Songs Of Sylvia — Fiction


Madison’s Grandma was written and serialized for in September 2019.  Now, revised, it’s the starting point for the Songs of Sylvia.  Although the original tale was not “old and lousy,” the new story is definitely “new and improved.”  All the other Songs of Sylvia fill in some of the blanks in Mrs. Ferguson’s past.  Of course, there are still many gaps and other events that might, one day, bear telling.  After all, Sylvia Harrow was a remarkable young woman, and anyone who knows Mrs. Ferguson knows that her adventures aren’t over yet.  But, for now, Songs of Sylvia is available as an ebook.  It’s a quick read – 150 pages, and you can order it.  — HERE —

And for those of you who are not familiar with the original tale.

Mrs. Ferguson kept a tidy house.  She loved her garden, sang in the church choir and exercised religiously three times a week.  Madison, her granddaughter, thought she was the perfect milk-and-cookies grandma.  However, grandmas don’t just magically appear out of nowhere.  Somewhere, they all have their own stories.  And sometimes, all it takes is an odd coincidence to open them up like a half-forgotten book.

When a young woman is abducted in Rome, that book opens for Madison and her grandma.  It takes them from the tidy little house in Denver halfway around the world to Istanbul.  It’s an exotic world where grandma’s old friends laugh and dance and carry guns.  It brings Mrs. Ferguson face to face with the girl she once was, the girl she thought she’d left behind.  And it shows Madison that her grandma isn’t exactly as advertised.


Last Week’s Puzzle

There are five houses in a row.  Each is painted a different colour and each inhabitant is a different nationality.  They each own different pets, drink different beverages and drive different cars.

From the clues below, deduce who drinks water and who owns the zebra.

1 – The Englishman lives in the red house.

2 – The Spaniard owns a dog.

3 – Coffee is drunk in the green house.

4 – The Ukrainian drinks tea.

5 – The green house is immediately to the right of the ivory house.

6 – The man who owns snails drives a Buick.

7 – The man in the yellow house drives a Cadillac.

8 – Milk is drunk in the middle house.

9 – The Norwegian lives in the first house.

10 – The man who drives a Ford lives next to the man who owns a fox.

11 – The house with the Cadillac is next to the house with the horse.

12 – The man who drives the Chevrolet drinks orange juice.

13 – The man from Japan drives a Dodge.

14 – The Norwegian lives next to the blue house.

Last Week’s Solution

Since we think spatially, the best method of solving last week’s quiz is to draw five boxes on a sheet of paper.  Then, write each variable on something like a Post-it note so you can move it around.  Begin by joining the values that go together.  For example, we know the Spaniard owns a dog, so those two would be connected.  Next, position the values we know to be true.  Again, we know the Norwegian lives in the first house, so place him there, etc.  Then use the connected clues to eliminate impossibilities.  From Clue 4 we have the Green House connected to Coffee and from Clue 6 we know that it’s to the right of the Ivory House.  Therefore, since we know the second house is blue and milk is drunk in the middle house, we can conclude the 4th house is Ivory and the 5th house is green.  We now know the Englishman lives in the middle house!  Then it’s only a matter of following the clues to discover the Norwegian drinks water and the Japanese guy has a zebra.



Sylvia And The Water

sylvia water

Nothing prepares you for the quantity of love.  The words of the poets are only sips at the fountain, forever overflowing.  The songs of the minstrels cupfuls you might carry away.  And even the tales of happily ever after we tell are merely quenching moments.  For love is vast, beyond endless, and no one who slips into its waters can see its depths.

Sylvia Harrow had spent the lazy Wisconsin summer bathing in it like a pampered Eastern princess.  Lounging leg long, submerged to her shoulders in warm and wet, her head back in conscious sleep, lost in the languor of what could be their dreams.  And she would slide forward, slowly sinking, denying her instincts, letting the water touch her face, hold her hair, cover her mouth until she closed her eyes and willingly, wantonly allowed herself to drown.  And lying there full still, soundless, the water told her that she was the Venus he said she was.  She was the one fantasy she saw in the want of his eyes.  The moment of naked desire that only the two of them would ever know.  And he, flawed perfection, was the one enough she had ever wanted, the aching hunger she had glimpsed more than once but had never fully seen.  He was the never alone again, the warm regular breathing bed, the first touch and the last kiss goodnight.  And then she would raise her head like an emerging goddess and feel the wet run down her face, shake her heavy hair, point her painted toes and, mouth half-closed, gasp a breath as if it was the finish of the world.

Sylvia loved being loved and being overpowered by it, but she knew that, slowly upon slowly, the water would cool, the mirror glass surface murk with age, and the steamy mists fade on the breeze of years.  There was no naïve that could convince her otherwise.  But she also knew, deep in the forever sound of his idle laugh, the step she knew from far away and the single scent of him on the pillow, that this would be enough.  What she felt right now would be enough to fill their life with eternity and the waters that surrounded them would always reflect the stars, splash with the rain, freeze and thaw and sparkle in the brilliant sunrise sunshine.




In the evening when the bright playground lights came on, it always felt like an alien landing field from a science fiction movie, and all the young men chasing and shouting were excited Earthlings, looking for First Contact.  They weren’t.  They were playing soccer – futbol – dreaming of Muller and Cruyff and Super Lig glory.  Sylvia Harrow didn’t understand the game, but it didn’t matter: she wasn’t playing.  She was running, one foot in front of the other, chasing the clock inside her head.  Circling the boys, over and over, like a jogging sentinel, on the long oval track that surrounded their field.

In the beginning, they’d taken an interest in the odd phenom of a woman running, shouting gestures and pantomimes for her perceived attention.  Once, early on, in a bold stroke of stupidity, one wannabe Romeo hopped the short chain link fence to run alongside her, feigning kisses.  Sylvia’s eyes never left the track and, in perfect rhythm, she shot the ball of her foot into his ankle and sent him face first into the unforgiving gravel.  He skidded and rolled and got to his feet, burning with his buddies’ laughter, not sure what to do with the fist-tight girl standing over him, ready for a fight.  Fortunately, his honour was saved when Mirac stepped between them and guided him back to his friends.  That’s where he explained that the woman called Sahin and her employer Karga were busy people who didn’t have time to visit idiots who ended up in hospitals.  From then on, the futbol players pointedly ignored the foolish lesbian, although several of them would remember her effortless stride and swinging ponytail later on in the night.

Sylvia didn’t care.  She was concentrating on her hips, fighting the natural feminine sway, cushioning the impact with her calves and trying to force her feet to align and drive her forward, not sideways.  These were the kinetics her school coach had taught her.  They were the magic combination that triggered her instincts to abandon all thought and just run.  Run, like some female animal built for the chase.  Pacing her prey, tireless, relentless, collecting tiny molecules of energy, gathering them in her pulsing, aching muscles, saving them for one final tearing rage of speed.  This was where her mind filled and emptied and filled again, sorting and discarding the practicals, the possibles, the problems, the stress.  Nothing escaped.  While she ran, no part of Sylvia’s life could hide in a dark corner, waiting to ambush her.  No emotional thread was too thin to untangle nor too big to reweave.  No vague thought was too small, grand plan too large and no passion, feeling or sensation could be conveniently forgotten.  This was where Sylvia forced honesty to reveal itself.  Here, there was no place for her to hide.

And the truth was, these two hours, whenever she could grab them, were the only ones Sylvia regularly allowed herself.  And when she ran, step after step, steady as a metronome, she understood, deep somewhere, that they were all she needed.  She knew she was a strong, female animal and even though she also knew she wasn’t actually built for the chase (No, she wasn’t a predator, not really.) she was also nobody’s prey.