After watching much media coverage in the mid-Eighties, I began to research the Vietnam war and its aftermath. Most especially the men and women so influenced by it that ten years later they were still suffering what doctors began to call Post Traumatic Stress. At that time not much was known about treating the symptoms.
Many of the wives and girlfriends of these men walked away because they couldn’t deal with this stranger who had returned from the killing fields. Determined to learn more I spent hours in the library reading articles buried deep in often obscure publications. There was no Internet back then. I learned many things about the fighting men, the war, those missing in action who were being kept in prisons long after the end of that cruel conflict. Facts I had never heard about on national news. Surely there were women who did not walk away from the man they had once loved. Surely the healing force of love would prevail.
Finally I wrote a book about a woman strong enough to support a man rescued from a bamboo cage after nine years as a prisoner of an enemy who tortured him daily. I found a poem by Emily Dickinson that fit so perfectly with my ideas of the book that I took the title, Beyond The Moon, from one of her lines. Because I would be writing about the woman and how she learned to care for this man she loved, it would be written in her point of view only.
Not surprisingly, such a project took several years to complete. Finally I did and after reading some of it to my critique group, a new member asked if she could take the manuscript to her husband. I learned that he was the author of many books and well known. He was so taken with the story that he sent it to his agent who called me. He loved the book and wanted to represent me.
He tried his best to sell it, but New York publishers weren’t interested. In the late 80s and early 90s people weren’t concerned with such things. Since my agent also represented several authors of books that had been turned into movies, including the author of The Godfather, he showed the manuscript to some people from Paramount Pictures. They took it back to Hollywood with them. Before a decision could be made, Paramount was sold and of course, all ongoing projects scrapped. I finally put the manuscript away.
Today everything has done a turn around. We honor our wounded warriors, we are trying to help the men who return in their efforts to reintegrate into society. And more and more people are reading books that tell these men’s stories. Organizations like The Wounded Warrior Project raise funds to help our wounded veterans.
Beyond The Moon is a story set in 1985 and based on what was happening after Vietnam. And how one woman never gave up on the man she loved, who was so badly damaged he was unable to return to his former life. Today these women are referred to as angels and we honor them. The book will be released in August from Oghma Creative Media. Here’s a short excerpt from Katherine’s second meeting with Glen Tanner at the VA hospital. She teaches art and has been asked to help him with his attempts at painting his hideous nightmares on canvas.
She tilted her head toward the hovering orderly. “What’s his name?”
“Harry. He’s your bodyguard.”
“I thought he was yours.”
“Mine? I don’t ….” He peered at her broad grin. His dimples winked on and off in an almost smile.
If that smile ever reached his eyes ─ but that was just another if to cloud her life. Probably his, too.
“Harry is going to take us somewhere we can work, aren’t you Harry?” It amused her to catch the somber faced man off guard. He fussed around with the magazines for a minute before starting toward them.
She lay her case in Glen’s lap and signaled Harry to lead the way. “I’ll push,” she told them both.
“I can do it,” Glen objected.
“Be a gentleman and carry my books.” She lay them carefully in his lap, afraid she might break him, and maneuvered the chair out the double glass doors, following Harry onto the back lawn.
They moved beneath giant oaks along a curving blacktop path. It sloped gently. Halfway down the incline a sycamore had dropped huge, curly leaves that crunched underfoot. The air smelled bright and clean, with only a smidgeon of the town’s industriousness. At the bottom they came upon a small creek that murmured over its rocky bed. The largest of several oaks clung to the edge of the opposite bank, its mammoth roots jutting out above the water. The tree must have stood as a sentinel when the Union soldiers marched through over a century earlier. Warm sunlight filtered between half-naked branches to form patches of yellow across an old wooden bench that faced the stream.
Harry sat on the far end, leaving the other end free for her. Glen handed her the heavy case, his strength surprising her. She set it down. No one said anything, and the moment hung there, untouchable and precious. A small gray squirrel darted down the tree across the way. Holding its tiny feet as if praying, the animal stared at them with bright eyes. The silky tail twitched, once, twice, again.
With an unnatural ease she lay her hand on Glen’s arm, and together they watched the squirrel until it leaped high into the trees and raced away, scolding.
In the deepening silence, she became conscious of the warmth of his skin under her palm, the slight movement of muscles and tendons as he reached and took a strand of her hair between thumb and fingers. He held it a moment, then caressed the curve of her cheek, cupping his palm over her ear. Without moving she turned her eyes toward him. Her breathing was shallow, her heartbeat thundering. She should be afraid. But this man she scarcely knew looked at her with eyes full of wonderment, and she smiled.
“What’s your name?” His tone sounded puzzled.
“Katherine.” Her breath trembled.
His fingertips trailed across her cheek, like a butterfly tasting honey. He didn’t speak or alter his expression. A ripple passed through her, and she closed her eyes for a moment of sheer and unexpected pleasure. He took his hand away, suspending it in front of her breasts. She glanced at Harry, who nodded his head and continued to watch as if they were specimens in a lab.
Lower lip caught in her teeth, she waited for Glen to move or say something. He reached toward the top button of her blouse. A muscle across her back twitched, yet she remained immobile. When his cool fingers contacted her warm skin, he licked his lips, and she did the same.
“May I call you Katie?” he whispered.
Her breath drifted out when he took his hand away, and for a brief moment she wanted him to touch her, slide his hand under the fabric, and hold her aching breast in his palm.
Katie? Katie darlin’. Only Stan called her Katie.
“Yes, call me Katie.” Maybe that would chase away the ghosts or at the very least soften the loneliness.
His eyes were moist and bright and aimed at her, and she wanted to shout at him not to look at her that way. She couldn’t help him, not with the dark foreboding questions he never asked but questions always present.