New piece: THE STORY OF DEV. Police visit Theo’s house looking for Dev

New segment of THE STORY OF DEV. Theo is plowing through his presentation on the Louisiana  when he gets a visit from Office John  Ellingwood.

A knock at the side aluminum storm door pulled him away from the table. Theo edged behind the  open kitchen door to see who it was.  They’d never had a visitor.

The storm door squealed open. Another knock, this time on the  main door. Louder, longer.

It was that policeman, Officer John from the school.

Theo wished his mother was home, but she had left early for her other job.

He gulped and walked to the door.

“Hi, Officer…”

Water dripped from his wide-brimmed hat and his official slicker with a little white badge on the left breast. His face was tight, but his eyes were puzzled.

“It’s Theo, right? Anyone else home?”

Photo by elifskies on Pexels.com

“My little brother and sister.”

“Oh, all right. I’m sorry. I’m Sergeant Ellingwood. I met you at Cherry Street School with Dev. She here?”

Theo just offered a wide-eyed stare. His hands shook.

“I know she’s been staying here. Not a problem. Good of you. You know I sort of keep an eye on her. I just need to know if she’s here.”

Something’s happened. I knew it.

Theo coughed an answer. “She went to work at the farm yesterday. I’m guessing she’s still …”

The sergeant’s tight lips and downward glance told Theo that was not true.

“That was the first place I checked. They said she worked yesterday, got paid and  left. She wasn’t scheduled to work today.” He nodded to Theo. “Your brother and sister okay alone? Can you come with me?” He waved a  hand. “You’re not in trouble, Theo. I just need you to come with me for a few minutes.”

Theo’s voice  ripped open and his face crumbled. “What happened? Where is she?”

“I don’t know.  The school bus was vandalized.”

“Holy crap. But why do you need me?”

“Because they left you a message on the side on the bus. I need you to confirm something.”

“Jeez. Okay, just a minute,” and he turned from the door to the living room. “Hey, guys, I have to go with…”

“Oh, Ta-o’s in trouubble,” sang out Paul from his upside-down perch on the couch, feet planted on the wall, head hanging off  the cushion.

“No, I’m not,” Theo said, grabbing a ball cap. “He needs my help.”

“Right, needs your help to put you in jail,” Paul laughed. “I’m tellin’…”

“Just lock the doors.”

On the porch the sergeant asked, “No rain coat?”

Theo shrugged, embarrassed. “No, it’ll  be…”

“Got an extra in trunk. Come on.”

They drove in silence. The officer muttered into the car radio. Theo only understood, “10-4.”

Theo hunched in the front seat, confused and scared.

Why don’t he say somethin’? It’s gotta be really bad.

“Her father’s not a vet, is he?”

“Is that what she’s saying?” Sergeant Ellingwood flicked a glance at Theo. “He’s a farm worker, migrant. Thorntons adds a dozen or so seasonal workers every year, generally late spring to the end of October.  Something happened to Enrico’s paperwork. That’s her father name. His work visa was never processed. He was sent to another Thornton farm in the Finger Lakes, but he never showed up. That was maybe a month ago.” He pulled the car into the grocery store lot. “Here we are.”

By the time they got to the Red & White the rain had picked up, blurring the view of  the school bus. Sergeant Ellingwood hauled a black slicker from the trunk. “You’re really going to need this now.”

Theo slipped in to the oversized slicker.

“Aw, man, look at that,” Theo said as he saw that the school bus windows had been broken out and a chair and clothes and books, pans and other stuff had been thrown into the parking lot. Black paint had been splashed across the windshield and the entry door torn from the side of the bus.

“I need you to see this,” the officer said.

On the side of the bus facing the street had been painted, “Hey Theo-awful-lee we got Onion Girl    You next”

“Bobby Danforth. He called Dev ‘onion girl’, ”

“We know,” the sergeant said, with a nod. “That why it’s trouble. That family.”

“He’ll get away with it, won’t he?”

“I’d like to say no,  but, no guarantees.” Ellingwood nodded to the police car. “Let’s get out of this.”

Inside the car, the officer said, “I just needed to you to verify that it’s Bobby. You had a couple run-ins, right?”

When Theo hesitated, the officer said, “Don’t worry, you’re not  the only kid.”

“Yeah, a couple. First day, he knocked change out of my hand in the lunch room, and last week him and his guys were following me.”

“Didn’t you and he have a discussion when you beat him on the wall crawl?”

Theo felt his face heat up. “You know about that?”

Ellingwood laughed. “Everybody knows about it.”

Theo leaned back. “Oh, crap.”

“Hey, you’re not in trouble  We all did the wall crawl. I did the wall crawl. Only got  half way.”

Theo shivered, then huffed out a fresh breath. “No way.”

“It’s a tradition, as I’m  sure you’ve heard.  And know what? We all bet on it. Cokes, an ice cream sandwich, little stuff, not real  money. My God, Jacob has about a thousand dollars in bets so far. “

“A grand?”

“I told him  to shut down the online betting and figure out how to give back the money. He’s not in trouble  but parents have been calling. Nickel and dime bets are one thing,  but if it gets too  big, someone besides me in law enforcement notices, understand?”

Theo pursed his lips into a fish face  and opened his eyes wide and tried not to laugh. That little hustler.

“So where do you think Dev went?”

“Dunno,” Theo said, lying. The old factory. “I knew about the farm and the bus. When she came to our house I thought she came from here, you know, the school bus. I mean she didn’t have anything with her except some clothes, and they were really dirty and the dryer broke so she had to wear my  Mom’s stuff.”

The sergeant started the car. “Yeah, okay, Let me take you home. Thanks for your help.”

At the house, Theo stepped from the car and peeled off the slicker.

“Keep it. You got a phone?”

As Theo nodded yes, the car radio spit to life: “All cars 10-50, multi-vehicle, high school, fire and rescue enroute.”

“Oh, man, gotta go. Car accident,” Ellingwood said. “When she comes back, have her call me.”

He spun the car  in a U-turn and lights flashing sped off north.

Theo stood in the rain listening as  the siren faded in the heavy air.

Oh, Dev.

Only then did he notice  the slicker was a shade of green and had strips of reflective tape around the arms and across the chest.

In a moment when he wanted to disappear he stood out like a Christmas tree.

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Look at all you’ve done: Maggie Doyne’s story

Things get better when someone demands they do, and follows up that demand by action.

That’s not the right word.

Things.

Too  cold, too empty. Wrong.

Lives.

That’s better.

Lives and hearts and minds.

That’s what gets better.

When hearts and mind get better, lives get better, then things get better.

Hope.

Grows.

Builds.

But only with sleeves rolled up, tools in  hands, minds engaged.
Rising then to dream.

But dreams are just air unless there is some foundation.

Yet there is no foundation without dreams.

Because ya have to start somewhere.

That’s what Maggie Doyne did.

Started.

Found a place that challenged her pleasant American girl dream.

Not challenged.

Smacked it with all the force of righteous wrong, knocked it silly.

Showed her a place so antithetical to  her Jersey suburban upbringing that the choice for her was simple: Stay.

Simple, heart-felt.

Jumping off a cliff with nothing but a prayer simple.

Yet.

Yet.

Here was this place, Surkhet, Nepal, seemingly forsaken, poverty stricken, wracked by war, chained by traditions and practices as old as the people who first settled there.

Here was the dirty face of a tiny girl who stopped breaking rocks  because that was her job, to smile and say “Namaste” to this young American who watched her work.

This young American whose mind was reeling,  whose heart was breaking, and whose determination to stay and help swelled each time she saw some new aspect of life in that dusty settlement.

I had the privilege of interviewing Maggie twice 15 years ago for two pieces

I wrote for the Morris County Daily Record in the days when her dream for her foundation BlinkNow .. https://blinknow.org/ was taking shape.

A remark she made then stuck. It was about how she had to reconcile that she was  the only white American woman in Surkhet.

She is on a book tour, talking about her  story, “Between the Mountain and the Sky.”

When she was speaking recently at her West Morris-Mendham High School, her alma mater, an answer to that old question became evident.

How did Maggie deal with being an American woman in a decidedly non-American place?

In a way by being less American. By shaving down the great American need to fix everything all at once, by morphing that aggression into listening and learning.

Not everything moves at the pace of a  New York minute.

But it moves.

If Maggie Doyne teaches us anything it’s that dreams don’t die, only the effort to shape them falters. Her next best lesson is this: Keep moving forward.

Her best lesson: Remember to love one another.

In  fifteen years since she first entered Nepal, she attracted a talented team of advisors, teachers and supporters to become mother to more than 50 Nepalese kids, to build a home for them and a school for  more than 500 students, some of whom are graduating from college now; to develop a woman’s center that offers job training and support  for the women of Kopila Valley; to fight off the worry and depression of potential failure (because it feels so  personal, because it is: She had  promised all of herself to make this real); to swell with pride as her kids succeed; and to feel the weight of loss when a child fails at school, grows sick, when they die.

The BlinkNow world was shattered when in 2015, it was announced the Ravi, a three-year-old who had exemplified everything Maggie  was – mother, teacher, healer – died. It seemed like there would never be enough love to salve her grief.

I remember getting the email that announced his death. I stared at the ceiling for hours before writing a piece at 3 a.m. New Years Day, 2016. https://michaelstephendaigle.com/2015/12/31/ravi/

People still read that piece today.

It has nothing to do with me but everything with how Maggie Doyne and her mission connected with people around the world.

I posed a question in that piece: What will the world be like when the Koplia Valley kids are unleashed.

We’re about to find out.

Read her book.

She’ll show you how she did the improbable:  Turned heartbreak and deprivation into light.

Her kids are spreading that light.

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THE STORY OF DEV: What might Theo, Dev and Dimitri Yazov share?

In this segment of THE STORY OF DEV, Theo struggles to form his report on the Louisiana Purchase, but finds himself distracted  by the sounds of heavy rain on the tin roof of the barn, Dev’s absence and the discovery of the person who could be Bobby Danforth’s great-grandfather, Dmitri Yazov.

Theo began to worry when Dev had not returned Saturday night, and his concern increased as the rain rattled the loose corner of the barn’s tin roof.

But maybe he misunderstood. She had taken some extra clothes, so possibly she was going to sleep overnight in  one of those shacks, work Sunday and then come back.

He sat at the wobbly metal-legged kitchen table circled under the light of  the single ceiling light until after midnight, trying to concentrate on  his project, but focused instead on the two names he had written: Dmitri Yazov and Andrea Duarte.

Everybody’s hiding something, he thought. And whatever they are hiding makes everyone else suspicious, as if it’s wrong.

He flipped open the Rand-McNally world atlas and found the map that showed the Atlantic Ocean flanked by North America and Europe.

Where did Dimtri Yazov come from? The company website wasn’t specific.

 And how he did he get to the U.S.? England, Theo guessed,  probably to New York.

He traced the route on the map.

And why?

War, most likely.

Theo made a note. War? Which one?

Religion? Persecution? Famine? Some disaster?

Man, so much I don’t know. But whatever, a chance for a better life. Why else leave home?

He placed a finger on Eastern Canada and traced the St. Lawrence river west, then down the Mississippi.

That’s how his family got to Louisiana.

England and France at war all over the world, and England won. Threw the French out of Canada, burned the villages.  Some French, like his ancestors fled west and the south out of the reach of the British. Oh, wait a minute. The Spanish were there for a while, then Napolean won it from them and then sold it to Jefferson…and the British were there in 1812… Man, I’ll have to get all that right.

He switched to a U.S. map and put his finger on New Orleans and followed a  road west to a town called Church Point. That was where his family settled.

He smiled with pride and longing when he saw the name. Maybe that is home after all.

He moved his finger west till he found New Mexico. That was where Dev said she was born. Her father is Mexican and her mother was – oh, what’d she say, Navajo, but that didn’t sound right.

He fingered the map. She said she’d been in California, Florida and other places, until she got here.

He went out to the back porch and watched the rain drip from the roof.

Funny, ain’t it.

Me and Dev and even Dmitri Yazov, from all over and somehow ended here.

That’s how I’ll tell the story of the Louisiana Purchase, he thought, pleased. It’s  not about politics and world war and power. It’s about people trying to settle. That’s what’s important.

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New title: THE STORY OF DEV. Theo finds a secret about the family of the school bully

In this segment. Theo goes to the town library to research the Louisiana Purchase for a class report. He learns something about himself but more important learns a secret about the family of school bully Bobby Danforth.

Also, this is where the story takes a twist, and as it did so I realized the name is THE STORY OF DEV.

So, welcome.

The Danforth Memorial Public Library was in Danforth Memorial Park on Danforth Boulevard.

Lotta Danforths, Theo thought. Why ain’t the town called Danforth?

Turning off the hot Washington Street sidewalk into the shade of  Danforth Boulevard, Theo guessed the park was built just to feature the library, centered in a stand of trees and flowering bushes. The building was red brick like Cherry Street School, and had a towering pillared marble façade.

He hopped up the five steps to the front door and grinned.

“Into the place of my enemies,” he said. He wanted it to sound brave, but it just sounded hollow.

A sign saying “Research” reminded Theo why he was there:  To research the Louisiana Purchase. Mrs. Adams didn’t even say how long the report was supposed to be. Am I supposed to read it to the class? Do I need pictures? I shoulda paid more attention.

Instead, to avoid the assignment, he walked around the library,  examining the old maps and photos hung on the walls. I’ve got more than a week left, I’m good.

The heads of people reading magazines turned as a squeal of laughter burst from the children’s room. Three older kids, maybe high school students, sat at computers, leaving three others unoccupied.

On the wall next to the computer room were eight photos, all marked “Danforth.”

I’m surrounded.

The photos circled a bronze dedication plaque dated April 23, 1918  that featured a profile of a bearded man with a receding hairline. All those guys had long beards, he laughed. Maybe it’s all the same guy.

This guy was Sanford Danforth, president of Danforth Co., chairman of the library association, director of this, founder of that, honorary master of something else, and so on. The description filled about three inches of  the plaque.
          Theo stared at the face he guessed belonged to Bobby Danforth’s great grandfather, which he thought was interesting. But what was more interesting was a line near the  bottom on the description  that said  Sanford Danforth took over the Danforth Co. in 1899 from his father Dmitri Yazov and turned the small woolen mill into a leading manufacturer of clothing.

“Look at that,” Theo whispered. He wondered what Bobby Danforth would do if he replied to the taunt of “Thee-awful-lee” with a call of “What’s up, Yazov?”

By the time he got there, the computer room was empty.

The first items Theo searched on the computer were Dmitri Yazov and Danforth Co.

The company’s website  said he had immigrated to the U.S. in 1870 and opened a hat shop in Brooklyn. The business expanded and moved out of the city in 1917, built a new factory and took a new name, Danforth Co. They made uniforms and other clothing to the  U.S. military.

After World War II the company sold the manufacturing  business and operated clothing stores under various names across the county, largely in shopping malls. Robert J.  Danforth was named president in 2006, and sold the retail stores, taking the company private in 2010, the site said.

Whatever private means, Theo thought.

 Not a bad story, a nice story, but it doesn’t explain why Bobby Danforth is such a jerk.

Theo sat a moment and compared the history of the  Danforths with the history of his own family, based in his grandfather’s stories.

Some Dubois fled Canada during the French and Indian War. Theo knew that was a war that had some meaning in upstate New York.  They settled in Louisiana, founding with other families a couple towns. Over time they owned stores, farmed cotton and sugar, ran fishing boats,  drilled for oil and raised catfish.

“And at some point, they changed their name. Look at that. Hey, Bobby Danforth, we ain’t that much different.”

And you’re not that much different than Dev.

And we’ve all been running from something.

He puffed his cheeks with air, released it, and with a no-avoiding-it sigh searched “Louisiana Purchase.”  The screen was immediately filled with links to history websites,  photos of maps, Thomas Jefferson, Lewis and Clark, swamps, sidewheel steam boats, oil rigs, the Superdome, hurricane wreckage and people celebrating Mardi Gras.

Chin in his hands, Theo was mesmerized.

But that wasn’t the Louisiana his grandfather told him about. So he searched, “Cajun.”

The screen filled with scenes of bayous, crawfish, fiddles, men in straw hats playing little box accordions; links to jambalaya, Zydeco, Lafayette, Hank Williams, and a college symbol of a Ragin’ Cajun.

Theo had been there once when he was four or five.  Grandpa Te’o took them all on a fishing tour of a local bayou on an aluminum flat-bottom boat, and Theo ate a bunch foreign foods and sat on a rock and tapped his foot while the family played dance music.

He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. He hadn’t thought about that trip since they moved to Lakeside. He recalled how that visit — just a couple days of a cross-country run after his father got transferred by the Navy to the East Coast — filled him with a sense of family and place.

He huffed.

All that’s left of that place  is my name, and I don’t even say it right.

He sounded out the name in is head: “Du-boi. Du-boi.”

Then out loud.

“Hi, my name is Theophile Du-boi. You can call me T.”

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Fan mail from Sint Maartin?

What makes the  Internet fun – when you’re not being scammed, spammed. phished, hacked and generally annoyed—is when someone in an unexpected location visits your website.

I periodically check the stats on my site to track users, etc. I also make note of entries from some foreign hacker-friendly nations.

But, today was a sort-of delight.

Someone located in Sint Maartin, a nation in the  Dutch Antilles in the Caribbean looked up an old post on my website.

Yeah, it could be a hacker, but what the hell.

Phillipsburg, Sint Maartin

Sint Maartin is the Dutch half of an island which it shares with a French colony, Saint Maartin.

Sunny, beachy, touristy.

Sint Maartin is 41 square miles and has a population  of 41,000.

The capital is Phillipsburg.

Which is what  got my attention.

Because the post that was accessed was something I wrote a year ago about the Phillipsburg, N.J. town council messing with the Phillipsburg Free Public Library, in fact, considering closing it. Thanks to a strong civic outcry, the council backed off, although it  is still hard to consider them  friends of the library.

Now it’s possible the Phillipsburg, Sint Maartin town council is also feuding with its public library.

But I doubt it.

Had someone wanted to read about such a feud and Googled “Phillipsburg library budget” or something like that, my item would have appeared among the 22 million other references, including any potential such items from Sint Maartin.

If that had happened, and the reader clicked on the Google link it would taken them directly to the post.

But, according to the tracking info on my page, the reader first used said Google search to access the main page of the blog.

They then  accessed the archive link and searched specifically for the Phillipsburg library item they read. A lot of work unless you were doing it on purpose.

Holy Dewey Decimal System, Batman.

Slow day on the beaches of Sint Maartin?

Anyway, thanks , and I hope you enjoyed the post.

Got me thinking, though.

I’m plotting out the next Frank Nagler Mystery, so far called, NAGLER’S SECRET, and this type of sneaky,  Internet search  and messaging would be a way for the person behind the secret, or who is the secret, to  reach out to Nagler.

We’ll see.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Until I learn

Buds swell,

Life licked by a tongue of sunlight,

The sigh of being rises in the dark

Till green shoots penetrate the cold soil, the hint of hope

That soothes a bruised earth.

Earth turns

The contrails of war, arrows first split a blue sky;

Swell, then sink, a  ratchet of destruction;

Scorching descent,  air red, boiling  with flames,

Sound suffocated to  screams.

Hands held

Hidden hunger released;

Lips tangle feet to stay,

Arms entwined

The moment matters.

Love is

And like war  can not be negotiated

By suited men at a table

Choosing winners

As if they are hunched in that room.

Love is not a collection of dry words on paper,

But a whisper against your skin.

War ends

But the lessons fade,

So it rises again

To offer the chance to learn.

Teach me with your mouth

Teach me with your touch

Teach me with your shining skin

Until I learn.

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SCALING THE WALL. Jacob schemes up a wall crawl challenge between Theo and bully Bobby Danforth

In this segment of my junior high school WIP, Jacob, the  really smart kid, tells Theo he is setting up a betting scheme for a wall crawl contest between Theo and Bobby Danforth. Also, the story has a new name: SCALING THE WALL.  As the story has progressed that idea that all the kids are trying to overcome something is the central theme.

“What are you plotting?” Theo asked, as he approached the grinning Jacob.

“That, my sporting friend, is the exact word,” Jacob replied. “How would you like to make a few dollars and get back at Bobby Danforth?”

Before Theo could speak up, a kid tapped Jacob on the shoulder, handed him two dollars and said, “On… ” the kid nodded to Theo. “What’s your name?”  

“Theo.”

“Right. Two bucks on Theo.”

“You have kids betting on me? What the heck, Jacob. I mean, Bobby is a jerk but I’m not gonna fight him. Jeez, Jacob!”

“Oh, no, Theo. I’d never ask you to do that, but your triumph over Bobby Danforth on the wall has gone viral on Tik Tok. Take  a look.”

Jacob handed Theo his phone where student after student cheered Theo’s “victory.”

Theo passed the phone back. “He bet me a buck, and I didn’t have one. I had to beat him.” He stared into the playground, then shrugged. “Don’t get the fuss. Wasn’t that hard.” He cast a side glance at Jacob. “What are you getting me into?”

“Ah, my friend, don’t tell anyone it wasn’t that hard. It would change the odds.”

Theo leaned his head to one side, closed his eyes and tried to form a sentence. “Wha…I..Jac…wall, Mr.Younger…” And gave up. A sigh. “You’re taking bets that I can, what, crawl along the wall farther than Bobby Danforth.”

Jacob grinned. “Not just crawl farther, but traverse the fire escape, then conquer the rear door gap, which if you have looked at it, has a ledge but no footholds, and then of course, make it across the long playground side of the wall, which it high off the ground and the foot ledge is narrow and has a shaper tilt. Very difficult.”

“And you’re…”

“That’s right, I’m setting up betting line of all aspects of the crawl. The over all distance, of course, but a separate wagers on the fire escape, rear door and  the playground wall. I am pondering a bet on the fastest run, but since no one has ever measured the time it took someone to complete the full crawl, I have no data upon which to create a reasonable odds.”

Theo, fully suckered and agreeing, laughed. “What do I get out of it, besides all the glory?”

“A cut of the profits.”

“Ha! Awright, ya got me.”

Jacob stood, then Theo as Jacob began to walk away.

“I have piano practice,” Jacob said. “But, thank you. This silly wall crawl has importance beyond what you know. You must realize how many students before you tried and never made the first turn. To them it is more than a game. It’s a challenge, a measurement of themselves. They want to say when they leave this school they conquered the wall.”

Theo glanced at the long wall facing the playground. Some big deal, huh?  “Yeah, okay. I get that. In Lakeside after school we boys used to run  to my parent’s coffee shop and the last one in  had to buy the sodas. We had swimming races in the summer and then see who would dare jump from the top of the hay pile in Anson’s barn to the floor.” He nodded and grinned at Jacob. “Yeah, so, everything was a challenge.”

“There’s more,” Jacob said. “Bobby Danforth and his friends have bullied more than a dozen kids just because they can.” They began to walk toward Jacob’s house. “No one will stand up to him. His family protects him.” Jacob smiled and patted Theo on the back. “Besides they are all tired of Bobby Danforth’s  bragging. He’s telling his friends that he gave you that dollar out of pity.”

Theo smiled. “Actually, Jacob, I tricked him. I made it look harder than it was.”

“Oh, my, don’t tell anyone else that, either. I’d have no way to set the odds if students felt there was no contest.”

“Man, I don’t get you.  The smartest kid in class, the piano whiz and a bookie.”

“Precisely. A plump-fingered, bespeckled  piano player like me,” Jacob laughed as stared at his phone as a string of texts with bets arrived.

“How…”

“Because it’s numbers, math, my friend, and math is easy. Besides it’s a family skill. My uncle ran numbers on horse races and one day I asked how he did it, so he took me to the track and showed me. I got it right away. No one guessed because he was an attorney.” Jacob turned. “See you soon.”

Theo watched as Jacob bobbed his short-stepped walk across Cherry Street, his feet and shoulders syncopated as if he was marching to a musical beat.

That little hustler.  

He turned back to the school, and stared at the long side of the building that faced the playground when the whole stinking mess dawned on him.  If he’s the hustler, then I’m his sucker. There’s something  else even worse between Jacob and  Bobby Danforth, and now it’s my problem.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WIP: BETTING ON THEO. Dev enters the wall crawl challenge. And, um, is Theo falling for Dev?

In this scene from the WIP, BETTING ON THEO, a story about a middle school. Dev tells Theo she has entered the wall crawl challenge set up by their friend, Jacob. The scene also raises the question about how close Theo and Dev are becoming. Other entries on this website. Check the archives, or follow the site

She had a most imperfect face. Her square jaw jutted in defiance more often than not, warning that if you had a thought to touch what was clearly a soft cheek,  she’d grab your fingers and bend them back, making it clear how wrong you were to even think about it. And her eyes were dark and hidden a lot, protectors of the secrets that they knew or maybe the pain; and her mouth was too often a straight line, narrow and hard, Imperfect, like the pieces didn’t fit. From an angle her nose seemed too big. Then she’d turn and her eyes would soften to a tease and after she bit her lip her mouth would curl into sweet wicked smile and all the imperfections would be gone.

At least, that was how Theo imagined it, head resting on the cement wall of the school, eyes closed because the setting sun stabbed around the corner of the building. The kiss would be magic after he ran a finger over her eyebrows and down her cheek to brush her lips, and how the muscles of her face would push her lips to his and …
          “Hey, T, T, wake up.” Dev pushed a fist into his left shoulder after she sat next to him. “Wake up, ya missed it, didn’t you?”

“What. No, I didn’t… missed what?”

“I climbed up the outside of the fire escape, across the top, and back down.  Just hands. I’m thinking that Jacob should add that event to his betting pool.”

“You’re really doing it, the wall crawl.”

“You did. I figure it’s easier to win that prize for this stupid thing than doing farm work.”

“But, yeah, but it was an accident. If Bobby Danforth hadn’t challenged me… You really think it’s stupid?”

“But he did, and there’s no going back. If you can do it, I can do it. And yes, it’s stupid. All you little boys, trying to prove yourself.” She shook her head. “Prove yourself  by working.”

“Hey, I worked. I told ya, helped my parents at the coffee shop, hauled hay and picked fruit.”

“I know. You’re different. Come on. I need to get out of your mother’s clothes.”

Dev stood and held out  her hands. Theo reached up and she pulled him to his feet with little effort.

“You’re strong,” he said, trying not to sound too surprised.

“T, I’ve been picking vegetables since I was eight. My hands are already tough. Didn’t you notice when we held hands the other day?”

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yoga girl

Light pours

Sets sky to sizzle

Burns a trail through darkness.

Then you

Eyes dark, soft, soon demanding.

You coiled to give

Open to accept;

A question and an answer

You ask and ponder.

How much can be gathered in one moment,

How much lost; how much held and tasted?

The power of you

Given.

Find the formula, crack the challenge.

An imperative: Take the light, preserve it.

It is the essence.

Given and taken.

It is the being of you.

Posted in Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Michael Stephen Daigle | Leave a comment

New ‘Betting on Theo.’ Dev hiding

In this section of what now is called BETTING ON THEO, Theo, the new kid in town, is chased through a neighborhood by the school bully and his friends. Passing an old factory, a gate opens and Theo reunites with Dev, his friend who had been missing for a couple days.  The scene starts in the middle of the chase.

With Bobby Danforth and his buddies more than a block away, Theo leaned against the iron gate. When he heard Bobby Danforth yell, “Wait up,” he waved  and ran a few steps, vaulted a couple tree trunks, jumped through some thickets and emerged back on the main driveway about a fifty feet  from the gate. He stopped just long enough for them to spot him. “Wait up, man.” That was Bobby Danforth. Theo liked the frustration in his voice.  At the cellar, Theo sprinted up the side path and ran till he got to the wooden fence. He made a couple rights and a left and stopped at the corner that would lead back to Main Street and his house, but took the other turn toward County.  Guess I lost them. Ha! He brushed his right hand along the wooden fence, slapping it once in celebration.

Ahead, a section of the fence opened. “In here.”

It was Dev.

“T, what are you doing?” She closed the door and locked it with a thick wooden latch.

“What. Dev?  Wait, over here,” and Theo led her to stand behind a wall. “Bobby Danforth and his guys are following me. Shhh.”

He smiled at her while they waited to hear if Bobby and his boys were still on his trail.  She was tired, her eyes withdrawn and dark.

More than tired, he thought. Beaten down. Lost.

A fist thumped the fence near the gate. The wall shifted with an outside push. “Come on,” Bobby Danforth said. “If you can hear me, Thee awful lee, this  ain’t over.”

Theo and Dev waited in silence. Another thump against a far wall echoed. “Had him running, didn’t we?”

When the street fell silent, Theo asked, “What are you doing here? How long…?”

Dev reached for the bar on the gate.  “You can go, T.” They won’t get you now.”

“No, I just got here. It’s been a few days, you know. Been pretty worried about you. How’d you know it was me?”

“Heard you running. Nobody goes by here,  so when I hear someone, I peek through the wall, just in case.” She stepped back into the main factory building which was missing windows and half its roof. “It’s an old woolen mill.  You’d be surprised how much stuff is still here. This room is warm and isolated.”

Theo glanced around. And dirty and wet and  filled with moldy junk and probably rats…

“Why are…?” Theo held his head with both hands to organize his thoughts. “I know about the farm,” he said and saw her shoulders sag before she turned away. “The grocery manager…”

Dev turned back, face locked, eyes hard. “Did the grocery manager also tell  you he knocked on the school bus every night demanding that I service him? ‘Oh, my beautiful little chicka, I have something for you. I want to make you sing.’”

“Why didn’t you report him?”

“To who? You were there when I said something about Bobby Danforth playing with himself when  I came out of the shower.  They were embarrassed for him, not me.” She touched his face. “You’re a sweet  boy, T. But just go. I can deal with this for a while and one day soon after the farm pays me I’ll  move on.”

He took her hand. “I ain’t going anywhere. I mean I don’t know a lot about all this, but I know what’s it’s like to be alone. What am I trying to say? “I don’t know why you changed your name to Devlin …”

“How do you know I changed it?”

“Jacob told me.”

She pulled back her hand and sat on a dusty  chair. “Jacob. That little busybody.”

Theo pulled up a wooden box for a seat. “That little busybody can help. He’s had his own Bobby Danforth trouble.”

“Why don’t you use of own real name?” she asked. “Theophile, right? Du-boi, not Du-boiz?”

His face crumpled. “I told you. My grandfather…”

“I know. A white Frenchman changed  his name so he could pass for normal.”

“Hey, wait.”

“Stings don’t it?  Try  being the brown-skinned teenage daughter of a Mexican migrant farmworker. What, you thought I had a tan?” She laughed. “I chose Devlin because it was the whitest Irish name I could think of, and no one noticed I don’t have red hair and green eyes, or talk about the ‘old country’ with mist in my eyes.”

Theo stood and pulled Dev from her chair and held both her hands.

“Why you doing this, Dev? I’m your friend. I don’t care that you … whatever. It’s like you trying to drive me away.”

“Ah, T. Don’t you get it? Nobody cares about people like me. What got me in trouble at school? I stole a carton of milk.  They didn’t  ask why I needed to steal the milk and the I only  reason I got caught is that Mrs. Nelson was out that day. I live in a stupid old school bus. It’s like it doesn’t bother them because you can’t really see it from the street and it’s  not in their neighborhood.” She nodded to an opening to another room. “I got a stove and made a bed outta old wool for covers.”

“No, Dev. No.” Theo screwed up his face and close his eyes. “It just hurts to..”

“Don’t do that to yourself, T. Don’t  take it on. You gotta learn to be like the  others. The school doesn’t want to do all that paperwork because in Mrs. Sternman’s mind, I’ll be gone in six months, like all the others.”

“Others?”

“Farm workers, T. Migrants, immigrants, illegals… hiding in the shadows, here for six months till the crops are harvested, then gone. Why bother?” Her voice broke and she covered her face. “I’m  nothing, T. Nothing.”

Theo crossed and hugged her, holding Dev as  her rigid body tried to pull out of the embrace. After a moment, Theo released her and said, “Get your stuff. You’re coming with me.”

“No, what?

“We got a spare room.”

“T??”
“My Mom grew up without a mother.  If she knew I left you here, she’s ground me for the rest of my life and then come and get you herself. So, let’s go.”

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment