A private cove on Martha's Vineyard, with no tourists.
My brother Steve was always a great one for sending presents, even just a small simple one. When I was a little kid, he got me a subscription to National Geographic’s World, which was a kid’s version of the well-known magazine. I loved that, and, yes, he later got me a subscription to the adult magazine, when I grew up.
When I was twenty-two, Steve sent me a print of “The Fog Warning,” a painting by Winslow Homer. It is such a great picture, one of my favourites, and I recently found it, again, tucked away in a box of stuff in a closet. Jo Ann, my wife, and I were cleaning out our closets in an effort to reduce our junk. We’re hoping to move into a little house someday, maybe one of those “Tiny House Nation” places and, thus, we need to reduce the things we’re going to keep.
Naturally, I kept that picture. I’m going to get it framed and hang it over my desk. Although I don’t know if the picture depicts a fisherperson rowing a boat around Martha’s Vineyard, it doesn’t matter. The picture will definitely fit in perfectly with the décor of an island cottage.
I also found something else he gave me, something that is proving so much more important to me. For my eighteenth birthday, he gave me a series of books about the island. Now, back when he gave them to me, I didn’t truly appreciate them. After all, I’d practically grown up there, so I figured I knew the island quite well. In fact, I used to joke that I could get a job as a tour guide and be able to tell people all about the place without needing a script.
Then I started working on my latest novel. It’s a time travel story. Two young people, mid-twenties, thrown back in time, end up on Martha’s Vineyard during the Revolutionary War. I tried to incorporate as many accurate details as I could to make the era truly come to life for the reader. I mentioned the raid by the British when they took cattle, sheep and other items and didn’t pay for them.
I had Patience Mayhew, he’s one of the supporting characters, tell the stories of the three little girls blowing up the Liberty Pole and the Widow Luce facing down a squad of Red Coats over her last pig. When Art and Hazel, my two main characters, went to Aquinnah, I naturally had the sachem of the Wampanoag tell the tale of how the clay cliffs got their color. When the first draft completed, I was proud of myself for all of the true stories I’d been able to work into my fictional elements.
In flipping through them, I focused on the chapters that covered that era of history. Boy, were my eyes opened. I found all kinds of cool details about the picaroons, a wonderful poem about another brave woman facing off with the British, a young woman helping to smuggle munitions to the mainland and, more important, found several more myths concerning Moshup, the Wampanoag god that played such a pivotal role in their history.
I was like a kid in a candy store. Maybe I should say I was like an island kid in “Darling’s Candy Store” or “Mad Martha’s Ice Cream Parlor.” I immediately set to work revising my book. I simply had to work in all of these wonderful new details. I also realized that several of them would be perfect for the second book, and so I modified its outline. Now I can’t wait to get started on the sequel!
Once more Steve has helped me to be a better writer, and I shall be forever grateful. If only I could get it published that would truly honor his memory above everything else. Yet, these days, getting an agent is tough. Oh well, I’ll keep sending out those queries.
Thanks, bro, you always knew the perfect gift to give me.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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