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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Working Steadily on Asha's Book: What Did She Think That Night?

I am working steadily now on my book about Asha Veil's murder.  I feel much closer to the story now: this is hard to describe. I like to say that I live my stories (and probably present myself as incredibly tedious when I talk about my writing, as everything in them seems real to me).  I have not lost interest in Asha's story, even though I haven't updated any information about it here in some time.

 I have been too involved in what is turning out to be a very angry Presidential election.  I am not immune to being swept up in it. There is so much at stake--always the case with an election--but it all seems so more crucial and urgent this time around.

Yet my time to write is necessarily limited and I have been squandering the two hours I give myself to write every single night in my Lompico home.  I feel lucky for that time, which many writers do not have at all.  Gone are the days when I could do a six-hour stretch in my office!  Maybe one day this will come back, but it is not my path right now. 

Two days ago, I went to the Felton Cemetery where, so long ago, Asha Veil thought she may have conceived a baby with the man who would eventually destroy her, and the child she carried. because of crucial information I have been given about whether this was consensual or not, I believe strongly that she did not have willing sex with McClish: that she was forced.  The reason I believe this is confidential, but the more I think about it and read court records and news reports from that time, the more I believe it.

The cemetery itself is eccentric and a peaceful place.  Apparently one can place any sort of headstone; there used to be someone who had half a surfboard as a tombstone.  Right now, the weeds have turned golden and dry: the time of year is approaching when she disappeared.  I sat in a redwood gazebo and wondered if she sat there, too: it's cool and shady. I have never seen anyone but Michael McClish there, for I used to see him cutting wood at the edge of the cemetery and listen to the thwock of his axe.  There was a tool shed; I wonder if he kept his hatchet there, the one which he used to threaten another woman.  Did he threaten Asha with that hatchet, the night she was left alone with him?

A grave stood directly in front of me: a child who died at only ten years of age. There are so many old graves, worn out by time and weather. There are graves of babies and children, some graves from the time of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918.  There are Civil War soldiers, entire families in one plot, so many inscriptions: beloved mother, gone but not forgotten, I will never forget you, love never ends, called home, an angel in heaven.  Michael Gray, a sheriff killed in the line of duty, has a beautiful gravesite there. One of my students is buried there, a young man named Shawn.  I taught him in my early twenties, my first real job out of college. He died a few days after his mother, Patra, who is buried by his side.  What is the story behind that?  I will never know. I have not yet found their graves.

 Did Asha walk among these graves, looking at all the names?  Does her spirit ever visit this place, which turned in a matter of minutes from a place of tranquility and peace to one of fear and confusion?  I will not know the answer to that one, either, but I sensed she does not roam here.

When I entered Felton Cemetery that day, I left a silver dime for Baron Le Cimitiere (I buried mine among a stand of amaryllis belladona, pink lilies that have the curious name of "naked ladies"). He is the keeper of cemeteries and I give him his due when I visit one.  I do not fear him: he holds the key to many secrets.  He likes rum with a hot pepper steeped in it, a waft of tobacco smoke.  I never deny him these things.

Then I whispered to Le Baron, as I have to so many spirits, so many unseen visitors: help me write Asha's story. Help me find the people who knew her. Help them see that my intentions are pure: I do not want to become famous off her story.  I want her to be known.  I want women to see what a predator does to kind and unsuspecting people.  This is my connection; this is what drives me; this will push me to get this book done.