, nice looking. Not beautiful but nice looking. She was slightly taller than average and had a round figure. Some of the local gals, ever on their guard for dangerous competition, said she was fat but the men chuckled and said, “Maybe so... but in all the right places.”
It was the way she dressed that caught your eye. Long slim skirts in soft fabrics, lacy camisoles that looked like they had come from someone's grandmother's attic trunks --- if you happened to have a wealthy grandmother who could afford to have her undergarments made in France by patient nuns. But it was her jackets that everyone remarked on --- she had quite a collection cut like kimonos in remarkable combinations of color and texture. Some beaded, some hand-embroidered or trimmed with lace. When people asked she said she had run an antique clothing store in New York while she was married and had collected them then. The Local Lovelies, a not-entirely facetious name given to the towns single girls on the prowl, were given to skin-tight jeans and spandex tube tops. They found Minerva's taste comical and a definite signal that she was not interested in sex. The married women who, relieved of the necessity of attracting a man, had settled comfortably into sweatpants and teeshirts said she was putting on airs. The men didn't say much but they thought plenty.
Thanks for reading.