Our Beechcraft stood at Executive Airfield near Charleston in the glistering afternoon sun. Friends dropped us off after a weekend fishing off the South Carolina coast. We loaded our bags in the hull and walked back to the flight desk for weather information. Tom, my muscled friend from college and a Boeing 737 captain, and I drew up our flight plan. We had been flying the Beechcraft for several years now and enjoyed the fruits of our investments, going out each weekend if we could. I had been flying small planes since I was twenty-five. As I did well in my career as an investment banker, I could afford purchasing the aircraft. Tom pitched in as well.
“Fueling done?” asked Tom
“All fine. Here’s your invoice,” the attendant said. “Weather report OK, but you may hit some thunderstorms near your destination. Nothing to worry about.”
It was my turn to take the Beech back to Manassas in Northern Virginia, our hub. I started the engines, let them roar a few times, and taxied to the run way. Patrick Allen of Dreamstime.com took our picture. A few moments later we were airborne. Soon we would be home to tell the funny boat stories and show off our tanned bodies. Sunita, my wife, would be waiting anxiously. She would never come along. Andy, my son, and daughter Sonia, sometimes flew with us, but they were busy with parties this weekend. Besides, Sunita did not like them coming along. Tom was engaged to his umpteenth beauty, a smart girl from Manilla, but she felt terrified in small planes.
We were flying under visual flight rules in clear skies at an altitude of 9,500 feet, enjoying the scenery of fluffy clouds, the patches of forests and fields gliding by below us, the sonorous hum of the engines. As the weatherman had predicted, after about an hour and a half we began to experience some turbulence but the bright cumulus turned dark much faster than we heard.
Tom radioed Flight Watch for an update and they reported that conditions ahead were changing rapidly. I contacted Flight Service and activated our instrument flight plan, as visibility deteriorated fast. We contacted Air Traffic Control, and the Washington Center controller reported significant storms developing along our planned route. Tom and I discussed if we should return or reroute. But from the cockpit, the sky to the west looked darker and even more menacing. The controller suggested we proceed in northeastern direction to avoid the worst of the storms. Knowing they might have a better radar overview than we, we accepted the new course. It didn’t look much better, but at least it seemed less threatening.
Then flying conditions got suddenly pretty rough. We could not see anything anymore because of the harsh rain and thick clouds. I asked Tom, who had more experience, to take over the controls. We were about twenty minutes from Manassas. The hazardous weather and fierce lightning was now all around us. Turbulence shook the aircraft pretty badly and the instruments beeped several warnings. Tom struggled to keep the aircraft level. The controller informed us of severe thunderstorm activity near Manassas. Tom sneered that it couldn’t be worse than what we were having already.
The controller said landing was still possible and instructed to descend to 4000 feet, but there the clouds were even darker. Lightning kept slicing through them.
Hail began to clatter and the turbulence became increasingly violent. Then the aircraft experienced a sudden loss of 2000 feet. “Damn! Microburst!” yelled Tom to the tower. “Loosing speed going down!” We were far too low, still half a mile from the runway and facing tough headwinds. I led the landing gear down at about 100 knots. Tom applied full throttle to gain height but the aircraft continued to be pushed down. We saw the ground approaching fast. Tom tried to pull up again and level but the Beech veered abruptly to the left in strong gale winds and the nose pitched downward. We hit the ground, skidded and spiraled several times with tremendous shocks, and came to a very rough halt. My seat broke loose or cracked, I didn’t know what happened, but I felt a terrible pain in my back. Luckily no fire broke out and the canopy was still intact, but rain, hail, lightning and thunder continued unabated. Tom leaned forward over his stick, his shoulder hugged in a forward position. I couldn’t move.
“Tom!” I screamed. “The hell wake up man! I feel like I’m dying.”
I noticed a slight shrug in his shoulders, thank God he was alive.
“Tom!” I yelled again.
He came through slowly. His hair was bloodied and his lips were cut. “Come on, John, don’t panic! The tower knows. The meds are coming. Hold on!”
We tried to loosen our seatbelts but everything was twisted. My vision blurred and my senses numbed. The last thing I heard were the ambulance sirens. Thank God! I just hoped they would be in time to get us out before the plane blew up.
* * *
We woke up in a bright white hospital room. Sunita stood near my bed, with the kids, tears in her eyes, but so glad I was alive. Tom’s fiancée, with her typical Philippine name, Mahalina, stood at Tom’s bed, holding his hand. He looked like a Sikh and a surgeon with his head in a ball of white bandage.
“You guys are very lucky,” Sunita said. She wore her black hat as if she had been preparing for my funeral. “Better leave that flying to the birds.”
I laughed, Tom grinned painfully. He couldn’t move his face.
“Yes,” he mumbled through his bandage. “Flying is for the birds.”
This is Frank, the young inventive, entrepreneurial banker on a year-long assignment in Geneva. He wants to practice piano. His boss, Olivier, invites him home to play on their baby grand. Olivier’s young and charming wife, Chantal, about his age, develops a crush on Frank, but does so with a specific purpose in mind.
This juicy story is told in “A Naughty Romance” available on Amazon.com under Kindle Books!
Here is Frank’s bank, the building with the red roof:
situated at the beginning of the Rhone River that flows into France from Lake Geneva. Across the bridge, the rive droite, are the great hotels and luxury apartments overlooking the lake.
And Frank is dreaming of Chantal, playing for her when hubby Olivier goes skiing and she stays home because she hurt her ankle in a ski fall.
Well, it is not exactly happening the way Frank dreams, but maybe it was like this?
And this is how it became
Read the story on Amazon.com under Kindle books: ONLY 99 CENTS! Can’t go wrong with that!
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Bye for now, John
Yes, that’s how one writer friend reacted when reading the manuscript of SOME WOMEN I HAVE KNOWN – http://amzn.to/1QIL94B (If the link does not function, which often happens with WordPress.org, simply paste it into your url). My writing friend, was he jealous? Perhaps!
What made me write that book? Clairaudience, clairvoyance, clairsentience in the Library of the Maarten Maartens House in Holland, during a family reunion in 2002. As infidels in the medium-world, my cousin Anne and I did not believe we were in trance with Maarten Maartens, our Great-Uncle Joost Schwartz, who wrote so many novels and short stories in English that made him famous in the USA and the UK at the turn of the 19th/20th century. Under the pen name of Maarten Maartens. But we were! He died in 1915, leaving a wealth of literature behind: 13 published novels and four collections of short stories, plays, poems and even a detective story, the first ever written in Holland.
One short story collection was entitled Some Women I Have Known. Uncle Joost whispered: “Write your own!” And indeed, Anne and I decided to write our own “Some Women”, in memoriam of our Uncle Joe. When the trance dissolved, we looked at each other and laughed. When we told some hundred family members and guests, they laughed too: “Hah! You will never do that! All talk, no doing!”
Unfortunately, Anne passed away before we got underway. The project seemed doomed. But Uncle Joost kept working on me. You have to write your version, he kept telling me. And, I did as he did: I began by writing ten short stories about some of the women I had known and found important enough to commemorate, from my early years on. Then I turned the short stories into a memoir/coming-of-age novel, giving the narrator a fictitious name: John van Dorn, to create some distance from myself.
The novel starts with Audrey Hepburn, who came to play at my grandparents residence where I stayed on vacation, as a 13-year old girl when I was 7. She lived close by us, near Arnhem, during World War II, with her mother, Aunt Ella, her mother’s sister, her two half-brothers (who were taken prisoner by the Nazis but later found alive). They stayed in the house of her grandfather, Baron van Heemstra, formerly the mayor of Arnhem. We could, of course, not imagine she would become a wonderful film star ten years later. And I did not know I would meet her again much later in life.
Young Audrey at about 13 and a few years later taking ballet lessons in Arnhem, around 1947 (family pictures).
Audrey, when she was 21 modeling in London, in 1950/51, acting in cabarets, not yet “discovered”. A picture given to me by her mother that stood on our grand piano at home.
The novel continues with my funny adventures with two Anns during my early years of puberty, testing the waters with the other sex.
The next chapter is about my grandmother, “Lady D,” who left an indelible impression on me and whose wisdom and personality guided me through life. I like that chapter because people who knew her will recognize her manifold qualities as a wonderful human being who stood out above many.
The novel continues with my boarding school time when I, as a piano player, got to know a lovely cellist and started making music with her, a story that may surprise those who remember Catholicism in the nineteen-fifties because it took place at a time of strict Jesuit discipline that forbade any contact with the other sex!
My picture with the charming cellist taken by two courageous friends in the lobby of the boarding school. A most risky undertaking!
Then my naughty story about Tisja the Village Beauty, the seductive help in the house who became my “first” when I was serving in the army. Oh boy, the pitfalls of growing up!
I skipped the girls in my student time. One remains a painful memory, too painful to describe. It imploded during a brief but intense and emotional love affair with student pianist Geneviève at a Paris conservatorium.
From that adventure I returned brokenhearted to Holland to take on my first job and, vulnerable as I was, fell into the hands of a smart but destructive beauty. Irene Femme Fatale, I called her.
I am so thankful to the gods for having saved me from her tentacles. Why are males so naïve? Our libido, the male’s most dangerous flaw! Female scorpions kill their mates after the fun. In the case of us male humans, we fall into the trap, kill her before she kills us, or keep paying alimony for the rest of our life and even from our coffin after it’s over. OMG!
I fled Holland to take a job in Geneva, Switzerland. I thought I had found a marvelous girlfriend there. We shared some beautiful and passionate years until it broke on philosophy of life. Then it did not work out in my job either. It was boring, and I wanted a change. I think it was mutual. To sooth my losses, I went skiing but got lost in the woods. I almost froze to death. In half-delirium, I found my way back to my lodge and ran into that magnificent Viking, by pure accident.
Ingrid and I spent some wonderful days together, but again, it was not to be. Out of pure frustration, I took a job in Central Africa and swore to stay out of the female tentacles. In Burundi I met a Tutsi woman refugee, and you really have to read the story to know what happened!
Purified from all my failures, I took a job with the World Bank in Washington D.C., where I finally met the woman who brought me love and peace.
I personally feel that my version of Some Women I Have Known is a good read. We all live different lives but encounter similar moments. Several good 5 star reviews on Amazon.com attest to that.
Read it all in
Kindle or Paperback, and enjoy it with a cappuccino in the morning or a brandy in the evening.
By the way, the cute and stylish cover designs of the short stories are by Melanie Stephens of Willow Manor Publishing in Fredericksburg Virginia (www.willowmanorpublishing.com), who also published the novel.
PS: Don’t forget my novel Enchanting The Swan we showed last week: also a perfect Christmas gift!http://amzn.to/1LPFw5o
You think today’s poet’s hardship, suffering and publishing ordeal is any different from 100 years ago? Maarten Maarten’s short story (from The Women’s Victory and Other Stories–1906, London Archibald Constable & Co Ltd) about “A Drop of Blood” proves it was just the same. This is how the story starts:
He was very poor. Shade of the man, with the ass’s ears, how poor he was! Yet everything he touched, with that wonderful touch of his, turned to gold. Only it was not the kind of gold you buy bread for.
It was of the kind in which the sun pays his tribute to the Almighty. We all pay our tribute: the sun pays in gold and the nightingale in notes. And the potentates of the earth pay in blood–their brothers’; and the poets pay in blood–their own.
He had married Celestine Michelet because he worshipped the very ground she trod on. So he came to the conclusion that they might as well tread it together. He was too poor himself to notice how poor she was.
His name is Anastase; an impossible name, Maarten Maartens writes. Anastase and Celestine, a beautiful girl he married at the age of 19, live in Paris, in a cheaply rented
“dingy barrack, close to the Grand’rue de Passy. Their street still stands; it is broad, banal, a cul-de sac. Children Play and shriek in it. Thank God for that…From the little stucco balcony you could catch a glimpse, by craning, of a dozen trees of the Bois de Boulogne, at La Muette, and on your other side the glittering needles of the Trocadero soared, gaunt, into the sky. Said Anastase, “Nature to the left of me, Paris to the right of me, God overhead.”
(A left click on the pictures will enlarge most except those taken from internet sources, then click the back space at the top left and you are back in the blog).
Anastase works in a bookshop, selling paper and pens, and for the rest reads books from its library section, and buys copybooks to scribble his verses in the evening. His wages are a hundred francs a month which was not much one hundred years ago. The bookstore owner says:
“You should compose songs such as I sang in my youthful days, about springtide, and kisses, and pretty women…Or Mon premier Crime, it’s torn to tatters. Write a book like that and you will have to sweep out shops no more…It’s twenty-seven years since I began this library. If you look down the lists and find that poetry hasn’t been asked for twice during all that period, will you sit down, like a good boy, to-night and try to write a story?”
“I am not a novelist,” replied Anastase.
“Bonheur qui passe!
Amour qui lasse!
Rien ne nous reste que notre douleur.
Mais dan la vie,
Qui pleure prie
Tout ce qui prie a des larmes au Coeur.”
The couple gets a daughter, named Lina, and she is underfed because of the couple’s poverty. But Anastase shall write poetry because he is not a novelist; he insists.
“I am a poet, a poet only, a poet by the grace of God. It is not arrogance to say that, for the gift is God’s, not mine. Celestine, do not desert me. Let us have a little patience! Let us wait for the answer from Pinard. This time perhaps, he will take the ‘Chants de Bataille.’ He ought to take them; they are beautiful.”
And a little bit later when they are arguing about the scarce money, how to feed the baby and make ends meet, and Celestine tries to make him write prose, he exclaims: “I am a poet. I cannot help it. I speak in verse.”
Anastase writing and Celestine looking on
Anastase has sent his new manuscript of poetry entitled “Estrelle” to a renowned publisher, the Revue, and waits day by day for the postman to bring a favorable response, but nothing comes. Celestine spurs him to write romances; are those writers not millionaires? Anastase considers them rascals, but the delay in hearing something positive gnaws at his nerves day and night. Then finally the answer comes: the publisher writes he accepts ‘Estrelle’ but on a condition:
“Up to the last few pages you run on without a flaw, but there, at the end, comes your fatal mistake. Virtue triumphs, and your heroine is good, and prude, as a charity-schoolgirl. That for our public, is a little too–how shall I say?–unfresh. Consider–you whose literary taste is manifest–how much more ‘seizing’ would be the finale, if you sent down Estrelle to her husband, guilty and smiling, as he! Besides, a woman, to repent in literature, must first have actually sinned…Will you have the story back to alter it, or will you leave the matter to me?…
The publisher has his limits: “the popular taste.” He offers Anastase 250 francs, which is more than twice his monthly salary, earned in one evening writing, if he rewrites the end. But Anastase does not want to prostitute his “child.”
Then their daughter Lina falls ill of undernourishment and might well die if she does not get better food. Anastase sits in front of his manuscript, which the publisher has returned. He can’t change it and hands it to Celestine.
“Take it,” he said, in a whisper. “Send it. But to-night. And tell him to do it. One life for another. It is just.”
She took the papers in her hand, without a word, and, holding them tightly clenched against her breast, she went away into the inner room. To the child.
She had carried the lamp in yonder. They had only one. And he remained sitting by the table, with his face sunk forward upon both hands. In the dark.
So Anastase felt forced to heed the popular taste, but did not have the courage nor the spirit to do it himself, and sent Celestine on her mission to the mailbox. It reminds me of a Writers Digest Conference where we were discussing whether writers should write for the market. I had asked Jeff Klein, a well-known literary agent in New York, who presided over the work group, and he said “No! You write what you must write and write the best book (or poetry, I presume) you can.” It was not really a true answer. I am afraid, nothing has changed since Anastase saw the light in the dark. Literary agents must live from your royalty and find a publisher who wants to buy your book or poems, publishers must recoup the cost of printing in the hope to make some money, and “the audience” – well they, whoever they are, have nothing to lose and only buy what they want to read and when–at a discount. If it’s you, lucky you!!!
Enchanté! Cheers! Proost!
While Mars Man is traveling back from St. Maartens to St. Mars to join his TV team at Mars City TV, we do a little advertising to pay the bills!
ENCHANTÉ has issued 10 short stories so far, all represented on the right, of which nine under the banner “Some Women I Have Known.” I borrowed this title from my Great Uncle Joost van der Poorten Schwartz (1858-1915), who wrote some 14 books and 4 bundles of short stories in the English language, mostly in the nineteenth century. His “Some Women”, though more “Victorian” in concept than the ones I have known, is still a good read. Except the Audrey and the Lady D stories, which are memoir, the other stories are told through the voice of John van Dorn, a fictitious alias, to avoid that potential readers might say “Hey, that’s me,” or “Hey, that’s her!”
I – The Audrey story is a Memoir of how 13-year old Audrey Hepburn entered my life when I was seven. I had wanted to write this story for a long time and finally did. Her son Sean Hepburn Ferrer found it “sweet” and sweet it is. She had an indelible impact on my life, as I could never have guessed she would become so famous and well liked the world over. Her birthday, May 4, is coming up and a good opportunity to buy this story as the revenues accrue to the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund.
II – The Two Anns memorize first loves, seen from a young male’s adventurous POV (point of view). There are many women I have met and forgotten, but you never forget your first loves. It would have been interesting to know how these first loves remember me and if they ever wrote that on paper.
III – Lucy The Cello Girl got John van Dorn hooked for life with her bow, phrasing heavenly music from her instrument, when he met her in the basement of his boarding school. A lover of classical music, he fell for her instantly, but young love has its tragic moments of inexperience, immaturity and doubts, and it took many years to materialize.
IV – Tisja The Village Beauty is the naughty story about how Peter, another “alias”, loses his virginity. I guess nobody forgets that moment in their life. It’s worth remembering and I had a good laugh writing it up.
V – Geneviève The Adorable Pianist pictures the classical Love in Paris. Many loves in Paris populate books and movies, but each one is different and this one is no exception. Even today, soaps return to the Eifel Tower, Trocadero, the river the Seine and the Ile de France. For all its picturesque flavor, Paris remains a pitfall for amour. This one got started while playing quatre mains at the piano at the famous Ecole normale de musique, “mains” that got closer and closer and… well, you read the rest.
VI – Irene Femme Fatale is the eternal refrain of young libido gone haywire and ending in predictable disaster. Women are smarter than man, because they got that superior gift of nature to lure the male into the dangerous act of procreation and… you better watch out.
VII – Lady D is a Memoir of the quintessential grandmother. Some people are greater than others, and she is one of those rare people. Yes, at one stage they pass away and go to heaven, but they live on never to be forgotten, staying at your side throughout life.
VIII – Ingrid The Magnificent Viking is a goddess John van Dorn meets on the ski slopes in the Swiss Alps at a moment of great distress in his love life that turns into even greater distress in a mishap of sorrowful circumstances that should never have happened.
IX – Nyira, The Tutsi Queen, tells the harrowing story how John van Dorn during a posting in Africa meets a fascinating Tutsi woman in Burundi and rescues her in a narrow escape from tribal persecution.
X – Killing the Elephant Poacher introduces Yves Bret, a former sergeant and sniper in the French Foreign Legion, as “The Boutique Killer” or “BK” for short, who carries out hit jobs only when he considers them justified. In this first story the Central African Republic hires him to kill a terrorist elephant poacher. After a harrowing march through the African bush in the company of a band of army rangers and a horrendous gun fight, he finds himself trapped in the compounds of the Minister of the Interior. What to do?
The short stories are published for Amazon.com by Willow Manor Publishing in Fredericksburg in Virginia, and the cover designs are the product of Melanie Stephens of the same company.
They are available on Amazon.com for Kindle reading at the ridiculous price of 99 dollar cents or there about depending where you are, well below cost. Get them for an easy read during the weekend! If you do, give a review, if you can, by clicking on the story’s review link on Amazon.com. It’s simple and won’t cost you more than a few minutes of your time. We love your feedback.
Lastly, my romantic novel Enchanting The Swan is in the final stage and scheduled for publication in September. We will let you know!
All my best,