ENCHANTÉ – THE HELIPHONE
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 nice to share our lives. If I’d had more than one, 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 alone 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.”
“Where’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 married again.”
“I got him the same way I got you.”
“By pretending he’d made me pregnant.”
“Yeah, I remember that. I think 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 you telling me that. I broke my back, lifting you 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,” Anita said.
“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 I stayed awake all night, shivering.
* * *
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.
Sitting cramped in my window seat, I wondered why the moon had this mocking smile on his face. My heliphone didn’t ring. Maybe because of secret regulations between Heaven and air traffic control?
I still didn’t know the whereabouts of Anita’s husband’s prison. I stumbled through customs on arrival at dawn. A voice told me that the cab driver would know. “Oslo fengsel,” he confirmed. After going through town, he turned into a long driveway lined by leafless trees and snow-covered grounds, ending at a somber red-stone building. “You wait,” I said and went in. The guards watched me, quizzically. I’d dressed as a priest, my faith-inspiring white-collar shining trustingly behind the white scarf around my neck. I didn’t speak a word of Norwegian but had many times mumbled Anita’s husband’s name, Wilhelm Lassen, that bloody Viking.
I sat in the bare visiting room when Wilhelm Lassen entered, accompanied by a guard, and took the only other seat across the steel table, his face one question mark. The guard left and shut the door. I gazed at Lassen’s hands. As I’d suspected, he didn’t wear rings in prison. I hoped he spoke a bit of English.
“My name’s Father John,” I said. “I’m bringing you a final word from Anita.”
The man’s face grew grey; his lips tightened; his eyes squinted. “Anita dead,” he said with a rolling accent. “I did do nothing. She suffered breath shortage. Who are you?”
“Her confessor when she lived with you in Geneva. She left this small package with me to hand you in case she’d die before you.” I pulled a blue jewelry box from my pocket and handed it to him. In it was a golden ring I’d dipped with a tweezer into a small base with liquid cyanide in the airplane toilet a short while before landing. A friend at a chemical factory gave me the deadly stuff, believing I’d use it to kill persistent mice in my basement. If Wilhelm slid the ring on his finger, his skin would absorb the cyanide, and death would follow soon.
Wilhelm opened the box and stared at it. “My wedding ring?” he asked. “I thought I’d lost it. Rar,” (‘strange’) he muttered. Then he shifted it onto his ring finger, looking sad.
The guard came in and warned me my time was up. I stood, said farewell to Wilhelm, and left as fast as I could. The cab driver took me rapidly to the airport, and I grabbed the first flight out to Amsterdam to erase my footsteps, hopefully having left pandemonium at the Oslo fensel. In Amsterdam, I got the last seat in a crowded United flight to Washington; mission accomplished, I reckoned.
Back home at night, the heliphone rang. It was Anita.
“Thank you, Johnnyboy. He’s nicely burning in Hell, screaming his lungs out.”
“But won’t I be punished?”
“No, you’ll be rewarded in Heaven when you get here in a while. Can’t wait.” Her heavenly voice drifted away.
“Crime pays in the afterlife,” I whispered and fell asleep, uncomfortable about Anita’s eagerness of my forthcoming passing.
Wilhelm’s death was reported as a suicide.
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ENCHANTÉ – THE URGE TO WRITE
It’s summertime and everyone is on vacation. So it’s a time to be quiet and reflect on things. The things I would’ve liked to do but didn’t. The things I could’ve done but didn’t. The things I should’ve done but didn’t. The things I should NOT have done but did. Oh boy, the list goes on and on. And there I am, looking at the blue yonder, the waves rippling over the azure lake, the swan coming by to chat, my watch staring at me as if it wants to stop.
I would love to play piano like Amad Jamal but I can’t. I would love to play tennis like Louis Federer but I can’t. I would love to write like Nora Roberts, but I don’t.
I did play classical piano pretty well but it faded: at a certain stage I noticed that I made no progress anymore. Stuck. Maybe I hated practice. Clearly, I didn’t yearn to get better at it and reverted to playing jazz all the time, which I did all right. My passionate Paris girlfriend and classical pianist, Geneviève, told me there was nothing wrong with that (See Some Women I Have Known – http://amzn.to/1QIL94B). I would’ve liked to play more tennis but back injury, tendonitis, and work priorities all fought against me. But I did complete an all right career and after 50 years of interesting work worldwide, I am now finally retired with a healthy savings account. So I should be happy, no?
Yes and No. I can’t sit still, hate to play golf and am too lazy to go hiking. So why not do some writing? The only thing you have to do is dream up a story, type it down on a computer, and post it on Amazon, is it not? Millions do. Easy, no? Well, not so. It’s like my tennis, like my piano, you must practice to get good at it. Know your words, grammar, syntax, and idiom. And what about my “content mind,” do my stories appeal to today’s readers? And what about my “craft mind,” do I use the right words, have the right rhythm, do I create sparks in my sentences, are my characters alive?
When I read, I use a notebook to write down words I don’t know or find interesting to remember. I underline sentences that I consider well-written. In the hope they stay with me and spark a good sentence of my own one day. The problem is that, as a non-native English writer, the words do not immerse in me as they do with a native writer who grows up with them. For him/her, words have acquired a lifelong meaning and feeling, are associated with memories, education, and experiences.
When I read in Dutch, my native language, I feel the meaning of words so much better because I grew up with them. They became my treasured treasure that I’d pick from whenever needed, and they spring up in my mind automatically when I need them. A native English writer acquired a similar treasure and can even “make up” words, something I’d never dare to do in English because it would almost certainly be wrong and scrapped by my editor.
As a funny example, I read the other day that “she wore a teddy.” Something to do with a teddy bear?
Since I did not know what a teddy was, I consulted Webster, which needed 20 words to explain its meaning! Probably any American knows from childhood what a “teddy” is (my wife, who is British-educated, did not even know!), and they would immediately associate it with their mother or sister, or perhaps a girlfriend (better). That sort of words is their permanent vocabulary treasure.
And so I go on, still learning to use idiom, syntax, and vocabulary. In addition to Some Women (in which Piano John confuses playing sheet music with playing between the sheets”), I wrote Enchanting The Swan (in which grad students and musicians Paul and Fiona agree to marry but evil blocks their love —http://amzn.to/1LPFw5o ). I am currently working on a third. Every day that I work on the “craft mind” I realize how little I know and how more I have to learn. I started doing this much too late. Young writers go through the same learning process, and they will also take time before they write their first good book. Even John Grisham and Stephen King (“On Writing”) admit that. But I started at the end of a long career, and won’t have that “luxury” of time to succeed. That’s why a well-known agent, Paul Levine, called me a “young writer” despite my white hair.
It’s “Spellbinding,” as Barbara Baig calls it (Writers Digest Books). Word(worth) reading!
See you next time and happy reading/writing.
ENCHANTÉ – ENCHANTING THE SWAN – A LOVE STORY
Oh! those beautiful swans! Ever listened to that wonderful Swan melody by Camille St. Saëns? It’s the core of the moving and heartbreaking story of Paul and Fiona, two lovebird musicians at the venerable College of William & Mary in Virginia – that beautiful State with the logo “Virginia is for Lovers!”- who form a duo in their last graduate year. Paul at the keyboard and Fiona playing cello. They fall in love when playing “The Swan.” And kiss for the first time on the famous Crim Dell Bridge in the W&M gardens.
And agree to get married after graduation. But then bad luck strikes and their future together seems doomed.
Fiona’s Belgian godparents who raised her – her parents perished while sailing off the Belgian coast when she was two – block the marriage because Paul is an American. She must marry a titled Belgian as her parents had wished, a nobleman and family friend she knew early on. When Paul lunches with Fiona at the Grand Place in Brussels, she tells him in tears she is forced to break up. Noblesse oblige…
Right: Bistrot Roi d’Espagne at the Grand Place
For Paul, it means a terrible psychological setback, for Fiona it means forsaking her love and hope of a life shared in playing classical music together.
Paul is offered a job in a bank in Geneva and takes the TGV.
but his life there is without light despite skiing and mountains. He falls for a selfish career girl. Then gets used by another in a bank fraud. His career seems doomed and he must return home. Through a sheer coincidence, he hears Fiona is back in the US and divorcing. A miraculous encounter at a house concert brings them back together, but Fiona is broken and has suffered severe abuse. Paul faces an uphill battle to win her back. As the trailer puts it, will they ever play the Swan again?
I wrote this book because I am a romantic, like Nicholas Sparks, or Barbara Bradford-Taylor; love romantic classical music, and adore W&M’s Department of Music. What this story tells is that luck is not a given and that it can be taken away from you; that you must fight to gain it back; that you must persevere; that you must learn to accept the changes that take place in your beloved and yourself. And that when you do all that, you may enjoy happiness again, but at a different level, one that is matured to accept life as it evolves.
What readers said about this story on Amazon.com:
MJM: “John writes beautifully – I found the book difficult to put down – an easy read, full of intrigue, love, passion, international travel and dubious banking business, and lots more – a must read.”
Dan: “John Schwartz has written a fine romantic thriller that doesn’t let go until the very end…”
Doris: “…I loved this book!…After only 3 chapters I was hooked…”
Neal: “…a beautiful story — full of suspense, drama, and enduring love centered around music. John Schwartz has created a whole world, and a wonderful escape. The characters jump off the page with such personality and imagery that this book could make a great movie…”
Vera: “Enjoyed the book. Well written book. First book to read by the author, but sure will read more books by him in the future…”
So, would you not want to read it, too, at the special e-book price of $2.99, or spoil yourself with a nice paperback?
Give yourself a chance!
A NAUGHTY ROMANCE
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
ENCHANTING CHRISTMAS WITH AUDREY HEPBURN
The Christmas and New Year period is a great time to read or gift a few heartwarming stories to suit the holidays!
ENCHANTING THE SWAN ends at Christmas, a moving end which I will not give away here. You can read the novel at http://amzn.to/1LPFw5o and at http://bit.ly/1Kw8gys (Barnes & Noble). Consistent 5 star reviews so far: Dan Dwyer comments: If you like old fashioned romance stories, you will like Enchanting The Swan. Paul and Fiona meet at the College of William and Mary in Virginia where they fall in love after playing “The Swan” by Camille Saint-Saens. There’s more to this story than Dewey eye romance. John Schwartz has written a fine romantic thriller than doesn’t let go until the very end.
Neal Cary, professor and cellist at William & Mary, writes: Enchanting the Swan is a beautiful story — full of suspense, drama, and enduring love centered around music. John Schwartz has created a whole world, and a wonderful escape. The characters jump off the page with such personality and imagery that this book could make a great movie. Enchanting the Swan is a very enjoyable read, and I recommend it highly.
MJM Orlean writes: John writes beautifully – I found the book difficult to put down – an easy read, full of intrigue, love, passion, international travel and dubious banking business, and lots more – a must read.
You can still get it for a good read at the fire place: http://amzn.to/1LPFw5o
or at http://bit.ly/1Kw8gys. ENJOY!
SOME WOMEN I HAVE KNOWN is a memoir /coming-of-age story. Our unforgettable Audrey Hepburn was a central personality in our home and especially for me, as we met as children (she 13 and I 7 ) in Holland well before she became a beautiful and revered film star. Of course, our lives became very different and I only touched hers at her outer sphere, but she did remember me! It is one of the more striking stories in SOME WOMEN I HAVE KNOWN.
You can still get it at http://amzn.to/1QIL94B
Readers seem to like it: Sam writes: This is a heartwarming collection of short stories that portray the path of boy meets world with realism and sensitivity. Perhaps most surprising are the different relationships that each story portrays – some were romantic, while others were more familial or close friendships. Those qualities, combined with the historical backdrop and international perspective, distinguish this book from the more typical and predictable storylines, making it a five-star read!
Kendal writes about the Audrey story: I adore Audrey Hepburn and love to hear new stories about her. Can’t get enough. And this short story was a nice little peek into her life, especially pre-fame, as a young girl… loved it.
Micah Harris writes in similar terms: A pleasant account of an exceptional person. There’s always something poignant about beautiful people recovering from ghastly times. Thanks for the read.
Dan writes: I had read the author’s vignette on Audrey Hepburn a few months ago when I was looking for something short, different and personal because my daughter is a big Hepburn fan. Mr. Schwartz did not fail me then nor has he failed me now with his compilation of the women he has met in his life…One charming and not so charming adventure after another, however, ended the same way until he finally met the proverbial woman of his dreams. She luckily for both shared the same dream.
And how did we!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and pleasant holidays!
John and Joy