by Edita A. Petrick
When a horribly scarred man knocks on the door of Stella Hunter’s ramshackle cottage in upstate Montana, she lets him in. What’s there to lose? The book critics killed her chances to warn the world about myths and legends behind the myths and legends.
But once the man pushes a book smudged with bloody fingerprints across the table, Stella sees a glimmer of hope. She may yet repair her academic reputation. She may re-establish her credibility within the scientific community and she may vindicate her ‘peace-taker’ theory. She may also be murdered by anyone standing next to her if her theory is correct.
He kept his head tucked between his shoulders, watching one ‘on-the-scene’ reporter after another give commentaries to the police and medical work that went on in the background. Suddenly he felt Stella’s hand settle on his and turned his head. She was saying something. He pulled down the earphones because he wasn’t in a lip-reading mood.
“He struck at a local fair,” she said quietly.
He remembered her saying something like that earlier, though at the time it could have been just sarcasm.
“Your prediction was right,” he said.
“Yes but it’s something else. Let me have the laptop.”
He watched her call up a map of Dayton, Ohio, then zoom in and start pointing with the mouse arrow at the names of communities mentioned by the news reporters: Oakwood, Kettering, Whites Corners.
“Here,” she said, pointing the mouse at the red line of Interstate 675. “This is where the southbound effect stopped or played out. I didn’t hear any reports of an outbreak of madness in Belmont or Shakertown. None west of Interstate 75 either. It affected a long strip about half a mile wide at best; in geographical terms certainly a ribbon of madness that ended at I-657.”
“Another atypical strike,” he murmured. They didn’t need more puzzles. They were still trying to make sense of what they had.
STUPID QUESTIONS WITH AWESOME ANSWERS!
Q. As a famous athlete, you are offered $100,000 to endorse a product you wouldn't use. Do you endorse it?
A. Yes. Because then, to satisfy my own sense of integrity, I would sample the product, put down its good or positive points, and make it a condition (I would have a crack-agent to represent me, right?) of my promotion that the copy-ad people writing the promo could only make those claims that were true.
Believe me, advertising people have a way of coming up with a positive spin on anything – even the Devil himself. eg. …his dominion is a warm, cozy place where the dry heat will be beneficial for your aching bones…etc. etc.
Q. A friend ask you to write a reference for a job you feel he's poorly qualified for. Do you refuse?
A. No. Same principle as above. Regardless of what I felt about his qualifications for the job, he/she is my friend, therefore I would know all his/her good points and those would be the ones I’d put into the letter of recommendation. I would put down all the things I like about him/her and why he/she is my friend and why I value our friendship.
Q. You find an expensive pen in a public lounge. Do you keep it?
A. Yes – unless it bore some kind of inscription, for example pens (even expensive ones) often have advertisement written on them, together with a phone number or website url. But if it was simply an expensive pen, I would keep it, especially if I found it in a widely-used, crowded public place. There’s no sense to make a spectacle of yourself in a crowded public place, running up to strangers and asking them if the pen was theirs. I would have no way of knowing if the person who stepped up to claim it was really the pen’s owner. Besides, such action these days is not very safe.
Q. When cleaning up, you find your teenager's diary. Do you read it?
A. Oh, yes. I’m a mother—a single mother at that. I wouldn’t wish upon anyone what I went through with my kids when they reached teenagehood. I didn’t buckle and I didn’t give up, but truth be told, many times I came crack-close to it. So, yes, I would read the diary to make sure that nothing was brewing in the kid’s head that needed serious intervention. And even if the diary had just normal angst-content, I would tell my teenager what happened, that I found the diary and glanced through it to make sure he/she was making the right lifestyle choices. I would speak to the kid plainly and without being apologetic about it, because I am his/her parent, and do not want to become friends with their parole officers.
Q. A friend’s fiancé is coming on to you. Do you tell your friend?
A. No. I would tell the fiancé, in no uncertain way, to fix his attitude and work on his relationship instead of shopping for partners for his extracurricular activities.
Then, as time and opportunity permitted, I would try to get my friend to start asking herself (I’m assuming here it’s my girlfriend) why she is with this guy; what she sees in him; what does she see as reciprocal benefits of their relationship. I would get her to start defining what she wants out of the relationship and why she took up with the guy in the first place. I would tell her that ‘examining’ relationships from time to time is necessary in order to make that relationship grow – in the right direction.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Thank you for the opportunity to let me answer these interesting questions and I enjoyed very much indulging in a bit of introspection – again. It gave me an opportunity to ‘glance back,’ so to speak, and reflect on a long stretch of very difficult times where the only people I could talk to were very expensive marriage counselors and even more expensive therapists and psychologists, and grief counselors and social workers and so on. I sailed through the turbulent seas but I did not emerge unscathed. And all I learned from the experience was that while it’s true that hardships make you stronger, I would have been just as strong if not stronger without them.
By profession, I’m an engineer and ten years ago, I left a corporate job to concentrate on writing. It was perhaps the scariest thing I’ve done. Of course, there were other considerations at the time, life, kids, economy and my mother who was battling cancer. I wrote as means of staying grounded because I had to hold it together. There was no one else to pitch in. There wasn’t a single moment that I didn’t have doubts about whether what I was doing was the right thing or not, but doubts come and go, while the need to write goes on forever. Since 2005 I’ve published 5 books and this year alone I have 6 new ones coming out. I live in Toronto with my family and our two pets – wheaten terriers. And whenever I’m tempted to look back, and start second-guessing my past decisions, I sit behind the computer and start another book. At least for me, that’s a cure-all.