Category Archives: Short Story

The Arrival of FUNHOUSE, my 5th book

My new book, FUNHOUSE, has emerged from the dark recesses of a playground. Unknown Press, and Bud Smith made this wonderful experience possible.

I want to deeply thank Ron L. Kibble for his tremendously powerful cover art!(www.ronkibbleart.com).

FUNHOUSE has four sections: Balloon Darts pierces short fiction; Hall of Mirrors “Another Brick in the Wall, part 4” delights with 26 kids in a classroom, and art sketches by Bob Schofield; Tunnel of Love Divas, “And the Winters Cannot Fade Her” proposes prose poems, layout, and graphic design by Eryk Wenziak; and  Ferris Wheel churns short stories of a more traditional length.

I want to thank Michael Gillan Maxwell and Rob Parrish for their extensive edits. And to Robert Scotellaro, Megan Giddings, and Len Kuntz, three writers whose work always brings me awe and joy- your blurbs are exquisite! Many thanks to you all!

Mostly I have to thank Bud Smith, who’s UNKNOWN PRESS also published RIFT and many other amazing books during its run. Thanks Bud. So honored to create another book together.

From Bud Smith: “You can PayPal me $14 at budsmithwrites@gmail.com and I’ll mail you the book direct. Otherwise FUNHOUSE is available on Amazon, for a couple extra dollars. Thank ya over the moon.”

Amazon direct link: https://www.amazon.com/Funhouse-Robert-Vaughan/dp/099830901X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1486394686&sr=8-1&keywords=funhouse+robert+vaughan

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John Madera of Rhizomatic Public Relations assembled an extensive list of “The Most Anticipated Small Press Books of 2017” and FUNHOUSE was mentioned by John. He also asked me, and several other independent writers for their own lists at Big Other. Thanks, John: https://bigother.com/2017/02/04/most-anticipated-small-press-books-of-2017/

(B)OINK zine

I’m over the moon excited to announce the all-new January issue of (b)OINK. Flash Fiction! Poetry! Creative Non-Fiction! Art! And “Voices,” from the literary world-at-large. Thanks fellow editors Rob Parrish and Chelsea Laine Wells. Thanks Al Fuelling for your web skillz! Thanks to Meg Tuite for “Voices,” and David Carter and Rob Kibble for “Art.” And every single person who sent us over 150 submissions for this issue: we loved your work, we did our best, we had a blast. Please read this issue, and share it. Then send us a (b)OINK submission for February. We’ll be eating.

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Happy Holidays 2016

Hello friends! We are coming up on Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays. Family, terrific food, nice wine, and over-eating. Can’t beat that combo.

I wanted to extend some gratitude for these events in which I’ve participated:

On October 20th, Kim Suhr of Red Oak Writing hosted a terrific Writer’s Showcase:

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(L): Sharon Foley reads poetry; (R) Christine Baerbock reads a haunting short story

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In New York City, at the venerable KGB Bar, I read in two events: F-BOMB on Friday, Oct. 21 hosted by Bud Smith, and Best Small Fictions on Saturday, Oct. 22,  hosted by Paul Beckman:

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(L) me reading “Mother/ Father/ Clown”; (R) Karen Stefano reading Secret Games of Words      (F-BOMB Reading)

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Top: (L) Meg Tuite reading from lined up like scars; (C) Len Kuntz reading I’m Not Supposed To Be Here and Neither Are You; me reading “A Box” (Best Small Fictions). Bottom: (L to R): me, Dawn Raffel, Dianca London Potts, Eliel Lucero, Tina Barry, Paul Beckman, Nancy Ludmerer, Britt Haraway, Anne Elizabeth Weisgarber, and Courtney Sender.

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November 10th, Jonnie Guernsey and Laurel Landis launched A Picture And A Thousand Words. I read “Behind the 8-Ball” and we all used their excellent photography as prompts, hosted at Sugar Maple in Bay View, WI:

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On November 14th, I was featured in the Traveling Mollys, hosted by Nina Corwin at Buzz Cafe in Oak Park, Chicago. The other featured reader was Bill Yarrow:

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(L) Buzz Cafe, Oak Park; (R) Bill Yarrow reading from The Vig of Love

Bottom: Daniel Weinberg reads his letters to MAD Magazine

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On November 19th, I attended Robin Chapman’s course for Red Oak Writing: “What Poetry Can Teach Writers of Any Genre.” It was terrific, and thanks, Kim Suhr, for setting up so many great Saturday workshops throughout 2016. More information here: http://redoakwriting.com.

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Update on FUN HOUSE: my fifth book! Publisher and I hope to get FUN HOUSE to you by December, 2016! We have an astounding cover (thanks artist Ron Kibble), and almost all blurbs are accounted for. FUN HOUSE has four sections: micro/ flash fiction; 26 kids in a classroom with kickass art by Bob Schofield; prose poems assembled by master crafter Eryk Wenziak, and longer short stories. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

BEST SMALL FICTIONS 2016

There are certain postmarks as a writer that mean more than some others. When series editor Tara Masih sent me the news that my flash fiction, “A Box,” (originally published in RIFT) was chosen as a winner, and would be included in the second installment of Best Small Fictions 2016, I was overjoyed. The BSM 2016 book was released two days ago, and I can’t wait for my copy to arrive tomorrow. Also, it makes me even more ecstatic that Kathy Fish (we co-wrote our last book, RIFT) had her incredible story, “A Room With Many Small Beds” chosen by editor Stuart Dybek for inclusion in the same stellar anthology:

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https://www.amazon.com/dp/1938466748/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_x_cFSZxbMTVFEQP

From the Goodreads page: “This second installment of The Best Small Fictions continues to celebrate the diversity and quality captured in fiction forms fewer than 1,000 words. Forty-five acclaimed and emerging writers—including Alberto Chimal, Toh EnJoe, Kathy Fish, Amelia Gray, Etgar Keret, R. O. Kwon, and Eliel Lucero—offer readers “some of the brightest concise writing available today” (NewPages). With spotlights on Texture Press and author Megan Giddings, the acclaimed new series, with its “finger on the pulse,” succeeds in its aim to make something big from many small things.”

Best Small Fictions 2016, Featuring Small Fictions by:

Amir Adam, Daniel Aristi, Tina Barry, Paul Beckman, Laurie Blauner, John Brantingham, Alberto Chimal, Justin Lawrence Daugherty, Toh EnJoe, Grant Faulkner, Kathy Fish, Rosie Forrest,Megan Giddings, Amelia Gray, Charles Hansmann, Britt Haraway, Mary-Jane Holmes, Laird Hunt, A. Nicole Kelly, James Kennedy, Etgar Keret, R. O. Kwon, Nathan Leslie, Paul Lisicky, Eliel Lucero, Nancy Ludmerer, Melissa Manning, Michael Martone, Elizabeth Morton, David Naimon, Jessica Plante, Dianca London Potts, Dawn Raffel, James Reidel, Sophie Rosenblum, Caitlin Scarano, Vincent Scarpa, Robert Scotellaro, Courtney Sender, Janey Skinner, Curtis Smith, Robert Vaughan, Clio Velentza

Amy Hempel: “Prepare to be surprised by this striking new series–it has quickly become essential reading.”

Smokelong Quarterly

Hi friends,

At the end of 2015, Megan Giddings, Executive Editor at Smokelong Quarterly, asked both Kathy Fish and me if we’d like to guest edit for this venerable online magazine. Of course, we both eagerly agreed. My week to read the submissions arrived in mid-February 2016, and they began to roll in. Fortunately, I am familiar with Submittable, where SQ makes it easy- sets the guest editor up with their personal account on their site, so every submission is queued and waiting to be read.

All ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-SEVEN of them. Yeah, that’s a lot of stories, at one thousand words or less!

And still, as one might imagine, I quickly narrowed the field down to ten. Then five. Then three.

And then this very one.

When I first read “Prismatic” by Eileen Merriman, it felt like it was written for me. I can’t explain coherently why; perhaps the numerical form, with missing numbers. Maybe the sisterly competitiveness over love interests. Even the title was familiar, in a former life, the name of a haircutting system I used to teach for a manufacturing company.

More than anything, it was the haunting essence of this startling story that I loved, first read, and continue to admire, several reads later. The story stays with you, it is lasting. And I sincerely apologize to Eileen, who turns out, lives in New Zealand- because “Prismatic” was originally published on April 11. Still, here it is:

Prismatic

(Art by Katelin Kinney). Thanks Megan Giddings, and staff at Smokelong Quarterly for this opportunity to guest edit your magazine.

Blog Talk Radio’s Kayla Greenwell: Robert Vaughan & Kathy Fish talk about RIFT with theliteraryunderground

BLOG TALK RADIO interviews Kathy Fish & Robert Vaughan about RIFT, their new collaboration:

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TURN THE PAGE Host Kayla Greenwell interviews the literati and oddball creative-types with a focus on DIY and grassroots initiatives. This week, Kayla interviews Robert Vaughan and Kathy Fish about RIFT, their new collaboration of flash fiction from UNKNOWN PRESS.

Source: Turn the Page with Kayla Greenwell: Focus on Robert Vaughan & Kathy Fish 12/02 by theliteraryunderground | Writing Podcasts

RIFT cover and more

Hello Friends!

Fall is in full bloom, the leaves danced off the trees all day yesterday!

My next book, RIFT, co-written with Kathy Fish, is nearly here. We have a new cover:

RIFT cover

Thanks designer, Casey McSpadden: http://www.caseymcspadden.com

Also, here is what some writer folks are kindly saying about RIFT (so far):

“RIFT made me laugh my face off, cry my guts out, and remember why writing matters: stories save us from our idiotic but lovable selves.”- Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Small Backs of Children (HarperCollins, 2015)

“These stories made me not sit still. They turned me around and turned me around.” –xTx, author of Today I am a Book (CCM, 2015)

“The stories in RIFT are peculiar and exciting and riveting and mournful and veer into places I hadn’t noticed in my peripheral vision. You know, like life.” Daniel Handler, author of We Are Pirates (Bloomsbury, 2015)

“These stories by Kathy Fish and Robert Vaughan are rich, textured, and physical – they smart with tension and possibility. RIFT is peppered with appealing, complex characters and atmospheric details.” – Megan Mayhew Bergman, author of Almost Famous Women (Scribner, 2015)

“Each vivid piece in RIFT, this sharp collection, clutches the reader suddenly — needing to offer its secret with the urgent elegance of the very best short short fiction.” Ron Carlson, author of Return to Oakpine (Penguin Books, 2014)

 

If you are interested in receiving an Advanced Review Copy of RIFT, please contact our publisher, Bud Smith at Unknown Press.

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I am also getting all the last minute information together for my upcoming week long workshop called Poetry & Fiction: Writing from the Well of Diverse Genres, October 18- 25 at The Clearing in Door County. I am gaining so much excitement as the week draws closer.

Any pumpkin picking plans in your Fall schedule? Hay rides? Bonfires? Star-gazing?

 

The Narrow Door

The Narrow Door

Dad used a hose to fill the pool. It was attached to a spigot in the garage. I shivered when I saw the level of water rising, the fresh dose of chemicals slightly burned my eyes.

“What time are they getting here?” I asked.

Dad replied, “I don’t know, Timmy. Stop whining. And get away from that hose. Go inside and help your mother.”

They were my cousins, Jared and Janeen. My Dad’s older brother’s kids. I never really thought they liked each other. My Uncle Martin was what my Dad called a “Fuddy duddy,” and that was when Dad was being nice. Uncle Marty was a successful stockbroker in New York City, and I think Dad felt like a hick, staying on the upstate farm where they’d grown up.

Mom was icing a German chocolate cake in the kitchen. “Want to lick the bowl, honey?”

She always made me feel better, as she smoothed her fingers over my curly brown hair. “Nah, thanks.”

“I’ll lick it!” My little sister, Melinda, squealed.

Mom handed her the green Tupperware bowl. “Why don’t you share it, Lynnie?”

“He said he didn’t want any,” she replied. She plopped on the banquette, and scooped out generous portions of leftover frosting.

“What’s up with you, T.J.?” Mom asked. “It’s not like you to pass on the frosting bowl.”

“I dunno. I’m nervous.”

“Nervous? Whatever for?” Mom placed one hand on her hip. She looked so pretty, like an ad from one of her magazines.

“When will our cousins get here?” I whined. I didn’t mean to, just came out that way.

I slid down the wall until I plopped on the floor. Sparky, our mutt, tried to lick my face,but I elbowed him away.

“Honey, you know your Uncle Marty. He’s probably stopped at every antique shop and silly store along the Hudson between here and Manhattan. It won’t do you any good to get so nervous about something over which you have no control.”

“Yeah, I suppose.”

“Timmy’s nutty, Mom.” Melinda had frosting all over her face.

“Melinda- don’t talk about your brother like that.” Mom held out her hand to me, I took it, standing. “Timmy, go help your father with the pool.”

“But he sent me in here.”

“Okay, do you want to vacuum?” I shook my head. “Dust?”

“No, thanks.”

“I didn’t think so. Ask Dad if he wants to put the horses in the pasture. Looks like a good day for it. And you can take Sparky out with you.”

“Okay.” I started out of the kitchen. “C’mon, Sparks.”

“And Timmy?”

I turned back. “Yeah, Mom?”

“I love you honey. They’ll be here before you know it. Try not to mope around all morning, okay?”

And Mom was right, within an hour, my cousins were driving up our circular, lengthy driveway. Uncle Martin, robust and grinning from ear-to-ear, and my cousins Jared and his sister, Janeen. It had been a few years since we last saw them, and the huge difference was that my Aunt Jackie had passed, at 36, from some form of cancer that attacked what Dad called her “female parts.” Grandpa had a different form of a similar illness. Now, as we were hugging hello, there was a stranger getting out of the passenger side of Uncle Marty’s new red Camaro.

“Hey, everyone, this is Alberta!” Her lipstick matched the car. And funny thing, she looked a little like a rabbit. I noticed how her nose moved inward when she breathed, like a strange creature. She wore a blue sweater, tight fitting, without sleeves. It looked as if they’d been cut off.

“You must be Timmy!” she said, like I was the President of the United States. I leaned back. “So adorable!” She clucked, then spun around to Marty. “He looks just like you.” She turned back and pushed her sunglasses, which seemed to take up her entire face, higher on her nose. “And where’s your precious little Melinda?”

“She’s probably hiding in the house,” Mom said. “Hello- I’m-”

“Helen. Yes, I know. Alberta Butterfield. Of the Brooklyn Butterfields.”

“Oh,” Mom nodded, pretending to understand.

“Pleased to meet your acquaintance. And you are Mitchell? Martin’s younger brother?”

Dad’s sunburnt skin seemed to turn a shade redder. “The one and only,” he replied. “Come on, everyone, let’s go in the house. Whatcha’ drinking these days, Marty?”

Jared and Janeen’s blank expressions matched mine.

“Wanna see the barn?” I asked them.

“Yeah!” they both agreed, and Sparky followed on our heels.

Turns out that Alberta moved in with Uncle Marty four months after they met, and this, according to Janeen, was the worst thing in her entire life. They’d met at one of Uncle Marty’s stodgy Yale bars. Alberta was starring in a local production of “Living By Design.”

“She’s only a senior in college,” Janeen retorted.

Jared plucked out a dried piece of hay and chewed on it. “She’s on the six year plan.”

All of these details made me dizzy. “Still, wow- I mean, she looks…young and-”

“Um, because she is!” Janeen interrupted. “I’m way more mature than she is.” She affected her voice to sound like Alberta. “Martin, dahhhling, shall we dine now?”

“Really?” I rubbed Sparky’s stomach. A certain spot made him kick his hind legs like he was chasing a squirrel, and we laughed.

Janeen continued. “Martin, sweeeetie, could you rub Mommy’s shoulders?” Janeen pouted, then grimaced. “She’s a joke.”

I shrugged. “She sounds hilarious!”

“Well, here’s an idea,” Jared said. “We’ll stay here with Sparky, and you move in with Dad and Alberta.” He rubbed Sparky’s head.

I thought about what it might be like to live in Manhattan. The subway scared me. Something about going underground to get somewhere. And all of those people. I’m not such a people person. Animals seem kinder. “Nah, but thanks.”

A Secret About a Secret

A Secret About a Secret

The room that Amelia had wanted to teach her photography course at the New School was not available, so she had to use the smaller studio. She’d arrived in Manhattan early that Saturday, and closed all of the folding chairs, setting them against the back wall. She opened her notebook and took out several of her nude photos and posted the images in various places on the walls. She remembered to place blackout paper on the glass window of the door to ensure privacy. On the blackboard behind the dias, she scrawled ‘Welcome’ and below that, a Diane Arbus quotation.

She glanced at her watch and there were only fifteen minutes before the class began. Where were the students? She’d confirmed that there were actually twelve participants registered, but this was New York. Everyone was on a limited time budget.

She stretched her arms above her head, wondering if her model would arrive on time. She forgot to confirm Keri, but did speak with her a week prior. Her notes said she was a dancer and very comfortable with nude modeling. Amelia only hoped that would be the case.

The last time she’d attended a photography course in a Stamford gallery, the model had frozen at the last minute when she realized there were six people who would end up with her naked photos.

During the next ten minutes, nearly all of the registered students had arrived. They sat on variously placed mats, blankets, and pillows which Amelia had spread out on the floor. She estimated the range of ages, and tried to figure out if there were any perverts among the three guys in the group. It didn’t seem that way. When it turned 10:00 a.m., she greeted the students. After her brief introduction she turned to the board behind her.

“One of my mentors and among the most inspiring photographers is Diane Arbus. She started in fashion photography with her husband. But as their relationship dissolved, slowly she turned to booking her own gigs. Her work is highly original and very unusual. She once said this quote that I wrote on the board in a rare interview.” Amelia turned and gestured toward the blackboard behind her. “Would someone volunteer to read it?” When no one raised their hand, she joked, “Don’t everyone jump to volunteer at once!”

Finally a willowy towheaded woman sitting close-by said, “Okay, I will.” She read the quote. “A photograph is a secret about a secret…the more you know it tells you, the less you know…

“Thanks. So, you see about thirty photographs placed around the room, all taken by yours truly. You’ll choose one, and take out a piece of paper and see if you can answer the question that Diane proposes: Determine what your chosen image tells the viewer. And what possible secrets remain? If you have any difficulty getting started, call me over and I’ll help you. You’ll have about ten minutes for this. Any questions?”

A prematurely balding man raised his hand. “I didn’t bring a pen or paper.”

“There’s a pile of them on that desk behind you. Anyone else? Okay, go!” The students rose, and began selecting their images. She glanced at her watch and just as she wondered about the model, a woman arrived at the door.

“Amelia?” she asked.

“Yes, are you late for the course?”

“No, I’m here for Keri. She chickened out.”

“Oh, great,” Amelia muttered. “What the hell am I going to do without a model?”

“Well, I thought you might be able to use me? I’m Lindsay.”

Amelia was confused. She thought this woman was just there to inform her about Keri’s absence. She nodded. Amelia summed her up as Lindsay took off her backpack. She was tall, possibly five ten, extremely skinny. She wore a Danskin wraparound burgundy skirt and camisole top, her jet black hair was in a simple bun. Her skin was alabaster and Amelia worried that it might be too white for regular speed daytime photos, but there wasn’t really another option.

“Okay, if you’re willing, Lindsay, while the students are all working on a warm-up for the next five minutes or so, let me go over some stuff with you. First of all, I’ll need you to sign a release form.”

“Release form?”

“School policy, straight up stuff.” Amelia handed the form to her. “Read it and sign on the bottom.”

Lindsay handed the signed form back to Amelia. “It’s a little chilly in here.”

“Well, you’re in luck. There’s a space heater and also once we get to work, the temperature will heat up, I guarantee it.” Amelia smiled. “Can I take a Polaroid or two of you before we begin?”

“Sure.”

“And, I just have to ask, did Keri mention anything about your job?”

Lindsay nodded.

“So, you’re cool with total nudity?” Amelia asked.

“Yes.”

Amelia got out her Polaroid camera. “No birthmarks?”

“Just on the bottom of my foot.”

“No skin rashes or anything I need to know about in advance?” Lindsay shook her head no. “Okay. Thanks.” She placed her hand on Lindsay’s shoulder, then took a couple of photos.  “Also, thanks, in advance, for supporting my ideas about the beauty of the human form.”

“Huh?”

“Never mind.” Models! She turned to the rest of the class. “Okay, everybody, wrap up your notes within the next minute or two, and we’ll discuss your observations.” She turned back to Lindsay. “You can get comfortable, relax.”

Lindsay glanced around the spare room. “Got anything to eat?”

Amelia shook her head no. “Sorry. Did you bring something to read?”

“No.”

“Well, I won’t need you for another ten or fifteen minutes.” She thought about asking her to walk around the block a couple of times, but feared Lindsay would disappear into thin air. “There’s a Vogue magazine in my bag over there if you get bored.”

Mountain Lake

Mountain Lake

The trees had turned spectacular colors since our last visit; buttery yellow oaks, shimmering crimson maples. There didn’t seem to be any space left green.

“I think we hit the peak of foliage season,” Charlie mused. We were on the trail leading to the upper boat landing. The ferns glistened with morning dew.  As we rounded the last curve, Charlie, who was leading, suddenly stopped. I did too, beside him. From a high knoll, we took in the expansive view: Mt. Marcy rose in the far distance, the curvaceous, colorful Adirondack range beckoned. A loon sounded, that strange noise that instantly made me feel alone, despite Charlie’s presence. The morning sun was already hot in the eastern sky. But looking west, I noticed dark clouds that looked like they could be trouble if they came closer. I licked my finger, and held it up, tried to gauge which way the wind was blowing, like Dad used to.  I had no clue, it was oddly still.

“Look,” I pointed, “there’s a family of mergansers near the canoe.”

Charlie nodded, smiling. He loved nature possibly more than I, fought the land management company when our squatter’s rights were challenged. He’d argued that the land had been in our family since Grandpa Howl was 20. “No commercial timber company deserves to profit from such pristine land,” he’d said at the time.

“Have you ever seen such a gorgeous lake?” Charlie said. I look sideways, he was wearing one of my Dad’s favorite hats, a trucker’s cap: Fly Rod Shop, Stowe, Vermont. There was a rainbow trout drawn on the front. Since Dad passed in 2002, Charlie had slowly morphed into shades of him. Used his hats, smoked his tipparillo’s (keeps the bugs away!) and fished with his favorite fly rods.

We continued to walk toward the point, the pungeant scent of decaying leaves and the familiar sound of the water lapping against our boat registered. We spooked the family of ducks. They beat it down the lakeshore, making a huge ruckus that made us chuckle.

“You’d have thought we were dangerous,” Charlie chuckled.

I placed the oars into our Criss-craft canoe. “The lake is so still this morning,” I noticed. “It’s almost haunting.” A loon echoed my remark, the fog lifted in sinewy shapes. “Why don’t you get in and I’ll push us out a short distance. The water is really shallow at the shore.”

“Okay!” Charlie said. His agile body bounded onto the deck. He angled his feet into the canoe.

“Go slow, Chuck,” I cautioned. “She’s easy to tip.” I wasn’t sure what significance that would have, not until later that afternoon, miles from our cabin,  when the Nor’easter would surprise us. But for now, as I glided the canoe away from our cabin, the stove reflecting the glint of the morning sun creeping through the fog, I thought, life is good!

Bits of memorabilia traipsed through my mind: the first time Dad and I canoed from Tippet Point, the aluminum canoe in which my sister, Debbie, and I were stuck during an electrical storm on Tupper Lake.

“Look! There’s that loon!” Charlie squealed. And I felt his boyish enthusiasm, admired his zest for life, a thousand times more magnified than mine.