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Original Short Story: "Will"

Updated on October 22, 2018
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

Short literary fiction is one of my areas of writing interests, so I dabble in composing short stories and flash fiction from time to time.

Love Has No Color

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Disclaimer


This story is fiction. It does not depict any person living or dead. Resemblance to any person is unintentional.


Two Roads Diverge

At age twenty-five Will Bainbridge found himself at a fork in the road of life. His six-year marriage had ended. Dody had moved to Oregon, taking their son, Billy. After Folman's Garage closed, he lost his job.

Will's best friend, Ed Torrenz, needed him at the Sears Automotive Department in the Muncie Mall, but his parents suggested he move back home, return to college, and finish the business degree he had started seven years earlier. The suggestion made sense, so he accepted. But he couldn't concentrate on his studies, filled with the pain of missing his son.

Will's grade-point-average fell below C for fall semester, and his father's threat to stop tuition payments jolted him from his melancholy. Without the degree, he would have to remain an auto-mechanic; he enjoyed the work as a hobby.

However, he wanted a more creative job, and he refused to work at his father's automobile dealership. He wanted to join the "real" business world, so he determined to raise his grades. At Christmas, Dody had brought Billy, for a visit, and that visit lifted his spirits.

The Spring of New Hope

Will began spring semester with new hope. In his Spanish class, he had admired a dark-haired woman who always sat in the front row. He loved the way she slid her coat over the back of the chair, how gracefully she removed her book from her book bag. His moodiness had prevented him from speaking to her, but he decided that this term, he would get to know her.

The first day of classes Will arrived early to Spanish. There she was, already seated in the front row. Will didn't like sitting in front, but he made the sacrifice. He ambled up and slid into the seat next to her.

"Hi, I'm Will Bainbridge. You were in here last semester. Isn't your name Annabella?"

"Well, hello, Will Bainbridge. No, my name is Arabella, Arabella Johnson."

"Oh, that's prettier than Annabella. Are you a Spanish major?"

"No, I'm finishing my masters this semester in corporate tax law. Just auditing Spanish."

"So why would you audit Spanish?" Will asked.

"The company I work for has offices in South America. And I plan to do some traveling in Mexico. I was born in El Paso. My parents still live there; they work at Ft. Bliss. Both speak fluent Spanish."

"But they didn't teach you?"

"Oh, a little. But not nearly enough. And I've lived here since I was twenty, so I haven't needed it. Funny thing, it's harder than I imagined. How about you?"

"It's pretty hard for me too. I got a C last semester, but I have to do better. My parents are footing the bill for college, and so I have to pull my GPA up. I dropped down to 1.9 last semester and that can't happen again."

"Oooh, not fun. I've been lucky gradewise, so far. I got a 4.0 going. As an undergrad I maintained around a 3.8, but I'm always nervous about grades."

The professor arrived and started class.

After class Will asked Arabella to go for coffee at the Student Center. He learned that she was Irish and German on her mother's side, and her father was African American. She was the thirty-seven-year-old mother of two teenaged boys, Jesse, sixteen and Tommy, fourteen. Her husband had been killed three years earlier in the Persian Gulf. She had worked ten years at Dayton Oil Company.

She began working there after graduating from Indiana University, but after Jesse was born she wanted to stay home with him. She had returned to work after Tommy started pre-school. Will confided that he had not been a very good husband; he had played in a local rock band, and he spent too many evenings away from Dody and Billy. By the time the group had disbanded, Dody had given up on the marriage, and they divorced.

To Love Again

This coffee date was leading to many, and Will's admiration for Arabella deepened into love.

As Will grew close to Arabella's sons, he concentrated less on missing Billy. Tommy wanted to play the guitar, so Will taught him some chords. He helped Jesse find a car, and they rebuilt its engine.

By the end of the semester, Will's grades, as well as his spirits, were soaring. He had a B in accounting, A's in everything else. Arabella had made sure Will studied. Will had made sure he spent a lot of time with Arabella. They planned to marry as soon as Will graduated.

Will adored his mother and respected his father for building his successful automobile dealership. But his father behaved with extreme prejudice against racial minorities, and his mother acquiesced to the will of her husband. Will had thought about how his life would have to change when they eventually found out about his new love.

On his way in to breakfast, last day of exams, Will heard his mother speaking in anguished tones, "Jacob, don't be too hard on him. John Porter is wrong, you know it. Will would never do that."

Confrontation

Hearing his mother's words, he braced himself for confrontation. Entering the dining room, he glimpsed the sour look on his father's face and his mother's red eyes.

"Good morning," Will said, seating himself and pouring coffee. "One more exam, I know I'll ace it. I've pulled myself out of that hole I dug last semester."

"Will, are you dating a ni**er?"

"Dad, do you have use that word? That's the most offensive word in the English language. Nobody uses that word anymore."

"Are you walking around that campus with a little ni**er girl? That's what John Porter saw. Says you and some n**er girl were holding hands, looking all lovey-dovey. Tell me, son, is that true?" His father shouted, his face reddening.

"Dad, that woman Porter saw finishes her masters in corporate law this week. She practices law for Dayton Oil Company. She is the widow of an army major who died in the Persian Gulf. She has two fine teenaged sons. She is part African American, part white—just like us, Dad; her white blood is Irish and German."

As Will talked, he grew calm but firm, realizing that he could not continue accepting his parents' support. His father's face told him Arabella's qualities meant nothing. The only qualifier was the disqualifier, the African blood.

"Will, you know better, Honey. We raised you to know better. You can't go with a colored girl. What would our friends think? We'd go out of business if customers found out. Our business depends on customers that're friends, almost like family. And what about Grandma Mary? She has a weak heart. And Uncle Andy would just die of shock. Honey, you got to stop this, you got to." His mother sniffled, dabbing her eyes and nose with her napkin.

"Hell, yes, he'll stop it. You'll not get another red cent from me, if you don't. You hear that, fellow. I won't be disgraced this way." Jacob stood up, threw down his napkin, and snapped, "Grace, Fred Compton's coming to dinner. Use the good china, and make sure you chill plenty red wine. You know how Fred likes red wine with his beef." He scowled at Will, shook his fist, and barked, "You better remember damned good and well, buddy. Not another red cent."

After Will's last exam, he rushed to Arabella.

"But you can't quit college. You'd be miserable going back to a job you're tired of."

"I won't give you up, Bell—not for money, not for anything. I've thought about this. I saw it coming. I'll go see Ed Torrenz about that Sears job; he'll help if he can, but if they don't need me, I'll have to look other places. I'll take out a loan to get my own place."

"Will," Arabella said, pulling him close. "I have some money. I'll help you, so you can stay in school."

"No, Bell, I can't take your money. That's sweet of you to offer." He kissed her on the forehead and then on the nose. "That's why I love you, you're so generous and sweet, but I'll work this out. I'll have to take night classes. We'll have to put off getting married for a couple years, but I can do it, Bell, if I know you are with me on this."

"Oh, Willie-Baby, don't worry about that. You know I'm with you all the way."

Contract

Source

A Taxing Jolt

Will's ruptured relationship with his father hurt and angered him, but his mother determined not to lose her son, insisting he visit Sundays and holidays. Jacob spoke very little during these visits, except to ridicule Will for "letting a ni**er drag him down." Will's hurt and anger turned to sympathy; he knew his parents were suffering from their bigotry. They might never understand how good Arabella was for him, how good she was, how extraordinarily good.

After Will graduated, he accepted a position as district manager with Sears. He and Arabella were married. He was no longer welcome in his parents' house. His father completely rejected his son. His mother still called him often, and they met occasionally for lunch. Each time they met, she looked increasingly gray and depressed.

She avoided mentioning Jacob, but she tried to report good things about the business, such as their doing so well that they were able to give Fred Compton a substantial raise. But Will sensed her sadness that always brought tears to his eyes as he watched her walk away.


While Will and Arabella packed for a trip to Mexico to celebrate their first anniversary, Will's mother called, agitated with grief. Jacob had just suffered a massive heart attack. Will rushed to the hospital. After the doctors finally reported that Jacob's condition had stabilized, Will insisted his mother let him drive her home.

In the car Grace broke down, sobbing uncontrollably. The IRS had audited the dealership and found taxes owed in the amount of a two-million dollars. Jacob feared losing his business. He had trusted Fred Compton, his accountant, who had mysteriously disappeared; Bainbridge Buick and Toyota's trusted attorney, Chester Mortonson, also disappeared.

"Please . . . Mom . . . Mom . . . calm down, and tell me all you know. What about John Willson, Mortonson's partner? He ought to know about this. And Herb Marlowe? He shared an office with Compton."

"Oh, Willie, they don't know anything. They claim it's your father's fault. They say they don't have any records; that Fred must have them. They won't help. Willie, I'm losing my mind; that caused your father's heart attack, I know it did. I don't know what to do. I just don't know what to do."

"Mom, you don't want to hear this, but my Arabella is a corporate tax specialist, she could get you out of this mess."

"Oh, Willie, why would she help us? She doesn't even know us."

"Well, Mom, that's not her fault. But she'd help because you need it."

"Oh, Willie, if she'd help us, your father would change his mind. You know, sometimes I don't understand why he makes such a fuss about colored people. I know I do it because he does, but I don't understand it. I'd be grateful if your Arabella could help. Do you truly think she can?"

"Yes, Mom, she can, she's good. You'll see. And Dad will see. You'll both see—just how good she is."

At SRF Lake Shrine, The Windmill Chapel

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Life Sketch of Linda Sue Grimes

The following original poem captures the tranquility of my favorite meditation place in Los Angeles, California, the Windmill Chapel at Self-Realization Fellowship's Lake Shrine.

The Windmill Chapel

In the temple of silence
By the lake, we sit
In stillness, meditating
In divine Bliss.

Returning to our daily minds,
We walk out into the sunshine,
And the flowers greet us.

The Literary Life

Born Linda Sue Richardson on January 7, 1946, to Bert and Helen Richardson in Richmond, Indiana, Linda Sue grew up about eight miles south of Richmond in a rustic setting near the Ohio border.

After graduating from Centerville Senior High School in Centerville, Indiana, in 1964, Linda Sue Grimes completed her baccalaureate degree with a major in German at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, in 1967. She married Ronald Grimes on March 10, 1973.

As a writer, Grimes focuses on poetry, short fiction, politics, spirituality, and vegan/vegetarian cooking, which results in her original veggie recipes.

Literary Studies

Although music was her first love, Grimes considers herself primarily a literary specialist as she creates her own poetry, studies the poetry and literary arts of classic writers, and writes commentaries about classic poems.

However, Grimes does continue to express her love of music by writing her own original songs, which she records, accompanying herself on guitar or keyboard. She shares her musical compositions at SOUNDCLOUD.

After completing the PhD degree in British, American, and World Literature with a cognate in Rhetoric/Composition at Ball State University in 1987, Grimes taught English composition in the English Department at BSU as a contractual assistant professor from 1987 until 1999.

Publishing History

Grimes has published poems in many literary journals, including Sonoma Mandala, Rattle, and The Bellingham Review. She has published three books of poems: Singing in the Silence, Command Performance, and Turtle Woman & Other Poems, and a book of fables titled Jiggery-Jee's Eden Valley Stories.

Grimes published her first cookbook in the spring of 2013, titled The Rustic Veggie-Table: 100 Vegan Recipes. She is working on a second cookbook and her fourth book of poems.

Currently, at Owlcation, Grimes (Maya Shedd Temple) posts her poetry commentaries. On LetterPile, she shares her creative writing of poems and short fiction, along with prose commentaries on each piece. She posts recipes resulting from her experimental cooking of vegan/vegetarian dishes. on Delishably. She posts her politically focused pieces at Soapboxie, and her commentaries focusing on music at Spinditty. Pieces on the writing process appear at Hobbylark.

Spirituality

Linda Sue Grimes has been a devotee of Paramahansa Yogananda and a member of his organization, Self-Realization Fellowship, since 1978. A Kriyaban since 1979, she has completed the four Kriya Initiations, and she continues to study the teachings and practice the yoga techniques as taught by the great spiritual leader, who is considered to be the "Father of Yoga in the West."

Grimes practices the chants taught by the guru accompanying herself on the harmonium. She serves at her local SRF Meditation Group as one of the chant leaders.

Online Literary Presence

In addition to the contributions of her literary works to Owlcation, LetterPile, and SOUNDCLOUD, Grimes also curates her original creative literary pieces at her literary home, Maya Shedd Temple, on Medium, where she features her creative writing without commentaries. Grimes also maintains an additional online presence on Facebook and Twitter.

My Spiritual Journey: Why I Am a Self-Realization Yogi

"By ignoble whips of pain, man is driven at last into the Infinite Presence, whose beauty alone should lure him." –a wandering sadhu, quoted in Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda

Introduction: Salvation Is a Personal Responsibility

I am a Self-Realization Yogi because the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, who in 1920 founded Self-Realization Fellowship, make sense to me. Paramahansa Yogananda teaches that we are immortal souls, already connected to the Divine Reality, but we have to "realize" that divine connection. Knowing the Great Spirit (God) is not dependent upon merely claiming to believe in a divine personage, or even merely following the precepts of a religion such as the Ten Commandments.

Knowing the Creator is dependent upon "realizing" that the soul is united with that Creator. To achieve that realization we have to develop our physical, mental, and spiritual bodies through exercise, scientific techniques, and meditation. There are many good theorists who can help us understand why proper behavior is important for our lives and society, but Paramahansa Yogananda’s teachings offer definite, scientific techniques that we practice in order to realize our oneness with the Divine Power or God. It makes sense to me that my salvation should be primarily my own responsibility.

No Religious Tradition

I did not grow up with a religious tradition. My mother was a Baptist, who claimed that at one time she felt she was saved, but then she backslid. I learned some hymns from my mother. But she never connected behavior with religion. My father was forced to attend church when he was young, and he complained that his church clothes were uncomfortable as was sitting on the hard pews.

My father disbelieved in the miracles of Jesus, and he poked fun at people who claimed to have seen Jesus "in the bean rows." My mother would not have doubted that a person might see Jesus, because she saw her father after he had died. My mother characterized my father as agnostic, and she lived like an agnostic, but deep down I think she was a believer after the Baptist faith.

Here’s a little story that demonstrates how ignorant about religion I was as a child: When I was in first or second grade, I had a friend named Caroline. At recess one day at the swings, Caroline wanted to confide something to me, and she wanted me to keep it secret. She said I probably wouldn't believe it, but she still wanted to tell me. I encouraged her to tell me; it seemed exciting to be getting some kind of secret information. So she whispered in my ear, "I am a Quaker."

I had no idea what that was. I thought she was saying she was magic like a fairy or an elf or something. So I said, "Well, do something to prove it." It was Caroline's turn to be confused then. She just looked very solemn. So I asked her to do something else to prove it. I can't remember the rest of this, but the point is that I was so ignorant about religion.

The Void in My Life and My First Trauma

Looking back on my life as a child, teenager, young adult, and adult up to the age of 32, I realize that the lack of a religious tradition left a great void in my life. Although my father was on the fence regarding religion, he would listen to Billy Graham preach on TV. I hated it whenever Billy Graham was preaching on TV. His message scared me. Something like the way I felt when my father's mother would come and visit us, and when my father would let out a "Goddam" or other such swear word, she would say he was going to hell for talking that way. I was afraid for my father. And Billy Graham made me afraid for myself and all of us because we did not attend church.

I never believed that things like swearing and masturbation could send a soul to hell. But then back then I had no concept of "soul" or "hell." I believed it was wrong to kill, steal, and to lie. But I'm not sure how these proscripts were taught to me. I guess by example. It seems that I had no real need for God and spirituality until I was around thirty years old.

My life went fairly smoothly except for two major traumas before age thirty. The first trauma was experiencing a broken heart at age eighteen and then undergoing a failed marriage, after which I thought I would never find a mate to love me. But I did meet a wonderful soulmate when I was 27.

Heretofore I had thought finding the proper marriage partner would solve all my problems, but I learned that my difficulties were very personal and at the level where we are all totally alone, despite any outward relationships.

The Second Trauma

A second trauma that added to my confusion was being fired twice from the same job at ages 22 and 27. At age 27 things started to make no sense. And it started to bother me intensely that things made no sense. I had always been a good student in grade school and high school, and I was fairly good in college, graduating from Miami University with a 3.0 average. That grade point average bothered me, because I thought I was better than that.

But then not being able to keep my teaching job and not being able to find another one after I had lost it very much confused me. It seemed that I had lost touch with the world. School had been my world, and my teachers and professors had expected great things from me. But there I was at age 27 and couldn't get connected to school again.

Feminism and Zen

I began reading feminist literature starting with Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique, continuing with Ms. Magazine, and many others. The result of taking in the feminist creed led me to believe that I had someone to blame for my failure—men; men had caused the world to be arranged so that women cannot succeed outside the home. I began writing again, an endeavor I have sporadically engaged in most of my life from about age sixteen. I decided to apply for a graduate assistantship in English at Ball State University, feeling that I was ready to get out in the man’s world and show it what a woman could do. I felt confident that I could succeed now that I knew what the problem was. But that didn’t work out either. I finished the year without a master’s degree in English, and then there I was, confused again, and still searching for something that made sense.

I had heard about the Eastern philosophy known as "Zen" at Ball State, and I started reading a lot about that philosophy. Zen helped me realize that men were not the problem, attitude was. I kept on writing, accumulating many poems, some of which I still admire. And I kept reading Zen, especially Alan Watts, but after a while the same ideas just kept reappearing with no real resolution, that is, even though the Zen philosophy did help me understand the world better, it was not really enough. I got the sense that only I could control my life, but just how to control it was still pretty much a mystery.

Autobiography of a Yogi

Then in late 1977 on one of our book shopping trips, I spied a book, Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, and I recommended it to my husband, because he liked biographies. I purchased poetry books, and we purchased the autobiography for him. He did not get around to reading it right away, but I did, and I was totally amazed at what I read. It all made sense to me; it was such a scholarly book, clear and compelling. There was not one claim made in the entire 500 plus pages that made me scratch me hand and say "what?" or even feel an uncertainty that this writer knew exactly whereof he spoke.

Paramahansa Yogananda was speaking directly to me, at my level, where I was in my life, and he was connecting with my mind in a way that no writer had ever done. For example, the book offers copious notes, references, and scientific evidence that academics will recognize as thorough research. This period of time was before I had written a PhD dissertation, but all of my years of schooling had taught me that making claims and backing them up with explanation, analysis, evidence, and authoritative sources were necessary for competent, persuasive, and legitimate exposition.

Paramahansa Yogananda's autobiography contained all that could appeal to an academic and much more because of the topic he was addressing. As the great spiritual leader recounted his own journey to self-realization, he was able to elucidate the meanings of ancient texts whose ideas have remained misunderstood for many decades and even centuries.

The book contained a postcard that invited the reader to send for lessons that teach the techniques for becoming self-realized. I sent for them, studied them, and I have been practicing them since 1978. They do, indeed, hold the answer to every human problem.

I know it is difficult for most educated people to believe that all human problems can be solved, but that’s because they get stuck in the thought that they cannot. If you believe that you can never really know something, then you can’t, because if you believe that you can never really know something, you won’t try to know it.

Yogananda gives a map with directions to reaching God, and realizing that one’s soul is united with God brings about the end of all sorrow and the beginning of all joy. Just knowing the precepts intellectually does not cause this realization, but it goes a long way toward eliminating much suffering. The faith that we can overcome all suffering is a great comfort, even if we are not there yet. I realize that God is knowable, but most important is that I know I am the only one who can connect my soul to God—and that is the spiritual journey I am on.

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

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