Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Good Weather
By Jerry Guarino

    It was a dark and stormy night (yes, I said it).  Lightning lit up the sky and thunder alerted even the heaviest sleepers that this night’s rest would be disrupted.  Rain filled the potholes, gullies and streams.  Animals stayed in their shelters, birds in the trees while frogs, turtles and fish went deep into the lake.  Some animals even went underground, hoping the water wouldn’t fill up their home.  All of God’s creatures sought protection, except the writer.  Storms were infrequent in California and John intended to take advantage of it.
    John settled into his chair, started his computer and took a sip from his tea.  The window blinds were up so he could see nature’s light show.  The room was dark except for the warm, flickering light coming from the fireplace and the cool light from his computer screen.  He could hear a raven cawing in the oak tree nearby.  A Mozart CD played very softly, just grazing John’s perception.  He closed his eyes for a minute, then cracked his fingers and began to write.
    A bolt of lightning struck so close to his window that the oak tree fell with a thud right outside his window.  Silence for a few seconds, and then the lightning and thunder show continued.  Where was his beloved raven, his inspiration and connection with Poe.  John looked up, expecting to hear that familiar caw.  Nothing yet.  A bad omen for this story.  Carry on John.

    The abandoned castle was silhouetted on the hill during the storm.  Each time lightning struck, the full grainy face of the stone lit up.  Without maintenance, these old buildings couldn’t stand up to the weather in Scotland.  What was once a symbol of aristocracy was now a run down edifice of cement, empty except for those ghosts.
    It was once the home of the McTavish family.  The head of the clan was Archibald, also known as the Duke of Dintymoore.  He was married to Mairi Stewart, the Duchess of Dundee.  Their first-born child, Bairn, was a boy of athletic ability and his sister Bonnie was a pretty lass who was more interested in art and literature.
    As the story goes, they were all together at dinner one night when a powerful storm buffeted the castle.  Bairn and his father went to secure the window covers when a lightning bolt struck and they were both electrocuted instantly.  Bonnie and her mother screamed and ran to each other.  The police and fire squads investigated but found nothing suspicious.
    “I’m sorry your highness.  It appears to be a terrible accident, nothing that could have been prevented.  Would you like to leave the castle tonight?”
    “No officer.  My daughter and I will stay here.”
    And so they did, living together for the next ten years.  But both of them knew that the spirits of Archibald and Bairn remained in the castle, wandering around at night, checking on them while they slept.  It didn’t scare the women.  In fact, it was comforting to know they were there.  
Each February, Bonnie and her mother went on holiday to France to escape the harsh Scottish winter.  Although the two were close, Mairi and Bonnie went their separate ways and only met for breakfast each morning.  Bonnie tended to stay out late dancing, but her mother preferred a quieter evening at a café or reading in the hotel lobby.
That’s when Bonnie met Jacques, a tennis player at the local club.  They quickly moved from acquaintances to lovers but their month long affair was interrupted by her return to Scotland.  Each year for the next four years, Bonnie and her mother returned to France and each time Bonnie took a different French lover for the month, only to abandon them at the end of holiday.  She never told her mother about the liaisons.
On the sixth anniversary of their holiday, Mairi met a man and had a torrid affair of her own.  Just as before, the two left for Scotland at the end of the month and neither Bonnie nor her mother ever spoke of their romances.  But once they returned to the castle, something changed with the nightly visits of Archibald and Bairn.
They still wandered the castle at night, but now they were speaking to the women.  Bairn slid into Bonnie’s room and asked her about her latest conquest.  “Bonnie.  This is your brother Bairn.  I can read your memories.  These annual lovers that you take in France have changed you.  What are your intentions?”
“Bairn, you’ve never spoken to me since you died.  I didn’t know that you could understand what I am thinking and doing.  Have my lovers offended you?”
“No, I was just hoping to be an uncle some day.  When will you be settling down?”
“Those boys in France are just for fun.  None of them have the makings of a husband.  And you know there are no reasonable prospects for me here.  Perhaps I should move to the city or maybe even to Europe.  Would you be able to follow me there?”
“Yes.  I’d like to get out of this cold, wet climate myself.  What do you think about Italy?”
“Ah.  Sunny days and warm nights.  Just enough rain for the crops and no harsh winters.  Yes, Italy may be just fine.”

Meanwhile Archibald startled Mairi in her bed and looked menacingly down on her.  “Who is this man that you took as a lover?  You promised to be faithful to me until death.  Has Bonnie’s lifestyle rubbed off on yours?”
Mairi backed into her headboard shocked at the sight of her husband.  “I didn’t think it would matter to you.  You still have feelings?”
“Not the same as when I was alive, but I see your thoughts and know you are no longer thinking about me.  Then I see your memories of your time in France, making love to that cook.”
“He’s a chef.  His name is Pappilon.”
“Cook, chef.  What’s the difference?  What matters is that you have left me behind.  Soon you won’t be thinking about me at all.”
“Why didn’t you ever say something these many years?  I would have loved to talk with you these lonely nights.  I’m sorry dear.  But I needed the love and affection of a real human.  Do you understand?”
“I suppose so.  I understand that Bonnie is thinking about moving out, going to live in Italy.  Bairn will travel with her to watch over her.”
“You mean like a guardian angel?”
“Yes, I suppose that’s as close as I can describe it.  Will you be leaving the castle too?”
“I would like to.  I don’t think I could live here alone, even with you here.”
“Fine.  I suspect you have been thinking about Pappilon and living with him.”
“Yes, that would be nice.  He really loved me.”
“Then go with my blessings.  I won’t be following you this time.  Start a new life.”
“Then what will happen to you Archibald?”
“There’s a golf course in Edinburg that needs a ghost.  I’ll be fine.”
Bonnie and her mother packed and left that April.  On the way, they disclosed their conversations with the men.  Mairi was glad that Bairn was going along as a guardian.  Bonnie was glad that her mother found love again.  Suddenly, the boat turned to the East and bright, intense sunlight blinded them.
John awoke to the sound of birds and looked up to see the sunlight coming through his window.  The storm had vanished and the sky was particularly blue.  It was a bright and sunny November day.  The puffy white clouds moved slowly across the sky.  Birds sang while squirrels scurried among the trees.  Deer quietly grazed in the park behind John’s house.  A mole popped his head up through the grass.  He rubbed his eyes and realized.

Well, I’m not going to get any writing done today.  Might as well take a nap.

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Jerry Guarino’s short stories have been published by dozens of magazines in the United States, Canada, Australia and Great Britain. His latest book, "50 Italian Pastries", is available on and as a Kindle eBook. Please visit his website at


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