Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Orion Rising - literary family saga

Orion Rising
Available on Amazon
Literary novel


To the Byrne children, constellations were more than stick figures in the night sky. At their father’s telling, their myths became tales of adventure and romance for Percy, Allie, Mary and Aurie, whose names seem to imbue celestial royalty upon them. When the Orion River floods in 1965, the Byrne children are drawn to it like sailors to a siren’s call. After Aurie disappears in the river, their names seem more like a curse. Though self-imposed, the curse follows them through three decades before each learns the key to breaking it – love, and forgiveness. But sometimes the hardest person to forgive is yourself.




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Excerpt

The footfalls of Persephone, our father had always called it: the slow, steady patter of rain across the roof; the spring rains that, like Persephone, awoke the sleeping bulbs in the earth, the buds on the trees, unfurling, petal by petal, a world of color and life.  Persephone’s glad return to Earth from the dark depths of the shadowy, lifeless underworld of Hades signaled the beginning of a season of rebirth. I listened to the soft footfalls across the roof, wide-eyed, hoping to catch a glimpse of the fair maiden. She was more real to me than Santa Claus, whose gifts were only for one night; Persephone’s gifts changed the dreary winter world to spring.

But this spring was different. After a particularly long winter, a foot of snow remained on the ground for what seemed forever. In mid-March, Aurie and I watched from our front window as the snow piled above the bushes outside, until the snowmen in the front yard seemed to be swimming up to their necks in a frothy white sea. Sick of all that snow, we had tired of the usual sledding and skating; and the constant barrier of snow made either activity nearly impossible for long spurts of time. The snow lost its fluffy, shimmering quality and formed hard edges; dirty brown spots seeped further inward from the streets each day. Our mother tried to busy us with activities week after week, but we longed for sunshine, bike riding and roller skating – freedom from this white entrapment.

Even our father, who never hurried us, grew restless. A yearning edged his voice when he talked of wanting to use the new Unitron refractor telescope that Mom had given him for their fifteenth wedding anniversary the autumn before. The snows had kept thick, heavy clouds low over their heads, so the shelter of his attic observatory was of no use; we would all have to wait until the weather improved, he said.

Then, on the first of April, the temperature rose sharply to sixty degrees. Aurie and I watched from the window, and laughed at the steam rising from the snow, thinking it a wonderful April Fool’s Day joke. Swiftly the Orion River transformed from a white wasteland to a brown raging torrent, ripping away trees and anything else in its path. For days, the river crept further out of its banks and into nearby streets, invading homes and downtown businesses.

I thought it strange my parents spoke so often with neighbors. Worried, they listened intently to each news account, and kept a close watch on the flooding. On Willow Street, some families abandoned their homes in anticipation of disaster. We began moving some things to the upper floors, but the flood waters crested before Buttonwood Street residents had to evacuate.

Our parents resisted, but curiosity drew us all to the edge of the river to watch its destructive current.

"It's as if Mother Nature wants to wipe some of us off the face of the earth," Dad said.

Mom hugged Aurie close to her, warning, "Don't any of you come near this river until we say so. Do you hear?"

I couldn’t look away from the churning waters. This new river, so unfriendly, couldn’t be the same one to which Mom and Dad brought us on picnics. Nothing could live in this river. The current swept along large, ugly debris: ice chunks, tree branches, even small sheds from neighbors’ back yards.

Mom tugged us away. "Let's go home."

Hypnotized by its deft, frothy swirls, I didn’t move until her voice cracked with fear.

“Mary, let’s go.”

I glanced back. Percy and Allie already were walking toward home. Mom clutched Aurie against her. The fear in her eyes made her as unrecognizable as the river.

I should have known then. Everything was about to change.

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