For Esme, With Light and Shadow – Story #10 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

 The Card: ♦8♦ The Eight of Diamonds
About The Suit: ♦♦♦Diamonds are my suit for “contemporary” Indiana Authors.
The Story: “Shadowed” from the “Defy the Dark” anthology. I purchased my copy at Bookmamas Bookstore in Irvington (Indianapolis).

The Author: Christine Johnson. A Hoosier native, you can learn more about her and her writing at her website: which is also where her picture (included in the photo collage at left) is from. 🙂

legacy project seal of approval 2What is Deal Me “IN” 2016?  For an explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/story roster see here. Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection”of some kind.  Deal Me “IN” 2016 is also now officially endorsed as a Legacy Project by the Indiana Bicentennial Commission!

“Shadowed” by Christine Johnson

Okay, so this blog post’s title is not really the title of the story I read this week. It’s not everyday, however, that one encounters the name “Esme.” One other time I’ve encountered it, literarily speaking, was in the famous J.D. Salinger story, “For Esme, With Love and Squalor.” Another was the protagonist of this story, a princess afflicted by a cruel and unusual curse…

For reasons that would be too spoiler-y to elaborate, the Princess Esme cannot be in the presence of direct light. Sunlight, moonlight, firelight, and even torchlight are all very dangerous to her. The appearance of her shadow puts her in grave peril. The consequences of this are as you might imagine – she is kept indoors and cloistered by her family. Sometimes in the top room of her castle’s tower. It is from this lofty vantage point that, on a “mostly cloudy” day, she sneaks a peek at the festival unfolding below, which includes a jousting tournament, and is smitten with a young, fiery-haired knight, Rylan. So smitten, in fact, that she carelessly fails to notice the sun is making an appearance. When it does, it unleashes her shadow and launches this story, which relates her efforts to escape the curse.

Will the efforts of Rylan, her friend Margaret, and the town’s old witch be enough to break the curse? With what weapons would one fight a shadow, anyway? The story provides the answer to one of these questions. Whether or not the other is answered, I believe, is open to multiple interpretations, and I liked it that way. 🙂 Interested in reading this story? Look for it at your local bookstore or library, or even online, where a kindle version is available at Amazon:

Where else have you seen the name Esme in literature or in real life? Also, have you encountered any great “shadows” in literature? I can immediately think of one case in a prior year’s Deal Me In challenge, when I read Mary Williams Freeman’s “The Shadows on the Wall” and I’m hopeful, but wonder if alert readers noticed that I even found a playing card at google images that included shadows?! 🙂

When reading this story, to help picture the events described, I found myself drawing upon my childhood memories of the “Classics Illustrated” comic book edition (See below – I still have my copy too!) of Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, which featured knights and a damsel in a tower, in that case the lovely Rebecca…

Next up for Deal Me In? The Seven of Diamonds. Which I have assigned to Clint Smith’s story “What Happens in Hell Stays in Hell.”

“Come Go With Me” by Nora Bonner – Story #9 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♥10♥ The Ten of Hearts

The Selection: “Come Go With Me” – from the Indiana Review magazine – which is (from the magazine’s website) “now in its thirty-eighth year of publication, Indiana Review is a non-profit literary magazine dedicated to showcasing the talents of emerging and established writers. Our mission is to offer the highest quality writing within a wide aesthetic.” This story appeared in the Summer 2015 issue.

The Author: Nora Bonner. See her online at, where the picture above is also from. 🙂

The Suit: ♥♥♥ Hearts are my suit featuring selections from Indiana magazines, or Midwestern magazines featuring Indiana authors.

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016?  For an explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/story roster see here. Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection”of some kind.  Deal Me “IN” 2016 is also now officially endorsed as a Legacy Project by the Indiana Bicentennial Commission!

Come Go With Me

I selected this story from the magazine as it was identified in the table of contents as a finalist for Indiana Review’s annual fiction prize. (The winner gets $1,000 – not bad for a short story, eh?) It was a very interesting story. I particularly liked our narrator, Emily, a young girl describing her immediate family’s efforts to “rehabilitate” her juvenile delinquent-ish male cousin (Brian) who is a few years older than she. Making the relationship even tighter is that Emily and Brian’s parents are brothers and sisters – I mean two brothers married two sisters. Not common but not unheard of either.
Emily’s father is a man of faith and feels that’s what Brian needs more of as well. As he tells Emily, regarding her cousin’s upbringing compared to her own:

“We chose to let God choose. Uncle Gary (Brian’s dad) was an example of what happens When we don’t leave it up to God. God wouldn’t choose for Uncle Gary to leave his family. God wouldn’t choose for Aunt Sally to stay in bed all day while her son ran around without her supervision, God wouldn’t choose friends for Brian who talked him into robbing a gas station and wouldn’t tell him to cut a man with the razor blade he’d hid between his fingers.”

Part of the “treatment” for Brian involves a family trip up to Huron National Forest. As seems to be true for many people who think they have “all the answers” to complex human problems, Emily’s dad soon learns turning Brian around will not be an easy – and perhaps even an impossible – task. Part of the backdrop for their time is that the lake shores are experiencing a swarm of toads. So many that they’re always underfoot and even make the sides of the road appear to move. This phenomenon added a surreal and even biblical plague-ish feel to the story.

I was rooting for Brian, and enjoyed hearing this story from Emily’s perspective. She was also rooting for him, though she seemed to realize better than her dad that he may already have reached critical mass on the way to living the wrong kind of life. I also liked how frankly Brian challenged her father’s beliefs, and her father’s answer:

“I keep thinking that you’re going into the woods to bring us back something to eat,” Brian said. “Bear meat. Coyote.” I made a face. “What do you go out there for,” he asked, “bird watching?”

“I talk to God,” my father said.

“And God talks back.” Brian chuckled.

“Sometimes,” my father said.

Brian threw his bowl into the fire. “What does God sound like.” The plastic bubbled; flames devours the cardboard.

“He speaks in my thoughts.” 

“How do you know you’re not just thinking what you want God to say?”

My father waited a long time before he answered. “He almost never says what I want Him to say.”

A fine story, and the events it chronicles rang quite true to this reader.

(Playing card image above found at
Toad picture from

Personal notes:

I have a memory from childhood of experiencing not a swarm of toads, but certainly a large number of them. We had gone to some sort of picnic for my dad’s office near a lake and they seemed to be everywhere. This was new to me and my brothers, who had suddenly seen in a few minutes more toads than we’d seen in our entire lives. I remember our pleading with our parents to take some home as “pets” and, though not thrilled with the idea, they eventually relented. The toads didn’t survive long, as I recall…

The tens in my Indiana deck of cards feature a picture of the Indiana War Memorial in downtown Indianapolis. Up until 2007 I’d spent almost all of my working life at jobs in the downtown area, and would frequently walk at lunchtime. The War Memorial was one favorite terminus of my walks and I would often bring a “brown bag” lunch and, after climbing all those steps, enjoy the view (great from up there!) while I ate. Even if I walked “just for the exercise” at lunch, I would often include a couple up and downs of the monument steps on my route. It was great for that as well. More information about the Indiana War Memorial may be found at

Next up in Deal Me “IN” 2016: “What Happens in Hell Stays in Hell” by Clint Smith

“The Legend of Potato Creek” by Maurice Thompson – Story #8 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card:  ♣10♣ The Ten of Clubs

The Suit: ♣♣♣ Clubs ♣♣♣ – my suit for “legendary” Hoosier authors.

The Author: Maurice (pronounced like “Morris”) Thompson (1844-1901), born in Fairfield, Indiana, is one from the “Golden Age” of Indiana literature. He’s also a member of the archery(!) Hall of Fame.

The Story: “The Legend of Potato Creek” from his collection “Hoosier Mosaics.” I have one other story of his in this year’s Deal Me “IN” project, (“The Pedagogue”). Read “The Legend of Potato Creek” for free online at (& then let me know what you think, naturally 🙂 )

What is Deal Me “IN” 2016?  (For an explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/story roster see here. Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection”of some kind. )


As little as one year or so ago, I had never even heard of this author. He is one I was led to discover by Dan Wakefield’s Introduction in the late 2014 “Indy Writes Books Anthology.”

“The Legend of Potato Creek”

This was a profoundly sad story – something I wouldn’t necessarily have guessed based on the title – but one with just enough sweetness mixed in for me to still like it. Quite a bit, actually. 🙂

It’s the story of Rose Turpin, a charming sixteen year old girl spending the summer on a relative’s farm, and “perhaps 25 years old” Zach Jones “a person thoroughly saturated with ague in its chronic form.” They meet when Rose is settled in on a perch of roots near the titular Potato Creek and Zach comes along leading an old horse, one who was

“…sadly diseased with that scourge of the equine race, scrofulous shoulder or fistula, commonly called, among the country folk, fistleo, and because the animal could not get well the man was on the point of killing it…”

Yes, Zach is planning to euthanize the ignoble old steed, by bashing it on the head with an axe. This, of course, is more than the delicate sensiblities of our sweet Rose can endure, and she pleads on the horse’s behalf for its life. Naturally, being a human male, Zach relents and subsequently, under Rose’s care, the horse makes a remarkable recovery. Her uncle notes her seeming natural ability to heal and suggests she spend some time with Zach to see if her healing touch can help with Zach’s chronic ague. They begin spending time together and the effects are just as her uncle hypothesized.

The sweetness of the story was over, though, since – with apologies to Peter, Paul and Mary – disease and pestilence live forever, but not so young girls, and Rose returns home where, after making a most triumphant “debut” in society, she is eventually snapped up by one of the region’s eligible bachelors. What happens afterward one could likely imagine, but I will let you discover that for yourself by reading this entire (short) story. 🙂

Personal Notes: Not long ago I went to a talk at the (nearby) Greenwood Public Library in Central Indiana. The featured topic was “Books by Hoosier Authors Made into Films” or something like that. All the normal ones you’d expect were covered (Ben Hur, The Magnificent Ambersons, The Fault in Our Stars, etc.), but it was here I learned a little more about Maurice Thompson and the fact that he was a legend in the field of archery, and one of the first inductees into that sport’s Hall of Fame. According to their website, his book, “The Witchery of Archery” was ‘accredited for returning the sport of archery to public interest.’ and notes that ‘Some of this was due to rifles bringing back bad memories of the American Civil War.’ I particularly like a quotation of his that I found on that website: “So long as the new moon returns in heaven, a bent beautiful bow, so long will the fascination of archery keep hold of the hearts of men.” Very nice.

I became fascinated – only briefly – with archery as a youth from reading of the legends of William Tell and Robin Hood and later from seeing the famed Errol Flynn movie, “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” which featured an archery contest for the ages…

I also found, in my online researching for this post, that there’s a target game in archery called “bow poker” – how appropriate for the Deal Me In challenge!
Bonus trivia question: Can you identify the Roman Emperor below, known for his devotion to archery?