Paul Gregory, legendary agent and producer.
With the help of his staff, he establishes a refuge for Red Cross medics injured in combat; discovers a Pollock painting worth millions; changes a hair stylist into a radio talk show hostess; proves that a canister of mustard gas came from Edgewood Arsenal, leading to a Captain's court martial; and funds a live film-shoot of a carnival fortune teller and the development of an electronic buoy to monitor pollutants in the Chesapeake Bay.
One thing's for sure: life is never boring in ABERDEEN. It's the finale of a trilogy, with 75 characters, ending with the birth of a foal named Stormy Alex and rise of a farm boy with a nasty knuckleball to the big leagues.
ABERDEEN's legacy: "You Can Be Better than You Are."
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|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.55(d)|
Read an Excerpt
By JOSEPH JOHN SZYMANSKI
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Joseph John Szymanski
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIt's the first Monday in April, around six in the morning at Ridgefield Farm, five miles outside the town of Rock Hall on the upper eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay of Maryland. An eerie silence pervades the recently plowed Kent County fields where last fall corn and soybean grew in abundance. Warblers and other songbirds begin chirping and flitting; their actions announce the beginning of spring.
At this first hour of dawn, a gentle breeze blows northeasterly along the eastern seaboard. It's not strong enough to stir any leaves of the maple, hickory, ash and oak trees growing along the Eastern Neck Road which connects Rock Hall to the Eastern Neck Wildlife Refuge next door to Ridgefield Farm. As the sun rises from the east, its rays manage to filter through the high trees and angle down to the shoreline of the 50-acre farm. Below its twenty-foot high cliff face is a narrow beach, where even the incoming waves of the Chesapeake Bay seem to tiptoe into shore.
About 200 yards from the shoreline, a mystical figure suddenly rises out of the Bay and stands motionless against the blue sky. It resembles a white bearded Rabbi, dressed in a long iridescent-gold robe, in an erect stance with his arms outstretched.
"Moses? Can you hear me?" he asks, moving his head from side to side and speaking in a bass that booms over the waves.
After getting no response, he begins to expel some water from his mouth with a loud gurgling sound. "Moses, are you on shore or fishing for converts?" he asks in a louder voice. "I was told you'd be working your way up the eastern shore of Maryland by now."
The spirit turns in a full circle to take a good look at the Bay. "As Spirit of the Chesapeake Bay, America's largest estuary, ..." he says, sneezing and pronouncing estuary with an accent on the second syllable, i.e. 'es-CHOO-air-ree.'
"God bless me. Now where was I? I have a lot of ground, ah water, to cover; almost 4,500 square miles to be exact. Moses? Are you listening?" he asks, wiping his nose with his sleeve and disappearing into the water with only a white contrail to mark its descent into the Bay.
Suddenly particles of sand on the beach seem to come alive and glisten from the first rays of the sun; the reflections are all the colors of a rainbow. But that's not the only thing coming to life at this early hour.
Mark Hopkins, a trim six-foot four-inch, 27-year-old former Navy SEAL Lieutenant and owner of Ridgefield Farm has his back braced against a half-ton boulder, one of thousands piled into a six-foot high barrier (called rip-rap) along the 800-foot shoreline of his farm. Two similar barriers are installed perpendicular to the rip-rap barrier at each end of Ridgefield's property line (called breakwaters) to prevent erosion from waves generated by hurricanes and tornadoes.
In Mark's arms is Ruth Wayne, a gorgeous and unpretentious five-foot ten-inch, 26-year old flight attendant with long brown hair. She's using his chest as a pillow and wearing a pullover with American Airlines woven across the front. She grips a cup of hot coffee with both hands.
"Did you hear something?" he asks and waits for a response from her. "Someone must be playing tricks with my ears this morning."
Ruth squirms closer into his chest and rests her head near his shoulder.
"I smell Obsession," he says, leaning over to kiss her neck then raising his head to gaze at the blue sky. "No Canada geese flying anywhere this morning. They're probably necking at the Wildlife Refuge."
Ruth turns her head and kisses his neck.
"Guess someone's playing tricks with my eyes, too," he continues. "I thought I saw an image of a rabbi swirling about a thousand feet off shore, right where Eisenwein Raceway used to be before it was washed away into the Bay."
"My grandfather's eyes always lit up when he talked about attending sulky harness races out there when he was a boy," she says, pointing in the direction of the bay. "He claimed that over the past 100 years, landowners have surrendered more than 2,500 feet of earth to the bay. Even the Eisenwein home collapsed into the Bay many years ago."
"Well, at last, she speaks! You haven't said a word to me all morning."
"Until a minute ago, neither have you," she says with a tease. "You were tossing and turning all night long."
"Neither of us could get comfortable. We both seemed a little restless and edgy."
"More than a little, I'd say."
"For breakfast, you should have put some paprika on your sausage link left over from last night," says Mark.
"It's spicy and matches your disposition."
"Sorry. That wasn't my intention," she quickly answers. "Guess I was looking forward to seeing the Bay and you holding me close in your arms."
"It's good to be alive and enjoy the dawn of a new day on the Chesapeake. Is something on your mind?" he asks, squeezing her waist.
"That's just what I was about to ask you."
"Well, I might as well tell you that I'm going to have a baby," he whispers.
"Have you been talking to Dr. Rolf?" asks Ruth, turning her head around to face him directly.
"No. I've been talking to Judge Wohlfort."
"Judge Wohlfort?" she asks, with a puzzled look on her face. "Who's Judge Wohlfort?"
"Doctor Rolf?" asks Mark, tilting his head and widening his eyes. "Who's Dr. Rolf?"
"I think we better start over," she exclaims. "You, first."
"No, ladies first."
"I asked Dr. Rolf not to mention it to anyone until I could talk to you."
"Talk to me about what?" asks Mark.
"I'm going to have a baby," says Ruth, pulling him tighter. "And I think it's safe to assume that you're the father."
"What was that?"
"An old war-hoop used by the Ozinie Indians who inhabited this area hundreds of years ago and handed down to warriors like me."
"Is that all you're going say?" asks Ruth.
"I'm at a loss for words," says Mark, digesting the news. "Give me a minute to catch my breath and get down on one knee to pop the question."
"I'm listening," Ruth quickly responds.
"Will you marry me?"
"You betcha," says Ruth, giving him a passionate kiss.
Seconds later, he looks down at the sand to his right and notices an old soup spoon reflecting sunlight into his eyes. He picks it up, cleans off some particles to give it a clean surface and holds it up, as if it's a mirror, to see first, the reflection of Ruth and secondly, his own face. The images remind him of 3-inch oval miniatures painted by artists on ivory or porcelain. Pretending the spoon is a microphone, he brings it in front of his mouth.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he bellows out, "let me have your attention, please. We interrupt this program to bring you a news flash from Associated Press. Ruth Wayne of Rock Hall and American Airlines has agreed to become the wife of Mark Hopkins of Baltimore and Rock Hall. When we get more news on the particulars, you'll be the first to know. Until then, stay tuned to see how this story unfolds. This is Strontium-Ninety, your kinetic newscaster, reporting from the shoreline of Ridgefield Farm, on the upper eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay. How about that!"
"You sound like Chuck Thompson giving a news brief on the radio," Ruth says, gushing a little and giving him another kiss.
"I can't think of anything better than spending the rest of my life with you."
"We'll have a stork paying us a visit around Christmas."
"That's just eight months away," says Mark, counting the numbers with the fingers on both hands.
"According to Dr. Rolf, we're going to have a girl," says Ruth, turning her eyes upward and thanking God. "Now, if you were related to the founders of Johns Hopkins Hospital, which you're not, we might get a discount on the delivery."
"Telepathy; that's what it is. I've been thinking all night what it would be like to spend the rest of my life with you."
"Deep down, I wanted you ever since we met on the deck of Java Rock Cafe when you said that you'd like to see me in a swim suit," says Ruth lovingly. "I felt something come into my heart that has always stayed with me."
"For me, it was seeing you on that American Airlines flight back from LAX to BWI. You crept into my heart that night."
"Lately, I've been tossing around the notion of settling down and raising a family," she says, "but little did I know it would be five miles away from the marina where I was born and raised. Now, what's all this news from a judge?"
"My application to adopt Jaime has been approved," says Mark. "But there's something else you should know about Jaime and me. According to DNA tests, our blood matches. I got the news yesterday and wanted to figure out how that was possible before telling you. I knew there was something about the way he grabbed and held onto my finger the first time I saw him in his cradle at Swan Haven Marina over a year ago. But how his mother, Vera, and I made love is a mystery to me."
"That means you slept with my sister-in-law," says Ruth with alarm in her voice. "You never mentioned it before. Were you ashamed to mention it? Furthermore, wasn't it Vera's promiscuity that turned my brother into the murderer who sent her to an early grave and got himself locked up for 22 years? How could you have sex with a married woman?"
"You've asked the same questions that I've asked myself over the last 24 hours. Of course I'm ashamed; Of course I remember that Bud tried to implicate me as a murder suspect. I've forgotten nothing, but it's hard to figure out much less explain."
"Give it a try," she says as an odd feeling stirs inside her stomach.
"It's difficult to put into words."
"You can do it if you put your mind to it," she says.
"It's hard to remember everything."
"Sometimes it's good when it's hard; the harder the better."
"Are you expecting a confession?" he asks, with beads of perspiration forming on his forehead.
"I'll settle first for an explanation, although a confession can be therapeutic. I'm more than curious to see how you intend to wrangle your way out of sleeping with Vera."
"It's all confusing, believe me, because I didn't sleep with that woman," says Mark, gathering the courage to continue. "It must have been an encounter two years ago when we completed a special training course at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. The last night we celebrated and consumed way too much alcohol. Our instructor asked us to test a new diving helmet, with a lens that worked on the same principles as those on night vision goggles. In the water we could see perfectly through the lens. Out of the water the lens turned opaque unless you flipped a switch on the side of the helmet, which also rejected all sounds. The helmet was intended to be used solely for underwater demolition purposes."
Ruth tries to rise and take a step toward the incoming tide as tears form in her eyes.
"Without any time to think it over," he continues, pulling her tightly into his grasp, "we were taken into a room somewhere in the building and ordered to have a quickie in the sack. Our instructor made it clear that everything would be anonymous; the female would not be identified. The whole episode was over in less than five minutes."
"So you had sex without any protection?"
"I admit I had too much to drink. It was so unexpected and reckless on my part, and it's no excuse to say that we were following orders without realizing the implications. It was a dumb idea, especially for me as a lieutenant who should have known better."
"It sounds as though you had a SEAL course that turned into intercourse."
"I can assure you that the encounter meant nothing to me," says Mark, wiping some perspiration from his forehead. I couldn't see or hear anything. For all I know it could have been with my sister if I had a sister. It was over and forgotten before I even realized what had happened. It meant nothing to me."
"Maybe risk-taking runs in your family."
"Never thought about it before, but now that you've mentioned it, we're all like that on my father's side of the family; my grandfather and father fighting accidental fires at the mill during the week and jumping over hurdles at fox hunts on the weekends. With me as a SEAL, one wrong move when a mine is being detonated and someone would be looking for my body to send home in a coffin. In the military, we don't have time to think about the risk. We're given an order and we carry it out."
"No need to go on any further. Only God is perfect. Your indiscrete act is forgiven and swept into the Bay. I love you and always will," she tells him slowly and surely, ending with a heavy kiss on his lips.
"You're too good to be true," says Mark.
"Over the past year everyone said the same thing about you. Now, you've come clean. So, you're not perfect. I'll take you the way you are and make a fresh start from this time forward."
Mark turns her body in order to give her a long kiss.
"Yippee-kai-yea!" says Ruth, catching her breath and turning her head to catch a glimpse of the sun over the Bay. "It is the dawn of a new day and a new life together."
"Before heading back to the house for breakfast and a staff briefing," he says, "I'd like to ask another question. What would you say about an elopement to Carmel and wedding in the old mission there? Actually, it wouldn't be an elopement per se because key personnel must be informed of certain responsibilities turned over to them."
"Can you manage to take a week off for a flight to San Francisco and drive to the coast of Monterey?" Ruth asks.
"Can I manage? Are you kidding me?" he bellows out. "I'm the boss and I'll follow Mel Brooks' axiom: 'Matters of love take precedence over ... other matters and disorders of the heart!' "
"Now you're being silly."
"Perhaps, but I am incredibly happy. Moments ago my stomach was filled with butterflies and my mind was looking for answers and reasons why things happened the way they did with Vera and how to explain them to you. Now I'm floating on a cushion of air and feeling a little flighty."
"Me too," says Ruth. "The thought of getting married in Carmel never entered my mind."
"A wedding in six days has my heart beating like the pistons in a Maserati engine," says Mark.
"Did you ever own a Maserati? If not, how do you know about its pistons?"
"It's just an expression, darling," answers Mark. "Anyway I've been thinking of cutting back my hours at the mill and spending more time at Ridgefield."
"And I've been thinking about resigning from American for over a year, ever since I met you on that flight from LAX to BWI," Ruth says with a sparkle in her eyes.
"We can get all the blood work done and apply for a marriage license in the next few days before flying to the west coast," he says assuredly. "I'll telephone the mission after breakfast and try to arrange our wedding for Saturday afternoon."
"Perhaps you should break the news to everyone after breakfast," Ruth advises, "otherwise you'll be spending a lot of time with explanations and never complete your briefing this morning."
"I'm getting a kink in my neck from leaning against this boulder," says Mark. "York advised me install this barrier to prevent further erosion of our farm. But they weren't meant to be used as a backrest."
As Ruth rises and turns to climb a rope-and-wooden ladder constructed over the rip-rap, Mark looks up and sees a gaggle of Canada geese, flying in a V-formation overhead; they begin to honk as they break formation and swoop down in a westerly direction, to a height of about 100 feet. "They're probably a gaggle whose nesting grounds are the 2,300-acre Wildlife Refuge next door," says Mark.
Seconds later, a solitary goose leaves the formation, having lost control of its right wing. It honks at the top of its lungs in a high squeaky pitch as it glides downward with the aid of a gentle tail wind and lands safely on its two webbed feet. The crippled bird could not have selected a better runway since it's right in the middle of a 20-foot wide sandy beach. After landing, the goose looks around to survey the surroundings, takes a few steps until it spots Mark and Ruth only 20 feet away, then stops abruptly in its tracks. Its eyes reflect the brilliance of the sun and look as if they are cut crystal.
Excerpted from ABERDEEN by JOSEPH JOHN SZYMANSKI Copyright © 2011 by Joseph John Szymanski. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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