Art ~ Writing ~ Life

Steve Campbell's Blog

Changes, 1972–1973:

The leap into the light took me home, back to my desk and typewriter inside my bedroom. I returned to the sinkhole right away, but the light was gone. I quit going on lengthy visits to Ridgewood after the police began investigating. To my knowledge, no one told the investigators how Vree had vanished, or about Rachel Pennwater Stephenson’s diary and her claims.

Ridgewood’s weekly newspaper ran a story about Vree and interviewed her parents, who believed she had gotten out somewhere and was alive. Her eighth grade school photograph made its way to state police barracks across Pennsylvania and the Atlantic states and parts of the Midwest. Meanwhile, I wrote contrived resolutions of her rescue. Some stories had Dave as her rescuer. Here is one of those attempts.

The amnesic young woman known as Jane Doe sat slumped in her oversized wicker wheelchair. Rachel Pennwater, sister of Dr. Henry Pennwater, had parked Jane’s chair again in front of the parlor’s largest window so she could look out at the hilly, tree-lined block of neighborhood. Rachel took her there every afternoon and claimed looking at the gasoline and electric automobiles that puttered by, and seeing the Victorian houses along the woodland section of Pittsburgh could help bring back memories of Jane’s past.

Her mind was blank, though she was coherent for the moment; the regimen of drugs would begin again after supper. She wished to be painless so she didn’t have to be drugged. It kept her from thinking.

She squinted past the silver-gray skylight stabbing through the large window. It was July, she’d been told, but the city sky looked far from being summery. Thunder sounded. A darkened sheet of low-sailing clouds threatened to pour down rain. Lightning lit up the view outdoors for a moment and she saw a figure beyond the sloping lawn that ran to Henry Pennwater’s black wrought iron gate. A young man, a teenager perhaps, was dressed in a long black raincoat and stood at the bars. A box-like delivery wagon on four bicycle tires for wheels was parked behind him. Two boys in yellow plastic raincoats scurried past him on the sidewalk. He looked through the bars at the house and the window. Then he waved to her a short wave, firm and emphatic.

A sudden flash of lightning and clap of thunder made Jane’s shoulders jump, but it was the young man now striding through the gate and heading to the front door that made her heart beat faster.

He looked familiar.

She balled her hands into tight fists and waited for the sound of the doorbell.

All my concoctions were lies. Vree had gone into the past, given birth, become an old woman, and died. End of story. But I couldn’t accept it, even when Mr. Evans bulldozed the hole in October. Ridgewood had pushed me into a corner and built a cement wall around me. There seemed to be no way out unless I hammered down that wall and took control of the town and its people.

It was time for major changes and, fittingly, my tenth grade year was a starting point. Days before the school year started, I tried to rescue a friend who was drowning and almost drowned myself during the attempt. That near-death experience changed what I considered important in life. It may seem selfish, but I stopped trying to please others—friends and family, particularly—and began focusing on myself. I had a stronger passion for drawing and painting, so writing became less important that school year. Interestingly, I took neither art nor English classes in tenth grade and spent a lot of time learning both on my own. However, my English teacher from ninth grade checked on my writing progress from time to time at school.

My parents separated and caused another major change in my life. When they divorced a year later, I truly knew how Dave and Amy felt. Meanwhile, divorced Parker Evans moved to Pittsburgh after he sold his house back to his mother, Peggy, another minor character whose bio added to my arsenal of backstory.

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