Thursday, March 7, 2024

Preliminary Qualifications

This is what I believe will be the first chapter of my next novel. I started it this morning and typed out my first one thousand words. I welcome any comments. 

Wade Watson stood at the chain-link gate to the Liberty State Hospital.

“Can I help you?” Said the canned male voice from the intercom speaker just above the gate. 

Wade turned around and looked up at the brick guard tower. He turned back to the speaker. “I want to apply for a job.”

The electronic lock to the gate buzzed. He walked into a small cage-like entrance as soon as the outer door locked and there was a buzz to open the inner door. 

It was a routine seen and heard many times by Wade and never experienced. Over the past years, he would often be with his mom to pick up his dad when his dad worked there. 

Wade’s dad got the job when he was 45. It was his last chance at employment that offered a retirement beyond Social Security. The reality, it was likely the only place that might hire a man with few skills and a sketchy work record. 

Wade Watson filled out his application for an attendant’s job at the Liberty State Hospital. He handed the application to a young lady seated behind a desk. 

She lifted her glasses and glanced at it and said, “You meet our preliminary qualifications.”

Wade thought, “Six two, two hundred, that’s all she had time to read.”

“ You should be hearing from us shortly, within a week.,” she said placing the applications in her out box on the desk. 

Three days later Wade sat in front of the desk of Ralph Korman, director of personnel at the Liberty State Hospital.”

“This job can be challenging,” Korman said leaning back in his chair. “The men you will manage are diagnosed as mentally incompetent to defend themselves in a court of law. Some fake mental illness to stay away from prisons. Others are forced on us by the prisons because they can’t handle them. This is a mental facility and the people in charge must deal with inmates mentally.”

“I understand that,” Wade said. “My dad worked here.”

“Who was your dad?” Korman said.

“Duke Watson,” Wade said.

“Duke Watson was your dad?” Korman smiled. “I should have seen it in you. You look just like him. He was a good man. How long has he been gone now?”

“He’s been dead for a little more than three years,” Wade said.

“I started out on the wards when I first hired in,” Korman said. “Your ole man show me the ropes. We didn’t have all the medications we have now. The meds make the job easier. We were always putting somebody in the hole.” Korman chucked. “Your ole man used to tell ‘em, ‘Ya got your choice; there’s two holes, the one down the hallway or the one across the road in the graveyard. We had this guy who came in here from the State Pen. He was too tough for them to handle. Four of us couldn’t get him in the hole. Old Duke tells everybody to get off him and back away. Your dad grabs a leg from a broken chair. He told the guy, “That’s it, This ends only one way.’ Then your dad picks up the phone and calls the charge room. He tells them to start diggin’ a hole. Your dad walks toward the guy slappin’ that chair leg in his hand. The guy runs around your dad like a halfback. Your dad swings and cracks that leg across his back as he ran by. That guy ran straight to the hole and closed the door on himself. From that point on, the best inmate we ever had.”

“I’ve heard that story a few times,” Wade said. “I always thought Dad was shoveling bull.”

“How’s your mom?” Korman said.

“She’s doing well,” Wade said.

“Next time you see her, tell her I said hi,” Korman said, “and be sure to give her my best.”

“I will.”

“When would you like to start?”

“I can start anytime,” Wade said.

“Can you start Monday?”


“There will be a physical and the rest of the week will be orientation and training,” Korman said. “Then for the next 30 days, there is an evaluation and then we’ll assign you permanently to a ward.”

“I don’t suppose two or four is open, is it?” Wade said.

Korman chuckled. “That was you ole man’s ward, wasn’t it?”


“It takes some whiskers to get on that ward,” Korman said. “Best wards in the joint.”

Korman stood and shook Wade's hand. “Be here at 7:30 Monday.”

“Thanks a lot, Mr. Korman,” Wade said.

“Don’t mention it.”

“By the way,” Korman said as Wade started to turn away. “This doesn’t have to be a dead-end job. You move up. And I don’t mean just being a charge man on a ward or a supervisor. Other things can open up. You can take courses at the branch. We can work out a schedule for you. There’s a lot of downtime here. You can use that time to study. That’s what I did.”

“My dad talked about some guys who did that,” Wade said.

“Your dad was old school,” Korman grinned, “too much education can ruin a good man.”

“Dad always wanted me to get an education,” Wade said, “but always talked about guys who had an education as worthless.”

“Likely, I was on your dad’s list,” Korman said. “But I respected him.”

“Dad changed from day to day,” Wade said. “One day you were a good guy and the next day you didn’t know what you were talking about.”

“To be honest,” Korman grinned, “he was probably right. There were those days I didn’t know what I was talking about. I hope they were the same days.”

“And there were a lot of days my dad didn’t know what he was talking about.

“There’s a lot of frustration with this job,” Korman said. “Sometimes the best thing to do is talk it out; if you know what I mean.”

“I don’t think my dad talked it out very much.”

“More than most,” Korman said. 

“I know my dad had a reputation.”

“That he did,” Korman nodded. “He crossed the line a few times.”

“More than a few,” Wade interrupted.

“He probably had to. We had few options in those days,” Korman said. “We train people better now.”

“I’m not anything like my dad,” Wade said.

“I hope you are in some ways,” Korman said. “He could talk an inmate down before he blew up.”

“Blew up, my dad or the inmate?” Wade joked.

“Probably both,” Korman said.

 There were some inmates he really cared for and looked after. It didn’t show, but he did.”

Wade walked through the gates and back to his car. He smiled just before he grabbed the door handles. “It ain’t much of a job, but it’s a job.”

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Return to Monhegan

This excerpt is from the novel Sailing Beyond Beyond. It is the first episode of the first chapter. The book is available in paperback, digital, or audible

Return to Monhegan

The Odyssey sailed free and true. It was born for the sea. It was never meant for weekenders. She had adventure in her soul and rode the waves as good as any before her. And Rich felt the same. He felt at one with The Odyssey; as if this was all meant to be.“Salty,” Rich smiled. “I must see Salty again.”Rich took a reading after sailing for 45 minutes and adjusted The Odyssey's course for Monhegan Island.“I wonder how the old salt is doing?” Rich said squinting into the afternoon sun.

Dread fell upon him like the shadow of the mainsail. Dave Smithson, Judge Franklin Stafford, and Sam White pried into his mind like a pack of pestering rodents.  They were beyond conscience. They lacked the ability for compassion and integrity. And Rich was haunted by how easily he was nearly taken over by them.

“Who got to them?” Rich wondered. “How could someone be dedicated to a cause that was ultimately brutal? People gravitate to acceptance and comfort. They have needs beyond what can be provided by truth and kindness.”

“I pray to never lose myself into something that strips me of what is good and natural,” Rich said aloud. “God, I pray to protect my heart and thoughts and to never let my mind become a breeding ground for disease and abhorrence.”

A cool soft agreeable breeze washed his face. It seemed to remove the past like blowing dust from an old cherished and forgotten book; the sort of book read by a grandparent, put away, and picked up years later. A rediscovered innocence, but now with the temperament of maturity.

Rich thought of Salty. “What tethered him to Monhegan Island? Did fear keep him from a try at a sail around the world again? Would a second failure be devastating? Were there other pressing obligations? It is a selfish venture. I, I only will be the recipient of any good. How could it possibly enrich the lives of others? Perhaps that was the conclusion Salty arrived. Although, planned for some sort of selfish accomplishment it has become for me a matter of survival.”

Rich lifted his eyes above the starboard bow and scanned the distant horizon. A thin green coastline lay quiet and serene. “Monhegan,” Rich said. “I can’t wait to see the smile on Salty’s face.”

He adjusted course to steer south of the island and enter the harbor by heading north.

The plan was to arrive after sunset to not attract attention. Smithson had contacts all over the mid-coast of Maine and the outer islands. Who knows how many acquaintances he has alerted and if one of those who live on Monhegan?

Rich assumed nothing. Although he tossed a crate to float in the waters indicating a European destination, certain that Smithson would recognize it coming from The Odyssey, weeks might pass before discovered.

As an autumn glow from the sun disappeared into the waters Rich dropped anchor off the southwest coast of Monhegan in Lobster Cove. He launched the dinghy and rowed 200 yards to a stony beach. He pulled the dinghy to shore and looped the line around a rock.

Up a steep slope, a pathway surrounded by brush and long grass led to a lane and Rich followed it into the village. He was careful not to walk as if to attract attention. The path led past several weather-beaten shake shingle homes sitting quietly and alone overlooking the sea.

He attracted the attention of a dog bolting from a dog house beside a stack of lobster pots. The dog charged with ears pinned against its head. Rich jerked.  He bent down and grabbed a handful of stones and tossed them. It was not to the dog's liking, thus it returned to a more comfortable position – inside the dog house

Rich spotted Salty’s quaint dimly lit cabin and knocked quietly.