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Ice and a Curious Man

Ice and a Curious Man by Renée Angers
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Just North of Dillingham, Alaska lives a reclusive poet named Shane Helnsley. Nobody knows what he is about or even what he looks like. The rumors about him are rampant and really quite revolting, but his works are considered masterpieces and are sought after by the public.

Marren Lang is the writer hired by Helnsley to interview him -- an unpleasant task.

What Lang encounters in Alaska is the last thing she could have ever expected. The warnings about the old toothless pervert who lives like a savage are the least of her worries. Within hours of her arrival on the new landscape she learns she has much more to contend with. Helnsley teaches Lang to rudely stare down her own demons and face truths that are rarely respected when numbed by civilized society.

Ice and a Curious Man melts selfishness down to an unthreatening puddle and bravely shouts that no book can ever be judged by its cover.

Mushroom Publishing; November 2005
ISBN 9781843190912
Read online, or download in secure EPUB
Title: Ice and a Curious Man
Author: Renée Angers
 
Excerpt

 

Chapter 1

‘I might get the fingers to start turning flips and the language will spill
like some 5 gallon box of wine’

Excerpt from ‘Ugly People’ by Shane Helnsley

 

It’s not as if she had anything better to do for the next month of her life – just writing a bunch of redundant articles and reviews on the local music scene in St. Louis. It wasn’t that she hated her job at ‘Room’, a small, alternative entertainment paper, but it really had become tedious. Her nights would typically be spent attending shows, which never left her any time to finish her current novel. Finish... that was funny. She had never gotten past jotting down a few notes long hand in a cheap pharmacy notebook. It was just an idea in its most embryonic stages. She knew, however, that if she had found the time, she would never get around to submitting it in anywhere, anyway. ‘Too many anys,’ she concluded.

Then there was the perpetual hangover. A thick skulled feeling that she wasn’t altogether certain was caused by the loud music every damn night, or the drinking she felt she needed to participate in to tolerate it. Just an occupational hazard, she supposed, while she would continue to pound them back.

Regardless, she had accepted this latest assignment and here she sat, in the back of a taxi cab headed for Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. She was so preoccupied with dreading the trip that she barely noticed when the car pulled up to the front entrance. She paid the unkempt and rather unsavory taxi driver and grabbed her laptop and bag off the seat. “Excuse me, Sir. What time is it?”

“Mmmeahey forhee fi.”

“Pardon?” she asked, but the car squealed away before she had a chance to hear him repeat his answer. She wasn’t even given the chance to close the car door properly. She reacted by shooting him the finger and hoping that he saw it in his rear view. “Asshole!” she mumbled under her breath.

She had forgotten her watch in her rush to get out of the apartment on time, but forgave herself for allowing her impending terror to steal her organizational skills away from her. She was positive that her loss of wits was only temporary and the result of a mild phobic anxiety toward flying. Mild –that was the understatement of the week. She was already two Dramamines into the game and her head felt like she was witnessing the world through a snug fitting sandwich bag.

Her flight was at five after nine in the AM and she had been warned to get to the airport at least one hour beforehand, preferably two. The largest of the clocks on the wall in the airport read eight fifty, meaning that the cabby’s “Mmmeahey forhee fi,” meant eight forty-five. She hurried at full gallop through the airport trying desperately to get a good hold of her luggage, but the bags kept slipping off her shoulder.

She reached the counter huffing wildly, trying to ask for directions while catching her breath. The woman behind the desk directed her to the proper terminal with a one-dimensional smile and the overwhelming stench of cheap hair spray.

Marren’s hurried pace had her forgetting just how horrified she was of flying, and before she knew it she was on the plane and settling in.

She glanced around at all the safety blurbs, taking note of what each said, but wanting to ignore them the way everyone else was. Everyone else seemed so calm. Too calm. ‘You’re all just too fucking calm,’ she thought.

She pulled a compact out of her bag and checked her reflection. She didn’t look nearly as flustered as she felt. Her fire red hair was still neatly tucked away in its tidy ponytail. The minuscule amount of make-up she wore seemed in place and her flushed complexion from the rush only made her radiate a healthy looking glow.

The flight attendant passed by and Marren asked when she would be able to get a drink. “Not until we’re in the air, Ma’am,” she said. Marren smiled at her pleasantly, not much liking the answer but accepting it readily enough. Still, she was fairly certain that all the passengers in first class could enjoy a drink whenever they damn well pleased. Probably had a glass of champagne offered to them upon boarding. Spoiled upper class brats.

Her painfully polite smile fizzled off her face as the flight attendant moved on. Marren wished she had tripped the Barbie impersonator on her way by, but kept her thoughts silent. ‘Ma’am? I can’t believe she called me Ma’am. Hey lady, I look way younger than you do. And MY tits are REAL. Christ, why did I take this job?’

She knew very well why she took this job. It was an opportunity to break into a larger market. One published novel didn’t deliver nearly as much recognition as she had hoped and working for ‘Room’ wasn’t her idea of an exceptional stepping-stone in her writing career. She was still tightly wedged into a dollar more than minimum wage, and still a nobody.

At first, she was thrilled that a large national publication wanted to hire her. ‘Literary Today’ was no small potatoes – it was the big boy of its kind. The bad ass of literary magazines. Gavin Preston, the Editor in Chief, called Marren himself, asking to meet with her. She agreed. How could she not? She wasn’t crazy. Even if he had her mistaken for someone else, which she felt had to be the case, she jumped at the chance for a meeting.

She went to his big chic office and he quickly sat her down and then flung the proposition on her. She asked him if he was sure he had the right person and he assured her that he did; he then offered her the job again. This time it hit her like a pillowcase full of doorknobs and she wasn’t even able to form words in response. She just sat there staring at him, her jaw too frozen in shock to even dangle stupidly. After several long moments, she began to stutter, “I . . . I . . .”, but he interrupted her.

“I know this must come as a bit of a surprise.” He smiled. “Why don’t you take a couple of days and think on it. Get back to me when you’ve decided to accept.”

She had met Preston a few years earlier when he wasn’t such a bigwig. It was some kind of awards banquet and Marren was only there as a favor to a friend who had been nominated for something or other and begged her to be his escort. She really couldn’t remember the specifics, nor did she care to. She didn’t remember it as one of the more pleasant chunks of her life.

In any case, now Gavin was the head man at ‘Literary Today’. He was still as friendly and personable as she remembered him to be. One might expect such an esteemed title to spawn an egomaniacal transformation of startling proportions, but Gavin was a gracious as ever.

As Preston suggested, she sat on his offer for a few days, then called to meet with him again. She went to his office for the second time and was treated like she was his best friend. She found the treatment odd, but didn’t question it. The proposition, or “assignment” as he called it, sounded kind of adventurous . . . exciting even, but that quickly wore off when Gavin mentioned the subject matter she would be investigating and writing about.

She was to fly to Dillingham, Alaska, and get the full story on a reclusive poet named Shane Helnsley. She knew the name well. Shane Helnsley started at Oklahoma State University teaching English Literature and Poetry. Although his work refused to follow any of the rules he taught at the University, it was much sought after and he had a collection of his poetry published very quickly. He was rumored to have lost his mind and run off to Alaska with little else than the shirt on his back. This only made his work much more in demand. Unfortunately, over the years he very seldom released any new work to the public, prompting every interviewer and journalist in the country on their knees, begging his agent for some answers. They were usually just given some vague excuse or thrown a table scrap of old Helnsley work.

Helnsley had apparently agreed to an interview just recently, but only under his own very strict conditions. This is where the whole idea gave Marren an extreme case of the willies. His conditions were that the writer was to come alone, bringing nothing but their writing tools. There was to be no recording equipment of any kind. No tape recorders. No cameras of any sort. And . . . the writer was to be the one of his choosing: Marren Lang.

Why in the world would Helnsley choose her? She knew she had never met the man before. Not ever. She’d never even seen a picture of him. How had he heard of her? Gavin told her that he didn’t ask and didn’t know, “ . . . but does that really matter? This is Helnsley we’re talking about.”

Marren chewed on the inside of her lip for a moment, all the rumors about Helnsley thick and all consuming in her thoughts, and then opted to just blurt out her concerns. “I’ve heard that he’s . . . ”

Gavin stopped her with an amused laugh and then proceeded to assure her that Helnsley was, in every sense of the word, a gentleman.

“Well, how do you know that?” Marren asked. “If you don’t mind me asking.”

“A colleague of mine has a friend that has met him several times,” Preston said, reclining back in his cushy leather chair.

“Oh, how comforting,” she said.

“His agent also assures me that he’s a very well mannered man.”

“Really? Well, I kind of find that hard to believe,” Marren said. “All I have to go on are all those rumors I’ve heard and read.”

“Most of them, Marren, are not true. He’s a brilliant man. He’s just very . . . secretive.”

“Yeah. That was the mildest thing I heard.”

“Don’t tell me,” Gavin started, holding his hand up. “You heard that he’s a dirty old man. Completely mad and bordering on psychotic. He’s John Merrick.”

“Check. Check. And check,” Marren smiled, ticking her finger off on an imaginary clipboard.

“No,” Gavin said, looking altogether too sure of himself to know what he was talking about. “Don’t worry. He’s a bit . . . how shall I say . . . eccentric, but very bondable.”

“Bondable?” Marren laughed. “Interesting choice of words.”

“For an interesting man. Actually, Shane Helnsley is a fascinating man and I think you’ll like him. Besides, this may be the one job that’s going to push your career into high gear. Do you know how many writers would kill to be in your position right now?”

“I know. I know. It’s just weird,” she said waving her fingers around spookily. “I mean, why does he want me?

“His agent says he respects your work,” Gavin answered.

“But I write reviews on bands . . . ”

“I think he meant your novel.”

“What would Shane Helnsley read a smutty romance for?” Marren asked, finding that airing her question out loud only made the whole idea sound that much more ludicrous.

“Maybe he likes that kind of thing,” Gavin suggested. “In any case, Marren, I really must know if you are going to accept this assignment. It is, after all, up to you, but I really don’t think you should pass this opportunity up. I hate to make you feel rushed, but we need to make arrangements . . . you know, travel and what not. Helnsley’s agent is pushing for this to happen now, before Helnsley changes his mind.”

* * * *

The flight attendant picked up her microphone, asking for everyone’s attention, then began running down the safety instructions. It was, Marren supposed, the usual spiel. She wanted to listen, but her distracted mind only half heard what the attendant was saying.

She was surprised to find that she was able to get through the take off without digging her nails into the arm of the businessman sitting next to her. Actually, it really wasn’t all that bad. Once they were in the air, she decided that it would probably be best to refrain from looking out the window until they were safely back on the ground. Just the thought of glancing out the window gave her a sticky feeling of vertigo. She went to close the window blind and got a glimpse of the sky outside. Her heart pounding hard in her chest, she took a closer look, only to see that it was beautiful, especially so above the clouds.

After an hour in the air, she finally had the drink she wanted so desperately earlier and was feeling much more relaxed as a result. She hadn’t eaten anything due to her apprehension toward flying, and that together with the couple of Dramamine she had swallowed, meant she was definitely feeling much more calm. Noticing that it was only ten AM, she looked down at her drink before partaking. She summed that it was seven AM in Alaska, and felt guilty for drinking so early . . . but she was sure no one was keeping tabs on her. It had to be happy hour somewhere in the world. Just the fact that she was being hurled through the air at a speed of 565 miles per hour in a hunk of metal that weighed in at 147,000 pounds . . . it just seemed unnatural. The wings weren’t flapping. Nothing was flapping for that matter, and as far as she was concerned, this enormous thing she was sitting in just shouldn’t be in the fucking air.

She opened her laptop to start taking a few notes on what she wanted to discuss with Helnsley (the psychotic freak), when the businessman seated next to her introduced himself. “Gary Crenshaw,” he blurted out.

Marren looked up at him, seeing what she thought was an unthreatening smile on an even more unthreatening face. “Marren Lang,” she responded.

“Nervous of flying?” he asked, peeking down at the glass she held clenched in her white knuckled hand.

Marren followed his eyes down to her scotch, neat. “It shows, huh? Uh . . . yeah, a little. Well, a lot, but I’m OK. Other things on my mind to be freaked out about.”

“On your way to Anchorage?”

“Mmmm,” she affirmed. “Overnight. I’m chartered out to some God-forsaken bush in the morning. Some place twenty miles outside Dillingham.” She looked over at him, taking in the obviously expensive pin stripe and tailored suit. “You an accountant?”

“Investor,” he corrected. “You?”

“Writer,” she said, taking a sip from her drink.

“Oh, a writer. Very good. Novelist? Journalist?”

“A little of both, I guess you could say,” she said.

“So what’s in Dillingham?” Crenshaw asked.

“Some sour old pervert of a poet. I’m supposed to interview him. Shane Helnsley. You ever heard of him?” She knew it was absurd, but somewhere in the back of her mind she hoped he would say ‘Yes. I’ve known him since we were boys. Good man. Very proper and trustworthy. Nope, no mental illness there,’ but he didn’t.

“Helnsley . . . sounds familiar. But I’m not an expert on poetry.”

“Join the club,” Marren said.

“You don’t sound very pleased,” he observed.

“I’m not. I mean, this is a great opportunity for me. It’ll probably improve my career prospects . . . It’s just that . . . ” She stopped herself and looked over at the stranger sitting next to her. “God, I’m a mess. I don’t even know you and I’m telling you my life story. I’m sorry.”

“No, no,” he said. “You’ve got me interested now, and we’ve got . . .” he looked down at his very pricey Rolex. “Nothing but time and a bad movie. You were saying that this thing will be great for your career but . . .”

“See . . . he chose me!” Marren griped, her inability to understand the whole idea very obvious. “Helnsley has never given an interview to anyone before. Ever! Now he’s finally agreed to give one but only under his own really strange and strict conditions.”

“Sounds intriguing.”

“Well, that’s what I thought until I found out he actually picked me to do it. That was one of his conditions.”

“There were other conditions?” Crenshaw asked.

“Yeah. No recording equipment. No cameras. And I’m to come alone. Me.”

“Why you?”

“I don’t know. He says he respects my work,” Marren told him.

“You must be a very well known writer then?”

“Hardly,” Marren laughed. “I write reviews on the local music scene in St. Louis. I’ve written one smutty romance that was published through a small press but it didn’t do very well. I don’t know Helnsley. Never met him in my entire life. I’ve read his work and it’s wonderful. I can’t figure out why on earth he would ask for me. Then, there’s the little matter of him being a complete lunatic.”

“This just keeps getting better,” Crenshaw chuckled. “Tell me about this . . . lunatic.”

“He’s a recluse. He left his life and his teaching position at Oklahoma State to live like a savage in the middle of nowhere. The last frontier.” She laughed nervously. “I’ve heard nothing but horror stories about him. People have actually referred to him as the ‘missing link’. To be honest with you, Mr. Crenshaw . . . I’m absolutely terrified. I’ve never been so terrified in my life.”

“You know what . . . I bet it will end up being really boring and then be over with before you know it.”

“I’m there for a month,” Marren muttered.

“A month? Wow. Is this Helnsley paying for your hotel?”

“I’m staying in his guesthouse,” Marren said. “I’m told his home is too far out to commute every day.”

“Guesthouse? Hmmm . . . he must have money,” Crenshaw said, assuming a guesthouse meant that he had a large home.

“I guess,” Marren agreed, finishing her drink. “Where are you off to?” she asked, feeling like she needed to change the subject for her own nerve’s sake.

“Anchorage. Business. Nothing nearly as interesting as your situation.”

They chatted about investments and financial portfolios. Interest rates and mutual funds. Capital gain this and stock market fluctuations that. Marren pretended to understand and to be interested, but quite frankly, she didn’t and wasn’t. Regardless, the conversation busied them for the next hour and a half, but then Marren’s two Dramamine and three-drink breakfast demanded an urgent nap. She slept a numbed and drugged sleep for the next two and a half hours. Upon waking she read some of Helnsley’s work, companioned with another dose of whiskey. Her stomach was beginning to feel an uncomfortable and empty rot from the lack of food and the alcohol, but it wasn’t anything that couldn’t be numbed with another drink.

As she read, she came to see just how amazing Helnsley’s writing was. His work was absolutely incredible. She found herself wanting to cry one moment and laugh out loud and hysterically the next. The tears would be of pity or heartbreak. The laugh – of amusement, or total revulsion. The work followed no grammatical rules whatsoever and it appeared that he just let it all flow without any predefined or patterned obstacles, and then let it lie there gasping for breath like a wounded animal. He made her feel a strange ache and an even stranger itching frustration. It was as if his printed word itself was frustration and that frustration infected anyone who came into contact with it. Shane Helnsley’s work was a disease. A very contagious and debilitating disease.

The flight finally ended, landing at Anchorage International Airport at two forty-five PM, Alaska time (five forty-five, hers). She dragged herself and her bags out to the front exit of the airport, her legs stiff yet rubbery from the lack of space in the economy section. She had heard tell of people suffering from blood clotting after longs flights and imagined herself having a stroke right there on Helnsley’s front step. There she would lay, convulsing and flopping around like a big, slimy, foolish fish, surrounded by Helnsley’s servants. “Who is she?” one would mumble in a Ukrainian accent.

“She’s the writer,” another would whisper.

And then Helnsley himself would appear, pushing his way through the crowd rudely and as forcefully as his hobbling age would allow. He would gaze down at her, babbling insanities through brown spike-like teeth, spittle dribbling out the corner of his mouth. His bald, liver spotted head shining in the white Alaskan sun causing near snow blindness. Beads of sweat clinging to his wrinkled and quivering upper lip. She imagined him kneeling down beside her and begin howling and masturbating. The entire scenario repulsed her, but also caused her to start laughing.

She hailed a cab and put the ridiculous images out of her mind. Her legs were fine and with the amount of alcohol she consumed on the flight, she was certain her blood was running quite thin. She willed old babbling Helnsley out of her mind. She refused to have him take up the bulk of her thoughts until she absolutely had to allow him to be there. Instead, she focused on a hot shower, a cold beer, a meal and a good night’s sleep.

She called Gavin once she arrived at her hotel to let him know that she had arrived. Then she called to confirm her charter for the next morning out to Helnsley’s home. It was to leave at nine, so she planned on being at the airport by eight. This “two hour prior to” bullshit was for those anal retentive travelers that like to sit around and guard their luggage against those evil flower toting Krishnas. Nine times out of ten there were never any complications with tickets, and more often than not any problems with flights were delays. Why did passengers need to arrive two hours prior to boarding if boarding wasn’t to take place until a delayed sixteen and a half hours after the scheduled time? Her flight was a charter, so she wasn’t about to start worrying about all these moronic rules and regulations. One hour was going to have to be enough.

After showering and helping herself to that much anticipated beer from the mini-fridge, she ordered room service and then selected a movie from the pay-per-view in her room. ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ and ‘Trainspotting’ were the only choices. The latter was the obvious choice, for obvious reasons. It was the perfect prescription for a mind requiring intelligent distraction. The brilliance of the film would do nicely, so she allowed the first five minutes to pass by without turning it off, which allowed the hotel’s billing mechanism to kick in. It may be the last time she ever saw a good film. It may be the last time she ever saw anything for that matter, considering that she was about to spend the next month with that psychopathic relic of a man. She quickly brushed the thought out of her mind reminding herself of Preston’s description of Helnsley as “bondable”. Wasn’t that the word he had used? Well, if you’re going to be a mad axe killer, you may as well be a bondable one.

With a full stomach and another beer to her name, she found it impossible to stay awake any longer. She clicked off the television three quarters of the way through the movie and crawled under the blankets. She was out cold before her head hit the pillow. Seven-thirty PM.

The wake up call came in at seven AM, taking ten rings to successfully bring her into consciousness. She didn’t think she needed the call, being a habitual early riser, but she was proven wrong. She hung up the phone and rubbed at her face groggily. This must be what they mean when they say ‘jet lag’. She felt tired in a very thick sort of way, like she had gotten too much sleep but needed more.

She called room service and ordered herself the standard Continental breakfast. She showered while she waited, looking forward to it, but once it came she was only able to push half the croissant down. It would seem that her meeting with Helnsley had come complete with its own set of appetite dissolving butterflies.

Arriving at the airport at twenty to nine, she was again running. At the main counter she asked where she would find her reserved charter going to Dillingham.

“The name?” the young man asked.

“Marren Lang,” she said.

“Could you spell that, please,” he asked.

Marren took a deep breath to keep her patience. “M-A-R-R-E-N-L-A-N-G”

“Lang. Lang . . . Oh, here it is. It’s reserved under the name Heln . . . Helnsley. A Mr. Shane Helnsley.”

“That’s right,” she said, starting to tap her foot as the minutes ticked by.

“Well, this charter isn’t going to Dillingham, Miss Lang. It’s going a bit further north than that.”

“Yeah, well, whatever. Can you just tell me where I have to be?”

The clerk gave her directions and she was off running again. She found the terminal easily enough and jogged over to two men standing by the exit, talking.

She excused herself and showed her reservation to them, asking them if they could help her out. The more casually dressed of the two smiled at her. “Ah, you’re the writer I’m takin’ out to Shane’s place.”

Marren nodded, panting and feeling relieved that her hunt for the plane had ended. “Yes,” she panted, fighting to catch her breath.

“I’m the pilot,” he said. “Follow me.”

The pilot said his so-longs to the man he had been speaking with, then led Marren out through the gates. Outside stood waiting the small Cessna Skylane that would deliver her out to her dreaded assignment. Its wingspan stretched for what looked like thirty feet, maybe more. For some reason she felt safer with the idea of being hurled through the air in a hunk of metal that was a tad bit more compact than the monster she had sat in yesterday. Still, she swore, it just wasn’t natural, even if the physics behind this plane were a little more believable.

“Nice day to fly,” he said. “I’m Ed by the way. Ed Lawry.”

“Marren Lang,” she returned. “I’m the only one on this flight?”

“Yup. Shane wanted it that way.”

“Do you know him?” Marren asked.

“Shane? Sure I know him,” Ed replied.

Ed helped her climb in then shut the door behind her. He walked around to the other side and climbed in himself. Marren’s eyes darted all over the instrument panel, and then over to Ed. He smiled as if he were the happiest man on the planet. “Sure is a nice day.”

He started the engine and the propeller began to whirl. Marren felt that familiar poke of terror’s pointy finger in her stomach. She realized that she had forgotten to take a Dramamine and immediately began frantically hunting through her bag for them.

“Forget something?” Ed asked.

“Dramamine.”

“Don’t worry about it, Miss Lang. I’ve got a good stash of air sickness bags.”

“Great,” Marren mumbled sarcastically.

She found the bottle, fumbled to get one out and stuffed it in her mouth quickly. Ed smiled. “We’ll be there before that thing even starts working.”

“It’s more of a mental thing,” she informed. “Knowing it’s in me calms me down.” The plane started to move, turning slowly to make its way toward the runway. “Can I talk to you while you fly, or do you need to concentrate?” she asked.

“You can talk, I can talk, we can both talk at the same time. Hell, I can sing show tunes for ya if ya like.”

Marren laughed at Ed’s unpredictable response, then her face became serious. “What’s he like?”

“Shane? He’s a great guy,” Ed said.

“Great like what?” she prodded.

“Well, he’s real friendly. He’s kinda private, but not in an anti social kinda way. He’s friendly. Real friendly.”

“So he’s not nuts?” she pushed.

“Shane? No . . .” Ed answered. “Well, maybe just a little. Don’t tell him I said that.”

“How old is he?” she asked.

Ed frowned slightly with thought. “Ya know, I’m not too sure. Now that ya mention it, I don’t know. I never asked him.” He peered over at her quickly, giving her a wink. “Rest assured, he’s old enough.”

Marren found herself turning her nose up at Ed’s answer. It came across as perverse and she decided right then to give it up. Just go out to Dillingham, or wherever it was she was going, meet the weird old coot, do the best job she could do and reap the rewards later. Both Gavin and Ed said pretty much the same thing about Helnsley. She felt like she should be reassured about her safety. She hadn’t been hired to write the memoirs of a serial killer. ‘Don’t be so silly,’ she told herself. All the same, she was out in the middle of nowhere to interview some eccentric and possibly dirty minded old crust of a poet.

It was a nice day. Clear. The Cessna flew low enough for Marren to appreciate the spectacular scenery that was Alaska. She had had no idea it was so striking. It was so immensely breathtaking that she felt stupid for never allowing herself into a plane before. She had been born, bred, and rarely ventured very far outside of Missouri.

Ed made small talk with her, asking her what it was like to be a famous writer. She looked over at him and then broke out laughing. “Why don’t ya ask Helnsley that?”

“I did,” Ed said. “All’s he said was that he needed a drink. So now, I’m askin’ you.”

“Well, I’m not famous,” she said.

“Shane said you’re good. He said you’ve got something. He told me that out of the few rough diamonds he’s seen, you shone the brightest of the lot.”

“He said that? How corny! Who is this guy?”

“Yup, that’s what he said,” Ed confirmed. “He always has a way of putting things. And as far as he goes, he told me he was just a lump of coal that didn’t want the pressure.”


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