A good time fable told in the venerable tradition of tall yarns & fairy tales
By Hal Zina Bennett, Ph.D
Published by Tenacity Press,134 pages, ISBN 09656056-5-5
Cover illustration by award-winning artist Cathee Van Rossem St. Clair
Fans of the classic TV series, Northern Exposure, will love
this book. Hal originally wrote it as a script for that series.
When the series was cancelled so many people had loved the story
so much that he decided to rewrite it, using the basic story but
changing characters and setting. While the book still captures the
wonderful quirky utopian aspects of the TV series, White Mountain
Blues clearly stands alone, unique and rewarding in its own right.
Subtitled "A Good Time Fable Told in the Venerable
Tradition of Tall Yarns & Fairy Tales," this is
definitely a feel good book, blending humor, romance, pathos, the
reclamation of youthful dreams and potential, a return to
simplicity and a spiritual vision of community. In short, it is as
entertaining as it is uplifting.
Sometime during the night
it began to snow. By morning the entire countryside was blanketed in
white. Crawdad pulled aside the curtain and looked out his window to the
East. Bright snowflakes continued to float silently down, forming a soft
screen between himself and the wintry vista beyond the warmth of his
cabin. In the distance, beyond the edge of Dr. Sollar's house, he made
out the rooftops of the buildings along Starline Road, a quarter of a
mile away. Most were corrugated metal roofs, though a few had been
painted red or green, their colors and textures showing through where
the snow had melted...
He drew his curtains fully open and light flooded
the room, allowing him to get a better view of his surroundings. A large
pine table sat in front of the window, and he pulled up a chair and sat
down, leaning on his elbows as he gazed out onto the snowy landscape.
The evening before, during his unpacking, Mrs. Henning had set his
laptop computer on the table. She had positioned it in front of the
chair as if to encourage him to write. For a moment he stared down at
it, then pushed it aside with a look of mild loathing... Long, long ago
he had dreamed of a place like this, sitting at a desk gazing out a
cabin window in a small mountain village.
It is like coming home,
he thought, as if I have come back to my roots, reconnecting with the
earth under my feet and the sky over my head, and everything else around
me. But this could not be, of that he was certain. An unfamiliar feeling
of loneliness, or maybe solitude, spurred his quest to understand what
was going on inside him. It had happened before when he stopped his
truck in the middle of the hill coming into town. At that moment, he had
reflexively reached out to touch Cheri--who wasn't there and never would
be--because he wanted to share his excitement with her. As had happened
during a half-dozen breakups they'd had before, the dull ache of her
absence prompted him to ask, once again, if they had acted too hastily.
He gazed out the window... For the moment, at least, this snowy
scene obliterated his loneliness. He felt more focused, centered. He had
arrived at a place he'd been seeking throughout his life... and he
didn't have the vaguest notion why.
Old dreams and aspirations
began bubbling up from his past. He eyed the computer on the table
before him and remembered a time, back in his twenties, when he dreamed
of one day writing a novel, one that would be grand and wonderful. One
day people would read what he'd written and feel hopeful and renewed. It
would make them smile at their own travails and woes and throw back the
veil to their joy. He knew his characters already. They still lived and
moved in his imagination, a vast world that he visited time and again
but never stayed for long. What held him back? What blocked his entry to
He'd started out, fifteen years before, with a
magnificent vision of what he would do with his writing gift. Somehow he
had lost his way. Instead of sitting down to write that grand and
wonderful novel, he'd turned his attention to journalism. He wrote
whatever they assigned him--weddings at first, then court proceedings,
feature articles, and finally local news with a human interest twist.
In high school, a teacher talked Crawdad into a him he must not
waste his writing gift but should go to college, become a journalist and
work on a newspaper. Miss Fryt, her name was. He remembered her well.
Nearing retirement, she wore her thinning hair swept back in a bun, and
dyed it light orange, maybe because once she'd been blond. Nobody was
fooled. They called her Miss Carrot Head. A stickler for grammar, she
staged her own war against dangling participles. When she said
"dangling," her thin lips tightened against her teeth and her
nostrils flared. For a wanton young male fighting testosterone storms,
her demeanor did not exactly embolden. But no matter.
junior year she took a liking to him and encouraged him to enter a short
story contest sponsored by the local library. He wrote a story about a
boy who wanted more than anything else in the world to play baseball and
become a big star that everyone would look up to. But his parents were
too poor to buy him the equipment he needed to join the little league.
One day his uncle saw him practicing and saw that he was good. The uncle
knew how much the boy wanted to play, so he gave the boy money he'd
saved up for car repairs. The boy never learned where the money came
from because the uncle never told him.
The boy signed up for
little league, hit two home runs in his first game, and became a local
hero. That night the uncle told him it was the happiest day of his life
because when he was a boy he too had wanted to play baseball. He never
did because his parents needed him on the farm.
Crawdad won the
prize for best story. It included a twenty-five dollar U.S. Savings Bond
to be put toward his college education. Miss Fryt was proud because she
was the one who discovered him. But he was afraid to tell her his story
wasn't really a story, since it was mostly true. In real life Crawdad
did not have an uncle who gave him money, and he never did get to play
in the little league. But he always wanted to and he'd practiced
pitching and hitting so he knew he was good. The teacher told e a
novelist. Sitting in his cabin, twenty years later, watching the snow
drift, he wondered why he stuck with his choice. In a way, he had
rejected the path of the boy who dared to follow his own dream. Instead
he took the safer route prescribed by his teacher, one that took almost
no courage at all. Once the glamour of seeing his name in print faded,
writing became sheer drudgery.
He made a decent living plying his
trade as a journalist. But unlike the mythological child in his story,
who'd stepped up to the plate and risked both his uncle's savings and
his own pride, Crawdad knew he'd failed himself. Was it too late to
reclaim his dream? He reached out, his fingers closing around the
carrying handle of the computer, and drew it toward him. He flipped open
the top and as the screen lit up he knew he'd opened a door to a place
he hadn't dare enter since high school. He put his fingers to the
keys and suddenly they began to move, as if by their own accord. First
letters, then words, then paragraphs, and finally whole pages filled the
screen. His mind swelled with a world of faces and voices and places.
They welcomed him in. This was the salve to sooth that mysterious
longing that haunted him from the day he won the story contest for
telling a lie that really wasn't. Now he knew that truth always hid out
between the lines of the page. Words never told it.
(Continued on page 60 of the book)