bev walker

A Book Review

The following is by Writers in the Grove member, Bev Walker, based upon her review of the book, “Thieves Break In,” by Cristina Sumners, Bantam Books, 2004, a British detective story.

The following are the real, actual Chapter headings of this book.

Chapter 1 – Late July 1997, Wednesday – (In which we are introduced to the victim, one Rob Hillman, who is missing. The last sentence states he’s been found. So far, so good. I look forward to some interesting detective work.)

Chapter 2 – January 1997 – Almost Seven Months Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 3 – Summer 1933 – Sixty-four Years Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 4 – Wednesday – The Day of Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 5 – February 1997 – Five Months Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 6 – June 1944, Shortly After D-Day – Fifty-three Years Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 7 – Thursday – The Day After Rob Hillman’s Death, About Seven in the Evening

Chapter 8 – February 1997 – Five Months Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 9 – May 1945, Two Weeks After VE Day – Fifty-two Years Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 10 – Saturday Morning – Three Days After Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 11 – April 1997, During the Easter Holidays – Three Months Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 12 – June 1962 – Thirty-five Years Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 13 – Saturday Lunchtime – Three Days After Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 14 – Early July 1997 – Three Weeks Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 15 – July 1963 – Thirty-four Years Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 16 – Early July 1997, Sunday – Four Days After Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 17 – Mid July 1997 – Two Weeks Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 18 – Spring 1972 – Twenty-five Years Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 19 – Lunchtime – Five Days After Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 20 – The Monday Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 21 – Twenty Years Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 22 – Monday Midafternoon – Five Days After Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 23 – A Wednesday in Late July 1997 – Thirty Minutes Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 24 – Winter 1995 – Two Years Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 25 – Monday – Five Days After Rob Hillman’s Death, Three Hours After Sir Gregory’s Death

Chapter 26 – Minutes Later

Chapter 27 – A Few Minutes Earlier

Chapter 28 – Two Days Later (mystery solved!)

THE END

Dear Writers,

Now, I consider myself only a moderately orderly person. And a fan of detective stories. Especially British detective stories. Any detective story with a sense of humor, but this one really put me to the test.

I’m not adverse to scanning, and dumping, the dull, the witless, the inane. If it doesn’t grab me in the first three chapters, I may give it a spit and polish and go on to other things, but believe it or not, in spite of its time frame acrobatics, this one held me in there.

I read it all, clear to the end, while flipping back and forth to keep reminding myself which decade we were in. It was like trying to read on a bus traveling fifty miles an hour over a very bumpy road.

The author’s first acknowledgement is for her “splendid” Editor, and I quote: “for refraining from murdering me while I kept her waiting an extra year for the manuscript.” One wonders if that editor is still on the job. Or maybe in a rest home somewhere. Or waiting tables in a peaceful kindergarten where there’s regular food fights.

Nevertheless, dear readers, would you believe? This is a good story!

But please, dear writers, have some mercy.

Peggy, Among the Stars

The following is an excerpt from the new book by Bev Walker, “Profiles…” Bev is a long-time member of Writers in the Grove.

She may be the smartest person I’ve ever met, certainly one of them, and certainly a shining star in my life. And a prime example of how deceptive appearance and manner can be.

The plain house dress and sagging cardigan sweater were always a little rumpled. Some stray pieces of her long thin black hair never seemed to find a home in all the years I new her. The rest hung precariously in a knot at the back of her neck. There was no sign of grey. She was in her nineties, how far, she wouldn’t say. When asked, she’d reply curtly, “Age is irrelevant.”

She was four-foot ten, round, and quiet. Her large sleepy eyes and calm demeanor reminded me of Yoda, the wise old elf of the Star Wars movies. That suited her more than most people realized. She’d been a closet Science Fiction writer as long as she can remember. Not with any thought of getting published, but just because she loved doing it.

When her husband died, she and her four young children moved to Forest Grove, Oregon. She took classes at Pacific University where her guest instructor was famed fantasy writer Ursula LeGuin. LeGuin’s husband was a professor there at the time. LeGuin became a profound influence on Peggy’s blossoming style, a turning point.

“She is a woman of extreme integrity,” said Peggy, “and I learned more from her than I ever had from any other teacher.”

That is tribute indeed as Peggy was a straight A student all her life, an honor graduate of the prestigious Reed College, as well as the Episcopal Church’s Education For Ministry Course (FFM), which is the equivalent to a four-year seminary course in religion.

She and I had been friends for some time when she asked me to help her organize and sort her file of writings. She couldn’t do it herself because she was totally blind from Macular Degeneration. She could type, but she couldn’t see to edit what she’d written, so was in the habit of just starting over, again and again, resulting in many versions, pieces all mixed, some on computer, some in a paper file.

We got into a routine. I’d sit at her computer and read aloud what she’d written. She told me changes as we went along.

She wanted to focus on one novel in particular. It was the romance of an astronaut, born in another galaxy, who discovers a lost world, and the strange girl he falls in love with. It came alive for me in Peggy’s words. Her amazing images sometimes had my head spinning with colorful pictures of a whole new universe unfolding before me. I was mesmerized by her breathtaking adventures among the stars.

Then suddenly there’d be a section where she started typing with her fingers on the wrong row of keys and there were pages of funny paper cuss words! The journey halted in peels of laughter when I told her what she’d done.

Once a week after church, four or five of us went to brunch in the next town. On the way to the restaurant it became a game to ask our personal guru trivia questions. “Stumping Peggy” was always fun, and a challenge. It never mattered the subject, our Peggy had a story, or at least an answer, to engage us. We all came to firmly believe that our Peg knew everything there was to know about everything.

One day, I discovered another side to our friend. It seems that when we thought we were playing games with our brain trust, she was quietly, and with a straight face, happily playing a different game with us. I innocently asked, “Peggy, how did you ever become so knowledgeable about so very many different subjects.”

With those big sleepy eyes and pixie smile, she looked at me sideways and blithely replied, “Oh, sometimes I lie.”

She knew darn well we’d never know the difference.

When Peggy died in 2009, I imagined her out there exploring her beloved universe, going where she’d always imagined going, and smiling as she discovers reality is even more fantastic than she ever dreamed.

Footnote: Today, as I write this, it is the 24th of April 2017, and I’ve been watching the news. By remote satellite hookup, a woman astronaut, age fifty-seven, is being interviewed. Among the records she’s set is one for the longest time living in space. She’s been orbiting the ear in a US spacecraft for almost two years. The newscaster notes, “There’s a Velcro strip on the outside of her pants, probably to stick her to the wall while she’s sleeping.” Her name is Peggy. Peggy Whitson. And I whisper, “Go, Peg, go.”

Tell Me a Story

The following is by Writers in the Grove member, Bev Walker, based upon the prompt, The Roles We Play.

“Why can’t a woman be more,
More like a man?” he said.
“Because then you wouldn’t be here,” says I.

Would I trade having kids,
Watching them grow,
Laugh, learn,
For the hard labor of a
Construction site?
Or sitting in an office all day?
No.

Would I trade the warm scent
Filling my kitchen
As I take loaves of fresh bread
Out of the oven,
For the oil and grease
Of a mechanic, a factory,
Or the dry sterile atmosphere
Of a skyscraper downtown?
No.

Would I like to be an astronaut,
Like Peggy Whitson,
Out there, exploring the stars?
Yes!

But the time is not,
Nor ever was,
For me to fly to the moon,
Discovery electricity,
Romance in Paris,
Dance across the Great Wall,
Or pet a tiger.
But I can.

I can do whatever anyone
Throughout time has ever done,
Feel what they’ve felt,
See what they’ve seen.

So, show me, storyteller.
Where have you been?
What have you done?
What have you seen?
Tell me a story
So I can go, too.

8 May 2017

Broadening Travel? Well, Depends.

The following is by Writers in the Grove member, Bev Walker.

I’d be much skinnier if I lived in Germany.
Cabbage, sauerkraut and beer are not my thing.
I know why Brits are such avid tea drinkers,
There isn’t a decent cup of coffee in the whole island.
I’m addicted to cheese.
I’d have to find a substitute if I lived in Scandinavia,
(Not that there is such a thing)
Their’s smells like sewage.
But how all those French stay so slim is beyond me.
Chocolate, creams, and pastries!
I gain ten pounds just looking in a bakery window.
Open the door, get a whiff, another ten.
Dare to go inside?
You’re a goner.

The Book

The following is by Writer’s in the Grove member, Bev Walkler, a poet, author, painter, and family historian.

It laughs, it cries, it shouts, it sings,
  and makes no sound at all
It’s a photo, a painting, a place to live
  you can hold in the palm of your hand.
It holds everything you can ever imagine,
  and sees nothing.
It has no hands or feet or brain
  to do what it proclaims, still
It builds a house, makes a quilt, sees an atom,
  takes you to the moon.
It comforts, cajoles, strikes terror, or peace,
  Depends on what you put in it.
It is the still small voice
  of all there is, was, or ever will be.

Frozen Fire – Chihuly Glass Speaks

The following was written by Writers in the Grove member, Bev Walker. It is dedicated to Dale Chihuly, the internationally acclaimed hand-blown glass artist from Seattle.

I wasn’t always this beautiful.
I wasn’t always such glorious colors.
I started my life’s journey, and speak to you now,
as a quite drab mere speck of sand.

The Vacation

The following was written by Writers in the Grove member, Bev Walker.

His friend said kindly, “Why don’t you take a vacation, some place quiet.”
So he did. He went hunting. A walk in the woods would be just the place.
He was going along when all of a sudden a giant jumped out in front of him.
The hunter quickly bellowed like a mating alligator, a terrible sound.
The sound scared the giant so bad he flew up into the nearest tree.
There, sitting on a limb sat a real live dinosaur eating a kumquat.
The giant scared the dinosaur so bad he dropped his kumquat.
It hit the hunter on the head knocking him out cold.
The giant jumped down from the tree, grabbed the kumquat for his breakfast and ran away.
Just as the hunter was coming around, the dinosaur jumped down from the tree,
grabbed the hunters red hat, (his ears were cold), and took off after his kumquat.
The terrified hunter immediately called a policeman
reporting there was a giant running loose in the woods
who could turn himself into a dinosaur! He’d seen it himself!
They could spot him because this dinosaur was wearing a red hat!
Policeman kindly said, “Why don’t you take a vacation friend, some place quiet.”