Challenger Logo by Alan White   A Science Fiction Fanzine   Summer 2004

Subject: The Summer of 1989. Addressees: the author's own.


Dear Jef, Darrell, Walt, Elaine, Bruce, Ned, Bill, Dave, Dick, Michael, Merv, Eric, Jack, D. Gary, Tesser, Marty, Michele, Joe, JonArthur, Andy, et al.:


Tim Marion

I was so disappointed when my parents announced they would be selling the house in which I was raised and would be moving "back to the mountains," as they put it. My mother had, all her married life, missed the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, where she was raised. My parents would occasionally kick around the idea of getting a new home in another suburb, but always my mother would say that she wanted a home with a mountain view. Therefore, when my father retired, my mother and he sold the house in Newport News, Virginia and ultimately ended up settling in the extreme western end of the state on the outskirts of nowhere (Stuart). Both my sister and I were bitterly disappointed by this, and were convinced that our parents would come to regret this decision. For my part, living with my parents had been such an unpleasant experience that visiting them was a chore that was livened only by getting to see my friends in the city. I made up my mind that I definitely would not visit them in Stuart, Virginia, as there was absolutely nothing to do there except be a captive in their house.

Nevertheless, one day in the late 1980s my parents informed me of their fears that the Commonwealth of Virginia would be building a major new highway which would cut right thru their property. They wanted me to come down and visit and admire their massive property (23½½ acres) and see what they had done with it, before it was (possibly) decimated. Since I found New York City to be a "Hellzone" during the July 4th weekend, I made up my mind that I would escape from New York and be in the country at that time.

I have to admit, seeing the house that my father constructed let me see my father in a new light - now I began to see him as the creative, artistic individual that he is, as opposed to the forceful, arrogant side with which he had bullied me all my life. I was incredibly impressed, not just by the outside beauty of the house, not just by the outside beauty of the grounds (which my father had laboriously cleared off), but also by the interiors of the house. The ground floor was all wood-paneled and immaculate. He took me into the basement and showed me how he had supported the house with double-reinforced beams. It was all quite neat, tidy and artistic. I should have known, but didn't, that he had that side to him.

It was quite a walk over some minor hills to the end of the property, at which there was a tobacco barn (left there by previous owners) and a pond which my father had set up and for which he had inserted various kinds of fish. It was hot and uncomfortable and the air was full of bugs. I spent time outside closer to the house laying out under the sun in my men's bikini briefs. The property is so isolated that there was only occasionally someone driving down the narrow, paved road.

At one point, my parents took me out to an old property where my cousin Loretta was living with her husband and, apparently, a host of other people. My parents were happily talking to relatives out in the yard while I let myself into the house. It had been many years since Loretta had seen me, and at that time I had been a diminutive boy with incredibly pale skin and huge horn-rimmed glasses. I doubt that I was even remotely recognizable as a full-grown man with a great tan, long blond hair and a musculature that showed I was obviously into weight-lifting. There were a number of people my age (early 30s) in the house, and among them I saw Loretta sitting on a couch. "Loretta, right?" I asked. She didn't answer and looked nonplussed. One of the several guys there asked me who I was, and I answered forthrightly, "Oh I'm Loretta's cousin, Tim." Loretta didn't confirm this. Not only was I probably not recognizable, for all I knew she probably didn't even remember she had a cousin named Tim. Still, I refused to let myself feel uncomfortable. I knew my parents would come in the door soon, and then they would Understand.

Later, after my mother was in the house and speaking with Loretta, I somehow came to understand that I had at least one cousin on the premises, Loretta's younger son, Joe. Since I am interested in meeting all my cousins, I asked how to find him. I was told that he was up in a room on the second floor, and that some young girls, who were older and bigger than him, had been playing a bit too roughly with him and that he had been getting hurt.

I went up to the second floor of this marvelous old, renovated, Civil War era house. It turns out that this house was a facsimile of a nearby house where J.E.B. Stuart was born and raised. In the large field next to the house, Civil War reenactments were held each summer.

I followed the noises of children squealing and screaming. In a bedroom, I found my little cousin Joe, with at least two bigger, older girls piled on top of him, practically torturing him. "HEY, WHAT'S GOING ON IN HERE?!" I loudly and imperiously demanded, and the girls immediately jumped off of him. "We're just tickling him," one of the girls insisted. Joe had scratches up and down his little chest and back. I introduced myself to him and told him that my mother had told me that he had a fancy bow and arrow set and I was wondering if we could go practice some archery.

A little while later we strode across the hot, overgrown field where the Civil War reenactments usually took place. Joe was taking me to a target he had set up. "Audrey says you can shoot bull's eyes!" he said to me excitedly, referring to one of my mother's boasts about me.

"Oh good grief, I don't even know why she told you that. That was only once and a long time ago." Thirteen years previous, to be exact.

Joe showed me how to use the fancy sites on the bow. Every time my arrow barely even landed on the target.

"Well I've tried using the bow's sites, now I'm going to use my eyes," I announced. I almost immediately got something very close to a bull's eye. Joe was suitably impressed.

I miss Joe as a little boy. I'm sorry he grew up to wreck cars on drugs. It's possible that even if I reminded him of our tiny bit of bonding above, he wouldn't remember, so why should I bother? When I saw him last Christmas, my impression is that he is someone whom I should avoid, rather than trying to bond with again.

But ... it was good seeing all my other relatives. To Recap from then, my father has since sold a lot of the property and used much of the money to add onto the house, as the house he had built, although beautiful, was relatively tiny. The Commonwealth of Virginia never put a highway through their property.

Thanks for reading, if you have this far, and have a Happy New Year.



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