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Percy said to Starr, “Of course, it would begin here in Maine. Why would it not?

It would begin with the people and the place of the first light.”

She wrapped both her arms around his right arm and hugged her face against

the shoulder of his canvas barn jacket, snuggling herself into him. It was cold in the

early dawn. There was a stiff wind off the sea. Soon they would light their fire. But first

they would follow the rest of their way down the creek, with its swift plunge of stream

water and chunks of ice before it emptied into the salt ocean.

She looked up his chest and asked, “Will we be in time?”

“For our fire?”


“Then, yes.”

She said no more. They stood quietly together while listening to the urgent rush

of the stream. A vee of geese passed overhead. Percy could hear the whirr of their

wings beating the air, and she their honking calls while they tightened up their


“Let’s go,” he said.

“Steady me,” she replied. “The rocks are round and wet. I don’t want to fall.”

He smiled down at her, which she could scarcely see, but she could hear the

smile in his confidence. “You won’t fall. I have you.”

“Yes, you do.” Then she muttered something.

“What was that?”

“I hope you always will.”

He chuckled. “Me too.”

They were descending along the south side of the stream. Their way pressed

across barrens and through occasional flurries of shrubs, bayberry and rugosas and

fern. Especially the fern, when they tramped it, released a fresh scent of sweet licorice –

almost myrrh-like.

“We’re getting close,” Percy murmured. “Hear those waves?”


“Maybe only fifty more yards. That’s where I laid the fire.”

They arrived at the spot. Percy had lain a medium sized fire of mostly down

wood, white pine mostly, and he sat her down on a large flat rock while he busied

himself with his match. Percy is a one-match man, always has been. Make it work or

go home.

The fire was set on the high gravel of the shoreline, above the final high brown

swaths of dried rockweed. He had kicked out a shallow dent in the beach and set the

fire there. He had left a hole for himself in the side of the fire, and he knelt and struck

his match and reached through the hole to where his tinder sticks and pine bark and

dried grasses were bunched together. He shielded the tiny flame with his body from the


Ah! There it goes!

He knelt back.

He took a long, deep breath and blew it out again.

“Oh, Percy,” he heard from his woman.

He turned to look at her. She was beginning to be visible. She wore her cable-

knit tunnel-neck sweater, cream colored, above lined jeans, topped with her thin

windbreaker, also cream, and her waxed-cotton down vest, in darkest gray. And Bean

boots of course.


She had always seemed gorgeous, from the first, from that night on the island off

Port Clyde, at the picnic, when she had won his heart. And that was all such a very

long time ago – months. Later, they had made their way to this very tip of eastern

Washington County, on Gleason Point, near Perry. The two of them would be the first

humans to see the sun on this particular day.

At the end of their long drive from Castine, he had dropped her for a hot bath and

a long nap at a Chet’s camp on Big Lake, had driven to a spot near this very place on

the last shore, and had built his fire and had gone back to get her.

“Mmmm,” she had moaned when he woke her, naked and warm, and then after

they had enjoyed themselves for quite a while, they had dressed for cold and had

meandered their way to Pembroke and stopped for supper at Sue’s Cobscook Bay

Café, parked beside the jeeps and 4-wheels out front, and had gone in to enjoy a

chicken and pepper jack quesadella (she) and a corned beef Reuben (he).

And now it was dawn and they were back, and the fire was rising and the smoke

smelled good, and there was a wide horizontal ladder of cloud rungs stretching all the

way across the sky in its lower quadrant, darker than amber, graying at each extreme to

north and south, and with a one-quarter sun just over the horizon glowing brightly in a

pleasing harmony of red-orange and orange-red.

“Oh, goodness,” Starr murmured. “Can we live here?”

“No. It’s not ours. It’s theirs.”

“Theirs who?”

“The Passamaquoddy’s and the Penobscot’s and the Micmac’s. We stole it from


“Then what?”

“I don’t want to use the G-word, so I won’t. But then we stole their children.”

Starr fell quiet. “I know about that, a little at least.”

“I suppose you would know about it a little. What you do.”

She said, “Come over here and sit next to me and put your arm around me, and

we can look at the sunrise and be the very first to see it this day, in the land of the

dawn, and we can enjoy your fire and not think about the bad things.”


“You’re not thinking about the bad things, are you?”

“No,” he lied.

She snuggled and sighed and whispered, “Me neither.”

She burrowed her mouth up over his collar and into the warmth of his hair. She

whispered. “G-word?”

He whispered back. “Said I didn’t want to say it.”

“But I don’t know what it is.”

He took a breath and let it out. “Thenjust this once. Genocide.”


After a bit of silence, when the sun was fully above the horizon and the red-

orange and orange-red had become just red, Percy repeated, “Why would it be not?”

“Why would what be not?”

“Why would the healing not begin here?”

“I don’t get it.”

“We would protect the innocent, you and me. You and me, we would defend the

weak. We would exhibit the warrior spirit.”

“You’ve said that before.”

“I know.”

She smiled up at him and replied, “I know, too. It’s what you do.”

He nodded while staring out across the sea. “And I would do it again.”

“You can’t steal a people’s children. They need to be who they are. You can’t

stop them from being who they are. Not decent.”

“I love you, Percy.”

There was a long silence. Finally, he whispered, “Look at the dawn.”

She snuggled. “It’s just us.”

“Used to be thousands of them.” He looked at her. “I’ve got a little drum.”


“Let’s dance.”

“What? Now?”

He nodded. “Let’s dance.”

He pulled the small drum from the broad pocket of his barn coat and began

tapping it with its stick, which stick had a small gourd at its end with rattly seeds inside

it. He reached for Starr’s hand and pulled her to her feet in the sand. Holding her hand,

he guided her to take a few steps forward and then a few steps backward, while slowly

circling their fire to the right and while the dawn grew brighter.

He smiled at her and she gave him that smile that lifted him. “I danced here last

night,” he said. “After I built the fire. It was dark, and the wind was cold.”

“You did?”

“Yes, and God spoke to me.”

“God did?”

“Yes. In that gravelly voice of His.”

“What’d He say?”

“Go slow.”

They continued to dance while Starr thought.


“No quick repairs. Maybe that. Just touch the one of them, who needs to be


Starr slowed her dance and then stopped. She faced Percy, each of them

limned with dawn. She grinned. “It’s like the starfish story.”

Percy grinned back. “I can’t save all of them,” he quoted.

Starr nodded, “But, Percy, you can save that one.”

She stood on tiptoe and kissed his mouth.

“It’s what you do.”

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What? What in the world are you talking about, Dikkon?

Percy in prison? Come on!

Well, just hold onto your hats.

Salesmen almost never leave the office of a potential customer before their

conversation comes to an end, one way or the other. Pastors almost never leave their

pulpits until their sermon comes to an end, one way or the other.

Percy used to know one salesman, as a member of his Maine congregation, and

as a deacon at his church, who did walk out one time without another word to the

potential customer. That man took Percy aside and told his pastor about it during the

next week.

The salesman hated what was happening. He couldn’t think of what to do,

except to walk away.

The potential customer was a woman, a solo attorney who did estates.

The salesman loved the Maine coastal town where she worked. Her office view

was a delight. He told Percy that there was an opening line at the beginning of a sales

meeting that he used sometimes, especially when the office was built out over the rocks

above the shore, as was the case at this law firm in Newcastle.

“Half the people in the United States work for fifty weeks to spend one week

during the summer in Maine.” He would grin and look out across the rocks and the

shoreline and the waves rolling in. “And we get to live here. How cool is that?”

It was often a good opener.

+ + +

But on the morning of that sales appointment, the secretary burst in. “Sorry, but

you’d better see this. Some plane banged into one of the twin towers.”

The three of them watched, with shock-pried faces. Eventually, the salesman

said, “I can’t be here now. I need to be with my wife.”

Meredith, the attorney, waved me off. “We’ll talk later.”

He drove to his peninsula out into the sea. There was scarcely any traffic on the


By mid-afternoon, the salesman realized he had no choice but to call the prison.

+ + +

He had an appointment the next day, almost three hours away, at the MAX in

central New Hampshire. Seriously bad guys. Maximum security. Major crimes. Angry

men who knew that their situation was the other guy’s fault, not theirs. They were his

students tomorrow.

The salesman recited his phone conversation to Percy this way.

His contact Susan answered, dully. “Hi.”

“Are you watching?”


There was a long silence. Then he asked, “What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know. You?”

“I could come….”

“You want to?”

“You want me to?”

There was another long silence. She said, “I don’t know what to do.”

“Can you still organize it, tomorrow I mean?”

“Course I can.” She laughed hollowly. “This is a prison. Yes, I can organize it.”

“I’ll come.”

“You want to? It’s a long drive.”

“What else can I do? Not a day for cold calling.”

“No.” She sighed. “I think the world’s coming to an end.”

He felt cynical. “Great day for legal research.”

“Ha ha,” said Susan. Not laughing but saying the words out loud – ha ha.

“So, I’ll be there at ten. Anything different about getting in, tomorrow I mean?

Because of today.”

“Really don’t bring a gun. Don’t even leave it in your car.”


+ + +

The salesman liked Susan, the prison librarian at the MAX. They’d worked

together for eighteen months on this sale. Prisons are mandated to provide legal

research capability for inmates. For years, the necessary information – cases, statues,

regulations, citation tracking – had been provided by his company in book form, but,

when he was at the prison training inmates every few months, he had let Susan know

about Internet based research, and he had demonstrated it.

Less costly than books. That was the hook. But the resistance was getting past

layers of anxiety inside the corrections department at the prospect of introducing

Internet capability into the prison library.

Inmates need to do their research. But inmates – especially at the MAX – must

never, ever, ever have any ability to get out into the web. Ever.

The salesman loved his company. He loved his territory – all of Maine and of

New Hampshire, and a lot of northeastern Massachusetts. But particularly he loved his

company’s responsiveness when he presented it with a stubborn technical problem.

It took a while, but his company solved the problem. His company was able to

offer Internet access to inmates for legal research while absolutely blocking inmate

access to the worldwide web.

He closed the sale. Took Susan to lunch.

+ + +

Here’s what he told Percy that next week.

While he drove to New Hampshire on 9-12-2001, he realized something was

different in himself. He told Percy that he had never once been scared inside the MAX

or in any other prison where he spent sales or training time, but that he felt anticipatorily

frightened that morning.

He knew some of the inmates Susan would organize for his training. He knew

just how angry they were at every element of America and her legal system and her

government. After yesterday, he wondered, would they be cheering and high fiving?

He didn’t know how he would cope with their exuberance if they were.

He went through all the clanging of doors and the shouts of the guards, and he

arrive at the library. There they were, the men, glowering. About fifteen of them.

They were not exuberant. They were just as angry as ever before…but at the


+ + +

He told Percy two things about when he called the next time on Meredith. One,

he sold her a set of books about estate work along with software for resource

calculation adding a future timing percentage component to the numbers.

Her office view was just as pretty as it had been before. Some things were not

destroyed on 9-11.

Two, a thing that was not destroyed on 9-12 was his respect for the men in the


+ + +

Which leads directly to something you readers don’t know about Percy because I

haven’t written about it in my novels.

Percy and the salesman spent many hours during their years together in

exuberant conversation in Percy’s pastoral office. One such conversation was after a

representative of Kairos, the prison ministry, came to the church and made an

impressive presentation, not only to the congregation, but also to the director of

missions and then to the administrator. Then the man came back two weeks later on

invitation to address the Board.

The man was trolling for recruits as volunteers to join Kairos for semi-annual

“Walks” in the Maine prisons, as well as for their monthly reunions with inmates who

had participated in the Walks and who were now in prayer-and-share groups among

their brother prisoners whose hearts had been softened, as theirs had been, and were

now tied into the church that had been planted behind the bars.

It turned out that two things that recruitment man said especially struck Percy,

and he told his salesman congregant about them. Percy had asked the Kairos man

about Charles Colson’s prison ministry group – Prison Fellowship – as an alternative

service in prisons, and he had asked which of the ministries was the best.

The man reported that whenever Colson himself was asked that question, his

answer was this.

“We’re the send best.”

“Why the second best?”

“Because Kairos goes back. We don’t.”

Percy had taken the man aside and had asked him to call back the next day.

The man had smiled and had said, “I’m glad of your interest, Pastor. But I gotta add

something else to what I said to your board members.”

“What’s that?”

“A lot of pastors who are part of our volunteer teams have told me that Kairos is

their single most personally valuable professional membership.”

“Oh? Why?”

“We can’t take our cell phones into the prisons.”


“So, if they join, these pastors, they can tell their Boards that there are eight pre-

determined days each year when they simply cannot be reached by phone!”

Percy told his deacon friend that both men laughed. Percy especially appreciated

that particular nuance.

Percy joined Kairos.

+ + +

Percy’s decision was rewarded by a miracle. Remember that Percy was a

painter, had always been one, as well as a pastor.

During Percy’s first Walk, the miracle occurred in the final hour on “moving day.”

Moving Day is the Saturday of a Kairos walk, that is, its Day Three. During that day’s

final hour, at this prison the sun had sunk low into the western sky. The sun shone

directly through the slit windows into the prison’s gym, which was where the Walk took

place, and it bathed the volunteers and the thirty-four men – prisoners all – with a gold,

honey-rich light.

The volunteers’ two guitarists quietly strummed their tight strings of patience and

waiting. Another twiddled quietly with an electric keyboard. Everyone stood in two long

lines, lined which blocked Percy’s view of the sides f the gym. Everyone was perfectly

quiet and still. They waited, one behind the other, for their time before either of the

volunteers’ ordained men, who were pastors on the outside of the razor wire. Though

he was a pastor, Percy was not yet experienced enough to have the role of pastor

during this hour with the long lines. Percy was watching carefully because he had been

told that he would be one of those pastors during the next Walk, on the next Moving


As a volunteer team of salvation and forgiveness men, the Kairos volunteers and

the Holy Spirit had moved the inmate attendees during three straight days toward this

very moment. These pilgrims had been moved step-by-step closer to Christ – and the

Kairos team had assisted by listening and listening, and by loving and loving.

By these pilgrims’ openness to the Kairos volunteers’ attentiveness, they might

either have found the Son of God, or that they might have shied away from Him, while

merely saving their final uniting step toward Him for a later time of opportunity.

+ + +

Percy stood as the hand-washing back-up man to the pastor before him, who sat

on a chair before which the prisoners, one-by-one, would sit, too, the two of them facing

one another. Between them was a well of water.

As each prisoner sat, the pastor murmured, “Drop your paper in.” The pilgrim


The paper was a small slip of rice paper on which, all day, each pilgrim had been

encouraged to write the name of someone – or more than a single someone – whom he

had been moved to forgive.

“Tell me,” the pastor murmured.

“My father.” “My wife.” “My son. “The judge.” “My lawyer.” “My ex.” “The CO who hurts me.” “My coach who abused me.” “My celly.” And so on.

Taking the prisoner’s hands, the pastor began to pray.

Then, when he was done praying, he said, “Look down.”

The paper, formerly floating on the surface of the well, had vanished.

+ + +

The pilgrim stood, sometimes shakily, and moved past the pastor and stood

before Percy. He extended his hands. Percy poured water over his hands, said his

name, and said “God bless you.” Percy gave him a paper to dry his hands. Sometimes

they hugged – and the hug from this pilgrim whom Percy had known for seventy-two

hours was a stronger affirmation of their brotherhood than would have been any other

man-bump shoulder-hug.

Three days before, that pilgrim might have known of himself as being among “the

least of these.”

Now, on Moving Day, he had progressed to being among the most.

+ + +

That’s when Percy looked up.

His heart stopped.

His lungs emptied of wind.

His mouth fell open.

Looking forward, he was stunned.

Percy was staring along the length of the gym. He saw that all that long way

away, between the forgiveness well and the gym’s other end, where the sun blazed

through the slit windows, there existed a vision.

In front of the distant windows where the sun blazed, there was a long table

placed horizontally and draped in white cloths. Prisoners who were helpers during this

Kairos walk and who were privileged to be helpers because they were in training as

elders and as suffering servants at the church planted inside – Grace Inside – those

men were seated behind that table.

The configuration of the seated men behind the table was this.

On each side of the middle of the table three seated men were there, speaking

softly to one another, three on each side, leaning their heads together.

Percy’s heart leapt.

A vision!

There before him was Leonardo DaVinci’s Last Supper!

Right there in the gym of the prison, way up on a mountainside in Maine, right

there, right there where the sun blazed in through the glass was the precise depiction of

DaVinci’s 1495 masterpiece.

Yet there was no man in the middle. The middle spot was empty.

Where was Christ?

Percy knew where Christ was.

Christ had been so fully present during the last three days that all of the

volunteers knew precisely where Christ was.

He – that is Christ, and God’s own Holy Spirit – they had been manifest among

all of them during three whole days!

Percy loves Kairos, and he loves being in prison.

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When Percy and Starr aren't Sailing

What do my principal characters drive?  I’m sure that’s what you want to know. 


Well, Percy drives his Ford F-150, about seven years old, with around 125,000 miles

and some body wear due to it just being Maine and therefore due to the winter road

salt.  In its youth, his truck was white, but age has dimmed its brighter coloration,

making it more ivory, and some rust edging has appeared recently around the rear

wheel wells. 


Also – poor guy – like me – he has needed to replace both rear struts.  This was

precipitated when he was driving north of Waldoboro on 220, near Globe, on a late

afternoon in mosquito time, and the worst noise he had ever heard from a suspension

came out of the back of his truck. 


He pulled over near a lonely and dilapidated farm and asked the old man running a

push mower over his grass if he might use the man’s phone to call for a tow.  Percy had

no cell connection.  The old man wore a sleeveless, baggy, and off-white undershirt

over ratty khaki pants.  He was hesitant about allowing this intrusion into his home.  He

said that his wife was sick. 


But, after the two of them discussed the unfortunate state of the New England Patriots

without Brady, the man allowed as how it might just be all right, if Percy were not asking

to stay inside out of the bugs.  Percy was not asking for that, so he was shown into the

house, the phone was on the wall in the hallway, and the wife, wearing an exhausted

house dress, was lying on couch cushions before a small black and white TV.  She

waved tiredly to Percy, while her husband hovered nearby, apparently to make certain

the call was actually to Triple-A, and then he ushered Percy back outside but refreshed

him with a glass of water. 


The tow took an hour to arrive.  Percy was nearly eaten to death by the time it did. 




On the other hand, Starr drives a bright red Nissan Altima, nearly new, with relatively

low mileage.  She keeps the car clean and polished.  Nobody much in Maine has a

garage (except suburbanites near Portland), but most people have barns.  Starr has a

barn.  It’s old and little used except by her Altima and by whatever flights of swallows

and yellow jackets have found comfort under its eaves. 


One especially nice fixture of the barn is its swing. 


The swing is a plank which hangs on two long cobwebby ropes from the rafters and,

when not being used, is hung casually on a nail.  The barn has a set of wide doors

which swing open on any sunny, windy day, doors which are anchored with rocks so

they won’t swing back shut.  If you want to swing, you can take the plank off its nail,

position it behind your bottom, and walk backward into the shadowed interior of the barn

until the ropes become taunt and are at a long, shallow angle.  Clasp the ropes tight, lift

your feet, and you zoom forward on a long acceleration until you pass the vertical of

your ropes – and then you burst forward into the sun and air, at a great speed, and are

propelled forward and up, up, up! 


If you pump, you can go even higher up!  You’re in the sky! 


Starr is in the sky right now, if you are delightedly watching at the moment.  A great

excited shriek emerges from her, and her hair is loose, and her dress flutters back away

from her straightened knees, revealing her thighs, and her eyes glitter, and her face is a

round yellow sun!


Again, and again, come the strokes of her swing.  Higher and higher!  Faster and

faster!  With louder and louder yells of delight! 


Until she tires, and she slows her strokes, and she ceases to pump, and she hangs,

eventually, out of breath, giggling and delighted at the lowest position of the swing. 


“Percy,” she glows, “you’ve got to try it.”


“Too scary,” he demurs.


“Oh, don’t be such an old poof!”


“The rope might break.”


“It’s fifteen years since the girls were young.  The rope has never broken.  Anyway, Don

changed it every few years.”


“Well, I’m not going to do it.  I’ll sit out there on your car’s hood and just watch you.”


Starr stood up shakily from off the plank and walked over to him.  She stopped and ran

her splayed fingers through both sides of her thick gray hair, pulling it up and off her

neck and away from her cheeks.  “Whew,” she sighed.  “That felt so good!”


“I have beer in the cooler in my truck.”


“I’ll take one,” she replied with a smile.  “And a kiss.”


“C’mere,” he responded, and she pressed herself against him and looked up his chest

at his face. 


Now, he ran his splayed fingers up her cheeks and into her hair behind and over her

ears and gripped it in fistsful and grasped the back of her head and tipped it back in his

grip. He loved the fresh wind smell of her skin and her hair and her brow with its slight



Their kiss stopped the sun from spinning. 





Elizabeth does not have a vehicle, except her sailing cutter Little Bear.  Without a car of

her own, and while channeling Blanche DuBois, Elizabeth might have murmured to

Percy or to Starr, “I have always relied upon the kindness of strangers.” 


That’s what she might have said when she called Percy frantically that night when he

had been about to head over for Starr’s (and it’s she might have said if she had wanted

to sound like Vivian Leigh). That’s when she had pled with Percy to come shield her

from the boat burning. 



Love you all.  And I’m grateful.  Keep reading!

All good books always get better!

They can’t help themselves!

You like EGG ISLAND – Death is Your Choice?

Think ahead to DOWNEAST – This Blessed Assurance. 


They can’t help themselves get better.

Bet you’re going to want to review that one too!

Get ready!

Click here to purchase the first Percy Black novel, Egg Island.

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