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The House on Old Bath Roa ...

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This is the first in a series of descriptive essays I mean to undertake, not for the purpose of storytelling per se, or even of necessarily being of interest ...

The Challenge

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“So you believe there is no point to life if you don’t die at the end of it,” MacDonald says, punctuating the statement with a sip from his bourbon. Ice ...

Those Who Speak, Ch. 1 – ...

June 20, 1955   1955 was barely half over and already it had been a year of auspicious beginnings and hopeful changes. President Eisenhower had, in February, sent the first handful of advisors to an obscure country in Southeast Asia called Vietnam, assuring Americans that it was strictly a training assignment and that the men would be home before year’s end. In March a dashing young guy with jet-black hair and a pretty good singing voice had made his first television appearance—guy named Elvis something or other. And up in Illinois an ambitious and entrepreneurial businessman named Ray Kroc had opened a little hamburger stand known as McDonald’s, bragging that he was offering something new he called “fast food,” like anybody ...

Those Who Speak, Ch. 5 – ...

March 18, 1963   “Reverend, you picked quite a day to be out here trying to do that all by yourself.” Cyrus was so engrossed in what he was doing that the sound of the car coming up the long driveway, the press of tires on gravel muted by the first leavings of the snowstorm, had barely registered on his senses. He was standing atop an extension ladder in front of the chapel door, doing his best to maintain balance while holding above his head the eight-foot-long board that was about to become the chapel’s nameplate. The weather to which the approaching visitor had alluded was most decidedly not helping Cyrus in his efforts. A mid-March snowstorm had been forecast to begin today and was expected to dump as much as ten inches by ...

The Blackening

In the final two minutes of descent to the comet, a number of things needed to take place in rapid succession and perfectly. The failure of even a single one risked jeopardizing the entire mission, which was now well into its fifth year and which had cost American taxpayers a bit over four hundred million dollars. The fact that what taxpayers would be getting for their nearly half a billion dollars was a container of comet dust about the size of a shoebox made the demands of perfection for the landing all the more critical. With one hundred twenty seconds remaining, the lander detached itself from the main vehicle. It then fired a series of quick brief blasts from its maneuvering engines to reorient itself so that the main descent booster ...

Those Who Speak, Ch. 4 – ...

February 11, 1963   “Mister Chamberlain, it’s a real pleasure to finally meet you in person,” “Mister Brentwood, the pleasure is all mine, and please let’s stick with Cyrus, shall we? No need to stand on formalities if we’re going to be working together.” “Fair enough,” Brentwood replied. “You be Cyrus, and I’ll be Frank. But I wouldn’t describe what’s happening here so much as working together, except perhaps in the most distant possible sense. After all, as I hope I made clear in our calls, it is not my desire or intent to interfere in any way with how you choose to build and operate this church. I’m simply pleased that you’ve agreed to help me out of a sticky situation, even if only ...

Those Who Speak, Ch. 3 – ...

November 4, 1962   Right around the time the steeple was being raised into position atop the as yet unnamed new church outside Wellington, Connecticut, a young man christened Cyrus Chamberlain (after a long departed maternal grandfather) sat fidgeting and less than attentive in the back row of a seminary classroom three hundred or so miles away in western upstate New York, listening to (or, more accurately, in attendance at) a lecture being delivered with ironic torpor on the role of fervor in spiritual messages to sedentary audiences. The course was a historic survey of canonical rhetoric and the mid-term paper was due in four days, a paper that Cyrus and his classmates had ostensibly been researching and writing for the past six ...

Those Who Speak, Ch. 2 – ...

May 5, 1962   No one on the construction crew had any idea why someone would want to build a new church way the hell out at the far end of Old Parish Road. There were already two churches in Wellington—one Baptist and one Methodist—and neither of those were exactly packed to the rafters on Sunday mornings. Besides, it was a good seven miles from the center of town, and the houses out here were pretty far apart. It was going to be a hell of a thing driving all the way out here in a Connecticut snowstorm on a Sunday morning. Best they could figure was that land was cheap this far out of town and there was plenty of room for parking. In any event, it wasn’t up to the crew to dwell on the reasons for the construction. They were ...

Those Who Speak, Prologue R ...

October 16, 1637 The morning of their final day arrived biting and redolent of the smoke from the night’s nearly-dead fires. Though only mid-October, the Connecticut winter was announcing its imminence with a verve not experienced in recent years. The denizens of the tiny Pequot settlement regularly rose with the dawn, stoked the fires back to life, prepared breakfast, and set about the chores and challenges of the new day. But today was different. Rather than waking to birdcall and the iridescent purple glow of an easterly sunrise above the distant forest line, they instead arose to the sudden shrill cries of two scouts as their horses sped through the settlement gate. As the men dismounted, their breath and that of their horses rose ...

Payback

Trevor Halprin sat alone and silent in his car in front of the building. A light mist coated the windshield and the only sound was the faint ticking of the cooling engine. He’d lived in Brooklyn his entire life, but he had never before been in this area of the city. It was a complex of unremarkable single story buildings near the Fort Hamilton Promenade, just east of the Verrazano Bridge. There were a few other cars parked up and down the long street, but no one walking around, a mildly unsettling thing anyplace in New York City. Trevor had been given an appointment time of 4:00 p.m. and instructed not to be too early or too late. But he was nearly half an hour early, since he’d been uncertain of directions. So he sat and he ...