When I started this blog, well over a decade ago, I had it in mind that it would be about, as the heading says: Appalachian writing and music, home repair, guitar, primal diet and exercise, bible study. And if you’ve been reading here very long at all, you will know that it has not been about any of those things. I’ve used this blog to record my poetry and to audition my novels, chapter by chapter, as I drafted them. It’s led to some success. I’ve published one novel that had its beginnings here and I have another well underway. Most of my more recent posts have been drafts of passages from that forthcoming novel. Through it all, I have continued to pick up subscribers until I now have just over a thousand of them. Thanks to each of you!
But this post is really different from what has gone here before and is more in line with that original purpose I thought of for this blog at the time I began it. What I am going to post now is a bit of music I have been involved in making. I am going to attach links to songs recently recorded by Andy Spradling, a good buddy of mine, and myself. We worked under the name “Good Country Folk.” The songs – there are four of them – were all written, and they are all sung – by Andy. I am playing lead guitar on each of the four tracks.
We had a great time recording these, and I hope that you will enjoy listening to them. If you like any of them, they are all available for downloading on just about any of the internet music services out there.
← Isaac Meets RebeccaMore → Isaac Meets Rebecca Posted on March 3, 2018 by labeak52 Here is another passage from the novel in progress. Ed. Related image
Isaac Martin and Karl Von Hausen had underestimated the time it would take them to scale and then descend the high peak a mile north of the castle and they were still in the pine woods after nightfall and did not make it down into the broad, snow-covered meadows of the curtilage until the moon was at its full and the whole valley and the castle itself glowed with a soft radiance. They were tired from the climb, but they were young and they relished the exertion and adventure of the day. Every window in the castle was lit and there were fires burning in raised grates all around the castle’s pond and several young people skating there. In the distance it seemed to Martin that the skaters were moving in slow motion. One girl wore a bright red cloak and she soared alone across the moonlit ice like joy itself, as if she had just been released from some ancient confinement. At the far side of the pond as she turned in her glide she extended her arms before her as if in supplication or as if to receive the glory of the stars above her. Martin watched her as he waded through the knee-deep snow with his rope looped over his shoulder and his pickaxe in his hand. Martin and Karl nodded to each other and set their course toward the frozen pond.
He stood by one of the fire grates and with a nod of his head accepted a steaming cup of chocolate from a servant girl there who poured from a tall, silver pot. He waited for what seemed like a long time until the girl in the red cloak skated to the dock. Karl had walked on and engaged several of the others there in conversation but when the girl stepped off of the ice he came to her and spoke to her and the two of them walked – she holding Karl’s hand and balancing on the blades of her skates – to the fire grate where Martin was standing.
“Isaac, this is my sister, Rebecca.”
And he knew then by the glow of her face and by the faint smile she allowed herself and by the sway of her back and the curve of her neck and by the way she held her opened hands that there was no one else in the world but her and never would be.
Readers; the first part of the segment is on yesterday’s blog post. You can reach it by clicking on the “Home Economics” title of this blog at the top of this page and then cursering down one post. If you’ve already read that one, just dive right in.
Jacob Eaton had tried several times to reach the lawyer for the potential buyer. Days went by and his calls were not returned. He was in the middle of drafting a letter to the lawyer when he got the call.
“Jacob,” the receptionist said, “that guy you’ve been trying to reach is on the phone. Want me to put him through?”
“Mr. Grandon. Thank you for returning my call. I’ve been wanting to speak to you about this painting your client has shown some interest in.”
“Less interest now than before. But, yes. We’ve offered eighty-million.”
“We’re rejecting that offer. That’s why I called.”
The lawyer’s response was not immediate. Jacob began to wonder if the connection had been lost. At last, the lawyer spoke.
“That seems abrupt. I thought the parties were close to an agreement. The painting is not a Davinci, that’s pretty clear by now. I’m not sure why my client even wants it anymore.”
“There is some new evidence on the issue of authenticity.”
“I have not heard that. What evidence?”
“This painting was once in the possession of the Duke of Buckingham. Couple of centuries ago. There is absolutely no doubt about that. The record is clear. He got into a pinch and sold it at auction. There are written records of that sale.”
“Yes. We knew of that. What of it?”
“What has only now come to light is that the old duke had not only the painting, but several – I think there are seven of them – pencil sketches that were done by the artist in preparation for the painting.”
“How can anyone know that?”
“I have copies of the sketches here on my desk. The critics have focused on the fluidity of the pencil strokes, the perfection of the curves, and the perspective. The tide has turned in Belgium. The doubters are convinced that these sketches are from Leonardo’s pencil.”
“I’ll check that out. But, even so, how can they be linked with the painting?”
“The investigative work done on the painting – I think your client paid for it – the x-rays and all – has shown that the artist positioned Christ’s left thumb at two different angles. Tried one and then painted over to what we see now on the surface. These sketches show both positions of the thumb. The first couple show the original position, the later ones the very angle we see in the painting. It’s stroke for stroke.”
“That sounds like a subjective judgement.”
“Maybe it is, but it’s not just mine. The folks in Belgium see it the same way. They’re convinced. You should know that the paper the sketches were made on has been dated and found to be from around the turn of the sixteenth century. And each of the sketches bears Leonardo’s signature mark. The perfect circle.”
“What is the prince going to do? Does he still want to sell?”
“He does. But given this new evidence and the consensus of the experts, he feels like the original three hundred and fifty million is too low. He’s going to reassess his offering price.”
“Will you get back to me when a new price is set?”
“I’ll be happy to do that. But the prince has made an agreement with the duke’s heirs. The painting and the sketches are to be sold together. It only makes sense. They’ll be more sure to hold their value that way.”
“Let us know then. Will you call us first?’
It turned out that the new evidence convinced the potential buyer, too. The new asking price, sketches and all, was $476, 000,000 which the buyer paid in cash. It would be a gross understatement to say that the prince was well pleased with the work of Jacob Eaton, this young lawyer who just happened to have the gumption and perfect connections to validate the authenticity of the last privately-held Leonardo painting on the planet and thereby make a difference to him of nearly $400,000, 000. So happy was he that he agreed to pay the firm its original fee of ten percent, provided that twenty percent of that fee be paid directly to Eaton. The firm was happy to comply.
Jacob Eaton pocketed just over five million dollars, after taxes, was given partnership in the firm immediately, and was placed on a generous retainer by the happy prince.
Readers, here is this morning’s installment in the continuing saga of Jacob Eaton, one of the main characters in my novel-in-progress. It you’ve been reading along on this blog, then you may have some sense of the context of this segment. If not, then let me explain that Jacob Eaton, an American Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, has been befriended by Edward Cavendish, the son of the Duke of Devonshire. Jacob was invited to spend Christmas break with the Cavendish family on their grand estate, Chatsworth Hall. The conversation that you are about to read is between Edward’s parents, the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, on the eve of the boy’s departure.
On the night before Jacob and Edward were to return to Oxford, the duke and duchess retired early to their bedroom. Once the servants were gone and the door closed, Anne sat at her vanity. She could see her husband’s face in her mirror. She sighed and said to him, “I will miss having these boys around. I don’t know when this place has ever been so happy.”
“Yes. I agree. One of Edward’s finest virtues is his discretion in choosing his friends. What I hear from other families.” He shook his head. “The idiots their children befriend. Nightmares.”
“You’re thinking of the Carlsons, I’m sure.”
“Yes. Them and the Buckners. And the Thompsons.”
“I’d forgotten about the Thompsons. Poor Susan.”
“I am almost always pleased with Edward’s choices, but this American lad is a real jewel. He’s a fine mixture of things. Intellectual curiosity. Moral seriousness. A confident humility that forestalls any need for ostentation. Relaxed, but respectful. And physical courage, if we are to believe the fight story.”
“I believe the fight story.”
“As do I, in the main. But, my dear, you must know that any such story will get better with the telling. I’m sure this one has.”
“To the victor the spoils, don’t they say?” “They do say that, yes.”
“I think that Jacob is just the sort of young man that we wanted Edward to be associated with. It might seem odd to say this, but – these three weeks – I think we know our son better now than we did before. Jacob brings something out in him. He laughs more. He’s more relaxed, more confident. More himself.”
“I quite agree. That’s well put.”
“Do you think Jacob enjoyed his stay?”
“Yes. There is no question in my mind about that. He appreciates the very things this estate was built on. Real beauty, in nature and in art. Mystery. Honor. I don’t know how he was taught, but he does understand honor.”
The duke sat silently for a moment, then continued.
“The young man, for all the completeness we see in him, does have a longing in his soul. I see it. He is not afraid of it. Chatsworth – its walls and gates and forests – was built with an eye on such longings. This place answers something in the young man’s soul.”
“Do you mean he is sad?”
“Yes. Not morose or depressed, but that there is something open and unfulfilled within him.”
“And Chatsworth helps to answer?”
“Yes.” “And that is what Chatsworth was built for. What the generations knew and labored for?”
“Then in the morning we must give Jacob a standing invitation. That he will be welcome here forever.”
“Yes. To do that would be to honor our forebears. We would be forfeiting their sacrifices otherwise.”
Readers; Some of you have been following along, but by bit, as I have posted chapters about young Jacob Eaton, one of the principal characters in my novel-to-be. Jacob has finished his year in Oxford as a Rhodes scholar and has since graduated near the top of his class at Yale Law School. He’s now with a Wall Street law firm and in this segment of the story, he gets an assignment that looks anything but promising that will nonetheless be a great break for him. (Jacob does seem to get a lot of breaks!)
It was rare that Jacob Eaton, now an associate at Lawrence, Ellis and Roberts, received a phone call that did not come from the main switchboard. It was even more rare that such a direct call would come from someone other than Paul Gleason, the partner to whom he answered. But on the other end of the line, this first thing on this early winter morning, was Ray Vancliffe, a lawyer just a few years Jacob’s senior, who had made partner only months ago.
Yeah, Ray. It’s Eaton.
You got a minute?
Right now. Can you walk down to my office? Just for a sec. Got something to show you.
Yeah. Be right there.
When he opened the door to Vancliffe’s office, he saw the painting. That is, a reproduction of the painting. It was set on an easel beside Vancliffe’s desk. The face of Christ. In His hand a crystal orb.
I want you to meet Jesus.
I met Him a long time ago.
Well, here is a reminder, just in case you’ve forgotten His looks.
What is this?
It was, until a few days ago, the most valuable piece of privately-owned art work in the world. This is just a copy. But the original is owned by some oil-rich prince in the Emirates. A guy we’ve represented for years on business transactions. He bought the thing years ago, believing it to be the work of Leonardo. The last piece of Leonardo’s work not in a museum. Our guy paid a hundred and thirty-five million for it ten years ago. Now he wants to sell it. We represent him in the sale. The buyer was at a little over four-hundred-million until he got word from some historians and critics somewhere in Belgium that there were some serious questions about is authenticity. Now he’s got cold feet. Our guy still wants to sell, but the buyer is down to eighty-million right now. Thought he was going to clear a couple hundred million, and now he sits to lose over fifty million. The firm was set to get ten percent of the purchase price when things looked rosey, but the partners have decided to finish the deal at an hourly rate just to keep the client happy with us, at least. This won’t be our last deal with him. We hope.
So, this is where I come in, I guess.
Good guess. We’ve got to keep this guy happy, but there isn’t enough money left here to justify partner time. The firm wants you to finish the deal. Hold the guy’s hand through it.
Does Paul know about this?
Yep. He’s fully on board with it.
Okay. What do we know about these critics and historians? Have we had any contact with them?
I’m sure we have, but not through me. The guy to talk to is the prince’s steward.
Here Vancliffe lifted a manilla file folder from his desk top and handed it to Jacob.
All the contact information is in there. The guy is in Dubai, but he speaks good English.
Jacob opened the folder and nodded as he scanned the first few pages of the file.
This case is a loser for us, Eaton. This is just a matter of etiquette. Diplomacy. So, you’ll just have to take it on top of everything else you’ve got going now. But Paul was confident that you’d be up for that. Help the firm out here in a way that would be remembered come year end.
Jacob looked up at Vancliffe and nodded his assent. Sure, he said. Is that it?
Jacob stood and turned to go out the door, but Vancliffe interrupted.
Oh, Eaton. Why don’t you take Jesus with you?
Jacob lifted the reproduction from the easel. Always, he said.
She walked the horse across the bridge over the culvert.
The road was little more than a path and now was branded by the ruts left by the truck’s tires. She steered the horse left, between an oak and a maple, and dismounted and wrapped the rein over a branch and leaned against the tree.
He used to work for Daddy. She said.
The boy did not respond. He looked at the girl for a moment and then looked away and stood, motionless, holding the seng hoe, blade to the ground, like a staff. He stood a long time and then raised the hoe and rested it over his shoulder.
Well. What’s he gonna tell your daddy?
She shook her head slightly. He won’t tell him anything. He’s not even supposed to be here.
What are you gonna tell him?
I guess it’s not my business, but can I ask you why? Don’t you think the old man ought to know? Would want to know?
You’re right. It’s not your business. But I’ll tell you. If Daddy knew this guy was running around our place he’d keep me in the house. I’d never get out. So don’t go blabbing this all over the place.
I don’t think that guy is right. Something about him. His eyes. He’ll do it again. Me getting him that lick might make matters worse.
It’s not what you think. I’m not about to get stuck in that house. I’m there too much as it is. I’d go crazy.
Couldn’t the old man do something to keep him off?
He could close and lock the gates, but any idiot can get over our fences. You didn’t have any trouble.
He was on the back stoop, cleaning the mud from his boots and his father came out from the table, a mug of coffee in hand.
You’ve been gone awhile.
Find any seng?
How hard did you look?
Did you go up to the head of Siler Branch?
You went over the mountain, didn’t you?
See that girl?
What went on?
As the boy recounted the story the father listened and only interrupted when his son told him about the wound he’d inflicted.
You hit him with that hoe?
Yes, I did. He was coming at me. Wanted to take it away. I didn’t know what he’d do.
You could have run.
Then I’d leave her there. If he’d a gotten that hoe I don’t know what would have happened.
You drew blood?
You know that man? You know who he is?
Yes. I do. It’s that old Porter boy. He used to work on Thompson’s place. They had all kinds of trouble with him. Had to let him go. He lives in town now and draws a government check. Been in and out of jail a dozen times.
She said that he wouldn’t say anything about it. Wouldn’t tell the old man.
No. He won’t tell the old man. But, he’ll be laying for you.
The other thing is that she said she wouldn’t tell her old man about it, either. Said that he wouldn’t let her out on the place by herself if he knew. I don’t think that was her first trouble with him.
No. Probably not. I’d say not.
She told me not to say anything about it.
Did you promise her?
No. But she probably thinks I did.
Well. You’re in a box, then. What do you think you ought to do?
The old man ought to know. There is no telling what could happen. If I was him, I’d want to know. I don’t know that it’s my place to go and make a report of it, but I wouldn’t feel right if I was around the man. If I was looking at him and didn’t say anything, I’d feel like I was lying to him. Is there any way you could get word to him? Quiet like?
I might get a chance. You never know what opportunity might come up. I see old man Thompson in town now and then. We say hello. I can’t seek him out, though. He’d figure out how I knew, and it would get back to her, sure as the world.
I’m in a mess.
You are. But so is everybody else. That’s the world. It’s a complicated place.
I don’t see any way to win here.
You just hang on. You didn’t do anything wrong. In fact I am pretty proud of you for standing and getting that lick in. You don’t want to ever do anything like that unless it’s a last resort, but when you have to act, you better go for blood.
Readers; For the last few weeks I’ve been posting installments from my forthcoming novel telling the story of Jacob’s life. The following bit is a little from the life of Rachel. Happy reading. Likes and comments are appreciated.
The café fronted on the old main street and in the warm months the management kept a few tables on the sidewalk. Beth was already sitting at one of the outside tables as Rachel approached.
“I can never make up my mind,” she looked at Rachel. “Both of these salads are so good.”
“You get the Caesar; I’ll get the garden. We’ll share.”
The young waiter was at their table momentarily, bringing water and taking their orders and gathering the menus.
Beth took her phone from the tabletop and placed it in her handbag under the table. She leaned in. “So, girl. How are you doing?”
“I’m fine, really. Better than I thought I would be. Better than I should be, maybe.”
“John was a good man.”
“I know. He was.”
“Jim is still torn up about it.”
Rachel did not respond. Beth sipped from her glass of iced tea and spoke again.
“Have you thought any more about what you’ll do?”
“Since we last talked, I mean. Since things have settled down.”
“I haven’t changed my mind.”
“You’re still thinking about buying that house?”
“Yes. I think I will.”
Beth sat back in her chair. “You know, I remember that old place, too. Those were good times. Great times, really. But you can’t bring that back. You know that.”
“I do. I guess I do. But I think I could do something with it. Bring something back, maybe.”
“There really isn’t much left here to bring it back to.”
“I know. I do get that. But I don’t see anything else that really attracts me now.”
“Well, that’s one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you. You know that Jim and I have bought a place down on Jekyll Island.”
“I did know that. It sounds wonderful.”
“It is wonderful. We’ll be spending the winters down there from now on and probably move there permanently when Jim’s mom passes.”
“The thing is, we couldn’t have managed it without Dave Dunnigan’s help. He’s been in the real estate business down there for twenty years. Made a fortune. Knows everybody and everything. He got the deal for us. It’s better, much better, than we could ever have afforded otherwise. We just couldn’t have done it.”
“Good old Dave.”
“Rachel, you really ought to let that go. He’s a different man now. A different person.”
“I hope he is, but I want nothing to do with that man.”
“He still thinks about you. He’s always asking how you are.”
“This subject is closed. You know what he did.”
“I do. It was awful. But he was just a kid, really.”
“No, he wasn’t. He was over twenty-one. More than two years older than me. Than us.”
“You and Jacob?”
Neither woman spoke for a while. Beth stared away down the empty main street.
“We don’t forget, do we? None of us really ever forget those days.”
“I won’t forget that. I’ve never been so upset in all my life.”
“How about Jacob? You ever think about him?”
“Only at the dim edges of consciousness while I was married. Like you would remember anything and everything else. I did right by John. He deserved it.”
“The truth of the matter is that he came by the house the other day.”
“He was here? In town?”
“Knocked on my door. Came in and made his condolences.”
“How did that feel?”
“I don’t know how to say it, other than it did feel.”