A journal of narrative writing.
Widening Gyre

Cara got me to keep this journal. She’s taking a class up in Albany, called "Buried Alive in Childhood: Digging Yourself Up," and they keep journals like this.

Cara said, write down each event. Then write your deepest feelings about it, and your thoughts.

She must write mostly about Billy. She told me: "We all have lots to deal with right now."

So here is this journal’s first event:


"Billy steered the new woman into my cubicle." 

My feeling about that event: "Flinch."

Because her eyes were so fierce. And they were like a hunting creature’s eyes, colored amber.

This was my thought: "Billy, what did you do now?"


Here’s the rest of what happened—


"Meet the Kevinator," Billy told the new woman, sort of pushing her into my cubicle, with his big hands on her shoulders. That’s how he always started out, when he hired these women, putting his hands on their shoulders.  

She said nothing. She only stared, fierce.  

"Tell the Kevinator your name, Honey," Billy said.

She said nothing. She just stood with Billy’s heavy hands on her shoulders, those amber eyes not blinking. She wore jeans and a black t-shirt. She stood straight, but small and lean, hair black, complexion dark, and she looked all tendon and sinew, as if she could jump over a wall.

"No speaka da English," Billy told me over her head, giving me another wink. "So we’ll call her…Feather! Okay? Because she doesn’t weigh anything?"   

I didn’t want to call her that, but Billy’s the boss. She actually was beautiful, except unsettling.


A memory just flashed: algebra class, at Ferryton High, twenty-five years ago, and Billy Bronk’s wearing his football-team jacket, leaning across the aisle with his big hands on Cara Van Tass’s chair back, his head pressing against her blond hair, and he’s checking out her answers to the quiz we’re taking, and she’s looking straight ahead, sort of flustered and annoyed, and I’m sitting in back, watching.


Billy told me now, still holding onto the new woman: "Kevin, don’t just sit there like a skinny whippet—say hello to Feather."

"Hello," I said. "Welcome to Bronk Printing, and if you need any help…."

"Kevin, you break me up," Billy said, sort of snorting.

He turned the woman around, so he could look down into her face.  She stared back at him, not looking aside or blinking, and that threw him a little. You could see because he frowned. So he took one hand off her shoulder to point at me.

"This guy," he said. "It’s like having my own Bozo the Clown, keeps me laughing when all the decision-making gets to me." Billy gave me a wink. "Hey, Kevin," he said, "you oughta be in a circus, huh? Wear giant shoes, carry a parasol?"

He shook his head, smiling. He has a big head, big teeth, and his complexion has muddied over the years, from all the Jack Daniels. It makes his teeth look whiter.

"Feather here’s going to empty wastebaskets and sweep up, Kevin," he said, wry. "You want to help her with that?"

I shrugged.

"Listen up, Kevin," Billy said, still resting one hand on the woman’s shoulder. "Those people from Hudson River Paddlewheeler Excursions, who want us to maybe handle their stuff?" 

I nodded.

"Well, I’ve got must-do appointments tomorrow, when they’re coming to see what we’ve got—we got anything?"

"I’ve worked up a plan for them, Billy," I said, opening my desk drawer to get out the file. "I’ll show you…"

"Nah," he said. "Think you could handle them tomorrow? Think you’re up to that?"

"I’ll do the best I can," I said.

Now he put his free hand back on the woman’s shoulder and turned her, so he could look down into her face.

"Kevin’s my little helper," he said. "I say ‘Fetch,’ and he’s off—hey, stand up Kevin!"

I stood up.

"Look how he hunches over," Billy told the woman. "He’s walked hunched like that since first grade, like he’s about to get punched in the stomach….How come, Kevin?"

"I don’t know," I said, and sat back down.

She said nothing. Those fierce eyes looked from Billy to me and back to him. I doubt she understood more than a few words. But she listened, swiveling her head, staring. Maybe she heard what wasn’t said.  

Billy suddenly jerked his hand to his face, pressing those four puncture wounds, from his last hunting trip, which never healed. He groaned a little. It always hurt, he’d told me, but sometimes sharper. I guess it suddenly sharpened. When he first got back from South America, I’d suggested finding an expert in the city, maybe a tropical-disease doctor, but he told me nobody in Albany could figure it out, so why bother driving down to New York?   

"I’ve got a business to run, don’t I?’ he’d said.

She watched him press his hand against the marks on his cheek, to make it hurt less. Nothing changed in her eyes, except maybe they got even fiercer. Her face stayed expressionless. But that hurting—somehow, it pleased her.

Crazy ideas like that, you should push them away, but Cara says, write it all down, everything.

Billy put both hands back on the woman’s shoulders.  

"Kevinator, try to keep yourself busy around here for once, okay?" he said.  

He steered her out of my cubicle. Probably he meant to show her the rest of Bronk Printing, and where the brooms and pails were, and his private "thinking" room off his office where he keeps a couch.  

I’m trying to remember what happened next. Cara says events matter. But what happens beneath events is even more important.

"Kevin," she told me, "that poor child got buried alive, and now you’ve got to find him—dig!"

It feels funny, Cara talking personal to me like that. Wanting me to keep this journal, like hers.


I remember one May afternoon, when we were all in third grade. Cara stood up on the swing, holding onto the chains, leaning back. She flexed her knees, pushing the swing higher and higher, laughing, yellow hair flying, blue eyes—she seemed made of sunshine and sky.

She probably never noticed me, watching. Her father’s law firm, up in Albany, was Van Tass, Palermo, and Bronk—one partner being Billy’s uncle, Earl Bronk.  Another of Billy’s uncles, Walter, had Bronk Lumber and Building Supplies. Billy’s father, Gardner, started Bronk Printing. In Ferryton, just about everyone else’s parents riveted aluminum rowboats and canoes at the Fabrication Industries factory, or worked in the cement plants, and came home looking like a ghost because of the dust. To be a Van Tass or a Bronk, that was royal. So they were sort of destined for each other, even before third grade. And while Cara flew on the swing that afternoon, Billy pushed kids off the merry-go-round, laughing loudly, glancing at her to see if she noticed.    

Is Cara writing things like that in her notebook?