Once you reach a certain age the heliphone starts ringing. It always does around or a while after midnight. Nowadays, it rings more often. Past loves are calling in from the afterlife. The other night it was Amalia.
“I didn’ t see you at my funeral. Why didn’t you come? Why not bring me any flowers? After all, we spent some good times together.”
“Oh, dearest Amalia! Your voice sounds just like before. Australia was a bit far for me. Where are you now?”
“Much farther than Australia. You remember that day in the dunes?”
“Wonderful. I often dream of it.”
“So how come you didn’t marry me?”
“Blame it on my immaturity. I didn’t realize how good you would’ve been for me.”
“That figures; you were proposing all over the place after you left me. Are you any happier now?”
“It would’ve been nicer to share our lives together. If I’d had more than one life, I would’ve done it.”
“I’ll keep a seat reserved for you here then. Till soon.”
The heliphone broke off. That “soon” gave me the shivers. I got up and made myself a stiff Martini. What did she know?
Earlier this week, I got another call, from Irene.
“Nobody came to my funeral. Only Cindy, you remember, our bridesmaid, and that bloody husband of mine who’d left me by myself most of the time. Why did you divorce me? “
“Probably for the same reason your second husband left you alone.”
“We had so much fun together, don’t you remember that sofa?”
“I do, delightful, but you embezzled my money.”
“Come on. All that paper’s just monopoly money. You can’t take it over here.”
“What’s over here?”
“The purgatory. I don’t know why they put me here. It’s always cold. I spent time enough in jail.”
“Terrible. It surprised me you got yourself married again.”
“I got him the same way I got you.”
“By pretending he’d made me pregnant.”
“Yeah, I remember that. I think the purgatory is fine for you.”
The line broke off. I shivered again and took another Lorazepam. Was I lucky I got rid of her. She took all my money and still keeps calling me. That heliphone is a nightmare.
Mid-week wasn’t any better. It was Marilou, the fat girl from Switzerland, who I heard via the grapephone had suddenly passed away.
“I got heart trouble because I was overweight.”
“I’m so sorry, Marilou. I guess you’ve got plenty to eat now and can’t die anymore.”
“I still hate you. You only made love to me in the Alps because you got high rubbing my big boobs. You were a pervert.”
“I remember your telling me that. I broke my back lifting you up all the time because you couldn’t stay up on your skis.”
“I offered you my millions of Swiss Francs, but you only wobbled in between my boobs, said ‘Ahhh,’ and left me.”
“You told me the Swiss tycoon you married did it for your boobs too.”
“He was supposed to go before me. Now he’s got all my money and married an ultra slim pin-up from Vanity Fair.”
“Are you calling him too?”
“His phone is off the hook. I hate Vanity Fair.”
The heliphone died away. Marilou was one of those sad moments in life you want to forget but keep being reminded of. How did she get my number?
Last night was the worst ever. It was Anita from Norway, my biggest regret in love life.
“I wish I’d married you.”
“A bit late to tell me that now. What happened?”
“My husband murdered me.”
“Oh no! Why?”
“Because I kept dreaming aloud at night mentioning your name, saying that I loved you.”
“I hope they put him on death row.”
“Death row does not exist in my country. But hell does here.”
“Awful. You think I could do anything?”
“Go to his prison and poison him. I want him in hell right now where they’ll knife him with red-burning forks every second.”
“But they’d catch me and put me in prison as well.”
“Don’t worry. I’m told we have our ways up here and I’ll protect you.”
“But I won’t get you back, Anita. What’s the point?”
“You’ll be here soon enough, darling, and we’ll live happily ever after.”
That was enough to whip me into a frenzy and I swallowed two Lorazepams, but nonetheless, I stayed awake all night, shaking.
I’m on my way to Oslo now with a dose of cyanide wrapped in foil paper and my heliphone in my pocket to get word where that prison is. Pray for my soul.
Our fifth book, ‘Francine – Dazzling Daughter of the Mountain State’ has been out for a few short months, and we are bringing it to our readers’ attention!
Like Fiona in ‘Enchanting The Swan’, Francine, the bright and beautiful West Virginian, was born at the College of William & Mary. She was one of those fabulous young students I met in the midst of our daughter’s sorority circle, their sorority house, and the sunken garden.
But it was the mountains of beautiful West Virginia and the contrasting devastation of its coal country, which spirited Francine’s story. How could such bad economic and adverse environmental management destroy so many happy families and throw them into desperation and suffering? A repetition of Upton Sinclair’s gripping tale of King Coal?
Francine is graduating first in class at William & Mary’s Mason Business School in 2010 when she is confronted with the horrible mine explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine near Whitesville along Coal River in West Virginia. Twenty-nine miners lost their lives due to gross mismanagement of mine safety. It spurs her to forego a lucrative career in investment banking and join OHARA Mining Inc., the New York-based international mining company which has its roots in West Virginia. She will never forget the fate of those twenty-nine miners and attends the unveiling of their memorial in Whitesville in 2012 on behalf of her company. Her whole life will be dedicated to advance the lives of the company’s miners she works for.
Why place a novel about a promising girl in a mining company? Why not jewelry, fashion or music like A Coal Miner’s Daughter, agents asked whom I offered the story at Writers conferences. It would choke off a certain group of readers. Well, so be it: Francine took up the fight, and she made it up in the corporate world.
Throughout the novel, she faces difficult issues, from fights in Congress and with a belligerent anti-coal EPA to financial and pollution problems with OHARA’s gold and bauxite investments in the Guyanas of the Caribbean, in Georgetown Guyana, Paramaribo and Suriname River, Suriname. She is sent to Sumatra for her mining engineering expertise to help rescue miners in an OHARA mine who got trapped inside after an earthquake.
And she battles with China on corruptive practices she discovers in OHARA. She participates in rallies of the United Mine Workers with Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Manchin speaking for miners’ rights for health care and pensions.
I found Francine’s family home in Beckley, on Timber Ridge Drive, visited the nearby Woodrow Wilson Highschool where she graduated, and admired the spectacular West Virginian scenery where she went trout-fishing with her father in the New Gorge River.
To their credit, Kirkus Reviews recognized Francine’s perseverance and that of the miners she stands up for and gave the manuscript a resounding positive critique. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/john-schwartz/francine/.
Just one click takes you to a good read!
Ever invited to lunch to celebrate the tenth birthday of your grandson? Well, we were. So, Grandma and Grandpa trot to the restaurant. Grandson Preston John (PJ for short) is the ‘All-American boy’ who likes to play foot, basket, and baseball (the sports his father likes). He’s actually quite good at it (his Grandpa being a Dutchman likes soccer better and has never been able to understand American football with those harnessed bulky guys tumbling over each other all the time). PJ’s eight-year-old sister Sadie likes soccer too, even makes goals, but is more into ballet dancing. PJ is reportedly good at math but doesn’t like reading books (his dad doesn’t either), this to this writing Grandpa’s chagrin. But I am digressing.
Grandpa, having been invited, ordered some kind of overpriced steak salade with French fries, a meal on the menu that reminded him of his old Brussels’ times where the weather is always gray too. Had he known he had to pay the bill even though invited, he would have ordered just a plain chicken soup. Anyway, toward the end of the chatty lunch, Grandma signals with her handy fingers (so that everybody sees it) Grandpa has to pay the bill. Up he goes, but on his way to the cashier (his daughter – ‘Aunty Sammie’- says she checked it for correctness – how nice these kids are), he is ‘accosted’ by PJ:
In so many words PJ says, “You must give twenty percent.”
“Give twenty percent? What for? Who says?”
“Is he paying the bill, then?” Grandpa asks.
“No, you pay.”
“You know what that means, give twenty percent?”
“A tip for the waiter. But why should I give the waiter money? The bill is already far too high.”
“Daddie likes him.”
“Oh, yeah? So why doesn’t he pay the waiter himself? You know how much that is, twenty percent?”
“How much is twenty percent of say one hundred?”
PJ shifts his feet. No answer.
“I heard you were good at math.”
“How many twenties go into one hundred?”
“Good! So how much then is twenty percent of one hundred?”
“OK, tell your dad I give five dollars tip.”
PJ looks as if he’s being fleeced. He had apparently not learned yet what ‘giving twenty percent’ meant.
“Five times twenty is one hundred, no?” PJ asks, showing doubts.
“Right, you know your tables! So, if five twenties make one hundred, your dad wants to give one of the five twenties to the waiter?”
“Yeah…”PJ says, not sure.
“Let’s go to the cashier. Suzy, this invoice is five twenties, but my grandson PJ wants to give one twenty to the waiter. Is that OK?”
Suzy looks at PJ, who smiles his seductive smile, his eyes shining.
“But PJ, these five twenties are for me. Emilio didn’t cook the meal, he only took it to you guys.”
“My daddie says give twenty percent…”
“Oh, I see, PJ, I’ll add another twenty to the bill to give Emilio his gift, OK?”
PJ nods, not sure if he fully grasps Suzy’s math. Grandpa thinks he sees an educational opportunity.
“PJ,” Grandpa lectures, “percent means per hundred. You see this penny? In Holland, we call it a cent. How many pennies or cents go into a dollar?”
“Hundred!” says PJ, with enthusiasm.
Suzy enters the discussion. She’s a teacher in addition to her fly-by-night waitress job. “So one percent of a dollar is what?”
“A penny!” cries PJ.
“So what is twenty percent of one hundred dollars?”
PJ wonders, his eyes exploring the ceiling. Suzy takes a piece of paper and draws a fraction of 20 dollars divided by 100 hundred dollars multiplied by one hundred dollars. “How much is that?”
“Twenty,” PJ shouts. He knows fractions from class!
“So, what does it mean give twenty percent of this 0ne-hundred dollar bill to Emilio? It means I have to add another twenty dollars to the bill to tip Emilio for his service, not give away one of my twenties. Got it?”
PJ returns to his dad. “Grandpa doesn’t want to give twenty percent. He says you pay it yourself.” He treasures the twenty dollar note Grandma gave him in a small envelope. “Your birthday gift.” The tip seems to click. His dad smiles and tells him to hug Grandpa to thank him for the birthday lunch and he does. How sweet. Then Emilio arrives with a piece of cake and a burning candle, which PJ blows out (or maybe his sister Sadie does, as she sits across, jealous).
Emilio comes by on the way out and high-fives PJ’s dad. “Mucho gracias, Senor!” PJ high-fives him too.
Grandpa doesn’t even get a smile.
A happy New Year to you all and let’s start with a good story!
Finally, Francine, the bright and beautiful West Virginian, came down the mountain in, Francine – Dazzling Daughter of the Mountain State. A corporate novel which heralds Francine’s meteoric rise at a New York-based international mining conglomerate, in spite of all odds. Kirkus Reviews, the reputed and critical Indie books reviewer, spiked it “A dramatically taut tale propelled by artful characterization and political relevance.”
“Why not solicit an agent for this fascinating story and have it traditionally published?” asked several reviewers of the manuscript. I may still do that but it simply takes too long. Count some 18 months before it is on the bookshelves, if ever. I don’t have that time!
How did Francine come to life?
That’s a great question. She was one of those fabulous young women growing up at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. I had good laughs when I met them in the midst of our daughter’s sorority circle, their sorority house, and the sunken garden.
True, Fiona of Enchanting The Swan was also born at William & Mary! Quite an inspirational college for a writer you would say. But it was the mountains of beautiful West Virginia that spirited Francine’s story. And the contrasting devastation of its coal country. How could such exaggeration of bad economic and environmental management destroy so many happy families, living in peace and suddenly thrown into desperation and suffering? A repetition of Upton Sinclair’s gripping tale of King Coal?
Francine is graduating first in class at William & Mary’s Mason Business School in 2010,
when she is confronted with the horrible mine explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine near Whitesville along Coal River in West Virginia. Twenty-nine miners lost their lives due to gross mismanagement of mine safety. It spurs her to forego a lucrative career in investment banking and join OHARA Mining Inc., the New York-based international mining company which has its roots in West Virginia. She will never forget the fate of those twenty-nine miners and attends the unveiling of their memorial in Whitesville in 2012 on behalf of her company. Her whole life will be dedicated to advance the lives of the company’s miners she works for.
Why place a novel about a promising girl in a mining company? Why not jewelry, fashion or music like A Coal Miner’s Daughter? agents asked whom I offered the story at Writers conferences. The question troubled me. Why not? Those agents did not want to get “their hands dirty.” They feared readers wouldn’t either. They worried about the novel’s support of the miners’ fight with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and overreaching environmentalists. It would choke off a certain group of readers. Well, so be it: Francine took up the fight, and she made it up in the corporate world. To their credit, Kirkus Reviews recognized her perseverance and the miners she stood up for, and gave the manuscript a resounding positive critique. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/john-schwartz/francine/
Born in Beckley, Francine’s journey in her international mining company takes her to many different places, in the U.S. and abroad. She’s propelled by the sight of closed mines along National Road 3 and in southern West Virginia. She vividly remembers the monument dedicated to the West Virginian miner at the Charleston Capitol.
Throughout the novel, she faces difficult issues, from fights in Congress and with a belligerent anti-coal EPA
to labor, financial and pollution problems with OHARA’s gold and bauxite investments in the Guyanas of the Caribbean.
Georgetown Guyana, Paramaribo and Suriname River, Suriname.
And she battles with China on corruptive practices. She participates in rallies of the United Mine Workers with Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Manchin speaking for miners’ rights for health care, and pensions.
But it was Sergeant Lanny A. Perdue of the Charleston Capitol Police who brought me onto Francine’s trail.
Charleston was not the place to start my search for her, he told me. Go down south, to Beckley. As of that critical moment, the search for Francine went on. I found her home in
Beckley, on Timber Ridge Drive,
visited Woodrow Wilson Highschool where she graduated
and admired the spectacular West Virginian scenery where she went trout-fishing with her father in the New River Gorge
And so Francine’s intriguing story developed, much of it playing in New York, starting with her troubled walk in Central Park.
Just one click takes you to a good read!