Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Read The Angel's Guardian (The Fifth Novel in the Melody and the Pier to Forever Saga)!

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Five novels, thirteen years.

   There are many more novels to go in the Melody and the Pier to Forever saga before the tale is told. This one, I am certain, will stand out no matter how many more I end up writing.

   A lot of twaddle is bandied about these days on "purpose" and "authenticity." You can find endless videos on YouTube from endless purveyors of crappola, of all whom consider themselves experts, or who have an appropriately large following willing to declare the same. Very rarely is either true. Corporate America, always willing to suck the decency, morality, honesty, virtue, and power out of a concept in order to make evermore money, has glommed onto "purpose" and "authenticity" in order to ram whatever useless garbage they've produced down our throats. You now hear those words in their vile commercials, and with increasing frequency. And I'm certain it works. They've test marketed "purpose" and "authenticity" to suburbans, who know nothing about what purpose or authenticity really mean when honestly and truly lived (they are suburbans, after all), and saw dollar signs at the end of the reports.

   Here is the tale of a woman who lives purpose and authenticity in every second of her life, and does so to the very best of her ability. She does this because she knows what she wants--what she truly wants--to do with her life. And that is to be the angel's guardian.

   Who's the angel? If you've read the series, you know. If you haven't read the series, this novel is definitely not the place to start. If you're actually interested in purpose and authenticity, then you need to make time for both of them, and then be willing to make the appropriate sacrifices to see to both's fruition. But you're a suburban, in all likelihood, which means that you won't make the time, and you won't make the sacrifices, either. Which means, in the end, that this series as a whole isn't something for you.

   For those very few of you remaining, know this. Elizabeth Finnegan's struggle is fairly rare in modern-day society, which is why this planet is burning to a cinder as we speak. She's willing to do whatever it takes to be with her angel. To live purposefully and authentically.

   It was an honor to write her story.



The search for one's calling takes great patience and courage. Choosing that calling, once it becomes apparent, takes even more.

   Pursuing a calling is a deadly enterprise, for it will inevitably claim one's life. It allows for no other choice.

   Rejected and abused by her parents, Elizabeth Finnegan's young life is one tragedy after another. Emboldened by the love of a woman who takes her in after she runs away, she seeks for her calling with all her heart. It isn't what she believes she's doing; instead she clings to the vague notion that she was put on Earth do so something special with her life. Though the world does its best to convince her she isn't special, she pushes on, even when the shadows overwhelm her.

   One day she watches a video of a pretty young girl playing a violin. The girl plays as though she has been blessed by the singular touch of God. She is an angel.

   Elizabeth knows she has to meet her. She has no choice.

   As she flies the skies over America as a flight attendant, Elizabeth's life rockets her towards her final destination, her choiceless choice, her deadly enterprise: to be the angel's guardian.


>>Table of Contents<<


Angel came down from Heaven yesterday
She stayed with me just long enough to rescue me
And she told me a story yesterday
About the sweet love between the moon and the deep blue sea
And then she spread her wings high over me
She said she’s gonna come back tomorrow
--Jimi Hendrix


THERE WASN’T anything to indicate that she was special.
Elizabeth looked up. She was sitting on the swing set, which until recently had sat abandoned for many months. Her mother had threatened to throw it out, and she had rebelled, coming directly here from school every day since.
She sighed. “I’m here!”
“Get in here!” her mother ordered. “Come on! We’re late!”
She sighed again and rose from the seat, which bumped plaintively against her thigh.
“I’m sorry I left you,” she said just above a whisper, grasping one of the chains. “I won’t do it again. Please forgive me. I don’t care if I’m ‘too old’ to swing on you. I don’t care what my mother says. I’ll come and sit on you when I get back. Okay?”
She went to say more, but:
“Lizzie! Damnit, girl, if I have to I’ll—”
“I said I’m comin’!”
She left the swingset behind.
The chair swung back and forth in tiny arcs, then settled and was still.
The doctor’s office was painted teal and white, and smelled of new carpet and old wood. It was located in a recently renovated office building in downtown Claremore. Elizabeth stared blankly out the large window, which was partially open. The smell of lilacs wafted through; so too the low rumble of passing cars.
The office was on the second floor. From where she was sitting, all she could see was the second floors of buildings across Main Street. She wondered if there were other kids in those buildings, and if they too were forced to see doctors during their summer vacation.
She gazed at her mother, who was sitting to her immediate right and glaring at her.
Her mother’s glare got hotter. “Pay attention! The doctor just asked you a question! Now sit up—” she grabbed Elizabeth under her armpit and jerked her up—“and pay attention!
Elizabeth blinked and glanced at the doctor, who was smiling patiently.
“Sorry,” she said, “I didn’t hear you.”
“I asked how you were doing today,” he repeated, holding his smile. He pushed his glasses up his nose. “So, Lizzie, how are you today?”
“Fine … I guess.”
“What does ‘fine’ mean?”
She held up. Her mother shifted indignantly in her seat.
“I … don’t know? … fine?”
Her mother snorted.
“Does ‘fine’ mean ‘good’?”
His smile hung on his face like an infection. No adult smiles that long without a reason, which was rarely if ever a good one.
She shrugged uncomfortably and nodded.
“You’re good?” the doctor pressed.
She nodded again.
“Will you say it? Say it, Lizzie: ‘I’m doing well today! I feel good!’ ”
When she took too long, her mother elbowed her. “Say it, Lizzie!”
“I’m doing well today,” she said with no inflection. “I feel good.”
Her mother elbowed her again. “Could you at least try to say it like you were alive, like it were true?” She sighed. “This is what I’ve had to put up with for two years now, ever since she turned eleven! I’m at my wit’s end, Dr. Gaebler!”
“Your mother brought you to see me because she’s concerned about you, Lizzie. She thinks you’re depressed. Are you depressed?”
Elizabeth fought the temptation to look out the window again. It was too easy to imagine herself flying out of it. The sky was that kind of blue that hinted of storms later, with distant, billowing clouds and restless breezes. She found herself wishing for a tornado, but one that would leave all alone but her. It would snatch her up out of this office and into the sky, and there she’d fly away with it, never to return.
To answer the doctor before her mother could elbow her again, which was only a second away (judging from her glare), she shrugged again.
“I don’t know what that means,” said Dr. Gaebler. “What does that shrug mean, Lizzie?”
She shrugged.
She knew The Elbow was coming again, and braced for it. When it did she glared up at her mother, who said, “It’s hard to believe you were raised in my home! I taught you better than that! Now answer the doctor. Are—you—depressed?
To move on to the next question in the interrogation (which, she tried optimistically to assume, was finite in length, though at this point it felt anything but), she murmured, “Yes.”
“Yes. You’re depressed,” said the doctor.
She nodded.
“Say it, Lizzie: ‘I’m depressed.’ Say it, please.”
“I’m depressed,” said Elizabeth. She wanted to contradict him: only a second ago he forced her to say that she was good, but her sense of self-preservation vetoed the notion.
“What are you depressed about?”
She knew the question was coming, and had prepared herself with an answer. It wasn’t a truthful answer, but it at least would, very hopefully, move this pointless torture along.
“Friends,” she said. She stopped herself from saying, “… I guess,” knowing it would only prolong the misery.
She nodded. And then she beat the doctor at his game: “I’m depressed about my friends.”
His smile held … and then it dissolved. Finally.
It was apparent that he didn’t like to be beaten.
“Are you being bullied?”
She shook her head.
“She’s always been an outsider,” reported her mother. “She’s always gone against the grain. We’ve tried sports, choir, even violin. She quits after a month. I had no idea, frankly, that she even had friends.”
“That’s not true!” protested Elizabeth. “I do have friends; and I still play my violin!”
“If you’ve got friends, I sure don’t know anything about them,” snapped her mother. “And as far as your violin goes, you don’t play, you screech! You refuse lessons, and insist on teachin’ yourself. That ain’t playin’—that’s … that’s rebellion!
Dr. Gaebler didn’t insist to hear details about her friends, but asked instead: “Why don’t you want to take lessons, Lizzie?”
Elizabeth wished he’d stop using her name with every question. It creeped her out. In an act of defiance she couldn’t stop, she said, “Because I want to learn my own songs.”
Her mother snorted.
“Don’t you think it would be better if you took lessons from a teacher? Wouldn’t a teacher teach you how to learn your ‘own songs’ much faster than you could?”
“It’s only one song,” groused her mother. “At least as far as my husband and I can tell.”
Elizabeth was waiting for it: The Elbow got her again. “Well, Lizzie, answer Dr. Gaebler! Answer him!
More of that defiance beat her to the lie. She shook her head.
“A teacher couldn’t teach you better than you could by yourself?” he asked, as she fully expected he would.
She didn’t shake her head again, but said, “No, a teacher couldn’t teach me better than I can teach myself.” And then, to beat him to the question she knew was coming, she added, “I don’t care about scales and recitals. I care about my song!”
“And that, Dr. Gaebler, is exactly why I’ve brought her in to see you. Rebellion, defiance, and just general … well, weirdness!
Elizabeth gazed up at her mother. “I thought it was because I was depressed.”
“Don’t get lippy with me,” her mother spat, her face darkening even more. “You’re lucky we’re in mixed company. Don’t think I won’t spank that pink bottom of yours; and if you give me lip again, I’ll do it right here in front of the doctor!”
Dr. Gaebler didn’t seem bothered by this threat of child abuse in his office.
“Does Elizabeth have siblings?”
“Two,” said her mother. “One is three, the other one.”
“How does she get along with them?”
(Elizabeth wondered why he had taken to calling her by her preferred name. It increased the creepiness factor hugely.)
“Fine, when she isn’t stealing their stuffed toys.”
“I wasn’t stealin’ anything!” yelled Elizabeth before she could stop herself. “Jeff was ripping the head off his horsey! I took it away before he could harm it, that’s all!”
“It wasn’t yours to take away!” retorted her mother. “It was Jeff’s! Besides, you can’t ‘harm’ a stuffed animal! They aren’t alive!”
Dr. Gaebler studied her with a slight look of alarm on his face.
She stared down at her feet.
“Do you believe stuffed animals are alive, Lizzie?”
She didn’t answer him. She waited for The Elbow again. It came, and still she didn’t answer him. It came again, harder, along with a hissed: “I’ll do it, young lady; I swear on my mother’s grave I will. I’ll turn you over my knee and spank your pink bottom right here and right now, do you hear me?”
She didn’t know where the will to defiance was coming from, only that it cried out from an unexplored and previously unknown part of her very deep inside. It sang to her in an angry minor key, and it demanded justice. She knew that no matter what she said now, that her “pink bottom” was going to be spanked, if not here then back at home. And more than once. When her father got back from work, he’d take his belt to it. There was nothing she could do to stop it. That thing in her didn’t care anymore. It would hurt, and she’d cry, but then it would be over. That thing knew: her mother and this doctor and her father, hateful people all … they wanted that justice-demanding part of her to die, to be crushed under their will.
So she spoke the truth.
“Everything has a soul,” she said quietly, not looking at either of them, but keeping her eyes focused on her feet. “Everything, including stuffed animals.”
“What?” demanded her mother. “You can’t be serious!”
Doctor Gaebler sat back and scratched his chin. The alarm on his face deepened.
“Is that why you talk to that rusty old swingset out back?” demanded her mother. It was obvious she was trying to shame her. “I’ve listened to you, you know. You talk to it like it’s alive, like it has feelin’s. You abandon it for two years, and then suddenly it’s your best friend.” She glanced at the doctor, who was still staring. “That’s why I brought her, Doctor. It’s this crazy-makin’ behavior, and I won’t stand for it!
She aimed her motherly glare back at her. “I’m sorry, girl, but if you’re gonna insist on bein’ a snotty little brat, I’m gonna expose your dirty little secrets to anyone and everyone until you get back in line! I know a lot more than you think I do!”
“So, Elizabeth, are you an animist?” asked the doctor.
Elizabeth waited for another threat to descend on her before shrugging. She didn’t respond.
“Do you know what an animist is?” he asked gently, as though to an eight-year-old.
Elizabeth’s upper arm felt bruised. She shrugged again.
“An animist is someone who believes that everything has a soul: rocks, mountains, rain clouds, even stuffed animals. Does that description fit you, Elizabeth?”
She didn’t shrug this time, but nodded. It wasn’t a nod to indicate that she was interested in helping him know her, but one to indicate that it didn’t matter whether or not he knew that about her, even if she didn’t know that believing everything had a soul had a name. She repeated it to herself so she wouldn’t forget it: I am an animist. I am an animist.
“I have no idea where she got that from,” retorted her mother, whose gaze was a mix of disgust and harsh examination. “Well, speak up! Who taught you that nonsense? One of your teachers? Well?
“I got it from no one,” said Elizabeth, staring down at her lap.
“Probably one of her teachers,” said her mother, shaking her head disdainfully. “It’s a public school. Probably one of those pagan teachers taught her that nonsense.”
Elizabeth looked up. Doctor Gaebler was nodding. “Have you thought of putting her in a school that teaches proper Christian morals and values?”
Her mother shook her head. “We can’t afford a private school.”
“We homeschooled our daughter until she got to junior high school. We put her in our church’s school. Don’t you attend it too—Faith Baptist?”
Her mother nodded and smiled. “It’s where I got your name. They said you were a member. It’s a big church. I can’t believe we haven’t met till now!”
“Public schools are dens of iniquity, Mrs. Finnegan,” said Dr. Gaebler. “Their teachings run counter to the Word of God.” He motioned with his chin at Elizabeth, who caught it out her peripheral vision. She resumed staring down. “I give you the consequences of their influence. Lizzie is suffering. She needs your loving guidance. I know the deacon. There surely has to be a way to get her in there—a scholarship or a stipend. I’ll talk to the deacon and get back to you at our next session. Lizzie?”
She was going to be beaten later, and now it looked like she was going to be moved to that awful church school, and she was going to be forced to come back here. Her day couldn’t get worse, and so she grunted without looking back at him: “What?”
Her mother inhaled sharply. There would be no more elbows. It had gone beyond that.
“Lizzie?” asked Doctor Gaebler more gently. “Elizabeth, would you please look at me?”
Elizabeth lifted her chin. She tried looking at him without actually doing it, and found she could. It was that moment that she decided, once and for all, that she would be known by all as Elizabeth, and that if anyone called her “Lizzie” or “Liz” in the future, those people would be only those she loved and trusted the very most.
“The Lord of Lords loves you,” he said sweetly. He leaned forward and put his hand on her bare knee. “He wants only the best for you. Shall we pray now for his forgiveness? Animism is a dangerous and false belief, Lizzie. It was introduced into the world by Satan himself. Satan! First Peter: ‘Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.’ Do you want him to devour you, Lizzie? Do you?”
He squeezed her knee and smiled compassionately.
To get him to stop touching her, she shook her head. He kept his hand on her knee anyway and leaned even closer. “Say it, Elizabeth. Say: ‘Begone, Satan! Begone!’ Say it with me!”
“Begone, Satan,” she said flatly.
“Say it again,” he demanded. “Say it with us, Mrs. Finnegan.”
“Begone, Satan!” he and her mother said. Elizabeth mouthed the words, so they forced her to say it by herself again and again.
He gave her knee another squeeze. He hadn’t removed it the entire time. He finally lifted it away, though he didn’t back up. “Only people have souls, Lizzie. Only people. Not animals, and especially not stuffed animals! Believing they do is a great sin, and it has harmed you. But you can recover,” he emphasized with the same zeal a cancer doctor might say to a sick patient. “Pray to Christ Jesus, our loving Savior, and he’ll forgive you and set you back on a righteous path. That’s all your mother wants for you—for you to walk a righteous path, a true daughter of God!”
They forced her to pray. They made her get on her knees, and they gave her the words to say, and waited until she said them. The ten minutes it took felt like hours. Shame burned into her. She couldn’t help but feel that the man standing uncomfortably close enjoyed the sight of her on her knees much more than he should. She didn’t remember any of it the moment it ended except, “… Christ Jesus, I am unworthy and weak. Save me from paganism! Save me! Amen!”
They let her stand, then ordered her to sit back in her seat. A long, uncomfortable moment passed as they stared at her. Finally he glanced at her mother. “I assume the swingset and the stuffed animals…?”
“Gone,” declared her mother. “I had my sister and her son come in when we left. They’ll be in the county landfill before we even get home.”
Elizabeth couldn’t believe what she was hearing. The swingset … her friend. And her stuffed animals! Her heart clenched thinking of her beautiful Teddy bear in a pile of trash, and her dollies, and her big blue whale …
The news felt like a stiff metal rake clawed over her heart. Tears filled her eyes, and in that moment a new emotion was born in her, one she had only heard of from others but had never known personally: rage.
“Look at her,” snorted her mother. “Cryin’ over a bunch of stupid stuffed animals. And probably that swingset too.” She grabbed Elizabeth’s arm. “Sit up! Sit UP!” She smacked her thigh.
Elizabeth sat up.
“Stop your cryin’!” her mother demanded. “Stop it! Stop it right this instant!
She smacked Elizabeth’s thigh again, this time much harder.
Doctor Gaebler reached and caressed her knee and smiled sadly. “It’s for your own good, Lizzie. There are no halfway measures in the daily battle against the Prince of Darkness. There just aren’t. I’m sorry.”

Chapter Two