The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 10:10 am Thursday, August 2, 2018

“A Beacon in the Storm”

By Julie Terry Cartner

Slowly, agonizingly, the old lighthouse keeper pulled his way towards the light. Hand over hand, pulling his weight against the Nor’easter, he inched his way forward. Muttering angrily to himself – shoulda’ seen it coming – gotten soft – need to think for myself – newfangled weather detectors – shoulda’ paid attention to the signs – I know the signs – he continued struggling forward. Wind and rain buffeting against his frail body, determination was all that kept his progress moving forward.

Gotta get to the light, or ships will wreck, and it’ll all be on me –  I can do it, only a few more yards – Stupid old fool, shoulda’ let the dog go. – Tomfoolery – No way I’d let that poor dog get carried off in the waves. Hettie’d never have forgiven me – Ah, Hettie, my love, I miss you so much. Picturing for a moment Hettie’s laughing green eyes and shining chestnut hair, Tom momentarily considered giving in to the elements. Then with a growl of determination, he pushed forward.  Not sparing the energy even to look at the bedraggled pup he’d tethered to his waist with his belt, Tom spared a few encouraging words, “Good boy, not your fault those fools abandoned you. What were they thinking? Selfish…”

Catching himself before he used any colorful language that his Hettie had frowned upon, Tom murmured up a quick thought to his beloved wife who had died the past winter, “I kept my promise, Hettie. I’ll keep my words clean, but you can’t be angry with me for being furious with people who would dump a dog in the midst of a storm.” With a look of trust, but a whimper of distress, the disheveled pup followed closely in the light keeper’s faltering footsteps.

The door of the lighthouse almost within reach, Tom allowed himself a moment of pride. I might be old, but you don’t have me beat yet was his theoretical fist shake at Mother Nature. A gust of rain-laden wind almost knocked him off his feet in retribution, but the dog’s tug on the leash, plus the strength in his sinewy arms holding fast to the storm rope, kept him upright. Thank goodness I didn’t take that rope down after that last winter storm. Dang fool forecasters saying that winter storms were over. Guess you proved them wrong, he thought to the Nor’easter, as he struggled the remaining few steps.

With a final surge of energy, Tom almost crawled the final inches to the door, then grasping the latch with hands weathered by years of hard work, old age, and the whims of nature, Tom pulled the door open and dragged himself and the dog through, slamming and barring the massive oak door behind them. With a fusillade of banging, the storm fruitlessly protested his escape, but it was too late. Tom and the pup were safe inside.

Not even allowing himself a moment to stop, Tom encouraged himself. Unfastening the makeshift leash, he released the dog. Then, groaning, Can’t stop now – can’t rest yet, the old man moved forward on sheer willpower, climbed the stairs to the light, poured the oil, trimmed the wick and ignited the flame. Almost immediately the bright light broke the impending darkness with a strong yellow glow, casting out beams of lights that would warn approaching ships. Made it!

With that, Tom grabbed towels to dry himself and the sodden pup, which had not left his side, before allowing himself to rest and catch his breath.

Hours later, half-dozing in front of the fireplace, stomach replete with the hearty chowder he’d left simmering on the stove all day, Tom looked at the dog, no longer wet, hungry or cowering, now gnawing contentedly on a bone, his burnished chestnut coat gleaming in the firelight. Guess you need a name, boy, he mused. How about Beacon? I think you’ll be a good guide for me. The old light keeper’s last thought before succumbing to exhaustion, “Hettie, you didn’t want to leave me alone. Something tells me you sent Beacon my way. Thank you, Love.”


By Linda Barnette

People sometimes ask me why I spend so much time on genealogy.  Although I don’t say all of this to them, I do family research because it is fascinating.  When I work on a particular family tree, my main purpose is proof.  For that, I search for land records, marriage bonds, family Bibles, and anything else that shows without a doubt that someone really is my ancestor.  That work is sometimes tedious, but it is necessary to establish various family relationships.  That becomes especially difficult when the families were very early settlers.

Yet it is much more than records.  Each person that I study becomes a real living being, someone that I feel like I get to know.  The early pioneers were tough and hardy, brave and courageous.  They endured long journeys over unknown seas going to places that they had only heard about.  When they got here, they had to travel to reach their destinations, usually going by way of the Great Wagon Road, a long and arduous trail through mountains and over rivers with a group of strangers not knowing exactly where the road stopped.  They faced other hardships and dangers, yet they also established settlements in which all of the families worked together for the common good.

Most were fiercely independent and loved liberty.  They eagerly fought in the American Revolution in order to secure the freedom of the colonies and the young country that eventually developed from them.  When I read history, those ancestors of mine take on lives of their own, and I thank the men, women, and children who so freely gave their all.  Right here in our county, for example, Cornwallis marched his troops through Dutchman Creek and stayed in Salem.

In my reading, I came to especially admire my 3rd great-grandfather H. H. Hartley, who fought in the Civil War.  He was a prisoner of war 2 times, first at Fort Delaware, and then at Elmira, New York.  Conditions were terrible there, and that he survived at all is a testament to God’s goodness and his own personal faith.  When he came back home to Davidson County, he spent the rest of his life in public service.

I’ve also learned how difficult life was for women in those early days.  Their lives were full of hardships, hard work, childbearing, and raising their children, often many of them, without any of our modern conveniences.  They also usually lived in remote areas and had little contact with the outside world.  Many of them died young, so we find that men often married several times in order to have a woman to take care of their children.

Genealogy is anything but dull and boring.  Each person who came before us was a unique individual who lived their own lives and have in one way or another influenced those who came after them. It was only last year, for example, that I discovered that my great-grandmother Potts wrote hymns and poetry.  I hope that she passed some of her talents to me!

Finally, by learning about your forebears, you can figure out whom you are most like in looks and personality and interests and abilities.  Last Christmas when I went to the “Messiah” in Winston I met a new relative who said, “You look just like the Hartley’s.” So all of us continue the story of our families, and they will go on forever.  As Tennyson stated, “I am a part of all that I have met.”  We all are.

“Sisters Three”

By N. R. Tucker

I have never understood why I was condemned for centuries. My sisters were never treated thus. Svelte and sharp, my eldest sister is the most revered. She has been respected by humans from the beginning, thanks to her sharp edge that humans still find useful. My middle sister was also immediately accepted for her ability to lift and carry. But not me. Humans preferred to use their hands rather than admit I’m useful. Some English noblemen thought I was only good for dueling. Wouldn’t my eldest sister be better in a fight?

But wait, I’ve probably confused you. Let me start at the beginning.

My eldest sister, the knife, has been around as long as man has butchered prey. The earliest blades have been dated to over one million years ago. For centuries, most men possessed one sharp knife that was worn around the waist when not in use. Only nobles could afford separate blades for war, hunting, and eating. In the 17th century, the blunt-ended knife graced French tables for the first time. It was an attempt to prevent men of rank and privilege from using the pointed end to pick their teeth.

My middle sister, the spoon, was born over 20,000 years ago in Asia. She was immediately accepted as a practical implement, used for dipping into porridge or soupy foods not liquid enough to sip from a bowl.

And me? I’m the fork. I wasn’t born until the 11th century in Tuscany. Unlike my siblings, I was condemned by the clergy, who argued that only human fingers, created by God, were worthy to touch God’s bounty. I ask you, why is the spoon okay and not me? For one hundred years, I continued to be a shocking novelty and a sign of excessive refinement.

Thomas a` Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury and British chancellor under Henry II, introduced the two-prong fork to England after he returned from a six-year exile in Italy. According to legend, English noblemen used the fork for dueling, not eating.

Before I gained acceptance, food was picked up in various ways: spearing food with one of a pair of eating knives, cupping food in a spoon, or pinching the food between three fingers. In the 17th century, the person who picked up a fork was ridiculed. French nobility gets the credit for propelling me into a symbol of luxury, refinement, and status. To touch food with bare fingers became gauche for the nobles of the day. It was about time.

Even as late as the 18th century, most people, especially the poor, continued to share communal bowls, plates, and drinking glasses, though my sisters were widely available and almost everyone used them. Two hundred years ago, most inns in Europe and America provided one or two, but seldom all three of us at the table.

The next time you eat, take a moment to be thankful the meal isn’t served in a communal bowl, each person gets their own glass, and that I, the lowly fork, finally found acceptance.

“The Birthday Party”

By Sandra Vance

So I am gonna be 12 years old, and my mama said that I could have a birthday party!  I have never had a party before for just my friends and no family, and I think this will be fun!  I know just who I want to invite.

I sat up all Friday night because I was too excited about my party to sleep!  And then, the party wasn’t like I thought it would be.  Some of the people I invited didn’t come.  I guess they had already planned something to do.  And some of the ones who did come laughed at my home and made fun of us not having an inside bathroom.  They ran around chanting “outhouse, outhouse, you got nothing but an outhouse!”  I was mad, but my mother was crying in the kitchen!  I wanted to dump them in the outhouse! I told them all to go away, but they said they couldn’t til their mother and father came to get them cause I didn’t have a telephone, and so they couldn’t call their parents!  They finally went home except for Phyllis.  She was to spend the night because she was my best friend. I asked her if she wanted my daddy to take her home, and she said no, I want to stay with you, and we will tell ghost stories and have fun!  So, she stayed, and we did have fun.

The next day was Sunday, and we all went to church, even Phyllis.  She was used to going to church because her daddy was a preacher, so she had to go even if she didn’t want to go.  We went to my Sunday school class, and some of those mean people were in there.  Before I could stop her, Phyllis yelled at them and told them they were not Christians, and they would all go to the bad place, and she knew because her daddy said if you didn’t be good to people you would go to the bad place, and they were not good to me!  Well, my Sunday school teacher made me and Phyllis go outside the classroom and went and got my mother and told her what had happened.  And do you know what my mother said?  Well, she said, “Is she wrong?”  My teacher, Miss Naomi, was surprised by my mother!  Mother took my hand and Phyllis’s hand, and we went and sat in the sanctuary til preaching, and then after preaching, we took Phyllis home.  When her mother asked if she was a good girl, my mother said yes, she was.  Phyllis just looked at my mother and said that she had a good time and would like to come back sometime.  Mother smiled and hugged her and said anytime, anytime.  Her mother told me I should come and spend the night with Phyllis sometimes, and I said I would like that. Phyllis and I stayed friends until her daddy had to go to a new church, and we are still friends even now many years later.