The Kingdom: A Novel by Paul Beem

Today’s guest blog comes to you as a piece of original fiction written by my father.  I can’t tell you how proud I am of him, but more important for this post is that I encourage you to read his FREE original fiction, The Kingdom: A Novel, available for online reading following the link.

Paul Beem made his career as Professor of Mathematics at Indiana University South Bend.  He is an alum of Stanford University, University of Virginia, and did post-doctoral work at the University of Pennsylvania.  What follows is Chapter One of The Kingdom, with a link at the end to take you further!  I hope you’ll enjoy this as much as I have–and leave him some great comment love here and on his site too!

Gabriel Wakes Up From A Dream

Gabriel Horne was walking slowly along the grape arbor that separated the back porch  – a mud room, actually – from the fish pond at its end. This was his grandparent’s home as it once was. He knew he was dreaming – the small pool was alternately filled to the brim with fetid water containing several small golden fish and many more fronds and lily pads and now empty and filled in with concrete, as he remembered it from later years. It was a very small pond – no danger, it was thought then, to small children, and no one worried, as they would in later years, about anyone falling in.

His parents had taken him several times to visit this place, his father’s boyhood home, and then one last time for his grandfather’s funeral. That was when the arbor was bare, the pond a continuation of the walk, and the garage beyond the pond, filled to overflowing with the detritus of years. He rolled a grape around in his mouth, knowing that his teeth would rebel at the puckery sensation. He dreaming self remembered these grapes especially for their ability to both repel and attract with astringent sweetness – so unlike the engineered, seedless varieties he now devoured in bunches. Avoid the skins – don’t chew the seeds – spit them out!.

In his dream he was in the garage at the end of the arbor. Unlike the arbor and the pond, the garage seemed to have only one aspect. Maybe he had not been allowed as a child to come in here. It was as he last remembered it.  An old push mower – rusting as it rested in one corner. A rake now useless for the gathering of leaves leaned against the wall, its remaining tines splayed crazily along its deck. It was dark and musty in the small building. The pale afternoon sun filtered yellow by small slits serving as windows in the door and the cobwebs covering them. An old Hudson of indeterminate color took up most of the official space in the small structure, standing on blocks, its former tires leaning against it.

He turned and he looked back at a changed house  – the ten room, three-story twin he had lived in while starting his own family. Apparently, this dream was to be about Homes He Had Known. His mind probably associated this particular house with his grandparents home, since they were both from his youth – and happier times.  The large side porch with the carpenter bee problem, the steps leading down from the third floor that was once a fire escape but now served as separate entrance for renters they had must take in to afford the place. Paul was brought up in this house. Gloria born here. Both had started school, when they lived here.

Then the scene changed to the home he had spent most of his working life in – where his two children had grown up and his wife had grown away from him. A house he had had to leave and that he dreamed about trying to return to – a forbidden house at the end of a bus line that seemed familiar but didn’t exactly understand. The house he would sneak back to – in his dreams – but then, knowing it was forbidden, would sneak back out of, only to realize that he didn’t know the way home anymore.

But this was not that dream apparently, for he had moved on to an unfamiliar house. He was sitting sprawled comfortably on an old sofa, looking up at the smiling face of a young man he didn’t know and he didn’t think belonged in his dream. The stranger was slightly built, thirtyish with thin brown hair. He wore a brown khaki short-sleeved shirt over a tee – jeans and sandals completed the ensemble. Strange outfit for the dead of winter in Chicago. But it was a dream, after all.

Gabriel stretched his arms and yawned, smiling back at the young man. He also took in more about the room he found himself in. It was bright and sunlit – pleasantly warm – again, strange for a Chicago January. He straightened up on the sofa. The room was square and the sofa he was sitting on was situated along the one uninterrupted wall. To his left, beyond the young man, there was a door, slightly ajar, to the outside – a front porch or patio of some kind? To his right a dining room set – apparently this room served as an eating area also. Beyond that, a door next to an opening in the wall to a kitchen – he could just make out a old-fashioned range and oven. Definitely not a house he remembered. Directly opposite him was a large fireplace, complete with a wall-to-wall shoulder-high shelf and matching hearth.

“Hello, welcome to Earth! How are you feeling?” The young man, still smiling, held his hand out as if to shake Gabriel’s or perhaps to just to steady him, if he needed it.  “My name is Patrick McAleese, Paddy, if you want”.

“Hi”, said Gabriel, “I was having a dream – I thought you were part of it, but you seem to be real!” This was still strange enough, though. He had apparently awakened in an unfamiliar house, in an unfamiliar place at a time different from he last remembered – had he fallen asleep and awakened in the summer? – but, strangest of all, apparently, he had become young again!

He moved experimentally on the sofa. No pain in his legs, no complaining bowels, no aches in his toes or fingers! He looked down at his bare feet – he was completely clothed – in unfamiliar clothing – except for his feet – and saw only young flesh! He wiggled his toes experimentally.

“I…, I don’t”, he found it hard to articulate his thoughts. Obviously this was a dream, unlike any other he had ever had. But everything was so undreamlike! The sounds from the outside, the air stirring in the room. He had had many dreams where he knew he was dreaming – he enjoyed them – enjoyed deliberately doing things impossible in real life, like flying. But he had never had a dream where he knew he wasn’t dreaming! Moreover, he thought if he tried to do some impossible thing right now, he’d fail.

But, impossibly, he was young again!

Paddy’s smile turned to a chuckle. “Yeah, I know it’s hard to take in. Why don’t you just suspend belief for a while – as they say – and just accept it. You can think about it later, ok? You’re safe and that’s all you really need to know. Do you want some water or something?”

All I need to know! “No, I’m fine. Where are we? The last I remember…I was in hospital! Prostate…recurrence in the seminal vesicles…”  He panicked suddenly. What was this!

“I don’t know about that. You’re cancer free now though.” Paddy looked a little uncomfortable as he turned away and walked into kitchen and opened the refrigerator.  “Sure you can’t eat something? Let’s see here…looks like some zucchini, some leafy veggies, a nice looking ham – probably Maggie Squire’s, if I know her. You have some bread here – I could make a sandwich, if you have some mayo..Ah, here we are!”

“Did they cure me? Freeze me maybe?” Gabriel knew he was confused – knew he was babbling a little – but it seemed so important to get this straight! “Did they freeze me and put me back together? Why do I feel so young!?” Gabriel looked about him and found a pair of sports shoes beside the sofa. He leaned over and put them on. Then, stood up and stretched – more to test his muscles than anything else. “Did they cure the cancer? Freeze me and cut it out and then made me young again?” It was ridiculous, he knew, but…

“I don’t know, are you cold? They didn’t freeze you here – it doesn’t get that cold here!” Paddy called from the kitchen. He was still rooting around looking for food. “Maybe some cider? That looks good!” Paddy’s interest in the contents of the kitchen was calming Gabriel down.

Gabriel conceded that he might be a little hungry and wandered into the kitchen where he joined Paddy and helped put together the sandwiches. He poured out some milk from a jug he found in the refrigerator and opened a jar of sliced pears he found in a small pantry. “Thanks for the food. I guess I’m hungry after all. Where do you keep the bowls?”

Paddy looked amused. “Oh! This isn’t my place – it’s yours!”

READ ON!!  Gabriel And Real Life