(The post was originally published on July 17, 2013. It was the first time I had been visited by my character Benjamin Owen.)
This is a work of fiction. I don’t really talk to time-traveling characters from my novels. I do like them a lot, though, and am glad they pass under the rainbow from time to time to visit me in my own time and place. To order autographed copies of my novels, Gone for a Soldier, The Man from Shenandoah, Ride to Raton, Trail of Storms, and Spinster’s Folly, visit marshaward.com or westwardbooks.com
I sit on my deck after an intense rain storm to enjoy the cool air. I’m not sure if I nod off or what, but when I raise my head and open my eyes, a young man sits across the table from me.
He notes my alarm and hastens to assure me that he means no harm, calling me “Mom,” and saying he is Benjamin Owen.
I should have known him right off, although he hadn’t come visiting before now. He resembles his younger brother, Carl. Or maybe I have that turned around, and should say Carl looks like Ben.
When my breathing regularizes, I become curious about the reason for Ben’s visit. Usually, my characters come to urge me to tell their story, but I’m in the midst of doing just that with Rulon Owen, and to a lesser degree, with Ben.
Me: I’m glad to make your acquaintance, Ben.
Ben (eyeing me speculatively): Are you now, Mom?
Ben: Rulon’s gettin’ the bulk of the words you write. Sometimes I feel a mite cast aside.
Me: This is the first draft, Ben, and I’m jumping around a lot, and writing out-of-order scenes with this novel. Be patient.
Ben (squirming a bit in his chair): I ain’t a patient man. Ella Ruth can attest to that.
Me (arching an eyebrow in my best imitation of Randolph Hilbrands): You’re much like Rulon in that area. You take care. I don’t want to add a tragic subplot about an unwed mother.
Ben (rising to his feet): Unwed mother! I wouldn’t— Well, I’m sorely tempted, but I’d druther not face Ma’s fury on that head. She would flail the skin off my bones, she would.
Me (signaling him to be seated): Then control your passions. Don’t meet the girl in private. Keep to crowds when she’s with you.
Ben: That wasn’t my idea, there behind the mill. She crept up on me. Surprised me.
Me: Don’t let it happen again.
Ben (hanging his head): She makes it difficult. A body would think, well, it would almost appear she . . . (his voice trails off)
Me: Ben, she’s more than a little bit spoiled. She expects to get anything she desires. (I look pointedly at him.) She desires you, but wrapped around her little finger and doing her utmost bidding.
Ben: I get that same feeling, ma’am. I recall that speech she spoke me about the suit she expects me to wear for her dream weddin’! I can’t afford such outlandish trappings, nor would I buy them if I could. But ma’am, Mom, how my body does betray me whenever I get a whiff of that good-smellin’ perfume she wears!
Me: Benjamin, you must strive to be the good Christian gentleman your mother raised you up to be. Strong. Mannerly. Celibate. (I stress my final word.)
Ben (groans): Ma does have her standards. (He looks at me searchingly.) Did Rulon—
Me: No, he didn’t. I expect you to be the consummate Southern gentleman, as well. I have my standards, too.
Ben (seeming to grit his teeth between halting phrases): Then I will … give my most … fervent efforts toward that end, Mom.
Me: You will keep yourself in hand?
Ben: Help me. Don’t let Ella Ruth, ah, ambush me again.
Me (quirking an eyebrow): Fervent efforts, Ben. Fervent efforts.
The sun comes out, and he’s gone.
Copyright © 2013 Marsha Ward