by Charles Souby


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Winifred by Charles Souby

In his debut novel, Winifred, Charles R. Souby tells the story of a despondent,
cynical, middle-aged widower who finds salvation and a purpose for living in the unlikely form of a young woman struggling with drug addiction, among other demons. What looks to be a May-December romance gets turned on its ears by a stunning revelation. Instead, Winifred is an unconventional love story filled with shocking twists and turns. With suspense and empathy for its deeply troubled and flawed characters, Winifred unfolds a fascinating, complicated human drama while raising intriguing questions about the role of fate and the meaning of family.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781495801013
Publisher: Infinity Publishing
Publication date: 11/13/2014
Pages: 244
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.51(d)

About the Author

Charles Souby was born and raised on the Chicago North Shore. He became interested in writing fiction while in high school.

In the fall of 1975 he moved to the SF Bay Area, where he graduated with a BA in English Literature from San Francisco State University. The ensuing fifteen years found him struggling in Alaska and California, living close to the curb while surviving as a street musician and SF cab driver.

In 1999, relieved of his demons he moved to San Rafael, California where he studied with poet and fiction author James Tipton. Charles now splits his time between writing fiction and performing improvisational theater. Winifred is his first novel.

Charles Souby was born and raised on the Chicago North Shore. He became interested in writing fiction while in high school.

In the fall of 1975 he moved to the SF Bay Area, where he graduated with a BA in English Literature from San Francisco State University. The ensuing fifteen years found him struggling in Alaska and California, living close to the curb while surviving as a street musician and SF cab driver.

In 1999, relieved of his demons he moved to San Rafael, California where he studied with poet and fiction author James Tipton. Charles now splits his time between writing fiction and performing improvisational theater. Winifred is his first novel.

Read an Excerpt




Copyright © 2010 Charles Souby
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4520-9533-2

Chapter One

THE LOBBY TO HIS THERAPIST'S office looked a little brighter than usual. Rayleigh couldn't figure out why at first but then realized that the ridiculous painting of the sad clown had been replaced by a pastoral photo; probably of somewhere in rural Illinois. He wondered if it was Dr. Gruber's idea or if the photograph belonged to the drug counselor in the office right next to his. In any event, it seemed much more appropriate for a psychologist's office. Especially for people who are seeking a ticket out of crazytown.

As he stared at the photograph, one of his group mates, Henry Harrison walked in. "What are you looking at, Rayleigh?"

"They've changed the picture on the wall," said Rayleigh. "I guess they've finally decided that a crying clown isn't particularly helpful for crazy people."

Henry clasped his fingers together and started fidgeting. "Who's crazy?"

"Oh, I didn't mean anything by that, Henry; I was just kidding."

"Well maybe we should talk about this in group tonight."

"Give me a break; this is practically my last night."

"You're right Rayleigh. I was just being oversensitive, you know me." And Rayleigh did; Henry was one of those guys who really was hanging out in crazytown but he would soon be out of Rayleigh's life. Rayleigh had decided it was time for a different destination.

Going crazy wasn't a bad thing though. After you've been bagged up in your own weird way of thinking for so long, there's just no way you can punch your way out unless — boom everything goes "wacky-doodle" and a new set of doors open. For Rayleigh Stern, wacky-doodle happened when his wife Rachel died suddenly. They had been married for twenty years; a long time to be connected to a partner and then have her permanently yanked from you. There was an initial period of intense grieving, but for Rayleigh it was deeper than that. Rachel was his one and only love. Without her it was intolerable madness and he just wasn't ready to settle down there. When life gets to that point, you have a huge choice to make; you can either let the winds of change take you forward, or you finally just hunker down and be miserable for the rest of your sorry life. Although he wasn't aware he'd done it, Rayleigh had made his choice; he let himself be captured by the winds. In his case, it was the March winds off of Lake Michigan along Chicago's North Shore, which one spring day gave him a bona fide God shot. "God shot" was a term Rayleigh grew to love. Winifred taught it to him. Winifred was the unlikely miracle of his life.

This was to be his second-to-last night of group, and consequently they were focusing primarily on him. Rayleigh had decided to call it quits at the end of March. He didn't say it directly, but the truth was he'd had enough. He wasn't necessarily through grieving Rachel's loss, but he didn't like the direction the group was taking whenever they focused on him. He was especially unnerved by one of the group members, Cindy Parker — rather prudish lady who always kept the top button of her blouse fastened. She had been nagging him ever since he mentioned that he used to see prostitutes when he was a sales rep for a magazine company back in the eighties. It wasn't a big deal, and it only happened on a handful of road trips. Occasionally he was given overnight assignments to Rockford and other rural hubs. During the trips to Rockford for example, he would have dinner after work and then hit a bar or two to have a few drinks. Following the drinks, he would cruise West State Street near where his motel was located and find a hooker to take back to his (or her) room. Cindy never let it go. She often brought it back up when Rayleigh talked about the loneliness he felt since Rachel died; she warned him that without Rachel, it was his destiny to return to that debauched lifestyle if he didn't start working on himself.

However, this being his second to last session, Rayleigh was receiving some uplifting accolades. Parker Thomas, one of the oldest members of the group told Rayleigh he had been invaluable to everybody. "Every time I have something troubling me, I look forward to bringing it here because I know you'll have a fresh point of view," he said.

Diane Houston also had kind words, "I just love your sincerity," she told him. "Rachel was a lucky woman to have you, and I know you will find much joy in your life if you persevere. You deserve it Rayleigh." It was comments like this that bothered Rayleigh. As much as he loved the encouragement, there was a growing cynicism inside him that made the words sound like idle and mindless cheerleading. In any event, it was better to hear praise than suffer constant digging and theorizing about the dark hidden motives that were going to lead him to the abyss. Fortunately, Cindy Parker wasn't there on this night so Rayleigh didn't have to endure her exasperated fears. Next week would be a party so this was really his final go-round on the hot seat.

At the end of group, Rayleigh stood up and stretched, and everybody began to grab their coats. Dr. Gruber stopped them. "Hold on, everybody," he called out before they could leave the room, "Remember to bring a potluck dish next week for Rayleigh's last session." Rayleigh hated potlucks. He was a lousy cook, and he always felt so embarrassed bringing supermarket-made vegetable dips to such occasions. Cooking was a skill for which he had always depended upon Rachel, and so now, ironically, on the last day of his "grieving" group, he missed her more than ever. The good news was that the potluck was for him, so he certainly couldn't be expected to bring much, if anything at all.

As he walked out of Dr. Gruber's group room, Rayleigh's eyes began scanning the lobby when they suddenly locked on a figure sitting alone on the sofa impatiently flipping through a magazine. At first, because of the close-cropped hair, button down shirt, black vest and big black leather belt, Rayleigh thought it was just some guy on drugs waiting for consultation with the counselor next door, but as he was about to pull his eyes away the person glanced up at him. How strange, he thought as they shared glances, it's a woman; a lesbian he presumed. Suddenly, something else grabbed him; his eyes became firmly locked in hers. His heart began racing and he felt a warm electric rush through his entire body. Overwhelmed, he remained paralyzed for several seconds. She held the locked gaze with him; her eyes now radiating an innocent fear. As Rayleigh struggled to regain his composure he sensed the fear and awkwardness welling up inside the woman, so he tried to smile and then casually said, "How's it going?"

She smiled nervously and responded in an artificially macho voice, "Good thanks." She appeared to be nearly half Rayleigh's age, and he could feel her desperate attempt to seem older and more mature.

The door to the adjacent office opened and a woman's voice called out, "Dear, are you ready?"

"Oh," she said as if being awakened from a dream, "yeah, sure." She shot up abruptly, tossing the magazine on to the side table where it hit a lamp. She was about 5'9 and though she was rather thin; she didn't look emaciated, just kind of boyish. She gave him a final glance and offered, "Well , see ya bro'," Rayleigh recognized that beneath her "butch" appearance, there was what he deemed to be an oddly and extraordinarily beautiful young woman.

Chapter Two

JUST AS THE DOOR TO the office closed behind her, Rayleigh heard the therapist asking the girl, "Who was that?" The thick door blocked whatever response she had given, and he walked out of the waiting room wondering what had just happened to him. Did she pick up the same feeling he had? How did she respond to the therapist's question? Did she tell the therapist it was just another creepy man ogling her because she's a lesbian or because she's sexy and now he wants to sleep with her? He quickly suppressed those thoughts and particularly tried to suppress any fantasy of romance. Besides, she could be no older than her early twenties, and even if Rayleigh had the charm to woo a younger woman, it certainly wouldn't be a dyke. The girl was undoubtedly a drug addict if she was visiting the counselor in the office next door.

He carried these thoughts home and grappled with them through the rest of that evening. He sat on the white leather reclining chair in his living room and gazed out the window of his Evanston, Illinois condominium where, in the reflection of the bright orange urban streetlights, he could see the snow lying in patches on the ground across the street. There were still some piles along the curbside that had been shoveled there by the city snow plows after the last big storm about a month back. The trees wouldn't start budding for several weeks, pending warmer weather.

Rayleigh made himself a tuna fish sandwich and cooked up a can of minestrone soup. He watched TV while he ate his supper and then went to bed. When he awoke the next morning, he fell back into his daily routine of editing legal briefs from around the country. The work didn't yield him a lot of money; partly because it didn't entail much work, but that didn't matter. Rayleigh had written a screenplay in the early nineties that became a blockbuster movie and cult classic that earned him a small fortune. He was living comfortably.

On the day following his second to last group, he sat with Carolyn, Rachel's best friend and confidant for many years, in the Summerset Café. "It's just so depressing being in that group."

"Well I have to tell you," said Carolyn, "you seem to be doing a lot better than you were six months ago."

"That's just time. I don't think it's the group."

"Well it seems your heart is growing more open."

That statement floored Rayleigh. He thought of yesterday's encounter with the girl in Dr. Gruber's waiting room. "What do you mean?" he asked. "How so?"

"I don't know; we only meet and talk once or twice a week, but I've known you for a long time, and your whole posture, your eyes, your mannerism, is like someone about to go on a journey."

Rayleigh didn't say anything.

"I wasn't going to tell you this," Carolyn said, "but last night I dreamt I was here at the café having coffee with Rachel."

"Did she say anything interesting?" Rayleigh asked. He was starting to fidget anxiously at the sound of Rachel's name; tapping his fingers on the table and alternately lifting his feet on to his toes and then dropping them down to the balls of his feet.

"Yes, she did." There was a long pause. "She was excited and said an explosive new experience was about to take possession of your life."

Rayleigh sighed. "Well, we'll certainly see, huh?"

Just then, as Rayleigh tried to focus his mind on more tangible thoughts, the little bells on the café door rang as a customer entered the store. Rayleigh's eyes instinctively glanced up to discover the young woman from the therapy office walking into the café. She seemed to sense his gaze and looked over at him giving him a long, strangely fierce glare and then glanced away and walked over to the counter. How weird, Rayleigh thought. He wondered if she knew he had been obsessing on her the night before.

"I've seen that girl in the therapist's office," he quietly whispered to Carolyn.

"Are you supposed to be telling me this? Isn't that confidential?" Carolyn glanced over to the counter to see whom Rayleigh was referring to. "Oh, that girl? The one with the butch haircut?"

"That's not a butch haircut." Rayleigh blurted still trying not to be audible beyond their table. "I think it's kind of cute."

"It's clearly dykish, just like the black vest and thick belt on her jeans. Anyway, she comes in here regularly in the morning. She's a weird one — kind of feisty and restless. That one definitely needs therapy. I'd stay out of her path unless you have to be in group together."

"She's not in my group and I'm not interested in her."

"You like her!"

"No! I just find her kind of interesting looking," he said almost in a whisper.

"Well I can assure you, she has no interest in you."

"I can't believe you would just assume a woman with short hair is a lesbian."

"It's not the length; it's the way it's combed back behind the ears like a guy. Besides, I just know. She's definitely a dyke."

"I don't know why I'm even getting into this with you."

"Because you're hot for her. Rayleigh, she's almost certainly a meth head; you should see her twitch. Don't you have some kind of ethics about chasing after a woman who's mentally ill?" Carolyn seemed to recognize that she was taking the conversation too far, and started to laugh.

"Whatever. I don't think 'dyke' is a polite term for a lesbian," said Rayleigh.

"Oh come on Rayleigh, you know I'm just giving you a hard time. Anyway, I've got to go. I have a bunch of letters to mail. Keep positive." With that, Carolyn stood up, gave Rayleigh a gentle caress on the back of his neck and then winked at him. He remained seated. "You're gonna be alright guy!"

"See ya." He said.

Rayleigh continued to sit there for a few moments observing her. She was definitely peculiar looking. She was lanky, but clearly had some muscle on her as well. The poor thing was flat-chested he noticed, which is what really gave her the boyish quality — that and her masculine clothing. She'd almost be homely if she weren't so pretty, he thought. It wasn't just her appearance that grabbed him though.

Rayleigh desperately wanted to stay in the café to observe the girl, but was terrified of being perceived as some kind of stalker — or was he a stalker? Had he gone mad and lost any sense of decency and dignity? Rayleigh sat still at the table for a minute while he watched her get a cup of coffee and walk over to the milk and sugar station next to the cash register. What the hell was he thinking? He surely wasn't interested in this woman on any level except fascination. Quickly he stood up, grabbed his jacket and was out of the café before she could turn around.

The rest of the week passed like every other. He managed to lose thought of the girl until the following Wednesday's party. Instead, due to the various knickknacks around his apartment, like the pair of tiny porcelain cocker spaniels on the living room bookshelf, his thoughts turned back to Rachel and all the simple joys they shared together.

Early that Wednesday afternoon, he went mulling through the Jewell Food Store on Green Bay Road and decided to purchase a full deli platter to bring to the celebration. He felt embarrassed in the line at the cash register. What kind of loser would buy a platter of supermarket meats and vegetables to a party?

When he got to the cashier, she smiled and said "poluck?"

Rayleigh smiled and shyly answered, "Yeah."

Three hours later, he pulled his red Toyota Prius into the driveway of the Medical Center where his group met. He was proud of his car and his contribution to the environment; it was the one thing for which he really felt a need to be validated. He used to get out of the vehicle slowly and linger around it so that others could see and connect him with such a progressive idea. But times were changing and he was no longer unique.

The group was already assembled even though it was about ten minutes early, and when Rayleigh walked in there was a spontaneous shout of joy and good tidings. He announced his thanks to the group with his eyes darting down shyly as he set his deli platter down on the corner of a crowded card table that had been set up along the side wall behind the circle of chairs.

"Oh, here," said Sylvia, one of the group members, as she rushed over and began rearranging things on the table, "let me fix this up for you. You know you didn't have to bring anything, the party's for you Rayleigh; you are so sweet."

Dr. Gruber walked to the center of the room and tried to get everybody's attention. "Since you're all here ..." he said and then repeated, "Since you're all here, let's sit down and get comfortable; we can start early. If anyone has urgent new business to discuss let's bring it up first. If there's any follow up from last week that needs to be taken care of we can do that next, and then the rest of the time we'll focus on Rayleigh's party and enjoy all the goodies that you folks brought."

There was no new "new business" but one new incident to discuss — Henry's wife had scolded him about toothpaste spit on the bathroom mirror. Henry apparently exploded at her and threatened suicide again even though he really didn't mean it. He was having difficulties developing more healthy coping skills.


Excerpted from Winifred by CHARLES SOUBY Copyright © 2010 by Charles Souby. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Winifred 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Debad More than 1 year ago
Before reading Chares R. Souby's new novel, Winifred, I was unfamiliar with the genre of 'recovery fiction.' This is a gritty, sometimes dark fictional form, of a gritty and sometimes dark part of the human experience. Mr. Souby captures the personalities of his primary characters, Winifred and Raeleigh, perfectly. Winifred is a young lesbian woman involved in recovery from drug addiction. Raeleigh, 20 years her senior, is trying to move on after the death of his wife. When the two meet in the waiting room shared by their respective counselors, the strange bonding is immediate. Both recognize it, and neither understands it. It is, however, the driving force behind both the unfolding of their relationship and of the novel. Having both gone through some harsh realities in their lives, Winifred and Raeleigh use their new-found relationship to take steps toward recovering their lives. Winifred introduces Raeleigh to "God Spots", unexplainable moments in our lives that benefit us. It opens the world for Raeleigh (and for us). I found the characters in this novel realistic and captivating. Raeleigh felt like one of my neighbors, Winifred like she could have been a student. The language in the book, while totally appropriate for the character of Winifred, is quite often R-rated, and the situations aren't always pleasant. But the read is well worth the investment of time. It opens a door to another side of life, which is what literature is supposed to do.