Excerpt from Chapter Six – “Lunch with Maude and Muir”

Roosevelt, Muir, Clio and Me: A Novel of Loss and Discovery by David Matthew Wilcox

Excerpt from Chapter Six – “Lunch with Maude and Muir”:

It took a road sign, reading “Gettysburg—30 miles” for Winston to begin
re-focusing his thoughts on the road. Lost in his own personal world of
the past for over an hour, he said nothing. And Clio let him get by with it. It
was “quiet time,” like the kind Winston and Elizabeth insisted upon during all
their family road trips after their two girls had played and talked nonstop for
hours in the back of the car. Usually the combined parental hope was that
both girls would fall asleep quickly, leaving them to hold hands, softly caress
each other’s forearms, and touch in the simplest of ways; making love in
miniature, with finger tips and open, waiting palms.

But this “quiet time” needed to be a time to re-focus, not a time for
depressing self-indulgence. Winston discovered shortly after Elizabeth’s
death how easily self-indulging pity came. It was comfortable, secure, irresponsible,
easy, but, above all, sad. When it gripped him he could be excused
from anything: a faculty meeting, parental responsibilities, cleaning the
house, washing the dishes, showering, changing clothes, eating. He was a
mess. Had he ever a mind to murder someone, his mental state was so gripping
in times like these that no jury in the world would find him anything but
not guilty by reason of depression. Fortunately, murder was seldom on his
mind. Even more fortunate, Winston eventually discovered that time gave
him a sense of perspective on his life; that when he found himself slipping into
that great vortex of indulgent self-pity, he could use his knowledge of human
history to re-scramble his mind. In a practical exercise on the notion that
“misery loves company,” he would travel through time and become a witness
to the Great Plague of the fourteenth century, or a Native American along the
“Trail of Tears,” a survivor of the Bataan Death March, a Holocaust survivor
or a POW returning from Vietnam. Somehow the idea that life, or God, or
the fates had betrayed just him, alone, seemed idiotic in the face of such hardship.
All he needed to do was flip that switch. The sign to Gettysburg and the
history it conjured in Winston’s mind was just such a switch.

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