Nathaniel’s Blog March 19th, 201- “An Evening With Family”

bookstore front

Finally got back into town after several weeks of book signings. Of all the things I’ve done over the years, I thought becoming a writer of novels would be the least demanding.  Boy was I wrong.  Writing the books was one thing.  I made my own hours, wrote when I felt like it, etc.  That was all well and good.  No one told me about the other half of the equation.

Finding an agent to represent me was a bit of an issue for a while, but I had time on my side and I eventually got one.  Then having them pitch and find a publisher was a bit of a wait, but nothing I couldn’t handle.  Once we found one and their editors got a hold of the manuscript, then things started to change.  Seeing my oh so wonderful pages come back covered in so much red I had to run to my ‘supply room’ just to make sure I hadn’t spilled any bags on the pages without realizing it.

Mind you, the day I got to see my first book on the shelves at the bookstores and online, was a real thrill.  It got even better when I found out it made the NY Times Besteller list.  I was so proud.  My hard work had paid off and I could sit back and relax while planning out the next installment in the series.

That’s when reality decided to come knocking at my door, and it brought it’s buddy ‘The Learning Curve’ along with it.

The demands for book signings and the interviews started pouring in.  It wasn’t easy getting people to understand I rarely do daytime appearances, and even those I keep short and sweet.  I have to glut my cells with fresh blood in order to handle the exposure, even at a minimum.  Unfortunately, this gives me a very ‘pink’ complexion that people often comment on.  I usually tell them I got a bad sunburn the day before.  Actually it’s partly happening right at that moment, but I can usually last a few hours so long as I’m not in direct sunlight. I learned this little trick decades ago out on the battlefield, but I also learned the downside of too much blood and the nasty side effects it could have.  It’s a delicate balancing act, but I’ve learned how to maintain a balance.

Anyway, with the latest round of publicity for the newest installment of my ‘Love Across Time’ series out of the way, it felt good to come back here and spend time with my godchildren.  Or rather, this particular set of godchildren.  Lord knows I’ve got a number of them out there, including a few overseas.

But, Brian and his family are rather special to me.  Their ancestors were friends of my family before I joined the Union Army.  One of my best friends was David Weston.  We fought and nearly died together several times.  He became highly decorated and became my captain in time, or rather just in time.  It was shortly after his promotion that I… became what I am.  I confided in him what had happened and he helped keep my secret by assigning me to night duty and scouting missions.

fallen soldier

When David fell at Gettysburg, I had myself listed among the fallen and came back here in secret to break the news to his widow Madeline, who was expecting at the time.  She had braved the lines to be near him and had been sent back home after becoming pregnant.  Upon hearing the news she went into labor and I was all she had available to help her with the delivery.  Long story short, I managed to keep my own needs in check while I helped deliver the first of my many godchildren.  Although, that boy, also became my step-son, two years later.  But that’s another story.

In any case, you can understand my attachment to this family, who also consider me one of their own.  Especially, Brian’s children Lisa and Geoffrey.  In spite of a thirteen year difference, Lisa is very attached to her baby brother.  Who sometimes attaches himself to me with a vengeance.  Like tonight.

He’s been well-behaved, but I couldn’t help noticing how he keeps watching me intently.  As if he’s hoping for something, but is afraid to ask.  I can’t figure out what he wants though.  I did the ‘money-shake’ thing with him as soon as I came in.  He loves being turned upside down and watching coins suddenly rain down around him.  I used to do it to his sister too, until she complained she was too old for that sort of thing.  Too bad.  I was going to start using dollar bills in her case.  Oh well.

Anyway, we’d just finished dinner and were sitting in the living room when Geoffrey finally comes up to me and asks, “Are your feet going woof yet?”

It takes me a moment to realize what he means.  I got into the habit of using a phrase from the 1930’s to complain about being on my feet too much.  The last time I did it in front of little Geoffrey, I’d used a little of my shape-shifting ability to produce two smaller versions of my ‘Black Dogs’ to play with him.  Poor little guy is allergic to dogs, which is sad because he loves to play with them.

I smile and grab a blanket from nearby.  After covering my legs with it I tell him, “As a matter of fact, my dogs are barking.”  Then I look down and he follows my gaze.

There is movement under the blanket and radiates down to where my feet would be.  A moment later, two black puppy-shaped heads peak out from beneath the blanket.

Immediately, the boy’s face lights up as they bark happily at him and pounce.  Since they’re smaller than what I usually produce, I was able to give them complete bodies this time.  I let them detach from me so they can play with Geoffrey.  As the three roll around on the floor together, Lisa comes to sit next to me.  She knows I won’t be able to move for a while, or at least until her brother gets tired and goes to bed, which will be in about an hour or so.  I hope.

“Would you like to come with me to The Crypt tonight?” I ask her, knowing it will be all right with her parents.  I checked with them earlier.  “It’s Friday so there’s no school tomorrow.”

“YES!” she cries excitedly and kisses me on the cheek.

As she takes off to get ready, I turn to Brian and his wife Mary, “Don’t say I never give you any time off from your kids.  Just make sure you enjoy yourselves.  Maybe you can make me another godchild.”

“No way,” Mary replies archly, “I got my tubes tied after Geoffrey was born.”

“Doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy going through the motions of making another one,” I smile.

She blushes furiously, but I can tell the idea has a lot of appeal to her.

Behind her, I see Brian grinning broadly and mouth the words ‘Thank you.’

I simply nod and continue to watch Geoff and the puppies at play.  He’ll be good and tired by the time they’re done with him.  The boy will sleep soundly tonight.  An earthquake wouldn’t be enough to wake him up.

It feels good being part of a family, every once in a while anyway.  Maybe, one day, I’ll even let myself settle down and stay put.  The question is where?

My family homestead is nearby.  I know it’s just sitting there empty, waiting for me.  The problem is that there might be another who’s also waiting for me, within its walls.  A person I made a promise to, that I failed to keep…

Civil War House


Nathaniel’s Blog January 4th, 20–

It’s been two days since my last entry.  I had expected copying the letter I’d left Isabella to be hard, but not like that.  I should have known better.  Father told me in one of his letters that Isabella had kept my note on her nightstand to look at every night before she went to bed.  I had made her a promise that she had hoped I’d be able to keep, in spite of all the news that came back from the front lines.  I had always been able to keep my promises to her.  No matter what the odds were, I always found a way to fulfill them.  Which was probably why she was still clutching it in her hand that December night when…

 I’m getting ahead of myself again.  There are more letters and journal entries that must be copied and saved, but not tonight.  Something happened after I left here the other night, that I need to follow up on. 

You see, after Brian took the letter away to clean it, I left and began wandering the streets.  I don’t even remember what I saw or whether or not I passed anyone as I walked.  I just had to keep moving.  At times I ran, even though there was no one chasing me.  It was foolish of course, one cannot can run from memories of guilt, pain, or loss.  Especially not when you’ve had a hundred and fifty years to accumulate them, and God knows how many more decades ahead to add to them.

Probably that was what my brain was telling me when I finally came to a halt.  Back when I still had a breath to catch, I’d probably have been bent over trying to do just that.  But not these days.  Instead, I simply stood there taking in my surroundings, trying to figure out where I was.  Imagine my lack of surprise when I realized I was standing in front of my old homestead.  Perhaps the old saying you can’t run away from the past is more accurate than we think.

Civil War House

I stood there for several minutes staring up at the old manor.  Time had not been kind to it.  Probably because no one has lived in it since the 1970’s, when the last of a series of relations tried inhabiting the place passed away.  After she passed on there was no one else to take over the place, so it became another forgotten edifice from a bygone era.  I could have come forward to try and claim the place, but there would be awkward questions about my lineage,  Especially since I’d had myself declared among the fallen back at Gettysburg during the Civil War.  But that’s another story.

 Anyway, I felt compelled to enter the old grounds.  I did not go inside the building itself, I rarely do these days.  Maybe it’s seeing how time has and has not touched the interior.  Oh, the wallpaper has faded and peeled in many places.  Yet, a lot of the furnishings are still there, untouched, preserved by yellowed sheets that have accumulated layers of dust.  On the shelves sit figurines and books, untouched and forgotten.  As if waiting for someone to brush away the cobwebs and clean them off to they can be admired once again.

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 The portraits still hang in the gallery beneath dust cloths, their colors preserved and vibrant thanks to being spared and denied the light. Forgotten and unappreciated works of art by some of the most skilled painters of their time.

Why has no one ever gone inside and tried to steal any of the these forgotten treasures, I do not know.   Not that I mind, but still it puzzles me.  Perhaps, some of the rumors of the place being haunted have a ring to truth to them?  I wouldn’t put it past some of my ‘nephews and nieces’ to have come up with story of the place being inhabited by spirits.  They probably even played a few tricks to help reinforce the idea.  Heaven knows the number of times they’ve begged me to claim my old homestead and live here permanently, so I can be close to them.  Generation after generation have made this plea, and I always refuse.

Not that the idea isn’t tempting.  But as I pointed out in my last entry, the longer I stay in one place, eventually tongues wag and trouble follows.  I couldn’t bear the idea of the place and all the things within, being destroyed.  I know time will eventually take its final toll, which is why I helped Brian’s father create the museum forty years ago.  My goal was to slowly remove the more valuable and treasured items from here and transfer them into the museum for safe-keeping.  Yet, every time I go inside the old place, I cannot bring myself to remove even a simple knick-knack.  It always feels like someone is glaring down at me with disapproval.

I did not enter the house, that night.  Instead I walked the overgrown path towards the family plot which sits a back in the trees behind the house.  There was once a little chapel as well, but that fell during the ‘Night of Fire’, along with my parents and our servants.  Again, another story, for another time.

The family plot is surrounded by a wrought iron fence which is only a few years old.  The original had long fell into disrepair and I’d had it replaced, with a new one that still had the old world look to it.  Oddly enough, the new gate creaked like its predecessor.  I could have had it fixed, but the sound seemed appropriate somehow.


So when I heard it groaning in the distance I new we had visitors.  Normally, it would be one of my extended family, but not at three in the morning.  Besides, I’d already caught a whiff of smoke in the air.  No, these were most likely unwelcome guests.  And as the only liv… still walking member of the household, it was up to me to greet them.

My footsteps become silent, even thought I’m walking over layers of dried leaves from autumns long past.  Not only do I make no sound, there are no imprints to mark my passing.  I’m still not sure how I manage this little trick, it just seems to happen whenever I go into stealth mode.  Even after one hundred and fifty years, there are questions I have yet to answer about my condition.

I turn the corner and see three figures entering my family’s resting place.  Young would-be toughs.  I’ve seen countless numbers of them over the years.  The costumes may change, but the attitudes and arrogance is always the same.  I’m tempted to wait and get an idea of what kind of mischief they intend to get up to.  But I already hear the rattle of a spray paint can coming from one of their pockets, while another starts brandishing a crowbar.  The third kicks an old white stone I know so well.  It belonged to William, our butler.  It strikes me as disrespectful to see someone of African descent violating the grave of one of his own kind.

I decide to make my presence known.  “If you’re not here to pay your respects, I suggest you take yourselves elsewhere and find some other form of enjoyment,” I say loudly.

I won’t bother repeating the profanity they shoot in my direction.  Needless to say, it was followed with threats against my person if I didn’t start running.  Naturally, I did not retreat.  I merely stood my grounds and repeated my request in the form of a warning this time.

The one with crowbar was the first to start walking towards me.  He was white, about sixteen, with all the swagger and arrogance of someone who’d watched way too many ‘Gangsta’ films.  I kind of felt sorry for him, which is probably why I didn’t kick the living shit out him like I wanted.  Yes, I do curse and swear with the best of them.  However, I was also raised to be a gentleman and as such I refrain from using unnecessary violence when a simple scare can be far more effective.

He was about  twenty feet from me when I smile at him, put my hands in my pocket, and then and look down at the bottom of the jacket I’m wearing.  It goes all the way to the ground, similar to the style of coats back in my day.  It’s a style I’ve always been partial to and have kept using throughout the years.  Though I make sure the cut and collar are always in keeping with whatever the ‘modern day’ trends are of the time.

In this case, my coat has what’s called a Mandarin or Banded collar, which I leave unbuttoned as is the custom these days.

I glance up at him and smile.  This enrages him and he gets even more angry, which pleases me.  Anger can be your worst enemy sometimes.  While it may give you an adrenaline rush and maybe add a bit more to your punches, it can also make you careless.   He obviously has not noticed the movement taking place at my feet.

He soon does though.  The first dog head slips out from beneath my coat when he’s just ten feet away and growls.  That catches his attention.

It throws him for a second and then he laughs, “Oh you got a dog, huh?  You think he’s going to stop me from cracking your fucking skull open?  You a dead man, you here me?”

Then the second head emerges from the folds of cloth at my feet.  His blustering begins to waiver as the two hounds emerge.  Both are black with heads the size of  beachballs, with bodies to match.  I decide then to make their eyes glow red, a little something I picked up from the countless movies I’ve seen over the years.  It may seem trite, but the effect they have are always impressive.

As he takes his first few steps backwards, I can see his friends coming out of the gate looking worried.  There’s just something about seeing something that looks like a Pitbull, but is the size of a Great Dane that is really off putting to people.

Tough guy yells as the first dog lunges for him.  He takes a step back and tries to hit it with the crowbar.  He connects and the dog’s head splits in two.  For a moment he thinks he’s won, then realizes that each half is now shaping and becoming whole.  Now he’s dealing with an angry two-headed beast.

Unfortunately, I can smell the urine running down his legs as he screams like a girl and flees.  His buddies are already far ahead of him, chased by the second hound which had silently shot past Mr. Crowbar before he could blink.

Once I’m satisfied that they’ve had enough I retract my pets.  I’ve not moved an inch from where I’m standing, with good reason.  Thanks to the darkness, none of the trio noticed the long black lines stretching  from beneath my coat, across the ground and all the way to where the dogs should have hind quarters.  As the canine figures distort and stretch back beneath my coat, I sigh.  I could’ve easily shape-shifted into the form of a huge wolf, but that would start rumors.  And as you know I abhor those.

After my ‘pets’ are back in their proper place and I can feel my legs again, I enter the family plot and right the headstone.  I’m relieved to see that it hasn’t broken, or even cracked.  I was worried, considering its the original stone and fragile.  Eventually, I’ll have to replace it, but not yet.  Maybe in another few decades, but for now it’s still quite legible and beautiful in a weathered sort of way.

I check on the other graves, none of them were harmed.  I got here just in time.  But the flowers have been trampled, plus there are a few looking rather wilted.  I know what needs to be done.  As sacrilegious as it sounds, I slowly walk over each grave.  As the tails of my coat pass over them, the flowers are looking more healthy once more.

Satisfied with my handiwork, I take a final look around.  There’s no one near. I can even hear the trio still running, they’re at least a mile and half away.  Good.

I knew they wouldn’t be back, but I checked on things last night and stayed in the shadows until I sensed the dawn coming.  I intend to do the same tonight.  Brian is insisting on coming with me this time.  He wants to keep me company and go over some of the other letters I have to transcribe.  I think he’s going to bring his laptop with him in case the mood to type strikes me.

If he offers to do it for me I’ll decline.  Those letters and journal pages tell just a part of the story, only I can fill in the other sections.  No matter how hard or difficult I may find it at times, it needs to be done.

I can see it’s almost nine now, I’ve been here for over an hour already and Brian is looking antsy.  He wants to read what I’ve typed, which I will let him do.  He’s a good man, just like his father and grandfather and so on all the way back to his great-great-great grandfather, the first Brian Hennesy.  Or rather I should say Captain Hennesy, hero, and childhood friend.

I’ll probably speak more of him in my next entry, since the next letters will begin mentioning my military service.

Good night.

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