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By Raymond Greiner
*Editor's Note: Previously published in Literary Yard Journal.
Horace Willingham epitomized success, a Harvard business school honors graduate working as an investment banker for thirty years. He has accumulated a personal net worth of ten million dollars and resigned from investment banking to direct time and energy toward enhancing his investment portfolio seeking speculative enterprise opportunities.
Horace married Judy McNamara, a standout beauty he met while attending Harvard. They live in a magnificent suburban home and have two teenage children William and Susan.
Horace’s office is in his home. His phone rang, “Hello, Horace speaking.”
A voice responded, “Horace, I’m Fred Morrison, and I’ve been informed you’re interested in new investment opportunities, and I’d like to discuss a possible venture.
“I’m a business counselor and broker. My office is in Los Angeles. Here in Los Angeles we have a small pharmaceutical firm and they’ve developed a fascinating new drug directed at weight loss. They’ve tested this drug over the past two years in foreign markets with great success, and are now positioned to present this drug to the US federal drug administration for approval to open the American market. They need cash investors to assist in their costly and complex presentation to gain FDA approval. After approval is attained funding will be required to promote and market this miracle drug. With US obesity at an epidemic level if this drug is promoted properly it’s predictable sales potential will be astronomical.
“Horace, with your successful investment track record you may consider purchasing enough shares in this company to become an active board member. I feel this is a rare and exciting opportunity.”
Horace’s response, “It does sound interesting. How can I gain more detailed knowledge of this company? I may want to meet with the company’s officers.”
Morrison said, “Take a look at their website, www.newhope.com. I’ll mail you their balance sheet detailing fiscal status, and company executives’ personal biographical profiles. After you analyze details I’ll schedule a meeting with the company’s CEO and for you to meet with the board of directors.
Horace said, “Okay, send me data, and I’ll check out their website.”
The company web site showed multiple test cases with before and after photos of those who have benefitted from New Hope’s drug induced weight control therapy. He also received in the mail from Morrison the company’s financial status and details disclosing their growth and success in foreign markets. It was truly a fascination. Horace arranged through Morrison a meeting with the CEO of the New Hope.
Morrison accompanied Horace to New Hope’s headquarters and introduced him to Roger Harrington New Hope’s founder and CEO.
Harrington spoke, “Thanks for coming. We’re on the cusp of opening the US market awaiting FDA approval. Our sales numbers will explode after approval is secured. We’re in need of expansion capital to be applied to an advertising campaign as a means to jump start new sales when approval is obtained.
“Currently we have three spots open on our board of directors. Horace, with your investment and banking background you’d be a good fit. What do you think?”
Horace asked, “What range of investment will be required to allow me a seat on your board of directors?”
Harrington answered, “At current share value five million dollars. I’d like to invite you to monitor one of our board meetings and meet board members. No rush on this, it’s important for you to know about our company and feel confident before you commit.”
Horace was invested in several high dollar speculative enterprises and didn’t want to cash out on these investments. He mortgaged his home and scraped together enough liquid assets to purchase necessary shares to become a board member for New Hope. He attended board meetings and met board members, and this verified the correctness of his decision.
It was an exciting day when the FDA released approval of New Hope’s amazing new drug. The company directed every dollar it could muster into a national advertising campaign showing photos and video interviews displaying the dramatic results of early testing on the extremely obese. The first year after FDA acceptance was off the scale of prediction as production could barely keep up with demand. Sales soared and dividends were distributed to investors.
After a year the climate of success hit a glitch. During early testing in foreign markets a few participants complained about stomach disorders, and digestive issues. This was ignored viewing these isolated incidents as minor, and regarded as unrelated to the drug itself. After the drug was broadly distributed complaints expanded dramatically and caused the FDA to reevaluate the drug’s safety. It was discovered long-term use the drug created a condition blocking the digestive system’s ability to metabolize nutrients properly forcing food to pass too quickly. This caused internal pain and intestinal damage risking overall health. It was so effective at weight loss customers continue the drug’s use ignoring symptoms. Many were hospitalized and required surgery. Some died from complications, and the negative publicity triggered intervention by the FDA and eventually the drug lost approval and outlawed entirely. This devastated New Hope and the company spiraled into chaos. Lawsuits came in waves and banks of attorneys were hired to defend the company and board members were held personally responsible. New Hope’s stock bottomed out becoming nearly worthless. Horace’s other investments also diminished and some failed. His net worth tumbled. His home was repossessed. His trophy wife divorced him to marry a wealthy friend and the children moved out with Mom. Horace’s life became a financial and emotional misadventure.
Horace remained living in the house during the drawn out foreclosure procedure, but was a temporary condition. He attempted to contact past banking colleagues but none returned his calls. Horace was overwhelmed with anxiety.
Horace’s phone rang and he answered, “Hello.”
A voice responded, “Horace, this is Jim Wright your roommate at Harvard. It’s rumored you’ve experienced a financial crisis and I felt the need to talk with you. How are you getting along?”
Horace answered, “Good God, how nice to hear from you. It’s been a long time. The last I heard you’d accepted a tenured professorship at an Upstate New York college.
“I’m in a mess with everything. I’ve fallen hard. I went from a net worth of ten million to twenty five thousand dollars. I’ve lost my wife and children in a costly divorce, my earlier investments went sour, but the big loss came from my investment in New Hope Drug Company, which went bankrupt trying to market a miracle weight loss drug.
“Money has centered my life since college, and now I have nearly no money. I sold my Mercedes and bought a used Chevy. Desperation and uncertainty dominates every thought.
“I’m being evicted from this house in three months. I have no clue regarding my future.”
Jim responded, “I teach biological sciences and married a wonderful woman, Margaret, who teaches English and literature at the same college I’ve worked for twenty years. We have one child, Mary, and she’s a freshman at New York University. I feel blessed.
“I have a suggestion for you. Margaret’s dearest friend, Rosemary Johnson, is a retired high school English teacher. Rosemary lives on a few acres and a cabin in the Adirondacks. She lives alone, dedicated her life to writing, has been widely published, and also recently nominated for a Pulitzer for her anthology of essays describing her experiences living close to nature in her magnificent surroundings in the Adirondacks.
“We purchased a cabin and property nearby and we’ll move there after retirement. We spend time at our cabin periodically, but it’s vacant most of the year. I suggest you move to our cabin as a means of personal reassessment of your life. What do you think about this idea?”
Horace said, “I’m overwhelmed by your kind offer. It’d be a drastic change from how I’ve lived since Harvard. I became obsessed with making money; it seemed the answer to everything with its influential power attached to contemporary social design. I’ll do it. I need some relief. I’ve never felt such despair. It feels as if my life has crumbled around me.”
“Jim said, “Good, it’s the best idea. Rosemary has solar panels to power her computer and satellite Internet connection she uses to connect with publishers, friends and associates. I’ll send her an e-mail to explain things. No phone connection in her area. You can follow the creek trail from our cabin upstream about a mile and meet Rosemary. You will be smitten by her, she’s quite remarkable.”
Horace followed Jim’s directions and found the cabin just off a dirt road and a pull out space with an old pick-up truck parked with enough room for Horace to park his car. Horace assumed the pick-up truck belonged to Rosemary. Jim’s instructions described a rock near the door where he found the door key. It was a two-bedroom cabin with no electricity or running water. The cabin was near a creek with clear flowing water, and also a short trail led to a spring with a fabricated catch basin and an overflow pipe installed to allow ease collecting pure water.
It was early spring and the area was a paradise. Horace found oil lamps and lamp oil, a large flashlight with spare batteries, and a steel chest with bedding. A supply of canned foods was on shelves. Propane stove for cooking, with a cast iron wood stove to provide heat. Horace had never been at such a unique and isolated place emitting an unusual sensation, as he adjusted to his new residence.
Horace organized things then walked the upstream trail toward Rosemary’s cabin. High on the creek bank perched a lovely “A” framed cabin, unpainted, and constructed with rough sawn lumber, with flower boxes attached to the two lower windows. As he approached the cabin three cats scampered under the cabin and a long legged hound dog ran toward Horace with its tail wagging sounding an obvious greeting bark.
The door opened and this was Rosemary. “His name is Jefferson. Don’t be frightened, he’s harmless, loves when a visitor stops by. I’m Rosemary and I assume you’re Horace. I’ve communicated with Jim about your arrival. So nice to meet you.”
Horace responded, “I’m Horace, and it’s my pleasure to meet you too. Jim told me a few things about your life and writings.”
Rosemary was a tall, thin woman with long graying hair and a magnificent complexion, and truly a woman of great beauty. Jim was on the mark with his comment about Horace being smitten. Rosemary emitted a captivating presence. Her blue eyes sparkled as if welcome beacons, and her smile radiated enhancing her beauty.
Rosemary said, “Come in. I’ll make tea and we’ll talk. What a magnificent day today.”
Rosemary’s cabin was in perfect order. Her kitchen was small and off to the side was her office and writing area. A ladder leads to the sleeping loft. Her water source was also a spring with an outhouse and storage shed. Obviously Rosemary was quite untypical, as Jim indicated.
Rosemary served tea, and said, “You’ve likely never met a woman like me. I’ll give you an outline of my life.
“Books and stories have centered my life since sixth grade. I taught high school English for nearly thirty years, saved my money diligently and purchased this cabin and five acres of land. I’ve written and published three novels. One is selling well, the other two not so good. I live on my teacher’s pension and the few dollars my book sales create. My best work is a non-fiction anthology of essays describing my life here in the Adirondacks. It’s been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. It’s had good reviews; however, its theme attracts low readership. I also substitute teach, which brings additional income. My lifestyle requires very little income.
“I’ve never married. In high school I had a wonderful boyfriend, William, and we were close since childhood. William was one year ahead of me in school and upon graduation was drafted into the army and deployed to Vietnam. He died in a helicopter crash while serving in Vietnam, and it nearly killed me with grief. I’ve shunned relationships since then. I turned to academics, literature and creative writing as an escape from my devastation and loss of William. I was inspired by Thoreau’s life and his wonderful writings caused me to emulate his life in a similar manner.
“Your visit on this fine spring morning is welcome. Jim explained to me details of your life to this point. I have opinions on current society and its obsession with the power of money.”
Horace was overwhelmed, and struggled to respond. Rosemary mesmerized him. He was silent, then said, “It’s true, money tends to form an element of dominance and control. It motivated me to direct my education toward finance seeking wealth as the Holy Grail. I’ve never met a woman even close to what you represent. I’ve been in such despair over business failures and loss of my wife and family caused by my financial unraveling. Your cabin, and its surroundings are like an elixir. Most women I’ve known assess life’s qualities and goals highlighting material attachments and social status seeking to attach to established vogue consciousness. Cats, a hound dog, and an A-frame cabin constructed with rough-sawn lumber, no running water and an outhouse is about as far away from typical social conformity as one can go during this era. The women I’ve known could never imagine the life you’ve established for yourself. The prominent philosophical view during current times is, ‘What’s in it for me?’ and this equates to wealth, as fiscal status has become the new God.”
Rosemary’s face lit up with her angelic smile. She responded, “Societal functions have evolved to form a prison, chained to the perception bliss is located among material possessions. Historically sages have signaled ascetic life offers a guiding light on life’s pathway toward the highest personal contentment. Material junk clogs ability to transcend to one’s inner consciousness. Thoreau spoke of this often. The Sufi mystic Rumi embraced acetic philosophy, and his magnificent poetry also has influenced me. I truly don’t believe I would have succeeded as a creative writer if I didn’t live in this manner.
“Horace, please return later. I’ll make you a really nice meal. I use organic foods I purchase at a local farmer’s market. I’d enjoy sharing a meal with you. I think I’m starved for such interaction. So glad you visited me.”
Horace hugged Rosemary, and said, “I’ll be here.”
Horace was in a daze, as he wandered the creek trail back to Jim and Margaret’s cabin. He fumbled around organizing the cabin, but his mind was transfixed on Rosemary.
Horace returned, and Rosemary was busy in her small kitchen preparing their meal. She said, “Jim sent you an e-mail, I’ll open it for you. He wants to know how you’re adjusting to the cabin. You can use my computer anytime. It’s my life’s blood as a writer.”
Rosemary opened Jim’s message and then returned to her cooking tasks.
Jim’s message, “I’m assuming you met Rosemary, and she’ll offer you use of her computer. We love her so much. To say she’s special and unique is a classic understatement. It’s quite impossible to know Rosemary and not love her.
“It’s mandatory you read a few of her writing achievements, especially her anthology of essays Discoveries At Dogwood Creek. You’ll be impressed with her insight and ability to paint scenes with words.
“We’ll arrive in two weeks to stay a few days. Our cabin is truly our salvation, and offers opportunity to reset ours minds. I’ll let you know the date later. Be well, Jim.”
Rosemary’s meal was divine. Food choices Horace never experienced. Rosemary was a vegetarian food artisan. She made meatless meat loaf using mashed beans, crushed walnuts, garlic, and diced onions. She bound the loaf using raw eggs, cooked brown rice, olive oil and a blend of selected spices. She served a spinach salad, mashed potatoes and green beans, forming a meal of perfection, including a glass of white wine. Horace was in awe, as he absorbed the scene observing Rosemary move gracefully about in her small kitchen. He felt he was witnessing the creation of a fine piece of art.
The new friends delightfully shared this meal and savored the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company.
Rosemary said, “What’re your thoughts, Horace?”
“I’m trying to find the words, and they aren’t appearing. One word hangs prominent, ‘magical’.” Horace said.
Rosemary smiled and said, “I enjoy cooking healthy meals. It connects us to the Earth. We’re organic beings, and our bodies crave natural foods.
“I’ve an idea. I hike each day with Jefferson along Dogwood Creek, and during this time is when many of my creative writing thoughts emerge. Come in the morning, we’ll share this hike, and I’ve a special treat to show you just off the trail.
“I’ll cook breakfast, and then we’ll walk and bathe our souls among the magnificent dogwood blossoms, May apple, and blankets of spring beauties and violets. Springtime in the Adirondacks is a paradise to behold.”
“I can’t believe my good fortune to be with you. I didn’t pay much attention to Jim describing you as an extraordinary and beautiful woman. I’m paying close attention now. I’ll be here.” Horace responded.
As Horace returned to his cabin Rosemary dominated his thoughts. He had never met anyone who emitted such magnetism. He slept restlessly and was at her cabin shortly after daybreak, knowing she was an early riser.
She greeted him at the door. “Are you ready for coffee. I’m making sourdough pancakes.”
Horace said, “I sure am. It’s so beautiful here.”
After breakfast the two hikers and Jefferson hit the trail, heading in the opposite direction from Jim and Margaret’s cabin. Rosemary carried her binoculars. After hiking about a half an hour Rosemary stopped along the creek where a large rock outcropping protruded out from the creek’s bank. They sat on a large rock, and Rosemary pointing said, “See the hemlock tree high on the creek’s bank on the opposite side? It’s a fox den I’ve been observing since early March. A female has four kits and she’s dug her den under this tree’s root system.”
She handed Horace her binoculars and he observed the foxes as the kits were actively playing around the tree. Baby foxes are pure delight to watch.
Horace smiled and said, “They’re so amazing. I’ve never observed wild animals in their natural environment. What a joy this is. It’s an uplifting feeling to see such beautiful young animals.”
“This entire area displays life directly bonded with its environment. This is my passion, and stimulated me to write essays describing the magnificence, which I’ve immersed myself.” Rosemary said
Horace shared Rosemary’s emotion. They continued their hike for a few miles then returned to Rosemary’s cabin and Horace’s love emotions for Rosemary overpowered him and he said, “Rosemary, I’ve never felt the power of love to the degree I feel when I’m with you. We’re both nearing a stage in our lives when it’s unusual to be love struck. I’m unsure how to proceed, but I feel I never want to leave your side.”
Rosemary stared into Horace’s eyes and said, “Let’s have tea and I’ll give you my thoughts.”
Horace sat at the table in silence as Rosemary brewed tea. She poured two cups, sat down and said, “I’m considered an oddball within current social structure. My drift to bonding with this place began when I lost my early love to the horror of a foolish and senseless war. I didn’t want to live I wanted to die too. My teaching was my savior and the love of those kids I taught centered my entire life. During summer breaks I discovered this beautiful spot and spending time here became a ritual serving as a relief. This small plot of land was for sale and I knew I had to somehow acquire this place. I hired a local builder to construct my simple cabin and the twig was bent regarding my future. I’ll never leave here.
“I share your love feelings, and your life fell victim to how the social voice directs us. We become entrapped to various degrees regarding the outline presented to us during formative years. Get a good education, find quality employment, and the big kicker is we should make as much money as we’re able at whatever the personal sacrifice or negative influence this ambition may entail. We become chained to a particular social post so to speak. This life’s design controls us; we drift only within the range our designated chains allow.
“Your reaction to the mother fox and her kits exposes your life disallowed such an opportunity. Your financial and emotional loss was devastating, but a beacon shined your way from our friend Jim, and now you’re here and we’re enjoying this time together.
“It’s true, we share a similar position on the path of life, and to find love at this point is rare indeed. When you were inundated with despair and anxiety this caused you to involuntarily sever your societal chain.
“Jim and Margaret will arrive soon, and it’ll be a bit crowded at their cabin. I suggest you stay with me, and lets open the door to love and see where this leads. I feel the same as you mentioned when I’m with you. It’s just fun to be with you and it would be foolish of us not to follow this beautiful pathway we’ve discovered.”
Horace’s entire being tingled with delight in a manner he could not recall. He hugged Rosemary with all his strength. Then Rosemary refilled their cups and flashed her magnificent smile. Two lives pivoted forward and it could not have been a more joyful moment.
Horace wrote Jim an e mail message, “Jim: I’m so looking forward to your and Margaret’s visit. I’ve broken my chains. I’ll explain when you arrive, Horace”
“As I sit on my porch during sunrise absorbing the splendor a light mist suspends over the creek, as a catbird sings in a thorn bush and damselflies dart about near the creek’s bank.
“Nature speaks in varied rhythmic tones causing clouds of doubt to vanish as Earth’s voice rings its clearest notes and bliss resides.”
Rosemary Johnson, from her anthology Discoveries At Dogwood Creek.