In nineteen-ninety-two, we met Virginia Kidd and Janet McConnaughey. During that year, we all met and befriended iceowl, and a little later on, Mike Libling. We became fast friends, and later added the bounding talent of Lee Kirkpatrick to our number and strength.
We seven became the basis for this book. All of us were members of the CompuServe Literary Forum. All of us were writers. Only three of us had published fiction, and of them, one only as a child, and another only once.
That year was not a good year for the sale of our stories. Nor was the next or the next. Yet, even with that, knowing these people made of that time a wonder that had no duration at all. Talent abounded, and industry, too. We were writers. We wanted to be Writers.
Meeting in the cheap-seats part of CompuServe, each sitting in our homes, typing to each other across a continent and beyond, we began to exchange stories, ideas, thoughts, crises, friendship, parcels of books and recipes. Our nexus was, and is, Virginia Kidd. Her experience in publishing, her guidance and her near-limitless patience have contributed immeasurably to who we are as writers. Thank you, V. From all of us.
We had a credo, and we had our Services, but they were not religious ones. We met and meet still in the name of Story, and of Story alone.
We are writers.
Mac Beckett & Smith Flanary
Scenes From One Summer at The Jersey Shore
extracted from the novel "The Dark Ships" - 1982
There are first times for everything.
I had never been in total darkness. No matter how close I put my hand to my face, no matter how hard I squinted I couldn't make a single gray patch appear in the blackness. The air was cold, damp and smelled of brine and decaying seaweed. I could hear the dull thumping as the waves pounded the outsides of the concrete bunker.
I called, "Dave?" He didn't answer. Fear began to seep into my forced calm. I told myself I'd be okay and tried to remember how I had gotten in. Somewhere behind me were the rusted metal rungs of a ladder integrated into the concrete wall. If I simply turned around with my arms outstretched I could certainly expect to collide with the wall and feel along it until I came to the ladder.
I turned and took a step, and stumbled when my foot didn't hit ground where I thought it would. Instead, I heard the splash and felt the cold as the seawater penetrated my sneaker and sock. I pulled my foot up fast and felt until I could find solid ground. Then I remembered. There were holes in the floor--airways and uncovered elevator shafts to the levels below.
"Dave," I called again, trying to keep the pitch of my voice constant. "Where the hell are you?" I put my hands on my head just to feel something familiar.
"I'm right here. Hang on, I lost the flashlight." His voice made me calmer but it echoed off the walls. How had he gotten so far away?
I heard a splash, then, "Shit."
Then I saw the flame. A yellow light flickered in his cupped palms. He lowered it to the ground. The flame fell out of his hands and sizzled as it hit the water. "Shit!" he shouted again.
"What happened?" I asked, my feet rooted to the ground. I crouched to lower my center of gravity.
"Can you come over here?" Dave said.
"You gotta be kidding me," I answered. "There might be a big hole in the floor between me and you."
"I dropped the flashlight and it went out," he said. "I can't find it." He lit another match and held it to the ground. I could see the flame moving back and forth. After a short time he dropped the fire.
"Ouch. Shit!" he said again.
"How many matches do you have left?" I asked.
"I don't know," said Dave. "Can't you get over here?"
I put my hands and my bare knees on the ground. "I'm going to have to crawl," I said.
"Then crawl," said Dave. Now I could hear him getting nervous.
"Keep talking so I can figure out where you are."
"They filled the other entrances with concrete. We can only get out the way we came in."
"That's great," I said. I moved forward on my hands and knees and immediately put my palm into a pile of glass shards. I jerked my hand up. The cuts burned. As I tried to wipe the glass from my hand the word came out of me as if it was someone elses. "Fuck!"
"Hey, you cursed," said Dave. "You never curse."
"I'm never in danger of dying."
"Oh shut up. You're not going to die."
I crawled forward a few steps running my hand in sweeping motions in front of me. The concrete floor dropped off suddenly. I stopped. I reached down as far as I could. As far as I knew, the shaft descended to the center of the earth.
"You taking Wendy to the prom, or what?" Dave asked. He lit another match.
"Man, she's a fox. I'm thinking of asking Cathy McDonald." He stopped and let another match drop.
"There's a big hole in front of me. I can't feel the bottom."
"Yeah, that. I went through it when I came over here. It's about three feet deep. You're going to have to jump into it and climb out the other side."
"What's on the bottom?" I leaned as far as I could. There was nothing.
"I don't remember. Look, it's only about three feet deep. Just jump in and come over to this side. I need you to help me find the light."
I could sense the sharp smell or rotting seaweed coming up from the void. "There's water in there," I said.
"There's a puddle at the bottom. I'm telling you, I went through it on the way over here. Just get over here."
I sat up and carefully dangled my legs over the edge.
"Man, I hope you're right," I said. I put my hands beside my hips on the concrete ledge and tensed my arms. "Here goes," I said. "One...two..."
"Wait! I found it." A bright light shot out from the middle of the nothing like an explosion. The light blinded me for a second. I put my hands in front of my eyes.
"Holy shit, Ryan. Get back. Get off the ledge."
Dave shined the light toward my feet, then into the hole I had almost jumped into.
The hole absorbed the light yielding nothing but black to our eyes. I felt sick and I could hear a ringing in my ears as I leaned over sideways and drew my legs up to my chest.
"Get away from there," said Dave.
I shivered uncontrollably against the knowledge that I had gone a single muscle twitch from endless nothing.
I could barely hear him as he walked around the chasm and stepped up to me.
"Hey, are you okay?" He crouched beside me and touched my shoulder.
"You almost killed me," I said. My fear turned to red anger. "You asshole, you almost made me jump into that."
"Calm down, man," said Dave. "Look, everything is okay. I didn't mean it. See, it's only about two feet deep over there." He trained the flashlight beam on a four-foot wide concrete ledge that spanned the hole. "I didn't mean it."
"Why the hell are we in here? Why did you have to leave me over here?"
"I thought we could get out this way and I didn't want to get lost. Look, these bunkers are like mazes. I needed some way to trace my way back."
"Let's just get the hell out of here," I said.
"Don't you want to see what's up there?"
"No." I stood and grabbed at the flashlight. He didn't let go. "Give me the goddamned light."
"You don't know the way out," he said.
"Then you get me out of here, now."
"All right man," he said. "Just calm down."
"You're not the one who almost died," I said. I could still feel the electric vibration of the fear and anger moving down my arms and legs.
"You didn't almost die. There's water at the bottom. I would have gotten a rope and pulled you out."
"Shut up and let's get out of here," I said. Dave turned and shined the flashlight behind us. I put my hand on his shoulder as we stepped around the boulders of broken concrete that bled rusted reinforcement rods. On the walls were brown tracks of metal, gears and motors long since frozen with brine and time.
"Are you sure this is the way out?" I asked him. "It seems like we've been going out for twice as long as we were going in."
"I think so," he said. Then, "Hey, look at this." He shone the light on huge metal door that hung from rollers in a track on the ceiling. The door was brown with rust and bulged with huge round rivets that joined massive plates of steel together. It was at least twice as tall as we were, and almost three times as wide. A massive bolt on the door had been latched open. There was a small gap between the metal door and the concrete frame.
"This must have been the ammunition battery," he said. "During the war they kept these rooms full of ammo for the big guns that protected the harbor. Look, it's open."
"I don't give a shit, man. You're playing games with me. Get me out of here," I said.
"I've never heard you curse so much in my life," said Dave.
"I've never been so mad at anyone before."
He took two steps toward the opened door. "I want to look inside," he said. I followed him toward the opening. He shone the beam through the crack illuminating the empty room beyond.
"There nothing in there," I said. "Now can we get out of here?"
"Look," he said. "There's some writing on the wall. Can you read it?"
"I could care less," I said.
"I'm going to go read it."
"Fine. I'll stay here," I said. Dave squeezed himself between the door and the concrete wall. I could see the light flashing irratically through the gap. I leaned on the door and it gave slightly with a loud rusty screech.
"What the hell was that?" said Dave.
I executed my idea before it formed solid in my head. The door was cold and rusty against my palms. Even though the wheels that supported it hadn't been worked in some thirty years they rolled as if the door were opened yesterday. I had memorized the location of the bolt and when the opened gap closed with a bang I slid the bolt and latched it.
I could hear his muffled cries. He pounded against the metal but his fists could only make a light tapping sound against mass. He screamed for a while, then fell silent and left me alone again in the darkness.
I felt along the door for the bolt and tried to unlatch it. My stomach fell once when the bolt refused to come free at my first push. But I quickly put my entire weight against it and it clanked open. I put my palms on the door and slid it open. It would only move open slightly, but left a space a little larger than the one Dave had initially crawled through. The light burst through the space as the door swung.
"What the fuck did you do?" he said as he crawled out.
"I just leaned against the door," I said. "I just leaned against it and it closed. Honest."
"You wouldn't have been able to get out without the light," he said.
"I'd have had a better chance than you. You would have been in here a few days before anyone realized you were missing. And if I fell into a pit on the way out, you'd have died in there."
"So we're even," he said.
"Seems that way," I said. I put my hand on his shoulder as we made our way to the metal rungs on the wall.
The sunlight was unbearable when we climbed out of Battery Gunnison. We sat on the roof of the concrete bunker with our hands over our eyes until we adjusted. The sky was brilliant blue and the waves pounded the sand and the broken concrete at our feet. People in bathing suits lay on blankets on the beach in the sun around the base of the abandoned bunker. Some waded into the surf.
"They just kept the ammo in here," Dave said. "My father says there's a tunnel between this bunker to another one on the other side of the cape. The guns were in the bunkers over there. They used to run ammo from here to the guns on the other side. I've never been able to find the ammo tunnel."
"It's probably filled with water, " I said.
"Probably," said Dave. "Anyway, they never shot these guns."
"Not even during world war two?"
"Not ever," said Dave. "All these guys just sat around twiddling their thumbs. There are still hydrophones all over the Sandy Hook bay they can use to listen for enemy submarines. The wires come to these bunkers but nobody ever goes in here anymore. All the electronic stuff was taken out years ago. The Parks Department filled most of the entrances with concrete. I found this one by myself." He motioned to the metal grate we had opened to get into the old military building. The bunker was built into a sand dune. The entrance Dave had found was grown over with grasses and weeds.
"What did you see in that room?" I asked him.
"Come on," he said. We started walking toward the beach. His sister would pick us up by the ranger station at the entrance to the Sandy Hook peninsula. We would have to walk two miles to get there.
"Did you say you were going to ask Cathy McDonald to the prom?" I asked as we walked.
"Yeah. She's something. Must have the biggest tits of any girl in our class. Man, wouldn't I love to get my hands on those."
"What makes you think she'd even consider going with you?" I said. My right sneaker made squishing sounds as we walked along the sandy shoulder of the beach road.
"Whadda I have to lose?" he said.
"She'll probably laugh in your face. Better yet, she'll probably get Rob Anderson to pound your head to a pulp."
A car passed at high speed picking up dust and gravel. "She's not going with him anymore," said Dave.
"She's not?" I asked.
"They broke up a few days ago. I think he wound up going with some girl from the Catholic school. She found them in bed or something like that."
"In bed?" I said in disbelief.
"Yeah. She walked into his house and he was in bed with this girl."
"Come on. Whose bed? His mom's? How'd she get in? Gimme a break."
"That's what Brenda told me," said Dave. I could see the brown toll-booth of a ranger station in the distance. There was a traffic-jam up of cars funneling through the single-lane exit.
"What does Brenda know?" I said. "She makes up all kinds of stuff. Hey, why don't you go with Brenda?"
"Get serious," said Dave. He punched me in the shoulder and I stumbled taking a step onto the roadway.
"You're really trying to kill me today," I said.
Dave ignored me. "Well, Ryan schmian. Why don't you ask little miss woof-woof?"
"Cut it out," I said. "She's a nice girl and she's your friend too. You've gone out with her."
"Hey, I go out with you and Louie but you guys don't try to fuck me. Did she ever do that to you?"
I walked a few steps without saying anything, plotting my answer. Dave caught onto the silence before I could get the first word out.
"You did it with her, didn't you?"
"No I didn't," I said.
"Ah ha! Still a virgin then, eh Ryan-schmian?" I slugged him in the shoulder and sent him reeling two steps.
He laughed and slapped his thighs, "I knew it. Still a virgin even when you had the chance. You're a goddamned homo."
I felt the blood running into my head as I faced him with both my fists raised. "I've about had it with you today, Reardon," I said.
"What are you gonna do, hit me?" He dropped his arms to his sides and approached me with his chin stuck out. "Right here, assfuck. Right here," he said as he pointed to his chin.
I stood staring at him with the blood pounding in my ears. "Well? Come on, what are you waiting for?"
"We're supposed to be friends," I said.
"You can't take a joke," he said. "You can't take a joke so you'd better hit me."
I watched my arm extend and my fist meet his jaw. I could feel the contact with in my knuckle blossom to pain before my hand completed its travel to the extent of my reach. I could see the look of surprise on his face as his head flew back and he stumbled to the ground with his arms outstretched. He quickly brought himself to his knees and rubbed his chin.
"You have a good right," he said as he stood and brushed the sand from his shorts and legs. "I didn't think you had it in ya." When he offered a hand shake I remembered my fists were up.
"Come on," he said impatiently. "I had it coming. I'm sorry." He took a step closer to me.
"Are you going to stand there all day?" he said, "or are you going to accept my apology."
I lowered my fists and shook his hand. "Apology accepted," I said.
He said, "Come on," and we walked toward the ranger station in silence.
Cars passed us and slowed until we walked beside the long queue of vehicles trying to exit the beach. I wondered what he was thinking and what he thought of me. The silence was painful. I could see a small bruise developing on his jaw and he rubbed it every few steps.
"Hey, Dave. I'm sorry, man."
"You did what you had to do," he said. "I respect you for it. No hard feelings." He patted me on the back.
"I didn't...I didn't...oh you know with Brenda because I was afraid. I took her to the movies and we had a good time. When I brought her home she jumped on me right there in her sister's car in front of my house. I didn't know what to do. It was like...like the whole situation was out of control."
"What did she do to you?" Dave asked. He leaned over and picked up a driftwood stick and swung it at the tall grasses growing along the road.
"She just kissed me," I said. "She kissed me and put her hand on my leg."
"That's it?" he asked. "Didn't she even french ya?"
"French?" I asked.
"I can't believe you," he said. He stuck out his tongue. Then he said, "Tongue man. Did she give you any tongue?"
"Oh no," I said, surprised.
"So you just let her kiss you and you let her go home."
I shrugged my shoulders and said, "Was I supposed to do something else?"
Dave pursed his lips and rolled his eyes. "Do I have to teach you everything?"
"Depends on what you know," I said. "What did you do with her?"
"It's not what I did to her," he said. "It's what she did to me."
"Like what?" I asked.
"Like more than you, Cassenova junior." We reached the brown toll booths and walked past the rangers. Dave's sister sat in her car in the parking lot. There was a guy with her in the front seat.
"Shit. She has asshole Harry with her," Dave said as he waved. His sister started the engine.
"What Brenda do to you?" I asked feeling jealous.
"If you don't know, I'm not telling you," he said, and grabbed his crotch.
We reached the aging Buick and Dave opened the back door. He got in silently.
"Hi Mo. Hi Harry," I said as I got in.
"Hi Ryan," Maureen said as she backed out and got onto the road taking us home. "You guys have fun? Meet any girls?"
"Yeah, all kinds," said Dave as he stared out of his window.
I shook my head and Maureen smiled. "Not a one. You gotta tell us what we're doing wrong."
She tapped her head and said, "It's in your head. Self-confidence. A girl doesn't want to go out with someone who acts like a self-conscious kid." She accentuated the last words as she peered into the rearview mirror at Dave. Harry sat sideways in his seat and put his arm around Maureen as she drove.
Maureen said, "It's prom time for you guys, isn't it? Who are you taking, Ryan?"
"I'm going to ask a friend of my sister. She's a year younger than me, so she'll probably flip at the idea of going to the junior prom. I need to use all the angles I can."
"I don't know what you're worried about. I think a lot of girls would like to go with you. If I were your age, I'd go with you."
"Yeah?" I said. I smiled.
"Don't take that as a compliment," Dave said to me. "Look at the bozo she's picked to go out with." He kicked the back of Harry's seat.
Harry scowled and raised a fist at Dave but Maureen put her hand on his leg. "Don't threaten my little brother," she said.
"Some day I'm going to clobber that punk," Harry said.
"You just try, big man," Dave said. "Why don't you just drop this asshole, Mo? Or is he too good at licking pussy for you to give him up?"
"David!" Maureen shouted. She blinked her eyes and coughed. Harry flushed.
"That's how she picks jerks like this," Dave said to me. "She asks them to stick their tongues out."
"That's it," Maureen said. She hit the brakes and pulled the car to the shoulder of the road. When the car came to a stop she put slammed on the parking brake. She looked at Dave and said, "Get out."
I pulled the door lock up and opened my door but Dave sat motionless, smiling. "Come on, man," I said under my breath.
"Not you, Ryan," Maureen said. "I'll drive you home but I want this little shit out of my car."
"It's not your car. It's Dad's car. Next year I'll be able to drive and it will be my car too." Dave extended his arm and flipped his fingers at her as if he were brushing away dust. "Onward, James," he said.
"You apologize to your sister," said Harry. "You don't have to apologize to me. I'm going to rearrange your face as soon as I get you alone."
"Ha," said Dave. "When you get me alone I'm going to have to make sure I don't drop any change."
"Get out," Maureen screamed. I pushed my door wide and started walking down the highway. I could hear Dave shouting at her behind me. But their voices got mercifully fainter as I went. I concentrated on the road ahead of me. There was a gas station a mile or two away. I would call my parents from there.
I hadn't gotten far when the Maureen's old Buick flashed past me on the roadway. I didn't see Dave's head in the rear window, and when I turned I saw him trotting to catch up with me. I stopped and waited.
When he reached me he was out of breath but he managed to squeeze out the word, "Assholes."
We walked in silence for a while. When he caught his breath I said, "I don't know why you treat Mo that way. I wish I had a sister like her."
"Yeah, well you can have her," Dave said. "She's a jerk. She's messing up her life."
"Why, Dave. What could she possibly have done to you?"
"It's not what she's done to me," he said. "It's what she's doing..." He cut himself off.
"What, what is she doing?"
He stopped walking and winced. He shook his head and pursed his lips as if he had a bad taste in his mouth and said, "She's fucking that guy. That asshole. I came home and saw them--in my bed. They were in my bed. I came home from school and caught them. That bastard was on top of her and she just smiled at me like she was drunk or on drugs or something. And that son-of-a-bitch Harry, he doesn't even stop pumping her. He just looks at me and says, 'Get the fuck out of here before I tear your heart out.'"
"My god," I said. "Did you tell your parents?"
He kicked a stone into the street and started walking again. I trotted two steps to catch up to him and he said, "Why? Why bother? What are they going to do? They can't stop her from seeing him."
"Did you talk to her about it?"
"Yes I talked to her about it. She thought it was funny. She said that people can't be expected to say rational things in the heat of passion and that she loves that idiot. She says they're going to get married but they haven't told anybody yet--like it's some big secret--like the whole world is going to stop spinning and wait for the wedding invitations."
He rubbed his eyes and spit.
"Hey, Dave," I said. "You know, people in love. Sometimes they do things..."
"Don't make any excuses for them or I'll deck you this time," he said. "She's my fucking sister."
He turned around and walked away from me. I took a few steps toward him and called to him, but he waved his arm behind him brushing me off. I sat on the curb and watched him go, growing smaller as he moved. Eventually, I couldn't see him anymore and I watched the cars pass. When the sun began to grow orange in the summer sky I felt my stomach growl. I got up and walked the rest of the way to the gas station where I called my Dad to pick me up.
There was nothing to do that hot summer afternoon. I had ridden my bicycle to Dave's house in the hope we could find something to occupy ourselves. I took a drink from the garden hose at the front of his house and knocked on the door. When there was no answer, I found Dave in the garage. He smiled when he saw me and said, "Let me show you something."
I sat on a stool by his father's workbench while he went to a white metal cabinet by the wall and pulled out a brown jar of chemicals. He brought it back to me and I read the label.
"Iodine crystals," I said. "Where did you get this? Did you steal it from the chem lab at school?"
"Nah. My dad bought it for me. I told him I was doing a project for school. He ordered it from the drug store." He went to the same cabinet and pulled out a large glass jug.
"This--I stole from the chem lab," he put the jug on the top of the workbench. "Pure ammonium hydroxide. Lab grade."
"How did you get it?" I asked.
"Never mind how. I have my ways. We're going to try something I read about in the CRC."
"The rubber book. 'The Handbook of Chemistry and Physics.' I came across this little number last night. Well actually I overheard one of the other guys in chem lab talking about it. But this should work." He went into the house and came out holding a glazed ceramic cereal bowl. The he opened the wide-mouthed jar of chemicals and poured the purple crystals into the beige bowl.
"What is this going to make?' I asked.
"Contact explosive. 'Cept when wet. It explodes on contact as soon as it drys." He grabbed the glass jug and took the cap off.
"How does this work?"
"Just pour this onto that," he said, and he started to lower the mouth of the jug.
"Hey, wait. Shouldn't we do this outside? I mean, there's all kinds of gas and stuff in here." Dave stopped and looked around the garage.
"Yeah, no sense blowing up the house." I picked up the bowl of iodine crystals and set it in a shadow by the side of Dave's house. Dave poured the sharp-smelling ammonia into the dish. The crystals turned black and dissolved to a dirt-like sediment under the ammonia.
Dave put the stopper back into the bottle.
"Now what?" I said.
"I think that black stuff is it," Dave said. He scooped out a tablespoon full of the black sediment with a metal kitchen spoon. He set it down on the hot driveway.
I could hear tiny snaps and crackles all around him as he walked back toward me. Dave smiled, "Listen to that, it's going already."
As Dave turned there was a bang and a puff of purple smoke from the driveway. I heard a whirring noise near my ear and turned my head in time to see the spoon still vibrating from where it had imbedded itself in the side of the house only inches from Dave's arm.
"Jesus Christ," Dave said. "Is this cool or what?" I looked at the dish at my next to my feet and tip-toed away from it.
"Let's put that out in the sun," Dave said.
"Chicken," Dave said as he gently lifted the bowl and moved it into the vacant lot beside his house. The vapourous ammonia evaporated quickly in the summer heat. I hid in the garage and flinched when I heard the bang, the sound of the ceramic shrapnel from the cereal bowl smashing into the side of the house, and Dave's high-pitched laugh as the windows shattered.
I knew I had forgotten something. When the bathroom door opened I knew what I had forgotten was that small twist of the wrist that would have set the lock. I was too nervous and forgot the simple move that resulted in my father standing behind me staring as I tried to wipe his shaving cream from my face and hide his razor behind a paper cup and a tube of toothpaste.
Instead of the shout I expected from him he put his hand on my shoulder. "Wait stop," he said, gently. "Stop."
"I'm sorry, Dad. I won't use your stuff anymore," I said.
"I know, IknowIknow," he said. "But first you have to learn to do this right. I'm sorry I never taught you. I didn't even notice all that black peach-fuzz growing on your chin."
I blushed and took an involuntary breath.
"Here," my father said, "Let me show you." He took razor off the sink and held it in his hand. Then he put his hand on my cheek.
"You have to tighten the skin somehow, make a face or use your hand, but get it tight. Then stroke the razor with the grain of the hair. Don't go against it or you'll wind up with ingrown hairs." He ran the razor down the side of my face plowing a clear path in the field of cream on my cheek.
"Same for your neck," he said. "Go like this." He shoved his chin out and moved his head back. I did the same and he ran the razor down my neck.
"Now, a father only has to tell his son this one time, okay? From now on, I expect you to do this yourself. And please ask your mother to get you your own razor. Using another man's razor is like using his toothbrush. Understand?"
I smiled and said, "Thanks, Dad." He turned to go but he stopped and spoke facing away from me.
"Um," he said. "Tonight is your prom night, Ryan. And I...I...I think I know what goes on."
I could feel his embarrassment. I hung my head praying he wouldn't pick this time, a time when I was cornered in the bathroom with no escape, to give me the famed father-to-son lecture about sex. Didn't he know I already knew it?
"Nothing is going to happen, Dad. Don't worry," I said.
"I think I told my father the same thing," he said. "Look, let's make this easy on the both of us. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of folded bills. "Here," he said handing me the money. "Have a good time. Be safe." I took the money from him and he ran his palm over my head, messing my hair. Then he put his hand on my shoulder. "I trust you, Ryan." He said as he left the bathroom.
I opened the bills in my hand. There were two twenties on top, a ten, and a bunch of ones. But the pile was too thick. As I separated the bills trying to get an accurate count the small foil package dropped to the floor. I picked it up, folded it back into the money, and finished shaving as my father taught me.
The next old story is They're not fish, they're people
The last old story is Piano lessons
The first old story is The cheshire woman