Iron Behind the Velvet - Chapter 73

~ The Surface of the Now Still, Now Swaying Water1

“Ephraim, Tobin ... look at me. You two wait here – right here – for your dad.” Liz lowered her voice to a growl. “He’ll be back,” she warned them. No one laughed, in fact, everyone at the center ring nodded, even Ira, busy with the cook’s knife and the peppers at the old butcher’s block they kept fireside. “After I check Vincent out, I’ll be back, too,” Liz promised Mouse. “Have your boots and socks off.”

“Wh-h-h-y?” Mouse stammered.

“I’m just gonna show Jamie a couple tricks of my trade. Relax. You’ll enjoy it.”

“It only hurts a little,” Tobin and Ephraim said in a giggling unison.

The corridors up and out to Catherine. To Flynn. A seat amid the convening assembly of the crews. Back to the failed gate and stream crossing where something – explanation? remedy? – burred and fluttered in the far reach of his mind. Word from Wren. With Olivia. A conference with Father, whom he imagined head-in-hands at his desk, pouring over a mental list of if-then scenarios after Kanin’s debriefing, and the council he knew would be feeling under-informed ... Finding the time to travel home for such a meeting when everything, everything, insisted he stay close. More than two paths diverged in the rubbled maze he navigated. But veer as he might in any calling direction, Liz reined him otherwise. Hardly half his weight, she somehow managed to lean into him – shoulder, elbow, hip, gait – and at the same time take him in tow.

Noah had said it himself, whisperingly, still – forever – awestruck with love.

Though she be but little, she is fierce.2

“My way or the highway,” she told him.

They skirted the collecting, settling crowd, keeping close to the perimeter wall and too far from the order of business for him to hear. He strained for a loud couplet of words, a sentence read on someone’s lips, whatever might serve as clue to the new agenda.  I’ve got some ideas, Kanin had said. You won’t like them; no one will. But rather than disapproval, Vincent sensed – within, at least, a solemn, core group – more a vibration of potential. Stuart and Cullen maneuvered their primitive folding table onto the speakers’ platform. With it balanced on its long side, they levered out the legs, fit the braces into the hewn notches, fastened the leather straps that secured the supports. Miriam and Esther stood ready behind straight-backed chairs, stepping up to set them in place once the table was righted. Cullen wore a cogitative frown, but slapped the top with both hands and nodded at a similarly thoughtful Stuart, and the four of them stepped off the low stage together, grouped and waited as a team at its edge. Only Aniela seemed ... iffy. Having left Damien’s side for a bench in the front row of the audience, Aniela sat alone, her arms crossed, her legs crossed, one foot swinging, her chin determinedly up, decidedly jutted out, her focus on a seemingly aggravating spot on the cavern ceiling.

The tunnel leading to the camp’s bathing and dressing chamber was just beyond a pearly column of calcite. He turned there for one last look at the proceedings not yet called to order. Mouse had climbed to a truncated pillar of stone at the top of the fire-ring, the better to both keep charge of the twins and take part in the meeting, Vincent supposed. Their strings tied together, his boots were dutifully slung over his shoulder, and when Mouse met his gaze, he grinned and waved one sock in the air, a gray-white wool flag more of trust than concession.

“Big doin’s,” Liz remarked. “Something about what happened, yeah? Cow’s tail, you two, coming home. You cook up, I dunno, plan G, on the way back?

Damien and Kanin huddled in a side-bar of conversation. Vincent watched until they broke apart – with hand-claps and eager, hitching steps. “No, we ... spoke of other things,” he allowed. “Kanin told me only that he has ideas concerning the cause of the surge and a possible fix.” Ideas clearly gaining favor and traction, he recognized, a surprise boon to Kanin’s self-esteem. But the long effect of shame, the motivation of – the hopefulness for – atonement ... Would their dangers be masked by the passions for action? Without a more temperate assessment ... Without my–

“Well, whatever,” Liz cut in, “it’ll be just as hot a topic an hour from now when I’m done with you. You know for a fact, they’ll chew that cabbage twice.”

He could insist on returning to the meeting ground. He could shake off the grip Liz clamped on his arm and his will, shake off reason and exhaustion and injury, and take his place on the dais, take up his function, his obligation of service. No matter his breathing still too shallow, still too rapid, the filminess of vision he could not blink away. No matter the summons of the dark and the quiet. No matter the appeal of a figurative, if not a significant physical, distance from all that ... discomposed him. No matter. He should–

“Just give it up, Vincent,” Liz urged him.

Give it up? What choice do I have? The road was hedged in. He could be no outright help to anyone in the world above, not to Catherine, not to Eimear. Bright day, his introduction to Flynn not yet worked out even in his own mind, their connection ephemeral – and one-sided – he could not charge from the tunnels into the sun, past the man’s wife, into the man’s house. With all that throbbed and twinged, the raspy awareness pointed out, he would not charge anywhere.

He chuckled darkly.

“Vincent ...”

Wren’s news – the verdict gone wrong or right – was hers to share, first above, then below, and with Stuart before all others. Olivia’s and Kanin’s hurts were valid and theirs. Father and the council deserved–

“Vincent ...” Liz said again, her petition a softer echo. “Just ... come on, okay?”

... deserved his report, he droned on, and he would offer one – not now, but later. A miserable rumble climbed into his throat. Later, after whatever announcement Kanin would make, after it was debated and refined, or debated and scrapped, or–

“Give it up,” Liz repeated. “It can wait. It can all wait.” She levered against his stubborn standstill, the first faintest falter in her voice. “Should I– Catherine ... You want I should go after her?”

Catherine, Catherine, Catherine. How he longed for her, to rest within her circle of love and light, to give her rest. To share with her truths he’d kept as much from himself as from her. Tell me, he would beg her were she near. Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.3 Yours, Catherine. Eimear’s, Flynn’s. Mine. And I will tell you mine. Catherine, Catherine ...

Their quicksilver ribbon resonated; his lifeblood warmed. He swung his head toward the sudden flower of light – a call from the open door of a recognized heaven.4 Catherine materialized from the shiver of brilliance. Her hands pressed to her heart, she smiled at him – a soft smile he felt as a kiss on his dry lips, cool on his gritted cheek, cool on the skin of this neck. It’s all right, she murmured. It’s all right, all right. Her promise brushed the shell of his ear, and before she merged once again with the opalescent luster of their bond, he saw reflected in the mirror of her eyes his own being not at the edge of any abyss, but at a threshold aglow with confusion, fear, excitement, sadness, hope ... Only love may lead love in, he heard.5

He blew out an overheated breath, as if one held too long, and a smoke-scented veil lifted. Why not, he wondered in the sweeter air. Why ever not? He’d asked himself – and answered – that same question more than once in these last magical days. Why not, he’d said to Martin’s offer of a crystal glass of the Green Spot, to a jar of dark beer ... ... ... to so very much more than that.

“An hour?” he managed, and Liz released a held breath of her own. His first steps were heavy-footed ... but onward.

“Are you disappointed or afraid?” Liz patted his forearm with her free hand, a gesture unnervingly Mary-like. Watch out, Devin advised.

You want I should ... Duvilst az ich zol. Lev had spoken so, and Noah’s parents. You want I should heat up some soup? Quiet down! You want I should come in there?  Liz had moved north in time to enjoy Lev’s company before he passed, and she’d picked up Noah’s family’s idiom, traces of their Russian-accented Yiddish, but on her own, from the beginning, her language had been ... colorful. He’d almost forgotten.

Cabbage? Chewed twice?” 

“You never heard that? What? You been livin’ under a rock?”

The familiar clatter of camp followed them down the passage and muffled away – call-outs and conversation, the shrill of a ready kettle – the last distinguishable sound the sharp rap of a metal spoon on the rim of a tin cup. He swerved at the notification – hung back, dragged his feet – but Liz ferried him through, as compulsory as any undertow. The corridor meandered right and left, the descending slope shallow but steady. Every other torch extinguished in off-hours conservation, they passed from parcels of amber light into tracts of gray, into amber light again. The hush took on almost a noise of its own.

Surrender. Ceasing to struggle, both resistance and impulse dropped – how rare an allowance it was. The lightheadedness began to clear; the tingling in his fingers lessened. As if the half-blow pedal were depressed, the piano’s hammers moved closer to the strings, the nettling minor chord of his under-perception played with less force. His stride eased enough that Liz loosened her hold, let a distance in between them, but her hand yet in the crook of his elbow, he laid his over hers. Spark, anchor, ally. She was all that, he hoped the gesture told her, and he was grateful. Lucky to still have her.

At the final hairpin curve, the cool, dry air yielding to a warmer world, they rounded into the pool chamber where the chiseled granite walls glistened, the mica chips mirroring the flicker of two low-wicked lanterns. Liz left him to turn the flames higher. Fiddleheads of steam unfurled from the glassy surface of the water. Warm this time of day, after all. As if ordered up. As if commanded.

A cold dunk might have shocked him back to form and duty – in, down, deep, a kick to the surface, out and dressed, still sore, though to it again – and he would have taken that plunge without a moment’s hesitation, but the prospect of a heated soak nearly buckled his knees. On his own, he’d never have allowed himself the adjournment.   

The duties of the wind are few – to cast the ships at sea, establish March …6

Liz was a force of nature. He had only to survive her ministrations.

“Do your worst,” he said.

One corner of Liz’s mouth quirked up.

Liz nudged the copper box of long matches from its high, dry niche, and with one struck and flaming, circled the chamber, igniting the oil-filled, cupped hollows in the cavern wall, touching off the cedar bark and pitch torches lodged in their cast-iron sconces. The room brightened.

His cloak bundled to a wide ledge beside a stack of folded white towels, Vincent worked the knot from the laces of his vest. “There’s no rack down here,” he noted, feigning astonishment. Father had labeled the first treatment table she’d cobbled together from cast-off industrial parts – a forged-steel machine stand, iron wheels, and scissor-hinges – and an old wooden door an instrument of pure torture, steadfastly refusing to hop up, as Liz had long ago invited him. Dangerous, he’d intoned. Portable! Adjustable! she’d contended. Back and forth they’d argued. Bordering on barbaric! Just hear me out! You can’t! I already am!

Liz laughed. “Give a woman a reputation as an early riser,” she said, “and she can sleep ‘til noon.”7 Her meaning immediately lost on him, she laughed again when she saw him puzzling the quote. She finished her lamp-lighting and snuffed the match. Her hands on her hips, she surveyed the chamber walls, nodding at some perceived satisfaction. She dragged a low wooden stool from the water’s edge, positioning it within a scooped hollow in the rock. “Here,” she said, motioning him over. “Sit down.”

He obeyed, the leather laces of his vest left hanging half-undone. The stool she offered was sturdy but rustic, with legs and braces made of knobby maple branches, the frame worn softly pale by years of use. He sank into the seat’s knotted-rope webbing.

A jut of stone exerted a lumbar pressure at the small of his back, supporting the inward curve of his lower spine, encouraging his shoulders to settle, his chest to expand. Standing close, her fingers threaded into his hair, Liz cradled his heavy head, with one hand wedged in a rolled towel as pillow at the base of his neck. He lolled against the cervical support, and the resulting arch opened a blessed pathway of energy and air.

His hands rested on his thighs. “Spread your fingers,” she instructed him. “Wide, wider. Now let your fingers curl in. Stretch ... ... relax ... stretch ... ... relax. Good. Good.” Seated on a second stool pulled up close to his knees, Liz doubled her fists and with her knuckles dug into the muscles of his forearms, rocking a trail halfway to his wrists, then with the flat of her palms, stroked downward from the bend of his arms, over his shirtsleeves and the bristle of his hands to his fingers, once, twice ... three times, at the end of each pass flinging away the tension she’d gathered up.

“How’s that?” 

Miraculous, he wanted to say, but instead ... he sighed.

Liz braced her wrists on his bent knees, touching the tips of her fingers to the down-curves of his nails. Once, as children, he recalled, they’d met across the planchette of a Ouija board in much the same manner. He wondered if she remembered the questions they’d–

“No talking,” she told him. “Close your eyes.”

By the increase and decrease of pressure on his claw-tips he felt her every breath in ... her every breath out. Her audible respiration lengthened, slowed. Slowed his. Deepened his. In ... hold ... out. Again, again.

“Whatever hurts,” she murmured, “breathe into it. Not through, not past, but in. Focus on the pain, feel it fully, imagine its geography.” In ... hold ... out. “Travel to it on the back of your breath, fill the places it lives, infuse it ...” In ... hold ... out. “Embrace it and ...”

avoid it not, he continued inwardly. He had known pain, the physical and the subconscious, the intimate and the extrasensory, his and not his. He would again.

In in ... hold ... out out. Do not resist and be not captured by your torments. Walls – denial – kept as much in as out. Be soft and therefore strong. In in ... hold ... out out.

Sthira and sukha,” Liz went on.8 In in ... hold ... out out. “Steadiness and ease. Control and joyfulness. Groundedness and fluidity ...”

Strength and gentleness. Patience and action. In in ... hold ... out out. Forgiveness and responsibility.

In in ... hold ... out out ...

Can and cannot. The Man and the Other.  Privilege and Fate.

Balance, balance. Always my challenge.

In in in ... hold ... out out out ...
            In in in ... hold ... out out out ...
                        In in in ... hold ... out out out …

The challenge I will meet. He opened his eyes. They paralleled one last breath before she left him to his own rhythms.

In In In ... Out out out out ...
In In In ... Out out out out ...
In In In ... Out out out out ...

“How do you feel now?” Liz grinned when he didn’t immediately answer. “You may speak,” she granted.

“Better,” he said, and it was true. Though a heat radiated from his shoulder, from his hip joint and knee, a tentative twist of his torso did not launch him from his seat or show him stars. The advancing storm front had changed course; what would come was weatherable. He smiled at her. “Matched breathing. The yoga sutras. Bodywork. You have the soul of a healer.”

“Father said just the opposite.”

“To you, yes. But I overheard him marvel at your curiosity and your ... potency. He would admit he was wrong today, learn from you.”

“Would he?” Though prospect warmed her brown eye, skepticism flashed in the blue.

“Well,” Vincent conceded, “he would ... listen. Yours was a different path, but a true one. I, for one, one of many, owe you ... much.”9

My purse, my person, my extremest means, lie all unlock’d to your occasions.10 You owe me nothing, Vincent. No one does. I knew we had to stay well. Down here ... we have to stay well. There’s so much we need to do for ourselves, can do.” She shrugged. “I didn’t have a lot of faith in medical doctors back then. Still hate calling Peter down. I get mad when something gets past me.”

Back then ... Had a younger Liz disclosed even the finest detail of her life before the tunnels? She’d been born, she’d survived, she’d been delivered to them. Some foundlings healed through nightmares and sobbing recollections, some through angry out-lashings, but Liz had seemed squarely turned from whence she came, crossing the threshold below full-bore, never a look or a word – back. Sprung from the godhead of Jupiter, he’d overheard Father mumble, in full armor and with weapons. Minerva by any other name.11 Though an aside, her comment now seemed an offer, an overture – to pick up again where their youthful conversations broke off when she left the central community. First Devin, then Lisa, then, not quite a year after his darkness, Liz. She, at least, had said goodbye.

Liz cocked an interrupting eyebrow. “Ehhh, it was a long time ago. Water over the bridge, heh heh.”

The moment skipped on. “Not funny,” he said. Another day, he would ask.

“Sure it is.”

Liz reached for his left hand. Her eyes narrowed, her head tipped as though listening, she pressured areas of his palm in small circles, kneading-kneading-kneading the pad of his thumb. “Any tenderness?”



“More ... fog. Noise.”


Beset. Years ago, she’d labeled it thusly – the rush of voices and needs and lost and broken things he’d had to learn to screen, to allow rather than suffer. “A little,” he admitted. “It’s far quieter now than before.” 

In silence she followed the contours of abductor and flexor muscles down to his wrist and up again, along the outer ridge of his palm. He startled at one deep prod, gasped at another. “Uh huh,” she noted, moving on to the mound below his fingers, probing the tender -V- between each digit, then the segments between his knuckles, nodding each time he winced. “Hip and thigh, arm and shoulder, chest and lungs and sinuses. Which I knew, of course.” She looked up at him. “I can work some of that out, if you’ll let me.”

“I will. Thank you. You’ve made a difference already.”

“That’s mostly you ...” Liz circled her open hand before her face, beneath the vague gesture momentarily closing her eyes. “... taking a leave of absence.”

Liz filled a speckled enamel mug in the small rivulet of water spilling from a fissure high on the cavern wall and handed it to him. Without instruction, he downed it. Cold and bright, like a cluster of diamonds might taste – he was thirsty for more. Liz held out her hand for the cup, returning with another full to the brim and a stethoscope around her neck.

“So, before I get started ... lemme take a look at those ribs.”

He drained the mug and stood up, unlaced his vest, shrugged from his flannel shirt. Liz lifted the hem of his under-sweater and his last ribbed henley. She traced along his true ribs with her fingertips – gently this time – then lay the flat of one hand to the curve of his bones and pressured in. “Little cough ... another ... now, deep breath in ... out.” She huffed on the scope’s chest-piece and pressed it, warmed, to his back. “One more ... one more”

“No flail chest, thank God,” Liz told him. “Most people wouldn’t be able to walk with that kind of injury, so I didn’t suspect a separation, but you being you ...” She plucked the instrument from her ears. “You’re not blue around the nostrils, and there’s no paradoxical movement of your ribcage. There’s no grating sound when you breathe. I don’t think anything’s broken. How bad does it hurt, though? I thought you were gonna barf back at camp.”

“You caught me by surprise.”

“Before you could man-up, you mean? Well, you’re turning a pretty funky color under all that hair,” she said, combing through it with her fingers. “Catherine sees this, she’ll have a cow.”

Liz backed off a step and he straightened his shirts. The last bruises Catherine had found prompted her dismay and concern, the laying-on of her loving hands, the brush of her hair and her lips and ... “I, ummm, suspect you’re right.”

A brutal reddish-purple, shoulder joint to knee cap, he imagined, his skin far more ... distressed now than then when he sported only the mottled result of an errant-rolling timber. And coupled with the cause, the averted, though too-near, tragedy ... But he thanked the mysterious aspect of his constitution that allowed his quick healing. Perhaps this bruising would fade, swiftly and significantly, before Catherine’s arrival.

“You musta took a hard hit. What happened? That watercourse is rocky. You get dragged along the bottom? Noah said they couldn’t see you, the water was so churny.”

“The current pulled me into the storm grate. I don’t remember the force of it, only ... there I found Mouse. Later, once I returned to camp ...”

“Delayed trauma reaction. We probably all have it to some degree.”

“Except Mouse,” Vincent observed.

“That kid.” Grinning, Liz shook her head, at the same time scribbling case notes in an old daybook retrieved from her medical bag. D. J. Healy Shops, the frayed cover read. Diary. 1920. “Wish I could bottle some of what he’s got going on.”

He glanced at the pool. The undercurrent had ratcheted up; now the surface undulated under its blanket of mist. He imagined the therapeutic pulse of the mineral hot spring, the weightlessness of body and mind. “I thought, after a soak, you might wrap me up. I’ve work to do.”

Liz made a face. “I don’t do compression any more. My prescription is a session of zone therapy reflexology, a long, steamy steep, then the rest of the day off. Thinking and talking okay; lifting and toting not okay. We’ll reassess tomorrow morning.”


“You need to breathe, I mean really breathe. Bandaging can lead to pneumonia,” she forged on, “which you don’t need and we don’t need either. You go down, then I gotta tend you. My kids don’t get a hot supper or their stories read, their socks matched or their turtle races judged or–”

Uncle,” he said. He held up both hands. “Double uncle.

“I see you haven’t forgotten the rules.” She folded and wound the stethoscope and packed it to a pocket of her bag, smiling at him over her shoulder. “Thanks, by the way, for playing along back there.”

He tipped his head, perplexed.

“In front of my boys? Giving in like I’m boss-mom?”

“I wasn’t playing.”

“Good answer.” Liz set a green striped tin of talcum powder on a near ledge, opened a fabric pouch to a cache of small brown glass bottles that she arrayed along the same shelf. Respiratory, he read on one label. Muscle/Joint on another. Stress. With her foot she nudged her bench nearer and sat again with him knee-to-knee. “Now, push up your sleeve and give me your hand. I’d appreciate it if you’d skip all the resistance people put up at first. We can talk unless I tell you not to.”  

He laughed – though inwardly and even then cautiously – and felt his shoulders drop to a more natural position. In harmony with gravitynot in conflict with it, she'd once recited, reading from the New York Times an interview with Ida Rolf herself. Father had scoffed, but allowed any scheme to improve Devin’s posture possessed merit, afterward staring long and hard at Devin until he removed his feet from the library’s walnut table and sat up straight in his chair.

Her talc-dusted fingers tucked into his palm, Liz ran her thumbs outwards across the back of his hand from the center to the outer edges. “Dorsal stretch,” she murmured, working on in silence. She turned his hand over to reverse the pull. “Palmar stretch,” she began, then whistled out a sigh. She rubbed her thumb over and over and over one sharp-tapering nail. 


“Do you remember … ... when I said I thought I knew how to fix you?”

Vincent chuckled. “Oh, yes. When you turned around with those old cutting nippers in your hands ...”

“You jerked back so fast you fell off the stool and cracked your skull on the floor.” She chuffed and a dimple appeared in her cheek. “Man, you let out a wail!”

“The cutters were rusty. And huge. You had to work them with both hands.”

“Father came running. Was he mad or what!”

They shared a smile, but Vincent saw a sadness in her eyes.

Liz looked away, then met his gaze once more. “You know, Father blamed Devin more than me, blamed him for just ... standing by and watching, for not stopping me from doing whatever I was bound and determined to do.”

Vincent inclined his head. “It was ... his way, back then.”

“Well, I am sorry, Vincent.”

“Don’t be. I wasn’t hurt.”

“I know you weren’t, but ... you were so sad after you scratched Devin’s face. I wanted to help. I’ve always – always – had to battle my vanities.”

“Liz ...” He gripped both her hands, and in the lantern light his claw-tips glinted.

“I should have told you. I always meant to, Vincent. You didn’t need fixing.”

Click HERE for Chapter 74


1. David Whyte. Ten Years Later. The House of Belonging. Many Rivers Press. 2002.
2. William Shakespeare. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Act 3, Scene 2. 
3. Mary Oliver. Wild Geese. Dream Work. 1986.
4. David Whyte. At Home. The House of Belonging. Many Rivers Press. 2002.
5. Henry Cuyler Bunner. Only Love May Lead Love In.
6. Emily Dickinson. The Duties of the Wind Are Few.
7. Mark Twain.
8. Sthira/Sukha - a yoga practice of balance: physical and mental stillness/a controlled, fully engaged body and focused mind. Carried into life practice, the cultivation of the habit of facing that which is hard with a soft heart.
9. William Shakespeare. The Merchant of Venice, Act 1 Scene 1.
       I owe you much and, like a willful youth,
      That which I owe is lost; but if you please
      To shoot another arrow that self way
      Which you did shoot the first, I do not double,
      As I will watch the aim, or to find both
      Or bring you latter hazard back again
      And thankfully rest debtor for the first.
10. Ibid.


Anonymous said...

OH, oh, oh, Carole, I like Liz SO MUCH!!! This is a terrific chapter! It's wonderful to see another healer at work, and I can just imagine Father scoffing at Liz's alternative treatments and therapies. "Rolfing!!!" Hah!

Good for her for having the fortitude to convince Vincent to take time for himself. He's HURT! He needs REST! The work and the decisions and the conversations can WAIT! Good for her!!

And what an important lesson for Vincent to take to heart -- when he did relax and let go and let Liz tend him, he felt BETTER. Taking the necessary time to heal and rest will make him a BETTER leader.

And Liz's kids? Pure comedy gold!


Regards, Lindariel

Carole W said...

Lindariel, you are incredibly good for my spirits! Thank you for liking Liz - that makes me really happy.

You've struck the nail squarely! Knowing when he has to give it up will make him a better leader. He has to be willing to go down, to go dark even, to gather wits and strength, know when to hold & fold, in a way. That's not easy for him.

Vincent has a couple or three lessons yet to learn, and Liz will help him see just what they are in the next chapter. She's given him a few hints already, but circumstances and conversation will clarify them soon.

Meanwhile, Catherine has been speaking with Joe. Is he going to see Rosie or not? When is she coming back? That statue needs it's installation party, and when it finally happens, I have a very special visual treat to share. :-D

Thank you so much for reading. Knowing you are, still, makes it fun to keep going until this story is done.


Anonymous said...

Dearest Carole,

I really hope Liz is able to drive home the following lesson Vincent has no doubt heard from other sources -- Catherine, Father, Mary, et al. -- but clearly has never really taken to heart.

I'm convinced the poor man drives himself to such lengths because somewhere inside he still feels that he has to do more, take on more, handle more, BE MORE, in order to make up in some way for WHAT HE IS. At some fundamental level, Vincent feels he must constantly justify the lengths that others go to -- Catherine, the Tunnel community, the Helpers -- in order to secure his safety.

And yes, they do it for him, but also for so much BEYOND Vincent alone. Psychologically Vincent puts himself in such an impossible place! Logically, he understands that keeping the Tunnel community secret and safe is of paramount importance for everyone, not just himself. But somewhere in his psyche, every time someone makes a personal SACRIFICE for the safety of the Tunnel Community, he counts it as a PERSONAL debt that must be repaid.

This has to stop. He shoulders so much -- TOO MUCH!! He constantly drives himself -- physically, emotionally, mentally -- into the ground. Vincent must begin to define his personal boundaries and to accept FINALLY that what he wants and needs for himself is every bit as important as what is necessary for the community.

Carving out his private, married life with Catherine is certainly an important beginning, but for Vincent to have a truly healthy, happy life, it must go SO FAR BEYOND that! And FATHER, wonderful man that he is, is NOT a proper role model for Vincent. Father's entire LIFE is his patriarchy of the Tunnel Community -- his existence is practically monastic, and he has spent most of Vincent's life grooming him to join the Wells Monastery and eventually take over. Father's life in many ways has SUFFERED from his inability to create personal boundaries for himself.

Liz, as the "Father" of the Northern Tunnels, has carved out a very different model for Tunnel leadership. She clearly is highly respected and has no problem exerting her authority, but she is also a wife, a mother, and a healer. I'm sure she has a LOT to teach Vincent about sharing and delegating authority that could prove VITAL in helping Vincent to avoid the trap that Father created for himself.

I'm so anxious to see how you're going to use this wonderful character!

Regards, Lindariel

Anonymous said...

Dear Carole,

At the risk of being stalkerish, I wanted to let you know what I thought of this latest chapter...ummmm, love it!

You have the amazing ability to make me feel smart for reading your work and terrifically dumb for knowing very little about Rolfing and Liz's body work and herbs and flail chests.

What a treasure trove you are!

I love "beset" it is the perfect word to describe how others could overwhelm his mind. I also loved "allow rather than suffer." Perfect.

Reading your work is like a full course banquet at a amazing restaurant where the chef really cares about what comes out of the kitchen. You must savor each bite, slowly, but the flavors are so vibrant, and layered. Each ingredient integrates to create the whole. And then the next course comes...

I know you worry that this story is taking a while, but I promise you, the characters, the time you take, is worth it. I like a good quick dessert sometimes sure, but a spectacular, many course meal, where each dish is a surprise and a triumph, can truly sustain you and keep you talking about it for years.

Great work!

Carole W said...

Well, you two - I was stunned and thrilled and weepy at your messages. I owe you both longer, more in-depth replies, but for just now, know that I treasure you both for your insights into and sensitivities toward our beloved characters, and for the encouragement you give me to keep working ever harder.

Most of all, I treasure both your friendships.

More later!

Anonymous said...

Brava! Wonderful! Moving! Intense! Brava, did I say Brava! :)

Your friend, A'bella

Carole W said...

Thank you, Annabella. You're always good for my spirits. :-D


Anonymous said...

It took me quite a while to find to this page, having read quite a number of Tunnel Tales and others already.
I really love the way the characters are shown, in detail, with new thoughts and ways, but still themselves. Spinning further the hints and statements especially from Vincent's side that are shown in the series and developing them further is no easy task if you want to keep the nature of the character, showing a possible development without losing the origin.
I might be one of the few that actually watched - and possibly will watch again - the last season, which for me shows some growth, and might it be so painful, for Vincent. You're showing a wonderful alternative in those stories that hold a development not only for him, but for all the characters involved if it is their time for it, and in a way that makes sense - without taking too harsh or unlikely turns.
Thank you for that, I'll wait impatiently for the continuation.

Greetings from Germany,
The Crashcat

Carole W said...

Crashcat, thank you! Your comments were a surprise to find. What you've said here … it's all I could ever have hoped to convey.

I'm so grateful you found Imagine and that you took the time to let me know you'd read and enjoyed the stories. I hope you'll forgive the lag time between chapters right now, as we get ready for WFOL. I've missed writing these last couple of months, and your supportive and encouraging comments really make me want to get back to it.

Again, thank you. You made my day.