Murphy's Path - our first published book!
We had a lot of fun writing it, formatting it, designing a cover for it, getting it reviewed, and generally 'learning the business' with it. For your enjoyment we will publish online one chapter per week for the next twenty weeks.
A rey muerto, rey puesto (Spanish) Out with the old, in with the new
A-sala’am alaikum (Arabic) Peace be with you
Abuelita (Spanish) Grandmother
Abuelo (Spanish) Grandfather
Adivina (Spanish) Fortune teller
Al’ama (Arabic) Used as a mild swear
Alemanes (Spanish) Germans
Alli viene un hueso (Spanish) Here comes a bone
Angeles nos observan (Spanish) Angels are watching us
Arras (Spanish) Gold token coins given during a marriage ceremony
Azahares (Spanish) Orange blossoms
Azan (Arabic) Call to prayer
Ba’heb’uk (Arabic) I love you (said to a man)
Basta (Spanish) Enough
Besa mi culo (Spanish) Kiss my ass
Bienvenidos (Spanish) Welcome
Bonjour (French) Good day, good morning, hello
Brazo de Gitano (Spanish) A type of cake
Bréagadóir (Gaelic) Liar
Bueno (Spanish) Good
Cabron (Spanish) Asshole
Café con leche (Spanish) Latte
Calabacitas (Spanish) Zucchini
Callate (Spanish) Be quiet
Cálmate (Spanish) Calm down
Canela (Spanish) Cinnamon tea
Carne pinchada (Spanish) Skewered meat
Casal (Spanish) a specific community outreach center for children
Castanyes (Spanish) Chestnuts
C’est moi (French) It’s me
Chérie (French) Dear or sweetheart
Chicha (Spanish) Nicaraguan corn beer
Comportate como un hombre (Spanish) Act like a man
Como eres (Spanish) See how you are (colloquial)
Como estas (Spanish) How are you?
Comprometida (Spanish) Engaged to be married
Con mucho gusto (Spanish) With pleasure
Dejalo (Spanish) Leave him alone
De rein (French) You’re welcome
Desgraciado(s) (Spanish) Ruined, unfortunate
Diabhal (Gaelic) Used as a mild swear
Diga (Spanish) A greeting similar to hello
Dhuhr (Arabic) Afternoon prayer
Donde esta (Spanish) Where is the
Eleutheria (Greek) Free Will
Escarpins (French) Shoes
Espiritu (Spanish) Spirit
Estoy agradecida (Spanish) I’m grateful
Estoy cansado de sus palabras (Spanish) I’m tired of his words
Eid (Arabic) A Muslim festival
Eid al-Ftir (Arabic) Festival of the breaking of the feast
El Moro estúpido (Spanish) The stupid Moroccan
El Moro jodido (Spanish) The fucking Moroccan
El Moro que sufre mas (Spanish) The Moroccan who suffers more
El Orfanato (Spanish) A Spanish language movie called ‘The Orphanage’
Es justo (Spanish) Is that fair
Escucha lo que tiene que decir (Spanish) Listen to what he has to say
Esponja (Spanish) Sponge
Este flaco palido (Spanish) This pale skinny man
Fenian (Gaelic) Supporters of Irish Nationalism, also derogatory term for Irish Catholics
Fue agitado por un bruja (Spanish) It was stirred by a witch
Galetes (Spanish) Artisan cookies
Gracias por todo (Spanish) Thanks for everything
Grosero (Spanish) Coarse, vulgar
Gruñon (Spanish) Grumpy
Guapo (Spanish) Handsome
Guero Inutil (Spanish) Useless white man
Habibi (Arabic) My darling, used for men
Hala (Spanish) an exclamation like “wow”
Hammam (Arabic) a communal bath
Hijab (Arabic) Head scarf worn by women
Hijo de puta (Spanish) Son of a whore
Hobi (Arabic) My love, used for women
Il Barbiere de Siviglia (Italian) The Barber of Seville
Ingrata (Spanish) ungrateful
Inolvidable (Spanish) Unforgettable
Irlandes (Spanish) Irishman
Kafala (Arabic) Foster parenting
Khobz (Arabic) Flatbread
Laodamia (Greek) A poem by William Wordsworth
L’Opera (Spanish) A coffee house in Barcelona
Las Ramblas (Spanish) Tourist street in Barcelona
Lazeez (Arabic) Delicious
Lazo (Spanish) A traditional wedding ornament, usually a large ribbon tied into a bow
Lenqua (Spanish) Tongue
Magdalenas (Spanish) A type of cupcake
Maravillosa (Spanish) Marvelous
Mascarada (Spanish) A masquerade party
Mal hablado (Spanish) Dirty mouth
Makrout (Arabic) Date filled pastries
Mazel tov (Hebrew) Congratulations
M’entiendes? (Spanish) Do you understand me?
Mercat (Spanish) a marketplace in Barcelona
Merci (French) Thank you
Mejor que un Moro sucio (Spanish) Better than a dirty Moroccan
Mija (Spanish) My daughter
Minijupes (French) Mini Skirt
Mira (Spanish) Look
Mondongo (Spanish) Nicaraguan soup
Muévete (Spanish) Move
Muezzin (Arabic) Man who calls Muslims to prayer
Muy bien (Spanish) Very good
Muy religioso (Spanish) Very religious
Muy sabroso (Spanish) Very tasty
Niña (Spanish) Young lady
No luchamos (Spanish) Let’s not fight
No me quieres? (Spanish) Don’t you want me?
No puedo competir con un fantasma (Spanish) I can’t compete with a ghost
No nos conocen muy bien (Spanish) They don’t know us very well
No sé (Spanish) I don’t know
No te preocupes (Spanish) Do not worry
No tiene que hablar (Spanish) He doesn’t have to talk
Noche de Brujas (Spanish) Night of the witches
Novio (Spanish) Fiancé (a man a woman is engaged to)
Oik (British English) Working class person
Olla (Spanish) A large clay soup pot
Om Kalthoum (Arabic) Famous Egyptian singer
Orphelinat (French) Orphanage
Oui – moi aussi (French) Yes, me too
Panellets (Spanish) Cookies for All Saints’ Day
Pantuflas (Spanish) Slippers
Paraté (Spanish) Stand up
Pasen (Spanish) Enter
Pégame (Spanish) Hit me
Perdidas (Spanish) Losses
Pero (Spanish) But
Polvorones (Spanish) Ground almond cookies
Por favor, ya no mas (Spanish) Please, no more
Por supuesto (Spanish) Of course
Pozole (Spanish) Pork and hominy stew
Puede llevarnos a (Spanish) Can you take us to
Purisima (Spanish) Celebration of the Virgin Mary on December 8th
Que asqueroso (Spanish) How nauseating
Que Desagradable (Spanish) How unpleasant, disagreeable
Que sorpresa (Spanish) What a surprise
Quemadas (Spanish) Flaming cocktails
Querido (Spanish) Dear
Quiere agua (Spanish) He wants water
Quien es (Spanish) Who is this
Ras el hanout (Arabic) Moroccan spice mix
Sagrada Familia (Spanish) Basilica in Barcelona designed by Gaudi
Sala’am (Arabic) A greeting in Muslim countries
Salud (Spanish) To your health – a toast
Se puede morir del sabor (Spanish) He might die from the flavor
Shukran (Arabic) Thank you
Siéntate (Spanish) Sit down
Sin Verguensas (Spanish) Disgraced, shameless
Slainte (Gaelic) To your health – a toast
Souk (Arabic) Open-air market
Te esta llamando (Spanish) Someone is calling
Tia (Spanish) Aunt
Tiene que hacer algo (Spanish) He has to do something
Tonta (Spanish) Dumb woman
Tormentas (Spanish) Stormy weather
Tortilla de patatas (Spanish) Potato torte
Trajedias (Spanish) tragedies
Un momento (Spanish) In a moment, just a second
Vamos (Spanish) Let’s go
Vas a ver que (Spanish) You’ll see
Ven aqui (Spanish) Come here
Verdures (Spanish) Vegetables
Viejas (Spanish) Old women
Wa-alaikum al-sala’am (Arabic) Peace be with you also
Y no puede hablar? (Spanish) Can’t he speak?
Yo puedo hacer esto (Spanish) I can do this
~ And So It Begins ~
Patrick sat in the first pew of the small Catholic Church near campus, frantically rubbing the palm of his left hand with his thumb. Twenty minutes had passed since he first came in, just long enough for him to start noticing how hard the pews were. He wanted nothing more than to get up and leave, but the lurid images that flashed through his mind kept him in place, awaiting his turn in the reassuring darkness of the confessional, his chance to wash himself clean and resume his life as it had been before.
A well-dressed elderly lady, probably the wife of an emeritus professor, quietly stepped out of the confessional and headed to the votive rack to light a candle. She glanced at him, her face serene; Patrick wondered what she might have had to confess (complaining too much about her aches and pains? ramming her shopping cart into someone’s car? spending the children’s inheritance on a trip to Vegas?). He fought the urge to run back down the aisle and out of the church, instead ducking into the confessional, closing the narrow door behind him with a sharp click. The darkness embraced him, temporarily disorienting him; for a few seconds he forgot what it was he had come to confess. He breathed shallowly, afraid of disturbing the welcome stillness. He could hear his own heartbeat.
The screen slid open. Patrick took a deep breath, trying to think of the right words to start his confession. The priest leaned slightly toward the screen, cleared his throat, and waited. Patrick bit his lower lip, started to speak, caught himself. The priest said softly, “Is anyone there?” Patrick, immediately recognizing Anthony’s voice, stopped twisting his hands together. He leaned forward, his forehead touching the screen.
“Anthony, it’s Patrick Murphy,” he managed to whisper. He felt his voice waver. “Is there any way we could just talk?”
“Of course! ‘Without counsel purposes are disappointed.’ Would you prefer to speak face to face?”
“No! This is fine.” Patrick got control of his voice. “I need to talk about something I did, and I’m not sure I can face anyone right now.”
Patrick paused, again unsure of what words to use to explain his actions. “I …. When did you become ordained? How did you end up here, Anthony?”
“I asked for a college setting. I remember how lonely I felt when I first left home, and I thought I could bring some reassurance to students facing new challenges for the first time. But how are you? How is school going? You must be close to finishing. Last time we talked you had just started dating that little girl…”
“She’s not a ‘little’ girl.”
Anthony smiled slightly, remembering his friend’s tendency towards the literal. “Forgive me, I mean that ‘vertically challenged’ young lady. Are you still seeing her?”
“Bianca, yes. We’re engaged. We’ve been engaged for three years. And something happened yesterday that I regret more with every passing moment.” Patrick held his breath. “We slept together.”
There was no taking it back now. “I couldn’t fight it any longer. I didn’t force her. We had said we would wait until after the wedding, but it just happened.”
Patrick could see Anthony tapping his steepled fingers against his chin as he carefully chose his words. “Well, Patrick, you’ve been together for quite some time now, and in the context of a loving and committed relationship…”
“You don’t understand!” In the small space Patrick’s voice seemed to echo. “It wasn’t supposed to happen this way! One minute we were standing in my doorway and the next we were naked in bed together, and I couldn’t stop! It wasn’t what I wanted, but I felt as if I was being compelled somehow, and I couldn’t help myself!”
“Patrick, it’s all right. We live in a world where temptations abound. God knows that we’re tempted, He knows we have weaknesses. But you’re fortunate. You have a solid relationship to build on…”
Patrick sighed heavily, shaking his head. “That’s not the problem.”
Anthony shuffled in his seat. “What is the problem, then?”
“I was having sex with Bianca, but it was Hero I was with.”
Confused by this sudden revelation from his normally stoic friend, the priest broke with decorum. “Who the hell is Hero?”
Patrick leaned his head against the frame of the small screen, closing his eyes and letting his mind wander. Who, indeed, was Hero? How could he ever hope to explain or define her? For everything he might say to try to capture her essence, he could think of dozens of instances where it would not apply. She defied definition. He could not even begin to describe her.
“Patrick?” No response.
Puzzled by his friend’s silence, Anthony exited the confessional. He opened the door to find Patrick sitting with his eyes closed. “Confession services are over for the day. Why don’t we go for a walk?” Anthony suggested.
Patrick followed Anthony to the vestry, where he watched him hang up his vestments. He envied Anthony the sense of calm and peace he seemed to possess. Patrick could not remember when he himself had last felt calm or peaceful. His life was in turmoil through no fault of his own, and he had no idea how he would put it all back on track.
“Let’s go out to the garden – it’s quiet there. I do some of my best thinking in the garden.” Anthony led the way to the small garden behind the church. Carefully tended plants and walkways filled the space with color and light. Small birds flitted through the trees or gathered at a feeder which hung from a bracket in the wall surrounding the back of the property. The walkways were composed of pinkish gravel, and looped around clusters of shrubs and small bushes of rosemary, lavender and pink tea tree. Patrick could hear the trickle of water: in one corner of the garden stood a small fountain.
They walked slowly along the path, the slight crunching of the gravel beneath their feet barely intruding upon the serenity of the garden. Anthony paused occasionally to pick up a stray leaf from the path, or to remove a dried flower from a shrub. He waited for Patrick to speak, hoping that his friend would find the outdoor space calming and reassuring.
Patrick meandered between the shrubs along the walkway, his hands clasped behind his back. He closely examined various flowers, plucking a stalk of lavender and rubbing it gently with his fingertips, the wonderful soapy scent enveloping him. He breathed in deeply, feeling a bit more settled. He turned to Anthony. “I’m afraid,” he said quietly.
“What are you afraid of?” Anthony asked, dropping a small handful of leaves into a basket along the pathway.
“That’s part of the problem: I don’t know what I’m afraid of….”
Patrick looked down again at the lavender in his hand, curtailing the statement he had begun. Anthony continued his small tasks, pulling up a few tiny weeds and removing a broken branch from a rosemary bush. He had attended seminary with Patrick nearly ten years earlier, and recalled that Patrick had always been quiet around others, as if he were hesitant to speak at all. Not much seemed to have changed about Patrick: he was as tall as Anthony had remembered, and rather thin. His pale clear skin had remained unlined, giving him a rather youthful countenance, especially in contrast to his wavy dark auburn hair. By simply looking at Patrick, one could easily guess that he came from an Irish background.
Anthony watched him now as he took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes: Patrick’s eyes, a clear true blue, had always betrayed his real feelings. Patrick pinched the bridge of his long narrow nose and put his glasses back on, blinking quickly a number of times, unaware that he was being watched. His movements were spare but graceful. With long slender fingers like Patrick had, Anthony thought, one would most certainly be a fine pianist – or violinist.
“I’m afraid she’s ruined my life!” Patrick exclaimed.
“Who are we talking about?”
“Hero! She’s ruined everything! She just comes into my life, and takes over my thoughts, and destroys my tranquility! Now what am I supposed to do?” Patrick was agitatedly twisting the stem of the lavender stalk. Tiny blue flowers floated down from his hands.
“Wait – ruin everything? How?” Anthony looked at him, startled. He had never seen his friend look so overwrought: Patrick had always been unflappable during times of stress. This sudden display of emotionality was something quite new.
“She ruined everything with chicken Marsala! And Baudelaire! She taught me how to make scones and she helped me with my dissertation! She lured Cleo away from me! She has delicate feet! Everything’s impossible now!” Patrick dropped the lavender and pressed one hand to his forehead.
“I’m not understanding something. Maybe we should go sit down for a bit.” Anthony directed Patrick to a small patio table near the fountain. “Can I get you some water?”
“No, no – I’m fine. I don’t know what I’m saying.” Patrick sat down, closing his eyes for a moment. “It’s simply that – well, she’s just made everything so difficult now!”
“And she did this with chicken Marsala?”
“Yes!” Patrick said. “With chicken Marsala and a lot of other things. Everything was going according to plan! I knew what was supposed to happen and when. If everything had stayed that way, then we could have been happy and things would have worked out. But she brought all these other things into my world, and now nothing is working out the way it was supposed to!”
“And she did all this with chicken Marsala?” Anthony asked again, trying not to laugh.
“It’s not just that. She made me see things differently, and she made me question my reasons for the things I was used to doing. She encouraged me to do all these strange new things, and now I think about doing even more…”
“Like what?” Anthony was genuinely intrigued.
“Like traveling and cooking and allowing myself to feel things! She encourages me to have adventures and to do things on my own! I’m not used to that! It’s like being awakened after having been asleep for more than thirty years, and all of a sudden there’s so much to see and do! And it’s overwhelming! And how can you just go back to sleep then? She’s ruined everything!”
Anthony shook his head slightly. “I don’t want to insult you but … is there something wrong with you?”
Patrick, caught off-guard, blinked at him. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, the woman you’re talking about – her name is Hero?”
“And she forces you to do all these things you find unpleasant?”
“No!” Patrick clasped his hands together tightly. “No – she doesn’t force me to do anything. But she herself does all these interesting, exciting things, and makes it all look so easy – and so tempting! I get drawn in….”
‘Ah – a temptress,’ Anthony thought, ‘how biblical.’ “And she’s encouraging you to betray your fiancée?”
“No – she understands that I made a promise.” Patrick sighed, realizing that his tone was one of resignation. “I have to keep it.” He tented his fingers around his face, trying to hide from his own thoughts.
“Well, so long as you love your fiancée and you’ve been faithful to her, I think this self-admonishment is unnecessary.” Anthony stood. “I’m going to get us some ice water – be right back!”
Patrick watched through the lattice of his fingers as Anthony walked towards the rectory. He closed his eyes again, his thoughts drifting to Bianca. They had been engaged for a long time now, and Patrick worried that their relationship had grown as much as it could. With Bianca, he thought he had found everything he wanted: she came from a background so unlike his own, one he found appealing at first because it seemed so exotic. He had hoped that their differences would provide him with opportunities to grow beyond his limited scope, to become more of a ‘world citizen.’
But Bianca had proven rather limited in her own world-view, and he hadn’t truly realized that until he met Hero. Hero did things he had never imagined doing, without relying on anyone else’s influence. He found her life intriguing, and a little frightening: nothing about her life could be easily defined or categorized. Hero had taught him a great deal, without even knowing she had. He had learned that all the things he thought he would find with Bianca – like motivation and excitement – had to come from within him; otherwise, he was simply going along for the ride in someone else’s life. Spending time with Hero had caused him to see himself differently, forcing him to admit that he had never really tried to understand himself before.
Anthony returned with two glasses filled with ice and water, with tiny lime slices on top. He placed a glass before Patrick. “I didn’t have any lemons – I hope you don’t mind a slice of lime.”
Patrick picked up his glass with both hands, then put the glass down and placed his hands on the sides of his face. “I made a promise – I can’t break it.”
Anthony took a sip of water. “You haven’t broken any promises yet, so far as I can tell.”
“No – but I feel like I’m standing at the crossroads, and whatever I choose I’m lost.”
Anthony smiled at the reference. “Let that go for a moment. Tell me about your friend, Hero. Where and when did you two meet?”
Patrick’s expression lightened slightly. He took a drink before fishing the lime slice out of his glass and biting into it. “We met at a counselor’s training meeting, about nine months ago….”
Hero leaned back from the old metal desk, absently tapping her pen against the frayed cardboard blotter. The questions kept getting more and more odd, and she often found herself embarrassed for the writers who sought help for these ‘difficulties:’
I’m having a problem with my girlfriend. She and I have never had sex together. The other day I came home and found her in bed with another girl – and a guy. I didn’t know what to say or do, so I left. What should I have done?
Odd Man Out
What would Hero have done in the same situation? Run screaming from the room, probably. She still could not quite figure out how she had been talked into writing this column, a daily column for the school paper that focused on relationship troubles and sexual matters. Maybe it was because she could answer questions of a disconcerting nature without taking too clinical of an approach. Despite the fact that such topics made her a bit antsy, and not wanting to mislead young and sensitive minds (nor come across as judgmental), she did her best to give honest, open-minded and contemporary responses:
A better question would be, ‘what should I do if it happens again?’ I suggest having a chat with your girlfriend about what her expectations are, and discussing the boundaries of your relationship. Is there an unspoken ‘open-relationship clause’? If so, you both need to understand the limitations of it. Once you’ve had this chat, if the situation should occur again, feel free to join in (or not) as you see fit. Remember to wear a condom for everyone’s safety.
Hero read over her response, underlined a few words, and put the sheet of paper on the ever-growing stack. She checked her watch, noting that she’d have to get moving soon or she would not be able to squeeze in any lunch.
“Gunnar, these are ready to go. I’ve marked the ones I want them to read first. Send me a note about the ones they pick – there should be enough there for the whole week.” She handed the stack of papers to her undergraduate assistant at the next desk; he was busy working on his own website, using the office’s sole computer. Funny how her assistant got paid, but she did not.
“Are you coming back later?” Gunnar liked to keep track of her schedule, ostensibly so he could remind her of upcoming commitments. He had been hired only to help her with the column, but had given himself the role of personal assistant, and he took his position seriously.
“No, I’m going over to the Commons, then to that counseling thing. I’m going home after that.”
“Do you need a ride?” Gunnar always seemed so eager, like a happy little dog – a happy little dog with a raging libido, covered with tattoos, she thought.
“No, not the eight blocks, thanks.” Hero laughed.
“It’s more than eight blocks. How’s Hasani? Does he need anything?”
“Hasani’s great. Don’t you have things you need to do? Your nails could use another coat of black, I think.” Hero loved teasing Gunnar – about his black nails, his black eyeliner, and his penchant for large buckles, which adorned the heavy leather jackets he often wore.
“Yeah, I guess. I’d have a lot more time if you’d just type this stuff in yourself.”
“But then I’d have to spend my time thinking about formatting and all that nonsense. I need the paper copies from the last two weeks, and if you could put them in the book for me, that would be great.”
“What’s wrong with the archives?” Gunnar found Hero’s habit of keeping paper copies of her printed columns in a notebook archaic and eccentric.
“I like having paper copies – all this electronic stuff is too unsubstantial and transitory.”
Gunnar rolled his eyes back, a silly smile on his face. “I love it when you talk dirty to me – you know it gets me hot, boss.”
Hero laughed again. “You’re a pig!”
“Yeah, but I’m a pig who knows HTML and Java. I have some books you can borrow so you can learn to do this all yourself.”
“Then I wouldn’t need you.” She winked coyly. “Try not to get any new tattoos this weekend. See you later, Gunnar!”
Hero headed out the door, her vintage Gobelins tapestry briefcase in hand.
Patrick Murphy sat in the second chair from the left in the last row of chairs set up for the counseling workshop. He looked stiff and aggravated, his long slender arms crossed, his long slender legs stretched straight out in front of him, blocking the row. Tall and sharp-edged, he rarely smiled, preferring to keep people guessing as to what he was thinking. Today he wore a frown across his narrow oval-shaped face: he had just come from an unpleasant meeting with his adviser, who had gruffly informed him that he was at least two dozen references short for the introduction section of his dissertation. He had spent the last nine months scouring every source he could think of for appropriate references, and having to look for more would set him back another term. At thirty-one, he didn’t feel that he wanted to lose any more time.
He was incredibly hungry: the meeting had run into his lunch time, meaning he could either eat something or be on time to what he was sure would be an annoying waste of energy. He hated to be late for anything.
A very tall slender female scurried into the room, breathing hard, and dropped down into the seat next to him. Great. He had been hoping to avoid talking directly to anyone, and she looked like the chatty type. Realizing that he probably should have chosen a seat in the middle of the row, he leaned away from her a little. She did not seem to notice. Instead, she stretched out a bit, crossing one long leg over the other, ankle-to-knee, and took out a thin binder from her briefcase, placing it against her bent knee like a desk. The workshop leader had entered and was shuffling his papers at the podium in front; the assembly had gone silent. Just then, the woman next to Patrick twisted the cap off a bottle of soda, producing an audible hiss. People turned to look, but the woman did not notice this either: she was scribbling in her binder. She felt the silence and looked up.
“Sorry,” she muttered in a surprisingly low voice.
Patrick sighed loudly, shifting in his seat, hoping people would not think they were associated somehow. Just her presence in his row irritated him. He thought about moving over a couple of seats, but was wary of drawing more attention to himself. He settled for sitting up a tiny bit, recrossing his arms and legs. The woman was now sitting back in her seat, absently tapping her pen against her binder.
“Why don’t we get started now? It looks like everyone’s here.” The workshop leader glanced quickly at a sheet of paper in his hand. “I’m Dr. Randolph Burton, and I’m the director of undergraduate counseling for the college of letters and science. I’d like to welcome you all. We have all new counselors this year, which I’m sure will make for some very exciting times. I’d like to see if anyone’s missing. When I call your name just raise your hand.”
Patrick sighed again; wasn’t a sign-in sheet easier? Dr. Burton must have anticipated this. “I want to start learning your names.”
After about half a dozen names, Dr. Burton called, “Hera Fairchild?” The woman next to Patrick raised her hand.
“Isn’t that what I said?”
“No, sir, you said ‘Hair-rah.’ It’s pronounced ‘Here-row.’”
“Ah, thank you for the clarification.” Dr. Burton called a few more names. “Patrick Murphy?”
“Yes,” Patrick said sullenly.
Dr. Burton looked up from the paper. “Where are you, Patrick Murphy?”
“Here!” he replied tersely.
The woman next to him stopped tapping her pen. “Wow,” she breathed softly.
Dr. Burton continued. “Good, everyone’s here. So, let me tell you about some of the things we have planned for this year. A number of you are already working on dissertations, so we’re going to have opportunities to learn about the research each of you is doing. We’ll have weekly brown-bags where you’ll have a chance to discuss your current work. We’ll have them at noon on different days throughout this term. I’d like you each to sign up for a time slot – pick the one that fits your schedule, and plan on a twenty-minute presentation. We’re going to start some new academic workshops for the undergrads, and everyone’s participation is expected for that as well. We have intake and matriculation events early in the term. Oh – and we’re also going to have a few social events throughout the year, so we’ll be a busy group! Does anyone have anything they’d like to ask at this point?”
No one responded, so Dr. Burton continued. “Today we’re going to start by getting to know each other. I want you all to pair up with someone you don’t know yet, and you’re going to find out everything you can about the other person. Don’t worry; you don’t have to divulge a lot of personal information – I want you to focus on academics and professional goals. I’m going to come around and talk to each group, so make sure you’re both asking questions.”
People stood and shuffled around, pairing up quickly, while Dr. Burton reshuffled his papers at the podium. Around forty-five years old, he was of average height, with a slightly thickening middle and an air of nervous energy about him. He wore khakis and a long-sleeved chambray shirt, his dark curly hair cut close on the sides, his dark mustache also neatly trimmed. All in all, he looked neat and proper and well-groomed, rather like a salesman at an upper-level computer store.
Patrick did not move, and neither did this Hero person; instead, she closed her binder and put it back into her briefcase. He watched her out of the corner of his eye. She turned toward him.
“Well, this is exactly what I was hoping wouldn’t happen. Do you want to pair up and get this over with?” She spoke in a subdued voice. He noticed she seemed to carry a faint amber scent.
“Sure.” He shrugged, wanting only to be done with this nonsense so he could go. “So, you’re name’s Hera?” He turned his head to look briefly at her.
“No, it’s ‘Hero.’ ‘Hera’ is that other goddess.” She tilted her head down, glancing at him over the rim of her blue-framed glasses, a slight smirk lifting the corners of her mouth.
“Hmm. I guess your middle name must be ‘Athena.’’’
“Nope – wrong again. Are you always this cheerful or would you rather be somewhere else?”
“I just don’t like these kinds of ‘getting to know you’ activities – I already know all the people I care to know.”
“I see.” Hero leaned back again, crossing her ankle over her knee and bumping him in the process. She smiled a little. “Sorry.”
The room buzzed with animated conversation. Patrick stared over the heads of the other people, who were excitedly asking each other about career plans. After a moment he asked, “Are you going to ask me my name?”
“I know it already. It’s Patrick Murphy – like the beer.” She laughed quietly, to herself.
“It’s not beer – it’s stout!” he grumbled.
The two sat in silence. Dr. Burton came over, smiling broadly. “How are we getting on?”
Hero grinned back. “We’re getting on splendidly!”
“Good, good. Learning a lot about each other?”
“Absolutely!” Hero’s tone matched Dr. Burton’s.
Patrick cleared his throat. “Are we almost done here? I have an appointment soon.”
Both Hero and Dr. Burton glanced sideways at him. Dr. Burton’s smile dimmed slightly. “Well, I guess we could finish early today. The real work starts Monday.” He straightened, and turned to the rest of the group. “Okay, we’ll keep this short for today. Make sure you grab a training packet on your way out. You’ll want to be familiar with the contents for Monday. Have a great weekend, everyone!”
Hero picked up her briefcase and stood up quickly. Patrick stood just as Hero turned to face him.
“Thanks for the chat. I hope you have a splendid weekend, Mr. Murphy.” She extended her hand to him.
Patrick looked directly into her eyes, ignoring her proffered hand. “How did you know my name was Patrick Murphy?”
Her face lit up in a huge, slightly tilted smile, and she laughed softly. “I’ll let you figure it out.”
She turned smoothly and walked to the table which held a stack of notebooks, tucked one under her arm, and headed to the main door. He gazed intently at her back, appreciating her perfect posture. A tall man with a considerable amount of black eyeliner on, and what looked like a silver dog collar around his neck, leaned against a doorway. She greeted him with a wave. “Hey, Gunnar – what are you doing here?”
“I came to see if you changed your mind about needing a ride.”
Patrick noted that Hero and the man were almost the same height, both with short black hair, both rather slender, but whereas the woman was almost willowy the man was sinewy. Perhaps they’re siblings, he thought. Their clothing differed somewhat: Hero wore a fitted white embroidered tunic, skinny black jeans, and an assortment of silver chains, unlike her companion whose skinny black jeans were paired with a thick black tee-shirt, his well-defined arms decorated with a variety of tattoos. Patrick grabbed a notebook from the table, casually lingering so he could eavesdrop on their conversation.
“So how was it?” the black-clad young man asked.
“Silly, just as I thought it would be. The director, Dr. Burton, seems okay though – he’s enthusiastic, to say the least.” Hero was putting the notebook into her briefcase as they walked.
Patrick flipped through the notebook in his hands without interest, focusing instead on this Hero person while trying not to be noticed himself. Her movements all seemed rather fluid, as if she were floating slightly; Patrick wondered idly if she was naturally graceful, or if she just seemed that way because of her long limbs.
“Meet anyone interesting?” the young man asked, jangling a set of keys attached to a heavy chain, which was attached to his belt loop.
“I talked with some guy for about two seconds. Real tall, super-pale.” She gave a slight laugh. “Almost reminded me of those skeleton figures for All Souls’ Day. Didn’t have anything interesting to say. Kind of a jerk. You know, biggity - really full of himself, and thinks you should do all the work to find out about him. Like playing twenty questions. Hey, I didn’t get much of a lunch. Wanna get some Italian?”
The young man held the door open for her. “If you’re buying, boss, how could I say no?”
Patrick paused, watching them walk out of the building. Just who did this woman think she was? Did she think she had been a joy to talk to? And what was this business about telling the director that they had gotten along splendidly? And who used words like ‘splendidly’? Skeleton figure…seriously? And what kind of student carried a tapestry briefcase? And how had he been able to look her right in the eyes? He was six feet and two inches tall – almost no one looked him in the eyes. He towered over Bianca: his fiancée barely hit the five-foot mark. Maybe this woman had been wearing heels. He tried to picture the shoes she had been wearing and found that he couldn’t.
(You can still find a few print copies!)
(Note: Since our characters use a number of languages in addition to English, we've included the handy Glossary of words and phrases - you'll find it way down at the bottom of the page...)
Table of contents:
And so it Begins*
Pyramids and Friskies
The Ring of Ire
The Cauldron and the Kiss
The Scone Also Rises
Beware the Eids of Valentine
Queen of the Black March
Fixing the Spring Break
Silence if the Round
No Van Shadow, This
Back to the Beginning
The Desk in the Narthex
Questman Tales Publishing
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
A Quest Book
Copyright 2016 by Madeleyn Questman
All Rights Reserved
Published by Questman Tales Publishing, LLC
Battle Ground, WA
First U.S. Edition: May 2016
Printed in the USA
Independent Authors self publishing tales that are
entertaining, illuminating, and thoughtful.