Beyond Reach

BEYOND REACH

For Rosabella Terrazzo and Mattia Ballaconia, love isn’t merely beyond reach, it’s unthinkable.

Rosabella has single-mindedly run her family’s business for fifty years. She has never allowed any interests to rival her commitment to the Terrazzo company.

Mattia has withdrawn from the world since his wife died forty-five years ago. Talking and laughing with people – let alone, love – are not part of his daily routine.

From opposing balconies, they start a journey neither could have anticipated.

Beyond Reach is a five-part story that will be published on The 3:57 website on successive Tuesdays starting on October 26. The complete publication schedule is as follows:

  • October 26: Chapter One – His Voice
  • November 2: Chapter Two – Her Voice
  • November 9: Chapter Three – Mutuals
  • November 16: Chapter Four – Two Soliloquies
  • November 23: Chapter Five – Responsibilities

In addition to Spear’s story, the art for BEYOND REACH is by N. Krok. The artist is a graduate of Raritan Valley Community College and is finishing up their degree at The College of New Jersey in Art Education with a minor in Art History. They enjoy graphic design, art history, and finding new adventures to read and writing some along the way.

The following is a preview of Chapter One: His Voice:

Chapter One: His Voice

Mattia had grown old ignoring the rhythms of his street. He ignored the people walking about. Paid no attention to the cafes full of talking and laughter. Or the tables draped in shadows where love might take flight – and often did!

But those rhythms have gone silent. In fact, the world has come to a standstill. The pandemic has introduced a new term into public conversation – social distancing. Six feet here, six feet there, and face masks everywhere.

Romance was difficult when two could not become one.

Not that Mattia Ballaconia wanted to be part of a two. He was barely even a one.

He was seventy-five and a widower for the last forty-five years. He hid from the world and withdrew from other peoples’ lives. Talking and laughing were not part of his daily routine.

Until he saw Rosabella Terrazzo standing on her balcony. He was awe-struck by her presence and looked through an ancient camera with a zoom lens for proof and thought – “Magnifica! Such a Great Lady!”

But his first encounter with her could not have gone worse.

Please return on Tuesday, October 26 for Chapter One of BEYOND REACH.

Unforgotten

In honor of POW/MIA Recognition Day on Friday, 17 September 2021, and inspired by the National League of POW/MIA Families’ Missing Man Table and Honors Ceremony, please consider the following.

UNFORGOTTEN

The table.
Round.
Without start.
Without stop.
Unending, like our grief for them.

Linen cloth.
Pure.
Similar
To their hopes
And dreams when they answered the call.

Red rose of
Life.
What they pledged,
We lost. But
We keep faith while waiting answers.

Gold ribbon.
Turned
And twisted
Much like the
Uncertainty of their return.

Sliced lemon.
Fates,
Bitter and
Still unknown
Since serving in a foreign land.

Grains of salt.
Tears.
Families
Wondering
Whether they are captured . . . or worse.

A candle,
Lit,
Leads the way
Through darkness
And guides our prayers for their return.

A book of
Faith
To strengthen,
And sustain
Them, and us, while kept from their homes.

Champagne flutes
Are
Upside down.
Unable
To share a toast in their absence.

Empty chairs,
Six,
For service
Personnel
And civilians kept from joining.

To them, we
Raise
Our glasses
Of water
And say . . . You are Not Forgotten.

Choices

Part One: Declaration

“No . . . more . . . masks . . . !!!”

The group shouted its demand while spilling across the sidewalk and into the street. It roared and bellowed in many voices and languages.

“No . . . more . . . masks . . . !!!”

They mocked still-wearing pedestrians and threatened to snatch face coverings if not removed voluntarily.

“No . . . more . . . masks . . . !!!”

The scope of genders and geographies, and incomes and insights was a census taker’s delight.

Capturing the Great Uprising were broadcasters, cablers, live streamers, influenzers, and those capable of pointing a camera phone and pressing the RECORD button.

From the crowd, an individual professing knowledge and wisdom lifted a hypodermic needle of fluid. Science had triumphed and the great plague had been vanquished.

A chant of “I got the shot. I got the shot,” erupted.

Another soloist, shrieking of government coverups and international conspiracies, waved a banner with the word “Truth.”

Dozens waved banners and roared, “Give us the truth. Give us the truth.”

Civilization’s volume had peaked.

Meanwhile, in a shop at the edge of the echoes, an ancient figure reviewed its conclusions.

Part Two: Preparation

Only a few minutes were left.

The Keeper checked, double-checked, and triple-checked centuries and millennia of numbers and charts. The results never varied.

The Apprentice stood nearby. Save for the eyes, its face was covered by a mask and hoodie. Each bore the emblem of three slashes.

The Keeper gestured to begin and seven thousand years of history unfolded.

A barrage of attacks, counter-attacks, and counter counter-attacks was unleashed. A staff crushed unseen enemies and a sword warned of carnage in waiting.

The exhibition ended with back crouched, legs planted, and gloved fists clenched.

The Keeper motioned “At ease” and evaluated the performance:

“You have learned much. Your command of the sword and staff is complete and your training is finished. You are ready to Crusade.”

The corners of the Apprentice’s eyes curled up betraying a smile.

“However, you must not rely on your weapons.”

A protest was begun but halted by the Keeper’s raised hand.

“They will only provoke the monster. Trigger an attack. Use them as a last resort.”

The terms were accepted.

The clock chimed. They bowed and the Apprentice stepped from the shop as the No More Maskers appeared.

Part Three: Initiation

The group turned to face the masked and hoodied figure. “No more masks,” it bellowed in voices as diverse as its membership.

The figure showed no emotion, locked its gaze, and walked to the street. The group swallowed it.

Needle Waver emerged and coolly offered assurances. Truther countered a face covering was not needed. The figure stood firm.

Needle Waver spoke of accepting science and re-joining civilization. Truther encouraged standing up to government conspiracies.

“Get the shot,” called out and “Lose the mask,” responded. “Get the shot!” “Lose the mask!” The figure breathed deeply and closed its eyes.

BAM! A faceless coward kicked out its left knee. CRACK! An anonymous assailant kicked out the right. It was crouched on all fours and the crowd roared its approval.

Truther bent over and reached, “You don’t need that anymore.” Needle Waver tapped the hypodermic, “Welcome back.”

A lightning strike from the figure’s staff halted the assaults. Three slicing sweeps of its sword convinced the crowd to retreat with all available haste.

The withdrawal was led by the broadcasters, cablers, live streamers, influenzers, and camera phone RECORD button pressers.

The figure stood, re-sheathed its weapons, and disappeared into the night.

From inside the shop, The Keeper returned to its numbers and charts. The bottom “Apprentice” entry in the eighth volume, on the twenty-first page, was amended with “Crusader” and three slashes.

The End.

The 3:57: REMEMBERING, Episode Eight – Reconciled

Teaser – Zoey Gladden, the dying stranger, is recovering from hypothermia in her hospital room. When she regains consciousness, she tells Chris of their past connection. But the teenager is angered by having any memories of home and changes the direction of the conversation.



Full Transcript –

Remembering, Episode #8: Reconciled

Original Date: 24 June 2020

Hello. This is . . . The Three Fifty-seven.

[The 3:57 Theme plays]

My name is William Spear and I am the Host of The Three Fifty-seven. The current series is titled REMEMBERING.

And this episode, the eighth, is called RECONCILED. Zoey is recovering from hypothermia and telling Chris of their past connection. But the teenager doesn’t want any memories of home.

And now, REMEMBERING.

[Remembering Theme plays]

Eight and one-half-hours after being admitted to an Emergency Room for hypothermia, Zoey Gladden was conscious and explaining how she knew Chris.

“We are both from New Jersey,” she said. “In fact, we went to high school together.”

Chris stood up and backed away. Zoey continued, “We were in the same math class the day you left. I ran away a few weeks after you.”

Chris was uncomfortable talking about home and changed the conversation. “What are you going to do?”

“Get well,” she said. “Get out of here and go somewhere warmer.”

“You could call your parents. I am sure they miss you,” Chris said.

Zoey shrank under the covers. “It was bad there. They don’t want me.”

“You don’t know that,” Chris said. “Call your parents.”

“I can’t do that. We were yelling and arguing all the time,” said Zoey.

Chris pulled the chair close to her bed and handed Zoey the phone. “I’ll be right here.”

Zoey looked at it, then at Chris, back at the phone, back at Chris, then at the phone, again at Chris, back at-

-“Oh, just call them,” Chris said with a smile and a laugh.

Zoey dialed the phone, closed her eyes, and braced for the twin furies:

“Hello, Mom. . . . Yes, it’s me. Is this a good time to talk? . . . I can’t understand you through the crying. . . .

“. . . Wait, you don’t have to – oh, hi, Dad. . . . I’m fine. You? . . . I miss you, too. And I was wondering if you could, you know, do you think, I mean, would you consider, if it’s not a problem, maybe to, uhm, bring me home? . . .”

Zoey’s eyes opened wide and fear grabbed her face. She reached to Chris for support and the teenager leaned forward and held her hand.

Zoey continued: “Why is Mom screaming? Did she drop the casserole pan on her foot again? . . . Oh, screaming for joy. I get it. . . .”

Zoey eased back into bed and closed her eyes in relief. Her reunion faded into the background while Chris simmered with anger. What right did she have to rejoin her parents?

She ran away over some arguments. Made her family sick with worry. Now she was getting another chance. The teenager despised her as she said:

” . . . You can pick me up at Saint Luke’s hospital – I’m fine. Just a little frost bitten. Saint Luke’s near Mount Oliver. . . .

“. . .By the way, an old friend is here. Chris Rowe from high school. . . . Yes, I’ll introduce you. Hey, I need to get some sleep, okay. So long. . . . I love both of you.”

Zoey put down the phone, collected her thoughts, and spoke, “There, I called them. Are you satisfied?” She opened her eyes to say more but stopped.

Chris was gone.

[Remembering Theme plays]

You’ve just listened to Episode Eight of REMEMBERING. The series music, What A Way – The Prelude, is through the courtesy of Semaphore.

The Three Fifty-seven is an anthology of comedy, drama, and supernatural stories. Theme music is Not On The Bus . . .

[The 3:57 Theme plays]

. . . by U. S. Army Blues.

The Three Fifty-seven is Written and Produced by William Spear.

Thank you for listening.

The 3:57 is on Google Play Music

Listen to The 3:57 by William E. Spear on Google Play Music.

Google is more than a search engine. It is the home of great podcasts from around the world.

When you’re looking for your next favorite podcast, search Google Play Music. And give us a listen!

The 3:57: REMEMBERING, Episode Seven – How Do You Know Me?

Teaser – After driving three hours through freezing rain, Chris and the talking car, an ancient Odyssey, found the dying stranger. Unexpectedly, she knew the teenager. Chris takes her to the Emergency Room where she begins treatment for hypothermia. Once she regains her consciousness, the teenager asks, “How do we know each other?” Her answer shocks Chris.

Full Transcript –

Remembering, Episode #7: The Mount Rushmore of Nobodies

Original Date: 10 June 2020

Hello. This is . . . The Three Fifty-seven.

[The 3:57 Theme plays]

My name is William Spear and I am the Host of The Three Fifty-seven. The current series is titled REMEMBERING.

And this episode, the seventh, is called HOW DO YOU KNOW ME? Chris went with the talking car to search for a dying stranger. But, unexpectedly, she knew the teenager. Chris wants to know how.

And now Episode Seven of REMEMBERING.

My name is William Spear and I am the Host of The Three Fifty-seven. The current series is titled REMEMBERING.

And this episode, the seventh, is called HOW DO YOU KNOW ME? Chris went with the talking car to search for a dying stranger. But, unexpectedly, she knew the teenager. Chris wants to know how.

And now Episode Seven of REMEMBERING.

[Remembering Theme plays]

The talking automobile had insisted Chris travel to a town three hours away. It was early December and freezing rain fell the entire time.

They arrived as the sun came up.

The car, an ancient Odyssey, said they were looking for a dying young woman named Zoey Gladden.

The car, an ancient Odyssey, said they were looking for a dying young woman named Zoey Gladden.

Chris found her under a bridge. She was begging for help, “Is that you? . . . Let it be you. . . . Please, please, please, let it be you.”

The teenager told her, “Everything will be okay, Zoey”, then eased the blankets under her, and gently got her into the warm car.

“I knew you would find me,” she said. “Thank you, Chris.”

The teenager was shocked. “You know me?”

She was losing consciousness and unable to speak. The teenager spoke again: “Stay with us, Zoey.”

But she passed out.

Chris asked the car, “How does she know me?”

The car ignored the question. Chris got louder: “She knew me. Said my name. How?”

The car got louder; “If you want to find out, we need to leave NOW!”

Chris drove to the Emergency Room where she was rushed inside. The teenager parked the car and went in.

“You got her here just in time,” the doctor said. “Another fifteen minutes and she might not have survived.”

Chris sat in the waiting room while Zoey was treated.

An hour went by and then another. How could she know Chris? They had never met before. And how could the Odyssey know about her?

Two more hours went by and Zoey was still unconscious.

Four hours later and there was no change. And the teenager was no closer to figuring out where they might have met.

Finally, eight-and-one-half hours later, she regained consciousness. The doctor came to Chris: “She’s better and wants to speak with you.”

They went to Zoey’s room and the doctor left them alone.

“Thanks for finding me. I’m sorry for the inconvenience,” she said with a weak smile.

The teenager said ‘Nothing to it’ as if saving people from hypothermia happened every day of the week.

Then she asked: “By the way, who else was in the car with us?”

Chris offered an unconvincing ‘What do you mean?’ but she insisted: “You said, ‘Don’t leave us, Zoey.’ Then I heard another voice. It sounded like you were arguing.”

Chris told her she must have imagined it as she was passing out. She shrugged her shoulders and continued: “You’re probably wondering how I know you.”

Relieved at not having to explain the talking car, the teenager sat next to her and admitted, “The thought had crossed my mind.”

“Let me start with this,” she said. “You’re from New Jersey.”

“You can’t possibly know that. The people in New Jersey don’t even know I’m from New Jersey,” said the teenager.

They both grinned. “I remember your sense of humor, too” she said. “You’re from Hunterdon County.”

“Come on you don’t remember me. I’m a nobody,” said Chris. “You’ve never met me before.”

“Yes we have,” Zoey said as she struggled to sit up in her bed. “In fact, we went to high school together.”

[Remembering Theme plays]

You’ve just listened to Episode Seven of REMEMBERING. The series music, What A Way – The Prelude, is through the courtesy of Semaphore.

The Three Fifty-seven is an anthology of comedy, drama, and supernatural stories. Theme music is Not On The Bus . . .

[The 3:57 Theme plays]

. . . by U. S. Army Blues.

The Three Fifty-seven is Written and Produced by William Spear.

Thank you for listening.