Archive for the ‘Freedom Hall’ Category

Freedom Hall Update

April 6, 2008

I have some bad news for those of you who have been enjoying my Freedom Hall excerpts.

I will no longer be posting any future excerpts as I write them.


Because if I ever hope to actually publish the book, it is not in my best interest to share too much of the storyline.

After having had the extreme pleasure of meeting Carol Higgins Clark last night at a birthday party held by a mutual friend, Carol was kind enough to give me some pointers about writing that I am going to take to heart.

One of them concerns sharing too much of my storyline in a public forum.

So, as much as I have enjoyed writing the story and sharing it online, I will no longer be posting excerpts.

Instead, I will be taking pre-publication orders.

Please email me and I will let you know where to send your check or money order.

Only kidding.

However, I do promise to work on it a little harder and try to get it done soon.


Sampson’s Island

January 29, 2008

Map of Cotuit Harbor (Map of Cotuit Harbor)

The following is an excerpt from Freedom Hall……

The sand at the point of Sampson’s Island was as soft as any Justin had ever known and as he and Stacy sat facing Riley’s beach across the narrow channel, Justin was mesmorized by the beauty of the island and of Stacy.

Riley’s Beach Looking over to Sampson’s (Painting by Jim Mayne Freeheart)

As they sat near the tall grass, both of them baking in the mid-July sun, Justin would pick up handfuls of sand and let them pour slowly into little piles on the ground between his legs. Stacy watched as each pile grew and as the last grains of sand fell from Justin’s hand, he would open his palm slowly, turn his head towards Stacy and smile as he reached down again for another handful.

They had sailed over on Justin’s laser which was now lying flipped on its side with the bow pointing into the wind so the sail would not continue to flap incessantly in the strong breeze coming in off of the sound. The sound of a flapping sail always distracted Justin and at this point, he wanted no distractions.

Laser (The greatest boat ever designed!)

“This is my favorite spot in the world” Justin said softly looking down at his piles.

“I love it too” Stacy said as she reached over and kicked a pile with her bronze foot that had absolutely no tan line.

“It’s not that nice in the winter” Justin added, “not that I’ve ever been over here then but I’ve walked from Loop Beach to the Town Dock many times during the winter.”

Justin paused as he poured another pile of sand right back where she had destroyed the last.

“I can remember walking it last winter and thinking of you.” he said, still not looking up.

Stacy didn’t reply. Justin figured that she was thinking about what she had been doing last winter and it certainly was not thinking of him.

“Next winter, it’s going to be even harder to walk the beach, wishing that I was over here with you again.”

Justin laid back with his legs still bent and put his hands on his stomach and closed his eyes.

“Maybe I’ll be here too and walk it with you” Stacy said as she lay back next to Justin, so close that he could feel the damp warmth radiating from her skin.

Lying there silently, the time seemed to stand still for Justin as he tried to soak in every possible moment.

Justin reached over and took Stacy’s hand and squeezed it in a sign of agreement. Life could not be any better.

 As they both lay there, time seemed to slow down for Justin and he soaked up every moment wishing it would slow down even more. Justin wanted to stay there forever but before forever came along to fast, he wanted to kiss her.

“Stacy!” a voice came from the water and looking up covering their eyes from the sun they could see that it was Stacy’s old boyfriend Paul Westerly rounding the point, close hauled and healing over in his family’s skiff.

Stacy could sense the awkwardness and did little more than wave as the skiff went zipping by on a broad reach propelled as much by the incoming current as by the stiff wind. Justin said nothing and even though he looked over towards the boat, he kept his eyes on the craft and not on its captain, who clearly had his eyes fixed on Stacy.

Justin wanted to look at Stacy to see where her eyes were, but he chose not to.

With a quick flutter, the boat was jibed just before reaching the opposite shore and it continued to head into the harbor and around Bluff Point.

Having let go of Stacy’s hand, Justin felt like reaching for it again, but hesitated. He though it might have been a mistake since she had gotten very quiet.

“Wanna head in?” he said.

“Not yet” she replied and with that she pushed him back to the sand and lay partially on top of him with her one hand on his chest and her mouth only inches away from his. “I wanna stay here with you some more” and with that she moved her mouth even closer.

Feeling a rush of blood come over him from head to toe, Justin craned his neck just enough to touch his lips to hers. Upon touching, he froze and the two just stayed there for a few moments, motionless, looking at each other eye to eye with their lips pressed against one another in a feathery caress. Justin didn’t know what to do next.

Justin could feel her move and was afraid that she was going to pull away. Instead, her lips parted and Justin could feel her soft wet tongue begin to move from one side of his lower lip towards the other. Ever so lightly and ever so slowly, she continued to do this as Justin felt himself relax and sink into the sand.

“We need to go now” she said and she got up and headed towards Justin’s boat. Walking away, Justin stayed motionless in the position that he had taken and just stared at her as she sauntered towards his boat, watching her bikini riding ever so slightly up between her cheeks and noticing how she didn’t fix it right away.

Justin’s mind was spinning. He didn’t know weather to jump and shout or start running down the beach towards Cupid’s Cove!

How appropriate that would have been, Justin thought, and then he wondered just how many people must have fallen in love on this wonderful little island that it had its own cove named after Cupid.

Cupid’s magic had certainly worked on him that day, Justin thought.

Walking to his Laser he flipper her back upright and spun the bow out into the bay where it got very deep, very quickly. He slid the dagger board into its box and moved to the stern as the sail flapped vigorously to leeward.

“Hop on” he said to Stacy as he held the boat steady.

“These sure are harder to get on than a skiff” she said, “I always feel like I’m going to fall off”.

Realizing that the Laser was much harder to board than a skiff, but loving his Laser and loathing skiffs Justin retorted “Speed comes at a cost” but he realized that he had ruined his chance at a well placed double entendre and followed up with “Just hold on and I’ll get you home quickly”.

The stiff wind was causing the boat to heal more than Stacy liked and Justin did everything he could do to keep the boat flat. The breeze had picked up considerably since they headed over to the Island only an hour or so ago. Cotuit harbor was unpredictable but he knew that once he rounded Bluff Point heading to where he kept his boat, they would probably end up in irons.

The boat didn’t like having the sail so far out and yawed back and forth which made Stacy even more visibly nervous.

“Oh my” Stacy would let out, each time the boat would rock.

“Tipping over is half the fun in a laser!” Justin said but he knew she didn’t appreciate his joking around.

“After watching Jaws last weekend, I’m not sure I even want to be on a boat, let alone floating around in the bay like a piece of bait” was her reply.

With that, Justin pulled in on the main sheet just enough, and hooked his feet under the hiking strap as he leaned outwards, in hopes of keeping the boat at least a little bit steadier.

By the time they had gotten to Jane’s Beach, Stacy wasn’t saying much and Justin said to her in a timid voice “If you want to head home once we get to the beach that’s ok. I’ll put the boat away and give you a call when I get home”.

“Thanks she replied” and as they got to the shallow part of the bay she hopped off the boat, gave Justin a kiss on the cheek and went to get her shoes and sundress from where she had hidden them in the tall grass near the beginning of the path.

Jane’s Beach (Painting by Karen North Wells)

Watching as she headed up the lane towards Ocean View, Justin stood there in the ankle deep water wishing that the ride back had gone better. He started putting the boat away and looked at it with a little less love in his eyes than usual. The boat that he cherished had spoiled the moment but he certainly wasn’t going to switch to a skiff. He figured next time that he would see if he could borrow the O’Day that his parents’ friends had offered.

Taking longer than usual to put the boat away, Justin couldn’t get his mind off of Stacy.

With his sail bag over his shoulder, Justin headed up the lane and when he got home he couldn’t wait to give Stacy a call.

The Ghost of 72 Ocean View Avenue

January 18, 2008

The following is an excerpt from Freedom Hall…… (Not the one I have been working on but one that I wanted to share)….

Justin didn’t remember the first time that he had heard that his family’s house on Ocean View Ave was haunted, but according to everyone, it was.

Justin never really felt the presence of any ghosts or anything, but the way that everyone else seemed to believe in the story, it gave Justin the creeps.

So the legend went, his family’s house in Cotuit was haunted with a long ago deceased sea captain who was playing cards into eternity in the root cellar buried below the basement.

The basement was creepy! It had steep stairs that decended from a door in the kitchen and had a musty smell that was disticntively salty, which Justin assumed must have stemmed from being so close to the ocean.

The basement was different than any basement that Justin had ever seen. The space that one could walk in only comprised a small portion of the space beneath the house, with the rest of the space consisting of sand and retaining walls.

All Justin knew was that the basement had turned out to be a good place to hide liquor bottles and other contraband, since he could easily hide his booty beneath the sand, far beyond the glow of any lights as the sand stretched out into cold dank space near the edges of the foundation of the house.

If there was a ghost, he must have liked Justin since his treasure was never tampered with.

When Justin thought about the poor old soul, he felt sorry for him. After all, being buried in such a stark place with only a game of solitaire to entertain him, he must have been bored to death, Justin thought.

Justin hated cards.

Justin’s tolerance for playing cards lasted only a few minutes at a time, unless he was beating his little sister in a game of “Knuckles”

The legend that his house was haunted by a sea captain seemed to be corroborated by the fact that there was indeed a patched area of the basement floor that appeared as if it might have gone much deeper into the ground.

Justin’s grandfather telling him that this patch was the sealed “doorway” to where the unfortunate guy had been trapped, only played into Justin’s imagination.

Justin could picture a subterranian space, a lone card table and chair, with a man playing game after game of solitare beckoning for someone to come join him in a game of cribbage.

Although Justin didn’t really believe in ghosts, his grandfather told the tale with such sincerity that Justin couldn’t tell if this was another one of his tales or if, for once, his grandfather was telling the truth.

To make matters worse, Justin had heard the story from another source besides his grandfather.

One day, when Justin was down at the COOP, he heard “Ol’ Man Crocker” telling the exact same tale to his mother as Justin was picking out his candy from behind the counter at the cash register.

Ol’ Man Crocker seemed to know everything about Justin’s house.

Justin doubted that his grandfather and Mr. Crocker were colluding against him since they were not very good friends, so Justin took what the old guy had to say very seriously.

The old man would tell Justin many different stories about his house for as long as Justin would listen. Standing hunched over in front of the shelves, he would speak in his high pitched voice looking up at Justin with the only eye that he could turn far enough to see up with.

Ol’ man Crocker might have actually been there when they founded Cotuit and when the man got trapped in his basement Justin thought, looking older than time to a teenage boy.

Justin imagined that all the years of stocking shelves and taking inventory must have given him the hunch, and hearing a man that looked like something out of a horror movie tell him about how his house was haunted, made Justin shiver.

Besides the slight accumulation of drool on the lower side of his mouth as he spoke, Justin thought that he was a very nice man and he knew that his mother thought very highly of him.

Justin’s mother seemed to believe in the tale so Justin played along.

True or not, Justin ended up appreciating the ghost of the Sea Captain and adopted him as his own personal friend…

One time, when Justin was sneaking into his window late at night and his mother came rushing into his room just as he was pulling the covers up, Justin found a new appreciation for the story of the ghost since he was actually able to pawn off the noises that he had made to the ghost and she believed it.

If there was a ghost, Justin figured that he must have been a pirate and not some tea totaling puritanical sea captain.

He liked that.

Justin had always wanted to be a pirate.

Checking In

September 20, 2007

Just in case anyone who reads this blog has wondered why I have not posted anything for a while, I just want to let you know that I have been busy as a beaver traveling the country and making a living.

I have been working on Freedom Hall and a chapter about the CMYC summer dances but I have been having trouble getting it to where I want. I seem to have a problem with big chapters and this one is a big one. My one chapter could almost be a novel unto itself and I’m trying to pare it back.

I’ll hopefully have something meaningful to share with you shortly.

72 Ocean View Ave

May 17, 2007

8 Ocean View 72 Ocean View Ave

The following is an excerpt from Freedom Hall…….

Captain Leander Nickerson had built the Lotowski’s house in the 1830’s.

Justin found the fact that his house had once belonged to a sea captain of great interest, as it was certainly a much better story than the story of his family’s New Jersey house. The New Jersey house didn’t have much of a story at all.

Everything about the Cape house was better than the New Jersey house, Justin thought.

Justin felt this way even though the house was “On the wrong side of the right street” according to his father. Justin had heard his father say this more than once, when describing the Cotuit house to friends back in New Jersey.

Justin’s father was a very modest man and liked to downplay things that otherwise sounded pretentious, like when speaking about their second home up in Cape Cod. According to Justin’s father, doctors should never outwardly appear to be wealthier than their patients, which explained the Lotowski automobiles as well as their homes.

To Justin, it was a great house, regardless of what side of the street it was on and unlike his father, Justin conveniently and sometimes purposefully omitted what side of the street it was on when whenver speaking about his house. Justin was often pretentious, even though he didn’t really know what pretentiousness was but never did it to be mean.

And, even though Justin loved the houses that were on the water and the though of having a boat tied up in the back yard, as he knew his father really did too, Justin always thought of the waterfront homes as belonging to “newer” families and to ones that simply had too much money. In his experience the people that lived in the waterfront homes were rarely very nice, especially the ones that took offense to having people walk along the beach.

To Justin, his house was perfect and having a boat only a few hundred yards away was more than ok.

His house, an old grey saltbox, sat just close enough to the water to let him smell the sea air, but far enough away to still have a large grassy back yard and large silver poplar trees everywhere. The trees provided shade in the heat of August and had leave that would rustle violently when the wind would blow in from the bay.

“Those leaves!” Justin would curse whenever his mother had heard them and yell out from the kitchen and comment disdainfully about the weather on the bay. Hearing the leaves she knew that it would be blustery on the water. Blustery was a good thing to Justin, but not so to his mother.

Noticeably missing from the Lotowski’s yard and the general vicinity of the house was the endless amount of sand that seemed to be everywhere else on the cape and throughout many parts of Cotuit other than theirs.

Justin appreciated this fact for one reason more than others, as his mother was obsessed with keeping sand out of the house.

From June until September there was an everpresent tray of water for everyone to use when returning from the beach, as if the sand was a contaminant of some sort.

Justin would routinely ignore the washing ritual as he could hardly be bothered to slow down and use it, unless of course he saw his mother standing in the kitchen watching his every move.

Back in the days that Cotuit had revolved around the sea, few people would ever consider building their homes right on the water. With winter storms and hurricanes, being at least a little inland and up on higher ground was only prudent. Besides, Justin thought, after spending weeks if not months on the water, who really wanted to keep looking at the sea anyway.

“If it was good enough for them, then its good enough for me!” Justin had convinced himself and would say to his grandfather whenever they sat having lunch down at the Kettle Ho and the topic of the house would come up.

“Living right on the water was a foolish idea if one was truly a man of the sea” his grandfather would add, making Justin feel close to his grandfather for his grandfather really was “a man of the sea”.

Some of the homes along Ocean View and the lower parts of Main Street had unusual perches atop their roofs knows as “Widows’ Walks”. These unusual features were where long ago a sea captain’s wife could sit and wait to see if her husband’s ship was approaching.

Justin’s house was just a bit too far inland to have a widow’s walk, thanks to how large Bluff Point stuck out directly in front of their house. Ironically, his house was closer to the water in either direction up or down Ocean View, than it was straight ahead.

Justin often thought about how the woman that lived in his house must have been much more confident about her husband’s safe return, or perhaps it was her husband that was the overly confident one to build his house without any view of the water whatsoever. Either way, Justin felt that his house was forever buffeted from the storms blowing in off of Nantucket Sound better than any other in the area and yet they were actually very close.

It was like a fortification to Justin and Justin though that fortifications were a good thing. The “best of both worlds” as his father would say right after his clarification of what side of the street the house laid. Justin also once heard his father telling someone that the insurance rates were better being where they were but he didn’t really know what that meant either.

The house was as traditional a saltbox as they came, plus a small addition off of the back that was built much later yet looked very much like it belonged.

The house sat literally only a few feet from the street which was perhaps the one thing about the house that Justin did not like that much and he always imagined that someday his father would have the whole house moved back just a bit.

However, being so close to the street allowed Justin to hear the kids that would walk by at night on their way to Loop Beach.

From his room in the back of the house Justin could hear the boys making jokes and the girls laughing and even though his mother told him that he was too young to hang out with “those kids”, he felt otherwise. Often Justin thought about sneaking outside and joining in on the fun if only he could be certain that it was people he knew and liked.

The house had cedar shingles that were stained gray by his grandfather “battleship gray” as he would say, conjuring up images for Justin of the USS Galveston upon which his grandfather was stationed.

The process of staining the house “battleship gray” was a never-ending one that his grandfather tended to lovingly and with great pride.

Once in a while, Justin would help out with this chore but this would only happen for as long as it remained fun, which was usually only a few hours.

Since there was always a section that needed touching up, his grandfather simply rotated his way around the house and did a little bit at a time. When Justin would help out he always did much less painting and a lot more fetching and cleaning up than he would have liked, but since his grandfather always had lots of funny stories to tell, the time went by quickly and Justin spent more time helping his grandfather paint than most chores. The only thing Justin liked more was splitting wood with his grandfather.

Justin knew that their house was relatively modest compared to many of the newer homes in town but it was still very large compared to New Jersey standards. It had 6 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms, even though the two bedrooms off of the back of the house where barely larger than a single bed; the room furthest back being Justin’s and the one next to it being his little sister Krystina’s.

Justin adored his little room for two reasons. First, it was off the back of the house far away from his parent’s room and being on the first floor he could come and go as he pleased through his bedroom window which he could open and close in complete silence. Second, his room had its own mirror and sink in it which was a leftover from its boarding house heritage and even though he had to share a bathroom with his sister, the bathroom was right across the hall in front of his door so it was almost like it was his.

At the far end of the hallway that connected the two rooms to the kitchen was a screened in porch, which Justin considered his private living room and often would extract homage from his little sister if she dared try to enter it while he was around.

Although his room was tiny, to him it was the best place in the world. It was rarely neat but it did have a certain organization to it. There was his tennis corner, his sailing corner and the corner in which he kept his Mad Magazine collection and his cassette tapes.

Dr. and Mrs. Lotowski’s bedroom was in the front of the house on the other side of the living room and as cars full of young kids would zoom down Ocean View on hot summer nights making their way to The Loop Beach, Mrs. Lotowski would often awaken from the noise. However, she didn’t mind that much as she would always go quickly back to sleep once she began re-reading the pages of her book that she had re-read only a dozen times before as she repeated the process of falling asleep.

Nancy and Sarah each had their own room upstairs and each had their own bathroom. This was ironic to Justin because in the summer they didn’t need bathrooms nearly as much as they did in the winter back home in New Jersey. In New Jersey, where all four kids shared one bathroom, getting ready for school was a veritable powder keg of tempers and Justin was low man on the totem pole when it came to bathroom time.

This summer, even though Nancy had stayed in New Jersey, Justin did not want to move upstairs and loose his easy access to the outside world though his ground floor escape hatch. Besides, with Nancy coming up quite a few weekends, Justin knew that she would insist upon having her room and Justin would end up sleeping downstairs again anyway.

Outside and to the right of the Lotowski house was a long driveway made from crushed seashells that went down to the once old and dilapidated boathouse that had been converted into a guest house shortly after the Lotowski’s had purchased the property.

Justin’s grandmother and grandfather had taken up residency in it shortly after the renovation and it too had been painted “battleship gray”.

The “guesthouse” as it was called even when his grandparents had moved in permanently, had two bedrooms and a bath upstairs along with a living room, kitchen and another bathroom downstairs. It was a cozy little house having been built into the side of the hill that descended from Ocean View to Main Street so that the second floor was at the same level as the back yard of the main house. The first floor, being below grade, was fully protected from the harsh winter breeze that blew in off of Cotuit bay.

Across the street from the main house was a mansion which was majestic in appearance by any standard contrasting the Lotowski house which was “Cape Cod” through and through. Justin’s house heralded back to the humble origins of the town and not its heyday as a retreat for the rich and famous. This was one of the reasons why Justin’s mother loved it so much, Justin thought, figuring that she identified with the house in the same way.

Justin loved that his great grandmother, his mother’s mother’s mother, had a cottage that was only a quarter mile away around the corner on Shell Lane even further away from the water. It was likewise a very traditional structure. Justin’s mother had once told Justin that when she was a child that she had always admired the house at 8 Ocean View and had hoped to live there one day. Although the house was now 72 Ocean View it was originally 8 and was changed for some unknown reason all of a sudden.

“72 Ocean View, When you come please wear blue” Justin could hear his grandfather singing from time to time.

Justin loved to think of his mother as a child in Cotuit. He could easily picture his mother in pigtails and a sundress walking one way or another in front of the house looking up as she passed and hoping that one day the house would be hers. Justin figured that his mother must have always been an ambitious woman and was proud to have a mother that made her dreams come true.

He hoped that all of his dreams came true just the same.

Justin often thought about how the house stood still for all those years as time passed while so many people came and went during the interim. He knew that lots of things must have changed over the years since his mother walked down Ocean View but at times he felt as though nothing had changed and that everything had stayed exactly the same.

This notion of timelessness made him feel very close to his mother yet at odds with her at the same time. In so many ways their childhoods were so much alike yet she seemed incapable of understanding her son or if she did understand him, making a connection that he understood.

The Baby Budweiser

February 21, 2007

The Baby Budweiser 

The following is an excerpt from Freedom Hall….. 

“Please can’t we buy it?” Justin begged his mother over and over again for the week that the rotten hull of an old hydroplane had been laying on the grass in front of Freedom Hall.

As the day of the annual CMYC Auction approached, she would say “Absolutely not!”  over and over as well.

“When your father gets here, he’ll say the same thing!”, was often added to her rebuttal in order to add emphasis.

“Why?” Justin would ask sweeter and sweeter each time in response.

 “Because it’s too dangerous and it looks like it won’t even float” was her standard reply.

“We can fix it, I know we can!” Justin implored. “We can borrow the motor from the dingy and Grandpa even said that he’ll help us. Please!” Justin begged to her this time, using everything he had. Justin always felt that if his grandfather was in the equation, that she would soften. Unfortunately, in reality, it rarely helped.“Absolutely not!” was the reply once again and Justin called a temporary truce.Justin had just about quit and the phone rang.  It was Chris.

“My Dad says we can bid on it if we want and he even gave me an extra $20 to make sure we win!” his friend blurted out.

“Great!” Justin said sarcastically. “You’ll have a nice boat and I can watch you from the shore!”

“What?” Said Chris, “They won’t let you go in on it with me?”

“Nope, my mom says it’s too dangerous and that it won’t even float.” Justin said rolling his eyes at the dog.

“What about your dad?” Chris said with a tone of disbelief. “He said no too? Hold on….” and a few moments passed while Justin doodled a picture of the hydroplane on the pad that was always present on the kitchen desk with at least one hundred writing utensils in the jar behind the phone.

Chris came back on the line with a hurried voice. “My Dad wants to talk to your mom, is she home?”

“Yes, hold on, I’ll get her.” Justin said.

“No, no, he’s going to come over and talk to her and I’m coming with him. We’ll be right there.” he shouted as Justin could tell that the phone was being put down.

Justin hung up too and went quickly into the kitchen where Mrs. Lotowski was cleaning some cucumbers for dinner.

“Mr. Winslow wants to come over and talk to you about the boat. He’s on his way” Justin said knowing that his mother was not someone to be charmed into too many things. At least not this abruptly.

“Great!” said his mother in the same sarcastic tone that Justin used with Chris. “Once again, I’m the overprotective mother denying you from doing anything fun. Who’s going to fix that thing up? Who’s going to make sure you don’t kill yourselves? Your father’s never around and when he is we have other things to do than help you try to dismember yourself or even worse, get killed!.” And with that she put down the cucumber and the knife and took off her apron and went into the living room to await Chris’s father, Patrick.

Suddenly, Justin became optimistic, not having heard her say one more “Absolutely not”. He knew his mother very well and he could feel that the ice had cracked; he could tell.

Jane knew that she was going to have a hard time saying no to Patrick. She had a lot of respect for him and he was always very nice, especially to Justin. Patrick Winslow was a very successful businessman that was teaching at Harvard Business School and although he appeared to be a soft-spoken southerner, she knew that he was a rigid taskmaster with his boys and that he lived the motto of “work hard, play hard”. He had met and married his wife Dagmar while attending Oxford but had postponed the wedding for a year until he attempted his swim across the English Channel. Dagmar was a German born aristocrat whose family had lost much during the war but certainly not their pride. Although Mrs. Winslow and Jane were very friendly when they met at social functions, they rarely socialized with each other except when it involved the boys.

As Jane saw the Winslow station wagon round the bend on Ocean View Ave, she already knew that she was going to cave in. The second that she heard the tires crunching on the gravel as the car pulled up in front of the house it was over. Patrick jumped out of his car with a huge smile on his face as if it were all a big joke. He must have thought at first that swaying Jane was going to be a challenge but to Patrick, there was nothing he liked more than a good challenge.

“Jaaaane!” Patrick said as he came around the back of the car with his arms out as if to embrace a long lost relative.

“Hello Patrick” Jane replied although she kept a stiff posture while he embraced her, trying to stop herself from blurting out her concession without even a fight.

“The boys want to bid on that hydroplane up at Freedom Hall and Chris tells me that you don’t think it’s a good idea” What could be wrong with two young men wanting a shot at fixing up an old boat? I admire their enthusiasm, you should too.”

“I haven’t even had a chance to talk it over with James. He’s been doing rounds all day and he hasn’t returned my page.” But as she said this the tone of her voice gave away her less than stalwart position.

“So you’re open to it?” Patrick probed with his smile widening with each word.

“I don’t like making decisions without James.” She said glumly, but Justin knew that she had said no without even consulting her husband so why couldn’t she say yes? Justin wanted to tell Mr. Winslow that his mother was a liar, but he figured that he was making such solid ground now that he would just leave it alone.

“I’m sure James would say yes.” Patrick continued. “They didn’t have hydroplanes like this back in Brooklyn I bet.”

Hearing those words, Justin thought to himself that Mr. Liles was going right for the jugular. Chris had once told Justin that at a cocktail party after a few scotches, Justin’s dad told Chris’ dad how he always wanted to give his son all the things that he didn’t have growing up in Brooklyn. Naturally, Patrick knowing this, he must have figured that this would be a good place to start and probably to end and it was.

“Driving a hydroplane would sure be a lot more fun than stick ball” he said as he swung his arms like a batter but immediately realized that he had played his hand just a little too far when Jane made a small grimace and turned towards Justin. Patrick knew that Jane admired her husband for what he had achieved but he also knew that she loathed any time that the conversation revolved too much around her husband’s inner-city roots.

Patrick realized that he had made his point and decided that he was finished with this course of attack.

“I really don’t want that thing in our yard!” said Jane and now Justin knew that Mr. Winslow was a saint. She had thrown in a caveat but was no longer saying no.

“Those boys will drag that thing here, tear it apart and leave it as a huge eyesore only to have us pay to have it hauled away at the end of the summer.” As she said this she pointed her arms to the backyard with a back and forth motion as if the entire yard would be transformed into a junkyard as a result of the boys’ efforts.

“Not to worry!” Patrick chimed in. “It’ll go in the unfinished part of our basement. I’ll oversee the rehabilitation project and I’ll test it out before either of the boys ever sets foot in it. It will be a good project for them. Something to give them a real sense of accomplishment, something to write their college essays about” And with that the deal was sealed.

Patrick was, after all, on the admissions board for Harvard. If anyone knew about good college essays, it was Patrick Winslow. Maybe it would make for a good college essay Jane thought, and it might make for a good story to tell her friends in New Jersey, provided the kids don’t kill themselves.

With that, she nodded her head in agreement and Justin ran up to her and almost gave her the biggest hug of his life. In stead, he stopped only inches away from her, looked up at her with a huge smile and said “Thanks mom!” and turned to Chris and ran up to him and they jumped in each others arms with a celebratory “Yeah man!” and then ran to Mr. Winslow and began talking excitedly about their plans.

The day of the auction had come and gone and much to Justin and Chris’s surprise, no one else had even bid on the boat. They ended up getting it for only ten dollars and as if the car had been made to carry her, the boat fit perfectly into the back of the Winslow’s station wagon and it was theirs.

For the next few weeks the boys worked on the boat every day. They peeled old fiberglass, replaced rotten wooden ties that Mr. Winslow would cut for them and then they proceeded to re-fiberglass the entire boat from stem to stern.

It was during these long hours of working together on the boat that Justin and Chris become lifelong friends. Making decisions about the boat, imagining how fast they might go, talking about what the girls would think and then, the all-important decision, what to name her.

It didn’t take long until the two had decided upon “The Baby Budweiser”. With thoughts of the famous Ms. Budweiser on one hand and the two boys’ affinity towards the real thing on the other, the name seemed perfect.

They painted her red white and black, just like the professional boat and put lettering on each side that they bought at Sears in Hyannis putting all 13 letters on both sides of the deck close to the cockpit.

And so she was christened, but not before Mr. Winslow had spend at least an hour zipping across Shoestring bay making sure the craft was seaworthy and at the same time making the boys anxious as he would tease them coming close to shore only to turn back for another run.

Upon coming into shore for the last time, Mr. Winslow had his regular military style grimace on and began lecturing the boys about safety in his military style voice even before he had gotten out of the boat. It was obvious that he was proud of what the two “young men” as he immediately began calling them, had accomplished together.

Patrick knew that these summertime friends would be friends for a lifetime and patted both Chris and Justin on the backs with a heartfelt “Good Job Men!” and the two boys couldn’t wait until they could take her out but Justin knew that he had to get home and Chris was kind enough to not want to go if Justin wasn’t there.

So, the two “young men” put the boat back on the Skiff trailer that Justin’s father had let them use and took her back to the Winslow’s house where she sat alongside the garage, like a prize beyond anything Justin could have ever imagined. Not just a boat, not just fast boat, but a boat that he and his best friend had built together. A tiny craft that had been nearly thrown into the junk heap was now a pristine vessel thanks to their efforts, a vessel was built to carry them off as friends, far further than to just the ends of Shoestring Bay.

The Boston Whaler Ride

February 20, 2007


The following is an excerpt from Freedom Hall…….

“I’ll drop you off at Ropes Beach” Justin’s mother said heading straight, rather than turning as she usually did at the sharp curve on Putnam Road. With the enourmous station wagon lifting upwards as it headed down the steep decline of pavement to Ropes Beach, Justin readied himself for a quick exit.

Pulling up to the sea wall to let Justin off his mother continued her lecture from before, “I hope that you’ll be tying knots today and not going out! If they decide to go out for a boat ride, you tell them no! And don’t forget your slicker!”

“I won’t…. Sure thing” Justin answered as he stepped up onto the sea wall and jumped down into the sand that was now covered with a thin crust from the recent rain.

Justin liked how his answer was the exact inverse to her commands and he had to chuckle to himself as he said the words. He had no intention of telling them “no”.

If anything, he would be the most vocal in favor of going out on the committee boats.

As far as forgetting his slicker, Justin wore that even on sunny days most of the time. Justin loved his slicker! After all, his extremely expensive Atlantis Foul Weather Gear was about as cool as clothing could get and was more of a fashion statement than a necessity. Even if it did rain, he rarely zippered it up or ever put up the hood.

As he headed down the long stretch of beach towards the dock of the Cotuit Mosquito Yacht Club, pulling the cowl of his slicker up around his neck for affect, he could already see the group of kids gathering at the dock which to him looked very promising.

Since it was raining pretty hard, the sailing lesson would be one of two things, either knot tying in the Winney’s boathouse or if it wasn’t too bad, a Boston Whaler ride around Dead Neck and since Justin could already tie all of his knots blindfolded and behind his back, he wasn’t’ really in the mood to practice.

Justin did always like when there was a new girl signed up for sailing class for whom he could show off his knot tying skills while trying to tutor them. Unfortunately, this week there were no new cute girls in class, only the regular “Boston Witches” as he called them, that used to sneer at him and laugh at the mere mention of New Jersey or of his last name.

As he approached the dock, he could tell that today the decision was going to be for a boat ride and that if they all hurried, they could get out before the rain started to fall even heavier.

Tom Hudson, or “Rock” as he liked to be called, was at the helm of the CMYC’s brand new 17 foot Boston Whaler Montauk and behind him in tow was the second and much older Montauk that was probably one of the originals from the sixties.

Rock had obviously swum out to the mooring where the boats were kept as he was in nothing but his shorts with his long black hair slicked down over his shoulders contrasting the ear to ear smile that he had on his face.

Rock was the heartthrob of all of the teenage girls in Cotuit and probably many other places as well. He was in college up at Bates and had been winning skiff races in Cotuit since he was seven. Rock had always been interested in Justin’s sister Sarah but Sarah was not interested in Rock as he was a bit of a Cretin in her eyes. Sarah preferred the tennis players at Kings Grant over the sailors at CMYC and Rock didn’t look like he could even swing a tennis racquet, with all of his muscles bulging on top of one another and all.

Rock was nice to Justin but he was usually nice to everyone in a very jovial way and had even been known on more than a few occasions to supply beer at the moonlight races and once in a while, after a hot day of sailing class to anyone who wanted one.

“Catch the line” Rock yelled at the crowd that had now gathered at the end of the dock. With that, Justin stepped forward and caught the line that Rock had already thrown and then quickly tied it off in a double hitch around the piling of the dock where Rock was coming in.

With the grace of an ice skater, Rock pulled the boat along side of the dock, tossed another line up to Justin who tied off the stern and without missing a step, Rock launched himself off of the stern and onto the bow of the older boat as it inched its way closer and closer in slow motion.

Stopping the momentum of the boat with his hands against a piling and untying the older whaler, Rock fired up its engine and hovered about 20 feet off of the dock telling the kids to split up.Half of them were to get into the boat tied before them and the rest of them were to get ready and jump onto the boat that Rock was on as he was about to bring in for a quick boarding.

Justin knew that Rock was going to stay on the older whaler and even though Justin thought that the newer one was cooler, he knew that Rock would be more fun. After all, Rock took bigger chances and liked to “catch air”.

Justin didn’t know who was going to captain the newer whaler as the other instructor had not yet shown up. However, no matter who it was, Rock would be the most fun.

Just as Rock had finished getting the remaining kids on board of his boat, Justin looked up to see a bright orange slicker coming down the stairs from the parking lot up on Talbot’s field. He knew right away that it was Cheryl Cunningham who was incredibly cute, but by no means an aggressive captain.

Although Justin never minded spending time staring at her during sailing class, she barely noticed that Justin existed. And to Justin, the way that she always talked about her really rich boyfriend from California really got on his nerves and just about everyone else’s as well.

“Hurry Up!” Rock shouted at her as she got onto the dock. She picked up the pace to a slight jog and when she got to the boat she lowered herself down the ladder with nearly every boy fixated on her frayed cutoffs that looked as though they were ready to fall off with each step as she wiggled down and climbed on board.

“Oh well” Justin muttered to himself as he looked over at Rock who, rather than staring at Cheryl, was surveying the boat for anything that needed to be secured.

“Life Jackets!” Rock yelled out so that everyone in his boat and Cheryl’s boat could hear and almost immediately a collective moan came from the crowd.

“Put on your lifer perverters!” Justin said loudly but said it facing Tommy Sousa who was a frail little kid that Justin could tell was rather nervous. Justin loved to call them “life perverters” which always made Tommy chuckle but the girls cringe.

“You should know” Justin heard Sandy Franconi mutter loud enough for everyone to hear, but he ignored her thinking to himself that she should be wearing her life preserver around her face.

“Tie down the cooler” Rock shouted out and two of the kids quickly responded, lashing the cooler to the oar rack on the starboard side as the two boats started heading across the bay towards the Seapuit River. Seapuit was where they would wind their way from Cotuit Bay over to West Bay and then out into the Sound through the Osterville Cut.

Pressing down onto the throttle, Rock got the boat onto a plane quickly thanks to the extra weight of four kids on the bow. Although the boat was rated for 115 horsepower, the CMYC only had 70’s on the boats, not seeing the need for any extra speed, when all they did was chase prams and skiffs around the harbor all day.

With the two committee boats neck and neck racing across the bay and heading towards open water, the tiny raindrops felt like sand hitting Justin in the face as he stood alongside the center console, holding onto the side rails. To Justin this was one of the best feelings he knew; riding across Cotuit bay in inclement weather with some big adventure lying ahead.

He had done this many times before.

Justin could only imagine how his mother would be fuming if she knew they were going out. With his luck, she was parked at the Loop Beach waiting to see if they had gone out and then he would be busted for sure, but at least he would have gotten to go on his ride.

Hopefully, Justin thought, one of his sisters was keeping his mother occupied and when he got home he could tell her that they did tie knots and then watched a training film. It might just work but Justin was rarely that lucky when it came to being clandestine.

“Do you think it will be really rough?” Tommy said to Justin with a slight cracking in his voice.

“I hope so!” Justin said as he tried to see over the island and out into the Sound in hopes of seeing some whitecaps. Justin loved whitecaps.

Justin was never nervous on these trips. After all, they were never more than a few hundred yards from land, he had a lifer preserver on and the whaler was the safest boat known to man, completely unsinkable under any conditions.

The boat slowed to a more moderate pace as they entered Seapuit river where the channel winded between Dead Neck and Grand Island; Dead Neck being a bird sanctuary and Grand Island being a sanctuary of the mega rich.

Technically, Grand Island belonged to Osterville and its waterfront mansions stood stalwart in a mocking fashion overlooking the much more modest, albeit still grand, homes along the Cotuit waterfront. Justin doubted that the rich kids from Osterville were out having as much fun as they were right now. They had probably all gone to the Mall or the movies Justin thought.

As they passed the one house that Justin simply loved to go by, he was again in awe at the seaplane, the wide selection of sailboats, motor yachts and other miscellaneous water toys that were amassed on and around one of the largest docks in the area. Supposedly the man was a judge but someone in the family had long ago invented some sort of soft drink that made them wildly wealthy. Justin could only hope but always felt sad because none of the boats or other expensive toys ever seemed to move.

“When we head out of the cut, let’s go out to Bell One” Rock yelled so that everyone in both boats could hear.

“Bell One!” Justin thought to himself “That’s out there. Tommy is going to freak out!” he said quietly to himself. Bell One was almost out of sight of land and was past the big sand bar where the waves would surely be breaking if the swells were really big.

“Once we get to Bell One, we’ll head to the Loop and back in” he continued. Cheryl simply nodded but the look on her face was tentative at best.

They were almost at the cut and Justin could see that the swells in the cut were extremely rough and were breaking in all directions.

“I changed my mind, I don’t want to go” Tommy said to Justin as if Justin was in charge.

“You gotta go, Tommy, this is what builds character!” Justin said, as if he had character to spare and with that Tommy just shrunk in his spot and looked as though he was hunkering down for a really bad ride while at the same time Justin was craning his neck in anxious anticipation of the wild ride ahead. Maybe they shouldn’t be out there but Justin wasn’t going to say it.

They got to the end of Seapuit and began to turn into the cut. The waves were tossing the boats from side to side and end to end. Justin stood strong next to Rock with his sea legs keeping him steady against every motion of the boat. Rock began to lay into the throttle when all of a sudden a loud scream came from the other boat and a second later another scream came from a few of the kids on Justin’s boat.

Looking over, they could see that the fiberglass center console of the new Whaler had torn from the deck and was hanging on as if on a hinge. Without even flinching, Rock guided his Whaler over to the other boat where Cheryl was noticeably upset.

“That piece of shit!” Rock yelled out. “They don’t make Whalers like they used to!” he exclaimed as he banged his fist on the weathered wooden center console of the much older Whaler with pride.

“Who wants to come with me and who wants to go back?” he asked looking at all of the faces and knowing already by the look in each one who would come and who would go.

After about 5 minutes of switching boats in the middle of the cut, with both boats hemming and hawing as a number of the children jumped to their preferred boat, Rock waved off Cheryl and she proceeded to head back into Seapuit with many of her crew noticably relieved that they were heading back in.

“See Ya Tommy” Justin yelled out feeling happy that Tommy got what he wanted but sad that Tommy was so scared.

As for Rock’s crew, they were ready.

Seeing the center console tear from its foundation only convinced them all that the ride was going to be great. Justin had tied three ropes to the bow cleat so that he, Chat Harbuck and Franky Lloyd could all hold on as they pounded into the waves. To Justin it was like riding the back of a whale and he imagined to himself what it would have been like to have been a whaler on these very waters only a hundred or so years ago.

“We’re going for a Nantucket Sleigh Ride” he shouted to Chat who had just as big of a smile plastered across his face. “YEEE HA!” they all shouted alone and in unison as Rock laid into the gas.

The boat strained as it began to pick up speed and just as they climbed to the top of what looked to Justin like a ten foot swell, the water below the boat disappeared and they all dropped with a thud that seemed to shake the boat to it’s core. Again they climbed a swell and again they dropped into the abyss on the other side with a horrible bang.

Water was everywhere and it was hard to see even a few feet in front of the boat. However, seeing wasn’t important because they all knew the course they were on as if there was a yellow brick road painted down before them, especially Rock.

As they got farther from land and had passed over the edge of the sand bar, the crests of the waves began to lessen and the swells grew wider and wider.

As they reached the top of a swell, it was as if the boat was sitting completely atop of the wave and Rock cut back on the motor and eased the nose of the boat down into the trough of the oncoming wave.

The boat slid down the backside of the wave and then appeared to stop at the bottom between two walls of water and even though there was a strong sense of sideways motion, the engine was still pushing them forward.

Time seemed to stop for a moment as they were sitting ever so precariously between the two enormous swells that obscured any view of land. Although the adrenaline was still rushing through everyone’s veins, it suddenly became a very peaceful place to be.

Other than the sound of the motor, everyone had grown quiet as the awesome force of the sea seemed to captivate them; the swells undulating in size and height on both sides of them giving Justin an odd feeling but not one that made him at all nervous.

“Let’s all relax” Rock said as he cut the engine and sat down on the bench seat behind him. “If anyone gets swept overboard, I’m telling your parents you jumped!”

As they sat there in silence, the only noise at that point was the churning sound of the water all around them and the patter of rain on the boat. No one said anything for what seemed like an eternity as the boat remained nestled between the two waves.

Like passengers on a train, they could feel the two enormous swells carrying them along at a rather quick pace and as the boat would begin to ride up the trailing wave, gravity would surf it forward putting it right back in the middle.

“No need to waste gas” Rock said. “We could ride all the way back to shore right here if we wanted, or at least until this fucker behind us decides to break. Then we’re all in the drink!”

“This is wicked cool!” Justin said and his comment was mirrored by everyone on board with nodding heads and vacant stares.

Sitting there Justin felt an unbelievable comradery with everyone on board. There they were, where most people would think they were in danger of dying, calmly sitting and enjoying natures unimaginable power on a 17 foot boat made of fiberglass and wood.

Justin’s thoughts again went back to the days of the whalers that spent their life on the sea in conditions even worse than this and he was glad that he would be back at his house taking a nice warm shower in only an hour or two.

“Something’s wrong?” Rock blurted out! “The engine won’t start!”

“What?” said a few voices with a slightly panicked tone but not Justin. He figured they’d just ride it out and swim. Not a big deal to him.

“Only kidding” Rock said and with that the engine turned over and a plume of thick black smoke filled the air.

For the rest of the ride back Justin was calm and content with the experience that he had just had.

As they surfed in over each swell going only slightly faster than the waves, he looked out towards the Loop Beach which was approaching on the horizon.

His calm feeling went away as he thought that he saw their yellow station wagon parked behind the sea wall. Suddenly his stomach dropped worse than it had from any swell on the ride before.

But, as they approached Loop Beach and Justin was certain that his mother would be standing there, he got close enough to see the sole familiar outline of his grandfather, standing on the wall looking out with a pair of binoculars and Justin thought they must have been the rusty old pair that he had gotten when he was in the Navy serving down in Nicaragua.

His mother was nowhere in sight.

As the Whaler came bounding through the channel with everyone soaking wet but smiling triumphantly, Justin could see his grandfather waving to them. He could see him giving them all a thumbs up and with that Justin knew that even though his mother must have sent his grandfather to check on him, his grandfather would deny ever seeing them out on the water.

Justin could count on that.

Freedom Hall

February 1, 2007

Riley’s Beach in Cotuit   Cotuit Harbor

Set in the 1970’s, Freedom Hall is the story of Justin Lotowski and his coming of age during one fateful summer on Cape Cod in the sleepy little town of Cotuit, Massachusetts.

Justin and his best friend Chris Winslow spend endless hours enjoying all of the fun that the town has to offer, just like the many summers before. However, this summer, riding bikes, sailing and playing tennis simply are not enough and the boys’ thoughts turn towards other preoccupations.

For Justin, her Name was Stacy Phillips and she was the cutest girl that he had ever met and his only wish was that every moment with her could last forever. However, besides being cute, her father was one of the richest men in Boston and wants only the best for his daughter.

As it turns out, Justin has a lot to learn about love and the cold harsh realities of spending time amongst America’s social elite.

Being just an upper middle class kid from New Jersey, burdened with a Polish last name, Justin fails to fit in and can’t quite understand why.

Over the coming months I will be posting many of the chaptes on this Blog. I hope that you enjoy them.