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Stanley C. Brown 1035 Scott Drive #475 Prescott, Arizona 86301 INCIDENTSBy Stanley C. Brown

email: wed1949@msn.com

An "incident" is "something that happens as a result of or in connection with something more important; a minor event or episode..." For Marian Louise Shapleigh, making love with the man she hoped to marry, was, in the scope of things, only one incident in her busy life as a student. Giving birth to a boy-child was a major event, for mother, for son, and for the father who used that event as the spring board from which to leap out of their lives. Marian's life for the next months was filled with the major events of dropping out of college and returning to the home of her parents in Illinois. It was 1930, and a major event in the life of countless Americans was getting under way - The Great Depression. However, that was only an incident in the life of her son, William Shapleigh. The major event he remembered was when at the age of seven he decided his first name was too common. There were two others in his second grade class who also answered to "Bill." "I think I will be called 'Snap.'" And so he was, from then on.

Except for the slow, slow dripping of water from a spigot into a shallow pan on the ground, everything was totally quiet. Shap sat in the shade of the lanai near the pool, watching the gardener, Jose. The man stood like a statue, propped by a long handled weed digger, staring at the spigot. One drop of water every fifteen seconds, according to Snap's count as he turned his sun burned arm back from looking at his watch.The passing of time was not how the caretaker for the Santa Cruz Town House 2 Association assessed moments like these. Jose Moreno had no such orientation to gringo watches and date books. His world view was of place, not linear time. Just now he was here, contemplating the formation of water drops on the rim of the faucet, and their occasional descent into the little pan. A lizard came to drink, and Jose did not move. William Shapleigh had laid the newspaper across his legs, open to long columns of tiny stock market statistics. He was glad to pull his attention away from squinting for the few stocks his broker managed for him and try to enter the world of the gardener. He became aware of the comfortable contours of the lounge chair pressing his back. That back of his

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still ached from a week of long hours over a computer, and climbing in and of a county out vehicle to call on welfare recipients. "Why does Jose stand there and do nothing; on time?" Shap wondered silently, our knowing that part his monthly association fee paid the man. This negative thought was an invasion into his hour of peacefulness. He tried to put this needless anxiety aside and leaned his head back, tucking the bone at the top of his neck into lounge's plastic ribbing. the This was his Eden. Though not the fanciest of town houses it nestled beside the foothills of adjoining mountains. He laughingly called it "the lower rent district." The town houses were in groups of four, sharing common walls, on either side of the single, curving street which formed a large "horseshoe." The innermost portion of the horseshoe was a common area landscaped with desert bushes, trees and meandering walkways. At the center was a large swimming pool and lanai. It was here Shap often retreated for solitude. Most of the residents were much older than he, being retired and either away on trips or off to bridge games and volunteer tasks. He had the pool area much to himself whenever he wanted it. Whenever he wanted it! That was a sort of life philosophy, he supposed. At least, there was no one else to live for but himself. His mother was in another state, and his father had been missing since he was born. There were some half-brothers, but they never communicated. As for a wife, well, that was a painful subject every time it came bubbling up in his consciousness. God knows he had tried. Or had he? lack of self assurance pulled His

the rug out from under permanent relationships every time. Being short didn't help either, five foot six, although his body was well shaped and he kept his muscle tone by hiking, watching his diet, and occasional workouts on his home gym. The "Shapleigh" name came from his maternal grandfather, but his mother was more English, like her own mother and she told him once that his natural father was Scottish. Although Shap had always accepted his ruddy complexion, he often wished for the darker skin of southern France, or brown skin like Jose who had just moved his weight from the weed digger and renewed his task. Shap grasped the short sleeve shirt to wipe his his of blue eyes, which were burning from the sun-block lotion. Maybe he should grow a mustache, or a beard, or let his hair grow long, instead of being so trimmed and neat all the time. Some change was called for, as this feeling of dissatisfaction lately reminded him. Being a county social worker did not seem to be going anywhere. But then, how could he

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know where he wanted to go? He sat up, folding the business section and tossing it on the lanai table as he moved to the edge of the pool. He pulled his shirt over his head, tossed it aside and dove in. The cool waters refreshed him, soothing the growing agitation of the old dilemma. How do other people decide to change a lifestyle? How could a single, independent guy make room for someone else in his life; in his home and his routine? It did not seem possible! The silence of the deep water was shattered by the thought. "Making room for someone else in his life." He pushed his feet against the bottom and shot to the surface, gasping for air and then kicking out into a crawl for the far end of the pool. To surrender his life to something bigger than himself would mean letting go, giving up his dreams and hopes and desires for another person's dreams and hopes and desires. The kick of his legs and splash of his arms took on a sudden surge of vigor. Three laps, maybe four, and he would go in, grab a bite of lunch, and head for his other secret garden - The Book Store. Saturday was crowded at The Book Store. The spring afternoon in Tucson brought
out more traffic than Shap had hoped to see. He was elated when someone pulled out of a space right in front as he drove up. He backed his leased BMW against the curb, and chuckled when he saw there was even enough time on the meter to go another hour. Parking meter coins mattered on his salary and Shap reminded himself again that if he were not a bachelor he could never afford such a luxury car. "Think twice about making room for someone else," he thought cautiously. Upon entering the store he immediately became transfixed before one of the tables. The shuffling and shoulder rubbing crowd faded from consciousness as he looked at the fragile album in his hands. Embossed in gold on a dark green cover were the words, "Cuttings From Wood And Field." The heavy cover was detached from the rectangular volume, and he handled it carefully. Laying the book upon the backs of other books regimented along the table, he gently turned the cover over and began to study the pages. On each yellowed page real flowers and leaves were artistically glued and crisply dried by thick blotter-pages bound into the volume. Her name was there in the upper right hand corner of the first page, in faded but open and delicate handwriting. It read, "Lulie L. Manchester," and then, "London," and then the year, "1873."

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Beginning on the second page the carefully arranged dried grasses, flowers and leaves carried the memory of nature's color. They were pressed into a collage worthy of framing, and each grouping was inscribed by the same feminine handwriting as on the frontispiece. The words were not the biological names of the plants. Lulie was obviously not a scientist; she was an artist and she was a traveler. Her handwritten inscriptions followed the curves of each arrangement, and named the places she had visited. What travels! What memories! She began near her home, "Chester Cathedral, St. John's Priory." Shap wondered if that was where she attended school. "The Tower of London," "Karr Gardens," "Birkinhead Park." Then with a grand leap he found himself with her at "Heidelberg Castle," "Friedhof," "Munich!" The same careful handwriting continued page after page. Soon it was "Strasbourg," and then "Rome," "St. Peters," "Florence." On that page he stoodwith her "Beside Mrs. Browning's Grave" and plucked a wild daisy. He recalled his college English class, the Browning's, their love, the halcyon days in Italy, her untimely death in Robert's arms. "How do I love you? Let me count the ways..." Her sonnet was spoken in whispers just then by William Shapleigh to Lulie Manchester. Suddenly they were in France! Oh what a trip it was! "La Fronteine," and so many other place-names. He looked at them and saw her, with silken hair like gold. No, it was dark hair, very dark, and it glistened like black silk. It framed the rounded beauty of her face. Her cheeks held just a touch of color. Not ruddy, not pale. Just a glow that shown from deep within to make hers the most lovely face he had ever imagined. On another page the grouping of leaves and grass was inscribed "10th July 1873, Review French Troops before the Shah..." Apparently Lulie and Shap were the only not visitors there that summer. It was a glorious time of gardens, palaces, parks, cathedrals, old town walls... Sometimes the inscription was simply, "Outside the wall" of another European town of antiquity. Then they were home again. "Windsor Castle." That page included a turquoise and bronze peacock feather among the leaves. It said, "Model Farms." Kind of adown, he let thought. Inserted between two of the pages there was a program fashionably printedhard on board paper. It was adorned with a water-colored painting of blue violets, and in two listed parts were concert numbers performed by the 'The Chopin Club." Lulie named with was nine other "misses" who had played on pianos "from the Warerooms of M. Steinert and

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Sons, 132 Westminster Street." Her piece had been an Allegro Brillante by Mendelssohn, arranged by Reinecke. But the concert was Wednesday evening, May 3rd, 1882! Where had she been those nine years since her travels in Europe? Did she teach music or art? Were these her fellow teachers, or a combination of students and teachers? She apparently played a minor part, two thirds of the way down in the evening, sharing the keyboard with a Miss Hill, who was perhaps her student. Or was Lulie the student and Miss Hill the teacher? Had she gone to other places in the meantime? Where there other albums of '"cuttings?" Perhaps not, or this program for the concert would have been in a later edition. At least she was not married. She was still "Miss Manchester," and available to his heart. He could almost see her now, in her Jane Austinesque clothing, with hopes and dreams which must have filled the hearts of girls then. Somehow she seemed more pristine than any girls he knew. It was refreshing. Shap continued turning the pages, carefully. In a couple of instances a dried leaf had broken loose and fluttered out of the book. Mishandling this book that was not yet his seemed a violation of the girl herself, whose eager fingers had pressed those leaves along with her hopes and joys. They were her memories, kept in their secret place all these years. Now he shared her intimacies. He was like some Aladdin opening the past, and these memories escaped the pages to envelope him and take him away on a magic carpet to the Europe of a hundred years ago. She evidently had been sent on a graduation tour to complete her education. She would have been well chaperoned. He found it difficult to meet her on each page without being observed. He must find a way to see her alone. Perhaps in the shadow of an old town wall, just around the corner from peering eyes, or in the dusty caverns a darkened of cathedral. Shap was nearing the end of the book when he came upon a dance bid. It was the kind that would be hung from a girl's wrist and the boys who sought her touch would inscribe their names therein for one or more of the dozen dances listed. The bid was dated in June, just before the venture across Europe. Had it been her graduation dance? Had one of those names been special to her, someone who hated to see her away?Beside several of the go dances she had noted that it was a "quadrille" or a "waltz." He preferred to waltz with her himself. As Shap studied the different names and forms of handwriting, he saw that three of the dances were taken by the same young man. A flare of jealousy overcame him. Who

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was this fellow to take Lulie to himself three times, while undoubtedly a long line of eager males went home disappointed that they not been able to share her during the had evening? He felt he knew so much about her. No, not just about her; he knew her. Shap was sensible enough to realize what his mind was doing to him in idealizing this phantom, but it didn't matter. She was real to his heart, and he was enjoying every moment of this intimacy with her. Now a twist of his mind caused Lulie to become even more real. By some blending of imagination with reality she took the form of a girl who worked in his office. Shap's eyes stared at the page, losing their focus but seeing Annie. The two women became one in his mind's eye. When he thought of Lulie Manchester, the face and form of Annie Bennett was there. He had never dared ask her to go for coffee, let alone to go on a date. Now as she took on Lulie's personality Shap took on courage. He felt he had a new and privileged place with the dark haired girl at work, whose face glowed from within like a ripening peach. An entree to her life had opened, and without the old anxiety or labored reasoning he decided to break the silence. He would speak her at the first opportunity. The thought rushed to through his mind, “How wonderful that an incident like this one in the book store could change his outlook on life.” "Sir, did you want to see any other books at this table?" The voice of a polite fellow-customer was obviously suggesting he move out the of way, which he did. The flight of fancy back from Europe and London to Tucson took only the wink of an eye, and he purchased the precious book of "Cuttings" for one dollar and twenty five cents.

-fin-

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