Granite Coast: Blog en-us Jim Lindsey [email protected] (Granite Coast) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:14:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:14:00 GMT Granite Coast: Blog 120 120 The Button Maker Murders - Chapter 2 - In the Land of Jealous Gods (continued) *

The middle-aged heavily perfumed blonde in the seat beside Cat in the crowded bus from the airport noticed Cat’s tears and the anger with which she wiped them away. She patted Cat on the leg and said, “Honey, it's frustrating. It is. All that wine ahead waiting to be tasted and our troubles put behind us and here we are stuck in a traffic jam on Golden Gate Bridge. But the view is nice, isn’t it? I like to look on the bright side of things. I just love the fancy colored sails on those sailboats, for instance. They remind me of the scarves I bought last week in Milan. They were just so ... affordable ... I almost said cheap, silly me ... I must have bought a suitcase full. Here, there's one in my purse. Doesn’t that orange and gold just jump out at you? And the silk is so dreamy! Let me rub it on your cheek. Oh goodness, still no smile?"

She craned around to look down the aisle. “I could frown too, you know. I didn't get to sit with my husband. That’s him three rows back by the window on the other side. Isn't he the cutest thing? And that bushy mustache, when he gets going with that, lord, lord. Oh, Gregory! This is your beautiful wife waving at you, Gregory. I see you flirting. Don’t forget we’re married, you bad boy.” She turned back to Cat. “Oh, don’t mind me, hon. We’re so excited to be here for Crush, me and Greg, we shared a bottle on the plane on the way over from Tulsa. So I’m a little lit up already, and I’m a chatty Cathy when I get lit. We’re going to rent a car in Santa Rosa, and then at Healdsburg we’re going to get off and head on up on 128 to Anderson Valley and hit Scharffenberger and Zina Hyde Cunningham before we call it a day. Oh, I’m a champagne fool, you know, and that Scharffenberger, I mean the whole line, and then those Zina Hyde Pinots! Are you here for Crush too?” She put her hand on Cat's leg again. “Say, is your husband on the bus and you couldn’t sit with him either?”

Cat took the woman's hand and carefully replaced it on the woman's own leg, “I don’t know what Crush is, Chatty. And no, my husband is not on the bus. He’s a ghost and can't be on a bus. In fact, he can't go anywhere with me.”

“Well,” said the woman, “no wonder you can't find your happy face! But aren’t you proud of what your husband does?” She lowered her brassy voice to a rasping whisper and leaned so close to Cat that the sourness of the wine on her breath momentarily overpowered her perfume, “Gregory's company makes a program for the CIA, that their spies use, and I am so proud of that. So, you’re from Washington! Or is it Virginia? I can never remember where they put their headquarters. My goodness, where’s my head! Tonya Watkins, where's your head! Anyway, Crush is ... you came all the way here from Virginia to go wine tasting and you don’t know what Crush is?”

“I came all the way from Nova Scotia. That’s in Canada, you know, the country, the one just above you. And I came because my husband’s father died and they’re settling the estate.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry. I ...”

“And I didn’t say my husband was a spook,” Cat said, her patience worn out. “He's not a spy. He's a ghost. A real ghost. One of the dearly departed that hasn't quite departed, eh? I do still love him, and I am quite proud of him, but I wish he were still with me in the flesh, especially when it comes to travelling to Hysterika, I mean America, and dealing with his family’s affairs.”

The woman’s face blanched and went blank. She looked as if Cat had just slapped her, and indeed Cat felt as if she had, and further, that it had been like hitting a child. “I’m sorry,” she said, apologetically, “I’ve had a long trip and I’m tired and there was trouble about my passport. So please don’t mind me. Tell me about Crush.”

The woman looked down at the purse in her lap. A corner of the orange and gold Milan scarf stuck out. The woman picked at the corner with her fingers, pecked at it with them as if she were a bird attacking a snake, till she had the scarf entire out again.

“Oh, you don't need me yapping at you,” said the woman. “I'm sorry, too. Really, I perfectly understand. You’re newly widowed, and you’ve had to make a long trip here from your poor country to our real country to beg, to see if there’s any leftovers for you, to lick the floor at the edge of the table where some choice crumbs might have fallen off. And you had trouble getting in. Well, of course you did. The immigration officers are trained to spot people like you. Foreign troublemakers. Freeloaders. Maybe a terrorist, who knows? But me, I got a kind heart. I'm gonna help you out.” She rummaged in her purse and came out with a twenty dollar bill, which she wrapped in the orange and gold scarf and extended to Cat. “Here. Now I know that’s an awful lot in your money. I visited Nova Scotia once, and it was just amazing how much you could buy there with a few real United States dollars. I loved it. It was just like a third-world country, only everyone was white! I mean, I really loved it, but it must be tough on you. So listen, you just take this Andy Jackson and walk right back there to my husband and tell him that you’d like to give up your seat so he and I can sit together. And all will be forgiven. Okay, hon? Okay? What's the matter? Cat got your tongue? Oh, you want to bargain! Good for you. Here’s another dollar. Will that do?”

Hearing the ridiculous woman say her name, even accidentally, Cat felt one of her black rages coming on. She could see herself actually slapping the woman and a brawl ensuing. Already the people across the aisle were staring. And she was far from home and the trouble at the airport would be remembered. And there was no Raymond to come to her rescue.

With a supreme effort she reached out, uncurled the fist that her hand had become, and accepted the scarf with the two bills wrapped in it. “Thank you,” she heard herself saying as if in a dream. “That will do fine. Really. In fact, it’s more generous than I deserve. Now, if you’ll just let me out, I’ll go change seats with your husband.”

The woman's mouth opened and closed like that of a fish out of water, but she could think of nothing further to say. Cat slipped by her and made her way down the aisle.

Gregory, the woman’s husband, was engaged in an animated monologue with the woman in the window seat next to him, a woman much younger than his wife, whose khaki shorts revealed a pair of shapely brown legs and whose pink tee shirt did little to hide an upper shapeliness that kept his eyes darting down as he spoke. Cat could tell from the young woman's forced smile that she was not comfortable with the older man's attention.

“They go through a second fermentation,” Gregory was saying, “called ma-lo-lactic fermentation. It takes longer, and it makes the wine cost more, sure, but that’s how you get that lemon-buttery perfection, that ... yes?” Cat’s tap on his shoulder caught him with one hand in the air accentuating lemon-buttery perfection. He responded with a vexed look backward. When he saw Cat, however, he settled back in his seat with a lascivious grin and said, “Well, yes ma'am, what can I do for you?”

“Gregory, I’m really sorry to bother you,” said Cat.

“Hell, it’s no bother,” Gregory said, looking Cat up and down with the same intensity he had focused on his neighbour. “It’s a pure pleasure!”

“Gregory,” said Cat, “I’ve been sitting with your wife Tonya, who would really rather be sitting with you, you bad boy.” She smiled enticingly and removed the contents of the orange and gold scarf. “So out of the goodness of my heart, I would like to give you this twenty dollars to change places with me. Would you do that for me, please? It would make me really happy to do you two the favour.”

The man’s grin vanished. Taken completely aback, he pushed the bill of his suede leather baseball cap up and scratched his receding hairline. He looked at the young woman beside him, then up at Cat, then along the aisle at his wife, who sat staring back at him with her eyebrows raised and her narrow lips squeezed tight. “Well, sure” he said finally. “Sure. I mean, o’ course I’d like to go sit with my wife.” He swallowed hard and then with a ghost of his former sleazy gallantry went on, “But you don’t have to pay me to do that. No, ma’am. Hell, I ought to be the one paying you. In fact, here, you keep your twenty and take this one from me.” He dug under himself for the wallet in his back pocket and fished out a bill and handed it to Cat. “And buy yourself a bottle of something you normally wouldn’t.” He pulled the brim of his cap back down, managed a fractured imitation of a grin, said, “Ladies,” and vacated his seat.

Sitting down by his wife, he said sweetly, “Tonya, darlin’...”

“Don’t you Tonya, darlin’ me, you dumb ass,” his wife barked back. “Do you realize we just paid that bitch forty dollars, no, forty-one, to do something she would have done for free if you’d had the sense to ask her in the first place? If you hadn't been so busy flirting like you always do, making a fool out of yourself with a woman half your age! And a Mexican at that!”

The object of his flirtation was shaking her head and speaking softly but passionately to herself via her reflection in the bus window. Así es con los dioses celosos,” she said. “Tienen todo...TODO...y todavía quieren más, y siempre SIEMPRE tienen que ganar, a cualquier y de cualquier modo. Seguramente es un gran error haber venido aquí.

Cat sat down beside her.

Javier, Javier mi vida!” the young woman went on, resting her forehead against the window. “Que has hecho?”

Uncomprehending but moved by the plea in her voice, Cat touched the young woman on the arm and said, “Are you all right? I don’t know what you’re saying, but it sounds like you're pretty upset.”

The young woman leaned back in her seat. “Thank you,” she said. “I'm okay. Really. But I have come very far, all the way from Veracruz. So maybe what I am is ... tired ... yes, just tired.” She showed Cat the ring on her finger, a gold band engraved with a simple cross. “I come to meet my husband, Javier.”

Feeling a surge of sympathy, Cat took the young woman's hand in her own and admired the simple elegant ring. “It’s beautiful,” she said.

Tears welled in the young woman's eyes. “He send it to me,” she said. “My Javier. With the first money he makes.”

Cat squeezed the slender hand in hers. “How wonderful,” she said, “I'm so glad for your good luck. You know, I'm tired too. We should get some rest.” She took two pillows from the overhead rack and offered one.

The woman took the pillow and thanked her and said her name was Soledad and put the pillow against the window and her head against the pillow and fell asleep before the bus had moved another slow and jerking hundred yards in the coagulating and disintegrating traffic.

“I wonder what you were saying to the window, Soledad,” Cat said under her breath as she closed her own eyes.

“I can tell you what she was saying,” said a voice from behind the tall seatback. “I wrote it down in English. It was quite compelling.”

A hand reached around and dropped into her lap a page torn from a pocket notebook.

Ordinarily she would have looked to see who the hand belonged to. But the voice was one she recognized. And it was not the voice of anyone she ever wished to see again. She sat staring at the elegant archaic penmanship of the words on the little page.

The first paragraph read,That’s how it is with the jealous gods. They have everything and still want more, and they always, always have to win, against whomever and by whatever means. Surely coming here was a big mistake.”

The second paragraph was obviously no translation. It read, “You may have made the same mistake, Catriona. Coming here to California. If you have, and it turns out you need me, call my name and I’ll be there.”

The page was signed, “One who cares for you more than you know”.

She read the note several times. Each time her sense of dread heightened. She felt a shadow invading her heart. Finally she said, “You go to hell, Burton Latimer,” and stood up and turned to face him.

There was no one behind her. In the window seat, a little old lady sat crocheting a pink baby-size sock. In the aisle, further toward the rear, a man in a pale yellow jacket opened the door to the toilet and went in. Cat went back to the toilet and waited. After a while, when no one came out, she knocked. When no one answered, she twisted the knob. The indicator on the door changed from “Occupied” to “Available” and the door swung open.

There was no one inside.

On the lid of the toilet was a brown leather button inset with a tiny gold heart pierced with an arrow.


That was where I first noticed that something was wrong. The lost soul I had been – graveyard lord, skillful servant of dark forces, pitiless, calculating, with a sense of humour that would have made a snake wince – that Burton Latimer would have taken that woman without further ado. Not followed her across a continent like a blithering sheep. Not been embarrassed to face her when the opportunity offered. Not resorted to a scribbled note with a veiled warning and a puerile promise. Never have returned without her. Never have run from her. Never in life.

And so once again I found myself crippled by life.

I thought I had escaped from love.

(End Chapter 2 - In the Land of Jealous Gods)

[email protected] (Granite Coast) Mon, 18 Dec 2017 17:59:45 GMT
The Button Maker Murders - Chapter 2 - In the Land of Jealous Gods The immigration officer held up Cat's passport. “Your head is shaven in this photo,” she said. “Why is that?”

“This is the second time I've had to show my passport to get into my own home country,” Cat replied. “Why is that?”

“You've been flagged,” said the woman. “Please answer the question.”

“I've been flagged? What does that mean?” said Cat. “I won a race? Someone dressed me up in Stars and Bars and neglected to tell me? I don't see any flag. Flagged for what?”

“I know you're tired, Ms. McCallum. It's a long flight from New York to here. So I will ask you again. Why is your head shaved in this picture? And I will warn you. Do not try my patience. It's been a long day here too.”

“I'm sorry, Ms. ... Barnum, is it? Like in the circus. Well, Ms. Barnum, I had thought the way I wear my hair was my own business. I guess the laws have changed. So I will tell you - and please don't get mad and hit me with a pie - when I went to get that photo taken, I was told not to smile, that I was not allowed to smile, that smiling distorts a person's facial features and makes it difficult for the authorities to identify them properly. So I thought, hmm, maybe my hair makes it difficult too. So I went home and shaved it off. That also expressed how I felt about having my smile taken away. I see they got yours too. But I guess you need the job real bad so you don't mind.”

In her life, Cat had regretted her outbursts of temper. Once or twice. She did not do so now, even after being escorted to a windowless room, deprived of her cell phone and left alone for an hour while the particulars of her identity were reviewed. Even after she was subsequently strip-searched. When she was finally released, she did not hesitate before asking Ms. Barnum, who had personally conducted the search, “Are you happy now?”

For her part, the officer did not hesitate before replying, with her first smile of the encounter, “Very. Happy as a clam. You have a nice day now, Ms. McCallum. Welcome to California.”

[email protected] (Granite Coast) Tue, 12 Dec 2017 12:55:39 GMT
The Button Maker Murders - Chapter 1 - Who's the Fool Now? (continued 5) ***

So it's you. I thought I was dreaming. Or rather, first I thought I was awake and then I thought I was dreaming.

It is, after all, that time of the morning long before dawn in which the living are wont to wake and worry. So I saw myself lying here, sweating under the covers, staring at the moon-shadowed ceiling, swamped with all the problems of identity and livelihood a lost soul must necessarily face when he becomes real again. So absorbed was I that the two sharp knocks on the door downstairs shocked me as if I had been kicked in the stomach. I was breathless. Of course I didn't get up and go answer right away. Who comes knocking at this hour and with such authority?

Then when a window appeared at my bedside and a man came climbing through and I grabbed at him and found myself grabbing the wall, then I thought of course I had awakened from a dream.

But it was you. Burton the Buttoner. Truth Twister Burton. Burton the Bargain Maker, who spins the roulette wheel of souls and pretends luck is involved.

Am I surprised? Well, no and yes. Because of course you spoke to the important people first - the heroic demon destroyer and prospective saint my former host Raymond, his beautiful widow the irresistible Catriona, my outrageous and courageous brother Angle the once-upon-a-time pirate, that purest of pure beings Jenny no longer the Simple. What surprises me is that you came to talk to me at all. Because who am I? Nobody. Named after a Roman emperor because my studious mother loved me. Octavius. And yet she left me too. Because in the end I am not worth the trouble. And when I took her place as the village schoolteacher, they called me schoolmarm same as they did her. As if I were a woman not a man.

So what if I spent what amounted to a span of several lifetimes reforming my murderous brother in the In Between? No one there cares. No one gives you credit. No one can. You know that. And no one knows about it here that matters.

Ah, yes. You know. That's why you are here. Because you trust a man like me. One compromised by both desire and opportunity. Ha! Well, make your offer. I am more amenable now to questionable powers than when last we crossed paths. For instance, we needed a way, Angle, Jenny and I, to reenter society. We needed birth certificates. I have obtained them. We needed credit. Now we have some. We needed money. Angle's fishing keeps him busy, keeps him sane I daresay, since he believes himself profoundly miscast as a modern, but money it does not provide. Not anymore. Why is the mortgage still being paid on Catriona's house? How is it we all eat and clothe ourselves? Who pays for anything? For everything? Who comes up with whatever is called for? I do. Because this business of computers and internet commerce has come to me as easily as if I had trained for it in my sleep. Is all I do according to the law? Sir, the law makes no provision for us, does not allow for our existence, would deny it in court. How can I be guided by it? What strictures can it place on me?

Sure I am nobody. But I am nobody with a vengeance. Here I lie in Raymond Kidd's bed. Here I wait for his wife. Tell me, who's the fool now?

I do have other qualities, by the by. I am a prodigious singer. Was nicknamed Octave therefore. Let me sing you this song that I have on my mind, that my dear mother sang often in the absence of her roving husband.

I saw a mouse chase the cat, fie, man, fie,
I saw a mouse chase the cat, who's the fool now?
I saw a mouse chase the cat, saw the cheese eat the rat.
Thou hast well drunken, man, who's the fool now?

What do you mean, do I think you deaf? Because I speak loudly and sing even more so? Oh, come sir, you jest. I can tell by the crooked smile on that hook-nosed mask of death I must presume to call your face. And indeed there is humor in it. For was it not Raymond Kidd who used to lie here propped up on these pillows and wish for a respite from the racket of those ghosts in his basement that were Angle and I? And now he is the ghost and I am the one deprived of blessed sleep.

You see, Catriona took it to him to comfort him, that red guitar that was his. And it is his conceit to serenade her with it. She senses he is there, all right, but she can no more hear him play than I can hear the man in the moon lament his loneliness. I, however, though no longer a ghost, have retained the ability to hear what goes on in that realm. And I am sick to death of all his serenading. He plays well. His taste in music is impeccable. Even now, a fantasia from Dowland, intricate and subtle and him sounding the subtleties. But she is not to be wooed. He has no claim upon her anymore. It is I, sir, I who have the claim, I who will take what was his for my own!

I am not one for wickedness. I see no harm. He is not here and he will not be here again. No, and if he were a man of his beliefs, he would move on. When it was Angle and I in that realm, he was constantly exhorting us to do so. “Let go and move on to the next life. There is nothing for you here.” Of course, we didn't know what he meant. Let go of what? But he must know. He's the proper Buddhist. Look at all his books.

Get rid of his books? Get rid of everything he loves? The red guitar? And tell him what? But what will Catriona think?

I see. I see. And what's in this for you? Who are you trying to fool this time?

Where did you go?


[email protected] (Granite Coast) Mon, 11 Dec 2017 12:46:43 GMT
The Button Maker Murders - Chapter 1 - Who's the Fool Now? (continued 4) ***

If you want to ask questions, you should ask about wildflowers.

Herbs I know and use for healing, and really everything green and growing is my domain, but wildflowers are my particular obsession. If you ask about them, about fairy slippers for instance, I will answer gladly, even be obliged for the chance.

You want to know about the Simple? Well, that is not me anymore. Nor am I Angle Daggon's woman. We are companions. Intimate, yes, though it's none of your business. And yes, we were close friends of Raymond Kidd. If there was an inner circle, you could say we were part of it. But why do you ask?

You think that Mr. Kidd is still around? You must believe in ghosts. In that case, and since you assure me you are sympathetic, and if indeed it might be helpful, I will give you what background I can.

Yes, we were ghosts, Angle and I. Or rather Angle was. You have no word for what I was. Not even an idea, as far as I can tell. 

We were not lovers in our last life. At least not if by lovers you mean two who are in love when they make love. He could not be in love with me then. He was on top of the world – a bold privateer, young and handsome, rich from the spoils of his enterprise. He was really a pirate of course but no one dared to say so. They accorded him only respect. He ran tabs at all the taverns. The fishermen dropped off the best of their catch at his door. There was no law in Prospect. No one to enforce it, anyway. Which amounts to the same thing. So, he was feared but admired, envied and courted. It was the talk of the village when he came after Jenny the Simple. No one could believe it.

The villagers called me the Simple because I seemed so to them. I kept to the woods and the fields and avoided the village, avoided company whenever I could. My father, a widower, despaired of me. One warm August night he went out for a walk by the light of the moon and was never heard from again. The cottage was taken for debt. At first the more charitable families would offer food and a bed. But I was too wild. I swam often – in ponds or the cold sea – but could not be bothered to bathe in tubs or comb or trim my hair with anything other than shards of a broken mirror that had been my mother’s. No matter what clothes I was given I soon tore them on briars or took them off and forgot them. I took to wearing old sacks. I rarely spoke and though I often sang it was in a language all my own. Hospitality waned. All the welcomes dried up. I ate berries and roots and other things that grew wild, slept in sheds, under overturned boats, in the woods in lean-tos that I made myself, along the coast in clefts between the larger rocks.

No, I was not a likely match for dashing Angle Daggon. Till he mistook me for a mermaid.

When I swam, I was a different creature altogether. Gone was my tangled mess of a mane, my introversion of demeanour, the limp I had acquired from my barefoot ramblings. I moved through the water freely and easily, smoothly and swiftly, openly and proudly. So one night, exceedingly drunk after taking a prize, Angle fell out of the skiff he was rowing to shore. Opening his eyes underwater, he saw a greenish light streaking toward him. It was me, wreathed in phosphorescence and coming to his rescue. I had been on the island at the mouth of the harbour, sitting on the seaward side, singing and watching the waves crash and feeling the boom in my bones. I was on my way back to the mainland when I saw Angle. He had stood up and was roaring at the moon. And then he lost his balance and came down with a great splash. I hauled him to shore by his pigtail.

He remembered me the way he saw me when I saved his life, as a mysterious beauty with an otherworldly radiance. He told everyone that a mermaid had come to his rescue. No one laughed at him. No one dared to. But eventually he was given to understand who I really was.

His saviour was the village idiot.

Still he sought me out. He had to have me so he could throw me away. It was a silent, rather violent affair. I think he was afraid of me. There was a look in his eye both of anger and of helplessness. His laugh when he got up from the pallet and fastened his breeches was hollow, not convincing at all. The slamming of the shed door with such force that the top leather hinge broke was more to the point. I saw him stomp off through the mud swearing, satisfied neither with me nor himself. But especially not with himself.

How I died giving birth to his child, how the child died, in the salt marsh on the cold ground, just the two of us alone, well, that's another story I don't want to tell right now. Suffice it to say that I did not move on. That would make me a ghost, normally. However, there was too much love in me. Instead I became a sort of spirit of the barachois, diffused throughout that dreamlike locale where land and sea meet and mingle and are not two different things. Where the rising tide met fresh water, I was the taste of the salt. Where the sap crept in a stunted tree, I was the soul of that most patient of motions. Where algae spread on a rock, I was the heart of tenacious creation. No sir, I was never a thing of the shadows, not at all. It was my dear darling Angle who suffered all that.

But these are other stories too. I have taken enough of your time for the nonce, and you of mine. How Angle and I came to be here, over a century farther along, I think you know already. Otherwise, how did you find me?

And what is your story, Mr. Latimer?

You know, you remind me of something that happened today. My new friend Dawn O'Keefe and I were out walking, gathering wildflowers for the ikebana class we're taking. We were down in the barachois, searching the fens, thickets and drumlins. I was stroking the air around a fairy slipper orchid I had pointed out to Dawn. My fingers never actually brushed the crown of purple petals above the slipper-shaped pouch, yet they were close enough for the plant’s energy to enter into me. A smell like vanilla caressed me. My lips parted and my eyes closed.

“We have to be careful,” I said to Dawn. “It wants to keep us here forever.”

“It’s heavenly, Jenny,” Dawn said. “We can use it as the heaven flower.” She knelt on the boggy ground to snip the slender stem.

“Oh no,” I said. “Not this one.”

“Why not?” said Dawn.

“Because this one seduced me,” I said. “This one and I were intimate. We’ll have to find another and lop it off straightaway without paying it any attention.”

Dawn missed the sight as we were turning away, but I caught it from the corner of my eye.

As if it were watching us, the fairy slipper turned our way.


[email protected] (Granite Coast) Tue, 28 Nov 2017 15:11:39 GMT
The Button Maker Murders - Chapter 1 - Who's the Fool Now? (continued 3) *

I said, Pipe up! If you want me to hear you, that is. Make like yer on deck and me I'm in the topmast with a gale screechin' like a thousand banshees between us. Oh. Yer a land lubber. What I mean is, I don't hear so well.

That's better. If I've got to hear voices, and you've got to be one, I want to be clear what you're sayin'. It's misunderstandin', you see, what got me crosswise with the wood imp that rung my bell and left me almost deaf like this. And took this eye, this leg, this hand and left me bald. If not for my Jen I don't know what I'd do. She loves me anyway. No matter how I am or what I been or done. And once upon a time, yes, I were cruel and murderous. An out and out pirate. And yes I got her pregnant and left her and she delivered the baby alone in a swamp and they both died. Yes. Once upon a time.

But things is different now in this new time. I'm a good husband and a fairly decent citizen, if only recently documented, and Jen is learnin' the new ways. I might learn 'em too. For now I help out doin' what I know. Which is fishin'. In this dory. Usin' this here handline. Gettin' around usin' oars. One day I might venture on a motor. Jen says I shouldn't be too partial to the old ways and I know she's right. The ocean cuts up rough sometimes. Mayhap a mechanical hand will lose its grip. It's an awkward contraption at best. Sometimes I miss the old boathook that Jen clapped on me when I was near kilt. But Octave, that's my brother, he's worked turrible hard to fit us into this twenty-first century and get us credentials. It was him got me this hand. A better leg too than a peg. So I had better not be bad-mouthin'.

You know, for a voice, you don't say much. You just ask questions till you get me goin'. I thought voices were different. I thought they tell the person stuff like how to behave and what to do. You know, like, “Yes, you're still a pirate, mate. At heart you know you are. And a pirate needs his rum. And a pirate needs to shed a little blood now and then. It's in his nature and you're a natural man.” But no, it wouldn't do no good to talk to me like that. I am reformed beyond a doubt. You spend what would work out to several lifetimes as a ghost a'contemplatin' on the harm you done, it changes you to where you can't go back. And Jen would never let me anyway. She's got a powerful pure heart. Why, sometimes I can hardly stand to bait this here hook and throw it in the water, knowin' the pain the fish'll feel when it bites, knowin' I got to kill it once I catch it. But it's all I know for now, and till I learn a trade it has to do. So you just keep on askin' questions and I'll keep on answerin', for there's no danger in that. And mebbe I'll just tell you what I want to, how's that? Mebbe enough about me and I'll just do as Jen has got me doin', givin' thanks. She sez you don't have to direct it anywhere, just give it. Just be thankful. And that suits me fine 'cause there ain't no religion would stick on an old soul like me. So listen. I am thankful for this day and every single ray of light old Sol casts down upon this north Atlantic. The way the waves shine as they roll. The way it warms this skin I never shoulda gotten back. The way it lifts my heart. More light, I say, more light! Cain't get enough. That's why I'm out here early and I go home late, not 'cause I don't love Jen but 'cause every last hour of light, I'm greedy for it, unnerstand? A ghost can't know no light. Can't see it, can't feel it. Is always in the shadows and is always cold. Don't know as I'll ever forget what that felt like. Thank goodness for light! Thank goodness for sunlight!

There, how's that for you, mate? I'm done answerin' questions. I'll tell you just what I like, just what I want you to hear. I'll be a voice in your head. How about that?


Truth was, Angle Daggon remembered his roving days with a secret passion, when their six-gun topsail schooner the Queen Mab lay hidden in the sheltered basin now known as Rogue's Roost till the lookout atop Shannon Island gave the signal that merchant shipping was in sight. Oh the thrill when the guns were run out!

He told himself it shouldn't constitute a problem, such remembrance, for it was only the high spirits he missed and not the plundering nor the slaughter. Only being strong and whole and capable of anything. His Jen would frown, sure, but but she did not need to know, now did she? She was busy with her own new identity, taking classes and studying books and making friends.

He reeled in his handline and headed for Privateer’s Gut, a shallow gap between Hearn’s and Burnt Island that would lead him to the Roost. The tide was low so he rowed cautiously as the dory neared the Gut, keeping a careful lookout for the floating seaweed that would mark a rock lurking under the surface. Since his left eye was patched, his right eye had to take in everything. He craned his head this way and that as he rowed. His attention was so focused ahead of the boat that he failed to notice the distortion in the air that like a window of melting glass appeared immediately behind him.

“Well then, mate,” said the man suddenly there in the stern seat, “Here’s to famous victories, then.”

“Bumpers!” cried Angle, suspending his stroke in mid-air.

“None other,” said the man. “Bumpers it is, and if you really don't drink anymore, just say so and I’ll toss this here mug o' rum overboard.”

Angle slid the oars in, laid the handles across the gunwales and stared suspiciously at the pewter mug being offered him and at the man doing the offering, who was barefoot but in a fine coat and frilled shirt and brown derby. He especially regarded the red beard done up in braids and the ugly scar along the man’s jawline where the hair would not grow and that therefore the beard could not hide.

It seemed indeed to be his old shipmate and boon companion Bumpers, so-called for his excessive fondness for toasting. He was just as he had been long ago when they had sacked the brig Fanny Fern bound for Halifax from Maine. Those were the clothes of the upper-class passenger Bumpers had stripped and forced to dance naked. He had whipped the man across the buttocks with the flat of his cutlass, and he had roared more with laughter the more the man screamed and jigged.

Angle had roared too.

But that was then.

“And what be you doin’ here, mate?” said Angle. “The navvies slung you from the same yardarm as me dad. I saw your last dance. It warn’t pretty.”

“The same as yourself,” Bumpers said, drinking himself from the mug he had extended. “Breathin’ easy. Fillin’ me lungs with fresh salt air again after all them long years in the shadows.”

“Is that right, then?” said Angle. “And what brought you back? And how did you know I was here?”

“Here. Have a drink, dammit. Don't be so partiklar. And what brought you back? A white horse? A royal carriage? Naw, see? You don’t know neither. Now listen up. This here’s the same fine rum as we got from the old Fanny Fern. Drink up and it will ease your mind and we can start makin’ plans.”

The tempting sweet smell of the rum was reaching him, Angle noticed, against the wind. He sucked in a breath and gritted his teeth. “What plans?” he said.

Grinning and twirling a braid of his beard between two powder-blackened fingers, Bumpers winked at him. “Just one drink and I’ll tell ‘ee all. Here, it will be like old times. It don’t matter what plans. Any plans! The plans of a free rovin’ man, free as the breeze, up to anythin’, skeert o’ nothin’ at all!”

“Could it be you’re just after the company?” Angle asked. “A good gab? Christ, you must ha’ been lonely. Me, as a haint, I had Octave to talk to. I would ha’ gone mad otherwise. Well all right, then. A nip. Just the one. To help situate you, like. For it’s hard comin’ back, don’t I know.”

“You’ve found me out,” said Bumpers, turning solemn. “That’s just it. Turrible hard. One minute there I was, swathed in the ether, mere vapour meself, and the next here I am in a dory reekin' of dead mackerel with Angle Daggon. Who's been known to be frightful company hisself.”

“Well, let's have a yarn, then,” Angle said, reaching out for the mug and quaffing long and deep before passing it back. He wiped his mouth with the back of his good hand and let out a great satisfied sigh. “Here’s to us. For old times. Go ahead. Spin your yarn. Coarse or fine, I’m all ears. ”

“A man hears what he wants to hear,” said the other man, in an educated precisely enunciated voice that suddenly bore no resemblance at all to that of Bumpers the pirate. And then the air there seemed to melt again and it was no longer Bumpers at all in the stern seat but a clean-shaven Burton Latimer in cocked hat and open-collared white shirt, leather vest, knee breeches, white stockings with a pattern of buttons around the ankles and buckled shoes. In his hand was no mug either but instead a guttering lantern, the weak flame of which actually seemed to be casting some illumination into a day and onto a sea gone strangely dark. “Isn’t that so, Mr. Daggon? And thus transforms himself. Excuse me, now, while I formalize things.”

He raised the lamp above his head. From all points the darkness gathered and bent to the pale light like iron shavings to a magnet. “Hear me now!” he called as if to someone in the sky above. “He has given consent! The words have been said and the words have been heard!”

Returning his attention to Angle, and with a kind smile now on his lined face, he said, “Not to worry. You broke no vow to your Jenny at all. What you drank was not rum but a tincture of the River Lethe. You will not forget all, and you will not forget long. Ah, but you will embark upon yet another life, such a one as you might have gone on to have in your last life, such a one as is still in your mind, hidden away before now like buried treasure but now unearthed and unlocked and … undeniable.”

The air melted once more leaving Angle alone in the dory. And then out of the sea, that was once again bright with the glittering light of the morning, a wave arose much taller than the rest and carried the boat forward toward an even greater distortion in the air ahead, one that spanned the entire width of the narrow passage between islands toward which he was headed.

Angle slid the oars out and backed water furiously. Then the prosthetic hand slipped, that oar jerked free and the dory swung sideways.

The wave set the boat into the blur with the casual air of a postman delivering a letter.

[email protected] (Granite Coast) Sat, 18 Nov 2017 13:54:26 GMT
The Button Maker Murders - Chapter 1 - Who's the Fool Now? (continued 2) They called me Cat but I don't like that anymore. If I can't hear my husband call me that, then I don't want to hear it at all. I'm Catriona to you, please, and about Burton Latimer I will say only that he was in a dream I had last night. I'm on my way to California. Raymond's parents are dead too and there's the reading of the will. I would have been there already but they cancelled my flight.

I'm standing at the window now, watching the runway activity at the John F. Kennedy International Airport across the highway. Some planes slant up, I see, and some slant down. Soon I'll be slanting up. I've got to go and catch the bus.

Excuse me? Yes, it was the second leg they cancelled. The first leg got me here from Nova Scotia. They kept us waiting for the longest time before finally announcing the cancellation. Some problem with the door. Hey, imagine if it opened up at 30,000 feet and I was on my way to the toilet and got sucked out just like that. Do you think Raymond would be there waiting for me? Well, I know he would if he could. But apparently ghosts don't have the power to go where they please. Anyway, this black Jamaican guy with dreadlocks I swear to his waist was turning everyone away, no matter what their predicament, but when he got to me he pulled me to one side and asked me to wait. 

There's a term my guru used to use. Auspicious coincidence. I guess I was due for some luck. So I'm dressed in black because of Raymond and I'm the same age as this young Jamaican's mother who's also lately passed. Somehow I remind him of her. I can't imagine how, but after everyone was gone he got on the phone and stayed there for an hour getting me a lodging voucher. I was the only one there that he did that for. And then he escorted me to the shuttle for the motel. He was so kind it was almost unbearable. I cried myself to sleep in my freshly made bed.

In my dream, we had traded last words, me and Raymond, hurtful words, and he was walking away, leaving me once and for all. Only it was not toward the door that he went. He walked into the wall with its peeling paper of faded roses and stuck there halfway through. The leg that didn't make it twitched like the hand of a clock telling the same second over and over. When I tried to pull him back, the leg came off in my hands. There was no blood. The leg was wooden like that of a puppet. Nevertheless someone screamed on the other side of the wall. I ran into the next room through the door. Instead of Raymond on the other side of the wall, though, a baby's head protruded from a polished wooden plaque. It was the baby that was screaming.

That was where Burton Latimer came into the dream. He was standing there in his cocked hat with his flickering lantern held high. “Quite a trophy, don’t you think?” he said, leering at me. “Worth a kiss or two anyway. Are you ready? Pucker up!”

I woke with someone pounding on the wall and shouting, Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!

My throat hurt so I could taste blood. I guess it was me who'd been screaming.

Look, I really have to go. The timing's tight now if I'm going to be there when the will is read. And it's important that I be there. I don't know why. I'll get what I get regardless. I just know I should physically be there. I'm starting a new life free of demons and ghosts and all that nonsense of Raymond's travelling to past lives and wives. There's a chance a lot was left to my husband. That's all mine now. So the moment I hear what he gets, that's like my birthplace, see? So I should definitely be there.

Oh, but be sure and write this down. I loved that asshole and I always will. That's one thought that I'll never let go of. Not in this life. It stays lodged in my heart like my resident dagger.


[email protected] (Granite Coast) Tue, 14 Nov 2017 17:43:01 GMT
The Button Maker Murders - Chapter 1 - Who's the Fool Now? (continued) 

Booda Ray? Yes, that's me. Anyway, that's what they called me. Because I was Buddhist, I guess. Most everyone else in the village is Catholic. My parents named me Raymond Kidd. Did I know a what? A button maker? Hm. Oh. Burton Latimer. Yes, I knew him. He's the reason I'm stuck here in this room. He's why I dream what nobody should dream. Me, a ghost, who shouldn't be able to dream at all. Because ghosts don't sleep, that's why. Our burden is unceasing vigilance. I'm a little different because I didn't die. I simply changed places, while I was still alive, with a ghost named Burton Latimer. He was very persuasive. He was always very persuasive. He persuaded me I was about to die anyway. Bad heart. And it was the only way out of the jail cell I was in. Plus there was someone who needed my help and the only way I could help her was by being a ghost. It all sounds very complicated if you've never been a ghost. Or don't remember having been one. Or were just an ordinary ghost.

Anyway, you can hear that story elsewhere. Ask Gordon Daggon down the lane. He may not tell it very well. You got to ask the right questions. But he will tell it. I don't think you can get anyone else in the village to tell it. Most know the story, but they're all too afraid. Afraid you'll think they're crazy. Of what might happen if they talk. Gordon, he couldn't care less. He's a rum-drinking old fisherman who was a hard-nosed detective before that. And he was intimately involved. He saw with his own eyes what Burton Latimer could do. And what can happen in a world where the past and the present aren't safe from each other anymore. With even the time in between leaking out.

I'd tell you the story myself but I really can't be bothered. I've got my hands full trying to find a way out of this room and I have to stay focused.

It's a shrine room. I said I was Buddhist, right? This is where I used to practice meditation. I'd practice still but whenever I try I start having that dream. Back on that road with the burnt fields and the grey people. I light the candles and the incense, I sit down with my legs crossed and I go through the motions. But the first thought to come up is that dream. And it won't let me go.

Sure, it hasn't been boring. My wife knows I'm here. She used to bring me fancy meals. Wine and steak, that was my favorite. Especially with king oyster mushrooms sauteed only in butter. Then one day she came in and said she just couldn't continue throwing away all that food. Because she couldn't afford it. She said it with the tears rolling down her face. And I realized I only thought I was eating it. And my red guitar, in that black case gathering dust over there in the corner, I only thought I was playing it for her. Thought she could hear how much I missed her in the songs I sang. When all the while she never heard a single note or word. She talked to me and I could hear her. But it was all one way.

There was still one last thing I could do, or so I thought, and that was finish the task that my guru had set me. To write a guide for lost souls. In other words, show ghosts how to move on, at least to the next life. To rescue them from this god-forsaken petrifying in-between nothingness. It wasn't till the morning I finished, as the sun through the skylight crept down the wall and lit up the offering bowls, candles and crystal ball on the shrine, that the truth dawned on me.

I've written a book I can't share, not even with other ghosts. At least not till I find a way out of here.

Oh, I try all the time. It looks easy. There's no door in the doorway, only a curtain that's even parted in the middle. But when I try to go through it's like hitting a wall. I try it walking. I run and get knocked flat on my back. I try backing through, sidling through, crawling under on my belly. I've tried everything I can think of. Sometimes I get a little crazy. It's a Japanese-style curtain with a samurai face. I've tried tickling the frowning face to make it laugh and laughed myself. I've screamed Open sez me you slant-eyed figment of a foreign past.

Nothing works.

Can you imagine how inconceivably stupid I feel? I had known I was stuck and yet I kept on writing. What was I thinking?

Who do I think is going to rescue me?


[email protected] (Granite Coast) Mon, 13 Nov 2017 16:41:00 GMT
The Button Maker Murders - Chapter 1 - Who's the Fool Now? In a ragged robe of sack cloth cinched with barbed wire, the man last known as Raymond Kidd trod barefoot on a broad road of cracked earth. Ashes rose in puffs and swirls and small explosions from the burnt-flat blackened fields on either side of the road, propelled by a fitful wind that came out of the ground as well as from the copper-colored sky. For no reason that he could discern, the gusts were freezing at his back yet fiery in his face. Every breath seared his lungs. His eyes were dry as raisins.

Where he had come from, where he was going, he had no idea. All he had was a sickening apprehension of irretrievable loss.

From time to time emaciated figures, naked with drum-tight grey skin, crawled from the smoldering ditches and stumbled toward him, arms extended, begging, beseeching, only to be incinerated before they could reach him by pinpoint flames like blowtorches that came out of nowhere. Suddenly giant coaches would materialize and lumber over him, drawn by nothing and driven by no one, with great creaking wheels whose spokes were more grey people bound in sheaves and bleeding at the eyes, nose and mouth, suffering silently, wearing expressions of unspeakable horror.

His own cries of I have come, I have come for you were snatched from his dessicated lips, vacuumed away and smothered by the very air itself. Yet he continued to cry out, all along that hellish road, with all the anguish of a parent for his missing children.

(to be continued)

[email protected] (Granite Coast) Sat, 11 Nov 2017 12:29:25 GMT
The Button Maker Murders - Prelude My name is Burton Latimer and this is my confession, freely given.

To begin with, I would like to say that being human makes you stupid.

Please don’t interrupt. I know you are busy enforcing what you are pleased to refer to as the law. And I know that you think there is never enough time for your labours. Well, humans invented time. We can always make more. We do, in fact. Life after life, we keep coming back and making more time. And each time we come back, we forget that we’ve been here before. We think there is only the one life and never enough time.

That’s how stupid humans get.

Anyway, you must listen, for I won’t write it down. That would deprive me of an audience and I dearly love an audience, even at this late date. You may send someone in to record. I believe you call them stenographers. You think they are saving you time with their shorthand and special machines. Ha, ha, ha. How you love a machine. But still you must listen, and to listen you must stay. Leave the room and I will say no more. Plus all I have said I will recant and you may all go hang. Along with me, yes. Hang me or turn me loose, it's all one. There’s no punishment you could devise that would be worse than what awaits me either way.

Now, we must consider buttons, since I was a button maker in my previous life. You suspect me of being a foreigner with designs to spread terror, but I am only foreign in being from a fairly distant past, and I was ever a peaceable man then, a simple fellow who loved his trade. Even now, I remember it with unreasonable attachment. There is so much to buttons. They hold things together in a world forever falling apart. That is their prime function and overwhelming attraction. You see it brings tears to my eyes? We button our garments and so distance ourselves from the naked ape and make possible the attainment of a blessed civility.

My main business was with commoners, of course. I came from among them, almost a beggar myself, and pewter was cheap and soft, easy to shape with inexpensive tools. The drawback was the shanks were prone to break. That bothered me. The addition of tin as an alloy would strengthen them, but that was a discovery slow to penetrate to the frontier settlement that was the Halifax of those early days. Slowly, as I could afford it, I developed a line for the wealthier citizens, who could afford more durable materials. And who had the leisure to appreciate beauty.

As I learned to cater to that appreciation, I attained the sensitivity of an artist. I cannot describe the rush of pleasure I felt at applying a treble orange gilding. I am not a handsome man, but I believe my enthusiasm enhanced my countenance to a surprising degree. It must have been so. Otherwise, how would a nobleman like Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, ever have deigned to admit me to his company, invite me to his soirees, treat me to his most intimate confidences? Touch my arm? Whisper in my ear? Eh? Eh?

Thus it was through my buttons that I became attached to royalty, and through my attachment to royalty produced the finest buttons of my life.

We were standing by the heart-shaped pond that was a gift from the Prince to his mistress, Madame de Saint-Laurent, who herself was sitting on a marble bench at the water’s edge, peering in at her reflection among the fallen leaves.

“Ah,” said the Prince. “When she is sad, she is even more lovely. No happy woman could compare. I must remember her just as she is today. Will you assist me, Burton?”

“Of course I will, sir,” I replied ever so eagerly. “But how?”

“Why, with buttons,” he said. “Whatever else? A special set of buttons. With her likeness. With her sadness. Can you do that? Can you capture my lady’s inimitably charming sadness on a button?”

He was not speaking terribly softly, with any intent that I should be the only one to hear. Madame de Saint-Laurent heard him easily too. As she regarded us, smiling, a tear graced her cheek. Then she arose and walked on through the garden alone.

I delivered the Prince's commemorative buttons to him the day they departed for England. The buttons were not gilt but solid gold and quite large. They had to be to accommodate Madame’s image. They would adorn the red uniform coat he would wear for his first meeting with his father, King George the Third, upon his return to the mother country.

“He detests her, you know,” the Prince had confided in me. “He sent me here hoping to keep us apart.”

“We can never marry,” Madame for her part had confided, as she modelled for me during my adorning of the buttons. “Yet I will never leave him till he marries someone else, someone whose child may ascend to the throne.”

He did marry, eventually. The child of that marriage became Queen Victoria.

There was a child for me too. He was delivered of my wife Gretta the day after the Prince left. He would have borne the name Edward, after the prince, but escaped the honour by dying before his first hour was up. More than three months premature, he was exceedingly small. I was allowed the liberty of holding his little body in the palm of my hand. Gretta died the next day, of no cause the physician could determine but grief. A grief that would not let her breathe. So that, in effect, my wife strangled herself.

The fault for both deaths, I assure you, was mine. The loss of my royal companion had plunged me in gloom. I was drunk several nights in a row. Smashed things in Gretta’s presence. Derided our personal lack of nobility. Turned a blind eye to her tears of a commoner. Drove her to an early labour in a dream coach fit only for kings.

That is all for today. All I can manage. You may return tomorrow, early as you please. You will be bringing me my breakfast, I suppose. Or shall I be allowed out to obtain it for myself?

I thought not.


[email protected] (Granite Coast) Thu, 09 Nov 2017 13:17:55 GMT
A Movement of Seaweed, A Dream of Awakening A Movement of Seaweed, A Dream of Awakening

I watched the moonlit seaweed moving back and forth.
My little boat was moving too.
The surge was too small to dislodge us
from the living bed that was our only anchor
but among the granite teeth of that unforgiving shore
it did keep us swaying hypnotically
like a morsel in the mouth of a giant
too absentminded to swallow.

I thought about the seaweed never being still
about a life at the mercy of the moonstruck sea
about a death where one could never rest in peace.
I watched the stars wheel in the restless sky
as I continued in my chosen place to contemplate,
oars shipped, sleep on hold, land at arms-length.
Is there anything substantial, anything that stays?
The rock at my shoulder said no. "Look at me,

you worry I will crush your fragile vessel
as you move and I do not, but in my essence
everything is all adrift. And the closer you look,
the smaller the particle, the more the dance
is being done by itself, the less by any dancer."
But motion, I replied, depends on something being stationary.
If nothing is stationary, how can anything move?
Without a dancer, how can there be any dance?

The rock had had its say, though, so I finally slept.
When I awoke, the sun was high and land was nowhere near.
The seaweed had released my little boat
and in that open ocean there was nothing to compare.
I rowed though there was nowhere left to go,
on salt air feasted and then drank till I was drunk 
the rhythms of the wayward waves.
My joy was not dependent nor my love 

and there the light was 
before any darkness and also beyond
and therefore everlasting.

4 October 2017
Texas Jim
Prospect, Nova Scotia

[email protected] (Granite Coast) and awakening moonlight movement rocks seaweed stillness Wed, 04 Oct 2017 15:44:19 GMT
Beyond Hope and Fear In the morning, open your door without hesitation. Don't hope to have a good day or fear to have a bad one. Abandon all thoughts of hope and fear and rely on whatever arises. When you do this, every day is good. Your view is open, spacious and relaxed. You step out. You open the car door. The engine light comes on. That is something to note, not to despair about. Whatever occurs is the key to your original mind, to your natural state. Watch what you see on your way to work. If you want a mantra that will help you, try "I'm not at work yet. Not at work yet. Not at work yet." Or, "In a dream nothing can hurt me, and in the end isn't this just like a dream?" You're late to work. You get fired. You can't afford the repairs to the engine. You lose your home. Your partner divorces you. Don't hope it will get better, don't fear it will get worse. All the waves that arise in the ocean subside in the ocean. You're home free. Arriving Safely at the End

Welcome to the Granite Coast.

Rowgin Jim

[email protected] (Granite Coast) beyond hope and fear breaking wave crashing fear hope ocean spray surf wave Fri, 09 Sep 2016 17:44:56 GMT