Excerpts 

From: No Ordinary Twilight

I followed his description of the overwhelming human emotions that seized him alone in the cramped cockpit, puking from fear into the map case only to discover too late it was too small to hold it. Hallucinating --hearing his father berate him for getting himself  "into this goddamned mess." Screaming "Bullshit!" into his radio when one of the flight officers, trying to coax him into attempting another landing suggested  "Just think of it as the first time you rode a bicycle." Watching the fuel light flicker until it became solid red. In his words, the signal that "it was time to get the hell out of there." The operations officer told him "Leave it."

He ejected. Punched out of the aircraft over a black ocean with no idea where he would come down or how he would survive if we couldn't reach him. Underwater, completely enfolded by heavy waves, he fumbled to find the toggle on his life vest. Unable to breathe, he finally yanked it free and shot to the surface, in his words wobbling side to side like an out-of-control elevator. 

From: Last of the Summer Music

Perry Howe was a dreamer. When his dreams faded, he tried to get them back with whiskey. More than once, broke and thirsty, he would find Beemo Manville's car on a whisky run with the trunk open. Before the bootlegger could get back to his cache, Perry had sneaked a gallon of moonshine and was off in the woods by the river where a chase would have been too much trouble. 

Everyone except the bootlegger accepted Perry for what he was---a dreamer and not much for full-time work. But he could do something no one else in the county could. He played the fiddle. He coaxed melodies from his old violin that stirred the rural folk to cheers and applause and shouts of "More, Perry!"

From:  Taken

He fell to his knees in the mud, crying, arms flailing, cold rain falling hard upon him. " Don't shoot!  I am the lost boy. My name is Axel Froelich. Help me, please!" He burst into sobs so fierce they took his breath away. He couldn't speak. No sounds came from his throat. His swollen lips could only form the words "Axel Froelich. Do you understand? Please help me!"  An officer jumped from his horse and ran to the shaking boy. 

With tears in his eyes, he wrapped his greatcoat around Axel.  "Captain John Squires, Seventh Cavalry. You are safe with us now, Axel. We will take you home to your family. They have waited far too long for you."

                                                                                   •••

                                                                           Axel's journal

On the three hundredth day since my captivity, I am at last safe and well inside the folds of my family. When I wake with the morning sun, I no longer fear the day. Instead I look upon it with joy and inspiration. In spite of everything that has happened to me, I know that I am loved. Daily, the desperation of being alone and afraid falls away from me. 

I have lived through deprivation, misery and hovering death. I have witnessed cruelty. Yet I have left bitterness and hatred behind. They are no longer a part of me.

I believe there is goodness in all people. I will move forward with my life because if I do not, I will stand still and miss what happiness must lie ahead. I have suffered. I know what suffering is. I pray there will be an end someday to the evil that creates it. Endlessly, I thank God that I am safe within my family.  I ask His forgiveness that I turned away from Him in my suffering. I know now that He was beside me, guarding and guiding me. 

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From:  The Play-Pretend of Rene Underwood

Whomever she was, whatever accent she was using at any particular time, she was already on her way to becoming something or someone else. Her moods swung in a sweeping arc from unspeakable sadness at a sparrow limp and dead on the sidewalk to silent anger at persons who doubted her authenticity when she was anyone but herself.

       Why did I not understand what raged inside you? When you asked me --How do I even know I

        exist?--why did I laugh and answer with such callous unconcern--Simple. As long as you're here, you exist.          When you are no longer here, you don't. I hear those words in bitter replay over and over and  over. In the          cold of winter, when melancholy invades my head and heart and I know  you are sleeping somewhere                 under a blanket of snow--how I wish I could take them back.

She introduced herself to me when we were both eleven. My family moved into the neighborhood where she and her mother lived. Through our open front door, I saw her watch the movers bring in our furniture, eyeing each piece critically, as if appraising it to later sell at auction. When the movers took a smoke break, she wandered inside. I was about to go upstairs with a box--Kenny's Room scribbled on it in bold black marker.

"Hello, Kenny's Room. I presume you are the new occupant. I am Rene Underwood. I live three houses south. You and I should become friends. Consider it. I expect to see you soon." With a ballet twirl and a wave, the strange girl-child skipped halfway down the loading ramp, jumped to the sidewalk and disappeared. I stared after her, uncertain if she were tethered completely to reality.

From: Come Before Winter

The letter came Thursday. No return address. No indication who might have sent it. I opened it and first sentence in, wanted to burn it. 

"Dear Kevin: I know I'm the last person you want to hear from but I must write to you now. They tell me I only have a couple months to live. Cancer that began in my right lung is now in control of my body and doctors say nothing  can be done to stop it. I want to have one last meeting with you to explain things and ask you to forgive me. Come before winter. I won't last much beyond that. Your father....Thomas."

"Bullshit!"  I shouted above the angry roar in my skull. He's dying in some faraway city where he, without a doubt , has drawn the shades and sits with his best friend Johnny Walker. JW Red, to be exact. Facing his end, I imagine he has surrounded himself with at least a dozen bottles.

I can read between the lines. He only half understands what's happening to him. Struggling to breathe, the disease leaves him no space, no room to move or to think. He feels a desperate pull to return to life as it was, the selfish life he dictated--a book of pages without margins. Life before it changed him, without his permission, into something or someone else. 

It was a demand even to the time--come before winter--from someone who has no right to demand anything from me. He took from me my self-confidence, my perspective, and gave me anger and resentment in return. He made me a mere visitor in my own life.